Siblings in Boston
September 14, 2008 7:32 PM   Subscribe

My brother and I will be meeting in Boston on Wednesday for a week vacation. What things are Must-See or Must-Do or Must-Eat?

I am an attached straight female in my late 20s, flying from Alaska. My brother is an attached gay male in his mid 30s, flying from San Francisco. We both came into some airline miles and will be meeting in Boston on Wednesday for a week. Neither of us have been to Boston. We have a vacation rental apartment about 3 miles from downtown and will not be renting a car. We both are somewhat artsy, love photography and will be bringing our dSLR cameras with us everywhere.

We have a general list of things that might be fun to see and do, and I've checked other Boston AskMe threads, but what are the things we should see and/or do while in Boston that we would regret not seeing/doing this week?
posted by rhapsodie to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Definitely go to the MFA or the Institute of Contemporary Art. I've taken lots of photos at both places, and while I'm not sure about the ICA, the MFA is definitely T-accessible.
posted by awesomepenguin at 7:46 PM on September 14, 2008

The ICA and the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. A long leisurely walk through the South End, with stops at boutiques and dinner at the Beehive. Glass flowers at Harvard and a walk by the Charles. Enjoy!
posted by mozhet at 7:47 PM on September 14, 2008

Whale watching is great, and the boat ride is easily accessible from the Aquarium T stop, which you will find handy.

I love the Museum of Fine Arts, but any guidebook could tell you about that. The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology has a tremendous Amerindian collection, which I loved seeing, and is connected to the Museum of Natural History. That is on the Harvard campus, in walking distance of Red Line stops and other neat things to browse around.

The Boston Public Library is an ancient museum-quality building with a beautiful courtyard, remarkable murals, statuary and tilework, plus a good cafe, so that is a nice free place to put your feet up for a while when you are tired of touristing about. That is on the Copley T stop.

The Franklin Park Arboretum, right off the Forest Hills stop, is a large park containing a huge amount of nature, yet all trees and plants are helpfully labeled. I love taking pictures there.

If you want good Italian food, all you have to do is walk a couple of blocks from Haymarket stop to the North End, shut your eyes, spin around and point to a restaurant. They're everywhere!
posted by Countess Elena at 7:52 PM on September 14, 2008

I quite enjoyed the JFK Presidential Library when I was last in Boston. Whether you would, however, probably depends on your interest in politics/recent American history.
posted by mumkin at 7:56 PM on September 14, 2008

If you like sushi, then O Ya. If not, then Hamersley's roast chicken.
posted by cribcage at 8:00 PM on September 14, 2008

I'm seconding the suggestion of eating at the Beehive and strolling around the South End, in case your brother wants to see the gayborhood (tiny by SF standards, but we like it). (Note: "the South End" and "South Boston" a/k/a "Southie" are not the same thing.) And while you're in the South End, do not fail to go to the South End Buttery.

The Mapparium at the Christian Science complex is fun. Don't neglect to use the bizarrely ornate bathrooms as you enter or exit, because they are crazy and fun (and incredibly clean).

What about shopping? There is still a lot of fun shopping on Newbury Street. Don't forget the Filene's Basement on Boylston Street (the original is closed for renovations, but the Boylston Street store is a big space with lots of great bargains).

And if it rains, the Museum of Science is a great place to spend a few hours.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:08 PM on September 14, 2008

The one-of-a-kind MIT Museum, perhaps?
posted by Exchequer at 8:09 PM on September 14, 2008

What town/neighborhood is your apartment in?

Some recommendations:

The Freedom Trail is a good thing to do on your first day: it will take you through the major historical sights downtown and in the North End and will help you get oriented to the city.

Definitely spend an afternoon in Harvard Square. Have lunch, listen to the street musicians, do some shopping, check out one or two of the Harvard museums. Head over to Central Square to have dinner in one of the many Indian restaurants there.

Other nightlife: Wally's for a real jazz dive. Doyle's for the ultimate Boston Irish pub. The Arboretum is great for picnics or just getting some nature.

You can also take the commuter rail to Gloucester or Newburyport or a number of other oceanside towns. What time of year will it be? If it's not too cold, you can take a ferry to Provincetown, the ultimate gay resort town.
posted by lunasol at 8:10 PM on September 14, 2008

Seconding the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, it's quite amazing. I can't remember how easy it is to get to by the T, though.

To eat, I highly recommend Pizzeria Regina, easily the best pizza I've had since living here. Their sausage pizza is to die for. The North End location is probably the best, I think it's the original... and in any case, it's across the street from my apartment, so my wife and I eat there at least once a week.
posted by voltairemodern at 8:39 PM on September 14, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the suggestions, everyone! I've been so busy and it's just hit me that we are going to be there for a whole week. That's an awful long time, and I'm really looking forward to it.

What town/neighborhood is your apartment in?

The apartment is in Jamaica Plain, the owner says that it's a 10 minute walk to Orange Line, and 1 block from the bus.

