Archive for the ‘Out and about in Boston’ Category

Vacationing in Boston? Money saving tips!

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Traveling can cost a bundle: when you figure in airfare, lodging, food and attractions, the costs can seem overwhelming. And Boston is an expensive city. Fear not! Here are some great tips for saving money when staying in Boston…

1.  Forgo expensive hotels and rent a furnished apartment. This especially makes sense when traveling as a family or with friends. One of the many perks of renting an apartment is that you’ll experience the city as a resident instead of a tourist, in a residential neighborhood, among the locals. While most hotels in the city will cost you well over $300/night per room, you’ll be able to find comfortable apartments in most areas of the city (North End, Back Bay, South End, Beacon Hill, etc) for half the cost.

2. Eat like a Bostonian. Some of the best food in the city can be found at food trucks and ethnic hold-in-the-walls that don’t cost a fortune. Chinatown is chock full of delicious little restaurants that offer dim sum (yummy appetizer-like dishes typically eaten for lunch) and authentic Asian cuisine. The North End has many restaurants that offer traditional and modern Italian food for cheap (as well as fine dining). You’ll find food trucks all around the city, such as Copley Square. And if you’re staying at an apartment instead of a hotel, simply load up the fridge and eat breakfast at home for pennies while you save your money for lunch and dinner.

3. Travel off season.  There are some key dates to avoid, as accommodation rates soar during those times. Save money and don’t travel during:  April 18 – 21 (the Marathon), mid May through early June (college graduation season) and October 16 – 19 (Head of the Charles Regatta in Cambridge). And if you are an adventurer with an open mind, consider visiting Boston in December, January, February or March, when rates will be rock bottom.

4. Forgo major league sports. An afternoon watching the Sox at Fenway can cost you upwards of $200 per person if you figure in parking, food and ticket. However, you can attend a wonderful college or minor league game for a fraction of that cost. Go ahead and experience Fenway through an off hours tour, then escape the insanity before the game begins.

5. Forgo a rental car. Boston is a small city, and you can experience most of it by subway and foot. That stereotype of the aggressive and inept Boston driver? It’s spot-on. And Boston streets, most of which were built on former cow paths, are confusing, to say the least. One way streets are common, as are rotaries and missing street signs. When you’re done driving, you’ll have to find a parking spot, which will be next to impossible to find. Want to park in a lot or garage? Be prepared to spend about $30/day. Trust us, you don’t want to deal with a car in the city!

6. Take advantage of discounts for museums and attractions.  There are wonderful museums in Boston, but they can cost a small fortune. However, many museums offer big discounts during specific times. For example, The Boston Children’s Museum costs just $1 per person on Friday evenings from 5-9 pm. The Institute of Contemporary Art is free on Thursdays from 5-9 pm and the last Saturday of each month. The Boston City Pass and Go Boston Card (smartdestinations.com) are full of free admissions and discounts. So with a bit of savvy and advance planning, you can save a bundle.

7. Stay in lesser known areas in and near Boston. We all know and love the Back Bay, Beacon Hill and North End. Which is why accommodations in those areas can cost you a pretty penny. The South End is right next to the Back Bay and because it’s not as well known, bargains can be had. Brookline and Cambridge are charming urban towns just outside Boston; they are subway accessible (just minutes away) and boast wonderful shops, restaurants and attractions.

 

 

Discover Porter Square!

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Cambridge is a city of squares — Harvard, Kendall, Central and Inman, to name a few — each with it’s own distinct vibe and interesting mix of shops and restaurants.  While you may gravitate to the historic charm of Harvard Square or the bustling energy of Central Square, you could overlook the convenience and affordability of Porter Square.  Porter Square is a great option for visitors looking for accommodations, regardless of where they need to be in Cambridge or Boston.   Walking distance to Davis Square and one T-stop away from Harvard Square, Porter Square is located on the Red Line and is a short subway ride into downtown Boston.  The area is home to some of the best restaurants in Cambridge — The Elephant Walk, Temple Bar and Chez Henri are perennial favorites — and an eclectic mix of locally owned stores like Porter Square Books.

 

We are always enthusiastic when we recommend a vacation rental or B&B in the Porter Square area and hope you’ll explore this little gem the next time you visit Cambridge.  If you’re looking for Porter Square accommodations, here are two we recommend:

Cambridge Accommodation Near Harvard

Gray House Cambridge Accommodations

 

 

Back to school in Boston

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Boston area colleges are gearing up for the return of students. Some incoming freshmen and upperclassmen have already started to unpack their belongings in their new dorm rooms or Boston area apartments. Others will be joining them this week and next. The best advise to those visiting Boston during this period is to plan.

