Famed pastry shop looks for another location
The Mike's Pastry cannoli could be moving to Harvard Square soon.
Harvard University students are about to get very lucky, well, even luckier than usual. Mike's Pastry, the famed Italian pastry shop located in Boston's North End neighborhood, is planning on opening another shop, and they're hoping to expand right into Harvard's back yard.
Mike's Pastry has already expanded beyond its original storefront since it started accepting delivery orders online. Now, according to CBS Boston, Mike’s Pastry is planning to open a new brick-and-mortar shop at 11 Dunster St. in Harvard Square. That news is sure to be met with glee from a lot of the shop's new neighbors, because college is always better with ready access to copious amounts of freshly baked Italian pastries, like the cannoli and biscotti that are signature menu items at the bakery.
The Harvard Square Advisory Committee is currently reviewing a special permit application for the upcoming Mike's Pastry outpost, which would require a Fast Order Food Establishment Special Permit, the Cambridge Community Development Department said.
50 Things to Eat in Boston Before You Die
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Boston may not be a huge city, but it makes up for its size with its food options. From burritos to doughnuts, Boston has it all. Since it can be more than a little overwhelming to pick and choose, we narrowed it down to the top 50 for you.
Now it’s on you to eat your way through this list. Trust us, you’ll want to try each and every place — you’ll regret it if you don’t.
1. Nut Boxes at Tatte Bakery and Cafe
These boxes made it onto BuzzFeed’s 25 Bakeries Around the World You Have to See Before You Die article, and for good reason. The nut boxes are so pretty, you’ll almost feel bad about eating them. Almost.
2. Gelato at Amorino
Amorino gelato is legit Italian gelato. It’s high-quality and made with carefully selected ingredients, so you can’t go wrong no matter what flavor you pick. And you don’t even have to pick just a single flavor, really — they allow you to fit as many flavors as you want into a gelato rose. Win.
3. Grilled Cheese and Truffle Fries at Roxy’s Grilled Cheese
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Foodie Buddha
This famous food truck has finally landed a permanent restaurant location in Allston, so now you don’t have to look all over the city to get your grilled cheese fix. Every sandwich here is serious #cheeseporn, and they always switch it up with interesting ingredients. From the classic grilled cheese to foie gras and peaches, there’s something for everyone. And get a side of truffle fries while you’re at it, because why not?
4. Chocolate Chunk Cookie at Blunch
Blunch has huge sandwiches that justify their name, as it’ll fill you up for breakfast and for lunch, but the star of the show here is really their chocolate chunk cookie. Like the sandwiches, it’s massive, and since it’s made with chocolate chunks instead of chips, the chocolate is spread out more in the cookie. It’s everything you ever hoped and dreamed of.
5. Sicilian Slice at Galleria Umberto
Boston is an expensive city, but at this hole-in-the-wall pizza shop, you can get a meal for under $5. With authentic Sicilian pizza at just $2 a slice, you won’t feel bad going back for more. There’s usually a line out the door and they close when they sell out, so get there early.
6. El Guapo Burrito at El Pelon Taqueria
Plantains in a burrito? Genius. El Guapo burrito is salty, sweet and and heaven in every bite.
7. Sticky Bun at Flour Bakery
Photo courtesy of Flickr user snowpea&bokchoi
Joanne Chang from Flour Bakery is something of a Boston legend. Who knew than an honors Harvard grad could make such perfect baked goods? These sticky buns are everything you want in your breakfast — warm, caramel-y, nutty and delightfully gooey. #foodgasm
8. PB & J Doughnut at Union Square Doughnuts
Calling all peanut butter addicts — Union Square’s PB & J doughnut is a must-try. It’s an interesting twist on a long-beloved classic, and besides you can never go wrong with any peanut butter-flavored.
9. Scotch Egg at The Gallows
Photo courtesy of yelp.com
Only boring people eat omelettes for brunch. At The Gallows, you can order anything from a pulled pork corn muffin to a sunnyside burger, but the real star is the scotch egg. It’s basically like a hardboiled egg inside a meatball, and they cook the egg so perfectly that you’ll have lots of opportunities for #yolkporn pics.
10. Lamb Cumin Hand-pulled Noodles at Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe
Gene’s Flatbread Cafe is tucked away from the typical hustle and bustle of Chinatown, but those who want authentic noodles know where to find it. Although they’re named after their flatbreads, their handmade noodles are really the star. For a chewy, glorious taste of China, leave Chinatown and find this little noodle shop.
11. Cookies ‘n Cake Batter at JP LICKS
Photo courtesy of Emma Noyes
Oreo ice cream. Cake batter ice cream. Easily the best of both worlds. And with every ingredient certified organic and easily purchased in your local grocery store, it’s no question as to why JP’s ice cream stores are as iconic in Boston as Fenway Park.
12. The 420 Burger at Boston Burger Company
Photo courtesy of bostonburgerco.com
There are burgers. And then there are artery-clogging, over-the-top monstrosities that don’t even fit in your mouth. This stoner’s dream comes topped with cheese, bacon, two entire mozzarella sticks, mac ‘n cheese bites and a full onion ring. Everything about this burger is incredibly addicting. But we almost feel bad telling anyone to eat it out of serious concern for their diet.
13. Regular Ramen from Yume wo Katare
Photo courtesy of yelp.com
Go for the experience. Yume’s servers give you the option to stand up and yell out your life dream. They also rate your eating performance (“Perfect!” for a finished bowl) for the whole restaurant to hear. But you won’t have any trouble eating all the ramen — their homemade noodles are second-to-none.
14. Cannoli from Mike’s Pastry
Photo courtesy of Boston Bites via Instagram
Mike’s Pastry is the emblematic jewel of Boston’s Italian North End. Every night, lines reach out the door as tourists clamber to get a taste of their famous cannolis. This title is well-earned you might not think you like cannolis until you try their simultaneously creamy and crunchy delights.
15. Secret Burger from Alden & Harlow
The only secret about this burger is why it’s so mouth-watering. Everything from the godly 8-oz. stack of brisket, beef and short rib, to the crispy cheese wafer and secret sauce makes the burger one of the most sought-after in Boston.
16. Sea Salt Bagel from Bagelsaurus
Photo courtesy of Boston Bites via Instagram
Look. We’re not actually going to tell you what to order here, because every single bagel is unique and amazing. Even snobby New York bagel fanatics (I’m looking at you, freshman roommate) think they’re legit. But the sea salt bagel is perfect for any of the various toppings. Even so, we strongly recommend you try it with the honey rosemary cream cheese.
17. Massive Sub from Al’s Cafe
Photo courtesy of alscafe.com
These are real sandwiches. Not the wimpy, cold things you get in your D-hall. A large is essentially two subs in one, so be prepared to eat more than you believed possible. The line for lunch is always out the door, but it gives you time to choose from the overwhelming selection of sandwiches, with everything from Italian’s Italian to the (almost) dainty Lady’s Cafe Special.
18. “Celebrity” Burger and Frappe from Mr. Bartley’s Gourmet Burgers
Photo courtesy of yelp.com
While it may not be the best burger you’ve ever eaten, the thrill in going to this burger joint comes from its history. Famous for its celebrity-named burgers, Bartley’s personality-filled interior is like a scene straight out of the 1960’s, when it was founded. You can get anything from a Tom Brady to an Obama, and don’t forget to order a frappe, which is a New England-style milkshake.
19. Ice Cream in a Cereal Cone from Emack and Bolio’s
Photo courtesy of yelp.com
Waffle cones are delicious. Waffle cones covered in sugary cereal with marshmallow coating is something worth going out of your way for. Add any of Emack and Bolio’s creative ice cream flavors — your pick of anything from salted caramel chocolate pretzel to space cake — and enter sugar heaven.
20. Açai Bowl from Jugos
Photo courtesy of yelp.com
If you have an Instagram account, you’ve probably seen one of these colorful creations on your newsfeed. Made with South American berries famous for their health benefits, Jugos’ bowls come topped with granola, banana and a whole other rainbow of good-for-you toppings.
21. Egg Fancy at Mike & Patty’s
Even in the snow, the lines are long for these amazing breakfast sandwiches. This tiny corner shop has only five seats so be prepared to fight for a seat or take yours to go (we recommend picnicking in the Boston Commons if the weather’s nice). #SpoonTip: Call your order in first and head over early to get a head start on the wait.
22. Lamb Gyro at Gyro City
What’s better than a freshly carved gyro? A freshly carved gyro that’s also stuffed with fries. Bring some friends to this Fenway spot that’s neighbor with other great spots like El Pelon Taqueria and Rod Dee Thai.
23. Paella at Toro
If you’re looking for a vacation without leaving Boston, head over to Toro (aka the closet you’ll get to Spain). Bring some friends so you can get the main dish, the paella Valenciana. Though it takes 30 minutes because it’s cooked to order, it’s definitely worth the wait. Munch on tapas and sip on sangria while you wait so you don’t get hangry.
24. French Toast at Mike’s City Diner
Mike’s City Diner has blessed us with french toast that’s literally larger than some your textbooks. It’s the perfect hangover cure — a French roll split, french toast-ified and topped with powdered sugar, butter and syrup.
25. Lobster Roll at Neptune Oyster
Photo courtesy of yelp.com
In a town full of lobster rolls, one stands out — the warm lobster roll at Neptune’s. Though you can choose for it to be warm or cold, definitely go for the warm one. This version contains no celery or other fillers, and is dressed with drawn butter aka heaven and is served with a side of crisp fries.
26. Burrito from Anna’s Taqueria
Warning: One lunch at Anna’s may raise your burrito standards too high to ever think of Chipotle in the same way again. The tortillas are hot and crispy, the ingredients are always fresh and it’s impossible to make a bad flavor combination.
27. Poutine from Saus
Photo courtesy of yelp.com
Not sure why this Canadian classic is so hard to find in the States, because it’s the perfect drunchie. Saus manages to make poutine that the Canadians would be proud of, and lets you add toppings like deep fried eggs and truffled mushrooms.
28. Liege Waffle at Zinneken’s
If you happen to spot the telltale pink of the Zinneken’s waffle truck when you’re in Copley Square someday, run toward it at full speed and immediately indulge in a soft and chewy Liege waffle. Or just go to their newly opened Cambridge location. With toppings like Belgian chocolate, Nutella, strawberries, bananas and cookie butter, you’ll want to leggo your Eggo for good.
29. Cheeseburger at Tasty Burger
Tasty Burger’s name is well deserved — these loud, graffitied, student-friendly dives serve up some deliciously simple cheeseburgers. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and served with addictive shoestring fries, a Tasty Burger cheeseburger is one of those simple pleasures that every college kid craves.
