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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

Looking for Authentic Chinese Dinner in Boston

October 7th, 2010

Look no more.
About once a month the team at heads out into Boston to sample new restaurants and to revisit old favorites. This month our host at Abigayle’s Bed and Breakfast treated  us to her culture and cuisine, a Shanghai, northern Chinese food, dining experience at Shanghai Gate restaurant.

Located in Boston’s Allston Village, Shanghai Gate is the real deal. Their world class chef from Shanghai serves up authentic Shanghai cuisine, as well as many familiar Chinese restaurant favorites, that tingle the taste buds with every bite. We didn’t even look at the menu. We just asked our gracious host and chef to choose for us. And, wow, did they choose well. They put together an amazing selection of hot and cold appetizers, as well as scrumptious dinner specialties. Everything was served perfectly and you could truly taste the freshness of the ingredients. The unique thing about Shanghai cooking is the lightness of everything, from the dumplings to the sauces and spices. This is not primarily the hot and spicy Sczechuan style of cooking, though the restaurant does offer several choices if that is your preference. It is simple, fresh, and delicious. We could have stayed eating all night long. It was that good!

What did we have? Here’s our menu selection:

  • Four Treasures Tofu (cold, braised with wood ear and peanuts)
  • Wild Vegetable and Bean Curd (cold, fresh wild vegetables)
  • Sweet and Sour Baby Ribs (marinated and braised in a special sauce, served cold)
  • Steamed Pork Bun (a warm vinegar dipping sauce adds an interesting tang to the flavor)
  • Pork Dumplings (a light dough makes these warm dumplings extra tasty)
  • Black Bean Chicken Wraps (warm, served family style with lettuce leaves for wrapping)
  • Crystal Shrimp (more warm vinegar dipping sauce gives lots of flavor to simple shrimp)
  • Ginger Scallion Tilapia (a whole fish served with a light brown sauce that melts in the mouth)
  • Double Nuts Chicken (much like the classic cashew chicken but with peanuts too!)
  • Sweet Corn Pancake (a little sweetness to finish the meal!)

But don’t just take our word for it.  The Boston Globe previously wrote, “What you get at Shanghai Gate plain and simple is a chef who really knows how to cook.” Not enough? See what others are saying on Yelp.

Shanghai Gate is located at 204 Harvard Avenue, Allston, MA 02134

What do you think? Let us know.

5 things to do in Boston this October weekend

September 29th, 2010

Are you visiting Boston this weekend? Here are some ideas to get you started on your adventure in our amazing city.

  1. Free walking tours at Arnold Arboretum: Enjoy the oldest public arboretum in North America. Really a sight to behold.
  2. Changing of the Guards at Faneuil Hall: Watch the “Regulars” change their posts, then meet the soldier re-enactors to learn about this period in Boston History. Best of all, it’s free!
  3. Harpoon Octoberfest: Sample fresh Harpoon Octoberfest beer, German food, and German Oompah music at the 21st annual festival.
  4. Red Sox vs. Yankees at Fenway: Need I say more?
  5. Topsfield Fair: Catch Chubby Checker at this classic fair celebrating the 50th anniversary of the “Twist.” Oh, and did I forget to mention all the food? Fair runs through 10/11.

Lego comes to Boston with Lego Kidsfest

September 21st, 2010

The Lego brand has been around for what seems like eons, but with Legoland out on the west coast it’s not the place a New England family can hop over to for a Saturday out. I don’t know about your family, but in mine, Legos rule! So when we saw Lego Kidsfest 2010 was coming to Boston, I signed on to my Freeloader account at a local radio station and got a 50% off deal for tickets to what my son considers the main event of his life. Thank you WBMX, Mix 104.1 FM!

Lego Kidsfest 2010 will take place this weekend at the Hynes Convention Center on Boylston Street in Boston. There are 2 sessions each day, I assume, to keep the crowds manageable. Unfortunately, we are not the only Lego fans in Boston so they were smart to break up the days into blocks.

I’m truly not sure what to expect as it seems part convention, part trade show. No matter. A day out to play with Lego bricks and bond with my 11-year-old is well worth the price.

Visit the web site for more details but I know a few of the highlights will include:

  • Life size Lego models of favorite characters like: SpongeBob, Darth Vader, Thomas the Tank Engine, Indiana Jones and more
  • Building displays made entirely of Legos including cityscapes and railways
  • Legoland Giveaway
  • Lego Builders Cool Creation Zone for Lego enthusiasts
  • Birthday party opportunities
  • Face painters and balloon artists
  • A Lego store
  • Lego video game gallery
  • Construction zones for kids of all ages
  • Duplo play areas

I’ll be the one with the bug-eyed boy tugging at my sleeve…along with all the other moms and dads in the Hynes on Sunday afternoon. See you there!

