Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Safari #84: Fort Independence on Castle Island

On Columbus Day weekend, my boyfriend made the excellent suggestion of heading to Castle Island in Southie for a stroll.  When we arrived, we found ourselves drawn to Fort Independence, and before we knew it, were signed up to join a tour.  Little did we know that it was the last tour of the season.  Lucky us!

Fort Independence is the oldest continually fortified site in North America, and today, visitors can take a free guided tour to learn more about its military history during the Revolutionary war as well as World War II.  Our tour guide, Dan Burns, was friendly, informative, and did a wonderful job of incorporating the children on tour into his presentation. 

I think they had just as much fun as we did.

My tips:

  • Follow the rules.  The only way into the fort is via a guided tour, and visitors are asked to remain with the tour group at all times.
  • Bring Your Camera. If the day is sunny, you'll love the views of the Boston Harbor islands as well as the skyline.  Don't forget your zoom lens! 
  • Make a donation.  The Castle Island Association is entirely volunteer based and is able to operate tours thanks to donations from the community.  Be sure to make a donation to keep this great programming running.
  • Visit on Halloween.  Fort Independence hosts a one of a kind Halloween spectacular every year.  Members of the local community decorate the halls as well as pass out candy.
  • Eat at Sullivan's. It's a Southie landmark, so get a quick snack served with Bahwstin style. 
**First kindly borrowed from http://www.bostonharborwalk.com/placestogo/location.php?nid=6&sid=44. Second image courtesy of Anshul Jain.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Safari #83: Whale Watching with Boston's Best Cruises

Call me Ishmael (or Cristy, if you please).

It was high time that I got to sea to catch a glimpse that elusive creature - and Boston's Best Cruises was there to help make it happen.

This past Sunday, I took a 3.5 hour cruise to Stellwagen Bank, part of the larger Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, a federally protected marine sanctuary that begins in the mouth of the Massachusetts Bay and sits between Cape Ann and Cape Cod.  Stellwagen Bank is ideally situated on a plateau pulling rich nutrients and phytoplankton from the deep and raising them to the surface.  Due to this key feature, the area is a popular feeding ground for whales.  Our cruise ship was on an adventure to find feeding whales including humpback and Minke. 
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Sadly, while the weather was perfect, we did not see any whales.  Even though I was disappointed, I was happy knowing that I would get to enjoy another whale watch compliments of Boston's Best Cruises policy. If you go on a watch and don't see any whales, you get a voucher to return and try another time.

I'll be sure to share an update once I go on the next watch.

My tips:
  • Bring a Jacket.  Regardless of the temperature, bring a jacket to make yourself comfortable. The water temperature at the time of my trip was 61 degrees, and with the winds, things got fairly chilly.
  • Bring a snack. In an effort to make your trip the most comfortable, Boston's Best allows you to bring your own beverages and snacks if desired. There are concessions available as well serving beer, soft drinks, bottled water, and food.
  • Consider Help. Boston's Best provides complimentary ginger ale and sickness bags should you start to feel ill while on board.  It is also recommended to sit on the first deck of the ship as this tends to experience less swaying and bouncing as opposed to the top deck.  If you are generally sensitive to boat rides, you may also want to consider taking Dramamine just before the cruise gets underway.  
**Image kindly borrowed from Boston's Best Cruises http://bostonsbestcruises.com/best-boston-whale-watching-2013

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Safari #82: Manicure Monday at the Liberty Hotel

The approach of Monday morning elicits nearly the same response from everyone.  

This summer, change your tune and turn your manic Monday into a manicure Monday - an evening to hang out with girlfriends and get a fresh coat of perfectly applied nail polish.  You'll be regenerated and refreshed to face the rest of the work week - in high style.

Held in the Liberty Hotel's Yard, you can nosh small bites, enjoy expertly made cocktails, and sit within the outdoor courtyard well encapsulated from the hustle and bustle.  Miniluxe, well known in the Boston area for its best in class, ultra hygenic nail services, will provide you with a free manicure.  You'll look so good when you leave that you won't even care about the fact that the week is only beginning. 

Manicure Monday's are held every Monday from 5:30 to 7pm (weather permitting) and continue through the last Monday in August.  Don't miss your chance!

My Tips
  • Sign In.  When you arrive, locate the attendant to place your names on the wait list.  While you wait, select your color and visit the bar.
  • Bring Cash.  Since the event is free, don't forget to tip your aesthetician as well as your server.
  • Hang out.  After your manicure is finished, stick around to dry off and take in the view.  Order a beverage while you're at it ;)
**Image kindly borrowed from Pop.Bop.Shop at http://popbopshop.blogspot.com/2013/08/shop-miniluxe-nail-polish.html

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Safari #81: Davis Flea Market

I love visiting vintage markets on Sunday afternoons.  I don't know if it's the thrill of the hunt or the excitement that I'm doing to discover something both awesome and inspiring.  I think it's both.

