How to dazzle your out-of-town guests
Expecting guests this summer? Don’t sweat it. These themed weekend itineraries can help you play the perfect host. Stick to one – or mix and match to create your own.
Do Kick off the weekend in Harvard Square. This year marks the 50th anniversary of JFK’s election as president. To celebrate, The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum has compiled a self-guided tour of Kennedy landmarks, many in Cambridge. Stop by Winthrop House on the Harvard College campus, where Kennedy had his dorm rooms. (His rooms are now known as the “Kennedy Suite” and house guest speakers.) Then gaze at the stately Spee Club headquarters, the all-male social club where Kennedy schmoozed during his college days. Don’t even think about sneaking in, though – access is for members only. A “Kennedy Connections” itinerary is available both online and in print from the library. For more Harvard sightseeing, book a “Hahvahd Tour.” These 70-minute walks, led by students, offer a cheeky look at university life and lore. Admission is free, but a tip is suggested.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Columbia Point, Dorchester, 866-535-1960, http://www.jfklibrary.org; The Hahvahd Tour, 1 Mifflin Place, Suite 400, Cambridge, 617-674-7788, http://www.unofficialtours.com
Dine Indulge at Mr. Bartley’s Gourmet Burgers. The beloved burger-and-frappe shack also celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Visitors will love the zanily topped burgers, named after Massachusetts notables like John Kerry and Kevin Garnett; dining napkin to elbow with Cambridge characters makes for a colorful introduction to the city. (Less palatable is the lack of bathrooms – be forewarned.)
Mr. Bartley’s Gourmet Burgers, 1246 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617-354-6559, http://www.mrbartley.com
Saturday Do Boston by Foot offers eclectic guided walking tours, from explorations of the Boston subway system to an excursion based on children’s novel Johnny Tremain. Its Literary Landmarks tour provides a thorough overview of the city’s place in letters. Trace the paths of Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau, commencing at the site of the Old Corner Bookstore, where The Scarlet Letter and The Atlantic Monthly were published.
Boston by Foot, 77 North Washington Street, Boston, 617-367-2345, http://www.bostonbyfoot.org
Dine Refuel at Stoddard’s Fine Food & Ale in Downtown Crossing. The building, constructed in 1868, is part of the Temple Place Historic District. Previously home to a corset shop and a cutlery store, the revamped Stoddard’s serves old-fashioned slings, rickeys, and entrees ranging from striped bass to stuffed quail. Check out the shoeshine stand, artifacts from the old Filene’s department store, and a manually operated antique elevator.
Stoddard’s Fine Food & Ale, 48 Temple Place, Boston, 617-426-0048, http://www.stoddardsfoodandale.com
Sunday Do Travel to Concord, approximately 30 minutes northwest of Boston. First visit the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, a brambly patch of land near the town square. Here, you can see the graves of Louisa May Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson, nestled in a hilly area called Authors Ridge. Then duck into the Colonial Inn, where Minutemen hid weapons during the American Revolution.
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, 129 Bedford Street, Concord; Colonial Inn, 48 Monument Square, Concord Center, 978-369-9200, http://www.concordscolonialinn.com
Dine Your best bet is a picnic from the Concord Cheese Shop. Get sandwiches to go and decamp to Walden Pond, where Thoreau lived before publishing the classic Walden. The pond is now a National Historic Landmark, and the surrounding 462-acre state reservation is a five-minute drive from the town center.
ARTS AND CULTURE LOVERS
Friday Do Spend a languid twilight at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, northwest of Boston. Its 35-acre modern sculpture park is the ideal pastoral romp, and on July 23 and 30, museum admission is free from 5 to 9 p.m. This “Free Friday Nights” program includes outdoor concerts on the sculpture terrace, dance performances, and art exhibits. On other Fridays, the museum closes at 5 p.m., but the sculpture park always remains open until dusk. Park access is free after the museum closes.
deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, 51 Sandy Pond Road, Lincoln, 781-259-8355, http://www.decordova.org
Dine Dazzle guests with a sophisticated supper at Lincoln’s AKA Bistro. (Note: Visitors to the deCordova receive a voucher at the museum for complimentary dessert at AKA with lunch or dinner.) The kitchen, which offers both sashimi and French dishes, is helmed by Chris Chung, formerly of Ken Oringer’s Uni. For a real splurge, opt for the new “Taste of AKA” menu featuring four sashimi courses, two French courses, and dessert for $90 per person.
AKA Bistro, 145 Lincoln Road, Lincoln, 781-259-9920, http://www.akabistrolincoln.com
Saturday Do Head to Fan Pier for Cirque du Soleil’s newest spectacle, OVO, under Cirque’s signature traveling blue-and-yellow big top. OVO is the visually stunning, acrobatically amazing tale of a fly and a ladybug in love. The show runs July 22 through August 15. There are two shows on Saturdays, at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Bonus: The galleries of Fort Point Channel and the Institute of Contemporary Art are within easy walking distance for pre-show exploration.
Cirque du Soleil, Fan Pier, 800-450-1480, http://www.cirquedusoleil.com
Dine Clothing store Louis (formerly Louis Boston) recently docked at Fan Pier complete with a redesign and a brand-new restaurant, Sam’s, a convenient spot for dinner before or after the show. Discriminating shoppers will appreciate the store’s upscale threads and covetable housewares and accessories; refined palates will relish Sam’s brasserie-style medley of mussels, roast chicken, and the like. Design is sleek and minimalist; the sparkly waterfront view and patio seating are luscious; prices are middle of the road.
