Boston

Traveler: Devin Fomberg

Currently resides in: Boston, MA

I am coming up on my two-year mark as a resident of Boston proper. While I’m no expert on the city and by no means a Bostonian, I have had the distinguished privilege of being part of the two broadest and most interesting communities the city has to offer: academia and hospitality. Rolling with these two crowds has given me a dichotomous glimpse into the Cradle of Liberty. So here’s a taste of the spectrum of sights and spots coming at you from a current “Boston insider!”

boston 1

Don’t mess with BOS!

Know Before You Go

  • Wicked Pissa: Thanks to blockbusters like The Departed and Ted, the world is all too familiar with the Boston accent that local Bostonians will exhibit at varying levels of strength. However, an obvious out-of-towner rolling into a local watering hole and announcing the intention to have a “wicked pissa” will definitely earn you some sideways glances and possibly an invitation to kick rocks. I should also warn you that the names of the surrounding areas are not always what they seem. Worcester is actually “Wooster” and apparently the emphasis in Peabody sounds more like PEE-biddy. Other than that, just wait until someone else says it before you jump in.
  • “Are you all set?”: This is a subtle one. Whether you’re in line at your local pharmacy or changing a tire on the side of the highway, someone will probably ask you, “Are you all set?” I’ve discovered this is just a general way of saying, “Can I help you?” It’s a little disconcerting when you’re waiting for the bartender to get to you and this is what they ask. Obviously, you are not all set because you have no drinks. However, if you say something like, “No, I’m not all set,” it likely won’t be received well. Just proceed with your order.
  • Not a happy hour in sight: THERE IS NO HAPPY HOUR IN BOSTON. I know, it’s horrendous. In fact, there are little to no drink specials of any kind within the confines of the city. It has been that way since 1984 when some smarty pants at the DOT decided to compare the hours during which the most DUIs were issued to the hours when every bar in the city was drastically discounting alcohol. Anyone really surprised? Despite several recent attempts to do away with the ban on happy hour, it looks like we’ll have to pay full price for post-work cocktails for the foreseeable future.

 

  • The GOAT: Boston sports is like sex to these people. Pats, Sox, Bruins, Celtics. And I have to say, coming from an area where the local baseball team would literally pay YOU for showing up, it’s extremely infectious. I don’t care if you love or hate the Pats, but when they won the Superbowl in 2017, the whole city was vibrating with positive energy. Sure, every team has its obnoxious fans, but when I wore a Rays jersey to a Sox game when Hurricane Irma was rolling towards my hometown, I got more questions about how my family was faring in the storm rather than smack talk. Sports brings this town together in a huge way, and it’s hard not to catch the fever. (PS – “GOAT” stands for Greatest of All Time in reference to Tom Brady, the reigning king of New England) [Editors Note: Tom Brady Sucks! Go EAGLES!!]
  • Damn Youths: Massachusetts is home to 114 institutions of higher learning, about 50 of which are located in the greater Boston area. This means that during the school year, there is an influx of roughly 250,000 students that descend on Boston to better themselves through top-notch education. Therefore, is you plan to visit Boston in the September to May timeframe, or any timeframe for that matter, be prepared to be surrounded by the vibrant youth that is ordering an elephant’s share of Bud Light, puking in the streets, and shaping this nation’s future. Cheers!

Lodging

How should I know? I live here! However, Boston is expensive. If you want to be near the action without spending your entire travel budget, I highly recommend checking out Airbnb. Find one accessible by the ever-reliable T (that’s Boston for subway system), and you’ll be golden. If you have the clams to drop, I recommend finding a spot near Downtown Crossing, Government Center, or the Financial District because that’s where our adventure begins…