If you're looking for that just right sized table or extra glasses for the kitchen, visit the Davis Flea.  Located right in the heart of Davis Square, on Holland Street inside the municipal parking lot, this market focuses less on food items and clothing (even though both of those things are great too), and more on tchotchke's, glassware, furniture, lighting fixtures, mirrors, prints, vintage maps and other randomly inspired objects d'art.

If you have recently moved or are looking for something to inspire your pad, be sure to visit.  If you have extra time on your hands to include brunch too, try Johnny's D's.  The jazz brunch was fun, and the food and crowd were great too.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Safari #80: deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

A walk through the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, MA is a wonderful experience for all ages. Without even trying, your curiosity will lead the way allowing you to discover creatures, sculptures, and anything else your imagination may conjure.

The sculptures were so well incorporated with their surroundings that it was surprising to stumble upon some of them.  I loved the adventure.  And you will too.    

My tips:
  • Free? Yes, there is free admission every Wednesday for all visitors.  Lincoln residents have free membership at any time. 
  • Like to Bike? Excellent.  Ride your bike to the museum and your entrance is free. And with a picnic lunch (see below), you've got a great day ahead of you.
  • Pack Up.  A number of visitors, regardless of entry level, brought picnics with then to enjoy the view and the lush surroundings.  I suggest you do the same.
  • Go to the Top. Don't forget to get a view of the entire park from the roof deck.  You'll have a view of the outdoor park as well as the nearby reservoir - simply magnificent! 
  • Do Yoga.  The park offers many great events, including yoga.  See the special event schedule for more information.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Safari #79: Boston's 4th of July Fireworks

Every 4th of July, I rally to find the perfect spot to watch Boston's fireworks.

This year, the view I found was different. In fact, it broke my heart.

Whatever your feelings about American politics, one fact will always ring true: we are fortunate. Part of what makes this possible are those who serve to protect and honor our freedom.

But when returning from service, the transition for veterans isn't always easy.  Shelter Legal Services (SLS), a non-profit law firm, helps to make that transition easier.  This year, SLS provided my view of the fireworks as a part of their yearly fundraiser.  The event allowed me to get closer to both the fireworks - and veterans.

While I stood there watching the fireworks explode, my heart swelled, my eyes watered, and my throat closed.  I couldn't breathe, and then I realized where all my emotion came from: I was proud.  I was thankful.

And I will always be.

My tips:
  • Attend the Fundraiser.  The event sells out every year, so make sure you inquire early about tickets.  Your ticket includes food, hors d'ouveres, and cocktails/soft drinks -  not to mention the view of the Esplanade fireworks.
  • Rather Make Your Own Plans for the 4th? No problem. Shelter accepts donations year round.  There is always a way for you to help.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Safari #78: Boston Duck Tour

Do you have out of town visitors heading your way this summer? If so, here's one perfect way to introduce them to our beloved Hub - a Boston Duck Tour.   

And now after my first tour, I can see what everyone has been quacking about.

Duck boats are amphibious vehicles that allow you to see Boston from both the street - and the water. These historic tours take you through Boston's quintessential neighborhoods all the while sharing history, tips, and secrets along the way.

It's the perfect introduction to the city for tourists, newbies, and locals - who may need a reminder of all the wonderful things at their fingertips. The views of the city from the Charles River - especially on gorgeous summer day - will leave you longing to take a stroll, jog, or kayak trip on the Esplanade.

**If you want to make a full day of your trip, try the fixed price lunch at Top of Hub or a frosty beverage afterwards and continue delighting your guests with awesome views of the city.

Sounds like the perfect day to me.

My Tips:
  • Book Early. Boston Duck Tours are very popular with locals and tourists alike. As soon as you make your plans, act fast.
  • Take the Tour from the Prudential Center. Don't get me wrong - the Museum of Science and Aquarium locations are great, especially if you plan to take your guests there.  However, if you want to get off the boat and go to any of the sights you saw while on board the Duck, catch your tour from the Pru.
  • Kids Are Captains. Under the careful guidance on your tour guide, small children are allowed to steer the boat when it's out on the Charles River.  What a great way to make a memory last for a little one!
  • Special Needs? If you are planning to take small children or elderly passengers with you, keep in mind that you may need extra time getting on and off of the vehicle. If you have a passenger with special needs, try to make arrangements to sit right up front or in the last row as there is more room in both locations.  Speak to the tour representative for more details.
  • Make a Donation. When you purchase your tickets online, you have the opportunity to round up your purchase to the next dollar to make a charitable donation to Community Boating - easily viewable from the water portion of the tour. 
**Thanks to the Marriot Courtyard for the image!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Safari #77: NYC's Old City Hall Subway Station

Fellow travelers, every once in a while, I head down to NYC for a new adventure.  And whenever I do, I always share.  This adventure is truly one of a kind.

