A travel journal
to Boston by ShannonBrooke
Quote: I live in Boston, Massachusetts, and while I don't have the inside scoop on accommodations, I have been to many wonderful restaurants in this town, and take day trips on the weekend around the area.
Spring is most unpredictable. 80 degree days are followed by a snowstorm in April. Spring arrives late in Boston, bringing a lot of precipitation, rain, snow, and slush.
Summer can be hot and steamy, but also breezy and temperate. Summer is the best time to visit. Many tourist sites open only during the warm-weather seasons. You can fully enjoy Boston's best ice cream during the summer.
Fall is also a good time. The students return to school, so universities are a bit livelier. The fall foliage brightens the whole area with colors of orange, red, and yellow. There's nothing quite as nice a brisk fall breeze as you walk amongst the falling leaves.
Winter can occasionally be quite brutal, leaving people snowbound. Driving is even crazier in the winter, and parking becomes a challenge. In the winter, most Bostonians wish they lived in California. I cannot recommend visiting Boston in the winter unless you enjoy winter sports. Then, ice-skating in the commons is an enjoyable way to spend a cold day.
At night, you may have to take a taxi or a Night Owl bus. The T stops running around 12:30am.
Boston drivers are known all over the states. What you need to know if you plan to drive here:
I have a friend who says that China Pearl has some of the latest Dim Sum trends from Hong Kong, and they are also known for having vegetarian fare.
I can recommend a few of the standout dishes. Barbeque beef buns is a bit of bbq beef cooked in a sweet dough. Lotus paste buns are similar, but filled with lotus paste - very sweet. Also, there are a great variety of spring rolls and dumplings. The shrimp dumplings are another favorite of mine.
The cost per person is generally around $10 for more dishes than you can count. Small groups may have to sit with other groups, and with luck, you will be seated with a Cantonese speaker. Otherwise, you may be reduced to pointing and taking what you get.
MON-SUN 8:30 am-11 pm
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 27, 2003
9 Tyler Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02111
The staff is extremely helpful, modifying dishes to your taste, and teaching customers about the food. I must recommend the fun experience of Banh Hoi. You are served rice paper wrappers and the mixings for a spring roll, and you roll your own. Another excellent choice is the Satay Noodle Soup. Cool your mouth off with a delicious bubble tea.
The 77 and 79 bus from Cambridge follows Mass Ave and stops near Viet's Cafe in Arlington Center. Alternately, you could drive up Mass Ave and park in the parking lot in front of the restaurant. Viet's Cafe is in the strip as CVS and Starbucks where Broadway meets Mass Ave.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 28, 2003
Boston, Massachusetts 02474
Tu y Yo is a cozy restaurant, with soft Mexican music playing. The interior is brightly decorated and lit.
Tu y Yo serves up traditional Mexican food, which they are very proud to teach you about. That means no burritos, no chimichangas, and no nachos! Mexican food here is brought to a fine dining level, and I recommend you try one of the rotating specials. The vegetarian menu is far more extensive than typical, with 5 entrees. More creative than "cheese" enchiladas, the vegetarian entrees are such things as poblano peppers stuffed with diced apples and pine-nuts and covered in a mango chipotle sauce. The fish dishes here are also great, like the Pescado Tlaloc and the poblano pepper stuffed with shrimp and goat cheese.
I also love desserts here. On my first visit, they only had, to quote, "flan, flan, and oh yes, flan." The flan didn't disappoint. Another standout dish are the empanadas filled with sweet cream and dusted with powdered sugar.
The food is at the same level as some of the best gourmet restaurants in Boston, and yet you can eat for $15 per person.
Check out their online menu for more.
Tu y Yo has a liquor license! They have some traditional favorites, such as sangria. The white sangria, made with white wine and peaches, is a more unusual offering. One of my favorite speciality drinks is named essentially Queen of the Stars. Naturally, they have a selection of Mexican beers.
