5 Reasons Why Boston Should Be Your Next Getaway
Between the historic charm, world-class art museums, and booming (and female-driven) restaurant scene, there are plenty of reasons to visit Boston on your next weekend getaway. If you haven’t visited recently, you’re in for a wicked good time.
An avid Italophile, Laura is always on the hunt for the next great travel trends, luxury hotels, best places to eat and drink, and hidden gems. Her writing has appeared in dozens of publications. She also co-wrote "New York: Hidden Bars and Restaurants," an award-winning guide to the city's speakeasy scene.
As one of the oldest cities in the U.S., Boston is chock-a-block with historic sites that coexist side by side with modern skyscrapers to form the fabric of the city. Picturesque areas like Beacon Hill and the Back Bay often appear on lists of America’s most beautiful neighborhoods—for good reason. Stroll along cobblestoned Charles Street, which connects the Boston Common to the Charles River, and you’ll find stately brick homes, antique shops, and quaint cafés. Meanwhile, with its distinguished townhouses and tree-lined streets, the Back Bay seems like something out of a Henry James novel. The North End (Boston's own Little Italy) is home to Paul Revere’s House, where you can learn about his Midnight Ride. And Fenway Park—built in 1912—is America’s oldest major league baseball stadium.
For a good overview of historic sites, follow the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail (marked by a red line on the sidewalk), which passes sites like the Old South Meeting House (where revolutionaries decided to enact the Boston Tea Party), Faneuil Hall, the Bunker Hill Monument, and the USS Constitution.
TOUR TO BOOK: History lovers will love this three-hour small-group walking tour of Boston's major sites and hidden gems, which follows—in chronological order—the history of the Revolutionary War. Expect engaging commentary from a 15-year-long resident as you visit Cobb's Hill, the Old North Church, the Granary Burying Ground, and hidden spots off the beaten path.
World-Class Art Museums
With its rich history and prestigious universities, Boston boasts more than its fair share of renowned art museums and cultural institutions. The Museum of Fine Arts, which opened in 1876 (just six years after New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art), houses the city's largest collection of nearly 450,000 works spanning back to Ancient Egypt. Just a couple blocks away, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is an enduring testament to one of the country’s greatest Gilded Age art collectors. Gardner competed head-to-head with J.P. Morgan, Frick, and other tycoons of the era to amass the country’s best collection of European Medieval and Renaissance art. She built a Venetian-style palazzo, where she lived amid masterpieces by Botticelli, Tintoretto, and Veronese, and stipulated in her will that the museum’s galleries should remain exactly as they were when she lived there. The museum is also famous for being the victim of the world's biggest unsolved art heist.
Across the Charles, Harvard University has its own collection of institutions. The Fogg Museum (Western art), the Busch-Reisinger Museum (Germanic), and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum (Asian) together make up the Harvard Art Museums, which were renovated and expanded by award-winning architect Renzo Piano in 2014. Spend an afternoon browsing the collections, then wander around Harvard Square, whose indie shops and cafés cater to the large student population, before heading to the waterfront to visit the ICA (the Institute of Contemporary Art), whose sleek modern building sits cantilevered over Boston Harbor.
A Booming Restaurant Scene
The prestigious Michelin Guide may not have come to Boston yet, but that doesn’t mean the city’s restaurants are unworthy of stars. On the contrary, Beantown’s restaurant scene is booming. It would be impossible to talk about the city’s best restaurants without mentioning Barbara Lynch, who was recognized in 2014 by the James Beard Foundation as an Outstanding Restaurateur, a title usually awarded to men. Her restaurants, including No. 9 Park, Menton, and B&G Oysters, are among Boston’s best. But she’s not the only successful female in the restaurant biz—Ana Sortun has also made a name for herself with a mini-empire of superlative Mediterranean eateries like Oleana and Sarma, while James Beard Award winner Joanne Chang, who started as a baker at Flour (now with seven locations), just released a cookbook based off recipes served at Myers + Chang, her must-visit modern fusion restaurant in the South End. After more than a decade helming the Harvard Square classic Harvest, Mary Dumont opened her debut restaurant Cultivar this year inside the Ames Hotel near City Hall, which serves a killer brunch with mouth-watering smoked salmon eggs Benedict served atop a Dutch baby, delicious pastries, and a decadent croque madame.
Meanwhile, award-winning chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonette teamed up to open the Roman-inspired enoteca Coppa and tapas hotspot Toro in the South End. The former boasts an excellent wine and cocktail list and the kind of ramped-up Italian classics you want to pair with them (think gooey fontina arancini, wood-fired pizzas, and pastas); the latter is a go-to spot for crispy patatas bravas, jamón, and masterfully prepared paella. Speaking of hotspots, you’d be remiss not to check out Yvonne’s in the old Locke Ober space. The aging restaurant was reborn last year and revamped for maximum Instagram appeal, juxtaposing the original carved wooden bar with modern touches like hanging Edison bulbs and portraits of celebs like Bill Murray and JFK.
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Hotels for Every Taste
Boston’s hotel scene was never really lacking, but lately the options just keep getting better—and are finally branching out from genteel Back Bay. XV Beacon—known for its attentive service, chic modernist design, and intimate scale—occupies a prime position in Beacon Hill just steps from Boston Common. Each of the 60 rooms has a fireplace, while chauffeured cars await to take guests around town. Occupying the former Charles Street Jail, The Liberty Hotel (a member of Starwood’s Luxury Collection) is a newer standout. Renovated in 2016, its new design incorporates cheeky nods to its past, including the original catwalks overlooking the massive lobby and mugshots of celebrities in the Alibi bar. Over in the Theater District, the Ritz-Carlton, Boston unveiled a renovation by award-winning design firm Rockwell Group, while Marriott made a splash in 2015 in the up-and-coming Seaport District with the opening of the Envoy Hotel, whose colorful, artsy design incorporates high-tech touches like Netflix steaming in guest rooms and a virtual pool table in the lobby.
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Craft Beer & Spirits
There’s no question that Bostonians love their beer. This is the home of Sam Adams, after all, a local favorite that paved the way for many of the craft breweries that followed when it started in 1984. At their brewery and tap room, you can learn about the company’s history and sample specialty brews only available in the Boston area. Another hometown hero, Harpoon Brewery set up shop in a warehouse on the waterfront in 1987. Get there early on the weekends to reserve your $5 spot on one of their tours (tickets are only available to purchase in person day-of) and kick back some brews in their beer hall.
Of course, breweries aren’t the only places in town to have fun. Boston used to be a haven for rum distilling and a stop on the infamous triangle trade (the exchange of African slaves, Caribbean sugar cane, and rum). Though its original distilleries are long gone, a handful of craft distilleries have popped up including Bully Boy Distillers and GrandTen Distilling, both of which offer free tours and tastings of their limited-run batches of vodka, gin, whiskey, and—yes—rum. You can also sample their spirits shaken or stirred into cocktails at Hotel Commonwealth's award-winning bar The Hawthorne or its bustling French-inspired bistro, Eastern Standard. Cheers!
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