Boston Dessert Showcase 2010

September 14th, 2010

Sweet tooth foodies delight! If you are in Boston this weekend, don’t miss the New England Dessert Showcase on Saturday, September 18th, 12-5 PM at The Westin Copley Place.

Just the facts:

  • Sample desserts from Boston’s best pastry chefs, chocolatiers,  homemade ice cream makers, custom cake designers, confectioners, and dessert wine producers.
  • Family friendly–suitable for anyone who loves dessert
  • General admission for Saturday only just $35

So get your silver fork ready, and dive in to all the delectable delights on Saturday!

The Best Apple Picking in Boston

September 7th, 2010

One of the great things about visiting Boston in the Fall, besides the sight of the leaves turning color, is apple picking. There are so many varieties and throughout the season you can travel around to pick your own apples, or if you don’t want to climb the trees, you can visit the orchards who have barrels and barrels for you to choose from. Apple picking in Boston also means hot mulled apple cider and homemade cider donuts.

Despite what many people think, you don’t have to travel very far from the city to find great apple picking spots. If you do want to venture around the city, I came across Apple Picking Boston, a great site that shows you all the spots that you can pick and choose from in and around Massachusetts, laid out conveniently on a map of the state.  The site provides links to all of the orchards so you can check for harvest dates, hours, and activities. Many orchards have hay rides, tours of the orchards, and petting zoos–not to mention the awesome pumpkin patches too. Also, around Halloween, you may even find a haunted barn or two.

Here’s a sampling of some of my favorite spots that you can travel to in under an hour from Boston, in no particular order:

  1. Russell’s Orchard in Ipswich
  2. Honey Pot Hill Orchard in Stow
  3. Smolak Farms in North Andover
  4. Dowse Orchards in Sherborn
  5. Tougas Farm in Northboro

Mmmmm, I’m ready to go. Are you?

St Anthonys Feast North End Boston

August 25th, 2010

The Feast of All Feasts

You cannot miss this feast of all feasts if you are planning to be in Boston this weekend. Why? Well, it is un-American, er, un-Italian? Whatever, it’s definitely un-Bostonian. Ever since I can remember, my entire family (and I mean all the aunts, uncles, cousins and paisans, in addition to my parents and sisters) hopped on the Blue Line and headed to the North End. Never have I seen more happy faces, colorful parades, and food beyond belief. It is amazing that this celebration is now in it’s 91st year.

Quick Tips and InfoSt. Anthony's Feast

  1. Location: Endicott, Thacher, and North Margin Streets, North End, Boston
  2. Dates/time: 8/27 5 pm–11 pm, 8/28-8/29 12 noon–11:30 pm, 8/30 5 pm–11 pm
  3. Grand Procession: 12 Noon (lasts over 10 hrs)
  4. Entertainment: FREE.
  5. Food/Souvenirs: Vendor stands for a charge. (HINT: Sausage, pepper and onion subs; fried dough, cannolis—Yum!)
  6. Donations: Accepted at the Chapel of St. Anthony & St. Lucy.
  7. Transportation: Walk or take the T. While you can drive, the streets are sure to crowded, and parking will be at a premium. If you have to drive there are parking lots nearby.

The North End celebrates many feasts throughout the season, but St. Anthony’s Feast is a spectacle to behold, as it is the largest Italian religious festival in all of New England. Since 1919 the North End has honored this patron saint just as the Italians do in Montefalcione, Avellino.

For more detailed information visit

Salem Jazz and Soul Festival Enlivens Salem Willows

August 20th, 2010

If you are visiting Boston this weekend, take the Salem Ferry from Boston to Salem MA this weekend for the annual Salem Jazz and Soul Festival. You won’t want to miss out on this  two day event of FREE music! It all takes place at the Salem Willows on Saturday, August 21 & Sunday, August 22. The festival is a fun, family-friendly event featuring live music, music education classes, an arts and crafts fair, and a kid’s play tent. Now in it’s 4th year, the festival has added an exciting new feature, a 21+ Beer Garden! Be sure to bring your IDs as they will be checked.

This year’s festival features headliners GRACE KELLY and SAM KININGER – plus dozens more performers! Many local Bostonians don’t even know about this festival but now you do! When the fun is done you can hop the ferry back to town

The Salem Jazz and Soul Festival is a federally recognized 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and is quickly growing into the premier music festival on the North Shore.

For more information visit: