Yet another travel filter.
August 28, 2011 7:49 PM   Subscribe

Two nights, Boston, early October. Go...

This probably can be collated from answers to other questions, but Mrs. Nash and I are vacationing in New England for the foliage season, and we're ending the trip in Boston for 2 days/nights. Please recommend to me the top can't-miss activities for someone who isn't likely to make it back anytime recommendations are also welcome. We like non-touristy stuff (who doesn't?), but we are certainly open to touristy stuff if it's really spectacular and we shouldn't miss it.

We are completely unfamiliar with Boston, so any help with the different districts of interests would also be helpful and appreciated (good places to go for an early-30s couple with no children, places to avoid, and recommendations on places to stay...looking for somewhere nice, but that doesn't cost a small fortune (from what I can tell, any non-business traveler type place is pretty expensive in the city proper), but if a small fortune is what it takes, then that's fine too).

Thanks everyone, and sorry for the probably repetitive travel filter.
posted by doogan nash to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Some recommendations are here. As before, I recommend the Mary Baker Eddy Library.
posted by shii at 7:55 PM on August 28, 2011

I love the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It's even awesomer with some background about the notorious unsolved art heist there in 1990.

Most first-time visitors to Boston also love a stroll around Cambridge (and for good reason), though my possible restaurant recommendations there are pretty outdated.
posted by argonauta at 7:57 PM on August 28, 2011

Heh, just a few days ago, my flight was cancelled and I had an unexpected day in transit in Boston. I walked through early morning Boston Common to the Public Garden and crossed Beacon St near the Cheers restaurant. Then I spent a couple hours criss-crossing Beacon Hill taking photos. It was absolute bliss.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:42 PM on August 28, 2011

Best answer: The South End is home to most of the really great restaurants in Boston proper (settle down, Cambridge), as well as some beautiful buildings and pleasant green spaces. Some of my favorites:

- Aquitaine: awesome $9.95 prix fixe brunch, solid dinner, lovely atmosphere. Takes reservations (even for brunch) on OpenTable, so make some.

- Metropolis: sister restaurant to Aquitaine across the street, doesn't take reservations. A more casual atmosphere with more inventive and arguably tastier food. Best grits anywhere ever.

- The Butcher Shop: if you like meat, you should go here. Doesn't take reservations. Grab lunch, or show up at 6 PM for dinner.

- Picco: stands for "Pizza and Ice Cream Co." Pizza is pretty good, the ice cream is the best in Boston (a city known for amazing ice cream). Try the dark chocolate, be transported to another spectral plane of delight.

- Coppa: Wonderful, delicious, creative food. I had a tripe casserole here that was the bomb. Also well known for sea urchin carbonara.

I don't mean to be a dick to Boston (used to live there) but I honestly can't remember any museums or attractions that I thought were worth the time/money/energy. The Charles is very nice to walk along. Mostly I miss the ice cream.
posted by telegraph at 8:43 PM on August 28, 2011

Best answer: Jamaica Plain is a neighborhood that most tourists don't hit but has some good stuff- my favorite place is The Forest Hill Cemetery- it is an old victorian cemetery with modern art mixed in. ee cummings and Anne Sexton are buried there among other famous folks. Vee Vee's, Tres Gatos and Ten Tables are 3 really great restaurants in the area (you need reservations for all three as they are both small and popular). JP Licks has good ice cream too.
posted by momochan at 8:57 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd recommend getting current restaurant recommendations from the Boston board on Chowhound.
posted by galaksit at 8:57 PM on August 28, 2011

Ice cream seems to be a theme on this thread and it is renowned in Boston. Christina's in Inman Square in Cambridge (a cool, non-touristy spot to visit that's young but not studenty) is considered by many who live here to be the best in town, as well as (not far away) Toscanini's on Main Street between Central and Kendall Squares in Cambridge.
posted by galaksit at 9:02 PM on August 28, 2011

Seconding Jamaica Plain - easily accessible from the Orange Line (get off at Green Street station) - you can talk a walk around Jamaica Pond to see some great foliage. There's also the Arboretum (awesome trees!). If I were to do a JP day, I'd go to Sorella's or Centre Street Cafe (both on Centre Street) in the morning for a quick breakfast, then hike up to the top of the Arboretum for an awesome view of the city. Visit Forest Hills cemetery, grab some JP Licks ice cream and sit on the pond, watching people walk by. Then, I'd finish off with an awesome dinner at Ten Tables.