30. Crunchy French Toast at Johnny’s Luncheonette
When you’re faced with the daunting three-page breakfast menu at Johnny’s Luncheonette in Newton Center, just seek out the signature crunchy French toast — thick challah bread covered in granola, cornflakes and almonds, and served with butter and hot maple syrup on the side.
31. Clam Chowder at Boston Sail Loft
The Boston Sail Loft’s clam chowder is the perfect antidote to a cold Boston day. Use the breadbasket to soak up all the creamy goodness and you’ll have a remarkably filling meal. And the harborside views aren’t too shabby either.
32. Coffee at Thinking Cup
It’s the only place in Boston that exclusively serves coffee from Stumptown, a renowned roaster, so you know your money’s well spent. Make sure to peek under the lid of your latte to check out some gorgeous milk foam designs by the Thinking Cup’s award-winning baristas.
33. Boston Cream Pie at Parker’s Restaurant
Photo courtesy of omnihotels.com
Boston Cream Pie, also known as the official state dessert of Massachusetts, was invented at the Financial District’s Parker House, and many believe that the hotel’s restaurant still makes the best version around. It’s as beautiful as it is delicious, and indulge in a slice at JFK’s and Jackie Kennedy’s table (#40) for the ultimate Boston experience.
34. Cookie Monster at White Mountain Creamery
Photo courtesy of yelp.com
Admit it, BC kids — you’ve risked your life running across Comm Ave for a scoop of Cookie Monster at least once. Creamy vanilla ice cream, cookie dough, and Oreos… White Mountain Creamery’s signature flavor is the perfect combo to get you through those hot few weeks at the beginning and end of the year.
35. Croque Madame at MET Back Bay
Photo courtesy of butatastebuds.com
You never have to look far to find a good brunch spot in Boston — but it’s hard to beat the plush brasserie vibe and the mile-long menu at MET Back Bay. There’s no better way to start your day than with a basket of truffle-oiled fries and the cheesy, eggy, bready masterpiece that is MET’s Croque Madame.
36. Lobster Ravioli at Rino’s Place
Photo courtesy of culinarycolleen.com
Lobster and Boston go together like Tom Brady and Gisele, but for most college kids, ordering a whole lobster at dinner is way out of their budget. Lobster ravioli, on the other hand, packs all the flavor of Boston’s favorite crustacean without the hefty price tag (or the embarrassing bib). Make sure to save some of the bread basket to soak up every last bit of the creamy pink lobster sauce.
37. Hot Chocolate at L.A. Burdick
Photo courtesy of yelp.com
Ever dreamed of drinking pure, melted chocolate? Say hello to L.A. Burdick’s hot chocolate. Choose between milk, white or dark chocolate and make your hot chocolate fantasies come to life.
38. Iced Coffee Horchata at The Painted Burro
Photo courtesy of confessioinsofachocoholic.com
The best way to cure a hangover? A pitcher of iced coffee horchata. You’ll forget how badly your head hurts the second your lips hit the straw.
39. Wood Fired Pizza at Coppa
Photo courtesy of Coppa Enoteca via Instagram
Bone marrow pizza? Check. Calamari pizza? Check. Hangover pizza topped with an easy over egg? Check.
40. Falafel at Amsterdam Falafel Shop
Photo courtesy of falafelshop.com
Get it in a pita, crush your balls, add tons of toppings and make sure to get a side of fries along with all of their fantastic dipping sauces. Helllooo chipotle ketchup.
41. Pasta at Gran Gusto
Photo courtesy of yelp.com
Forget the North End. The pasta here comes in a huge Parmesan cheese wheel.
42. Spicy Food at Thai Dish
Photo courtesy of Cydney Scott for Boston University
If you’re ever craving the most intense dish you have ever eaten, order the spicy 5 drunken noodles or any of the curries and be prepared to cry spicy tears.
43. Ice Cream Sandwich at Frozen Hoagies
When your Insta needs a boost, run to the closest Frozen Hoagie truck. Think thick, fluffy cookies stuffed with colorful ice cream in any and every flavor (including vegan!) you could ever imagine.
44. Aglio Olio (Squid Ink Pasta with Calamari) at The Daily Catch
Photo courtesy of diningwithdave.com
The North End is full of good handmade pasta, but this handmade pasta with squid ink, sautéed in calamari crumbles and garlic truly stands out. It comes in a pan made for two, so bring a friend.
45. Roast Beef 1000 at Cutty’s
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Susanna Bolle
In-N-Out lovers will love the roast beef sandwich at Cutty’s. It’s made with piles of slow-roasted beef and Thousand Island dressing, which is the basis of In-N-Out’s “secret” animal sauce.
46. Frozen Nutella Hot Chocolate at Paris Creperie
Photo courtesy of yelp.com
There’s no such thing as too much Nutella. Or too much chocolate. The frozen Nutella hot chocolate at Paris Creperie is a milkshake, a hot chocolate and a thousand times your daily dose of Nutella in one. No regrets, though.
47. Double Awesome at Mei Mei
Photo courtesy of yelp.com
Mei Mei is another one of those successful food-truck-turned-restaurants, and for good reason. Their double awesome is like a grilled cheese made with scallion pancakes and oozy eggs. Cue drooling.
48. Lobster Benedict at North Street Grille
There’s no shortage of lobster items on this list, but we couldn’t leave off the classic lobster Benedict. This classic brunch place in the North End always has long lines, so make sure to get there early.
49. Stone Ground Chocolate at Taza Chocolate
Photo courtesy of bakepedia.com
Taza Chocolate is known for their quality handmade chocolates and has a wide range of dark chocolate, which is perfect for all those dark chocolate lovers out there. Their chocolate is all stone-ground, organic and ethically produced, so you can feel doubly as good when eating it.
50. B3 at Toscanini’s Ice Cream
Photo courtesy of yelp.com
You won’t find a “must-eats” list in Boston without Toscanini’s. Though Boston is full of amazing ice cream, Toscanini’s is famous for its unique flavors, especially the B3 aka the trio of all things good in the world — brown sugar, brown butter and brownie.
March 29, 2021: The Seaport Gets Exactly What It Doesn’t Need: Another Steakhouse
The Four Seasons Hotel One Dalton is getting another drinking and dining destination. Trifecta will open adjacent to the hotel’s lobby some time in May, and focus on cocktails (with names that pay homage to women from Boston’s high society past, like the legendary art patron Isabella Stewart Gardner and Boston Ballet founder E. Virginia Williams) and high tea.
A half century-old New Jersey-based sub shop chain is expanding to Boston. The website for Jersey Mike’s Subs lists the location as “coming soon.” Also in Brighton, a pizzeria called Ziggy’s recently opened in Oak Square, and it has connections to another pizzeria that operated in the neighborhood for 20 years.
A pizzeria with roots in JP is returning home. Pizza Oggi first opened 20 years ago in Hyde Square (near the Haven), before moving and spending time Downtown, and later in Harvard Square. Now, it plans to reopen in its original space on Perkins Street.
The Seaport just got exactly what it doesn’t need: another steakhouse. Eddie Merlot’s, which is a steakhouse chain based in Indiana, recently opened in the Congress Street space once occupied by La Casa de Pedro.
Somerville is getting a new Indian restaurant called Veggie Indian Palace, though details regarding ownership and location are currently scarce.
Midwest Grill, which was known for its Brazilian BBQ, is no longer serving Brazilian BBQ — but it is serving Korean BBQ. Ownership changed recently, and so too did the menu.
A new Mediterranean restaurant called Fattoush is opening in Arlington. Its menu will consist of dishes like hummus, shawarma, rice pilaf, falafel, and kebbe. “We will be serving Mediterranean food, and vegan food. We have amazing recipes, generous portions, fair prices and great customer service,” owner Karam Touma told the Arlington Advocate. “We are a family owned and operated restaurant.”
Brookline is getting a new tea shop called the Shared Tea, which will open some time this summer in the space formerly occupied by a women’s clothing shop called Sana Belle.
A Mediterranean restaurant with a focus on Greek food and fish plans to open in the Street Chestnut Hill development. Limani, which is a mini-chain based in New York (there are locations in Manhattan and on Long Island), will overlook Hammond Pond, and could open some time this year.
The Island Creek Oysters team recently bought the Winsor House Inn, which has been operating as a restaurant since the 1930s. “The addition of the Winsor House into the Island Creek family will allow for them to add another aspect to the farm experience they have been creating since 2017, coupling hospitality with educating guests about aquaculture and its role in the future of our coastal communities,” said the Island Creek team in a press release. “The Winsor House will join Island Creek’s Raw Bar, a casual, outdoor oyster experience located on their 11-acre working waterfront farm. Founder of Island Creek Oysters Skip Bennett and President Chris Sherman are grateful for the opportunity to bring a Duxbury institution into their fold.”
It’s fixing to be a busy year for Newton’s dining scene: the suburb is getting a “neighborhood family dining spot” called 57 Lincoln Eatery an outpost of the French and Asian fusion bakery chain Tous Les Jours and a ramen shop called Coco Ramen (which is a sibling, and will be a neighbor, to Thai restaurant Coconut Newton).
Restaurateur Michael Aldi and chef Greg Reeves will open a new restaurant called Tyde in the Ryder apartment complex (21 Revere Beach Blvd.) on Revere Beach this summer. According to a press release, Tyde’s menu “will focus on locally sourced, high-quality cuts of dry aged beef and fresh-caught seafood, as well as local produce and other premium ingredients.” Tyde will be able to accommodate 120 diners indoors, with room for an additional 100 guests on its patio. Reeves owns Viale in Cambridge, and has worked in the kitchens of celebrated Boston-area restaurants such as B&G Oysters, the Butchershop, Green Street, among others.
The Farmer’s Daughter, which first opened in Easton almost a decade ago, has expanded, opening a second location in Sudbury.
Moody Street has a new restaurant. Penang, which first opened in Chinatown, and specializes in Malaysian food, has expanded to Waltham, and is now open inside the former Tiki House space.
Worcester Living: Beyond Boston's tried and true
On a good weather day in Boston, the streets are bustling with energy. Families and college students prowl Boston Common, in search of swans or the infamous bench Robin Williams graced with Matt Damon in "Good Will Hunting." Boats navigate Boston Harbor around the Seaport, while children press their noses to the glass of the seal viewing tank outside the New England Aquarium.
But on an extraordinary weather day in Boston, whether it’s spring or summer, thisity of history is electrified. Rooftops and restaurants stay packed with visitors outdoor beer gardens areuzzing, and the lines at Chinatown restaurants are out the doorਏor delicious dim sum and pho. Water taxis take travelers to enchanting alcoves of Charlestown and East Boston.
The city comes to life after a winter slump, like breaking out of a Babe Ruth-induced curse that had a grip on Bostonians for 86 years.
Though Boston is smaller than theꃎlebrated cities of New York and San Francisco, it is an area with pockets and neighborhoods to suit everyone’s tastes, from young to old.