  • Plan out your drop off strategy as parking is always at a premium. Most universities provide detailed instructions for this stressful event.
  • Plan out your dining options as Boston restaurants are likely to be packed as well. If there is a particular restaurant you would like to try, make a reservation. Restaurant week is winding down so there may be a bit more availability. Try opentable.com
  • Look for discounts on sites like Groupon.com for things to do, restaurant deals, and more.
  • Leave a few days to take in the beauty of the city of Boston and breathe a sigh of relief. You can lots to do by visiting bostonusa.com and massvacation.com
  • Plan your return trip. Parents’ weekends tend to book up quickly so make your Boston travel plans to return to the city. You can visit our site for Boston vacation rentals , Boston B&Bs, and many Boston accommodations at bnbboston.com

Marathon Weekend … more than just the race!

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Marathon weekend is almost here and we’re excited to see the city fill with runners and their families.  With 20,000 runners and more than 500,000 spectators along the route, the marathon is always a fun event for families and friends. But don’t forget the many other activities and events going in the city that weekend!

If you’re not from New England, you may not realize that the Boston Marathon is held on Patriots’ Day, a local holiday commemorating the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolutionary War.  History buffs can choose from several reenactments to watch, including Paul Revere’s Ride and the Battle of Lexington.

Kenmore Square is hopping on Marathon Monday!  While runners stream through on the homestretch of the race, the Red Sox will host the Blue Jays for an 11:05 a.m. game at Fenway Park.  As always, the game is sold out, but you can try your luck at ticket brokers like www.stubhub.com.  Go Sox!

For a more relaxing day, check out the three new exhibits opening in April at The Museum of Fine Arts: Through the Looking Glass (April 10th through August 7th), Global Patterns: Dress and Textiles in Africa (April 13th through January 8th) and Embroideries of Colonial Boston (April 2nd through August 28th).

And finally, don’t miss a favorite Boston tradition … the return of the Swan Boats to the Public Garden lagoon.  Whether recovering from the marathon or just enjoying spring in the city, sit back and enjoy a leisurely ride on one these historic pedal-powered boats.

We hope you enjoy your visit and will keep our fingers crossed for great weather on Marathon Monday!

It’s almost time for Restaurant Week!

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Restaurant Week will soon be back and better than ever! If you’re in town March 6-11 or March 13-18 — yes, Restaurant “Week” is actually a two-week event — don’t miss this chance to sample some of the best cuisine in Boston. Restaurants all over the city and well into the suburbs will offer three-course meals for a can’t-be-beat price: $20.11 for lunch and $33.11 for dinner. With more than 200 participating restaurants offering virtually every type of cuisine, Restaurant Week has something for everyone! Check out the full list of restaurants and menus at www.restaurantweekboston.com and be sure to make your reservations early!

Let it snow…!

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Recent storms have blanketed Boston with snow and have been a bonanza to nearby ski areas.  If you’re staying in Boston this weekend and want to squeeze in some skiing, you won’t have far to go for some of the best conditions of the season!  Here are a few easy day trips from Boston:

Blue Hills Ski Area
Canton, MA
www.ski-bluehills.com
The closest ski area to Boston, Blue Hills is about a 20 minute drive from downtown.  They are reporting a 34”-56” base and almost all trails are open. 

Nashoba Valley Ski Area
Westford, MA
http://www.skinashoba.com
Nashoba Valley is an easy 45 minute drive from Boston, located right off I-495.  They have a 32”-36” base and all trails are open.

Wachusett Mountain
Princeton, MA
http://www.wachusett.com
Wachusett is about an hour’s drive from Boston.  As we mentioned in a previous blog post (12/9/10), skiers can also take the ski train from Boston’s North Station.  Wachusett is reporting a 45”-65” base and all 22 trails are open.

Mount Sunapee
Newbury, NH
www.mountsunapee.com
Billed as the “closest big mountain skiing to Boston,” Sunapee is a 90 minute drive from downtown. They have a 32”-48” base and all trails are open.

Loon Mountain
Lincoln, NH
www.loonmtn.com
Just a little farther away, Loon Mountain is a two hour drive from Boston.  They are reporting a 14”-30” base and have 51 trails open.

