3/12/2014

Boston's Hidden Gems

One of the things I like most about Boston is that the city is very walkable and manageable. You can get pretty much anywhere in Greater Boston within 45 minutes. It's not very overwhelming, and a transplant can start to feel like a local much faster here than say NYC. However, a drawback of this is that after living in the city for a few years, you can feel like you've been everywhere. I'm constantly trying to find "new things to do over the weekend" or "things off the beaten path". My hope with the below list of Boston's Hidden Gems is that someone who has lived in the city for five years hasn't heard of, or at least hasn't been to, some of these.

It's always fun to drink and swim outside. Image Source 
Colonnade Pool
Open Memorial Day through Labor Day, this is the perfect place to get some sun and one of the few (if not only) rooftop pools in Boston. The pool is open 8:00 am until midnight, and after 7:00 pm it's adults only (you can still wear floaties though). In the past, it has been $40 per person per day to access the pool (unless you're a hotel guest, in which case it's free), but their website currently lists the daily rate as "TBA", so that may change this summer. Yes, it's a tad pricey, but try and make a day out of it. They also have a lot of concerts here during the summer and it's available to rent out for private events (someone please host a Vegas-style pool party and invite me). 

One barrel holds 53 gallons.
Bully Boy Distillers
I've done brewery tours before (maybe you could have classified Harpoon as a hidden gem a few years ago, but now that place is slammed every day of the week), but Bully Boy was my first distillery tour, and I have to say it was an awesome experience. Don't expect anything like Harpoon; it's a small craft distillery in Roxbury (there isn't even signage on the building).  It's only a four man operation, and the guy giving the tour was really fun. The tour starts out with a tasting of a mixed cocktail (when I went, it was some sort of delicious iced tea concoction) and a short video. He walked us through the distillery and explained the process of making rum, whiskey, and vodka. At the end of the tour, we got to taste about 1/2 shot worth of all six of their liquors (White Rum, Boston Rum, Vodka, White Whiskey, and American Straight Whiskey). The tours sell out far in advance and cost $10.

Actually sits on top of a parking garage. Image Source
Cambridge Center Roof Garden
Not many people know this secret garden exists. It's on the roof of the parking garage at 4 Cambridge Center. To get here you actually want to use the elevators at the entrance of 54 Broadway and head to the top floor. Once you get off the elevator, you are presented with an awesome oasis in the middle of Kendall Square. Some people say it gets busy during the M-F lunch hour, but when I went on a sunny Monday afternoon not a single soul was up there. There is barely any seating, so bring a blanket or be prepared for grass stains. There's not much of a view as you are pretty much surrounded by office buildings, but it would be great to grab some food at Bon Me nearby and have yourself a picnic. 

Cheese Cave at Formaggio Kitchen 
Look at all these aging cheeses. Image Source
First, Formaggio is a specialty cheese, wine, charcuterie, olive oil, chocolate, jam, and honey store (delicious, I know). They're located about a mile west of Harvard Square, so either a 20 minute walk or short bus ride on the 72 from the T. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, but be careful because you can spend a lot of money here pretty quickly. However, what I want to tell you about are the classes and events they offer, particularly the Brave the Caves Tour. Formaggio stores hundreds of pounds of cheese beneath the store. They cave isn't a naturally occurring one, but still pretty cool (not Batcave cool, but cool). For $55 a ticket, you learn all about the process of aging and caring for cheese. The best part is while you're busy learning about cheese, you also get to eat the cheese and small plates of charcuterie, jam, and honey paired with wine and beer! Be warned: if you go in the summer, dress for cave-like conditions (e.g. jacket and shoes that can get wet).

So many treasures inside this hidden gem.
Cambridge Antique Market
If you're looking for an inside activity, this is your spot. You could spend hours in this place. It's a hoarders wet dream. Think SOWA Antique Market, but bigger and cheaper. There are 5 floors with dealer spaces offering everything from a variety of Christmas decorations to old Coca Cola memorabilia to clothing and jewelry. It's located pretty close to the Alewife T stop on the green line. They also have a huge selection of used bicycles in the basement. Practically everything in the place is 20% off. I've bought a bowl made out of a vinyl record and an antique wooden crate there.

Sailing at Piers Park opens April 15th. Image Source
If you're ever in Eastie, this is definitely a park to check out. It's right on the water and has one of the best views of the city. There's also a sailing center, which is open to the public and offers sailing lessons and harbor cruises. Probably one of the most underutilized parks in the city (likely due to the fact that it's in East Boston), but it's only a 1/2 mile from the Maverick T station on the Blue Line. The park also has this weird aerobics course/adult jungle gym area that I'm sure Richard Simmons would love. However, a huge bummer is that the park doesn't allow any "ball playing" or grills, but I'm no tattletale. Would also make a great place to take wedding or engagement pictures. 

Burger and a beer please! Image Source
Tasty Burger 
OK, Tasty Burger itself is not a hidden gem. Boston Magazine just ranked it the 3rd best burger in Harvard Square, and at only $5.25 I think it's a steal (especially compared to Bartley's). However, what most people don't know about this particular location is that the basement has a bar complete with a jukebox and pool table, and it's open until 4 am (although they stop serving alcohol at 2). They do trivia night on Thursdays. The drinks are very reasonably priced and they even sell pitchers. If beer isn't your thing, they also have wine. And get this: they also have champagne! It might be in a can and called sparkling wine, but it is bubbly nonetheless in my book. 

"Charlie and Sheba" by Anonymous Image Source
MOBA (Museum of Bad Art)
It's exactly what it sounds like: a museum filled with bad art (their tagline is actually "Art Too Bad To Be Ignored"). There are 3 physical locations: Somerville Theatre (free admission with the purchase of a movie ticket), Brookline Access Television (free admission), and Dedham Community Theatre (this location is currently closed for renovations). Each has 20-40 pieces for your viewing pleasure. They also sell a book that contains 40 images and I think would make an amazing coffee table book for anyone (except for hipsters, they might actually appreciate the art).