Boston today
March 30, 2022 1:51 PM   Subscribe

I'm staying in Waltham through Monday helping out with a family situation, and I'm trying to do one or two things a day that are renewing and soothing for me. Stuff I like: Being outdoors/nature, art galleries* and art performances, vegetarian food, neighborhood 'ethnic' restaurants, cafes I can sit and draw for a while and eat some kind of hippy food, special magical places. I have a car and I've been to Boston a number of times so have a basic understanding of the city and the central tourist spots - but that would not be my focus this time.

*(if there's a particular art show you know of that's great - probably don't have time or bandwidth to spend a day wandering one of the bigger museums, but do have time to go see a show or gallery or maybe a performance)
posted by latkes to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (24 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
deCordova is close to you- it is an outdoor art park. I always suggest Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain. It has a number of famous people buried there, as well as sculptures. I would suggest getting food at Brassica Kitchen. They have breakfast and lunch- super yummy. Then you could explore Centre St- which has some great shopping- including Boomerangs- a great thrift store, and OnCentre- a gift shop. On South St there is a cute book shop called Papercuts, and a Vintage Computer museum called The Byte Shop. There are also a lot of other super delicious food options across South and Centre Streets. If you have time, and want to do some more walking, The Arnold Arboretum is close by, as is Jamaica Pond.
posted by momochan at 2:09 PM on March 30 [8 favorites]

Try Life Alive in Central Square in Cambridge. Clover Food Lab is also delicious; they have many locations. You might like Sofra for a quick snack, though it's hard to sit in there during meal times.

Seconding the recommendations for the Arnold Arboretum and Jamaica Pond.
posted by woodvine at 2:18 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]

deCordova was exactly what I was coming here to say too. There's a regular indoor art museum there but the sculpture park is really special.

If you wind up trekking into town, Life Alive is a great vegetarian cafe with a couple locations.
posted by february at 2:18 PM on March 30

If you're looking for somewhere to walk, Beaver Brook North Reservation (note that this is a different area than the DCR-run Beaver Brook Reservation) is the largest open space in Waltham. A loop around the woods is around 2 miles and includes wetlands, open water that's frequented by waterfowl, and Metfern Cemetery. Parking can be found here or at the Belmont Victory Gardens at Rock Meadow on Mill Street (walk around the meadow and then take the bridge over the brook into the woods).

The walk up the Charles River is also nice - you can start anywhere east of the dam in downtown Waltham and go as far as Boston Harbor if you really wanted to. Well regarded restaurants along the route (no idea what vegetarian options are offered) include Gustazo's in Waltham, Taqueria el Amigo on Willow Street, Branch Line and Kura Sushi in Watertown, and The Speedway (an open air market/food hall area) in Brighton that includes an outpost for Notch and a sake bar.

For food/cafe options, maybe browse through Eater Boston's list of maps and see what looks good; their recommendations are generally pretty solid.

We're just barely dipping our toes into spring in this neck of the woods at the moment, so if you're out and about you might start seeing some tulips popping out of the ground and the lilacs making buds. Most of the trees are still bare. If you go to Beaver Brook, you'll see skunk cabbage and hear a ton of frogs (it's mating season).
posted by backseatpilot at 2:25 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]

This cuban resturant in jamaica plains:
posted by PinkMoose at 2:45 PM on March 30

If you head over to Lincoln Concord is right next door and Concord art has a new show opening tomorrow.

The grounds at the Lyman Estate are cool, but the greenhouse is really special. it’s across the street from another green area: Stonehurst
posted by Phyllis keeps a tight rein at 2:54 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]

- Seconding deCordova, Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Pond, the Waltham Charles River walking paths, and Clover Food Labs.
- I'm not a fan of Life Alive, but their Brookline location is going to be a shorter trip for you than the other two, and is near Storrow Drive, which is also a nice place to sit/walk/people watch.
- Get breakfast at the Cafe on the Common on a nicer day, and eat it in Waltham Common across the street - or eat it inside on a worse day. Not vegetarian-only, but good egg/cheese/avocado breakfast sandwiches and pastries and things imo.
- the Back Bay Fens are public gardens that are great on days with no Red Sox home games, but the congestion on the roads and transit will be extremely far from "soothing" if there's baseball at Fenway.
posted by All Might Be Well at 2:56 PM on March 30