In Boston, there are many abandoned subway stations, but we rarely get to pass through them - legally. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit what was once the shining beacon of NYC subway - the old City Hall station.

Built originally as the terminal station of the Lexington Avenue Line (the first line built for the NYC Subway), the City Hall station was meant to inspire travelers with its beauty. The station tunnel contains 15 vaulted archways (designed by R. Guastavino - the same designer of the vaulted Bates Hall in the Boston Public Library), some of which include glass skylights that allow natural light underground via small glass squares at the surface.

In the mid-1940's, the station was abandoned as travelers began to use the newly build Brooklyn Bridge station with connections to multiple lines.

It's sad to think that something so beautiful sits alone, longingly awaiting the light of a passing train.

Catch Your Glimpse
  • Take the 6 Train. The 6 train (downtown) ends at the Brooklyn Bridge station.  At the final stop, passengers are asked to leave the train, but stay on board.  The train will turn around within the City Hall station, allowing you to catch a rare glimpse of the vaulted tunnel and skylights.
  • Take a Tour with the New York Transit Museum. After becoming a member of the museum, you can register to take a private tour with the museum.  You will board a 6 train and be able to get out and walk within the station itself.  A docent is available to discuss the history of the station itself as well as the New York subway system. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Safari #76: Boston Dragon Boat Festival

How many events can boast that they are the largest in the United States?

Well, the Boston Dragon Boat Festival can - and it's right in your backyard.

Taking place over the course of two days, the festival is full of cultural performances, street vendors, and of course, boat races along the Charles River. It is the first and largest dragon boat festival in the country, and it has been taking place since the late 1970's.

Nearly 50 teams compete in racing heats over the weekend, with the final winners crowned towards the end of the day on Sunday. The event is great for all ages as there is something for everyone. 

My Tips:
  • Free. The festival is free, but if you're so included, make a donation to the organization.

  • Bring a blanket or lawn chairs. The only way to find a comfortable seat is to grab some grass.
  • Places to Watch. Both the John W. Weeks bridge and the Cambridge side of the Charles River are great places to view the shows. In additional, the street festival and cultural performances are located there as well.
Images kindly borrowed from http://www.flickr.com/photos/leslee/8999340652/sizes/l/in/set-72157634028471973/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/leslee/8998154589/in/set-72157634028471973

Friday, May 3, 2013

Safari #75: Top of the Hub

With the tragic events of late, I've never been more proud to call Boston home. Long walks through the Common, Public Garden, and down along Boylston Street have reminded me that this city and the fact that we are able to live here is a gift unto itself.

I found myself longing to look upon my home, and this past week, I went to Top of the Hub for the first time. It seemed fitting, and I felt at peace looking upon Boston at sunset.

If you have never been, consider it a prescription. To make an easy visit, simply opt for a seat at the bar, enjoy a beverage, and strike up a conversation with a fellow Bostonian or out of town visitor.

We should all share this gift together.  

*Special thanks to Anshul for spending the moment with the me and making the trip possible.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Safari #74: NYC's HighLine

A vision can be nothing short of a dream, especially when it involves the seemingly impossible.

To envision an abandoned elevated rail as a pedestrian walkway, full of greenery, art, modern architectural highlights, and gathering space is quite visionary indeed. The New York City HighLine, spanning nearly 1.5 miles from Gansevoort Street to W 30th, is the vision of Friends of the HighLine, a neighborhood organization dedicated to reclaiming the once abandoned railway.

Today, the vision is a reality, and the park (opened in two phases both in 2009 and 2011) is begging you to visit.  With temperatures hovering in the mid-60's this past weekend with full sun, walking the HighLine for the first time was an absolute pleasure. The HighLine reminded me of converted spaces in Boston - like the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

The next time you visit NYC from Boston, add a stroll down the HighLine to your list of to do's. In fact, I'd say it's a must do every time.

My tips:
  • Grab a Map. There are 9 entrances to the HighLine starting at Gansevoort Street to W. 30th Street. Bathrooms are available at W. 16th Street.
  • Take a Tour.  Free tours take place every Tuesday at 6:30pm. Be sure to sign up in advance to guarantee a spot as these are in high-demand during the warmer months. If you can't make a free tour, pay $15 to take a scheduled tour.
  • Chill Like a New Yorker. Pick up lunch, grab a friend, and enjoy your meal on the HighLine - there are plenty of benches, theater style sitting areas (where you can watch the crowds down below), and green space.
Many thanks to Jen for taking a stroll with me!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Safari #73: Movie Night at the ICA

If you've already been to Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art on Thursday nights, pat yourself on the back.  For your next visit, try heading there on a Friday night to experience Movie Night.