Boston’s distinctive atmosphere serves as a comfort to many, as well as home.
Zerina Derviᘞvić, 27, who moved to the area with her family as refugees from war-torn Bosnia in 1999, quickly became mesmerized by the offerings of the city.ਊ resident of the North Shore today, she recalled riding the T as a youngster to explore Downtown Crossing with her family, and hopping over to Newbury Street before watching street performers at Faneuil Hall.
“This vibrant and diverse city was always, and continues to be, full of positive energy,” she said. “There exists a sense of community you cannot take for granted when living in a large city.”
Stepping outside of the tried and true Boston destinations can also be the perfect adventure. A New Englander will know the typical favorites for a Boston visit: a game at Fenway Park, a stroll through the brick streets of Beacon Hill, a stop at Mike’s or Modern Pastry in the North End for Italian cannolis, a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts or a drive through Harvard Square. All of those spots are excellent for a day trip, but there’s much to see in the up-and-coming neighborhoods as well.
East Boston isਊ new hotspot, offering what City Councilor Lydia Edwards says are some of the best views in the city. A T stop on the Blue Line to Maverick offers unparalleled city skyline views, from Piers Park and the other seaside LoPresti Park, located off the outdoor patio of the new restaurant ReelHouse.
Ms. Edwards, who lives in the area and represents District 1 including East Boston, Charlestown and the North End, said she’s proud to see stie” gaining popularity. It’s becoming a food destination, too. Santarpio’s Pizza may just offer the best slice in the city, while a growing Hispanic area offers unrivaled Latino food at Angela’s Cafe, Metapan and Rincon Limeno, to name a few.
𠇊t one end of my block, I could have great Italian seafood, and also at the other end, I have a Brazilian butcher store and around the corner, amazing Colombian food, all within walking distance,” Ms. Edwards said.
The councilor said a great day for her begins with a buffet brunch at La Hacienda on the weekends, it offers an all-you-can-eat affordable smorgasbord of fresh fruit, nachos and broiled fish. She then recommends a walk around the Boston Harbor Shipyard & Marina with outdoor sculptures nestled around the working docks. Then, if you’re still hungry after the big morning meal, Ms. Edwards recommends meat or vegetable pies at KO Pies at the Shipyard.
ReelHouse in the summer offers a free water taxi shuttle over to its sister restaurant in Charlestown, Pier 6, for fresh oysters and more gorgeous water views.
If you are in the mood to visit downtown, a walk along the flourishing Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway for a look at the latest public art installations is a must. At the Aquarium stop, you’ll find the mesmerizing Rings Fountain and the Harbor Fog interactive installation by Ross Miller, which spouts mist as walkers come by and trip the sensors.
Another day trip could be spent entirely at the art galleries of the South End, where an alternative art world exists for those seeking an adventure different from the MFA or the Institute of Contemporary Art.
Arlette Kayafas, owner and director of Gallery Kayafas on Harrison Avenue, said she loves how every artist studio and gallery offers a unique 𠇎ye.”
“The ICA or the MFA is giving a curator’s perspective, not always who is new on the block … Each (gallery here) is showing you something different so you have the full range,” she said. “There’s a gallery here that sells glass and things like that, so that’s closer to 𠆌raft,’ and then you have people who sell contemporary paintings and photography. We show often in collaboration with some of the schools and their thesis projects, especially in the summer when we show new graduating students.”
In addition to visiting the Harrison Avenue galleries — including the Bromfield Gallery and the Boston Sculptors Gallery — the SoWa outdoor Open Market could take up an entire morning or afternoon. On Sundays, the parking lot off Harrison Avenue fills with food trucks and vendors for an outdoor flea market, while indoors, vintage shops and boutiques open for business. Now in its 15th season, the extravaganza runs every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., May through October.
Other cultural events can be caught on First Fridays at the ICA, where the museum offers parties in its gallery spaces and on its seaside walkway overlooking the water. You can also hop over to The Envoy Hotel for cocktails on the outdoor roofdeck to jumpstart your evening. The cocktail bar has a stunning view of the Financial District and fantastically tasty drinks. The outdoor space has heat lamps, when necessary for chillier nights. In the winter, the patio sets up insulated see-through igloos, so you can enjoy your cocktail with a spectacular view, all for no cover. But be careful — the later in the evening you stop in, the longer the line.
Venturing further down Seaport Boulevard,heck out other spots bursting with energy in the newly revitalized area. The bar Gather offers a cozy lounge and bar space, while the spot YO! Sushi has a Japanese-style conveyor belt that rolls out fresh sushi straight from the chefs’ work stations to your table.
If you’re looking for an even more avant-garde experience, pop over to the outdoor space at The Lawn on D in the Waterfront District. Think of it as an adult playground, with light-up solar-powered LED swing sets, large-scale games including life-size chess pieces and mini-golf, all with pub-food and a bar ready to order on the grassy spot.
The MFA now hosts Late Nites every few months on Saturday night, when its center courtyard transforms into globe-lit posh beer garden. The Boston Common continues to host its free outdoor Shakespeare productions, where the publicꃊn sit on the grass with picnic dinners and enjoy the latest production. "Richard III" will runਊt the Parkman Bandstand this summer from July 17 through Aug. 5.
But if you’re in the mood for a big-cityਊlternative, a visit to Somerville or Cambridge is always a good idea.
Davis Square in Somerville on the Red Line remains a popular stop. Pokéworks offers heaping make-your-own sushi bowls. Meju Korean Kitchen & Bar offers more delectable and affordable Asian cuisine, and Diva serves up scrumptious Indian food. All are great spots for dinner before a movie or live show at the independent Somerville Theater.
Close to Davis Square is Cambridge native JJ Gonson’s music venue ONCE Lounge & Ballroom, which also serves as the headquarters for the culinary works of the tasty Cuisine en Locale. Monday night at ONCE offers free local music nights for songwriters and up-and-coming bands to showcase their latest tunes the ballroom holds a wonderful New Year’s Eve party plus tons of music shows throughout the year, and even serves as a location for live storytelling with The Moth.
When asked about where Ms. Gonson brings her friends when they visit Boston, she recalled the traditional Aquarium stop-ins, or a visit to the Harvard Museum of Natural History (with taxidermy works and stunning crystals, minerals and Victorian-era glass replicas of plants and flowers). She said some of her favorite restaurants include Viale and Bisq, both in Cambridge.
“One of my favorite things on a summer night is the free swimming pool at Magazine Beach (Park) in Cambridge,” she added. “It’s right on the river, looks directly over the Charles. It’s very cement-y, but beautiful. We joke that it’s like the infinity pool of Cambridge. … That’s my routine, to just jump in and swim after work before it closes at 7 p.m. The way people run to Walden (Pond), I run to Magazine Beach.”
Somerville resident Imanuela Costiner, 33, moved from Romania with her family in the 1990s when her father got a job here. She said in the years since, the city has inspired her to grow. She volunteers to clean up parks, a supportive community-organized activity that also allows her to take in stunning views from the Esplanade and the Mystic River. She makes it a point nearly every weekend.
“This city continues to delight me in many unexpected ways,” she said.
Follow Samantha Allen on Twitter and Instagram @delicatetendril for more travel tips and photographs.
Caroline in the City Guide to Boston
The Red Sox, the Tea Party, baked beans, and Good Will Hunting may be the first things that come to mind when you think of Boston, Massachusetts, but there’s so much to the city beyond the tourist zones. Sure, it’s rich in history, dating back to the early days of America. Visitors can walk the footsteps of Paul Revere and Samuel Adams. The city is also surrounded by water and has a National Parks site made up of their barrier islands. There’s also an arts culture found in the museums and galleries, easily explored on foot or via public transportation. Boston is the perfect base for adventures throughout Massachusetts and beyond. Hop aboard a train or rent a car to explore Cape Cod and the Berkshires.
Harvard campus in Cambridge
Boston is a fairly spread out city, but you wouldn’t know it based on how easy it is to get around. Most attractions are located downtown and in Beacon Hill, but unique neighborhoods are only a short walk or train ride away. Here, you’ll feel like you could be in a different city entirely.
Chinatown was where I based myself for my trip, a highly underrated part of the city, especially for those on a budget. You can still get a $3 pint or a $5 meal. But in addition to the classic eateries, newer ones have also popped up. Trendy coffee shops and boutiques are also making their way into the area.
Despite its namesake, Fenway-Kenmore is much more than the Red Sox. Museums like the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum are located here, along with a number of college and university buildings.
The Seaport district has so many great restaurants that you could spend your entire trip just eating here. Pick up craft beer to go from Trillium Brewing Company, check out the public art, and generally just wander.
A friend referred to Back Bay as her favorite neighborhood and judging by the Victorian brownstone homes, I can see why. Around Copley Square, you’ll find Trinity Church, the Boston Public Library, and green spaces to sit and people watch.
Cambridge, home to Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has a number of student-friendly eateries and businesses. Grab a show and dinner at The Sinclair. Browse the secondhand shops for unique clothing items and roam the campuses to soak up all the brain power.
Pork buns at Shojo
Restaurants and Cafes
Most travelers seek out places like Union Oyster House and the kitschy Italian restaurants of the North End, but you can find just about every type of food in Boston. There are so many great places to eat, so plan accordingly.
Shojo Boston– My first meal in Boston was at this modern Asian eatery in Chinatown. It has funky murals on the walls and dishes like the pictured pork belly buns, duck fat fries, and kimchi fried rice, along with Japanese beers, sake, and cocktails.
Mike’s Pastry – Boston– In the battle of Modern vs. Mikes, I went with Mike’s. I have zero dog in this fight, but just make sure you get cannolis while you’re in Boston. Be prepared to wait in line at either establishment and know what you want before reaching the counter.
Blackbird Doughnuts– On our way out of town, I ran to get donuts at this local cafe, which had flavors like Boston cream, everything bagel, and their signature Blackbird on brioche dough. They also have coffee, the perfect pairing.
Dig Inn– After some heavy meals, we ate at this regional chain for lunch. You basically make your own bowl of goodness of healthy, local dishes. Start with your base of rice, quinoa, or salad and top with whatever is fresh that day.
Red’s Best Fish Market & Eatery– I had a killer lobster roll at the Boston Public Market at this stall. I’m not usually a fan of cold seafood, but the warm buttery bun was the perfect combination and totally satisfying. They also sell seafood to take home, caught locally by fishermen.
Rigoletto Ristorante– A local friend recommended getting away from the North End’s main drag to avoid overpriced restaurants, so my sister Yelped this restaurant. It was cozy and had a big open window overlooking the street. I had a glass of wine and a bowl of pappardelle with Italian sausage.
Gourmet Dumpling House– Where Shojo is new-age, Gourmet Dumpling is old school. You’ll likely have to wait for a table, but soup dumplings, scallion pancakes, and other Chinese deliciousness will greet you.