Most tourists never see this side of Boston, but it's definitely worth a day.

Actually, this is pretty much what I did every weekend for the year that I lived in Boston.
posted by brynna at 9:03 PM on August 28, 2011

Where are you staying? How much of a walker are you? Boston is very walkable, and has a tourist-friendly subway system but there's a circuit I take friends and visitors on that ends up being a pretty good hike.

The Harpoon and Sam Adams breweries offer great tours. The former is in the seaport district near the Institute of Contemporary Art. The latter is in JP, which others have recommended.

MIT has free campus tours and a very cheap science museum. I could give you a campus tour too you're interested.

PM me if you like.
posted by KevCed at 9:59 PM on August 28, 2011

Seconding the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum - it is my absolute favorite thing in Boston, and also one of my favorite museums anywhere.
posted by naoko at 10:28 PM on August 28, 2011

Museum-wise, I love the MFA -- it's a really fantastic art museum. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is great, too, but I'm the kind of person who likes to read little cards on the wall about what I'm seeing, so I remember it being a bit frustrating in that regard.

If it's your first time in Boston and you won't be back for a while, it might be nice to walk the Freedom Trail. There's something about following a red line on the ground that is relaxing (to me, at least), since you don't have to check maps all the time. You'll end up in the North End, which has lots of great Italian restaurants.
posted by cider at 4:33 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Second checking out Chowhound for any food recs, but here are some spots I dig in a variety of neighborhoods because I'm not sure where you'll be staying:
* The Gallows in the South End. Good food and cocktails. It's in what used to be an old barn.
* The Haven in Jamaica Plain. A Scottish bar with really awesome Scottish-inspired food. JP is a great neighborhood to visit, as others have said. I'd also recommend a beer at the Brendan Behan or James' Gate. It's also pretty fun to do the touristy thing and visit the Sam Adams Brewery, do the tour and then take the free trolley to Doyle's, which is an old school Boston Irish restaurant.
* Green Street Grill in Central Sq., Cambridge has great cocktails, a nice cheese plate and a "fry of the day." Check to see what bands are playing at the nearby Middle East or TT the Bear's. This is right near MIT, if you'll have a tour there.

The places I've mentioned could fit into the gastropub category, I just realized. Neptune Oyster in the North End is wonderful for seafood and the North End is a fun neighborhood to walk around---it's where Paul Revere lived, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy was born, the great Molasses Flood occurred, and starting in the early 1900s is became the city's Italian neighborhood.

I rambled on some more in the post shii linked to above. Have fun, Boston in the fall is lovely.
posted by jdl at 8:11 AM on August 29, 2011

Have a drink at Drink. It's quite an experience.
posted by Miko at 10:51 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The great thing about Boston is that if you are ambitious you can see most of the major sites and great neighborhoods in 2-3 days. I find that when taking visitors around the city we have much more fun walking around the streets and getting the flavor of the neighborhoods than actually going to see specific things

1. Harvard Square: then walk straight to the Charles down JFK Street and walk along in front of the dorms (between Anderson Memorial Bridge and Western Ave Bridge) If you go early on Sunday they close part of Memorial Drive and it is wonderful.
2. Beacon Hill, window shop/eat on Charles Street and go up Mt. Vernon Street to see Louisburg Square.
3. Check out the Boston Public Gardens. The Commons is meh.
4. THIS IS A MUST! Get off at Kendal/MIT Red Line and go towards the Longfellow Bridge. Walk west along the north side of the Charles River and cross the Mass Ave Bridge in to Back Bay.
5. Back Bay: Weave in and out of the Back Bay Streets making sure to hit Newbury and Commonwealth Ave. Check out Copley Square while you are there to see the Boston Public Library and Trinity Church.
6. South End is great if you stay east of Mass Ave and check out Tremont and Columbus Ave.
7. The North End is neat but is usually packed with tourists during warm weather. You might be safe in October. There are some great places to get coffee and pastries.
8. Quincy Market and the is filled with tourists and is not that great.
9. Boston has a unique and interesting Central Business District. If you are in to urban environments and office buildings I would spend some time getting lost in the CBD.
10. Drink in the Fort Point area is my absolute favorite place to go in Boston. Either get there early or be prepared to wait in line.

If you are only in Boston for 2 days I wouldn't go to Jamaica Plain. It's a neat little area, but not worth going out of your way for.
posted by comatose at 5:27 PM on August 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

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