Downtown/Historic District/North End

  • Bell in Hand (45 Union Street): No trip to historic Boston would be complete without a stop at the Bell in Hand. In operation since 1795, it boasts the reputation of the oldest continuously operating tavern in America. I have personally done a full survey of the surrounding restaurants to find the best clam chowder, and this is hands down the one. They have a no frills menu of great food, an impressive craft beer list, and a friendly staff that could talk you into staying for lunch, then drinks, then live music (which happens every night). So be careful here or you might end up staying all day! Tourist level: high

    boston 4

    Bell in Hand Tavern

  • Faneuil Hall: Just down the street from the Bell is historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace built in 1742 by Peter Faneuil as a gift to the city. Many an impassioned speech has taken place in the cobblestone courtyards protesting taxation without representation, and rallying colonists to the cause of independence by none other than Samuel Adams himself. Today, Faneuil is home to Quincy Market, housing the famous food colonnade of endless stalls of delicious New England food, various upscale restaurants, and tons of shopping. It’s also worth it to check out the Great Hall where you can learn a little more about history and pick up some souvenirs in the Bostonian Society Museum Shop. Tourist level: high 

    boston-5-e1529956732840.jpg

    Faneuil Hall

  • New England Aquarium: The New England Aquarium is pretty impressive if you especially like seals and penguins (who doesn’t?). They house more than 80 penguins to befriend and the four-story Giant Ocean Tank to add to your Instagram feed. If the entry fee of $28 is a little steep for your budget, you can still hang out with a family of harbor seals out front without spending a penny. You can also sneak around to the back to possibly check out the very entertaining sea lion feeding time. The Aquarium is also the location to find all sorts of touristy adventures like city tours, ghost tours, duck tours – pretty much any tour you can think of! Tourist level: high 

    boston 6

    As promised, straight from my insta feed

  • Spectacle Island Beer Garden: If you’re looking for a way to spend an afternoon when the weather is nice, check out the Spectacle Island Beer Garden. I definitely recommend booking these in advance (which you can do online: Harbor Cruises). Tickets are $55/person and includes a boat ride to Spectacle Island where you’ll find a full spread of great traditional beer garden fare, lawn games, and beers from Harpoon Brewery (available for purchase). The boat leaves from Long Wharf (right next to the aquarium). Check the website for specific dates. Tourist level: medium
  • Water taxi to Downeast Cider: Beer not your thing? Hop on a water taxi from Long Wharf and tell the captain to take you to Downeast Cider (or to stop 68 for the shipyard and marina if he gives you a funny look). You’ll typically need to call the taxi at 617-227-4321, especially during the week or during non-peak times. Downeast Cider is a homegrown business and product with new cider brews coming out literally every week. The cidery currently doesn’t have a liquor license so can’t provide full pours but trust me, they’re wonderfully liberal with those samples. Tours are free but you may want to book in advance: Downeast Cider. Tourist level: medium
  • Ginger Man (148 State Street): Owned by the same folks as Ginger Man NYC, this is one of my favorite haunts in Boston, boasting 75 taps and an incredibly eclectic beer list that is updated on a daily basis. They have wine and liquor as well, but beer is what they do. Their staff is genuinely passionate about beer and knowledgeable about everything on the menu. Even if you’re not a beer expert, or even if you usually drink Bud Light, they will help you find something new that you will like. And I never thought I would say this about a place in New England, but try the Southern Fried Chicken Slider – it will change your life. Tourist level: low 