Townsman– Located near the Greenway, this colorfully decorated space has received awards for its brasserie style fare with a local twist. Start with New England oysters and share small plates of meats, cheeses, and other dishes between friends.
K O Catering & Pies– Finding Australian goods in America is a favorite pastime, so I’m bummed I didn’t find out about KO until later. The cafe sells authentic Aussie meat pies along with Anzac biscuits, lamingtons, and other items from Down Under.
Row 34– Seafood heaven is at this modern raw bar and restaurant. Clam chowder, lobster rolls, and whole cooked fish are must try dishes. They also carry a diverse wine list that will pair perfectly with your chosen bivalve.
Temazcal Tequila Cantina– How many Mexican restaurants can say they have views like these? Guacamole is made fresh daily, paired with tacos, salads, fajitas, and enchiladas. Choose from the extensive tequila selection for your margarita or have it neat.
Tatte Bakery & Café– This popular farmers market stall has now become a successful local business with locations in Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge. Open for breakfast and lunch, the menu has baked goods as well as salads, sandwiches, and dishes inspired by the owner’s Israeli heritage.
For more of the best places to eat while visiting Boston, check out Eater’s essential list.
Bars and Nightlife
Most visitors stick to Boston’s sports and Irish bars, of which there are plenty. But you can also find swanky cocktail bars, craft beer establishments, and everything in between, whether you’re looking for one drink or an all-night bender. And because of blue laws, there is no happy hour anywhere in the city.
Biddy Early’s– I visited this dive on a pub crawl and was amazed at how cheap the drinks were. The $2-3 pints of beer are best enjoyed at a table while watching the Red Sox. It’s certainly nothing fancy and the bathrooms leave something to be desired.
Bleacher Bar– When you can’t get seats to the Red Sox game, or they’re charging $75 for nosebleed seats, this is your best bet. There’s a grate through which you can see the outfield. You can’t take pictures during games and there’s a time limit to sit there. Grab a local beer and pastrami sandwich.
Harpoon Brewery & Beer Hall– Located in the Seaport area, this brewery operates in Boston and Vermont. The taproom overlooks the harbor offering IPAs and other American ales along with pretzels to share. They also have an outdoor beer garden open seasonally.
L Street Tavern– Have a pint where Matt Damon and Ben Affleck pick up college girls in Good Will Hunting. Here you’ll find photos from the film and locals enjoying sports on television. They don’t offer food, so eat in advance.
Lookout Rooftop and Bar– Soak up the skyline at the rooftop of the Envoy Hotel. Indoor and outdoor spaces make it a neighborhood favorite year-round. Wine, beer, and craft cocktails all make up the menu, along with light bites.
Yvonne’s– This moody supper club is set in the former space of a 1800s cellar cafe, covered in funky art and chandeliers. The speakeasy vibe has shared plates like flatbreads along with strong craft cocktails.
Jaho Coffee Roaster & Wine Bar– During the day, this place is full of laptops and people waiting for their pour over coffee from the laboratory-looking setup. At night, it’s a wine bar that also offers their famous Scarlet Espresso Martini.
Highball Lounge– For a retro-inspired atmosphere, check out the vintage games and colorful cocktails at the Kimpton hotel. They serve their own versions of bar food along with regional beers, best played over a round of Hungry Hungry Hippo.
Things to Do
There are so many attractions for first-time visitors to Boston. Fenway Park because it’s one of the oldest stadiums in major league baseball. But if you’re looking for something a little different, here are the attractions I was drawn to during my visit.
Free Walking Tour– This tour company offers tips-based walking tours all over the city, including the Freedom Trail, Harvard, and Beacon Hill.
Boston Public Library– It’s free to visit this stunning space. Stop by for free WiFi and refill your water bottle. Their garden is one of the most beautiful places to have lunch.
Harvard University– Tour one of the country’s most beautiful campuses. You can take an organized tour or pick up a brochure that points out landmarks. Harvard has a number of exhibits and museums you can visit for free as well.
Boston Common– Experience one of Boston’s most famous green spaces, home to the swan boats and the “Good Will Hunting” bench.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum– Founded by a wealthy local woman, Gardner had this Italian style villa built to hold all of her Renaissance treasures from her travels. Give yourself time to explore their modern wing and have lunch at the stylish cafe.
Museum of Fine Arts– To see a diverse collection of classic pieces, including an Alexander Calder mobile, a Van Gogh painting, and Chinese sculpture, look no further than the MFA.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum– A bit further afield, the JFK Library documents the life of the 35th president that hailed from Massachusetts.
Classic Harbor Line– Hop aboard a sailboat for a cruise around the Boston Harbor. Purchase drinks to enjoy as you see the surrounding islands.
Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University– Another green space is this Frederick Law Olmsted-designed arboretum further out of town. Run by Harvard University, species of plants are studied here.
Pick up unique souvenirs for yourself around the city. In addition to the chain stores like Primark in Boston, there are a few local spots to shop around.
Boston Public Market– In addition to the food stalls, this local market sells gifts like wooden bowls, yarn, craft beer, tea blends, and flowers.
Brattle Book Shop– This beloved bookstore sells used paperbacks for $1 in the alley next to the building as well as rare first editions that will cost you thousands. Give yourself plenty of time to roam.
The Taza Chocolate Bar– Organic chocolate is made in nearby Somerville and sold throughout the city. Sample the unique combinations like Mexican chocolate, salted almond, and chipotle chili.
SoWa Open Market– Held every weekend on the Greenway, this is the best place to buy local goods from makers like my friends at Speakeasy Travel Supply! They also have food trucks and musical performances.
Society of Arts and Crafts– The organization that has been supporting artists since the 1800s has a gallery space in the Seaport where your purchases support the members.
Quincy Market– It’s a tourist trap, but worth a peruse if you are looking for Boston themed gifts and souvenirs and locally made products. The building dates back to the 1800s and also has restaurants inside.
Shake the Tree– Shop for women’s clothing and jewelry, home goods, paper goods, candles, cocktail supplies, cookbooks, and other gifts at this trendy North End boutique.
Castanet– You never know what designer pieces might be hiding in plain sight at this consignment store.
Copley Square Farmers Market– I happened upon this market while exploring Back Bay. It had food stalls as well as fresh flowers, produce, and food trucks.
Where to Stay
There aren’t as many affordable options in Boston as you’ll expect to find in bigger cities so this might be a place to splurge.
HI Boston Hostel– My base for the trip was Hostelling International’s Boston outpost, which has won awards for its amenities. Dorms and private rooms are available, which come with comfortable mattresses, linens, reading lights, and charging stations. Also included are complimentary breakfast, WiFi, daily tours and activities, a full kitchen, lockers, and a game room. Bicycles can be rented for exploration. It’s located in Chinatown within a short walk from public transportation and most of the city’s attractions. They’ve also taken steps to reduce their carbon footprint with recycling and other programs.
40 Berkeley– Located in a historic South End building, this property also has dorm rooms. Amenities include communal spaces with fireplaces and pool tables, hallway bathrooms, free linens, free WiFi, laundry facilities, a movie room, and 24-hour assistance at the front desk.
YOTEL Boston– The brand of pod hotels has a new location in Boston. Set in the Seaport District, Yotel has a rooftop bar and restaurant. Rooms are small, but the amenities add to the value, including WiFi, premium toiletries, adjustable beds, flat screen televisions, and city views.
AMES HOTEL– This award-winning boutique hotel is in the heart of the city, furnished with art pieces relevant to the location, a historic skyscraper. Ames has free WiFi, a fitness center, and an in-house restaurant.
XV Beacon Hotel– Another luxury boutique option is XV Beacon in a Beaux Arts style building in Beacon Hill. A fitness center, WiFi, gas fireplaces, flat screen televisions, and rainforest shower heads are among the features.
Peddocks Island– As a part of Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park, adventurous visitors can stay overnight at rustic campsites or in one of six yurts. Open seasonally, reservations are required.
Don’t forget about Airbnb as an option either, which will allow you to stay in different neighborhoods to explore Boston.
Tram in Fenway
Arriving at Boston Logan airport, we decided to hop in a Lyft and save a half hour on the bus. It cost around $14, which I split with my sister, and there was an organized area for rideshare passengers to be picked up. Just double check the license plate as apparently black Toyota Corollas are popular cars. Get a discount on your first ride by using the code “CAROLINE868074”.
Alternatively, there’s a free Silver Line bus that runs between the airport and South Station. South Station is also where buses like Megabus, Peter Pan, and Greyhound depart and arrive as well as Amtrak and commuter trains.
Overall, Boston is a highly walkable place and all of the big attractions can be seen without ever hopping in a car. There are also bike shares around town known as Hubway. I’d heard stories about Boston’s public transportation system, known as “The T,” but thankfully it runs many places that I needed to go. The only part I found confusing was “outbound” vs. “inbound” instead of displaying the end point or area like the subway does in New York. Subway, ferry, and bus trips cost around $2 each way, depending on if you pay individually or on a Charlie Card. I recommend getting a card to fill up for your stay.
And since my trip did not end well thanks to canceled flights, I highly recommend getting Travel Insurance, even for short trips. Paying for changed flights or hotel rooms out of pocket is not ideal! I recommend World Nomads.
Cool Things To Do In 4 Boston Neighborhoods With Tweens
History & More Around Boston Common
We spent quite a bit of time around the Boston Common, partly because it seems every walking tour in the city meets there.
A Break In The Common & Public Gardens
The Common is a good place for a sightseeing break or a picnic lunch with younger kids. It has as big fields for running around, an old but serviceable playground and Frog Pond, which children can splash around in when it’s hot. Our Tween liked climbing onto the Frog statues.
In summer, the adjacent Boston Public Gardens are a riot color and lush greenery and you can take a swan boat ride on the pond. Walking the winding paths and over the stone footbridge in these Victorian gardens make you feel a bit like you’ve stepped into an impressionist painting.
In Winter we brought our ice skates so we could skate on Frog Pond, in the Commons. It was an exccellent ice skating experience.
The rink is huge. It’s in a nice, sunny outdoor setting, and it’s not very expensive. If you like to skate it’s an essential thing to do during a winter weekend visit. But the rink can be windy dress your warmest.
Two Ghost Tours
We did a ghost tour on each of our visits. Both began at the burial ground in one corner of the Common. And each walked a mile-long route that took us past the Granary burial ground and ended near the Parker House Hotel.
We did the Haunted Boston Tour in August, along with a good two dozen other visitors. The guide was an engaging story teller and he made himself heard even with such a large group.
His tales focused on how various poor Boston citizens met unfortunate ends and why they still haunt the burial grounds, the State House and the Boston Athaneum.
One interesting tidbit: Between the war, epidemics and hangings there are far, far more bodies buried under the Common than there are gravestones in the burial ground, easily a few thousand.
