Monday, July 8, 2013
Save Money on a Couple's Retreat This Summer - "Stay-cation" in Boston!
As the cost of living continues to rise, the extra funding for an extravagant couples getaway continues to decline. For couples just starting out on their own, any income not going to paying bills and buying everyday necessities is going towards saving for larger purchases like a house or car. For those of us who love taking summer vacations with our special someone, having no money to spare for a week away together is a depressing thought…
However, there is no need to worry! Here in Boston, we live in a world-class city, and in all of our travels, we have really taken that fact for granted. It doesn't matter if you and your partner are “two-peas-in-a-pod” or if you’re in a more “opposites-attract” kind of relationship, the city of Boston offers something for each of you to enjoy doing, and you just might find that you’ll enjoy them even more together!
To keep things interesting, I have created a list of some of the great, under-appreciated spots in Boston that you should visit for the first time, or visit again! I've organized them into 10 can't-miss "day" trips. This list is chock-full of ideas. You may find that each "day" trip contains more than you would be able to accomplish in one day, so you might have to choose the attraction(s) that appeal most to you and your partner. Be sure to visit the websites for each of the suggestions for more information. I have tried to choose cost-effective suggestions so that your week off won't break the bank. All you need is your T pass and loved one for a wonderful couple’s "Stay-cation" week in Boston!
1. Day Trip #1: Fine Arts and Culture
If you live here, you have probably spent time at the Museum of Fine Arts and Symphony Hall at some point, but there are MANY other ways to explore arts and culture in Boston. Stop by two or three of these lesser known spots for a very enriching day! I would suggest an art museum or two in the morning and afternoon and a performance in the evening. You could even head over to Newbury Street to have lunch at the Trident Booksellers & Cafe (food and drink/bookstore). Be sure to click below and visit the various websites ahead of time for hours, special show and exhibit info.
* Take in some art at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
* Visit the Institute of Contemporary Art on the waterfront
* Get tickets to a show at or take a tour of the recently restored Boston Opera House
* See a show at Emerson College's Cutler Majestic Theater...
* ... or at Harvard's American Repertory Theater
* ... or at Boston University's Huntington Theater
* ... or at the exciting Boston Center for the Arts
* Watch some Shakespeare on the Common presented by Commonwealth Shakespeare Company
* Catch some amazing music at the Berklee Performance Center
* Support music of the 20th century through the Boston Modern Orchestra Project
2. Day Trip #2: Sports Appreciation
The Boston teams have provided fans with excitement and anticipation through each season, and continue to be the center of the sports universe (at least for us Bostonians), whether they’re winning or losing. Between the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, Celtics, and Revolution, Boston has a team to support through every season of the year. When thinking about what to see in Boston, sports appreciation is at the top of the list! While watching a major sports game together might be out of your price range, there are countless ways to appreciate sports in this city. Check out a few of these options:
* Take a tour of historic Fenway Park and check out the famous Citgo Sign
* Visit the Sports Museum (in the TD Banknorth Garden)
* Attend a game at Boston College, Boston University, or Northeastern (some are easier to get tickets to than others!)
* Visit the site at Northeastern that was once Huntington Avenue Grounds (original Red Sox home)
* Stop by the historic Boston Braves Field (Now BU's Nickerson Field)
* Catch a horse race at Suffolk Downs
* Visit Harvard Stadium
* Watch a Boston Lobsters Tennis Match
I would suggest lunch/dinner at Game On, The Fours, Cask 'n Flagon, or Boston Beer Works for the full Boston sports experience!
3. Day Trip #3: City of Learning
Above all else, when people think about Boston, they think of the rich academic culture that our city embodies. Boston has more colleges per square mile than any other city in the world. Naturally, we are a city that is overflowing with learning opportunities. Why not spend some time appreciating those opportunities? Whether you and your partner met at one of the many area colleges, or you’re new to the area, here are some wonderful ways you can spend the day learning in Boston. Break for lunch at the Boston Public Library’s Courtyard Restaurant or Maproom Cafe!
* Visit the historic and beautiful Boston Public Library
* Stop by the Boston Athenaeum
* Take a free walking tour of Harvard University or MIT
* Spend an afternoon in one of many used book stores in Boston or Cambridge
* Take a class at the Boston Center for Adult Education
* Learn about how beer is made! Take a tour of the Samuel Adams Brewery
After your intense day of learning, you'll need to kick back - stop by the Thirsty Scholar Pub for some dinner and a drink and give your brains a break!
