Recently, I've had a lot of people ask me how to get the true flavor of Boston. Friends of friends who are visiting the area, or coworkers of mine from the international offices have asked how to enjoy Boston quickly on limited time. Sadly, I didn't have any great answers for these people. But I've been thinking about it, and figured those anonymous tourists who Google before they book would like to know how the locals do Boston. So here is my completely incomplete list of fun stuff to do in Boston, written on my lunch break, that could use much improvement.
A British coworker asked me last week what the one thing Bostonians are crazy about. I immediately answered "Red Sox. Fenway Park. Go." This advice, in retrospect, kind of sucks. Unless you know in February that you're coming to Boston at a certain time, odds of you getting tickets are slim. And if baseball isn't your thing, you may be slightly pissed about spending so much money on a ticket and watered-down ballpark beer. Even if you're working on the pound system, it's still not cheap to visit Fenway.
If a Sox ticket doesn't fall in your lap, fear not. You can still enjoy the Red Sox on their home turf without parting with all your traveler's checks. Your best bet is to watch the game at one of Fenway's bars. Sure, the bars immediately surrounding Fenway Park are expensive, but when Papi hits a home run, you can hear the thunderous applause over the Green Monster. My personal favorite Fenway bar is Game On, despite the fact that the beer costs nearly as much as it does inside Fenway Park itself. The nachos suck too. But the downstairs cavern with countless televisions playing the game is well worth the price, especially when you consider that Game On does a raffle in the second inning for Monster seats, so it's possible you may end up inside the park after all.
The Cask ('n' Flagon) is also good. The food is much better, and the people-watching is great from their outdoor seating. I'm slightly disappointed that their remodel led to the place looking like an overpriced Ground Round, but it's good. I'm in the middle of a hissy with Boston Beer Works, because every time I go there for dinner with a large party and we want to sit for a couple more pitchers (each) of beer, the waiter gets huffy and asks us to leave. I understand people may be waiting for the table, but we're still ordering. It's hard to manipulate pitchers around the bar area. I always forget what bitches they are in there until I'm already seated. But the beer is awesome, as are their fries.
Another thing Boston is crazy about is walking. Bostonians walk as much as possible. While this is due in part to the beauty of the city and its compactness, it's mainly because Bostonians hate the T. We walk down Newbury Street just to be seen on Newbury Street. You can try to shop, but it's massively frustrating and overpriced. Bostonians love to walk/run/rollerblade/bike/unicycle the Esplanade, which is why I love Boston in the summer. I don't know where they are for the rest of the year, but it's a parade of hotties on the Esplanade during this time of year. I'm going to start tripping them so they have to talk to me and take my number, if only for insurance reasons. You should also walk through the North End, but please watch for people who actually live there manipulating groceries. Step aside, let them through, then resume your gawking. (Annette, you're welcome.)
Visitors must also take advantage of the Filene's Basement in Downtown Crossing before it closes for "renovations." But for the hardcore bargain-shoppers, a trip to Wrentham is a must. The land of premium outlets, both Americans and foreigners go crazy for the bargains. My friend S's friend from England dropped about $600 on shirts, socks, and pants. He had to be dragged bodily away from the outlets. While taking a car is advisable, there is a bus that runs from Boston to Wrentham if you don't feel like driving.
Don't bother with Cheers. Just don't do it. It's a basement dive bar turned tourist trap. When I was at Emerson, I should have worn a sign that read "Cheers is under the big fuck-off yellow banner fifty yards in front of you. Leave me alone." If you must visit "Cheers," visit the one in Fanuiel Hall. They sell all the touristy crap and it actually bears a resemblance to the bar on TV. If you want to see a real Boston bar, visit the Pour House. Cheap, decent food, affordable drinks, a good mix of students and people who actually live in Boston. The Hill Tavern in Beacon Hill/Government Center is also worthwhile and good. Also an awesome dive, the Hong Kong in Fanuiel Hall has meat on a stick for a buck, scorpion bowls, and fun karaoke.
If I had to leave Boston tomorrow, here is what I would do with my last day:
- Brunch at Dillon's. (Apparently, I'm leaving town on a weekend.)
- Walk down Newbury Street.
- Walk down the Esplanade by the Hatch Shell.
- Walk over the Longfellow Bridge.
- Lunch outside at Tealuxe on Newbury Street, for the good sandwiches and excellent people-watching.
- Watch a baseball game at Fenway.
- Dinner at Sel de la Terre, the Washington Square/Beacon Street Tavern, Super Fusion Cuisine, or the Publik House.
- Dessert at Finale.
- Mojitos at Bonfire.
- Dancing and drinking on the cheap at Cleary's.
That's all for now. Weigh in in the comments section.