Don’t worry if you left your skis at home – equipment rentals are available at all of these mountains.  So bundle up (It’s going to be cold this weekend!) and enjoy some great New England skiing!

The Beehive serves up great comfort food in the South End

Monday, January 10th, 2011

With so many of our properties in the South End, we thought it was time to highlight another great restaurant in the area.  On a recent Sunday evening, we stopped by The Beehive at 541 Tremont Street for a quick dinner before a performance at the adjacent Boston Center for the Performing Arts.  What a find!  We were drawn in by the eclectic but inviting décor and were welcomed by a friendly, down-to-Earth staff.  Our hostess brought us downstairs to our table near the bar, which comes to life with nightly live music.

On a cold New England night, nothing beats The Beehive’s comfort food offerings — lamb shank shepherd’s pie, duck risotto, porcini mushroom stuffed pork chops, to name a few.  Order a fun cocktail or choose from an extensive, affordable list of wines and Champagne and settle in for the evening.

Keep The Beehive in mind if you’re staying at any of our South End properties.  You won’t be disappointed!

Staying in Boston this winter? Embrace the season and head outdoors!

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Skating on Frog Pond

Boston is a great place to visit in the winter and you don’t have to go far to enjoy plenty of outdoor activities. Whether traveling with children or on your own, pack your winter gear and experience all the fun of a New England winter.

Skiing
You don’t have to head to Vermont for great skiing … hop on the Ski Train to Wachusett Mountain and you’ll be on the slopes in less than two hours! Named by SKI Magazine as one of the Top 20 resorts on the East Coast, Wachusett offers 22 trails, eight lifts and 110 acres of skiable terrain.

Every Saturday and Sunday throughout the ski season, the Ski Train leaves Boston’s North Station at 8:35 a.m. and arrives at the Fitchburg commuter rail station at 10:06 a.m. The Wachusett Mountain shuttle picks up skiers and riders at the station and brings them directly to the mountain, 20 minutes away. The shuttle leaves the mountain at 4:45 p.m. for a 5:35 p.m. departure back to Boston.

The Ski Train fare is only $7.75 each way. The service runs from December 12th through March 28th. Each train includes a designated “ski” car for easy storage of ski and snowboard equipment. If you don’t have equipment with you, rentals are available at the mountain.

Sledding
Whether you’re a child or child at heart, sledding is fun for everyone! Larz Anderson Park in Brookline offers some of the best sledding around and is easy to get to from anywhere in Boston. Take the Green Line C trolley to Cleveland Circle, change to Bus 51 and get off at Newton Street.

Did you forget to pack your sled? No problem! Sleds and all the winter gear you need can be found at City Sports, 480 Boylston St. and 1035 Commonwealth Ave.; EMS, 1041 Commonwealth Ave.; and Target, 180 Somerville Ave. in Somerville.

If you’re feeling a bit more adventuresome, head out to Nashoba Valley in Littleton for a day of tubing. The Nashoba tubing park is open until 10 p.m. and a two-hour ticket costs $25.

Skating
Glide across Frog Pond in the heart of Boston Common, the oldest city park in the United States. Now through March 15th, Frog Pond is open for skating Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (with a 4:00 p.m. closing time on Mondays), and Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Skating is free for children 13 and under and costs only $4 for everyone else.

New this year, visitors can also skate at Faneuil Hall Marketplace! From January 21st through February 27th, an ice skating rink located in the East End Promenade will be open for skating Sunday through Thursday, 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Skate rentals will be available onsite and concessions will be offered inside the Quincy Market Colonnade.

So no excuses … get out and enjoy the winter!

10 things to do Thanksgiving weekend in Boston

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Planning to be in Boston for Thanksgiving? There’s no better place to kick off the holiday season! Here are ten ideas for a fun, memorable Thanksgiving weekend in Boston…