Yes, the ICA shows movies too.

Every now and then, First Friday at the ICA turns into Movie Night, where independent films are played in the museum theater with drinks and treats on the first floor.  This past Movie Night featured the 2013 Oscar Animated Shorts, which were in short (hee hee), awesome.

A red carpet and photo booth were on hand to chronicle the event along with live music to keep the place hopping.  Popcorn and movie-themed flatbreads were available to nosh, and Harpoon IPA graciously offered free pours.

My Tips
  • Get Your Tickets Early.  This is a popular event. Be prepared and buy your tickets early. You can pick them up at Will Call. More information on tickets is available via the website.
  • Food. Treats are only allowed on the ground floor of the museum. Even though you can't eat while watching the film, nosh first, head upstairs and then head back down to enjoy some more. Pace yourself, and you'll have a great time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Safari #72: Franklin Park's Sex at the Zoo

In celebration of Valentine's Day last week, my sweetie and I attended a lecture at the Franklin Park Zoo.  You may be thinking, "A lecture? How romantic". 

Well, as a matter of fact, it was.

The Sex at the Zoo lecture, held in the Tropical Forest Pavilion,  highlighted the love rituals certain species use to attract (and retain) a mate.

Before heading into the classroom for the lecture, we were free to stroll around within the Pavilion itself enjoying the exhibits. Representatives from the Samuel Adams Brewery, Barefoot Wine, and Cabot Cheese were dotted along the way offering beer, wine, and hors d'oeuvres. Zoo staff were also on hand to answer questions. The lecture was informative, enjoyable, and unbelievably hilarious. 

The event served to remind us that even animals will do anything for love, just as we should.

My Tips:
  • Details. The event costs $25. There were two lecture times available allowing you enough time to tour the Pavilion, enjoy treats, and attend the lecture.
  • Plan for Next Year.  Visit the events section Franklin Park Zoo website for information about similar programming and just before Valentine's Day 2014.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Safari #71: First Friday's at the MFA

While it's true that I've been to the Museum of Fine Arts numerous times, I've only been to First Friday twice. The first time was when I first arrived in Boston (sans blog) and this past Friday.

With two visits to compare plus the fact that there is now a New Wing, I have to say that a First Friday night out is well worth it.

Well-heeled Bostonians gather in the main lobby of the New Wing for cocktails, nibbles and free form dancing. Folks attend to see, be seen, and get down - yes, the area in front of the main speakers turns into an impromptu dance floor towards the end of the night.

After you enjoy your cocktails, don't forget to take a stroll through the galleries. The galleries are unusually quiet at this time, allowing you truly stroll through at your leisure.  First Fridays are also a great time to check out new exhibits given the smaller crowds.

My Tips:
  • Get Tickets Early. Via the MFA website, you can get your tickets in advance rather than waiting in line the night of the event.  Tickets are $25. Members can attend for free. 
  • Bring Cash. The bars only accept cash, so if you plan to enjoy a few rounds, make sure you have enough cash on hand to do so.
  • Dress Up. Putting on the ritz with a cocktail in hand is fun and so is people watching.
  • Flirt. Yes, if you are single and looking to mingle, this is truly your place to do it. I was surprised at the number of singletons who weren't at all the least bit shy.
  • Watch Yourself. Don't forget that you are in a museum. Enjoy the art, respect the patrons, and don't be a hot mess with your cocktails - wait until your next destination if you can't help yourself.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Safari #70: Free Thursdays at the ICA

If you're looking to start your weekend a little early, free Thursday night's at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is a great way to start. With rotating exhibits year round, free Thursdays are an easy and inexpensive way to broaden your art palate.

The current exhibit, Art, Love, and Politics in the 1980's, offers a holistic view of the diversity of work produced during the 80's including many pieces dealing with social issues.  If you want to learn more about specific pieces, use your cell phone to dial an audio guide.

The ICA is a short walk from Boston's South Station.

While you're in the area, don't forget to explore some of the fabulous restaurants and other sites nearby. Some of my favorites:
  • Papagayo - if you saw my post about tequila snow cones, you'll definitely want to head here afterwards for a meal.
  • Drink - in a place where no menus exist, simply tell your server what kind of drinks you enjoy, and one will be made especially for you.
  • More Art - take a look into the harbor for temporary floating art from the Boston Art Commission, and don't forget about the waterfront near the Children's Museum.  As of this week, Listener is now on display. Give it a shout!
*Image of the ICA kindly borrowed from http://architecturerevived.blogspot.com/2008/11/institute-of-contemporary-art-ica.html