In February we met up with Boston Ghosts. There was only a handful of us on this tour, largely because the temperature was in the 20s. There was some overlap with the summer tour, but this time our tour guide focused on local ghosts and the people who had notable encounters with them.
Both were very good. Tween Traveler says she like Haunted Boston a bit better but she’d do either again.
Post-Tour Dessert: Both tours wind up in or near the Parker House hotel, which has had many famous guests. It seems a few guests and at least one former owner never really checked out.
Parker House is the place where Boston cream pie was first served. After both tours we headed to Parkers Bar and ordered it. In the summer we had it with prosecco and in the winter with Irish coffee. Either way this combination of cake, vanilla cream and chocolate is an affordable splurge and an ideal way to cap off a day of sightseeing.
A Great Freedom Trail Tour With Kids
In February we returned to the Commons for a one of the Freedom Trail Foundation’s ghost-free, daytime walking tours. The tours, led by knowledgeable guides in period costumes, are inexpensive and well done.
They don’t walk the entire trail instead, they wind their way from the Commons to Quincy Market, where the tour ends.
I’ve walked the Freedom Trail on my own and as an adult it’s certainly doable. But the guided tour is a much better way to do it, especially with kids. The stories and little-known facts bring people to life and add a richer dimension to what would otherwise be pretty old buildings with plaques on the wall.
We went to the Granary burial ground, a stop on both ghost tours, but it was nice to see it in daylight and to walk around and see the several noteworthy graves.
Tip: The handy thing about FTF’s tours is that once you buy tickets you can show up at any of the several tours they do on most days. At 11:00 on a cold morning our group was still about 20 people. During the summer her I’d choose the first tour of the day or one later in the afternoon to avoid the biggest groups.
If you’re looking for something more specialized, FTF also offers a tour that focuses African Americans in the Revolution. Another covers the roles of Boston women in the Revolution, abolition, the Civil War and the suffrage movement.
Discover The Boston Public Library
A band that looked like renegade Gryffindor students were playing a set on the plaza outside the Boston Central Library as we walked by. They did us the wonderful favor or drawing our attention to the library building itself, and we went inside to look around.
Good call! The Renaissance-style building has vaulted ceilings, murals, frescoes, statues and a grassy indoor courtyard. We were all impressed with it. It also has a lovely café that’s a nice spot for morning coffee or an afternoon cup of tea.
There are free tours of the building daily, but the times vary from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm, so check the website. We would make a point of seeking these out on our next visit to learn more about the building and all its artwork.
The library is on Copley Square, at the cornes of Boyleston and Dartmouth streets.
Charles Street Restaurants
If you’re near the Boston Common and you get hungry, take a walk up Charles Street, which separates the Common and the Public Gardens. You’ll find take-out and small grocers for picnic fare, cafés, ice cream, and casual and trendy restaurants.
We liked the look of an Italian café and restaurant called Panificio at the far end of Charles Street. It seems to be a café with coffee, Italian pastries and sandwiches during the day and a full menu for dinner.
They made plain gnocci for tween traveler and charged us half of the price for regular gnocci, making us all happy. Rich had ravioli with a good marinara.
I had a daily special, which was roasted cod atop of a summery mix of tomato, corn, mango and potatoes. It was all really good. We would have stayed for dessert but we were saving room for Boston cream pie.
Boston doesn’t lack for good Italian restaurants but I’d see this dinner was as good or better than any I’ve had in the North End
Finding The Bar and Restaurant Gems Around Quincy Market
Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall can be fun to walk around if you want to do some light shopping or souvenir hunting. You’ll find plenty of the usual t-shirts and baseball hats.
But we found some unique jewelry at the smaller carts and you can find fun colonial-inspire bags and prints by artisans in a market building in front of the food hall
But the main reason to go there is that there are a lot of places to eat and drink, both in the market hall and nearby.
Classic Union Oyster House
Union Oyster House is probably one of the oldest and best known Boston Seasfood restaurants. At first glance it might seem old-school in a stodgy way. But it’s not at all, and we’ve returned here several times over the years, including on our last visit.
It’s a busy restaurant with frequent turnover so the seafood is fresh and the service is friendly and not rushed despite the busy dining rooms. I had mussels, perfectly cooked in wine and garlic while Tween Traveler was happy with her kid’s portion of fish and chips.
Rich went with traditional broiled scrod, topped with breadcrumbs and served with bright steamed vegetables.
If you like shellfish, don’t hesitate to order from the raw bar, or pop in at lunch time for a fried clam or fried oyster sandwich.
A Fresh Take on Sam Adams
We popped into the Samuel Adams Tap Room next to Quincy Market when we had time to kill one afternoon. It’s a nice space big but not loud.
It also has good pub snacks, like a warm giant pretzel with German mustard. They’re fine with kids in the afternoon and have wide tables that are ideal for settling in with cards or a board game.
In addition to the original lager and their usual summer and winter beers, they have quite a few beers they only serve at their taprooms. Some seem pretty experimental, like smoked Scotch Ale, spruce lager or piña colada IPA.
We shared a flight so we could try a few and liked most of what we tried, even the more esoteric ones—though I admit we skipped the spruce beer.
We’d go back again because there’s always something new to try and it’s a good place to relax with a card game, drinks and snacks.
Lunch at Faneuil Marketplace
I have to say up front that I don’t love the food hall at Fanueil Hall because it’s tourist central and always mobbed. There is a second floor that has more empty tables than you’ll find downstairs. But in the nice weather you can dine al fresco.
But it’s handy with a family because you can agree on a place to meet up and then let everyone go and get their favorite thing. And there are some gems to be found if you pay attention.
We ate lunch here because it was a convenient place to warm up between our Freedom Trail tour and ice skating. Tween Traveler had very good macaroni & cheese from a stand the specializes in it.
I got a cup of rich, chunky lobster bisque from Legal Seafood, perfect for a frosty day. Apparently, they’ve closed their stall there, which is too bad.
But there are plenty of places at the market to get lobster bisque and New England clam chowder. Prices and no doubt quality vary, so look around. Who knows, maybe Legal Seafood will return when tourism picks up again.
A North End Italian Dinner
On our last evening we made the short walk from Quincy Market to the North End, Boston’s Little Italy neighborhood. It was a cold, rainy night and a homey Italian restaurant was just the thing.
We found Antico Forno, known for its brick-oven pizzas and red-sauce pasta and thought it looked kid-friendly. It is, but we had a bit of a mixed experience.
Tween Traveler was very happy with roast chicken, roast potatoes and green beans. Her dad’s saltimbocca came with the same roast potatoes and she liked them enough that she ate most of his, too. The saltimbocca itself was on the salty side but his mushroom sauce was good.
I spotted ribbollita on the menu and thought this flavorful bread soup would be ideal for a winter night. It was chock full of beans and vegetables but was soupier and less bready than I’ve had before and not quite what I had in mind. The side of broccoli rabe I had with it was perfectly cooked and garlicky, though.
On balance we’d go back. Next time I’d what everyone else was doing: order pizzas, pastas and salads. And roast potatoes.
Wherever you eat, skip dessert and go find an Italian bakery to indulge in biscotti and espresso, cream-filled lobster tails and cannoli.
You’ll find plenty of debates about the best North End cannoli but we always just go into the first place we see that doesn’t have a long line (which is anywhere on a rainy night in February).
This time we happened upon a bakery that doesn’t fill their cannoli shells until you order—the sign of a very good and proper cannoli.
We could build our own pastries with the choice of a chocolate-dipped or plain shell, plain or flavored sweet-ricotta fillings and toppings such as nuts or chocolate chips. (We think it was the legendary Mike’s, but we’re not positive).
Tween traveled went all out with a chocolate shell, Nutella-flavoted filling and chocolate chips. Here dad went with the classic shell and filling (plain but not boring). I took the middle ground, choosing a chocolate shell and citrus peel in my cannoli cream.
Need More New England Travel Ideas?
An Easy Weekend in Newport With Kids
The Best Things To Eat and Do For Fun on Cape Cod.
Things To Do and Eat Around Fenway
Even when the Sox are not in season there’s quite a bit bubbling up around Fenway these days and we were glad to check some of it out.
An afternoon at Landmark Park
We walked over to Landmark Park, a relatively new shopping and dining area near Fenway Park, for lunch and more ice skating.
Time Out Boston is an urban food hall that its namesake magazine opened in a converted factory building here. The idea is that they bring noted chefs from across city together so you can sample the best of Boston’s food scene in one place.
Like Quincy Market, it’s handy with kids because picky eaters can stick to pizza or bagels while you experiment with Armenian kebabs or a gourmet hamburger.
Rich and I shared clam chowder and a Cuban sandwich while Tween Traveler tucked in to Greek chicken wings.
For dessert it was tough to choose between the creative fillings and frosting at Union Square Donuts (Vietnamese coffee, anyone?) or the creamy goodness at Gelato & Chill. In the end, chocolate gelato won the day and I can’t say it was a bad choice.
On your way out, stop by the camera that projects onto the way a pixelated image of you that tracks your movement (top).
In 2020 they set up a very small temporary ice rink on the green outside the food hall. On the day we were there, temperatures had popped up into the 40s and they ice was a little slushy, to be honest.
I noticed they didn’t reopen it this year, mostly likely because of Covid. I hope they bring it back again, maybe with a stronger icing machine. It was a nice addition to the area.
During the summer the ice-skating area is a sizeable green space. Trillium Brewing Company has a taproom to one side with a big glass window and outside patio. It seemed to me like a good spot to settle in for a good pint and fun people watching at any time of the year.
Cambridge With Kids: Bookstores, Museums & Restaurants
We had planned to take the T to Harvard Square and spend a good part of a morning perusing the area’s many bookstores. But we emerged from the train station into a downpour that continued to a greater or less extent all day.
No matter we still found interesting things to do.
Books and Comic Books
We did manage to visit Harvard Book Store, which has a well-curated children’s section and plenty more besides. Tween Traveler picked up a book about coding on Scratch.
We also popped in to Newbury Comics, which is hidden on the second floor of a quirky mini-mall.
Newbury is a fun store that sells weird stuffed animals, slightly subversive card games, many-sided dice and figurines for roll-playing-games, vinyl records, silly t-shirts and more. Somewhere in the store I think they also have comics.
Comic book fans should also seek out New England Comics and Million Year Picnic. All three stores are within a block of one another.
Raven Used Books and Grolier Poetry Book Store are on opposite sides of Harvard Square (Raven is closer to the T), but we didn’t get to those. Maybe next time.
Head down Massachusetts Avenue just as we did and halfway to MIT you’ll come across Pandemonium Books, which has the most boring, non-descript façade a bookstore can have. Go in anyway.
