"I hated Boston. All the clubs close at 2am." This is the most common response I get when people ask where I'm from. "Thanks," I say. Well, it's nice for a weekend, but I love NYC.
Well, Boston has come a long way from the closed off, puritan city it once was. Sure, the streets aren't teeming with aspiring designers or funky artists trying too hard to dress avant-garde, but if you think there's nowhere to shop for indie labels, drink after 2am, or meet the next John Currin, you just don't know the NEW Boston.
While chain stores infiltrate NYC, Boston welcomes a growing class of entrepreneurs following the likes of successful boutique mainstays like Louis Boston, Jasmine Sola, and E6 Apothecary. The recent arrival of Boston Common and Daily Candy are proof that shopping and entertainment options are only growing.
Back Bay is the center of Boston proper, Newbury Street is its hub for people watching, shopping, and dining. During the summer, you’ll find wealthy Boston University students lunching at outdoor tables at Armani Café, yuppies showing off their latest Burberry finds at Stephanie’s on Newbury, and trendy hopefuls sipping martinis at Sonsie. During the day, big spenders and window shoppers flock to Louis Boston, the renowned multi-floor mainstay that houses home accessories, obscure beauty products, designer clothes, a spa, and offers valet. Designer shops along the main drag include Marc Jacobs, Oilily, and Vera Wang, while local boutiques include Jasmine Sola, In the Pink, and Mudo.
If this isn’t your scene, the artsy/BoHo South End with its majority gay community, hole-in-the-wall stores, and trendy fusion dining spots is the way to go. Aunt Sadie’s is a fun store tucked away on a tree-lined street that shows off the neighborhood’s picturesque brownstones. The Red Fez is one of the neighborhood’s most popular restaurants, but there are loads to choose from. The latest South End development is the art zone area dubbed SoWa, which stands for south of Washington Street. Like most other emerging neighborhoods conquered by artists, the area is still a bit sketchy and can be noisy due to its proximity to the highway. But, there are tons of industrial buildings with work/live spaces and artists often have open studios, which is a great way to buy affordable art.
Lastly, you mustn’t visit the area without trekking across the bridge to Cambridge and Somerville. Harvard Square is an excellent place for people watching and snapping candids. The area around the subway is a great place to eat lunch during the warm weather and to watch the kids going through their punk stage. This open space is called ‘The Pit’ and is usually a spot where musicians and hippies congregate. Harvard Square is also home to a great chocolate shop called LA Burdick Chocolate Café and Colonial Drug, a quaint pharmacy that stocks an extensive collection of fragrances and international cosmetics.
The neighboring town of Somerville is a mix of long-time middle class residents, Tufts students, and yuppies who can’t quite afford Cambridge. The Cambridge/Somerville area is to Boston what Brooklyn is to Manhattan—those who live there would never venture back. They are too accustomed to the mixed environment that has yielded an excellent array of coffee shops and Asian restaurants.
So, the next time you’re deciding where to take a long weekend, opt for Boston. Remember to stop at the ATM because there’s no sales tax on items under $150, and Chinatown, though pathetically small in comparison to NYC and San Francisco, provides some excellent spots for after-hours partying.