Monday, July 25, 2011

Safari #33: Sand Sculpture Festival at Revere Beach

1st Place Winner
The Sand Sculpture festival at Revere Beach is so much more than childhood sandcastles; the sculptures will leave you breathless and full of wonder.  If you haven't been to Revere Beach before, let the sand sculpting festival bring you there.

The festival, one of the largest in the country, is held annually and draws an international field of entrants.  It includes live music, concessions, and of course, good, old-fashioned fun.

2nd Place Winner
After viewing the sand sculptures, be sure to check out the open beachfront; it's perfect for long walks and playing in the surf.

  • Go Early - The festival draws quite a crowd.  Head over on the earlier side to get a birds eye view of the sculptures and to avoid some of the heaviest foot traffic.  Be sure to check the schedule - fireworks are part of the finale.
  • Sample Local Flavor - Many visitors during the sculpting festival can enjoy cuisines representative of the many different ethnicities in Revere.  Will this be your day to sample cherrystone clams or perhaps arroz con pollo?
  • Learn more about Revere Beach's History - Founded in 1895, did you know that Revere Beach was America's first public beach?
  • Get There Easily - Take the MBTA's Blue Line to the Revere Beach stop.  The beach is only a few steps away from the exit.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Safari #32: Lantern Festival at Forest Hills Cemetery

Lanterns at Dusk
Saying goodbye to a loved one who has passed away is never easy, but the Lantern Festival at the Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain is lovely opportunity to remember them.

The Lantern Festival is based on the Japanese Bon Festival, a Japanese Buddhist custom that honors the spirits of the deceased. During the festival, it is believed that the door to the ancestral world opens, allowing messages from family members to be sent to the other side.

Using decorative lanterns, participants can write messages to their loved ones, and calligraphers are available to inscribe shades with messages in Chinese or Japanese characters. At dusk, the lanterns are lit and then launched on Lake Hibiscus, the cemetery's central lake. Volunteers are available to assist you with lighting your lantern.

Calligrapher's Table
The lantern launch attracts many local photographers as the sight of the lanterns on the lake is simply beautiful. Combined with the setting sun and high moon, the collective glow during my visit created the perfect setting for reflection.

Before You Go
  • Bring a Picnic. Blankets, food, drinks, mosquito spray, and a flash light (for finding your way after dark) are highly recommended.
  • Show Up Early & Make a Lantern. The lines can get long, so arrive on the earlier side to allow for enough time to pick up a lantern shade and visit the calligraphy table. 
  • Drive or Take Public Transport.  The Cemetery runs adjacent to the Forest Hills T station where the Orange Line and many buses are available.  Parking is also available onsite for $10.
  • Be Respectful. Remember that those who have created lanterns are offering messages and prayers to loved ones. Keep loud voices to a minimum. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Safari #31: Exploring Boston's Emerald Necklace

I love Boston for the simple fact that you can just put on your shoes and head out of the door - many times with no destination in mind.

The next time you're up for a bit of exploring, check out the Emerald Necklace Park System.

Beginning on the Boston Common and ending in Franklin Park, the Necklace includes of some of the most beautiful outdoor spaces you'll see in Boston.

Landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmstead created the park system to offer residents a retreat from city life and the opportunity to gather together in open, picturesque spaces.  He wanted to encourage residents to enjoy the outdoors for both recreation and relaxation - and each park offers great spots for both.

Here are a few of my favorite gems:

  • Public Garden Swan Boats - Did you know that the same family has been offering Swan Boat rides since the 1870's?  These foot-pedal powered boats offer a quaint and relaxing view of the Public Garden as they pass shores flanked with sweeping, Weeping Willows.
  • The Riverway - running between Fenway Park, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Longwood Medical Area, the Riverway stretches along the banks of the Muddy River offering a great outdoor space for runners looking to log some serious miles. Over the course of our walk, we saw countless numbers of runners all looking for serenity, tree coverage, and flat to moderate trails.
  • Jamaica Pond - with a 1.5 mile trail, the pond is great for running, walking and the like.  With benches and a lovely shoreline, the pond is a great fishing spot.  Every spring, the city releases thousands of fish into the pond - marking a yearly festival where first-time fishers can learn the ropes.  The Pond House also offers boats and kayaks for rent along with conveniences such as restrooms and water fountains.   

Before You Go

  • All parks within the Emerald Necklace are free and open to the public.  Some conveniences, like kayak rentals at Jamaica Pond, do charge a fee.  The Frog Pond Visitor Center, Esplanade, Jamaica Pond Boat House, and Franklin Park all offer public restrooms.
  • The Emerald Necklace Conservancy website offers park history, maps, and events, including Summer Sundays in the Park featuring the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  The first one begins on Sunday, July 12th.
  • The volunteer center offers free tours on Tuesdays and Sundays.  Check their schedule of tours to find one right for you.
**Special thanks to Anulfo Baez (aka @EvolvingCritic) for allowing me to accompany him a journey to complete his Boston Bucket List.  I was happy to join you!  Thanks to you, I've already done Trinity Church and will soon check out the Lantern Festival in JP ;)