Travel

Escape Boston Without Leaving Town By Visiting These 8 Places

You could use a break.

You likely didn’t escape the city in any real way this summer. If you were lucky, you spent some time on the Cape and, if you were really lucky, you got tested and headed up to Maine. But that long-planned trip overseas? Ixnay-ed, like so much else in our lives right now.
 
But the pandemic has forced us to re-examine the city with fresh eyes, and lo, there are lots of ways to achieve escapism without ever leaving the greater city confines. From clandestine hikes to beautiful hidden green spaces to city blocks that feel flown in from Europe, Boston is rife with worm holes that can transport you from reality -- even for a few hours.

Dine on the water while taking in the city from a new perspective

East Boston
You might be one of those people who already treats Eastie like a foreign land. But an afternoon spent at ReelHouse really can feel like a mini vacay. For starters, you can take a water taxi from Charlestown to get there -- and how often have you ever taken a water taxi in your home city? The restaurant’s 130-seat patio feels more like a yacht deck, what with the nautical decor and panoramic views of the harbor and city. Add in some tropical cocktails and some raw bar offerings, and you’ll almost feel like you’ve booked a one-day cruise.

Take a nature hike before it disappears back underwater

Squantum
Is this Quincy or Portugal? We’d bet even most longtime residents know nothing about this ephemeral beach walk that feels more Southern Europe than Southeast Expressway. Starting about 90 minutes before low tide, a sandbar begins to emerge in the Boston Harbor, one that lets you stroll from Quincy’s Squaw Rock to Thompson Island, a route that would normally put you under water. Along the way you get to take in some pretty epic skyline views. Just bear in mind that the sandbar goes away again about 90 minutes after low tide ends. Our suggestion: try to book a guided walk, such as with the AMC Boston chapter.

Walk the length of Marlborough Street

Back Bay
Beacon Hill may put off some true London vibes, but if it’s Paris you’re craving, you can’t do any better than the Back Bay’s most charming avenue. Narrow and relatively free of traffic, Marlborough is an oasis sandwiched between the far busier boulevards of Beacon Street and Commonwealth Avenue. Start at Mass Ave and stroll its length down to Arlington Street, gaping at the gorgeous brownstones with their beautiful gardens and quirky front terraces. And speaking of Paris: the French Cultural Center is located on the second block of Marlborough. A must-visit in normal times, the center is still hosting remote language classes and social gatherings, one more way to transport yourself to another land this fall.

Pretend you're in Italy while buying freshly baked bread

North End
The entirety of the North End can feel transportive, but it’s the neighborhood’s simple pleasures that really scratch that Italian travel itch. For us, it’s all about the early-morning aromas of freshly baked bread wafting out of a hidden alleyway off Hanover Street. Bricco Panetteria is a tiny bakery owned by famed local restaurateur Frank Depasquale, turning out beautiful baguettes, ciabatta, and sunflower breads. If you’re inclined to make a whole meal of it, duck into Bricco Salumeria next door for handmade pastas and imported cheeses, meats, and olive oil.

Stop to smell all the roses in the Kelleher Rose Garden

The Fenway
The Emerald Necklace is full of secrets -- to discover them all would require a full day, free of commitment. But if it’s a quick chlorophyll fix you seek, make time for the Kelleher Rose Garden, a delightful floral surprise less than a mile from Fenway Park. The 90-year-old garden boasts more than 1,500 roses hidden behind tall hedges; there’s even an arched entryway a la The Secret Garden (though not to worry: there’s no wooden door designed to keep you out).

Go bird watching in a cemetery

Cambridge
Bird watching flourished around the world this spring and summer, and little wonder: it’s free, it’s calming, and it feels pure. And no need to book a trip to New Zealand or the Galapagos to join in on the trend (not that you can anyway). The 175-acre Mount Auburn Cemetery is renowned for its wildlife, its fine-feathered creatures in particular. True, spring is the peak peeping season, but it can also get stressful as folks go a little mad trying to spot all the migratory birds. Come fall, the crowds are fewer and the pace slower, allowing you to take your time to seek out all the year-round residents.

Forage for your supper 

Various locations
Urban foraging is alive and well ‘round these parts, even if you don’t read about it that much. But there’s a stealthy cohort of foragers who love to lead tours (in non-Covid times) and otherwise educate the masses about all the edibles growing among us. Russ Cohen might be our region’s most famous forager; pick up his book, Wild Plants I Have Known...and Eaten, then head to your favorite city park (Fresh Pond, for example, contains more than 50 edible wild plants) to make like René Redzepi for an afternoon.

Teleport to the tropics at La Fabrica

Clearly, you didn’t make it to the Caribbean this year. But Executive Chef Giovanna Huyke is here to make you assuage your sadness with alfresco empanadas, fried whole snapper, and roasted Caribbean chicken -- plus cocktails, of course -- served on the restaurant’s umbrellaed patio. Email or call ahead to make reservations.

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Meaghan Agnew is a Boston-based contributing writer. Follow her on Instagram.