Boston Regal

Smarts are serious business here in the country’s intellectual hub: with nearly 30 universities and colleges within its environs, the city churns out scholars of all sorts.

But that doesn’t mean the natives are all confined to the libraries (beautiful as they are). Its meandering parks, dazzling museums and theatres, and a vibrant array of bars and restaurants all make the locals proud, though that pride may only come second to the loyalty they feel for their sports teams. The city is gorgeous in every season, with warm, temperate weather in spring and summer, and crisp autumn days that bleed into the region’s distinct New England winters. Though rich in history, Boston’s best trait may be its ability to constantly reinvent itself.

Points of View

Any sight in Boston is a treat for the eyes. The gleaming glass structure that houses The Institute of Contemporary Art hovers over the harbour in Boston’s up-and-coming waterfront district. It’s hosting the first solo US exhibition of Brazilian artists Os Gemeos, until 25 November. Baseball fans must make their obligatory pilgrimage to Fenway Park, the nation’s oldest continuously operating ballpark, which celebrates its centennial this year. Whether the Red Sox are up or down in the season, Bostonians still flock to the park, with its famous 11-metre-high left field wall, affectionately known as the Green Monster.

There’s no better way to appreciate the city than to view it from the Charles River, whether you’re floating upon it in a duck-shaped boat or running alongside it on the esplanade. Photo opportunities abound from the Harvard Bridge, which offers a perfect view of the two domes that dominate the skyline: the gleaming golden one atop the State House and the marble Great Dome of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). While walking along the bridge, look for measurements painted along it. These “Smoots” are the height of MIT student Oliver Smoot, who was laid across the bridge 364 times as part of a college prank back in 1958.

Checking-in

Whether you’re after five-star digs or want to sleep in a slice of history, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Boston.

Historic: Ames Hotel, housed inside what’s considered to be Boston’s first skyscraper, is only steps from the Freedom Trail, the path that traces the American Revolutionary War history in the city.

Boutique: The pet-friendly lodgings and in-room spa treatments at Nine Zero hotel are just a few minutes walk from Boston’s public marketplace, Faneuil Hall. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer stunning views of the Massachusetts State House.

Opulent: The Taj Boston hotel has definitely nailed the location. You’ll find this stunning property close to both the famous Newbury Street shopping hub and the picturesque Boston Common.

Spine-tingling: The Liberty hotel stands on the site of what was once the Charles Street Jail. Travellers to the city may not have wanted to stay at the original property, but now things are a bit different. The chic Beacon Hill hotel regularly draws visitors who like to linger.

Sophisticated: The 63-room XV Beacon hotel, in a 1903 Beaux Arts building in Beacon Hill, is all about attention to detail: from the original cage elevators and the artworks on display to the iPads on hand for guests to rent at their convenience.

Foodie Haven

Local cuisine reflects the city’s diversity. But while these inventive chefs mine flavours from around the world, they typically look to local purveyors for seasonal produce and farm-raised staples.

One: Chef Jody Adams has spent the last 18 years serving up local Italian flavours in her award-winning Rialto Restaurant & Bar. Her newest venture, Trade, is far more urban, with its brick walls and rough-hewn tables. The flatbread pizzas are reason enough to dine here, but if you come, stay for the grilled whole lobster or rigatoni with lamb ragu.

Two: Uni Sashimi Bar is a hidden gem: an intimate, 21-seat sashimi bar that sources its fish from Tokyo, and is tucked into Clio, the posh eatery in Back Bay’s The Eliot Hotel. Iconic local chef Ken Oringer has created a special late-night ramen menu served from 11pm on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Three: Tony Maws is one of the local chefs who subscribe to the nose-to-tail theory of cooking at his eatery, Craigie on Main. The eight-course tasting menu, complete with the house-made pasta, is one of the most talked about in the city. Show up for brunch and you won’t leave hungry: the restaurant’s celebrated grass-fed beef burger is only available to diners at that time.

Beyond Boston

Concord is just a 40-minute drive from Boston, but feels a world away from the city when you’re visiting Walden Pond. Henry David Thoreau famously isolated himself at Walden, and today he’s the namesake of 80 Thoreau, a “new American” restaurant housed in an old train depot in town. To get to the heart of the region’s historical heritage, visit Minute Man National Historic Park, where the first shots were fired in the American Revolution, and walk along the Battle Road Trail. In the nearby town of Lincoln, the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum exhibits tremendous works of art scattered throughout its building and around its 14-hectare park.

Outdoor Pursuits

Newbury Street is Boston’s shopping mecca, a mix of big-name brands and intimate boutiques, which turn increasingly highbrow as one works their way east. For a break from consumption, wander from Newbury Street into the Public Garden, where the iconic swan boats slowly skim along the water’s surface on summer afternoons. In winter, just across the way in Boston Common, skaters glide along the frozen ice on the Frog Pond. Also, pay a visit to the oldest university in the US and stroll through Harvard Yard, where hordes of parents drag their children each season hoping to inspire acts of intellect. Free student-led tours depart daily from the Holyoke Center Arcade.

Modern Facade

The new cube-shaped concert hall, with vermilion seats, at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum looks like a box of perfectly wrapped chocolates, and the sound inside is nearly as sweet. It’s just one element of the museum’s recently opened wing, designed by Renzo Piano, that serves as a modern counterpoint to the historic Venetian-style palace that houses Gardner’s eclectic collection of paintings and artefacts. “I think everyone is very excited to have the first Renzo Piano building in Boston,” says the museum’s director, Anne Hawley. She says the modern glass pavilions create a “building [that is] so open, it really invites the public in”.

My City

Venture capitalist and entrepreneur Joi Ito was recently named director of MIT’s mind-bendingly innovative Media Lab, a sort of permanent science fair for some of the most talented thinkers in the world, examining the convergence of design and technology.

You’re always travelling. What do you love coming home to in Boston?

I try oysters everywhere, but nothing beats the selection and the quality of Boston oysters. I also love my job, my colleagues and the Media Lab. It’s the best job in the world and I miss the community when I’m away.

What excites you about the city?

Tons of smart people and beautiful architecture and culture. It’s small enough to get your head around, but big enough to afford high quality.

Where do you go to escape?

I’m not telling you. Just kidding, I love the Public Garden, except that all of my students hang out there, too, so I have to wear a disguise.

You’re a former DJ — where’s your favourite place to hear live music?

The secret underground raves we have at the Media Lab. And I love the Heroes nights at TT the Bears Place. Think electro, new wave and 1980s punk.

Finally, do you have any local restaurant recommendations?

I love Legal Sea Foods in Kendall Square in Cambridge. I eat the caesar salad with lobster at least four times a week.

Words by Janelle Nanos - Published in Voyeur November 2012
Quick Facts 
Population Approx. 4.5 million
Time Zone UTC -5
Languages English (official), Spanish, Native American
Currency American Dollar ($USD)
Electricity 110v - 60Hz
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