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The IMSider's Guide to Boston

May 26, 2009
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There are few better places to be than Boston in June. The weather is normally very comfortable, the city is alive with students and tourists, the Red Sox are in full stride and the Harbor is bustling with activity.


As you’ll see in the information that follows, there is no shortage of great restaurants, museums, activities and events in Boston. Your biggest problem may be in deciding where and how to spend the limited time that you have in town.

If you’re staying in the Back Bay/Copley area of the city, you will enjoy the benefit of having a plethora of shops and restaurants at your disposal. Newbury and Boylston Streets boast an assortment of high-end retail shops and restaurants with patio seating, allowing you to watch the bustling activity of tourist season. It’s also a short walk to both the Boston Common/Public Gardens and the Esplanade, which provides a park-like environment along the Charles River.

If you have opted to stay near the Convention Center (BCEC), you have easy access to Faneuil Hall, the Seaport District and the North End. The North End is our “Little Italy”, where the streets are narrow and compact, and there is plenty of history —Old North Church, Paul Revere’s house, burial grounds—seemingly around every corner. The neighborhood is packed with restaurants, virtually all of them Italian, and the locals carefully maintain their deeply-rooted ties to Italian culture. It’s difficult to recommend any one particular restaurant, as all are good. Just walk the streets until you find one that strikes your fancy. After dinner, stroll over to Mike’s Pastry or one of the other local establishments, for coffee and the best cannoli you may ever experience.

If you can extend your stay post-IMS, there are a variety of destination options. Cape Cod and the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard are some of the finest vacation spots in the world, as several past Presidents and our current one will attest. The mansions of Newport, RI and surrounding beaches are worth the trip. The northern New England states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont provide incredible scenery, lakes, mountains and ocean beaches. If you’re looking for a casino resort, you’ll find the best of them down in our neighbors in Connecticut.

We have compiled a brief guide to help you navigate your stay in town. Hopefully, this will give you some ideas on where to go, what to do and where to dine. It is by no means a definitive guide, so feel free to ask the locals for their recommendations. We think that you’ll find us to be opinionated but friendly hosts.

History

The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile red-brick walking trail that leads you to 16 nationally significant historic sites, every one an authentic American treasure. Preserved and dedicated by the citizens of Boston in 1958, the Freedom Trail today is a unique collection of museums, churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, a ship, and historic markers that tell the story of the American Revolution and beyond. Visit http://www.freedomtrail.org for more information.

Another great way to see the city is aboard a “DUCK”, a W.W.II style amphibious landing vehicle run by Boston Duck Tours. Guests will cruise by all the places that make Boston the birthplace of freedom and a city of firsts, from the golden-domed State House to Bunker Hill and the TD Banknorth Garden, Boston Common and Copley Square to the Big Dig, Government Center to fashionable Newbury Street, Quincy Market to the Prudential Tower, and more. The trip also includes a dip into the Charles River for a breathtaking view of the Boston and Cambridge skylines. Cost: Adults $29.95; children $20. Visit www.bostonducktours.com for more information.

Art and Performance

The new Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) building was designed by award-winning architects and weaves together the interior space and the surrounding waterfront to produce shifting perspectives throughout the museum’s galleries and public spaces. The museum is a key component in Boston’s plan to revitalize the neighborhood surrounding the convention center. Based on its proximity to the symposium, visitors who appreciate contemporary art and intend to visit some museum during their stay in Boston but may have limited free time should consider putting the ICA at the top of their list.

For a more traditional art museum experience, visitors may want to venture over to the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), where they can enjoy works from the permanent collection including art from Europe, Asia, America and the an---cient world as well as contemporary art. The museum’s collection includes many famous works from artists such as Titian, Dürer, Rembrandt, van Gogh, Gauguin and Renoir. Although there is no blockbuster show scheduled during the IMS, the museum has several upcoming exhibitions that may interest visitors. Visit their website at www.mfa.org for more details.

The Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum offers an intimate collection of fine and decorative art housed in a stunning 15th-century Venetian-style palace with three stories of galleries surrounding a sun- and flower-filled courtyard. The museum contains 2,500 artworks, including paintings, sculpture, furniture, textiles, ceramics, prints, drawings, manuscripts, rare books, jewelry, Japanese screens and architectural elements set into the building. On the night of March 18, 1990, a pair of thieves disguised as Boston police officers entered the closed museum and stole 13 works of art, including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas and Manet. The works have not yet been recovered and the $5 million dollar reward leading to the return of the art works remains unclaimed.

It’s June when the summer concert season kicks off in the Boston area, and there is no better venue to catch a show than at the Bank of America Pavillion. You could do worse than to wrap up a busy week with a Diana Krall concert, which takes place on Friday, June 13th. For those looking to get away from the city for a while, the Cape Cod Melody Tent in Hyannis offers an intimate concert setting in the round. The Indigo Girls, in support of a brand new cd, play there on the same day. Boston certainly isn’t a hotbed for country music, but Grammy Award winning artist Vince Gill takes his traveling road show to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium on Wednesday, June 10th. Those looking to take a trip back in time can see Linda Eder sing the songs of Judy Garland at Symphony Hall on both Tuesday, June 9th and Wednesday, June 10th. In addition, funny lady and Emmy award winner Kathy Griffin takes the stage at the Wang Theater on Thursday, June 12th.