Pandemonium specializes in science fiction, horror & fantasy books. If you bypassed Newbury Comics it’s also another place to stock up on dice, Magic: The Gathering cards, roll-playing-game manuals and boardgames.
I think I’m lucky that we couldn’t tell from the outside what the store was about if we had stopped in Rich and Tween Traveler would have stayed all day. Next time, for sure.
Check Out The MIT Museum
Our destination at the other end of Massachusetts Avenue was the MIT Museum, which features some of the innovation coming out of the university.
Tween Traveler, who brings a Fuji Instax everywhere she goes, liked an exhibit the showed how instant cameras have evolved from the 1950s until now. She even got to hold a couple of (huge and heavy!) antique models that they had out for visitors.
We all also liked a room full of motion machines, essentially moving sculptures that merged art and physics. Some were fun some were odd. They were all interesting.
A room with robotic body parts was less hands-on than Tween Traveler would have liked. There was a classroom for kids, but the day’s hands-on activities were too young for our tween.
Tip: The kids’ actities aside, I think this is a science museum better suited to tweens and teens who are outgrowing the typical kid-centered science museums.
It wasn’t the overwhelming success I hoped it would be with my STEM-loving kid. But it’s one of those museums that’s always worth stopping by. It’s small enough that you can see everything in an hour or two, and the handful of exhibits change constantly.
Tip: From September to June admission is free on the last Sunday of every month.
Sample Harvard’s Many Museums
Harvard has a half dozen museums on campus and you could make a day of exploring all of them.
The one we missed and want to go back for is the Collection Of Historical Scientific Instruments At The Putnam Gallery. It include mathematical, medical, astronomical, navigational and time-keeping devices dating from the late 1600s to early computers and radios.
We did go to the Museum of Natural History, which connects to the Peabody Museum of Archeology and ethnology and the Museum of Comparative Zoology.
Despite encompassing three museums it felt small. If you’ve been to the Natural History museums Chicago, Washington, DC and New York it will seem underwhelming. But its size makes it’s manageable with smaller kids.
The unique, can’t-miss thing to see is the gallery of glass flowers. Made by Czech artisans in the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries, the flowers are meant to be scientifically accurate renderings of nearly 800 kinds of plants. Some even show depict how fruit decays.
It really is cool. It’s also the kind of thing I could spend a half hour perusing while my kid is ready to move after a few minutes. Luckily, I could send her ahead to the planetary sciences gallery while I lingered.
The university also has several small art museums focusing on Asian, European, American and German art, respectively, and the Museum of the Near East, which delves into the history, culture and languages of countries along the Eastern Mediterranean and north Africa into Iraq.
Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Cambridge, MA
Massachusetts Avenue has the full variety of ethnic and vegetarian restaurants you expect to find around college campuses. They’re casual and definitely kid-friendly.
The rain and cold make us crave something heartier than Thai or India and we found what we wanted at the Asgard, an Irish Pub closer to MIT.
Tween Traveler went directly for spiral pasta in an oozy cheese sauce she says it’s some of the best mac & cheese she’s tried. I had tomato soup and grilled cheese on sourdough, the classic rainy day combo. Rich went traditional with a shepherd’s pie.
A few blocks back toward Harvard is New City MicroCreamery, your spot for small-batch locavore ice cream. In addition to the usual flavors try seasonal specials like cran-cherry or pecan-pie, made with molasses.
If you need a pick-me-up after all those Harvard museums, head to Zinnekin’s Belgian Waffles for coffee and waffles topped with bananas, berries, chocolate, Nutella and whipped cream, among other things. They’re impressive and shareable. It’s a few blocks from campus at the top of Massachusetts Avenue.
This represents a comprehensive (but by no means complete) guide from this subreddit on what to do, where to go, what to eat, etc. There is no hierarchy/order to any of the lists.
For visitors who may use this, there is so much more to eat, drink, see and do around here this is JUST a jumping-off point!
Utilize the handy-dandy Table of Contents to the right in order to quickly find what you're looking for. If you don't immediately see your category-of-interest, here are some sub-specifics to ctrl-F: Brewery, Party Cruise, Tour, Museum, Harvard Square, Kendall Square, Central Square, Speakeasy, Jazz, Kid.
Now get reading, and go enjoy the amazing city of Boston!
• I’m a Tourist Whattya Got For Me?
Newbury street is home to some Boston's best local shops. Artwork, fashion, accessories, as well as patio dining make it one of the best places to spend a lazy summer afternoon.
Downtown Crossing is a centrally located shopping mecca in the heart of Boston. While the storefronts boast mostly national flair, you'll find the local flavor lies out in the street. With the crossroads blocked to traffic, street vendors of all sorts come out to join the occasional band or DJ on Summer Street.
Assembly Row is home to a wide assortment of name-brand outlets, restaurants, breweries, music events, and bars! Summer days here are always packed and exciting.
SoWa is great for shopping when you're not sure what you want, but love to support local artists and vendors! Food trucks, farmers market stands, artists, crafters. this Sunday market has it all.
Bow Market for a repurposed storage unit facility that now houses a ton of interesting local artisans and restaurants, and Remnant Brewery
Charles Street in picturesque Beacon Hill has nice boutiques and a great atmosphere for shopping and walking around, any time of the year
The Garment District is great shop for all your thrifty and costume needs!
• I heard this city drinks a lot. Where can I get some local beer?
Breweries to Tour, Hang out at or Pick up From
Beer Gardens Around Boston (2018)
Need some wicked hard stuff? well we got Distilleries too.
I Want to Eat Where the Locals Say I Should Screw Yelp! ($-$$)
Third Cliff Bakery
Third Cliff Bakery has been selling baked goods and coffee at a variety of farmers markets for years, and now they have their first brick-and-mortar location in Jamaica Plain. Well-known items like the coconut cold brew and kimchi cheddar croissants can still be found on the menu, but be warned - those croissants sell out faster than we can say ___.
Friendship BBQ Allston
Friendship BBQ - a Chinese restaurant known for its skewered meats - already has one location in Chinatown. Now, there’s a second in Allston, and if they continue to expand, we may have to start investing in bamboo skewer companies.
Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh
There’s a new Downtown location of the fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant Garbanzo, across the street from Boston Common. They’ve also got a loyalty program named “The Very Important Bean,” which doesn’t sound so aquafabulous to us.
The Novel Kitchen
The Novel Kitchen is located inside Brookline Booksmith, a local bookstore in - surprise - Brookline. It’s the type of cafe you wish you could find in every bookstore - the kind that sells cheese, mezze, chocolate truffle flights, and beer and wine. Those menu items are all part of what The Novel Kitchen is defining as “edible self-care,” also known as our job description.
Rutchada Thai Cuisine
Rutchada is a new spot in Roslindale with a wide variety of Thai curries, noodles, and fried rice. There’s also a gluten-free section of the menu, just in case you need it.
Wachusett Brew Yard
Harvard Square now has its first brewery in the form of Wachusett Brew Yard. Only time will tell if it outlives Harvard Yard, or if it’ll be the setting for the next Zuckerberg movie - The Congressional Network.
Harvard Square also has a new pizza spot. It’s not the first pizza place on campus, but it’s the only one serving a bolognese pie that’s made with Mangalitsa pork. A variety of salads, pastas, and entrees like seared monkfish are also available.
New York Shawarma Guys
Geography might not be a strong suit, but the Shawarma Guys are seemingly adept at cooking up grilled meats, falafel, and baklava at this new spot in the West End.
After a pandemic-induced delay, the team from O Ya has now opened Bianca in Chestnut Hill. Expect pizza and pasta, but also sushi rolls and crispy nori tacos. We personally think a slice of pizza rolled up in seaweed would be pretty good too, but they’re no longer accepting new ideas for their menu.
The Lexington is the second of three new restaurants in East Cambridge from the team behind Puritan & Co. This opening comes right on the heels of Cafe Beatrice, which just welcomed diners in October. The Lexington is open for dinner on Tues-Sun from 4-8pm, serving things like baked stuffed clams, miso-grilled shrimp, and glazed Swedish meatballs.
B&B Fish in Marblehead promotes itself as a seafood restaurant, and sure, there are the expected fried platters, lobster rolls, and clam chowder. But there are also honey glazed biscuits, Nashville hot fried chicken, and fried Oreos on the menu. The Topsfield Fair may have been cancelled this year, but it seems that we have a worthy year-round substitute now.
In an attempt to compete against mega-corporations, Blackbird has opened up a new shop right outside Whole Foods in the West End. After all, smoked salt double chocolate donuts are probably the best (and most civil) way to stick it to Amazon.
Mexcito Street Tacos
Kendall Square has a wealth of dining options to choose from, and now there have been some tacos thrown into the mix as well. Mexcito has a number of tacos, like barbacoa and carnitas, to choose from, as well as some rice bowls and nachos. They’ve also got a small outdoor patio to dine on if you need some fresh air.
It’s 2020, so the newest speakeasy concept is serving cocktails in a space where people in suits used to drink cocktails. in 2019. Offsuit is located in Troquet On South’s corporate dining space, and they’re even going as far as making their own ice (you can make perfect ice at home too). Next up: a speakeasy that requires unkempt hair for entry.
The Smoke Shop BBQ
In some ways, we feel bad for all the Harvard alumni. Generations of bright minds worked so hard for a world-changing degree, and they didn’t even have The Smoke Shop’s cornbread to fuel their midnight paper writing. Count yourselves lucky, young Crimsons, for this new Harvard Square blessing.
Taco Bell Cantina
We have no idea if the Taco Bell hot sauce works well as a shooter for the Cantina’s boozy slushies, but we’re willing to give it a try. It’s safe to say we’re open to all forms of entertainment right now.
Zhu Vegan Kitchen
Zhu Vegan, which already has another branch in Arlington, has now opened a location in Brookline. The menu is exactly the same, with things like black pepper seitan, Malaysian curry stew, and kung pao eggplant. Lunch specials are available during the week as well.
It’s crazy to think that version 1.0 of Spyce, the robot-staffed restaurant, received $21 million dollars in funding, especially since Sifo-Dyas probably spent a lot less on his clone army. Now Spyce is back with an updated interior that’s significantly more modern, though they’re still serving vegetable-heavy bowls.
The team from Bronwyn seems to be taking over Union Square. They opened T&B Pizza last year, and now they’re churning out Montreal-style bagels and croissants at Turenne. At the very least, it’s a seemingly tasty takeover.
The executive chef behind Lower Mills Tavern and Yellow Door Taqueria must love a new challenge, because she’s also now running Stalk, a “ghost restaurant” that also happens to be fully vegan. Currently the menu includes things like fennel citrus salad and squash risotto, but we expect to see seasonally appropriate changes as well. All orders can be picked up at Lower Mills Tavern.
