Saturday, November 15, 2014

Safari #91: The Paint Bar on Newbury Street

Paint night has been a popular activity for the past few years in Boston - one that  I participated in not too long ago.  However, a new venue has opened in Boston's Back Bay, and if you haven't done a paint night yet, now it's time to go.

The paint night idea is simple: you learn how to paint and get to enjoy an adult beverage of your choice.  But the Paint Bar on Newbury Street takes it to another level; the small, intimate space (much unlike other paint night events) allows you to interact more with each other and the instructor; ours spent time teaching about basic art concepts as well as different painting techniques.  It was a great way to learn, explore, and have fun all at the same time.
Our finished painting!

The space is also available for private functions, which definitely got me thinking about future events.  Conveniently located in Boston's Back Bay, Paint Bar is easily accessible from the Green Line.  Metered parking is available on Newbury Street.

My Tips:
  • Don't dress too nicely.  Even though you get to wear an apron, don't risk spilling paint on your favorite shirt.
  • Eat locally.  Newbury is filled with different restaurants.  Make a night of the experience and enjoy a meal nearby.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Safari #90: Boston Public Garden Swan Boats

In the seven years I've been a Bostonian, I have never taken a Swan Boat ride in the Public Garden (smh, and you're probably shaking yours too). 

Now I can say I have, and I can also say that it was really enjoyable.  I should have done it a long time ago.  The weather was perfect and the ducks and nesting swans were enjoying the lagoon just as much as we were.

The Boston Swan boats have been continuously running and operated by the Paget family since 1877; the boats are a uniquely Boston experience, and for $3 per person ($1.50 for children), it's accessible to anyone who wishes to partake.  It's an easy activity for families, seniors, and visiting guests.

My Tips
  • Visit the Gibson House First.  Back Bay residents from the 1860's did not have sprawling back yards for a reason - the Public Garden was created for strolling and time spent outdoors.  The Gibson House will give you a great look into the lives of wealthy Boston residents through architecture, decoration, and daily living.  When you're done touring the house, visit the Public Garden and take a Swan Boat ride to do exactly as they did.
  • Don't Let Waiting in Line Make Your Decision. Waiting in line for a swan boat ride is fairly common and may turn those away who think they'll be waiting a long time.  On the day of my ride, there were close to 30 people in front of me, but it only took 15 minutes or so to get onto a boat.
  • Pack a Picnic.  If the weather is nice and you're able to plan ahead, pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the Public Garden like a Bostonian does.  On the day of my ride, it was awesome to see so many people out enjoying the garden.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Safari #89: Gibson House Museum

Boston's Back Bay neighborhood is filled with historic homes, and after recently moving there in September, my fascination with them has continued to grow.  My little apartment hardly resembles what was once a true Back Bay gem.  The sealed fireplace, crown molding, and empty chandelier medallions allude to a time that once was; a time that the majority of Back Bay residents haven't known. Until now.

The Gibson House Museum, located at 137 Beacon Street, highlights Back Bay life from 1860 to the mid 1950's.  The house is frozen in time still bearing many of it's original decorations, artwork, room arrangements, and technology (such as the central heating system).
Central Heating Chamber

Tours are guided and take place on the hour at 1, 2 and 3pm Wednesday through Sunday.  The tour takes less than an hour and admission is $9 for adults and $3 for children under 12.  Please visit the website for more information about tours and pricing.

My Tips
  • Have Family Visiting From Out of Town?  Take them to the Gibson House Museum and then on a short stroll to the Boston Public Garden.  Depending on the weather, take a Swan Boat ride too.  It's the perfect way to showcase Boston's most popular neighborhoods.
  • Dress Wisely.  The Gibson House was designed as a winter home as the Gibson family spent most of its time in Nahant during the summer.  If you are visiting in the summer (like I did), be sure to wear cool clothing as the house is not air conditioned.

Calling Bells - Similar to Downton Abbey!

**Gibson House Museum image kindly borrowed from Wikipedia at  All other images are my own.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Safari #88: Boston Urban Adventure Quest

I run around Boston daily - but it's not every day that I get to do it with a team on a quest.

This past Saturday, a group of friends and I played Urban Adventure Quest, a quiz-based game that will take you around the city of your choice to answer trivia questions and solve puzzles.  Using your smart phone, you can use the web interface to answer questions and move through the tour.  The challenges brought us to different sites across town, each emphasizing pieces of Boston's history and culture.  Even though I've been living in Boston for 7 years now, I still learned a great deal. 

At a certain point, we began to wonder if anyone else was playing, and then we saw 3 other teams making their way around town as well.  It was awesome to feel the excitement of racing to the finish. 

Many thanks to Anshul, Jen, Supreet, and Jeff for a great afternoon!

