From riding the Swan Boats to shopping on Newbury Street, Panorama guides you through
18 best bets for springtime fun in the Hub
by Alex Harris and Jinnie Lee
Although the Boys of Summer are knockin’ balls over the Green Monster, it may be expensive to catch the action within the walls of Fenway (home games tend to sell out sometime in January). But if you’ve got a car, you’re never far from great New England baseball action. Head south to Pawtucket, R.I. to cheer on the PawSox—the Red Sox’s Triple-A affiliate, where the next batch of All-Stars play—at McCoy Stadium (401-724-7300). Or head northwest to see the youngest Sox prospects play for the Lowell Spinners (LeLacheur Park, 450 Aiken St., Lowell, 978-459-1702). If you can’t make it to the minors, enjoy hot dogs and peanuts at a Brockton Rox (refer to listing) or North Shore Spirit (Fraser Field, Stetson Street, Lynn, 781-592-0007) game, two of Massachusetts’ independent baseball teams.
explore the emerald necklace
Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted did us Bostonians a huge favor when he sought to create a ring of green spaces around Boston. Because of him, we have an abundance of parkland to explore when the weather is right. The actual necklace is comprised of six parks: the Back Bay Fens, the Riverway, Olmsted Park, Jamaica Pond, Arnold Arboretum and Franklin Park. They stretch five miles from the Charles River to Dorchester, and if you’re up for it, the Boston Park Rangers will take you on a walk through all six parks. Not to be missed, but not technically part of the Emerald Necklace, is historic Boston Common and the Public Garden, the nation’s first botanical garden.
ride The swan boats
Perhaps the most toy-like and beloved fixture in the Public Garden are the world-famous Swan Boats. Owned and operated by the Paget family since 1877, the stately paddle wheel-propelled vehicles take passengers on short jaunts around the central Lagoon. The trip, one of the best bargains for visitors in town (only $2.75 for adults, $1.25 for kids), is unquestionably the most relaxing way to take in the Garden and the surrounding skyline. Refer to listing.
Franklin Park Zoo, founded in 1911 as part of Frederick Law Olmsted’s legendary Emerald Necklace, is home to more than 200 species of animals—including giraffes, lions and kangaroos. And spring tends to be the time of year when that number increases as the park welcomes the birth of new furry friends. This year is no exception, as the Zoo has recently welcomed tiger cubs Anala and Luther, baby giraffe Autumn and baby gorilla Kimani. Refer to listing.
Eat Hot Dogs at Castle Island
William J. Day Blvd., South Boston, 617-268-5744. This free, family-friendly destination is perfect for spending a sunny afternoon. Kids will love exploring Fort Independence or cavorting on the playground, while the whole family can enjoy chowing down on the famous foot-long hot dogs served at Sullivan’s Snack Bar. After the kids work up an appetite running around, order up enough eats for the whole gang and dig in while watching planes take off and land at Logan Airport across the Harbor. Or make like a local by getting in some fishing while basking in the afternoon sun.
Lick an Ice Cream Cone
Bostonians eat more ice cream per capita than anyone else in the country, so it’s no surprise that the Hub boasts some of the best ice cream parlors of any city. Try the delectable delights of Lizzy’s (29 Church St., 617-354-2911) and Ben & Jerry’s (refer to listing) in Harvard Square, or Emack & Bolio’s (290 Newbury St., 617-536-7127) and JP Licks (352 Newbury St., 617 236-1666) in the Back Bay, who include such offerings as Cherry Ortiz—vanilla ice cream with chocolate chips and cherries, named after Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz—among their many flavors. And since Newbury Street provides so many great people-watching opportunities, it’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon licking and looking.
Experience Hollywood in the Hub
If you’re looking for something a bit more modern-day than the many historical tours Boston has to offer, you may want to consider the Boston Movie Tours. This walking tour follows the same steps as some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, leading visitors to the famous park bench from Good Will Hunting, to a stroll past where the runaway car crash scene from Blown Away was shot, to a refreshing drink at the Bull & Finch Pub, the inspiration for the TV classic “Cheers.” The 2-hour tour covers more than 30 filming locations within 1.25 miles, getting you one step closer to Hollywood, while still enjoying all Boston has to offer. Refer to listing.
explore the Charles River Esplanade
The Esplanade is perfect for all sorts of outdoor activities, including kayaking, sailing and jogging. The picturesque, tree-lined asphalt paths that run along the Charles River are especially great for bicycling. Try renting a bike from Back Bay Bikes (366 Commonwealth Ave., 617-247-2336). And when you need a break, catch a free concert or flick at the DCR Hatch Shell.
Wander the sculpture gardens
The Victorian landscaping of Forest Hills Cemetery provides an elegant backdrop for its nationally recognized 19th- and 20th-century memorial sculptures. You can visit the final resting spots of everyone from Anne Sexton and e.e. cummings to playwright Eugene O’Neill in this 275-acre cemetery founded in 1848. In addition, you can attend poetry readings recited in the spirit of the literary giants who are buried here. Be sure to also check out the contemporary sculpture path with its ever-changing free exhibits. Walking tours are offered Sundays at 2 p.m. for $8. Nearby Lincoln, Mass. is home to another striking outdoor sculpture park at the DeCordova Museum. The 35 acres of rolling woodlands and lawns boast an exhibition of large-scale, contemporary American sculpture that can be explored free of charge. Refer to listings.