Mon-Thurs 5-10pm, Fri-Sat 4-11pm, Sun 4-9pm
Tu y Yo is in walking distance of the Davis Square T-stop, in Powderhouse. Walk up College Avenue from Davis Square and turn left onto Broadway.
If you get on their mailing list, you get a coupon for your birthday month. Also, they will send out their monthly specials so that you can plan your visit.
Tu Y Yo
Boston, Massachusetts 02144
Complimentary bread exceeds expectation. The garlic bread was unique, and it was served with a bean puree that was far more delicious than it sounds.
Tonight, I had a their trout special, topped with cockles cooked with scallions, and a side of snowpeas. I also had a taste of the seafood risotto. If the shrimp weren't overcooked, it would have been perfect.
For dessert, my party of five shared three desserts. Luckily, each of us had an affection for a different dish. For me, the gelato coated in chocolate and embedded with cherries and almonds was perfection. The raspberry and lime tart delighted another. The couple happily shared what remained of the tiramisu.
The wine list was also extensive, with a selection of both International and Italian wines. We started with a dry muscat as an apertif. Moving on to a fruity Pinot Gris with our meal, we ended with the chef's recommendation, an Italian white or bianco as they say in Italy.
I must thoroughly recommend this eating experience. It gave me a sense of joy that I hadn't felt in weeks. Little moans of pleasure escaped all of our lips throughout the meal.
This small one-room restaurant has an intimate feel, with warmly painted walls and dim lighting. It isn't quite as tightly packed as some North End restaurants, but it has that same atmosphere. If you sit at one of its fewer than 15 tables, you are part of a small select group of people that are able to enjoy Amelia's that night.
On-street parking was easily acquirable, and because we were there after six pm, there was no charge to park in the metered spots. There is a Citizen's Bank two storefronts away as a convenience.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 2, 2003
111 Harvard Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02139
Namaskar's specialties are the vegetarian dishes of Western India. They offer all the standards too.
Purple walls and subtle colored lighting emphasize the modern space. Rather than the traditional Indian wall-hangings, they had Indian prints which looked vaguely retro.
A glass of ginger-mint flavored liquid was the first thing we were offered, while we made our choices from the menu. For our entire dining experience, the staff was incredibly attentive. Our water glasses were never less than half full, for example.
We ordered a Western Indian vegetarian dish with eggplant and potato in a creamy sauce. I also ordered the Chicken Kashmir, a sweet tangy chicken dish with bananas and pineapples in the yellow cream-based gravy. Rice was provided complimentary with our dishes. For drinks, we sampled both the sweet and the mango lassi. Strawberry lassis appeared to be another popular choice for drinks.
You might want to save room for dessert. We were stuffed, but their dessert tray featured a kheer that was very tempting. Next time we'll be splitting a meal and saving space for dessert.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 7, 2003
236 Elm Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02144
New Ginza offers all manner of Japanese food, and often feature exotic chef's creations. This is one restaurant where I always ask what the specials are. At the same time, they offer a consistent selection of creative rolls, or makimono. With a Celtics, Patriots, or a Red Sox roll, you're getting something very special, very Boston. These rolls are big, well worth their price tag. The Goldfish and the Black Dragon are two of my favorites on their makimono list.
After asking after their freshest fish, be sure to order it as sashimi or sushi. The last few times I've visited, they have had white tuna and striped bass.
Food delivery is well-paced. Each plate is designed like a work of art, with a garnish of afalfa here, a volcano of rolls there. Instead of receiving your entire order at once, your order is brought out to you in manageable parts. The waitstaff is observant, bringing your next plate as soon as you are finished with the last.
