Help from native Bostonians please

Aug 4th, 2007, 10:18 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 24
Help from native Bostonians please

Hi everyone,

My husband and I loved Boston so much the 1st time round, that we are making a second visit, for 4 days from August 24-28.

We did the usual things first time round, so this time we'd like to experience Boston differently. Coming from London, we know there are numerous "hidden gems" around our city, in terms of eateries, attractions, events, etc. - anyone can enjoy them, but you do need some local knowledge to find them.

This is where we need your help!

Firstly: is there an online guide to what's on in Boston, specifically for Bostonians?

Secondly: we're staying at the Hilton Boston Financial District - what restaurants would you recommend that are in the area? Not the plush, super-$$$ places (though we would like to try L'Espalier), we'd prefer knowing about the little hideaways that may not look like much on the outside, but have the best food ever. For lunch and dinner - if you feel able to share your secrets, that is

Finally: is there a particular event that we really shouldn't miss?

Many thanks to you all
nugi is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 08:20 AM
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 320

I like to hear about people who enjoy Boston and want to return here. I was one of those people who decided to move here instead of visit whenever I can--so I'm afraid I don't qualify as a native!

There's a good little message board called which is frequented by lots of natives. Not a huge amount of message volume, but enough to get your questions answered. If you post there just be as specific and possible and you'll have several answers, many from native Bostonians.

You might recall that your first visit that the Financial District is a very short walk to the Faneuil Hall area, just for reference.

Here's an event you should not miss:
in t he North End there's an Italian Street festival the weekend of Aug 24-26. Even if you already went to the North End during your previous visit, you should go there again to see the street fair, then get some great Italian food.
Ralphie is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 09:10 AM
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I second the suggestion to visit the North End for the festival that weekend. I believe that it is the feast of St. Anthony, one of the major festival. The street food is great, especially the fried calamari and the sausages. You should also dine at one of the North End restaurants, such as Giacomo's or the Daily Catch ("Calamari Cafe") for great seafood and pasta dishes or Artu (the best eggplant parm in the North End). There are some Irish Bars near your hotel (Mr. Dooleys or the Green Dragon) which have good pub food. Also, check out Silvertone Bar & Grille at 69 Bromfield Street which is a good local spot. The Good Life on Kingston Street comes to mind (I work down the street). If you do more reasearch here, you will get other great suggestions. Here's a link to a recent post here with a similar request to yours By the way, I'm not a "native", but I've lived in the Boston area a long time!
MarieF is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 09:40 AM
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You might try the website for info on everything Boston, sites, restaurants, events.

Have a great time.
travelbuff is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 10:28 AM
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Going to St Anthony's is a good idea. Overwhelming, but easier than the same kind of thing in NY or Naples!

MarieF gives away two good secrets: Artu's for Eggplant parmesan (also veal parm, also fusilli with sausage and broccoli rape) and Silvertone.

Take a trip to Cambridge to the East Coast Grill, not the easiest place to find but one of the best casual restaurants in the country, owned by cookbook chef Chris Schlesinger. For a unique experience, eat at Mr Bartley's Burger Cottage across from Harvard, and try Dolphin Seafood a few blocks away. Good values on fried and Greek style fish and shellfish for 30 years or more.

Try breakfast, a la carte or buffet at the Parker House, open to the public as well as guests. It will seem cheap to you given the exchange rate, and it is a treat.
Ackislander is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 10:50 AM
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Just wanted to make sure that you visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum the first time around.
missypie is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 11:12 AM
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One of my favorite eating places is in the Garden Of Oleana in Cambridge. It is lovely but they don't take reservsations for seating in the garden so you must be there at 5:30.
You'l see freee magazines the th boxes on street corners that will tell you what's happening, Stuff and the Improper Bostonian.
Toros in the South End for Tapas.
cigalechanta is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 11:22 AM
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Not knowing what you did last time (did you post a trip report so we can see and not list repeats?) -
I would say, some of my favorites:

Do a day/partial day and night in the NOrth End: and then roam on your own, have dinner - we like Piccolo Nido, rabia's, La Summa, Prezzos. pastries anywhere - Mikes, Maria's, Modern, anywhere ! Definitely if there is a festival going on walk the streets and enjoy.

