Boston is really a town (ssh!), but proudly carries itself like a big city, especially in the Back Bay, one of its most affluent and swanky neighborhoods. The renovated, still pristine nineteenth century Victorian brownstones that line Newbury Street make shopping its high-end stores like Chanel and Valentino feel intimate and cozy (kind of like the $100 socks you will be tempted to buy), and its plethora of swanky patio restaurants like chic oases. Sip cocktails at Stephanie’s and take in the motley crew of locals, tourists, and girls who think they are on Fifth Avenue streaming by. If you crave slightly less expensive but equally delicious fare, check out Parish Café or Solas on Bolyston Street, just one over from Newbury. If you like a good 52-story panoramic view of the city, take an ear-popping elevator ride up to Top of the Hub, a ritzy restaurant atop the Prudential Center. But if you seek the good ‘ol town of Boston vibe, you shall find it at the Irish pubs Lir or McGreevy’s, or in the gritty, cash-only joint, Daisy Buchanan’s. Lastly, if you want some history (and it is Boston, so there is plenty to go around), visit Copley Plaza, where you will find the jaw-dropping Boston Public Library and Trinity Church. [sociallocker]
Like the Back Bay, this cozy neighborhood packs in over 400 years of Boston history, unmistakable in its slender cobblestone streets lined with gas lamps and red brick row houses. You start to imagine the clip-clop sounds of a horse-drawn carriage transporting John Quincy Adams or Charles Bulfinch (or some other historical white guy) to the gold-domed state house for important business. Once your (possibly inaccurate) historical reverie dissipates and your appetite sets in, savor the simple but divine frutta plate (country toast, walnut butter, fresh fruit and honey) at Panifico or the famed pizza at Figs. If you are in the mood for shopping, browse antique wares Elegant Findings Antiques, try on designer duds at Moxie, and raid the huge selection of rare wines at Beacon Hill Wine & Spirits. For dinner, enjoy the free cheese and crackers as you enter 75 Chestnut, a neighborhood staple to the few locals who know about it. Then spend an evening relishing in a different kind of history by having cocktails with names like “Jailbait,” and “Single White Female” at Alibi Bar + Lounge at the Liberty Hotel, formerly the Charles St. Jail.
Boston’s Chinatown is the third-largest Chinese neighborhood in the United States, but it is still tiny, and if you blink you might miss it. Once you pass safely through the traditional entrance gate on Beach Street and the foo lion sculptures have warded off any evil spirits you may be harboring, you will want to try the Dim Sum at the ambiguously named Empire/Emperor’s Garden (it reads Empire on one side of its sign and Emperor on the other), housed in an abandoned, old-fashioned movie theater on Washington Street. A discombobulated chorus of dishes, carts and tin trays of boiled chicken feet rings dully throughout the high-ceilinged, ornate dining room. Irashai Sushi on Kneeland Street has some of the freshest fish in town, and they are known for serving up your money’s worth. Your taste buds and your wallet will be satisfied. Get your Chinese New Year on with the annual Red Lantern Festival, which involves tons of sample-sized delicacies from street vendors and an insanely bright, multi-colored parade.
“Downtown Boston” is a fluid definition, but typically comprises Boston Common, the Public Garden, Downtown Crossing, the Financial District, and Faneuil Hall. The most notable–and perhaps most recognizable–facets of Downtown Boston are Boston Common and the Public Garden. The former is the oldest city park in the United States and today, most visitors laze in its grass, watch their kids splash around in the Frog Pond, attend outdoor concerts, and engage in intense battles of Ultimate Frisbee. The latter, the Public Garden, is America’s first botanical park, where an endless parade of tourists strolls across the Lagoon Bridge and giant swan boats paddle along in the pond below, lovers canoodle on benches, unfazed squirrels implore humans for food scraps, and hundreds of cherry red and fire orange tulips blossom in the spring. After you have moseyed through the green space, relish a burger and mountain of Parmesan truffles fries at Kingston Station, shoot pool and have beers at Beantown Pub, or do some shopping in Downtown Crossing. Thirsty? Sip on a delectable cappuccino at Thinking Cup. Lastly, don’t be intimidated by the legions of tourists that descend upon Faneuil Hall. The “Cradle of Liberty” might be a tad chaotic at times, but with an international array of food at Quincy Market, tons of local and international merchants, and lively street performers, there is a little something for everyone.
On game days, the Fenway/Kenmore area is a sea of red, white, and blue in homage to the People’s Republic of the Boston Red Sox, and thousands of fans don their favorite jersey or t-shirt as they make the pilgrimage up Yawkey Way to Fenway Park. Big screen TVs bellow and beers flow from hundreds of taps in bars throughout the area. Inside the park, fans belt out “Sweet Caroline” en masse, proud vendors hawk hot dogs, popcorn (or, “pupcohn,” as I love to hear it), peanuts, and lemonade in the stands. If you can’t make it inside the park, pass around some good ‘ol bar food and brews at Game On, Who’s on First?, Cask ‘n Flagon, or the filthy gem of a dive bar, Copperfield’s. The less sports-enthused folks in Fenway/Kenmore can be found just around the way admiring an ancient-Roman fresco at the Museum of Fine Arts or at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, pondering its infamous 1990 heist.
The North End has a rich history, but let’s be real, today it’s about the carbs. The North End is a cozy Italian immigrant enclave that teems with some of the most authentic, and delicious Italian food you will ever eat. If you stay late at Dolce Vita, chances are you will witness the owner and family gather around for a meal, music, and bickering (I imagine its even more fun if you know Italian). Ladies, the owner may pepper you with endless “bellas” as he delivers your steaming hot plate of Ziti Amatriciana, and again when he checks to make sure you are enjoying your meal. Make sure you visit Bricco—a small panetteria accessible only through a narrow alleyway—and purchase loaves of freshly baked and artfully designed bread. And because you have now abandoned all of your carbohydrate inhibitions, travel to Mike’s Pastry, a world-famous dessert shop that sells a lobster claw (don’t worry, it’s a dessert, no seafood is involved) as a big a hamburger. Just get there early, as the line typically stretches around the corner.
The South End used to be a place you did not want to be after dark, but after the gays moved in, it became the sought after hot spot for contemporary art, live jazz and savory French food that it is today. (In fact, the city’s official website notes the South End’s “vibrant gay and lesbian population.”). While there are still corners that should be avoided in the absence of proper lighting, majority of the South End is safely animated. Linger over live jazz and cocktails at The Beehive, have an absolutely to-die-for brunch at Masa for just $7.99 (white cloth and all), and indulge your butter-loving, inner-French person at the Gaslight with duck confit and chocolate beignets. Also try the apple tarte tatin with calvados caramel at the French bistro Aquitaine. It is so delicious you will be kissing your garçon at the end of the meal. [/sociallocker]