Baby, it’s cold outside, but we’re warm and fuzzy here

We’ve had guests in our tiny apartment for the past 4 days. Honestly, even though they’re my absolute favorite possible guests (my mother and sister), I was worried about the sanity of housing any 4 people in a 1-bedroom Boston apartment for 4 days, but there’s an easy solution: Go out! Do as much as possible, and your guests will hardly know they’re being crammed in an impossibly small space.

 

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After a pleasant Christmas spent largely in said intimate quarters, we ventured out on the Green Line to Arlington Station and walked to the Boston Public Library for a quick tour led by a couple of library nerds (that’d be my husband and I). Then, we went through the Boston Public Gardens, visited the Ducklings, and traversed the Boston Common to the start of the Freedom Trail at the Massachusetts State House.

I’ve lived in Boston for about a year and a half at this point, so I’ve been on the Freedom Trail approximately 40 times by now, but it’s the classic beginner’s tour of Boston for a reason. The budget version of the trail involves walking through graveyards, poking your head into churches and talking about the snippets of history you’ve snatched up from eavesdropping on paid tours led by people in colonial garb. Of course, you can spend a few dollars at any or all of the historic locales to get a look inside (I recommend the Paul Revere House (less than $4) and Old North Church (donation), both in the North End).

 

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It’s an important part of what makes America great, so we were sure grab … a cannoli (at Mike’s Pastry, the quintessential push-and-shove cannoli experience, but I strongly recommend Maria’s for a more relaxed environment and an even tastier tube of pastry). We also avoided the droves at Quincy Market’s giant food court and ate at the oldest “continuously operating pub” in Boston (a disputed distinction), the Bell in Hand Tavern, though again I can equally recommend the olde-timey experience at the Green Dragon, or the sandwiches and rightfully honored Belgian-style fries at Saus for a more modern experience. We wrapped up the downtown day with a jaunt down the strip of shops on Washington Street; while they’re the same or similar to stores found all around the country, they’re a bit glitzier and more bustling than those “back home,” in my opinion.

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Saturday, we ventured farther afield, first to the beach in Lynn, where we collected a passel of pretty spiral seashells and met a few cute dogs, and then to Salem. Out of season, many of the witchy and wild attractions are closed, but a bit of history is hard to miss on nearly every street in the small town. We visited the House of Seven Gables Museum, which has a few wonderful colonial-era houses on the property; our tour guide was excellent, and there are a few terrific surprises to be found. Ye Olde Pepper Company, across the street, features new and old (very old — the absolute oldest in the country) candy. We had to skip the Peabody Essex Museum this time, but we’ll be sure to come back ASAP. Even in the offseason, dozens of kitschy and clever retailers are peddling their wares. We were all happy with the food and beer at the funky but warm Gulu-Gulu Cafe, just behind the Bewitched statute. A walk through the Witch Trials Memorial and the historic graveyard completed our tour.

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After a few days of energetic tours and lots of walking, a relaxed afternoon in Cambridge hit the spot. We shopped till we dropped (with a special shout-out to Zinnia for beautiful jewelry for having something sparkly for any budget) into the Shake Shack for a supremely unhealthy “lunch” of custard and fries. And then we shopped some more (at the Boston University Bookstore — where a certain proud mother resisted the temptation to grab a BU Mom T-shirt). My generous grandparents treated us to dinner at Shan-A-Punjab in Brookline, where we sampled every fried vegetable dish known to man, with a couple of curries on top.

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Today, we made the final day of tourism really count, starting at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, an absolute must-see if any of your Boston guests gives a hoot about art (sweet tip: BU students get in free; other students are $5). I love the mix of old and new and even older art and artifact that it does so well. Then, we rode out to Jamaica Plain for a Samuel Adams Brewery tour; it’s an easy, free way to get a bitty buzz from a tiny, free souvenir cup; their tour guides do their best to make their subject accessible and interesting. Finally, we browsed the wares on Newbury Street, and finished the whole shebang with a relaxed meal at a pub near our house.

 

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They’re heading back home tomorrow, so I’m signing off to make one last round of root beer floats, play one last round of Bananagrams, and say goodnight. I hope your winter break was at least half as good as mine!

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