The South End:
Maybe do for brunch/breakfast/lunch on a Sunday so you can take in the weekly market of arts, crafts and food -
walk Clarendon St to Tremont,
see the Boston Center for the Arts bet Clarendon and Berkeley (anything showing you might want to see, check it out before coming) and the new jazz/light bite place BeeHive is there (you can also look up online) - walk Tremont , down Union Park, (The Buttery for cupcakes, great sandwiches) -

For Breakfast: outside at the Garden of Eden, dinner at Metropolis or Franklin Cafe, anything at
Union Bar/Grille, brunch or dinner at Stella's, brunch at Aquitaine, brunch or dinner at Tremont 647, dinner at Sage, diner breakfasts at Mike's or Charlie's - really casual eggs, muffins, etc at Francesca's - ice cream at Pico's (or soup or pizza too) , dinner at Sage

continue walk down Union past Buttery, past union on corner, (a few cute shops to left of Union) - then back straight walk to Harrison Ave and theh South End Market on Sundays (so maybe brunch in south end, walk to open market, walk back up to Copley Place area from there - )

then retrace your steps up to Tremont and walk up Dartmouth to Copley Place (if you are nearby for lunch or dinner, the burgers at Clery's on Dartmouth St just down from Copley Place

OR - walk over to Mistral if near dinner time and have mussels and appetizer at the bar - full dinner is great too but the former can fit the bill sometimes!

Boston Public Garden/Commonwealth Ave walk - and also down Charles Street, over highway pass to Charles River, walk along river and enjoy - return, walk up Beacon Hill - tour the State House.

The Boston Harbor Islands

Take the boat out to one of the islands or do the entire island tour - or harbor cruises - Georges, Spectacle (which has the best view from up top of Boston and the islands) - rich history in all the islands -

Take the Ferry to Salem for House of Seven Gables, lunch, some history and witches

Steak Dinner: The Oak Room

Outdoor movies and dessert and a drink behind the Boston Harbor Hotel

Check the line up at the new ICA on the waterfront - great spot for concerts

Jazz at Bobs Southern Bistro, or dinner in Cambridge at Rialto and then jazz at Regatta Bar -

ok, I'm hungry and have to get back to work.....

escargot is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 11:33 AM
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If you go to mrbartley's - get a limerickey!
You could check out Reggae Sunsplash at BOA Pavilion on the waterfront on the 24th.
Definately stroll the northend during festival! Consider taking the ferry to Provincetown for the day, could even add a dune tour to make it extra special.
Take the commuter rail to Rockport for lunch.
Head to Flour for an amazing BLT or other sandwiches and tasties.
Take time to enjoy the trees at the Public Garden.
Take a bus to Castle Island in South Boston for a hotdog and waterfront stroll while watching planes land.

Good luck, I will keep your dates in mind if something inspires me!

Aug 6th, 2007, 11:38 AM
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I haven't been there for a while.

How about the No Name Restaurant for seafood?
GBelle is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 01:04 PM
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Also, B&G Oysters in the South End for seafood, lobster rolls and an outstanding lobster BLT.
MarieF is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 01:20 PM
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What to do in Boston depends on the weather. If it's a glorious day, walk everywhere. From the Finacial district, you can easily walk to the North End. Also, walk over to the South End and wander looking at the houses and shops. (Notice no Shoppes). Cambridge is great. Take the T to Harvard Square and wander. There are some amazing houses on Brattle Street, past the American Repertory Theater. Browse the bookstores.

I second the East Coast Grill. If you like Thai food, Similans on First Street in Cambridge is super.

If the weather is lousy, either rainy or disgusting humid, do indoor things. The Gardner Museum has been mentioned. The Boston Public Library is fascinating. The Aquarium is worth a gander.
Gpanda is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 03:01 PM
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I agree with the suggestion to head to the North End for the feast. They are always lots of fun especially at night.