It's a little bit North of the city and it may be too cold for it but taking a walk around the Deer Island Waste Treatment Plant is surprisingly beautiful and informative. You get the ocean, some nature, and an education into where all the city's waste goes. It's better than it sounds.
posted by bondcliff at 3:11 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]

Go for a walk in the Blue Hills, deCordova, the Fells, the Boston Common, Walden Pond, and Mt Auburn Cemetery.
posted by Toddles at 3:14 PM on March 30

Hi Latkes! My Waltham tips are rusty after so many years away, but I'm pleased to see my favorite Indian restaurant, Little India, is still in business. Cozy little spot with great vegetarian options. The walks near the Charles suggested by backseatpilot are also quite nice.

For a cafe, I suggest Andala in Central Square in Cambridge. The food is fine - I like the Foole plate - but the atmosphere is the real draw. Loose leaf tea or Turkish coffee in large-windowed rooms full of warm colors and antique rugs. It's perfect. Also not far from Inman Square, home of the Lilypad, a great little arts/performance space where you can catch an awesome live show. And if it turns out to not be your scene, you're usually only down a $5 cover.

The deCcordova is wonderful, especially the outdoor sculpture park. If that seems like too much, you might enjoy the MIT Museum, which is awesome and also has beguiling kinetic sculptures, but small enough to view in an hour or so.

One other walk suggestion: if you don't mind a morbid-seeming suggestion, check out Mount Auburn Cemetery. It's a beautiful and peaceful place with gorgeous scenery. There is a lookout tower you can climb and get a spectacular 360 degree view of the surrounding towns.

I hope you find your magical respite!
posted by prewar lemonade at 3:18 PM on March 30

My favorite thing in Boston is the library. Have tea, wander around afterwards and look and read.
posted by shadygrove at 3:46 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]

I haven't been in a while, but if you're looking for a nice place to have a leisurely breakfast, I really like The Neighborhood in Somerville. They have really nice outdoor seating, though I'm not sure if it's warm enough for that to be open yet. I'd recommend going on a weekday if possible - it can be quite crowded on the weekends. It's a nice area of Somerville just to walk around in as well.

Also 2nding Mt Auburn cemetery. It's a great place for a quiet retreat. And I love walking along the Charles.

Little India in Waltham is good for Indian food, as mentioned above. Unfortunately most of the other restaurants I used to enjoy in Waltham have closed. Same for some of my favorite places in Harvard Square.
posted by litera scripta manet at 3:53 PM on March 30

Re: the deCordova, the galleries are closed until April 8 but you can still visit the sculpture park.
posted by dywypi at 4:15 PM on March 30

One of the cooler art museums in the city is the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum for a million different reasons, but one is that they had the largest art heist and there's a Netflix documentary about it. You can watch the first few episodes then go, and it really is a great gallery. The gallery itself is beautiful, and well laid out!!
posted by bbqturtle at 4:25 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


One interesting thing about the aftermath of that heist is that since Gardner's bequest clearly did not allow for the moving or exchanging of art work, there are now empty frames where the stolen art was. And that is just generally a great (and not overwhelmingly large) museum.

A lot of this is just seconding folks, but here we go... Little India is still here, and still great. Nearby Amuleto may serve something that strikes your fancy. There are a ton of great restaurants on Moody Street, almost none of them fully vegetarian but many with good options, so worth looking at menus online. I believe Peppino's Dosa is in fact veg, and it's definitely good. One caution is that Bistro 781 has a vegan menu, but the quality on those dishes is not what it once was. Another common suggestion (for good reason) is ice cream from Lizzie's. Solea has some nice vegetarian tapas. Gustazo's and the nearby Brewer's Tap and Table are delicious, but limited vegetarian options. Cafe on the Common (Main St) to nosh and work (or draw), or a place called Common Good just opened on Moody, but I don't know if you rent space there or just buy coffee or what, it's more explicitly for co-working. The nearest Clover Food Lab is in Newton, I think. Other things outside Waltham but not too much so, around Watertown Square you've got Jana (Armenian, Lebanese, and Georgian food - everyone needs more khachapuri in their life), Molana (Persian), and Chulo (Nepalese). I highly recommend all three of these; I'm not entirely sure how much of Molana's menu is vegetarian, but Chulo def has some (and seriously, at Jana you get khachapuri. It's all yummy, but get khachapuri. And a bottle of Saperavi if you like dry red wine). There used to be a different Nepalese place upstairs from Molana, but I can't remember the name and I'm not having any luck searching, so maybe the pandemic shuttered them.