    boston 7

    Ginger Man Drinks

  • Sullivan’s (168 Canal Street): If you have the time and means to score some Celtics or Bruins tickets, do yourself a favor and skip the overpriced, crowded sports bars around TD Garden and opt for a true Boston dive bar experience. The drinks are cheap, the air conditioning is non-existent, and the Boston accents are thick. Just be warned, it’s cash only and the ATM fees are brutal. Tourist level: local
  • Mike’s vs. Modern: Pat’s vs. Gino’s. Chicago style vs. NYC style. Car-mel or car-a-mel. People are very passionate about their food choices and classic Italian bakeries in Boston are no different. If you’ve ever visited Boston before, someone has certainly told you to visit Mike’s Pastry on Hanover Street in the North End, Boston’s Little Italy. Don’t get me wrong, the cannoli are fantastic, but with its increasing notoriety, it gets extremely crowded in the afternoons and on weekends. As a current resident of the North End, you’ll find me at Modern Pastry for all my cookie and pastry needs. With more space, more options, and (in my opinion) a better product, it’s not really a contest. Just a box of assorted cookies will likely blow your mind. Also, keep your eyes peeled for the stairway leading you down to Modern Underground, a relatively new bar and restaurant under the bakery that has a phenomenal brunch menu. Also, these two gems are right across the street from each other so why not try both! Tourist level: medium-high 
  • Dolce Vita (221 Hanover Street): A staple of the North End restaurant scene, Dolce Vita has been serving up old world Italian since 1988. Visited by tourists and locals alike, Dolce Vita has remained a constant in this ever-updating mecca of Italian cuisine. If you’re looking to treat yourself to a great meal, I recommend the pollo al verdicchio (chicken in white wine) which is a whole chicken breast with various veggies, but it’s hard to go wrong at this place. Also, if you don’t like your food, they offer to pay for it. You have literally nothing to lose! Tourist level: medium

Back Bay/Newbury/Prudential

  • Trident Booksellers and Cafe (338 Newbury Street): A favorite of tourists and locals alike, Trident serves brunch into the afternoon, has a selection of wine and beer, and is a great place to study, eat, and shop. It is also one of the only restaurants on record where I have genuinely enjoyed a vegan meal in the form of their Tofu Scramble – an accomplishment within itself. Tourist level: medium
  • Mike and Patty’s (12 Church Street): Looking for something a little more authentically Boston? Look no further than Mike and Patty’s near Tufts Medical Center. This place is great for grab-and-go because it’s tiny on the inside with very little seating – you may even have to order and then wait outside for your sandwich! I promise you it is worth it. Just put their “Fancy” sandwich in your face and feel all your cares melt away. Tourist level: low
  • Newbury Street: Every trip to Boston must include a stroll down the iconic Newbury Street. Maybe not everyone can afford to shop at Chanel or Givenchy, but it’s always fun to look in the windows and dream… Further down the street however, you can find more reasonable shopping, including the famous Newbury Comics and a fantastic chocolatier called La Burdick. Order a hot chocolate from there and all your problems will be solved. Tourist level: high
  • Boston Public Library (700 Boylston Street): You don’t need a card to visit this library. The modern entrance belies a legitimate National Historic Landmark regarded as “the first outstanding example of Renaissance Beaux-Arts Classicism in America” by the National Parks Service. The BPL houses numerous halls and galleries that are worth at least a visit, or you could settle in with a book in the BPL Courtyard, the architecture of which is based on the sixteenth-century Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome. Bates Hall is also a must-visit and where you may find me studying frantically for the MCAT on pretty much any given day. Tourist level: medium-high 

    boston 10

    Boston Public Library

  • Top of the Hub (800 Boylston Street): Great views of Boston are everywhere, and the Prudential Building offers some of the best. You can head to the Skywalk Observatory for $19/person to take in all 360 degrees of Beantown. However, a more fun way of getting an eyeful is at Top of the Hub Restaurant and Lounge on the 52nd You can make a night of it in the restaurant (definitely make a reservation) or have a more casual evening in the lounge, where you could find some live music and perfectly crafted cocktails. This place is pretty fancy, so make sure you’re prepared for the dress code! Tourist level: medium 

    boston11

    Lobster ravioli, champagne and views – it may have been somebody’s birthday….

  • Bukowski’s (50 Dalton Street): Slightly off the beaten path at the end of Newbury Street (near Hynes Convention Center), you’ll find this little dive with great beer, food, and philosophy courtesy of the works of Charles Bukowski. The pub fare is outstanding, especially the White Trash Cheese Dip (nom). Just be warned on two counts: this place is cash only and DON’T order a Bud Light. Just don’t. Tourist level: local 