New Ginza is a "don't miss" for sushi lovers. Reservations are recommended on weekends, but not required.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 19, 2003
65 Galen Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02472
Owned by the Karzai family of Afghanistan, Helmand is a fine dining restaurant, requiring reservations. The two-page wine list is respectable and well-travelled. We had an Australian Shiraz. There are apparently no Afghani wines available. The room boasts a light decor, one wall lined by wine racks. It almost has a rustic feel, with a real Middle-Eastern touch in the Islamic designs found on the entry-way tiles.
"You must order something with pumpkin!", one of my dining companions exclaimed. Our appetizer of sweetened pumpkin was more delicious than any pumpkin pie. We also ordered a pastry appetizer, a matzoh-inspired crust around spicy mashed potato and scallions and leeks. Our soups were delicious, meaty and thick.
There were so many delicious-sounding items on the menu that it was hard to choose. Leek-stuffed ravioli, meatballs (Koufta) in a tomato sauce, lamb, chicken, and sirloin kabobs all tempted us. Vegetarians had many options as well, including the pumpkin and eggplant special. My dining mates remarked on the balance of our plates, offering an equal amount of grains and vegetables to counterbalance the meat.
After our meal, we were asked to move tables to allow for another party. We said we'd rather just take our green teas to the comfortable leather couch in the waiting area. The owner was very apologetic about his request, and while we sat there continuing our conversation, he brought us an after-dinner cognac on the house. When we left, he shook our hands and thanked us for coming to his restaurant. I was impressed at the service and the personal attitude of this restaurant.
Located near the Cambridgeside Galleria in E. Cambridge, Helmand's location is ideal for Bostonians and Cambridge-ites alike. Parking is easy to find in this neighborhood, with the galleria garage as a last resort.
Reservations are recommended. Even on a Wednesday evening, the restaurant was packed.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 28, 2003
143 First St
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142
+1 617 492 4646
I met some friends there one Saturday afternoon and the eight of us took up the entire backroom. A comfortable sectional surrounds a coffee table. There is also a Chinese-style tea table and chairs available for seating.
You are surrounded by dark, evocative artwork. The menu invites the guests to discuss art and we certainly did. I am not sure whether the exhibits rotate, but I think the owner may be the artist.
The owner -- if that is who served us -- is an attractive young Asian man with a good sense of humor. I wish we had gotten a chance to discuss "art" with him, as the menu suggests!
The menu included a variety of teas, served with a tray of hard candies. I shared a pot of lychee tea with two friends, which cost 9$ with free refills. I also ordered a small moon cake, a Chinese pastry stuffed with lotus paste. It was served with spicy wasabi peas.
The bathroom is one of the coolest places, an art installation of itself. After drinking a few pots of tea, you will no doubt have to visit the facilities anyway. It is entirely unique, down to the fish tank and waterfall.
After this experience, I felt as if I had stumbled on a hidden gem of Boston.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 18, 2003
QingPing Gallery Teahouse
231 Shawmut Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts 02118
Restaurant | "Ristorante Fiore"
When my dad and sister were visiting Boston I wanted to take them to a restaurant in the North End. The Marriott made our reservations at Fiore. Little did I know what wonders of Italian food I was in for!
We were seated in a roomy upper level, a far cry from the usual cramped quarters in North End restaurants. Despite the cloth napkins and fine china, the staff was very laid back. My sister wanted to know if they had pizza, and our waiter went downstairs to bring her a lunch menu. There were several other families with children in the restaurant, and yet the restaurant maintained a sophisticated feel.
For the first course, we ordered salads. My dad loved his caesar salad, and my mesclun salad with blue cheese and apples was fantastic! My sister ordered the Mozzarella Di Bufala thinking it was mozzarella sticks. As a result, I was also able to try this dish--buffalo mozzarella with roasted peppers, fresh tomato slices, and crostini. I must also note that the bread basket here was divine, filled with slices of crusty bread. Even my picky sister enjoyed it! She said "I usually only like bread with butter, but this bread doesn't need butter!"