Sports

Experiencing Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, should be on the top of your “Things to do in Boston” list during MTT-S. One of the few remaining “old time” ballparks, Fenway is a great place to watch any game. This year, the baseball gods have blessed us with a Red Sox/Yankees matchup, smack in the middle of Microwave Week. If you have never witnessed this ancient rivalry in person, it’s well worth it, whether you’re a fan of the Sox, Yankees or any other team. If you’re a baseball fan, or even just a fan of having fun, try to get tickets. Since basically all Sox games are sold out, you’ll need to check www.stubhub.com or one of the other online broker sites, or make your way down to Yawkey Way and haggle with the scalpers. Be prepared to drop some serious cash. For a chance at free tickets, stop by the Reactel booth and enter their raffle for two tickets to each game.

Last year in Atlanta, the NBA was kind enough to provide us with a Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers game six contest on the night of the opening day of the exhibition, in which the Celtics thrashed the Lakers to win their 17th championship. It’s too early to tell if we’ll be so lucky again, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that there’s a decent chance that the Celtics will still be playing basketball in early June. If so, there is also likely to be a playoff game happening at the “Gaaaden” the week of the show and it’s a pleasant walk from the convention center.

Boston: A Runner’s Town

Despite the spotty weather and long hard winter, Boston is a great town for a run. If you like to lace up the Reeboks, New Balance or Saucony (all three of these running shoe companies are based in and around Boston), this city has many routes that will get the blood pumping and provides inspiring views.

Every spring, the city is host to the granddaddy of road races—the Boston Marathon. This daunting 26.2 miles of hilly terrain stretches from the town of Hopkinton in the west to the Prudential Center in downtown bean-town. Apart from the Olympics, Boston is the only marathon that requires runners to qualify. The course has an uninterrupted six-mile downhill stretch to wear down runners before their attack of the Newton hills at the 16-mile mark. The third and final hill at the 20-mile point (known as “the wall”) has earned the legendary name of “Heartbreak Hill”. On the other side of Heartbreak Hill is yet another punishing downhill and six more miles to the finish. In the distance, the famous CITGO sign looms over Kenmore Square and Fenway Park, encouraging runners to dig deep and finish the race despite their pain.

For a less epic run, the Westin Hotel next to the BCEC provides its guests with a runner’s map designed by Runner’s World magazine. Of the two routes (three and five mile), the longer path will take runners around the Boston Common and down majestic Commonwealth Avenue. Alternatively, a runner can follow part of this route around the common and then cross Storrow Drive over the Arthur Fiedler pedestrian bridge to run through the park adjacent to the Charles River. This run offers fabulous views of the Hatch Shell—where the Boston Pops play their annual Fourth of July concert, the Back Bay and across the water—Cambridge and MIT. Closer to the convention center, runners may want to follow Summer Street up to Atlantic Avenue and hang a right towards the park created by the Big Dig and the dismantling of the elevated Southeast/JFK Expressway that divided the seaport and North End neighborhoods from the rest of the city. Wherever you may go, have fun but be cautious of the traffic. Boston drivers have a reputation for being very aggressive. Apparently, some get cranky from the long winter.

Entertainment

Bowling and Billiards
If you have plans to go to a Red Sox game, make sure to stop in at Jillian’s, which is located just minutes from Fenway Park. Jillian’s offers non-stop entertainment including bowling, a restaurant and bar, and is a great option for parties of all sizes. Kings is also a premier spot for bowling, billiards and dining. Located in the Back Bay, Kings offers flat-screen televisions making this an ideal spot for those baseball and basketball games, good music, and a menu of pizzas, sandwiches and appetizers.

Comedy
The Comedy Connection, which has been around for more than a quarter century, has featured big names such as Chris Rock, Dane Cook, Rosie O’Donnell, Dennis Miller and Robin Williams. Check out its new location at 246 Tremont Street. The Improv Asylum is a comedy theater that features improvisation and sketch comedy. Locals often describe the act as Whose Line is it Anyway? meets Saturday Night Live! (www.improvasylum.com/). Also, check out Dick’s Beantown Comedy Vault, which is located in a remodeled bank with a 12-foot vault door and cartoon wall murals.

Restaurants, Bars and Pubs

Eat, drink and be merry is something we hope you find time to do in your travels to Boston. With so much to do and see, our hope is that we offer a good sampling of places to visit and restaurants/pubs that will be sure to whet your appetite.

Savor the Good Life... with a twist! It is an urban escape, a city center, a place of business, a meeting of the minds, a release for the soul, and a civilized retreat from the outside world. In BAR 12-21, the night is open for business... from a crisp cocktail before dinner in the main room, to a full course meal without ever having to leave the comfort of your bar stool.