4. Day Trip #4: History
It can easily be argued that there is really no city in the United States that is more historically significant than Boston. The city wears this identity well while still looking toward the future, mixing centuries-old beautiful buildings with modern towering skyscrapers. If you (and/or your partner) work downtown, unless you walk slowly and read the signs you pass each day (and who does that around here?) you may not realize the significance of the buildings around you. I'm sure that if you grew up around here, you have walked the Freedom Trail once or twice, but there may be more obscure historical landmarks that you have never even noticed! Take a day for the two of you to walk around a little more slowly, visit some of these interesting landmarks, and look up once in a while! While you are at it, stop by Boston's oldest restaurant, the Union Oyster House, and enjoy a delicious seafood dinner for two!
* Learn about the lives of a well-to-do family in historic Boston at the Gibson House Museum
* Visit the headquarters of Historic New England at the Otis House Museum
* Pay your respects to our forefathers and foremothers at Granary Burying Ground and King's Chapel Burying Ground
* Take a walk along the Boston Women's Heritage Trail
* Tour the historically and architecturally significant Trinity Church
5. Day Trip #5: Island Hopping
It is a little-known fact that Boston has an amazing National Park right off the coast of the city. If you and your significant other are looking for an island getaway without paying for airfare or a cruise to get there, the Boston Harbor Islands are where you want to be! The park is comprised of 34 small islands (11 of which are open to the public) just minutes away by boat. The islands vary as far as what you can do on each of them, so use this list as a guide to get you started. The National Park Service recommends picking no more than two islands to visit in one day, so take a look and choose one or two that look interesting to the two of you. Concession stands are available at Georges and Spectacle Islands, but why not bring a picnic lunch for your visit to the islands! It's the perfect excuse for a romantic picnic on the beach!
* Camp overnight on Grape, Bumpkin or Lovells Island - Permits are required
* Visit Lovells Island for the day for trails that pass by dunes and woods, picnic areas, an unsupervised swimming beach, and the remains of Fort Standish
* Visit and explore Deer Island and learn about its fascinating history
* Visit popular Georges Island, the transportation hub for the system of islands, its open fields, paved walkways and gravel beach - be sure to tour historic Fort Warren while you are there
* Check out Little Brewster, home of Boston Light, the country's oldest continuously running light house
* Experience a wide range of natural beauty and check out historic Fort Andrews at Peddocks Island
* Visit Spectacle Island, which features a marina, visitor center, cafe, a life-guarded swimming beach, and five miles of walking trails that lead to the crest of a 157 foot-high hill, offering panoramic views of the harbor and the city
* Take a tour and enjoy nature at Thompson Island, which is a particularly good choice if you have a large group (like a company or school), but is still fun for the two of you
* Picnic, fish and enjoy walking trails at Webb Memorial State Park
* Enjoy Hingham Bay, rocky beaches, ledges, cliffs, patches of salt marsh and an area of freshwater marsh at Worlds End Reservation
6. Day Trip #6: Beach Bum
If the only great vacation you can imagine is one in which you and your significant other are laying on a beach for at least a day, there are many great options for the two of you around here! You might assume that you have to drive down to the Cape or up to the North Shore for great beach experiences, and if so, you will be pleasantly surprised by the following recommendations. There are several great options easily reachable in or very near the city by subway or bus. A day at the beach requires beach food, in my opinion, and so I suggest a stop at Sullivan's at Castle Island or Kelly's Roast Beef in Revere. I've also suggested a few options that are outside the city, but easily accessible from the commuter rail, if you really want to get away from the city for the day.
* Take the Blue Line to America's First Public Beach, Revere Beach
* Throw on your swim suit and take advantage of The Boston Harborwalk
* Take the Red Line to JFK and visit Carson Beach, L and M Street Beaches, Pleasure Bay and Castle Island, which are all connected
* Take the Commuter Rail north to Ipswich Station, then board the Ipswich-Essex Explorer Shuttle to Crane Beach
* Take the Commuter Rail north to Manchester-by-the-Sea and walk a short way to Singing Beach
* Take the Amtrak Downeaster to Old Orchard Beach in Maine
7. Day Trip #7: Appreciation of Unusual Things
If you and your partner are a couple that enjoys exploring the unique and unusual aspects of a vacation destination, you have plenty of opportunities to appreciate the quirky - right here in Boston! As you are exploring a few of the following unusual spots in Boston, a couple of well loved, but certainly unique, Boston restaurants worth your time during this day would be Fire & Ice Improvisational Grill for a fun, interactive experience and the Beehive, for some great food, atmosphere and live jazz.
