Ideas for trip to Boston/New England this weekend?
November 22, 2005 8:05 PM   Subscribe

Ideas for trip to Boston/New England this weekend?

And yes, I've looked at old AskMe threads regarding Boston travel, etc.

A few details:
A friend and I will be within a couple hours of Boston, and want to do some fun, non-touristy things. We're looking for damn near anything--bars, cafes, bookstores, music, etc. Just no Fenway, no Paul Revere and no museums. I did all that in middle school. Queer-friendly venues a plus but not required.

The cheaper, the better, although we aren't totally broke. Also, transportation/parking ideas? We'll have a rental car and want to return it in one piece.
posted by SassHat to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (26 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you like music, TT The Bear's is having a Katrina benefit on Saturday with some fine local independent artists.

Alternately, the Toast lounge in Somerville has adopted one of ManRay's popular gay and straight friendly alternative dance nights, "Heroes" (electro, pop, and new wave).

For more ideas, see the Boston Phoenix's editors picks.

Forecast is sunny, but chilly.
posted by justkevin at 8:41 PM on November 22, 2005

I saw "queer-friendly" and immediately thought of We Think the World of You Books, a gay bookstore in the South End (540 Tremont Street, says Google). I'll post more ideas if I think of them, although I'm only a student in the area and not gay myself.

Re transportation and parking: you are not going to want to drive places. If possible, I'd recommend just taking the T everywhere in greater Boston, and sucking up the cold weather. It'll be a much more enjoyable experience than driving.
posted by danb at 8:47 PM on November 22, 2005

thanks for the suggestions. If you've got anything else, lay 'em on me. You rock.

danb: but where, where do I park? I've done Boston by foot in middle/high school, taken the T, but I never had to park a car.
posted by SassHat at 8:50 PM on November 22, 2005

Depends on where you go. Many areas have metered street parking. Some areas can be a real pain for parking, but this weekend may actually be better than normal because many students go home for Thanksgiving.
posted by justkevin at 8:58 PM on November 22, 2005

The few things I miss about Boston are mostly restaurants. Get lunch at Chacarero, the chilean sandwich stand in Gov't Center. Or walk around the corner to the Falafel King (Hello my friend!) on Winter st (iirc). When the lunch rush is on at the Falafel King, it takes two helpers to supply the guy, and he's talking about the next order as he makes the previous. The man is a parallel-processing machine - and he makes a reference-grade falafel sandwich. In Arlington or West Newton, try Blue Ribbon barbecue (SC style, wicked good). In Cambridge, dinner at the Helmand (afghan) is a treat, although not cheap. Try the pumpkin appetizer. The only thing in the city worthy of the name burrito is at el Pelon in back bay/fenway.
posted by Triode at 9:04 PM on November 22, 2005

Uh, California sun's been toasting my brain. Chacarero & Falafel King are in the heart of Downtown Crossing. Sorry.
posted by Triode at 9:07 PM on November 22, 2005

Park outside outside and Boston and take the T into Boston. MBTA website with trip planner here and subway map here. Where are you coming from exactly?

I would reccomend walking around Newbury Street, Public Gardens, and Kenmore Square if its not too cold. You can check out the Garment District also, one of my favorite vintage stores of all time, everything from $1/pound to designer vintage. Also, justkevin linked ttthebears twice, second link (editors picks) reposted.
posted by sophist at 9:07 PM on November 22, 2005

Also, for a night out I would reccomend The Middle East (central square). Another popular walking/hanging out place I somehow neglected is Harvard Square. If you haven't been there it easily beats out my earlier suggestions for walking/hanging/people watching and there is great hip shopping/restarants in that area (its Harvard, duh).
posted by sophist at 9:12 PM on November 22, 2005

In Hahvad Squayah, Toscanini's ice cream is worth a visit, even in November. Their Burnt Caramel ice cream is a life-changing experience.. Jeeze, I'm nothing but food here tonight. Ok - non food: There's a queer bookstore near South Station ... on South St, maybe?
posted by Triode at 9:22 PM on November 22, 2005

Yeah, definitely don't pass on Harvard Square just because it's "touristy." But you probably knew that already.

You might also try Davis Square. There's not nearly as much, but there's still a handful of nice restaurants.
posted by danb at 9:37 PM on November 22, 2005

sophist: we're coming from good ol' New Hampshire, where good things go to die.

Harvard Square and Newbury Street I've done, but can't remember much. It's been about 5 years since I've lived in the Northeast.