The timing was perfect as our entrees were delivered not too long after we finished our salads. Everyone was delighted with their order. My sister said that the Parmigiano Di Pollo was far better than her mom's version. My dad ordered the Bombolotti Al Forno with Italian sausage. I insisted on having a bite and it was marvelous! My own dish was a work of art, a traditional New England dish with Italian aesthetics. I had their special, venison stuffed with pear and coated in a rich port wine sauce and cranberries. The side was roasted butternut squash, with a slight cinnamon flavor.
The wine list was short, but sufficient. I selected the one Pinot Noir on the menu, and it complemented my dish well.
The best surprise was the price. For three people the bill was only a little over US$100. I will most certainly be bringing friends and family to dine at Fiore again.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 19, 2004
250 Hanover Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02113
Many visitors and new residents enjoy the Duck Tour of Boston, something most people choose to do only once. At US$23 per adult, it is quite expensive. However, group admission allowed our company to offer the tours for $10/person.
Each amphibious vehicle holds 32 people. The duck travels around Boston on land before returning to the Charles and touring the water. The tour encircles the Boston Commons and Gardens, goes past the Pru, and through Fanueil Hall and the North End.
Tickets and more information is available at the Boston Duck Tours website.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on August 18, 2003
Boston Duck Tours
3 Copley Place
Boston, Massachusetts 02116
(617) 723 3825
Sometimes when the music gets going, it can be quite hard to hear your friends. The DJ and music changes each night, but is generally quite listenable.
Take the T or drive to Central Square. The Enormous Room is on Mass Ave, above the Central Kitchen. Look for the red elephant on the door.
This is a bar, so you will get ID'd at the entrance. Also, although there is no dress code, you won't want to show up looking scrubby. Also, the Enormous Room is cash-only.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 28, 2003
The Enormous Room
569 Massachusetts Ave
Boston, Massachusetts 02139
For $7, you get a two-way 45 minute ride through Boston's harbor, a narrated tour as you go, and a stop at George's Island.
George's Island features an old fort, lots of trails, and a dock where ferries depart to other Harbor Islands.
How to Get There
There is a booth at Long Wharf, near where the boats leave. Take the T to Government Center or Haymarket and walk through Fanueil Hall, following signs to the Aquarium. Long Wharf is right next to the Boston Aquarium.
Boston Harbor Cruises
One Long Wharf
Boston, Massachusetts 02110
+1 617 227 4321
My friends have said the pub food here is tasty, but perhaps a bit heavy. It has been called "New-Age Irish". I can speak for the drinks however. My cape-codder was perfectly mixed.
There is always something interesting going on at River Gods. On a Sunday night, a goth-lounge night called Reverie holds court. It is free admission on Reverie nights, and the ethereal and industrial music DJed matches the decor perfectly. Because there is no dancing, the DJs often explore music that you wouldn't hear in an ordinary club. It is always enjoyable. Other evenings are sometimes DJed as well, with different types of music. Check the local Boston Phoenix to find out.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 4, 2003
125 River St
Boston, Massachusetts 02139
Attraction | "Man Ray"
I have been a regular at Man Ray since 1995, and while things change, things always remain the same. Man Ray is one of the longest running alternative clubs in Boston. Actually, it's in Cambridge, meaning that you can still smoke there as of August 2003. I have gone consistently on Wednesdays and Fridays, occasionally dropping in on a Saturday.
Drinks can be expensive. The best deal are the frozen margaritas served up in the front room.
Manray has three rooms. The Cage is the largest room, often with performances. The Front Room usually features another DJ, and has a sunken dance floor. A third room serves as a lounge, with velvet couches and another bar. However, people also hang out downstairs by the coatcheck and bathrooms.Fridays are people-packed and pricy, and the dress code is rigorous. I've seen many people turned away at the door. Saturdays are also quite busy, but because it isn't a fetish night, the dress code is looser and there is a more laidback vibe. Wednesdays are something of a casual night for local goths, a time to catch up with friends rather than Friday's "See and Be Scene". If alternative is your thing, I can highly recommend Manray.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 4, 2003
21 Brookline St
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139
+1 617 864 0400
Attraction | "ImprovBoston"
Sunday nights feature a three hour show for only $5 - Sgt Culpeppers Improvisational Jamboree. For each of the first two hours, a different local improv troupe performs: the visiting troup and then the house troupe. Then, audience volunteers come out onto the stage for the final hour for an improv contest. The remaining audience votes.