For nearby green space, we mostly do the river walk, Stonehurst or Beaver Brook. The latter two actually connect by trails (and occasionally parking lots) if you are really feeling punchy, or even not so much, (there's not much elevation change). Both are close to Mighty Squirrel, a newish brewery with nice outdoor seating if the weather is good for it, and usually one or two food trucks. Also nearby, you can walk around Waltham Fields Community Farm. In another direction, Prospect Hill Park is smaller but a nice incline and a couple overlooks of the city skyline. A little bit farther out, we love Walden Pond (bonus, if you take 117 it's a nice drive), and that's very near the DeCordova. There's also along that road but closer in Cat Rock Park, which is a dog park. Or as mentioned, Middlesex Fells (look for Sheepfold if you want another off leash dog park). Blue hills is great, but the fire tower is currently being renovated so a bit of a let down if overlooks are your thing.

One museum that is manageable, high quality, and really close is the Rose Art Museum on the Brandeis campus. And it's free! But reserve tickets in advance. I haven't seen the current installation.
posted by solotoro at 6:11 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]

Oh! And the go-tos for the person in my life who is mostly vegan: Red Lentil in Watertown, Walnut Grille in Newton.
posted by solotoro at 6:35 PM on March 30

I haven't actually been here (it's on my to-do list) but the Mapparium seems like it might fit the bill.
posted by geegollygosh at 7:30 PM on March 30

Seconding shadygrove's suggestion of the library. One of my favorite things to do when I lived in the city was sit in the courtyard on a nice day, read, and pretend I lived somewhere in Europe for an hour or two.
posted by carlypennylane at 7:35 PM on March 30

In Concord there's a little gem of a NWR park called Great Meadows. It's my happy place, especially this time of year when the spring bird migration is starting. Easy walk through wetland and forested areas. And there are some cool revolutionary war walks (that are also gorgeous nature-wise) in that area too if you want some non-Boston history info.
posted by danapiper at 5:25 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]

To add to the Lyman Estate suggestion the Handel and Haydn Society is performing there Sat night in the ballroom
posted by bowmaniac at 8:59 AM on March 31

One of my favorite things to do is get some Falafel at Sofra then go on a nice walk in Mount Auburn Cemetery. This isn't far from you and you could do it in a quick hour or take your time.
posted by david1230 at 10:57 AM on March 31

Seconding the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum.
posted by intrepid_simpleton at 6:43 PM on March 31

Hello from Concord! Come visit us, we have history, nature hikes, museums, and food! Great Meadows is also my happy place but if you want more history there’s the excellent Battle Road trail between Lexington and Concord, do make it all the way to the Old Manse and the Old North Bridge. Walden Pond is always gorgeous. Luisa May Alcott’s Orchard House is also worth a visit.

It’s pretty muddy everywhere this time of year, come prepared!
posted by lydhre at 9:31 AM on April 1

Response by poster: Thank you so much for your suggestions (as well as a thoughtful offline suggestion) that made this trip manageable!

I was able to go to the Concord Art Museum, take a walk at Mt Auburn Cemetery, rambled around Beaver Brook North Reservation, took a trip to the deCordova. I ate at Red Lentil (twice!) and also found a good place through the Eater Map mentioned here - a special Egyptian vegan place.

All the suggestions I missed also looked great! Just only had a couple hours a day so couldn't do it all this trip, but will check this link again next time I go!
posted by latkes at 6:33 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]

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