My Tips
  • Friends or Family Coming to Visit?  This is the PERFECT way to take out of town guests around major Boston sites in a completely different way.  The next time my brother comes to town, we are doing this!
  • Wear Comfortable Shoes.  The tour roughly involves 2 to 2.5 miles of walking.  Be prepared!  Depending on the weather, you may wish to bring a backpack with water and other refreshments.
  • Rules.  Teams can range from 2 to 5 players.  Visit the Urban Adventure Quest website for more information on how to join a tour.
  • Need a Bathroom Break?  One of sites on the tour is Faneuil Hall.  Don't forget, bathrooms are located towards the center of the building, so take a break if you need one!

**Image kindly borrowed from

Monday, March 24, 2014

Safari #87: Creating Art at the ICA's Art Lab

A few weeks ago, I dropped into the ICA's Art Lab - a space that allows you to explore your creative side using a current gallery piece or artist as inspiration.  With a moderator available to assist you, you can choose your inspiration, grab an activity bag full of supplies, and create something of your very own.

My inspiration came from artist Phillp Taaffe.  Using perspective and a sample within the gallery, I was able to try my hand at creating a perspective of my own.

As you are reading this post, you might be wondering - is this geared more towards kids? Heck no!  During my visit, there were people of all ages tapping into their own creativity.  I encourage you to tap into yours and visit as soon as you can.

My Tips
  • Go Now!  The Art Lab now features work by Nick Cave. If you haven't seen this new exhibit yet, be sure to visit and then head to the Art Lab to try your hand.
  • Be Flexible. The Art Lab is open Thursdays from 5pm to 9pm, and 10am to 5pm on Saturday and Sundays.  Free with museum admission. And of course, if you visit on Thursday, it's free.
  • Make a day of it.  With great spots nearby in Fort Point (Drink, Tavern Road, Row 34, and Blue Dragon to name a few), why not stay in the area?
Many thanks for Anshul and Jen for joining me!

 **Art Lab image kindly borrowed from

Monday, January 20, 2014

Safari #86: Third Thursdays at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

I finally had a chance to visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner for Third Thursdays this past week.  I had such a great time that I can't wait to again soon.

The museum itself (if you haven't been) is the personal collection of the museum's namesake.  Isabella Stewart Gardner had an amazing appetite for art, and she built the museum on Louis Prang Avenue to house her collection.  Today, visitors can enjoy her works and attend special events, such as Third Thursday.

In 2012 the new wing of the museum opened offering an onsite cafe, bookstore, library, performance hall and other educational spaces.  Third Thursday embraces these new spaces with fun and creative activities.  In addition, cocktails are served on the ground floor of the museum.  During my trip themed Midwinter Tropics, we created succulent gardens using an assortment of plants, mosses and other decorative elements.

One of the evening's highlights was artist Victoria Shen's Modernist Manicures. These tiny creations embraced Victoria's vision of accessible art; viewers can sometimes find modern art difficult as it challenges our traditional understanding of art.  Victoria's masterpieces make modern art more understandable through personal interaction and ultimately by allowing the viewer to wear it.

Here's a short video of the finished work:

**Image of the interior courtyard of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum kindly borrowed from

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Safari #85: Cathedral of St. John the Divine

I just love it when my out of town adventures have connections to Boston.

The Upper West Side of Manhattan is home to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine - the 4th largest church in the world.  Whenever I  leave the city, I always pass it (mouth agape) as I make my way up Amsterdam Avenue.  For years, I've wondered about the interior. Until now.

I recently took a climbing vertical tour of the church that highlights the art and  architecture as you make your way up. The details of the construction are unbelievable, and if you've read my other art and architecture related posts for Boston and New York, some of the connections I'm about to mention are incredible too.

The Cathedral was designed by George Lewis Heins and Christopher Grant LaFarge, son of John LaFarge, the famous designer of the stained glass windows in Trinity Church.  Both met while studying at MIT and worked with Henry Hobson Richardson, the architect of Trinity Church.  In addition, the numerous vaulted ceilings inside the church were designed by none other than Rafael Guastavino, one of the designers commissioned to work on our own Boston Public Library as well as the tiled vaults of the NYC Subway's City Hall Station.

I'm always amazed to see how interconnected our cities are using the lens of art and architecture.  I hope this post inspires to you climb to new heights this year, travel outside of your comfort zone, and discover new connections.

My Tips:
  • Check out the Tours! The Cathedral is open to the public, but to get the best view, sign up for a tour.  Our docent was informative and friendly, and I never thought I'd see the roof from above the church itself!
  • Afraid of Heights? The Vertical Tour might not be for you.  If you decide to go, you can walk back down at any time.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. I'd recommend sneakers or something with a rubber sole.