*cue Augustana song* If I could average Boston and Austin, I’d get my ideal city: Southern-nice and laid-back vibes in Austin, the Boston waterfront and architecture, spectacular culinary scenes from both, perfect Boston summers, and bearable Austin winters. That said, there’s something about Boston’s cute cobblestone streets even in winter that make me think twice about my vow not to live anywhere colder than DC.
Most of this post is from my 4th of July getaway with Allie and friends from all walks of life, but a recent work trip brought me back for the second time this year. It happened to coincide with my childhood friend’s holiday party, so she took me as her plus one. It is always such a joy to be reunited with friends from different parts of my life, in different parts of the world!
Tatte – the number one recommendation from everyone who heard I was going to Boston – was made for Instagram. I went to the Newbury St location for a bite and coffee one day, and the one by Fenway Park for brunch the next day. I hear that the Cambridge is the prettiest of all the locations, but I didn’t make it there even though that’s where I was for work! Happy to report that Tatte 100% lived up to its hype.
Its ambiance was chic, service was great, and food was phenomenal! With how extensive the menu is, there will always be something new to try when I return.
I was able to reunite with Alice and Roshni from my BU Study Abroad program back in summer 2015 (Switzerland and London)! Given that I also went to Italy for about a week after my program ended, Terra Eataly in the Prudential Center was the perfect throwback to sipping on an Aperol spritz on the Italian coast.
Although I can’t compare this one to Eataly in New York since I haven’t been, we enjoyed our pasta and I loved browsing the Italian market right outside. Definitely grab a reservation for this beautiful restaurant – it gets packed!
This vegan ice cream place was on the corner next to our eccentric Airbnb rowhouse in South End. I’ve been trying to avoid dairy, so it was so great to try all the different flavors and not feel limited by the “vegan” options at a regular ice cream place. I don’t love coconut milk and a lot of Fomu flavors are made with it, but they had a few almond milk options as well! I was surprised at how rich everything I tried was. “Vegan” is by no means synonymous with “healthy”.
James Hook Lobster Co
Lobster rolls are such a treat for me, I wasn’t leaving Boston without one. I had a lobster cobb salad somewhere near Faneuil Hall Marketplace, but it’s not the same…A quick Yelp search (also the concierge of a hotel I didn’t stay in – more on that later) recommended James Hook. It’s a tiny little shack packed with live lobsters and other seafood, located right before the bridge crossing over to the Seaport district. From the line out the door, clearly a popular choice. I also ordered the stuffed scallop and felt happy as a clam 😉
I took one look at the line for the famous Mike’s Pastry in North End (Boston’s Little Italy) and decided to turn my attention elsewhere. I’m not really a cannoli girl… but I’ll take a tiramisu with espresso any day! Being alone to explore on my last day, I had the freedom to pop into whichever pastry shops and cafes caught my eye before settling at Caffe Vittoria for a pre-airport pick me up. The World Cup game caused quite a spectacle of cheers or booing at random intervals. It was a great place to people-watch in the bustling Italian community vibe of North End.
Beehive (South End)
When I returned in December for my work trip, I only had time for one meal out. I was lucky Roshni and Alice were able to meet up again with short notice! Beehive has live jazz music at brunch, but I think the band was taking a break when we went so I can’t speak for the entertainment. The food, however, was incredible!
This lamb burger with whipped feta, harissa, tzatiki, cucumbers, and red onion was paired with the most perfectly salted, thin and crispy home fries I’ve ever had! Be warned that Beehive is strict with reservations. Everyone in your group must be on time, or you’ll lose your table like we did 🙁 Luckily, we got seats at the bar and it was worth the wait.
Seeing whales for the first time was by far the highlight of everything I did in Boston between both trips this year! I am so lucky Allie suggested the whale watching tour. Boston wasn’t exactly a place that came as a whale watching destination. In reality, Boston Harbor is just an hour-ish boat ride (3 hours round trip, including observation time) to the Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary. If you’re a marine biology nerd like me, you can read about some of the most productive ocean waters in the Northwest Atlantic. So many whales feed in the area that Boston Harbor Cruises actually guarantees you will see whales on the cruise, or you get your money back. We saw at least 5-6 humpback whales, including a mom and baby!
I recommend booking tickets online and getting in line for the boat early. The best spot is at the front of the boat, on the second level. The captain points the boat at the direction of the guides, who narrate the cruise from front and center. Sometimes I was too distracted at the mind-blowing whales around us to pay attention, but the guides are extremely knowledgeable and can identify the whales by their fins and marks on their bodies.
This shot clearly captures the propeller scars from an irresponsible boat that got too close 🙁 Between contact with boats and fishing gear entanglements, it breaks my heart that human activity has such a negative impact on these great animals that did nothing to deserve it. It’s impossible to come away without a heightened sense of awe and responsibility to care for Creation! Next step, swimming with these incredible creatures!
P.S. If you take a cruise, you also get a discount on the same day at the Boston Harbor Cruises gift shop near where you board and disembark!.
Charles River Esplanade fireworks
I knew I was in for an epic fireworks show, seeing as I was in America’s birthplace for America’s birthday. What I didn’t expect was all the fireworks I saw from the airplane! They were visible from the air as just tiny little sparks of color on my way in and out. A cool bonus of flying around the holiday. The night of the 4th, Allie and I knew we were way too late to battle the crowds for the Boston Pops concert. We still heard the concert from our vantage point along the esplanade. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a great vantage point to get fireworks photos without a ton of people in the way – better planning next time!
Isabella Stewart Gardener museum
All I knew about this museum before I went was that it was the site of a famous unsolved art heist, which piqued my interest (a la childhood page-turner Chasing Vermeer). Museums don’t usually top my list of things to do in new cities, but Gardener herself designed this museum, inspired by Venetian palaces. I could read in this picture-perfect center courtyard for hours! Unlike some bigger museums in bigger cities, this one wasn’t a zoo with screaming children and throngs of tourists. (It probably helped that we went very close to closing time.)
I constantly forget that museums aren’t all free like the Smithsonians… but students and seniors get discounted admission at the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum!
Boston Public Library
This is going to soundso silly, but I wanted to go here because of blogger Jean Wang (Extra Petite)’s anniversary and wedding photos. I found out afterwards, that Boston Public Library follows only the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library on the list of largest libraries in the States! So, super casual that it was also the venue of Srujana’s holiday party for work.
I was so honored to be invited to join her when I casually texted her on Tuesday to ask if she had plans Friday night 🙂 My one night in Boston after the work event was a little fancier than I expected, but such a fun experience with my childhood friend.
Travel tip: when you have all your stuff with you and need somewhere to stash it while you wait for a flight, ask the nearest hotel if they will store your bag. This has worked for me 100% of the time (all two times I’ve done it and only in the States). Nobody has ever bat an eye about whether I actually stayed at the hotel. The concierge even made dinner recommendations! So, happily bag-free, I jaunted off toward the Harborwalk. One of my favorite parts of being alone is not holding anyone up with my photos. I could’ve spent hours just enjoying the waterfront and snapping away. Of course I was hungry though, so I took the short walk over to James Hook where I was finally going to get my lobster roll!
The Seaport District is just across the water from James Hook. My friends said it’s the new hip place to go out. From my quick trip across the bridge, it looked like several fun bars and restaurants with outdoor seating (aka people watching). For next time, maybe I’ll hit up the Legal Seafoods or Barking Crab!
Hopefully I find some reason to be back in Boston next summer!