We're mostly looking for the ambience, you know, someplace we can walk around (if I don't die--I'm coming from South FL), stop, sit, eat, talk. I want to show my friend around Boston while catching up at the same time.
posted by SassHat at 9:55 PM on November 22, 2005

Here is what I would do: Use Wellington Station to get into/out of Boston. Mapquest of that station here. Basically, find I-93 South, go towards Boston. Get off exit 28, go over river, look for signs. Parking is $3.50, but keep in mind the T only runs till ~12:00 in Boston, so if you are going to be late, you had better drive.

This will put you on the orange line. Go into Boston and get off at Downtown Crossing for The Falafel King (I gotta go there now!) and check out downtown. Then go back down to the T, get on red line and go to Harvard. For walking around ambience and what you describe, I think Harvard Square is your best bet. There is a really diverse array of fun, cheap (or not so cheap) places to explore there, and probably the best places to hang out, talk about stuff and watch people. Harvard Square food directory here.
posted by sophist at 1:32 AM on November 23, 2005

Ok, Tosci's for Ice Cream (not the one in Harvard Square assuming that the original is still operating next to the Poo Poo -Hot Pot and the Liquor story run by my Jamaican friends in the early 90's ), TT the Bear's and The Middle East are all within seconds of each other and great fun. (yes, I used to live in the Kennedy Biscuit Lofts on Franklin Street). Add in Miracle of Science Bar and a couple of the other local establishments and you will have had an extraordinary couple of evenings. The end of the evening, or rather the beginning of the new day should be at the Brookline Lunch. It it still run by Jahmal? Best Omelets in the Boston area.

If it were summer, I'd suggest buying a bottle or two of gin and a bottle of tonic, a couple of limes or lemons and a set of plastic glasses and head out to Castle Rock in Marblehead around sunset and engage in a 12 hour conversation until the sun rises over the Atlantic and then go for Brekkie somewhere in the old town before heading back into town.
posted by michswiss at 2:54 AM on November 23, 2005

Brookline Lunch reviews. Castle Rock Marblehead.
posted by michswiss at 3:10 AM on November 23, 2005

When are you planning on coming? I would avoid Downtown Crossing like the plague on Friday - an area of big department stores on Black Friday is not a recipe for a relaxed stroll. Newbury Street and Cambridge would be fine though
posted by darsh at 4:23 AM on November 23, 2005

Driving into the Boston area really isn't that big of a deal if the traffic isn't horrible. I'm from NH and drive down there all the time. If you're willing to pay through the nose for convenient parking, go for the parking garage in Harvard Square. Take Storrow Drive West to the Harvard Sq. exit, take a right, and take a left at the second set of lights. It's immediately on your right. I think it's $25 or so for the day.

Another parking option, if you're willing to delve deeper into the city, is the underground garage in the heart of Post Office Square. It's free on weekends, or at least it was the last time I went -- and "free parking" is not a phrase you often hear in Boston. I'll leave directions to you and Mapquest. From there it's a very short walk to Downtown Crossing and the Falafel King if you've been properly convinced that you mustn't miss it. You could then walk through the Common/Public Gardens and take a jaunt down Charles Street. Great cafes and shops there. At the end of Charles you can hop onto the Red Line and take it into Cambridge.

If you go to Harvard Square and it's cold -- as it's sure to be -- get yourself a hot chocolate at Burdick's. So good and surprisingly filling. Maybe lunch at Cambridge 1, the fancy-ish pizza joint by the aforementioned Miracle of Science guys.
posted by schoolgirl report at 5:39 AM on November 23, 2005

1) Park car at Alewife
2) Take Redline to Davis Sq.
3) Find the Diesel Cafe, a friendly, lesbian-owned coffeehouse.
4) Afterwards, walk around the square and check out McIntyre and Moore for used books, Disc Diggers or CD Spins for used music, and make sure to check out the funky gift store, Pluto at 215 Elm.
5) Get back on T, head to Harvard Sq.
6) Check out Newbury Comics and other cool stores in "The Garage" (36 JFK Street). Also in Harvard Sq. - Black Ink, Urban Outfitters, Tealuxe, and if you can find it, Burdick's has the best hot chocolate I've ever tasted.
7) Get back on T, Get off at Charles St. Unless you like antiques, there may not be a lot of stores for you here, but it's a nice walk in a very old-Boston looking neighborhood. At the top of Charles is the Public Gardens and Boston Common. If you walk left towards the Common you can find the Frog Pond where there will be ice skating, and if you keep walking towards Park St., soon after that you'll hit Downtown Crossing. And while it may be the busiest shopping weekend of the year, you really shouldn't miss the craziness of that area with Filene's Basement, Macy's, H+M, etc.
8) You may be tired at this point. Go home.
posted by FreezBoy at 5:49 AM on November 23, 2005

As mentioned above, Toast Lounge in Union Sq, Somerville has taken over for ManRay and Dyke Night has moved there from JP.