This is a small theater, with a maximum of four rows of seating. The actors perform with a minimum of props on the floor.
The comedy is not suitable for children of all ages. You can't predict what the actors will say, and while they will make an effort if there are kids in the audience, prudish types should not apply.
You can arrive at 7, 7:45, or 8:30. However, it is rude to arrive in the middle of a performance.
The final hour offers 16 people the chance to participate. Signups begin at six thirty pm and are quickly filled up.
Contrary to its name, ImprovBoston is actually in Cambridge. Inman Square is an up-and-coming neighborhood with a great ethnic restaurant scene and the delicious Christina's ice-cream.
You can make online reservations here or check the schedule.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 8, 2003
ImprovBoston at Back Alley Theatre
1253 Cambridge St
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139
+1 617 576 1253
The Aquarium's biggest attraction is the large central tank. You wind your way up around the tank or choose an inlet to view the fish. The tanks contains over 100 different species of marine wildlife, from sharks to giant sea turtles to 'rays. From one spot, you can watch the whole tank swim by. Sometimes it is exciting to watch one of the marine biologists dive into the tank to feed the fish.
The penguins are another major attraction. The penguin exhibit stretches around the central tank on the first floor. There are several types of penguins, from South American rockhoppers to African penguins to the Little Blues. The aquarium rescued many of these little guys from oil spills. We enjoyed watching a hyperactive penguin as he flipped, jumped and swam around the exhibit.
Along the outside walls of the Aquarium, you can see fish in a variety of reconstructed environments, from the Amazon river to the Boston harbor. One perennial favorite is the dark room with the flashlight fish. The shark exhibit is currently being remodeled.
The Sea Lion show goes on periodically throughout the day. When you are choosing seats in the dual-sided auditorium, remember that the front seats sometimes get splashed. This is less true now than it was in earlier times. Today's sea lion shows only showcase one sea lion, and focus on conservation and ecology. I think this is a valuable lesson for children to learn, and is far more important than having the sea lions jump through hoops. Of course, the massive lions still display their balancing skill with the classic ball-on-nose trick. Children are selected from the audience to participate in the demonstration and kissed by the Sea Lion. Our exhibition featured Guthrie, who obviously decided to go into premature retirement. He repeatedly left the arena to return to his den, but he did eventually perform all the tricks.
The Harbor Seals are a Boston classic. Two colonies live at the Aquarium. One is visible from the outside of the Aquarium, and the other from the back side. A harbor seal is the New England version of a California Sea Lion, smaller and grey in color.
The Aquarium makes a great half-day trip, and when combined with Fanueil Hall/Quincy Market and dinner in the North End, you will be exposed to some of Boston's best sights. Children could probably spend much longer here, fascinated with the fish.
There is a great deal of walking and children may grow tired. Because of the ramps, the Aquarium is accessible to the differently-abled.
The gift shop at the entrance is quite large, offering quite an array of fishy delights, stuffed and otherwise. Most of the items appeal to children, although there is some adult fish-wear.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 19, 2004
New England Aquarium
Boston, Massachusetts 02110
From Rte. 95: Take exit 58A to Newburyport and the intersection with Rte. 110 east. Follow Rte. 110 East to Salisbury and the intersection with Rte. 1a North. Turn right on Rte. 1a and follow it 2 miles to the Park entrance on the right. Go further to park near the boardwalk for $5.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on June 1, 2004
Beach Rd Rt. 1A
The large, glassy lake offers plenty of space, even when all the boats are rented and there are many people on the lake. There are three islands where you can get out of your boat and relax. Also, if you continue under an underpass, you come to a river area with lots of large boulders. This area presented a bit of challenge to me on my first day in a kayak, but seemed to be a great deal of fun for others. It was also quite secluded here, a great place to get away from the crowds.
