The best sightseeing in Boston costs $2.40. That’s the price of a Charlie ticket. Get on the Red Line, doesn’t matter where, so long as you ride between Charles and Kendall — or, if you prefer, Kendall and Charles. Either way, you go over the Charles on the Longfellow Bridge. Myself, I prefer the view upriver (especially at night, if the Sox are at home — the sight of the Fenway light towers, whoa). But downriver’s fine, too. Once you’ve gone over the bridge, you can do it again as many times as you like. If you switch at Kendall or Central, on the Cambridge side, you have to pay again. So wait until Harvard, if you’re riding outbound. Other than that, what a bargain, huh?
MARK FEENEY, arts writer
There are plenty of places to find seriously good coffee in Boston. But for prime Saturday afternoon entertainment, snag a seat at George Howell or Thinking Cup downtown and listen to the world-class residents of the city around you. You’ll hear Harvard Business School and MIT cohorts discussing grand ideas for startups, undergrads dreaming about “what’s next” after commencement (probably going to New York), actually legitimate experts debating global affairs, and — jackpot — a couple navigating their way through a first date (she’s too good for him). Go to Thinking Cup for a younger crowd, and George Howell for more refinement (it’s adjacent to the plush Godfrey Hotel).
YIQING SHAO, senior digital editor
The Mapparium in the Mary Baker Eddy Library is itself a sight to behold. The stained glass dome splotched with brightly colored continents sits like a gem in the city’s jewelry box. But what I remember most is the sound, the way it bounced around inside the dome depending where you stood. While there, our tour guide began to sing, her voice enveloping the space, seemingly vibrating the bridge stretched through the expanse. I tell every tourist to pay a visit. I urge them to whisper to someone on the other side of the bridge. With luck, maybe your guide will be musically inclined.
JESSICA BARTLETT, medical writer
When I see it in the distance — the arches of its green tiled roof, its framing pillars — I always feel a little thrill. The Chinatown Gate! I love the life that teems around it, elders socializing and playing the chesslike game xiangqi. And I love the scenes beyond, which for me center on food. There are the streets and streets of restaurants, bakeries, bubble tea shops, and grocery stores. There are the windows showcasing barbecue meats; the tanks filled with live seafood awaiting scallions, ginger, and heat; the doors that open to release wafting aromas of perfectly fried goodies. When I reach the Chinatown Gate, I am always, suddenly, hungry. It’s Pavlovian. No matter how many times I walk beneath it, I am grateful to live in a city with cultural richness and all the dumplings, duck, and dan tat I can eat.
DEVRA FIRST, restaurant critic and food writer
While I could easily walk from South Station to my office by following a short and direct route, I prefer to stroll through the Rose Kennedy Greenway along Atlantic Avenue each morning and evening. While there’s no escaping the sights, the sounds, and the smells of the city, the Greenway’s flora and fauna (yes, you might see rabbits, turkeys, or chipmunks) provides a small little oasis and a great way to clear your mind before and after work. Food trucks, the Trillium beer garden during warmer months, and pop-up merchants on the weekends only enhance one of my favorite places in the city.
MATT PEPIN, Sports editor
Never mind all the nabobs buried there — Mary Baker Eddy, Winslow Homer, Fannie Farmer, and Bernard Malamud, to name a few — Mount Auburn Cemetery’s just a magical place to get lost, an exquisitely-landscaped sprawl of flora and fauna that enchants in every season. You can do a lot of thinking, or none at all, while wandering this 174-acre oasis of willows, secret gardens, tombs, and monuments. And it’s unfussy. Gaze upon the grave of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (buried alongside both his wives) if you want, but Mount Auburn Cemetery makes no demands. It’s part arboretum, part wildlife sanctuary, and all excellent.
MARK SHANAHAN, Living/Arts reporter
I love being in the grimy underbelly of ancient Fenway Park while the Red Sox are playing a game. You can tell what’s going on inside the park just by the sounds of the crowd. Such is the sophistication of Red Sox fans. Try it sometime. While you’re waiting for your beer in the concession line under the stands, ignore the television monitor, close your eyes, and listen. You can HEAR the balls, the strikes, the close play at first, the double down off the Wall and, of course, a homer over the Green Monster. A batter getting hit by a pitch inspires a collective, hushed, “oooooooh.” Been going to games all over the world for 60 years and have not experienced anything like this anywhere else.
DAN SHAUGHNESSY, Sports columnist
The Boston Common dog park is a must for animal lovers. I’m a student at Emerson College, so when I’m missing my pets or need a study break, I just go behind Parkman Bandstand. Unless the weather is truly horrible, I can count on anywhere between 2-20 dogs running up to me. Just pure joy.