  1. Start your weekend off on the right foot … Join 1,200 other runners on Thanksgiving morning for the 13th annual Boston Volvo 5K Turkey Trot in support of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The race starts and ends at Boston Volvo on Beacon Street in Brighton.
  2. Thanksgiving in New England wouldn’t be complete without a visit to historic Plimoth Plantation. Watch the annual Pilgrim Procession (10 a.m. on North Street) and enjoy a truly authentic Thanksgiving experience!
  3. Of course, the best thing about being away from home for Thanksgiving is that you don’t have to cook! Thanksgiving dinner at Upstairs on the Square in Cambridge is holiday tradition not to be missed. Join locals and visitors alike for a fabulous meal at this perennial favorite in historic Harvard Square.
  4. On Friday, burn off that extra piece of pumpkin pie with a stroll through beautiful Beacon Hill. Admire the holiday decorations on historic Louisburg Square and Acorn Street and then head over to the Boston Common to ice skate at Frog Pond.
  5. Boston is a “walking city,” even in late November! The Freedom Trail is a walking trail that takes visitors past many well-known sites in the city. The trail ends in the Charlestown Navy Yard, home to the U.S.S. Constitution, which will be open from 9:30 to 3:50 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
  6. Get started on your holiday shopping at Fanueil Hall Marketplace. Find that perfect gift in one of the many specialty boutiques, enjoy a wide variety of dining options and take in some of the many holiday-themed events:
  7. The 25th Annual Boston Tuba Christmas Concert on Saturday, November 27th at 2:00 p.m. in the West End Promenade. More than 140 local tuba players performing favorite holiday tunes Thanksgiving weekend in Boston!
  8. Bring the kids for FREE photos with the Globe Santa, Saturday, November 27th, 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (outdoors in the West End Promenade between the Quincy Market Building and Historic Faneuil Hall). Established in 1956, The Boston Globe’s ‘Globe Santa’ program will provide more that 55,000 underprivileged children with gifts this holiday season.
  9. Jukebox Dancers ~ Rockin’ Holiday Party! Join Alexis & the Jukebox Dancers this holiday season at Faneuil Hall Marketplace for a Rockin’ Holiday Dance Party, Sunday, November 28th at 3:00 p.m. All performances will take place in the West End Promenade between Historic Faneuil Hall and the Quincy Market Building.
  10. Finally, don’t miss the Boston Ballet’s performance of “The Nutcracker,” at the Boston Opera House on Washington Street. The ballet opens on Friday, November 26th and runs through New Year’s Eve, with no shows on Sundays and Christmas Day.

Enjoy Thanksgiving weekend in Boston!

Toro-the place for tapas in Boston

Saturday, October 16th, 2010
Braised short ribs at Toro

Braised short ribs at Toro

If you haven’t been to Toro yet, it’s about time to make your way over to the South End Boston for some of the most amazing tapas I’ve seen…and tasted. Thanks to Chef Owner Ken Oringer, Chef Partner Jamie Bissonnette, and Sous Chef Mike Smith, every bite of these Spanish-inspired tasting treats leaves you hungering for more and more.

Tapas, otherwise known as appetizers, snacks, finger foods…you get the idea…are a meal unto themselves. When you go out for tapas, real tapas, that’s all you eat. It is not served before a main dish, or on a large platter in place of a main dish. Tapas are served one small dish after another, along with your beverage of choice, and great conversation with good friends.

So, let’s get to it. During this visit to Toro, my friends and I decided to seek the advice of our server. After all, she’s serving and tasting tapas all day long so she should know. And, wow! Did she know what to suggest. I can’t name all that we had but here’s a sampling.

First, the wine. Toro has an extensive, all-Spanish wine list featuring wineries that use sustainable farming or biodynamic farming practices. Against the backdrop of natural, aged brick, the wine is stacked and displayed as fine art. Two of us chose a 2007 Creta Roble Tino Fino by the glass that was deep red and smooth on the palette. The other sampled a Mojito lovingly made by the talented bartender on staff.

Hamachi at Toro

Now for the tapas. From dates to duck, beef to brussel sprouts, we sampled an eclectic mix that we didn’t want to end.  The dates, filled with almonds and blue cheese and wrapped in Serano ham, were sweet but subtle at the same time; the “pan con tomate” was simple but flavorful with lots of garlic. The fish, both tuna and hamachi, were extremely fresh and melted in your mouth. Onto the beef, the braised short ribs and hangar steak both were tender and cooked to perfection. The house special, grilled corn with alioli, lime, espelette pepper and aged cheese, was a favorite of all (on the menu as “maiz asado con alioli y queso cotija”). However, the “hamachi crudo” is still with me, in a good way. I can recall its delicate flavor now as I write. Guess I’ll be heading back soon for a quick tapas fix. Gu

The award-winning Toro Restaurant is located at 1704 Washington Street in Boston’s South End.