No visit to Boston is complete without some local--usually a tour guide--offering that famous quip (that Mark Twain may or may not have said about New England or somewhere else): “Don’t like the weather in New England? Wait a few minutes”. And it’s true; we never really know what we’re going to get here on the coast. Blizzards? Temperatures of 60 degrees Fahrenheit in January? We’ve seen it all. Don’t let your fears of the next “Perfect Storm” turn you away. In fact, you might want to spend a good deal of your time right on the waterfront, extending from the mouth of the Charles River, along the harbor’s scenic wharves, to the Fort Point Channel. This is where you’ll find many of the city’s best museums like the New England Aquarium and the Museum of Science, that give Boston its reputation as a hub of American history, science, maritime culture, and technology, and they’re fit to explore at any time of year. Remember--those ocean temperatures that help create our famously fickle weather patterns actually keep the coastline a little bit warmer, in winter.
Get Close with the Sea Life at the New England Aquarium
At the heart of Boston’s waterfront, just next to Long Wharf, sits the immensely popular New England Aquarium, easily accessed with its own stop on the Blue Line. Here, you’ll encounter an army of penguins, a troop of extremely playful and photogenic harbor seals, a Giant Ocean Tank exhibit that sits 4-stories tall and contains coral reefs and hundreds of Caribbean sea creatures, a Touch Tank (should you feel like getting friendly with a few sharks and stingrays--I mean, who doesn’t?), and much more. Next door to the Aquarium, you should not miss the chance to catch one of the jaw-dropping, 3-D features at Simon’s IMAX--probably as close as you can get to giant marine life without jumping into the ocean--and at this time of year, the great white sharks are mostly all down in Florida shooting a few rounds of golf with your grandparents. Hungry yet? There’s plenty of dining in the Long Wharf area, like the ubiquitous franchises of Legal Seafoods and Joe’s American Bar & Grill. For a meal with a more local feel to it, head a little further up Atlantic Avenue and check out The Boston Sail Loft, where you’ll find classic New England seafood favorites like fried clams, lobster rolls, clam chowder, broiled scallops to warm you up--basically, everything you could want in one of these harbor side eateries, at a very reasonable price.
Museums You Say?
This time of year, depending on the weather, you might want to take a quick peek at our beloved old battleship, the USS Constitution, but be aware that she’ll be in dry dock for repairs and mostly covered in scaffolding until the end of 2016 or so. Up the Charles River just a little ways from the harbor, sits the excellent Museum of Science. Whether you’re checking out one of the temporary exhibits (check schedules) or one of the long-time favorites like the butterfly garden, the fascinating Planetarium shows, the hair-raising Lightning! show, and pretty much anything screening at the Mugar Omni Theater (including the exciting introductory sequence, narrated by our dearly departed local legend and Vulcan-American, Leonard Nimoy), the museum is a definite must-see for all visitors to Boston. It’s also convenient--the Museum of Science has its own stop (Science Park) on the MBTA’s Green Line.
Heading south along Atlantic Avenue from the Aquarium, you’ll come to the Congress Street Bridge which crosses the Fort Point Channel, site of the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. After having been destroyed by fire, and undergoing major renovations over the past decade, the museum has recently reopened, and now offers an exciting multi-media approach to presenting the famous Boston Tea Party of 1773. If you’re here on December 16th for the anniversary of the Tea Party, you can catch the boisterous reenactments of that historical day: first, the fiery speeches at the Old South Meeting House, followed by the crowds of “colonists” dressed as natives, as they retrace the steps of the Sons of Liberty to the waterfront, where they will once again storm merchant ships and empty their tea chests into the harbor, to protest increasingly unfair taxation from across the Atlantic. Remember to dress warmly, and remember--it’s just a reenactment folks; you won’t need to bring your cream and sugar. When not dumping tea into the harbor, we New Englanders certainly love pulling things out of its waters, especially those feisty bottom feeders known as North Atlantic lobsters. James Hook Lobster Company, just a short walk from the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, is our go-to spot when we need to fill our lobster pots. Though market prices tend to be a bit higher this time of year, you can still drop in, grab a seat, and order something off of their lunch menu, like fresh lobster rolls, hot lobster bisque, fish chowders, and more.
Just across the bridge in South Boston, the Boston Children's Museum is an excellent place to let your kids loose, allowing them to burn off some of their pent up winter energy, making it a popular spot with tourists and locals alike. Check the events calendar on their site, for an idea of what performances, special exhibits, and programs are happening. Between all of these activities and the huge variety of child-focused but adult-friendly art, science, and culture-based exhibits (like the traditional Japanese house we all loved, growing up), you may find yourself enjoying this place perhaps a little too much for someone your age--but we don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Around the corner, you can also stop into the Boston Fire Museum to learn about the dramatic history of the city’s fire department. Whatever brings you to this side of town, you’re probably going to get hungry--especially if you’ve been chasing your young ones up and down the “climbing sculpture” at the Children’s Museum for the past few hours. If you turn down Farnsworth Street--incidentally, a filming location of a particularly violent and not at all family-friendly scene from Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning film, The Departed--you and the kids can drop in for lunch and delicious baked goods at yet another outpost of Joanne Chang’s Flour Bakery. If you didn’t bring kids and somehow ended up in this part of town, do yourself a favor and grab lunch, dinner, or a fancy cocktail at the fantastic Tavern Road--where we once dined on an authentically tasty porchetta. The dishes here are focused on seasonal, globally inspired fare--including the enticing “street food” extension next door, open for lunch. We’d even say this place is reason enough to cross the windy Channel, even in the depths of winter.