    boston 12

    Words of wisdom on the Bukowski’s menu from the namesake himself

Seaport/South Boston

  • Institute of Contemporary Art (25 Harbor Shore Drive): The ICA Boston was founded in 1936 as a sister institution to New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. Overlooking the harbor, it’s a great place to take in some culture and bonus: every Thursday is free from 5-9pm. Double bonus: over the summer, free Thursdays also include free music and dancing out on the deck. Tourist level: medium
  • Drink (348 Congress Street): By far the most meta bar in Boston is also one of the most unique. There are no cocktail menus at Drink. Your cocktails are made to order by your personal bartender based on your personal preferences. What type of liquor? What flavor profile? Sweet or dry? Spirit forward or easy drinker? Floral or spicy? Have a vague idea of what you like and POOF! It will be provided for you. And since cocktails go down easy when they’re all your favorite kind, thank goodness for the divine snacks! Tourist level: low
  • Row 34 (383 Congress Street): What do you eat in New England? Fresh seafood, of course! Boston is replete with seafood joints covering the complete price range and Row 34 is one of my favorites in the upper echelon. They have a full raw bar with oysters from more than ten different locales, one of the most decadent lobster rolls I have ever had, and a fascinating beer and wine list. While the prices are a bit high, the wardrobe expectations are low, which makes Row 34 a perfect spot for a great meal after a day of sightseeing. Tourist level: low-medium 

    boston 13

    Row 34

  • The Barking Crab (88 Sleeper Street): If you’re looking for something a little more laid back, the Barking Crab is possibly the most fun seafood restaurant in Boston. While it’s a great destination all year round, I recommend going during the warmer months when this waterfront location is completely open air. The prices may still be steep, but almost every dish comes with a bib and a bucket – you’re definitely going to get your hands dirty! I recommend grabbing a cold brew, ordering some peel and eat shrimp, and making the full commitment by going straight for the fresh King Crab legs. You may want to go early to put your name in before you get hungry because you will likely have a pretty good wait ahead of you. But I promise you, it’ll be worth it! Tourist level: high 

    boston 14

    Barking Crab

  • Lookout Rooftop Bar at Envoy Hotel (70 Sleeper Street): Finish out your night with another favorite rooftop spot of mine. A bit more young and trendy than Top of the Hub, Lookout Rooftop Bar has a more laid back dress code and is a wonderful location to take in the city, especially at night. You can’t make reservations for small groups in advance though, so prepare to stand where you can see and be seen. Tourist level: low

Cambridge/Somerville

  • Massachusetts Avenue Bridge: After a night of rooftop drinks, it’s usually a good idea to get the body moving. Some of the best views of the Charles River can be seen from the Mass Ave Bridge that will take from the edge of Back Bay over to Cambridge near MIT. Tourist level: low
  • State Park (One Kendall Square, Cambridge): Continue your walk North to Kendall Square where there are plenty of places to grab a bite, one of my favorites being State Park. While it may be listed as a “dive” on some websites, I find it hard to equate a place with a French 75 on the menu with a dive bar. Also, the whole kitschy vibe will make you feel like you’re at summer camp! Order a Milwaukee Bloody Mary and the Juicy Lucy Burger with brioche bun to do away with any lingering hangover and give you fuel for your next adventure… Tourist level: low
  • Paddle Boston (15 Broad Canal Way, Cambridge): Right on the Charles River is Paddle Boston, a cheap option for kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boarding. They charge by the hour so you can have as much or as little physical activity as you like. Just be careful on the Charles as you’ll be sharing waters with kayaks and barges alike! Tourist level: low 

    boston 15

    Me “SUPing” or whatever the kids are calling it these days thanks to Paddle Boston

  • Beat Brasserie (Harvard Square, Cambridge): Get a little cleaned up and head to Harvard Square where you’ll find plenty of shopping, music venues, and restaurants. Beat Brasserie calls itself “an underground Bohemian oasis.” While it attracts a few too many yuppies and students to be truly Bohemian, it certainly does its best to transport you from the streets of Cambridge, if only for a night. Order up an Aztec bowl with free range chicken and an artisanal wine on tap and soak in the sounds of some local music while enjoying the incredible mix of demographics – great for people watching! Tourist level: low 
  • Backbar (7 Sanborn Court, Somerville): What “insider post” would be complete without a speakeasy? Enter Backbar down the alley next to a German restaurant through the door indicated by a tiny red sign. You’ll be greeted by Yoda himself (and possibly a hostess) who will take your name and call you when there’s space because there is no standing around at Backbar. The cocktails are artfully crafted by experienced mixologists and served in a slightly Star Wars-themed environment with delicious charcuterie boards. What more could you possibly want? The cocktail list is constantly evolving, but if you can snag a Dram It All, you will have the perfect end to your Cambridge day. Tourist level: local 