I have posted on Boston awhile back, here's a copy:

Take a stroll along the Charles River (great views, people watching and sailboats). In May you'll start to see ducklings if you get over there early enough.

- Walk down Charles Street (quaint shops) and Newbury Street (pricey shops)

- Walk through the Boston common (see the frog pond - and public garden and take a ride on the Swan Boats (get there early in the morning so you don't have to wait in line)

During your walk through the public gardens (Charles Street entrance), don’t forget to stop by the duckling monument put up to honor the classic story of a family of Mallard ducks in downtown Boston from the book -Make Way for Ducklings- by Robert McCloskey, Viking, 1941, A Caldecott Medal winner - if you are there on mother's day there's a kids parade through the park.

A copy of the book makes a great gift for kids. It can be found at most Boston gift shops. I give it to all new mothers as part of the shower or christening gift.

- Spend an afternoon in Harvard Square (lots of shops, really great people watching and lots of history)

- Take a Duck Boat Tour. This is the best way to ride by all the sights. It is a land and water tour which you can catch at the Prudential or Science Museum (reserve ahead). Not only do you get to see the harbor but you get to ride in it (all kids on board get a chance to drive the boat for a minute or two). The guys who ride are really animated, in costumes and tell little known historical stories (like the great Boston molasses flood).

- Eat dinner in the North End (Italian section) and then have desserts at Mike's Pastry (or look for a quaint coffee shop). Over by the water there is usually a group of older Italian men playing outdoor bocce ball - it's great to watch – on a hot summer night I have watched them for hours. They don’t seem to mind being photographed.

- Depending on what you like, stop by Charleston to see the Constitution, Bunker Hill Monument and then stop by the Warren Tavern for lunch or dinner (small, quaint and great food - gets a little too crowded for me on Wednesday nights) – Tavern on the water (same owners) in the Charlestown Navy Yard is also fun.

- See a Red Sox Game and get a tour of Fenway Park (sometimes you can get tickets using the Craig site website – kind of like EBay but free and organized by location -

- Head up to Gloucester (whale watches), Newburyport (shops/food), Portsmouth NH (shops/food), Salem MA (check out some of the witch museums), Rockport (quaint shopping and picture taking ) or down to Cape Cod or Newport RI – there is a ferry service found in between the aquarium and the Marriot Longwarf you can go out to the harbor islands and hike (mostly flat) or take a fast ferry to Provincetown.

Side trip websites:
Rockport: (day trip)
Newburyport: (day trip)
Portsmouth: trip)
Salem: trip)
Gloucester: trip)
Newport: (stay overnight)
Cape Cod: (stay overnight)
Nantucket: (stay overnight)
Martha’s Vineyard: (stay overnight)
White Mountains, NH (need at least 3 days):

- If you do a day trip to Salem to visit the witch museums (take a train/blue line – the traffic is crazy all summer) visit the Rockmore Floating Restaurant. You catch a small boat out to it from Pickering Wharf – they have burgers, salads, etc. The best is throwing your French fries to the fish swarming the area (because they know about the French fries) – also great views back to Salem.

- Boston has a lot of great parks. My favorite is the Back Bay Fens. Local residents who don't have a yard take a spot and turn it into their own garden. There are literally hundreds of these, all beautiful (near Kenmore Square).

This site lists many of the parks:
Another favorite: The Arnold Arboretum is a 265-acre botanical garden and educational research facility run by Harvard University. Over 5000 kinds of trees, most originating from northern temperate forests, are featured. Two of the arboretum's highlights include the Larz Anderson Bonsai Collection and the Lilac Collection. In 1872, the Arboretum's first director, Charles Sprague Sargent, designed the grounds in collaboration with the landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted as part of Boston's Emerald Necklace park system

- You may also want to consider a day at the Science Museum. If you don't want to take the entire day you can get tickets to their Omni theater which is quite good (a few hours for a show).

- The JFK library is also great.

- Then there's the aquarium & IMAX theater (although I have been to much better aquariums in other cities - the best in Valencia, Spain)

- The Museum of Fine Art and the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum are also nice.

