BOSTON is a city of ghosts, but on the coldest of days, don’t expect them to come to you. Instead, visit Forest Hills Cemetery, a rambling Victorian-era burial ground about four miles from downtown and a splendidly quiet place to roam. Winding paths crisscross its 275 acres, and if you pick up a map by the entrance, you can find the graves of Anne Sexton, E. E. Cummings and Eugene O’Neill. Drive slowly along the narrow roads until you find a good place to park and wander. On a recent morning, snow crunched underfoot and fell in soft chunks from the treetops. Bliss.
After an hour or two of tromping, you will be thoroughly chilled and getting hungry. Drive a few miles north to Brookline, where you can thaw out by a stone hearth at the Fireplace, known for coziness and New England comfort food. The sweet-spiced squash bisque with Great Hill blue cheese and pumpkin seeds was a standout on my visit, but the tuna melt with Vermont Cheddar and the turkey club rolled in a Rhode Island johnnycake also caught my eye.
This being Boston, you must also feed your brain. In tweedy Cambridge, there is no better place to get lost than the aisles of Harvard Book Store, just off Harvard Square. It’s 75 years old and packed with titles familiar and unknown. There are separate sections for philosophy, cultural and critical theory and politics, as well as a vast fiction collection. Most customers are quietly engrossed, but you may encounter a conversation or two worth eavesdropping on.
Bundle up again and stroll a few blocks, window-shopping all the way, for your next bit of sustenance: an astoundingly rich hot cocoa at L. A. Burdick, a cafe and chocolate shop on the other side of Harvard Square. Choose from dark, milk or white chocolate, and if you dare risk overdosing, try one of Burdick’s famous chocolate mice on the side.
On the other side of the Charles River, nocturnal adventures await. Boston’s South End, brimming with homegrown shops and restaurants, historic brownstones and creative energy, is a fine place to end a wintry day. In the middle of it all is Sibling Rivalry, an upscale restaurant run by two brothers who create “dueling” menus with one set of main ingredients each season. The fall menu featured scallops, mushrooms, artichokes, bacon and beets — one brother concocted a salad of roasted beets with goat cheese fondue, walnuts and bibb lettuce, for example, while the other offered boneless short ribs of beef with roasted beets, ragout of salsify, pearl onions and carrots.
Just down the street, one of the city’s newest nightspots pulses with live music, mostly jazz, seven nights a week. Most performers are local, with the nearby Berklee College of Music providing a steady supply. You might catch a jazz organ trio, a bluesy jam band or a bossa nova chanteuse in the cavernous space, a former boiler room with exposed brick walls, red velvet curtains and funky chandeliers. Drinks like the Beehive Julep and the Moscow Mule (vodka, ginger beer and lime) will help you stay toasty.
If snow is falling, walk less than two blocks south to Union Park Street to glimpse a scene from 19th-century Boston before calling it a night. The narrow park, surrounded by cast-iron fences and gas lamps, will be lovely and still, a perfect precursor to sleep.
Forest Hills Cemetery, 95 Forest Hills Avenue, Jamaica Plain. The Fireplace, 1634 Beacon Street, Brookline; (617) 975-1900. Harvard Book Store, 1256 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge; (617) 661-1515. L. A. Burdick, 52-D Brattle Street, Cambridge; (617) 491-4340. Sibling Rivalry, 525 Tremont Street; (617) 338-5338. The Beehive, 541 Tremont Street; (617) 423-0069.