Outdoor Recreation of Hopkinton offers a variety of rentals. They have tandem kayaks, single kayaks, canoes, and pedal-boats. You can even buy used equipment here for your own use. You can rent or buy accessories, like butt-pads or waterproof cellphone holders. They also have snacks and drinks, as well as insect repellant and sunscreen. Of course, you can always bring your own kayak/canoe and then you only have to pay the $5 for parking.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 9, 2004
Hopkinton State Park
Rte. 85, Hopkinton
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 29, 2007
Blue Hills Reservation
1904 Canton Ave
Boston, Massachusetts 02186
Restaurant | "Middle East Restaurant and Club"
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 12, 2007
472 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139
A swanboat ride is a delightful budget activity. The swanboats are peddled like a bicycle by the boat's captain while visitors sit in open-air rows. A huge swan sculpture hides the captain, creating the appearance of large swans gliding on the water. While many other tours in Boston are outrageously expensive, the traditional swan boats only cost between $1 to $2.50. They operate from April to mid-September. The Swanboats are closest to the Arlington T-stop. Call 617-522-1966 for more information.
Ducks, swans, and geese swim in the manmade pond. Do Not Feed the Ducks. Although the book shows people feeding peanuts to the ducks, actually feeding the birds causes many ecological problems. The birds do not learn to provide their own food and sometimes do not migrate south for the winter. It also pollutes the water and contributes to over-population. There are signs to this effect in the gardens, but they are widely ignored. Please realize that by feeding the ducks, you are harming them.
Wander around and you are sure to find the bronze duck family, memorializing Robert McCloskey's famous children's book, Make Way for Ducklings. The story tells a tale of a family of ducklings who finally find the perfect home in Boston's Public Gardens.
Please note that skateboarding and rollerblading is not welcome in the public garden. It is a lovely place for a stroll or a jog. Walking in the park reveals many surprises, from hidden fountains and statues.
The public gardens are so well-shaded that I sometimes will walk through here rather than on the nearby streets to get from one part of downtown Boston to another.
Central Square also features some budget shopping, but is definitely best at night.
Major shopping mecca here. There are many large chain stores, and a pedestrian walkway. This area reminds many people of New York City, with the smell of roasted nuts in the air and the street vendors on the side.
Boston's Chinatown is smaller than most other cities' Chinatowns. It's worth mentioning because there are many interesting things to buy and eat here. For example, a nondescript storefront labelled "Restaurant Supply" offers inexpensive dishware that you'll spot at boutiques marked up three times. Buy it here for less.
You can also have many different kinds of Asian foods here. Of course, there is Chinese, but you can also have sushi, pho, and even Malaysian!
Coolidge Corner is located in the clean and safe suburb of Brookline. There is tons of shopping to do here on Harvard Ave, and the food selection is unbeatable. Fugakyu here is known as one of the best sushi places in Boston, with a beautiful atmosphere. J.P. Licks is a great place to get ice cream.
Fanueil Hall / Haymarket
Every Saturday there is a huge farmer's market in the Haymarket, and if you show up later on, you'll see the mess it leaves.
Fanueil Hall is a touristy spot, but many people enjoy the food stands and souvenirs stands here. Besides, there is always an interesting busker or two.
North End (Haymarket stop)
The North End is Boston's version of Little Italy. Paul Revere's house is notably here. However, you will come for the blocks of Italian restaurants. Afterwards, stop and get a cannoli at Modern Pastry. The line at Modern Pastry is always shorter than Mike's pastry, and it tastes just as good.