- I'd skip Fanuel Hall and the Cheers Bar and stay away from all the dives on Route 1 and Revere Beach.

One other thing, check out:

Formaggio Kitchen
244 Huron Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
tel: (617) 354-4750
toll-free: (888)-212-3224

It's just outside of Harvard Square (maybe a mile? - you can walk, drive or take a bus) and has amazing stuff!!! Granted none of it seems to be native to Boston but they have tons of stuff from Europe (mach of which is exclusively distributed to them) - cheeses (that you can taste), wines, olive oil, pasta, bread, pastry....

Great sandwichs too - good little shop to stop at for picnic food and sample some cheeses....

They also have other locations in South Boston & NY, although I have never been to them.

adnil1962 is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 03:59 PM
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adnil, how can you suggest Salem without mentioning its gem, te P.E.M. Peobody Essex Museum. There is a real Chineese home, the Yin Yu Tang, a late Qing dynasty merchant's house that was brought there and re-erected. There's wonderful collections and special exhibits. We were the recently for the Joseph Cornell show. There's a nice restaurant there tht serves outside in the Japaneese garden.
cigalechanta is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 06:12 PM
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A fun way to get to Salem from Boston is by ferry - - esp if you don't take any harbor boats to the boston harbor islands -

With four days, I wouldn't do any longer day trips say to Martha's Vineyard or nantucket - Salem, Plymouth, - basically NOrth/South Shore (Quincy/John / Abigail Adams history if interested)
is about as far as I would go w/ only 4 dys. - except maybe Provincetown if you want to see the dunes, galleries, natural beauty of the cape
escargot is offline  
Aug 7th, 2007, 09:12 AM
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If coming to Salem, I'd skip the witch museum and associated "wax museums" and stick with the PEM and the House of Seven Gables. PEM is amazing and the House is a piece of national heritage (and awarded as such). You might want to read Nathaniel Hawthorne's book of the same name if you really like to prepare for a trip...
amyb is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 03:03 AM
Original Poster
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Hi everyone,
Wow, I am so overwhelmed with the replies here - a million thank yous!

A big thanks to everyone for the info about the feast of St. Anthony. I thought we'd miss this, SO glad to know we won't (and a great change from our Notting Hill Carnival).

Ralphie, travelbuff - thanks for the Boston info links, I've already started pulling out some good stuff.

MarieF, Ackislander, cigalechanta, escargot, kealalani, GBelle: HUGE thanks for sharing your fav foodie places. We definitely wanted to spend a day meandering around the North End and also Cambridge/Harvard, and like the sound of the "Calamari Cafe" & the Dolphin Seafood (worth a trip just for the name alone!). The South End also sounds really interesting - and definitley not the sort of thing one would know to do without some local guidance.

I am still digesting and cogitating over all this wonderful information. Hope you will not mind if I come back with any further questions, but honestly, this is totally what I hoped for.


Ironically, we did The Oak Room (and road tripping around New England generally) last time, but didn't feel we'd spent as much time as we'd have liked in Boston itself.

nugi is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 03:40 AM
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First question. Boston Globe publishes weekly calendar section on Thursdays with all sorts of ongoing and one-time events (for example, gives museum times but also who is playing at what clubs). is the Globe website and has an events section - lists this weeks events. Nto sure how comprehensive it is in comparison to weekly paper supplement.
gail is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 12:56 PM
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Check out for two weeks of 3-course meals at a fixed price throughout the Boston area!
adnil1962 is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 01:00 PM
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Sorry, just realized that the dates won't work for you.

BOSTON RESTAURANT WEEK 2007's Unofficial Guide to Boston Restaurant Week is back for the 2007 summer edition of Boston Restaurant Week. For the second year in a row Boston Restaurant Week is twice as delicious with two weeks in which to enjoy special three-course prix fixe menus for lunch or dinner.

August 5 through August 10, 2007
August 12 through August 17, 2007

Three-course Prix-fixe Lunch Menu: $20.07
Three-course Prix-fixe Dinner Menu: $33.07

adnil1962 is offline  

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