Challenge the chess master
Au Bon Pain, 1360 Massachusetts Ave., Harvard Square, Cambridge, 617-497-9797. Every May for more than two decades now, chess master and Harvard dropout Murray Turnbull takes his place at the table nearest the sidewalk in front of the Au Bon Pain in Harvard Square. For $2 a game, you can attempt to checkmate him. We wish you luck, but our money’s on Murray.
try the local Brew
What better way to enjoy the arrival of warm weather than with barbecue, live music and locally-brewed beer at Harpoon Brewstock, the annual spring celebration that takes place at the Harpoon Brewery. The fest kicks off June 2, serving up a variety of Harpoon brews and food from local restaurants to the sounds of up-and-coming bands from Boston, such as Hot Like Fire and El Gringo. Saturday morning, run off that hangover during the Harpoon 5-Miler Road Race around the waterfront—the proceeds of which go toward Lou Gehrig’s disease research. Then, enjoy Brewstock anew into the evening. Refer to listing.
Cruise boston Harbor
Springtime weather may be too temperamental for a day at the beach, but it’s the perfect time to get out on the water. Boston Harbor Cruises (refer to listing) offers various tours of Boston Harbor, including visits to the harbor islands and the U.S.S. Constitution. If you have the time to spare, they also offer that New England favorite—whale watching.
Shop ’til you drop
If you’re looking to update your fair weather wardrobe, look no further than Newbury Street. The Rodeo Drive of Boston features an array of fashionable boutiques, including the casual menswear of Relic (116 Newbury St., 617-437-7344), designer denim at G-Star Raw (348 Newbury St., 617-421-9555), hip, high-end fashion from designer Nanette Lepore (119 Newbury St., 617-421-9200) and popular and affordable Swedish retailer H&M (100 Newbury St., 617-859-3192). Others shops along this shopaholic’s dream street include Urban Outfitters, Marc Jacobs, NikeTown, Chanel and Louis Boston. And best of all, instead of being cooped up inside a mall while you shop, you can be out under the sun, strolling past the brownstones of the Back Bay. Refer to listings.
Earth Day may have been in April, but it’s never too late to celebrate our planet. Local FM station WBOS, along with Whole Foods Market, hosts the 13th annual Earthfest at the DCR Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade, the largest free radio station concert in the country, on May 27, from noon to 6 p.m. Listen to Texan rockers Los Lonely Boys, quavering English crooner James Blunt, Denver-based rockers the Fray and other performers while taking in scenic Boston and learning how to clean up the environment from the Sierra Club, Charles River Watershed Association and other environmental groups. Magician Peter Boie, as well as children’s entertainers Ben Rudnick and friends, will be on hand to entertain the kids throughout the day. Refer to listing.
have a (cannons) ball
With all the attention the Red Sox and Patriots get, another of Boston’s winning pro teams sometimes gets overlooked. Boston’s Major League Lacrosse team, the Boston Cannons, has qualified for the playoffs every year since 2001 and won its division in 2004 and 2005. Cheer for these stick-wielding gladiators when they play their first home game of the season on June 3 at Boston University’s Nickerson Field versus the Long Island Lizards. Refer to listing.
Enjoy a NORTH END CELEBRATION
From late spring throughout the summer, Boston’s traditional Italian enclave, the North End, is home to joyful weekend feasts and processions paying tribute to different saints. These celebrations kick off June 3 honoring Santa Maria Di Anzano, as food vendors, parades and revelers fill Hanover and Prince streets. Refer to listing.
Dine by the Sea
As the warmer weather approaches and New England enters prime seafood season, there’s no better place to enjoy both than on the outdoor patios at Boston’s seaside restaurants overlooking Boston Harbor. Enjoy a romantic meal under the stars, or an afternoon lunch amid the company of seagulls, at spots like Tavern on the Water (Charlestown Navy Yard, 617- 242-8040), Tia’s on the Waterfront (200 Atlantic Ave., 617-227-0828) and Intrigue (Boston Harbor Hotel, 70 Rowes Wharf, 617-856-7744), all of which specialize in fresh seafood like lobster and shrimp cocktails.
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Takin’ it to the Streets
Local newspapers from as far back as the 18th century, as well as historical writings by the author Nathaniel Hawthorne, make reference to Massachusetts streets once being filled with musicians and storytellers plying their trades on the streets for pocket change and ale money.
Today, though, the streets of Boston are mostly lacking when it comes to such performers. The city engaged in some ugly battles with street performers over the last two decades, culminating in a kind of harmony reached in 2003, when entertainers were given the right to obtain performer licenses and play in designated areas at underground MBTA stops, including Downtown Crossing on the Orange Line, and Park Street, Alewife, South Station and Harvard Square on the Red Line. If you explore Boston by subway, particularly at heavy commuter hours, you’re likely to encounter all sorts of talented musicians playing all genres of music.
Above ground, it’s a different story—except at popular tourist attraction Faneuil Hall Marketplace, where street performers have been welcome and plentiful for more than three decades. (The influx of entertainers originally came to the spot as a way of entertaining and diverting construction workers who were renovating Quincy Market at the time.) Today, you can see comedians, jugglers, daredevils and musicians everyday—and the best of the best will gather May 27–29 at the 21st annual Street Performers Festival. Throughout Memorial Day weekend, expect to be wowed and amazed by diverse and talented performers who make it their business to put smiles on the faces of audiences of all ages. And, remember—if you enjoy what you see, throw a little something in the hat, and know you’ll be contributing to the continued existence of an artform with a long and illustrious history in Boston and worldwide.
—Josh B. Wardrop