boston harbor with square rigger x 500


Your college friends are visiting and need recommendations for sightseeing– or perhaps you're hosting family and your patience creativity is wearing thin? Send them into town. Here are 5 solid ideas for a daytrips in Boston {that include nearby cocktails - for stamina purposes only of course.}

#1: The Freedom Trail Tour
The Boston By Foot guided tour of the Freedom Trail is led by costumed actors who are not only excellent guides, they're funny, incredibly well informed, and great at putting the Revolution in historical context. An hour and a half of moderate walking: $12.00.  Reserve tickets online here

*Do the Freedom Trail and the Rose Kennedy Greenway walk (#5) in the same day.

Nearby Restaurants: Since the Freedom Trail covers some ground, let us make a suggestion

Start with dim sum in Chinatown {yes, we still call it that.}
Chau Chau City
83 Essex St 

Hei La Moon
88 Beach St

Then get a snack in The North End to sustain you until dinner

Umberto Galleria {lunch}
289 Hanover St

Pizzeria Regina {lunch, dinner}
11 1/2 Thacher St

#2: Museums- ISG and the MFA

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
280 Fenway

Luckily Isabella Stewart Gardner was born {1850} into a wealthy, eccentric and well educated family - a woman of position. Today she would have been described as a hoarder- perhaps had her own show on the Bravo Channel. Well travelled and well read, Isabella had an excellent eye and a desire to acquire the best of....everything...literally everything. The gorgeous Venetian palace-style building she commissioned to house the museum collection is filled with excellent examples of work in seemingly every medium and every era from Ancient Roman to 19th century America.

Find delicate intricate handmade Bruges lace collars side-by-side with rustic hand-hewn Mexican church pews and carvings. Exquisite portraits near stunning Russian iconography and lyrical French ceramics. The cataloging is eccentric to say the least. What strikes me about Isabella Stewart Gardener was her obvious love of expert craftsmanship.  It shows in her {aforementioned obsessive} collection of excellent examples of the applied arts from all over the world.  My undisputed favorite is a room with embossed, tooled and painted leather walls, a stunning and evocative floor to ceiling example of an art that is slowly disappearing. One need not spend a lot of time there- an hour would suffice to explore, amazed. The truly enamored could easily spend four.

Nearby Restaurants:
Cafe G at the Isabella Stewart Gardner {brunch/lunch}
Delicious.  Their dessert menu alone is well worth the visit.  

Oleanna {dinner}
134 Hampshire St Cambridge
A 15 minute drive on Mass Avenue into Cambridge. Expensive, but the best Middle Eastern/Occidental food in New England. Book a table on the patio if the weather is nice.

Eastern Standard Bar {cocktails and appetizers}
528 Commonwealth Ave
A classic New-American bar with inventive cocktails and a good appetizer menu. An uninspired but solid dinner menu.

Sweet Cheeks {lunch, dinner}
1381 Boylston
Sweet Cheeks is a bit of a mash-up: Texas-style barbecue with traditional deep South accompaniments: hush puppies, fried okra, fried green tomatoes and collard greens.  It is worth the trip-- but only if you are a serious carnivore and plan to walk it off, or lie down afterwards.

Tasty Burger {lunch}
1301 Boylston
A terrific American hamburger, fries and milkshake- 'nuff said.

MFA- Museum of Fine Arts Boston
45 Huntington Ave

The MFA is beautiful and excels at some collections– others, not-so-much.  Stick with what they do well and don't plan to stay all day.  The murals of John Singer Sargent are spare and spectacular examples of classic narratives.  The museum also has a beautiful collection of his "insolent" portraiture- irreverent and truly gorgeous.  The Art of Asia Indian miniature paintings are also stunning– tiny, evocative, and highly colored–they will change your perception and appreciation of color forever. Another favorite is the extensive collection of Japanese prints from 1800-1912 {yes, the same style that inspired every Impressionist painter from Van Gogh to Gauguin to rethink their perception of landscape, perspective, and time.} The MFA sports a huge postcard collection from the decades around 1900 that they call the "Twitter of their day"  It's a fascinating peek into what informed popular culture before and after WWII.  A vibrant Dale Chihuly glass sculpture dominates the courtyard near the two good museum restaurants.  A self-serve cafe is located in the basement overlooking a small sculpture garden.