Davis Sq in Somerville is a good place to start out with coffee at The Diesel and then take the Red Line in town or to Harvard Sq and wander around a bit.

Since you're coming in from NH maybe you could take 95S to Rt 2E to the end and park at Alewife. A recent AskMefi thread mentions parking in the Fresh Pond Mall lot, as well, which I didn't know was possible.

While I'm sure shopping on Friday will be scary, it also feels like half of the city has cleared out so parking at Alewife may be no big deal.

As for Boston, walking along Newbury and stopping into the Public Garden to sit on a bench and talk is nice. Or the South End is a great place to walk around with tons of cafes and restaurants. The queer-friendly ambience you're looking for though will definitely be found in the South End, Jamaica Plain, or on the other side of the river in Cambridge/Somerville.
posted by jdl at 5:52 AM on November 23, 2005

Triode and michswiss are right on the Tosci's. Yes, the one on Main St. almost at the corner with Mass Ave is still there, so is the one just down Mass Ave. from H2. Burnt caramel is wonderful, but if it's too cold for ice cream do not pass up the hot vanilla. Think of the best vanilla ice cream you've ever had, heated till it melts, then heated to the temperature of hot chocolate. So good.

For breakfast, when you've still got your car out, go to Sound Bites (708 Broadway, Somerville). Best breakfasts -ever- - my favorite is the goat cheese and pear french toast, but they have wonderful waffles, omlettes, home fries, mashed potatoes, oh everything breakfast. People wait outside in the winter to eat here, but the line moves quickly and you can serve yourself coffee for the wait - don't be deterred.

Triode, Chacarero sounds great, and I wonder how I've missed it for so long.
posted by whatzit at 7:13 AM on November 23, 2005

Sorry, FreezBoy, but both Disc Diggers and Pluto in Davis Square are closed.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:55 AM on November 23, 2005

We Think the World of You Books closed a while ago.

As mentioned, many queer-friendly restaraunts, coffee shops and boutiques are in the South End (mostly on Tremont Street).

Check out Edge Boston and Out in Boston.
posted by ericb at 8:14 AM on November 23, 2005

Also -- Bay Windows and IN Newsweekly.
posted by ericb at 8:18 AM on November 23, 2005

Robocop. I was just at Pluto a month or so ago. That's sad. I loved that place. And you're right about Disc Diggers. I'm just in denial.
posted by FreezBoy at 8:39 AM on November 23, 2005

One of my favorite things to do in Boston is go to services at King's Chapel downtown. They're affiliated with the Unitarian Universalists but use a modified Church of England prayerbook; they're an absolutely unique church in a stunning building--and the congregation is friendly to visitors. I know they have a Sunday morning service at either 10 or 11 am, but I am not sure what other services they have on weekends. I've enjoyed my visits there immensely, and I think it's something worth taking the time to do if you're even the slightest bit inclined in that direction (and if you're not, that's cool, too, just throwing this out as a suggestion).

I second driving to one of the outlying T stations--driving in Boston is one of the few things I absolutely refuse to do, and if you don't know where you're going, it can be nightmarish.

Have fun!
posted by eilatan at 8:44 AM on November 23, 2005

Wow, I totally missed Triode's recommendation of Helmand. Seconded! And second that pumpkin yogurt mint appetizer. Call for reservations. They are always full and have terrible slow service*, but it's worth the wait.

*I think it's probably a cultural thing though: they definitely expect you to linger, but dinner there can take a full evening.
posted by whatzit at 10:13 AM on November 23, 2005

To be honest, whatzit, there have been days I've considered calling Chacarero and trying to cajole them into FedExing a sandwich to me in CA. I figure the freshness would suffer, otherwise I'd give it a shot.

And michswiss is right - the Tosci's in central square is a nicer hangout, with more seating in addition to better atmosphere.

And if it is still there - there is an absolutely unique cafe in Dorchester called Common Ground that is run by a religious group. If you can overlook/handle/dig the religion part, is your lifetime opportunity to have dinner in the Shire, in a lovely Hobbit burrow. Words really cannot do it justice. Wear your thousand league boots, and roll D20 to choose your salad dressing...
posted by Triode at 11:03 PM on November 23, 2005

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