City Slicker: Boston - 'A place that's for ever reinterpreting itself'
This historic city is always turning over a new leaf, especially in the autumn. Kate Simon has ideas for new and returning visitors
Sunday 24 October 2010
Who needs a better reason to visit this gateway to New England than the extraordinary sight of North America's trees in all their colourful autumn glory.
Though the annual pre-Christmas shop – the Thanksgiving sales offer huge discounts – will prove just as persuasive for some, especially with the weak dollar giving a welcome boost to the value of the shopper's pound these days.
Most of all, there's the plain fact that Boston is one of the most delightful cities in the States. It has a depth that most American metropolises can only dream of, expressed in fine historic buildings and sights, while the carefully preserved green spaces and well-planned street network, from Commonwealth Avenue to Beacon Hill, make it eminently walkable.
Yet, Boston isn't just a scenic place in which to wallow in the past. This vital city is ever reinterpreting its landscape – currently best seen in the huge regeneration of the waterfront – and its restaurants, hotels, museums and galleries reveal an eye for the latest trends.
A drink in the bar Top of the Hub (topofthehub.net), on the 52nd storey of the Prudential Center (prudential center.com), for great city views.
A trip across to Cambridge, home of Harvard University.
Top-class non-mall shopping in the traditional brownstones on pretty Newbury Street.
Strolling around the cobbled streets of the city's historic neighbourhood Beacon Hill.
Following a history trail to uncover this city's revolutionary age (bostonusa.com). Also, check out Mytown (mytowninc.org), which offers inspiring tours of the South End led by teenage guides.
Taking in the green heart of the city with a stroll along Commonwealth Avenue to the Public Gardens and historic Boston Common.
More wandering, along the HarborWalk (bostonharborwalk.com), a public path that will eventually meander around the wharfs, piers, bridges and beaches for almost 47 linear miles from Chelsea Creek to Neponset River.
Watching Liverpool FC's new owners, the Red Sox, at Fenway Park (redsox.mlb.com), the oldest major league baseball park still in use.
The American love of creating communities out of acronyms is alive and well in Boston's SoWa (South of Washington Street). This former industrial neighbourhood in the South End, centring on Harrison Avenue, is putting old warehouses to renewed use as galleries, artists' studios, restaurants, creative businesses and loft apartments. Visitors can see the work of local artists at the SoWa Artists Guild & South End Open Studios (sowaartistsguild.com) and alongside the wares of craftspeople and food producers at the SoWa Open Market (southendmarket.com), which ends for the season in October but revives for Christmas on 11 and 12 December. New restaurants here include gastropub The Gallows (001 617 451 0077) and Asian eatery Ginger Park (gingerparkboston.com).
Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Check out the new Art of the Americas wing of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Opening on 20 November, the $465m (£296m) addition was designed by Sir Norman Foster. As well as new space to exhibit the museum's collection of 450,000 works, it aims to re-orientate the experience for visitors to one of the world's largest museums. The new wing will have 53 galleries over four floors with more than 5,000 works on display, double the previous number. A calendar of special exhibitions is also promised.
The transformation of Boston's Seaport district is currently in slow motion thanks to the financial crisis, but a few new features have sprung up to make a trip to the historic harbour front an interesting diversion. Louis (say Looeez) is one of the most interesting newcomers on Fan Pier. The venerable clothing retailer, which has been in business in the city since the late 1800s, has moved from its home in Back Bay to these new shores. Within the modern metal box that is its new premises, designer devotees will find plenty to delight them among its racks of clothes and counters full of luxury accessories. Upstairs, Sam's melds American diner with French bistro, using produce from New England's farms, which customers enjoy alongside great harbour views.
This new property from the Morgans Hotel Group is a slick addition to the city's accommodation. The building may date from the 19th century, but the interiors are strictly modernist. Its 114 rooms follow minimalist design principles with dark tile and light timber floors, and a colour scheme dominated by white, grey and black. The high-quality furnishings keep the experience comfortable. Other facilities include the restaurant and bar, Woodwards, and a fitness centre. The hotel's downtown setting puts Boston at your feet.
Grand Circle Gallery
Seaport has been a favourite location for artists since the Seventies and, despite the regeneration, the industrial buildings that lie just inland from the harbour still provide a home for this community. You can catch up with them in their live-work spaces twice a year on Open Studios weekends (fortpointarts.org), the next of which will be in the spring. Meanwhile, stop by an intriguing little gallery in one of the old wool warehouses showcasing vintage travel posters and a selection of photography. The tour operator Grand Circle Corporation created this space, which is free to enter.
Steve Jermanok, writer
"One of my favourite new sculptures on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, not far from the Institute of Contemporary Arts, is an oversized hammock where strangers can relax and lie down together. Also, Flour is a wonderful bakery, featuring muffins, cookies and sandwiches on fresh baked bread in the Fort Point neighbourhood."
How to get there
Kate Simon travelled to Boston with British Airways (0844 493 0758; ba.com/boston), which offers a three-night room-only stay at the Back Bay Hotel from £539 per person in November, including return flights from London Heathrow.
Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau (bostonusa.com).
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