What time of year will it be? If it's not too cold, you can take a ferry to Provincetown, the ultimate gay resort town.

We are going this week. And we have heard mixed things about Provincetown, and whether I would be interested in it as a straight female.
posted by rhapsodie at 8:41 PM on September 14, 2008

Oh, JP is AWESOME. You guys will love it. In addition to my other JP suggestions: get brunch at the Centre St Cafe. Have ice cream at JP Licks. Get a drink at the Milky Way. Take the bus to Brookline and have a great Italian lunch at Botega Fiorentina - there's one in Brookline Village and one in Coolidge Corner.

As for P-town, I've always enjoyed it, and I'm a straight female in my 20s. It's sort of a classic touristy beach town, with the twist that a huge percentage of those tourists are gay. Anyway, it's do-able as a daytrip.

Oh, and how could I forget Chacarero? I really think this is the best sandwich in Boston.
posted by lunasol at 9:12 PM on September 14, 2008

I'm a straight female, and I love Provincetown. It's a beautiful and unique little city. Lots of interesting shopping, art, excellent New England coastal food (clam chowder! lobster rolls!)... And the boy-watching isn't bad either (never mind that the boys are holding hands with other boys). The number of gay-exclusive clubs etc. is actually not huge.
posted by chowflap at 9:12 PM on September 14, 2008

A movie at the Brattle.
posted by brujita at 10:50 PM on September 14, 2008

Do you two like beer and hearty food? You should go to The Publick House. They have a huge selection of Belgian and craft beers and really fantastic food ranging from mussel pots to a signature fresh veggie burger with hand-cut fries. Go on one of your weeknights because it fills up. Then you can walk down the hill to Coolidge Corner (fun, eclectic neighborhood) and take the T home.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:26 AM on September 15, 2008

YES. GO TO PROVINCETOWN. IT IS AWESOME. I went for the first time this past summer and I loved the hell out of it. I'm a girl and I went with my male partner and everything was peachy keen. It's a wonderful place with a lot more to it than just being really, really gay (though it is).

Boston suggestions:
- Newbury St. : accessible by Orange Line (Back Bay stop), walk up Dartmouth St. (or Clarendon) a few blocks (heading towards the John Hancock Tower, then past it) to Newbury. Not only is there a lot of shopping on Newbury St (and window-shopping for those of us who aren't going to be fitting Marc Jacobs into our budget anytime soon), but there are great little cafés and such too. I really recommend Trident Bookstore/Café at the far end of Newbury between Hereford and Mass Ave. It's a really great independent bookstore with a restaurant in it that serves breakfast all day. Really great pancakes!

- MFA: Accessible on the Green Line train E. (Take the Orange Line to Mass Ave, walk up a block to the Green Line at Symphony, take the E outbound two stops to MFA) Not as extensive as say, the Met, but they do have a really awesome permanent collection. One of the special exhibits right now is on Art Nouveau jewelry, which I'm personally really excited about. should give you the full listing.

- The Duck Boat tours go around the city, both driving and through the Charles River. You will see the Duck Boats pretty much everywhere. They're kind of unique, and though I haven't been on one since I live here and all, they look pretty fun.

- Speaking of ducks, the most photographed spot in the city is the Botanical Gardens - which are off the Common. The Common proper is also pretty great. The Botanical Gardens are also accessible by the Back Bay T stop - walk up Clarendon/Dartmouth to Boylston (or Newbury), turn right, walk down to Arlington and you'll see the gardens across the street. Walking through the gardens will lead you to the Common. Walking through the Common will lead you to the State House on your left and Chinatown on your right.

I could probably come up with more, but I've got to get to work! Hope this helps, maybe I'll add more later!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:42 AM on September 15, 2008

If you can track down tickets, I highly recommend a Red Sox game. Even if you're not into sports it is a hell of a good time.
posted by purephase at 5:22 AM on September 15, 2008

love photography...

Visit the Photographic Resource Center (PRC) at B.U.
posted by ericb at 8:12 AM on September 15, 2008

The Duck Boat tours go around the city, both driving and through the Charles River...

The Duck Boat tours are a good way to get an overview of the city, its history, etc.
posted by ericb at 8:17 AM on September 15, 2008

And while you're in the South End, do not fail to go to the South End Buttery.

If you are in the South End this coming Sunday (Sept. 21) walk a few blocks East from the Buttery to the SoWa Open Market (10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.).
posted by ericb at 8:21 AM on September 15, 2008

If you like Italian food, Giacomo's in the north end. Get there when they open because you have to wait in line out the door and its tiny. So worth it though.

If going to Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, read about the Isabella first. She was quite interesting and unusual for her time...smoking cigars with the guys, etc. It will help this personal museum come to life even more.
posted by hazel at 8:45 PM on September 15, 2008

oops, I mean read about Isabella, not the Isabella
posted by hazel at 8:46 PM on September 15, 2008

If you are staying in JP hit up the Centre Street Cafe for breakfast/brunch. Delicious! And free coffee!
posted by LilBucner at 8:40 AM on September 16, 2008

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