* Visit America's oldest car collection at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum
* Learn history from an unusual perspective on a New England Ghost Tour!
* Appreciate some art that's too bad to be ignored! Visit the Museum of Bad Art
* Explore invention, ideas and innovation (including holograms!) at the MIT Museum
* Visit the Harvard Bridge and count how many Smoots long it is!
* Take a Duck Tour (come on... you know you want to!)
* Visit the spots where your favorite movies were filmed on one of the Boston Movie Tours
* Discover the secrets of Boston through an Urban Interactive sight-seeing adventure
* Find out what is so special about the Scarlett O'Hara House
8. Day Trip #8: Nature
If you and your partner are stuck in Boston, but prefer a more serene, natural vacation, there are many options for you, even within the city limits! There are many opportunities in the city that will allow the two of you to spend time appreciating the nature surrounding you, and they may even bring you closer together as a couple! I recommend exploring some of the following locations.
* Take a ride on the Swan Boats while visiting the Boston Public Garden
* Hang out with the animals at the Franklin Park Zoo in the heart of Franklin Park
* Visit Arnold Arboretum, the oldest public arboretum in North America and one of the world's leading centers for the study of plants
* Spend some time at the Harvard Museum of Natural History (especially great if your "nature" themed day turns out to be a rainy one!)
* Go for a peaceful and quiet run in the Fens nature trails
* Visit the Boston Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary
* Find a Boston area State Park near you for everything from hiking to mountain biking
* See "Day Trip #5" (Above) for info about the Boston Harbor Islands - spend a while at one!
9. Day Trip #9: On the Water
We are so lucky to be living right on the water here in Boston. As I mentioned above, this opens up many possibilities as far as enjoying wonderful beach days with your significant other, as well as visiting the Boston Harbor Islands right off the coast. However, a huge benefit to having so much water nearby is the opportunity to get out on it for the day. Whether you are accomplished sailors or have never stepped foot in a boat, there are options here for the two of you. Read through this list and choose an adventure or two just for you and your special someone! During the day or evening, if you're both hungry, stop by Tia's on the Waterfront for a bite, a drink and a chance to enjoy the view of the water!
* Contact Community Boating, Inc. to find out how you can learn to sail - Use your vacation day to get started on the Charles River
* For a relatively inexpensive chance to spend time in a boat on the water, take an Inner Harbor Ferry or Commuter Boat or the Rowes Wharf Water Taxi
* Take a sunset or sightseeing cruise through the Charles Riverboat Company
* Take a Boston Lighthouse Tour and experience first-hand the oldest lighthouse site in the U.S.
* Join in on a sail aboard the 125' Schooner Liberty Clipper
* Enjoy a view of the city skyline from the Charles River by taking a Skyline or Sunset Kayak Tour with your significant other
* If you can't bear to actually get out on the water, you can enjoy WBZ's Free Friday Flicks at the Hatch Shell - enjoy the breeze of the Charles from safely ashore, and watch a movie under the stars!
10. Day Trip #10: Festivals
Summer in Boston always reminds me of all the neighborhood parties and celebrations in the city. Every weekend throughout the summer, there is at least one festival somewhere in the city that is an excuse to enjoy Boston and its cultural diversity. A day at any of these festivals would be worth building into your "stay-cation" week schedule. I don't need to recommend a restaurant for you, since the mark of a great festival is the amazing food it serves. Enjoy!
* Choose a weekend this summer and stop by the North End for the North End Italian & Religious Festivals
* Stop by Government Center on August 10 from 5:00-8:00 p.m. for the Boston Urban Music Festival (previously known as the Peace Hip Hop Festival)
* Spend August 11 in Chinatown for the August Moon Festival
* Head to Dorchester on August 18 and 22-24 for the Caribbean Carnival Festival & Parade
* Show off and add to your ink from August 30 – September 2 at the Boston Tattoo Convention
* Check out the Boston Film Festival in September (dates TBA)
It doesn't matter if you're a couple that prefer a sports bar to a museum, an island getaway to a historic tour of the city, or if you're interested in a multitude of these areas -now you know that you don't have to leave Boston to have a great couples vacation! I hope that the two of you enjoy all these suggestions and that they inspire you to rediscover our great city in these difficult economic times! These are also great suggestions for you if you are visiting Boston from out of town. If you are stuck in another city, and these suggestions sound fun to you, look for similar ideas near your home. I bet you will be surprised by what you will find!