    boston 18

    Keep an eye out for this little guy

Fenway/Kenmore

  • Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (25 Evans Way): A sophisticated day of museum hopping in Boston should always begin at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Get there early to savor the beauty of the Venetian-style palazzo, along with its many impressive works of art by Rembrandt, Degas, and Manet (just to name a few). Originally constructed and curated by Isabella Gardner herself and opened in 1903, it was gifted to the public upon her death in 1924, with her will stating that no pieces should ever be added to or removed from the collection. The true gem here is the beautiful gardens, which are a great place to walk around or sit and read a good book. Tourist level: medium 

    boston 19

    Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum 

  • Museum of Fine Arts (465 Huntington Ave): The MFA is a cultural staple in Boston with permanent collections ranging from ancient world to contemporary art to photography to musical instruments to fashion arts. It seems there is always something going on at the MFA like art classes, films, and lectures, and some of the most fascinating temporary exhibitions – currently they’re showing a collection by Mark Rothko and a photography collection entitled (un)expected families which explores the different types of family units in the US. BONUS: the MFA is free Wednesdays after 4pm (donations appreciated)! Tourist level: medium-high
  • Warren Anatomical Museum (10 Shattuck Street): For something a little different than your typical art fare, visit the Warren Anatomical Museum at Harvard Medical School’s Countway Library of Medicine. The museum was founded in 1847 by anatomist and surgeon John Collins Warren to teach Harvard Medical students anatomy. It now stands as one of the only pathology and anatomy museums in the country, with its “claim to fame” being the skull of Phineas Gage. Gage suffered an accident in 1848 that sent a tamping rod through the left frontal part of his brain. Miraculously, he not only survived, but recovered to live a mostly normal life, although his personality was significantly altered. This incident provided doctors with some of the earliest research on brain function. These artifacts are not for the faint of heart, but for this aspiring medical student, it’s my favorite museum in Boston. Tourist level: low 

    boston 20

    Phineas Gage: Marvel of early neuroscience

  • Fenway Park Tours: If you take nothing else from this article, you must visit Fenway Park on your trip to Boston! Not too far from your museum adventures is the storied Green Monster steeped in tradition, fantasy, and fact alike. I highly recommend planning in advance by going to the Fenway Park Tour website to check the ever-changing tour schedule and booking in advance, particularly in the summer time. Tourist level: high
  • Island Creek Oyster Bar (500 Commonwealth Avenue): Just a brief stroll from Fenway is another amazing seafood spot serving up fresh catches daily. Treat yourself to some smoked shrimp pimento cheese and lobster roe noodles (YUM!). Also, don’t forget an extra side of buttermilk biscuits because you’re on vacation and vacation calories don’t count! Tourist level: medium 

    boston 21

    Island Creek Oyster Bar

Points Beyond

  • Sam Adams Brewery (30 Germania Street): Last, but nowhere close to least, is the Sam Adams Brewery: founded in 1988, now the research and development hub for the whole company. A bit off the beaten tourist path in the suburban area of Jamaica Plain, it’s an easy ride on the T orange line and then a pleasant 5-10 minute walk to the door. Tours are 100% free and tickets are provided on a first-come-first-served basis. Get a little beer education and then enjoy a generous tasting of some Sam Adams classics, and possibly some experimental brews. The brewery recently opened a tap room where they can provide full pints, if you’re so inclined – just be careful of the gift shop. After a full tasting, money somehow just flies out of your wallet! Tourist level: medium 

    boston 22

    My friend Julie and I celebrating her birthday with our “tastings” from the Sam Adams Brewery

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s