Sunday Do Spend a mellow morning wandering the stalls and chatting with neighborly artisans at the South End Open Market. Browse paintings, jewelry, pottery, and more. Then stroll a few blocks to Aunt Sadie’s candle shop. Inhale deeply. Perhaps a Green Monster-scented candle for a souvenir?
Dine Have breakfast or lunch on the cheap at Mike & Patty’s in Bay Village. The restaurant is teensy; portions are not. A monstrous breakfast torta stuffed with poblanos, refritos, avocado, eggs, salsa, and cheese costs less than $10.
Mike & Patty’s, 12 Church Street, Boston, 617-423-3447, http://www.mikeandpattys.com
FAMILIES WITH KIDS
Friday Dine On select Friday evenings, Aura at the Seaport Hotel offers a $30 prix fixe menu for parents and an accompanying menu for kids, featuring health-conscious treats like organic chocolate chip cookies and turkey burgers. There’s also a kids’ room with toys, books, and movies, so parents can dine peacefully. Or pop into one of the North End’s many family restaurants (Antico Forno, L’Osteria, and Pizzeria Regina are kid- and wallet-friendly).
Aura Restaurant, 1 Seaport Lane, Boston, 617-385-4300, http://www.aurarestaurant.com
Do Watch the sunlight melt over the water and enjoy a movie with the Boston Harbor Hotel’s free “Movies by Moonlight” series. The hotel screens classics for the whole family, including Tootsie and Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s a relaxing, frugal way to launch the weekend. Showtime starts at dusk.
Boston Harbor Hotel, 70 Rowes Wharf, Boston, 617-439-7000, http://www.bhh.com
Saturday Do Cool off on a whale watch run by the New England Aquarium. The three- to four-hour guided excursions leave from the aquarium dock in Boston and venture to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, 25 miles off the coast. Kids can gawk at whales, seabirds, and dolphins; parents can unwind and savor the view (and there’s a snack bar on board). Book the 10 a.m. cruise to return to dry land in time to catch a 6 p.m. ImprovBoston Family Show comedy performance in Cambridge’s Central Square. The madcap troupe always summons pint-size performers on stage for sketches. The show lasts an hour – ideal for shorter attention spans.
Dine After the show, dine nearby at Picante, a friendly counter-service Mexican joint. Service is brisk, and prices are low; weary parents will appreciate that beer is served. After dinner, walk to Toscanini’s Ice Cream for a funky-flavored cone.
Sunday Do Head west on Route 2 to Acton, home of the Discovery Museums. You’re in the right place if you see Bessie, a big green dinosaur, lounging outside. The campus has two museums – a science museum for both younger and older kids and a colorful Victorian house packed with activities suitable for babies through early elementary schoolers.
Discovery Museums, 177 Main Street (Route 27), Acton, 978-264-4200, http://www.discoverymuseums.org
Dine Since you’re already out in the burbs, hop in the car and head to Kimball Farm in Westford. Once known exclusively for massive portions of ice cream (especially the Kimball’s Special, three gargantuan scoops of ice cream bathed in every topping imaginable), this former roadside stand is now a mini theme park, complete with bumper boats, hot-air-balloon rides, batting cages, and mini golf. Plan on lengthy lines – and share the Special. Burgers and seafood are also available.
Kimball Farm, 400 Littleton Road, Westford, 978-486-3891, http://www.kimballfarm.com
Friday Do and Dine Introduce guests to Boston by kayak with a sightseeing tour on the Charles. The Charles River Canoe & Kayak Friday night barbecue paddle tours leave at 6 o’clock from Allston/Brighton and Kendall Square in Cambridge; the guided, scenic paddle lasts approximately two hours, explores man-made and natural landmarks, and caps off with a catered feast courtesy of Somerville’s Redbones Barbecue. Book at least 24 hours in advance.
Charles River Canoe & Kayak, 2401 Commonwealth Avenue, Newton, 617-965-5110, http://www.paddleboston.com
Saturday Do No visit to Boston would be complete without a trip to Fenway Park. Even if game-day tickets prove elusive, you can still glimpse America’s oldest active Major League ballpark. In-season 50-minute tours cost $10 to $12 per person; tours that include field and batting-practice access (when available) cost $20. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Fenway Park, 4 Yawkey Way, Boston, 617-226-6666, http://www.boston.redsox.mlb.com
Dine Just around the corner is Basho, a slick new sushi parlor with a spacious patio. A healthy change of pace from hot dogs and beer, Basho offers a cute promotion during
Basho, 1338 Boylston Street, Boston, 617-262-1338, http://www.bashosushi.com
Sunday Do Drive to Jenness State Beach, just over the border in Rye, New Hampshire. Take Route 1A. The scenery is majestic: on your right, the craggy Atlantic coastline, on your left, Gatsby-esque oceanfront estates. Parking is relatively cheap and easy – feed a meter for $1.50 per hour instead of paying the hefty flat fee charged at so many other beaches.
Jenness State Beach, Route 1A, Rye, New Hampshire, 603-436-1552, http://www.nhstateparks.com/jenness.html
Dine Petey’s Summertime Seafood has the best lobster rolls in town – sandwiches, really, as they’re served on burger buns. It’s also notoriously crowded, so eat in the midafternoon, when there’s a lull. Try for a spot on the upstairs deck, where the air is as salty as the waitresses.