Arriving and getting around Boston
Boston sports travelers are usually arriving by air through Logan Airport (BOS). Located on a peninsula, the airport is not far from the hub of the city, though the famous Boston Harbor separates the two. Access by car is through the Ted Williams Tunnel, and the airport is well-served by the city’s subway system, known locally as the T.
If your visit to the Boston area revolves around a Patriots game in Foxborough, one travel tip to consider is skipping Logan Airport and flying instead into T.F. Green Airport (PVD) in Providence, where cheaper fares from your point of origin are frequently available.
Boston is a very active stop for Amtrak, especially for travelers coming from points south on the Eastern Seaboard. If you’re coming from New York, Philadelphia or Washington, the train is certainly a viable option.
The primary train station in Boston is South Station, but if you’re coming from points north, you’ll likely wind up at North Station, just underneath TD Garden.
Drivers’ main routes into Boston are Interstates 95 (from the south and north, it runs west of the city center), 90 (coming from the west as the Massachusetts Turnpike) and 93 (which branches off from 95 and runs into the city center).
Where to stay
The good news is, options are plentiful. The bad news is, they’re about equally as expensive, so shop around and consider where it is you have to be during your stay.
If money is no object, then the popular Back Bay area is your best bet, with the highest concentration of hotels and proximity to restaurants and nightlife (not to mention Fenway Park is a comfortable stroll away).
Other neighborhoods worth considering around the city include Kenmore Square, the North End, the Seaport district, and Cambridge.
Fortunately, the T links up most other districts with the city’s sports venues, so one tip for budget travelers to consider is to look for lodging outside the city but close to T stops.
If you’re coming for a Patriots game only, there are hotels in Foxborough and the surrounding area, but they usually jack their rates up significantly on football weekends.
Boston’s MBTA subway, known as the T, is one of the country’s most efficient subway systems. If you’re riding the Green Line within the city, you get the old-timey feel of underground trolleys and ancient-looking systems (but they still operate with a modern efficiency most of the time).
Boston sports travel fans can get off at North Station for TD Garden, and Kenmore for Fenway Park.
Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, which operates the T, also runs special-event trains from South Station (and north from Providence, R.I.) to Foxborough for Patriots games. So football fans have an alternative to driving down to Gillette Stadium if they need it.
Be warned that parking is at an absolute premium at Fenway Park and TD Garden, and be prepared to pay up the nose if you do drive to events there.
That said, it can be done — we just don’t recommend it if you’re traveling on a budget. Even if you do have a car, one travel tip to remember is that you could easily park at a T or commuter rail station and take the train into central Boston, and many locals do just that to get to sporting events.
If you’ve read all that and still insist on driving, here are guides to parking at Fenway Park and TD Garden. Parking at Gillette Stadium is a little easier — more info here.
Ghosts of Harvard
In this page-turning and affecting debut from New York Times bestselling author and columnist, a Harvard freshman becomes obsessed with her schizophrenic brother’s suicide. Then she starts hearing voices…
As Cady struggles under the enormous pressure at Harvard, she investigates her brother’s final year, armed only with a blue notebook of Eric’s cryptic scribblings. She knew he had been struggling with paranoia, delusions, and illusory enemies—but what tipped him over the edge? With her suspicions mounting, Cady herself begins to hear voices, seemingly belonging to three ghosts who walked the university’s hallowed halls—or huddled in its slave quarters. Among them is a person whose name has been buried for centuries, and another whose name mankind will never forget.
Does she share Eric’s illness, or is she tapping into something else? Cady doesn’t know how or why these ghosts are contacting her, but as she is drawn deeper into their worlds, she believes they’re moving her closer to the truth about Eric, even as keeping them secret isolates her further. Will listening to these voices lead her to the one voice she craves—her brother’s—or will she follow them down a path to her own destruction?
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More About the Book
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• Best First Novel Finalist – International Thriller Writers
• Philadelphia Magazine “Great Beach Read of 2020”
• Amazon Editor’s Pick for “Best of the Month”
• Goodreads “May’s Most Anticipated Novel”
• Named a “Thriller that Will Have You on the Edge of Your Seat This Summer” by PopSugar
• Named an “Addictive New Thriller” by Book Riot
• Best Books of 2020: Boston.com Reader’s Pick
“Ghosts of Harvard is written with a masterly, focused hand, belying the fact that this is Serritella’s debut novel. The pages burn with frenetic energy and are peopled by memorable, compelling characters. The tension is palpable, the twists and surprises perfectly timed and the stakes as high as humans should be asked to endure. The end result, a novel you will long remember and characters you will want to see again. A triumph in every respect.”
—David Baldacci, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“Wow, what a lively, compelling, and intoxicating debut. Ghosts of Harvard is so many things—a rumination on grief, a glimpse behind the ivory walls of a famous institution, a poignant look at mental illness, and a powerful story about the ghosts that haunt us all. Francesca Serritella is my new ‘go-to’ author.”
—Harlan Coben, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“Every time I thought I knew where Ghosts of Harvard was heading, I turned out to be wrong. Part mystery, part ghost story, part psychological thriller, this novel is all entertainment.”
—Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“Edge-of-your-seat tense . . . Fans of Jodi Picoult, Kristin Hannah and Chris Bohjalian, meet your new issue-based page turner. You may need to use a few precious paper towels to mop up the tears.”
—The New York Times
“A sweeping and beguiling novel . . . ventures into territory that is rarely explored these days. . . . Serritella, who is a Harvard grad herself, writes about the campus with an insider’s savvy. She takes readers on jaunts into forgotten graveyards and spooky ‘whispering wall’ corners’ . . . Ghosts of Harvard is a rich, intricately plotted thriller that gathers suspense velocity as Cady runs through the mazelike halls of academe and the winding streets of Cambridge, chasing after clues to the more sinister circumstances of Eric’s death. It’s a testament to Serritella’s sure touch that when Cady’s ghostly companions ultimately make their final departures, Harvard seems duller.”
—Maureen Corrigan, The Washington Post
“Those who like novels by Joe Hill and Pat Conroy will also enjoy this first novel. . . . The book begins as a thriller and ends as a story of personal growth and redemption. The writing is vivid and engaging, and it works for adults as well as for mature young adult readers.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
“The Ghosts of Harvard presents a postmodern gothic tale wrapped in the fabric of a traditional thriller, with sterling results. A magnificent mix of the Henry James classic The Turn of the Screw with Donna Tart’s The Secret History.”
—Jon Land, The Providence Journal (starred review)
“[Francesca] Serritella steps forward with a many-faceted first novel. . . . Serritella makes keen use of quantum theories about time and simultaneity in this busily plotted, emotionally astute, thoughtfully paranormal, witty, and suspenseful drama involving historical figures, academic ruthlessness, and the tragic riddles of mental illness. Serritella has also created a sensitive and searching tale about the courage and fortitude of a smart young woman in mourning and in peril. Cady is a compelling narrator.”
“A book as generous in size as in the richly drawn characters in the dramatic, slow-burning story that leads to a stunning revelation (actually two) against a backdrop of Harvard University. This is a remarkable and assured first novel.”
—Barbara Peters, The Poisoned Pen
“There are not too many young writers with the assurance and skill to craft 469 pages of mesmerizing prose. It should be an easy hand sell.”
—Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books
“I adored this book. A GREAT READ.” —Drew Mondry, Towne Book Center
“Unexpected twists and turns make this unputdownable.” —Susan Kehoe, Browseabout Books
“I could not put this novel down and read for two days straight only taking “breaks” to sleep and eat. Absolutely outstanding and a novel that will stay with me FOREVER. Serritella has written a novel that I will put in the hands of every reader I see.”
—Marisa Gothie, Barnes & Noble
“It’s tight, it’s fresh, and it’s a very accomplished debut novel.”
—Carol Fitzgerald, Bookreporter.com
“I tore through this 450-page book at lightning speed. The author, Francesca Serritella, is so talented and writes a compulsively readable story. Part A Beautiful Mind and part Dead Poets Society.”
—Elizabeth Barnhill, Fabled Bookshop & Café
“A hauntingly beautiful debut novel, Ghosts of Harvard is a beautifully written story of love, loss, and mystery. A perfect book to take on vacation, and an excellent book club choice!”
—Mary O’Malley, Anderson’s Bookshop
“This one has it all – suspense, thriller, ghosts and mystery. What could be better?” —Harold Jordan, Murder by the Book
“Francesca has a written a thriller that thriller lovers and non-thriller readers like myself will absolutely love. It is accessible, relatable, and so deeply rooted in that most precious relationship of family, that it is sure to please every person who picks it up off our shelves.”
—Sarah Danforth, Towne Book Center
It was silly to be afraid of falling, considering her intent, but Cady hadn’t anticipated how windy it would be on the bridge. She crouched on the balustrade, her hands gripping it so tightly that white crescent moons shone in her fingernails. A gust blew her hair into her face, but she didn’t dare lift her hand to move it aside.She didn’t want to fall, she wanted to jump.
After a moment of screwing up her courage, she commanded her legs to straighten and rose slowly to a standing position. She felt a shiver down her back, although the night was warm, or as warm as Cambridge in springtime could be. Across the river, she could see Harvard’s campus, the familiar dormitories lit to perfection—but it wasn’t perfect, Cady knew that. A glance downward at the black, lapping water of the Charles triggered a jolt of fear, but not enough to deter her. She had promised herself she’d go through with it and she would.
It was easier once she was standing tall. Her jelly legs felt stronger, her balance solid. The night air swept over her body in a caress. She breathed deeply, taking in the scent of the river and this campus in all its bitterness and beauty. She had never imagined she would end up in this place, feeling this way, but here she stood with a lump in her throat, preparing to say goodbye.
Cady closed her eyes and listened to the voices egging her on they wouldn’t let her turn back now. She wished she could slow this moment, but they were counting down—her time was almost up. She raised her chin, pulled her arms away from her sides, and wiggled her fingers in the air, reaching in the dark.
She poised, knees bent, and counted down the final seconds:
Cady hadn’t set foot on Harvard’s campus since her older brother’s suicide. It was the place where her brother Eric had eaten his last meal, dreamed his last dream, and taken his last breath. The sight of the red brick dormitories, a picture-postcard of collegiate perfection to so many, made her heart pound. For her, it wasn’t a college, it was a haunted house.
And today she was moving in.
“Look at this parking spot, I told you I was good for something,” Aunt Laura said with a wink. A car accident in her twenties left her paraplegic and she used a wheelchair, hence the parking privileges, although Cady never thought of her as handicapped. Laura possessed an irrepressible, positive outlook, a trait to be tested today. She had come ostensibly to lend the use of her giant van, but Cady knew it was to fill in for her mother, and she was grateful.
Her father yanked up the emergency break and took a heavy breath. “Ready?”