#3: South End
I'm going to put a large asterisk at the start of this suggestion and here it is: Boston is an undisputed intellectual center, rich in history…..and a bit thin on the applied arts/culture front. Sorry Boston.  If you are coming from Europe, NY, SF, Austin, Savannah, Seattle {you get where I'm going here} please understand that Boston is not a shoppers paradise, not on the luxury side and not on the indie start-up end of the spectrum either.  I'm going to generalize and say that it is too tough to make a shop survive here in the land where furniture and art have been passed down since the Revolution, and caring too much about clothing means you aren't a serious intellect.  That said, there are some thoughtfully curated shops in the South End, a large complex of artists' studios galleries at 450 Harrison Street worth exploring, and a great open air market on Sunday {see next recommendation.}

Olives and Grace 81 Pembroke Street
Twelve Chairs 581 Tremont Street
Patch NYC 46 Waltham Street
Bobby's of Boston 450 Harrison Street
Vessels Gallery 450 Harrison Building

Nearby Restaurants:
1704 Washington Street good tapas {lunch, dinner}

B&G Oysters
550 Tremont St
excellent {and expensive} oyster bar {lunch, dinner}

#4  SOWA Market
May-October Sunday Only 10-4
Rest of the Year- indoor antique market
460 Harrison Street Arts Market / 500 Harrison Farmers Market / 530 Harrison Food Trucks / 540 Harrison Beer Barn
SOWA used to be an undiscovered and uncrowded open air market, easy to navigate and filled with young artisans selling unique crafts- clever tee shirts, beautiful jewelry, handsome ceramics– and it's still that, just more crowded. It's not jammed, just more dense. But with increased attendance comes benefits i.e. great food trucks. You will find Thai basil lemonade, cornmeal crusted deep fried cauliflower with Siracha aioli, a Vermont cheddar bacon and apple grilled cheese sandwich, or a Vietnamese bahn-mi baguette sandwich being sold side by side out of mobile food trucks- try them all and recover from your stomach ache later.

May - October: all the vendors are outside, so if you need a break from the sun step inside the Vintage Market in the adjacent building to find antiques from every Modern decade. Finish the tour at another adjacent farmer's market where you'll produce, jam, honey & baked treats. 
Winter months:  The Vintage Market inside is open - as are many of the artist's studios in the Harrison builiding.  Wander and enjoy.

#5 The Rose Kennedy Fitzgerald Greenway

The Greenway is a park that stretches from Boston's storied North End to Chinatown.  It's a graceful walk past someof the most handsome architecture in Boston.  It is actually designed to be a string of parks that celebrate the character of each neighborhood with sculpture, fountains, and interactive kiosks of information. In the summer there are food trucks selling everything from Baja California style tacos to cupcakes for a little pick-me-up. Start at the North End, and wind down to Congress Street.  You'll pass under the temporary art installation "As If It Were Already Here" a fiber art construction stretched between 3 high rise buildings. Over 100 miles of knotted rope are suspended above, and the floating net creates a surprising sense of place below. Marvel, then take a left towards the water and walk along the Boston Harborwalk. Go here to download a walking audio tour.  It's a fascinating maritime history lesson and a gorgeous walk along the water no matter the weather.  

Nearby Restaurants:
One of the joys of the Greenway is the proliferation of food trucks serving truly delicious, and inventive cuisine.  Download the Boston Street Food app for iOS and Android and find something tasty near you. Local Betty picks: BonMe, Clover, and Roxy Grilled Cheese. You won't be sorry.

More to do:
Bodega 6 Clearway St.
Charles Street
Newberry Street

Harvard Art Museums: Fogg / Sackler / /Busch-Reisinger 32 Quincy Street, Cambridge
Harvard Museum of Natural History 26 Oxford St, Cambridge
MIT Museum 265 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge
Institute of Contemporary Art Museum - 100 Northern Ave, Boston

Boston Public Library Art & Architecture
Duck Tour - Starts from various locations
Architectural Tour
Harpoon Beer Brewery Tour 306 Northern Ave, Boston
Taza Chocolate Factory Tour 561 Windsor St, Somerville
Boston's North End Foodie Tour {Italian Neighborhood}