From its debut in 2005, Legal Test Kitchen (LTK) was a pioneer in the city’s developing Seaport District. It’s within easy walking distance of attractions such as the stunning new Institute of Contemporary Art, the World Trade Center, the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, the seasonal Bank of America Pavilion for big-name entertainment, and multiple shiny new hotels including the Seaport, the Westin Waterfront, and the Renaissance Boston.

Across the street from the Boston Public Garden, the Bull and Finch Pub inspired the famous ‘80s sitcom Cheers. Then, after reaching some degree of fame, Cheers inspired some major changes to the Bull and Finch Pub in order to accommodate the increasing number of tourists attracted to it. There are two Cheers in Boston, the original and a new one in Quincy Market, which is set up to resemble the tv show’s bar.

The Rattlesnake Bar and Grill offers a laid back atmosphere and great food. It features (unique to Boston) roof deck dining and June is certainly an ideal month to take advantage of the outdoor seating.

Faneuil Hall presents 17 restaurants and pubs, including Sam’s Café at Cheers, McCormick & Schmick’s, Plaza III and Rustic Kitchen. Dine beneath beautiful glass canopies and outdoor cafes. Plus, find over 40 eateries and an infinite combination of choices in the Quincy Market Colonade, one of the most visited food halls in the world. Faneuil Hall also has many street performers including world-class jugglers, clowns, magicians, mimes and musicians. Be sure to check www.faneuilhallmarketplace.com as it gets closer for specific events. Voted one of America’s top ten Irish establishments: The Black Rose, establish-----ed in 1976, is located in the historic Faneuil Hall-Quincy market area of Boston. It’s known far and wide for its convivial atmosphere, good food and live Irish entertainment.

The Purple Shamrock is a great place to stop by and have a bite to eat. The fare is composed of Irish and New England specialties with burgers, sandwiches, hearty pastas, fresh seafood, tender steaks and other great favorites. After dark, The Purple Shamrock has nightly entertainment. There is a perfect mix of live music, karaoke and DJs.
Located in the heart of Boston, on the Freedom Trail, a stone’s throw between the Garden and Faneuil Hall Marketplace, the Bell-in-Hand Tavern is a lively place to be. During the early part of the week, folks stop in for a bite to eat, drinks and to listen to local bands play a variety of live music. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday night the crowd picks up as does the music scene including two floors, five bars and live music. The Bell-in-Hand is filled with history as America’s oldest continuously operating tavern.

For locals, The Hong Kong, located in Harvard Square, is often referred to as the “Home of the Scorpion Bowl”. Late night, the restaurant converts into the 69 Club for dancing.

The Harp provides a mecca of sports and entertainment and is one of Boston’s best singles and meeting spots. It provides two floors with three bars for after work drinks, pre and post Garden events, the latest in sports and live entertainment, DJs and dancing.

BCEC/Seaport Area

Salvatore’s
This upscale Italian restaurant, located in the heart of the Seaport district, delivers excellent food and ambiance at affordable prices. Entrees like Veal Parmesan top out at $23, with most pasta dishes priced under $20.

225 Northern Avenue
(617) 737-7676
www.salvatoresboston.com

No-Name Restaurant
Don’t go here for the décor or ambiance, because you won’t find any. What you will find is fish fresh off the docks, at incredibly low prices. If you must have lobster while in town (and you must), this is the place to have it. A boiled lobster is the same anywhere, so you might as well get an inexpensive one. The wait staff is competent but indifferent, so don’t expect service with a smile.

15 Fish Pier Street W
(617) 338-7539

Back Bay/Copley Area

Abe & Louie’s
There is no better steakhouse in Boston, and their many “Best of Boston” awards support this claim. It’s expensive, but the atmosphere and décor are fantastic, the service is tremendous, and the food is consistently superb. It also boasts a lively and comfortable bar area for drinks and appetizers.

793 Boylston Street
(617) 536-6300
www.abeandlouies.com

Brown Sugar Café
This cozy neighborhood place offers what many locals consider to be the best Thai food in town. The menu is huge and the service is friendly. The Fisherman Madness dish, a spicy combo of crustaceans and filets, is worth the trip. Beer and wine is available.

1033 Commonwealth Avenue
www.brownsugarcafe.com

Stella
Located in Boston’s South End neighborhood, Stella offers affordable and innovative Italian cuisine in a chic environment like no other in the city. MWJ. dined here recently during “Restaurant Week” and the food and service were fabulous. Try the outdoor patio if the weather permits.

1525 Washington Street
(617) 247-7747
www.bostonstella.com

Newbridge Café
If you’re looking for a real Boston neighborhood bar/restaurant experience, take the short drive/cab ride to the Newbridge. While it’s no longer the “hidden gem” that it was, having won several “Best of Boston” awards, this place is an all-time favorite. The absolute best plate of steak tips and huge fries anywhere, at great prices. Tucked away in a classic Boston neighborhood right off the Expressway.

650 Washington Avenue
(617) 884-0134
www.newbridgecafe.com

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