Cady got out and helped Laura into her wheelchair, as her father went around to the back of the van, their solemn mood at odds with everyone around them. On the front steps of her new dorm, she noticed a boy posing for a photograph with six smiling relatives. A blond girl standing in the bed of a pickup laughed as she pushed a boxed futon toward her father, who waited on the ground wearing a Harvard t-shirt with his cowboy boots and Stetson. A tall boy in a Lakers jersey wiped his mother’s happy tears from her cheeks.
Cady envied them. They didn’t have to fake it.
She joined her father around the rear of the van and saw him hauling out her green duffel bag. “Oh, I’ll take that one,” she said, she hoped not too eagerly.
“I got it, you get the roller suitcase.”
“No, Dad, seriously.” Cady grabbed hold of the nylon straps, and he looked at her, puzzled. Then she deployed the head tilt and tone her mother had perfected. “Your back.”
He held tight for a moment, before he relented and let her have it. “Alright, but only because I haven’t been doing my exercises.”
“When did my little bro get so old?” Laura teased. “You know, some people say back pain can be psychological.”
“Then I blame you two,” he said.
Cady’s dorm room was Weld 23, only the second floor—only, she caught herself—she couldn’t help but think of the height. The elevator was crowded, so her father decided to wait, but people made room for Aunt Laura to wheel on and Cady to squeeze in after her, hugging the duffel close to her chest. Laura held a laundry hamper filled with linens on her lap.
“Nice that they have an elevator,” she said to Cady. It was her official duty to point out every good thing that day.
A middle-aged man overheard. “You know what was in this space before it was an elevator? JFK’s freshman dorm room. He went from Weld to the White House.” He slapped the back of his reed-thin son. “Might have the next president right here! Right, Max?”
His son’s face reddened, and Cady’s heart went out to him.
The elevator doors pinged open. Cady and Laura exited, and Laura broke into a grin. “God, can you imagine being here with a young JFK living down the hall? He must have been dreamy. He was probably a horn-dog even then, though.”
The first image Cady could conjure of JFK was the last moment of his life, the grainy footage of him waving from that car. She tried to imagine him as a young man her age, full of the nerves and excitement she saw on every face around her. If someone had told him he would be president, would he have blushed like that boy in the elevator, or would he have owned it? Did he sense he was bound for greatness? If someone had told him he would be assassinated, would he still have wanted that future?
“Although,” Laura continued, “if you were looking for sexy Kennedy ghosts, you should’ve gone to Brown. That’s where John-John went. He was the best looking of them all. I had such a crush on him.”
Oh right, Cady remembered, his son, too. And his brother. And his other brother sort of killed that girl—maybe that was what started it. A lot of ghosts in that cursed family. So far only one ghost in the Archers. Were they cursed, too?
They found the door to her room and Cady reached into the manila envelope to pull out her key, the metal so freshly cut that it felt sharp. She hesitated. It was real now. This place had already marked a turning point in her family’s history, and her decision to come here would be another. She knew the pain she was causing her parents. It would either be worth it, or it would be another mistake she couldn’t undo.
“You okay, honey?” Laura asked.
“Definitely.” Show no weakness, she told herself.
Cady opened the door to an empty room. It had a funny layout, the sort that comes from retrofitting a larger space to become multiple rooms the common room was long and narrow, with an off-center window on one end and the two bedrooms off the side. She crossed to the window and looked out.
“How’s the view?” Laura asked, joining her.
“That’s Grays over there, that was Eric’s freshman dorm. I remember from when we moved him in.”
“How does that make you feel?” Laura asked, sounding like a therapist.
“Good, close to him, in a way.” Cady was surprised to hear the truth coming out of her mouth. “Is that weird?”
“No, it’s nice to remember him.” Laura put a hand on her arm. “Just keep in mind, life is for the living.”
Cady nodded. She knew it was a common saying, but it sounded so harsh to her ears now. Life was for Eric, too, even if he’d lost sight of that. Maybe they’d lost sight of him.
There was a knock at the door, and Laura went to let Cady’s father in. “Is it just you?” he asked, and for a split second, Cady didn’t know what he meant. She flashed ahead to a lifetime of not being enough for her parents. Just you?
He set the box down with a grunt. “Are you the first to arrive?”
“Yeah. We’re first.” Cady readjusted the duffel bag in her arms, still holding it close to her chest. “I know we have more to get from the van, but I want to pick my room before anyone else gets here. Do you mind if I unpack a little to claim my space? I promise I’ll be right down.” It was a lie, one of Cady’s two roommates had already requested the single room over the summer, leaving her with the double.
Laura waved her hand. “Of course, call dibs.”
“Don’t be long. We have to move the car,” her father said.
Cady watched them leave and waited a few beats to be sure. Then she darted into the larger bedroom and dumped the green duffel on a bare mattress. She unzipped it and dug under the layer of bras and panties, the final Dad-barrier, to uncover the two items she couldn’t let her family see. She’d stolen them from the box of personal effects her family had received from Harvard after Eric’s death. They’d kept the box in his bedroom at home, but Cady had secretly visited it so often, she had its contents memorized. Most was junk, he’d gotten so messy toward the end, but these two items spoke to her more than the others. As souvenirs or as protective talismans, she needed these relics close to her, especially here.
The first was sentimental: Eric’s rumpled gray Harvard hoodie. She lifted it to her face it still smelled like him, a blend of fresh soap and warm toast. Her parents might’ve given her this if she’d asked for it, but she couldn’t risk them thinking she was emotionally fragile, they’d barely let her come here as it was. Around them, Cady had to hide that crumbly feeling whenever it threatened the corners of her mouth or crept up the front of her throat, and Eric’s scent triggered it. But sometimes she needed that feeling, liked it even, to release the pressure. She hugged the sweatshirt to her chest before pushing it to the back of the bottom drawer of one of the dressers.
The second buried item was a clue: a blue, spiral-bound notebook labeled Lab Notes at the top. Lab notes were as close as Eric would’ve ever come to keeping a journal, so it was the closest she could get to a window into his mind. Cady opened it, flipping through pages soft with wear. She ran her fingers over her brother’s familiar handwriting, the ballpoint-embossed lettering spoke to her heart like Braille. The earlier pages were vintage Eric: organized and neat, with logical headings and experimental diagrams, tidy as a textbook. As she flipped further ahead, however, the notes grew more disorganized and illegible the math devolved into wobbly columns of numbers and slanted, incomplete equations. These scribblings didn’t look like advanced physics, they looked like nonsense. Toward the end, the written commentary appeared unrelated to the calculations: misgivings about food in the dining hall, perceived slights from “M”—Cady guessed, Matt, his old roommate—and jottings of random people’s appearance or behavior, likely those deemed suspicious. His paranoia had taken over by then. Cady hid the notebook in the same drawer as the sweatshirt. She would look more closely at it later, when she felt stronger.
With those items safely out of sight, she could relax enough to get a look at her new room. She didn’t mind having a bunkmate—sharing a room was such a normal misfortune, she found it comforting—and the double was the corner bedroom, large and sunny. She sidled around the haphazard arrangement of metal bunk beds, two desks, dressers, and bookshelves. The boxy, light wood, modular furniture looked like it had been built in the nineties the desk bore decades of pen marks, the dresser was dinged at every corner. She could smell the fresh paint of the white walls, and Cady stuck her fingernail into a soft glob, wondering how many lives in this room had been painted over. Judging by the sloping hardwood floors, the deep windowsills, and the massive trees outside, she guessed about a century’s worth. Someone was moving into Eric’s old room in Leverett Tower right now, probably finding it as clean and white as this one they wouldn’t know what had happened in it just last year. Cady wasn’t here to paint over anything. She was here to chip away.
The bedroom window was open, and Cady pressed her fingertips to the screen, but it didn’t give. Eric had removed the screws from his window screen in advance, the police found them and the screwdriver tucked neatly in his desk drawer, that was how they knew it wasn’t an accident. Though she supposed that no one really thought it was an accident.
Cady looked out at the busy Yard below. Every new student was acting happy, but no one was at ease. There was all the normal first-day-of-college stuff, living away from home, meeting roommates, etc., but Harvard was more than a school. It was validation. It was history. It was expectation. The place crackled with potential energy. She could see the John Harvard statue, a reminder that the college was founded in 1636, before the country itself. The legacy of the past and the onus of the future freighted the present moment, like time collapsing inward. It was saying, this is the launch pad for your extraordinary future, if only you don’t blow it. Behind the smiles and hugs and introductions, the self-doubt: am I smart enough, talented enough, driven enough to deserve my place here? Will I make good on this golden ticket, or will I crack under the pressure? They were questions for every student here, but only Cady knew the stakes—if I crack, will I survive?
Only the parents seemed unequivocally happy, basking in the proof of their parenting job well done, a sharp contrast to the pall cast over Cady’s family. She thought of her mother with a twinge Cady missed her today, but didn’t blame her for not coming. She knew how her going to Harvard so soon after Eric’s death looked from the outside: bizarre, callous, unhealthy, morbid. And the last thing she wanted to do was hurt her parents. They had been through too much, she knew that. But she wished they could see she had her reasons.
Cady thought back to the weeks following Eric’s death, when college admissions had been the last thing on her mind. It had been impossible for her to think of her future when he no longer had one. If he was going to stay a twenty-year-old college junior forever, then it seemed like she should stay a seventeen-year-old high school senior for the rest of her life. She and her brother were three years apart, she was never supposed to catch up to him. But when the letter of acceptance arrived, it was like the decision had been made for her. To go anywhere but Harvard was to willfully not know, to stick her head in the sand. She had done plenty of that when Eric was alive, and she regretted it dearly. She had learned that unasked questions were more dangerous than unanswered ones.
Cady had tried keeping the why? questions locked away, but most of the time, not thinking about Eric was like pushing a beach ball underwater. She had trained herself to run through a series of questions with very specific and unchanging answers—a pilot’s checklist against emotional nosedive. Why did Eric change? Because he was schizophrenic. Why did Eric choose to die? It wasn’t a choice, it was his mental illness. Was it because she, his only sibling, had let him down? It was nobody’s fault.
Every single day she woke with the same questions, and every night she struggled to fall asleep in the misery of not knowing. If any answers existed, they would be here, at Harvard.
It would be cowardly not to go, and she had been a coward long enough. She owed it to Eric. It was the least she could do.
She didn’t want to be here. She needed to.
Cady looked again at Eric’s freshman dorm across the green. He had been happy that first year, so excited and hopeful, Cady recalled helping him move in three years ago with fondness. She tried to recall his exact room, her eyes traced the building’s facade to find it—there, the fourth floor on the corner, his bedroom faced the Yard. Now the window was dark, save for the places where the panes of glass reflected the bright green, yellow, and orange elm leaves, dancing back and forth in the wind. A gust blew, and the colors swept aside to reveal a figure behind the glass.
Cady felt a shiver down her spine.
She had thought she’d seen his red hair, but it was only a reflection from another tree.