ANNIE BENNETT, Express Desk
For me, it’s the Boston Poetry Slam at The Cantab Lounge. The Cambridge open mic was held every Wednesday night, and slipping into a Central Square dive bar’s basement after work always felt like skipping school with the cool kids. It was live poetry for just a tiny cover charge, an eclectic mix of newcomers and established poets who took to the stage. Some poems, too, became familiar parts of the open mic, like Jack Gilbert’s “Failing and Flying.” That poem’s opening line — “Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew” — sticks with me. (The poetry slam is on hiatus, according to its website. Hopefully it returns.) Boston has world-class art museums and venues. It also needs spaces like the Cantab — where people can reach out and share something of themselves.
JOHN HILLIARD, reporter
Up a scruffy set of stairs on a Chinatown side street lurks the best dim sum in town: Winsor Dim Sum Café, where lines snake out the door and down the block by lunchtime. Once blissfully within, a server will slap down a paper checklist and a stubby pencil, and you’ll get to ordering: sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf packets; steamed shrimp in seductively pliable rice noodles; sugary roast pork buns swiped through rivulets of chili crisp. The clatter of plates; the happy chatter; the urgency of more, more, more for not much money: For a few blissful moments, time stands unyielding and all that matters is the bounty in front of you. 10 Tyler St., Boston, 617-338-1688
KARA BASKIN, food and parenting writer
One of my favorite things about living here is Cambridge’s Central Square Farmers Market, which runs from May through November. I spend those seven months of the year reveling in the farmers market’s produce, pasta, seafood, snacks, treats, and drinks and the other five months missing them. Its energy, diversity, and community represent the things I love most about living in Cambridge, and I challenge anyone who is used to Whole Foods to visit the farmers market instead, and trade a fluorescent corporate grocery for this community space and the benefits that come with it.
PETER BAILEY-WELLS, Express Desk
Near the entrance of the Arnold Arboretum stands one of the city’s crown jewels. Every spring, its furry buds unfurl into bright, buttery blossoms. For a few precious weeks, its regal petals scent the surrounding area with a lemony fragrance. Then, one by one, they fall gently to the grass below, leaving a plush golden carpet. The spire of flowers, in its full glory, has long felt to me like a hint of regal splendor, and fittingly, this magisterial tree is called the Magnolia Elizabeth.
DAVID ABEL, reporter
This is more about a sense of place than specific location. Way back when, I commandeered the back of the Buick station wagon whenever our family drove down Route 93 from Andover to Boston. By Stoneham I’d be on high alert, anticipating the big reveal — that moment when the skyline comes into view, its buildings poking above the horizon like some kind of crazy bar chart. The Prudential — and, later, the mirrored wedge of the John Hancock tower — dominated, but the old Hancock also caught my attention because of its weather beacon (steady blue, clear view; steady red, rain ahead). Over time, I was able to discern even the smallest changes in the vertical landscape. It felt like Boston was growing up along with me. Today, I live south of town, forced to navigate the asphalt apocalypse that is the Southeast Expressway. The skyline is dramatically different, and an army of cranes changes it by the week. But that panorama, a look into the past and future at the same time, never lets me down. Even though I don’t live in Boston, it’s like coming home.
MARK POTHIER, senior assistant news editor
When I first moved into my Beacon Hill apartment almost two years ago, I would periodically hear the sweet tinkling of windchimes. It sounded like it was coming from somewhere on my street, but by the time I would stick my head out the window to try to locate the source, the sound would be gone. One day, I was walking down my street when I heard the chimes — I looked up, and there they were, on the door of West Cedar Dry Clean & Laundry, a basic coin-op laundromat. Though I more often hear the blaring sirens of MGH ambulances or raucous bar-goers leaving Beacon Hill Pub, I have great affection for the rare moments when the windchimes make themselves heard.
DANA GERBER, Living/Arts co-op
It’s hard to beat the sound of Keytar Bear jamming away amid the downtown bustle, the music echoing off buildings and cobblestones. Hearing that keytar gives me hope Boston’s downtown can bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic. How can you not smile when you see a grown man in a bear suit, cradling one of those 1980′s-style keyboards in his paws? I passed him where Winter becomes Summer the other day as I rushed back to the office from a meeting, and he seemed to be improvising with some kind of free-form jazz tune. I paused for a moment to shoot him a quick approving glance, and he took one furry mitt off the keys to point in my direction. Rock on, Keytar Bear. Rock on.
JON CHESTO, Business reporter
It’s always good to have a “third place,” a spot where you spend most of your time outside of home and work. If you want to experience one of Boston’s best third places, visit Jaho Coffee Roaster & Wine Bar on Washington Street. By day, it’s a hub for students and working professionals. By night, it’s a great place to strike up a conversation with a stranger, read for a few hours, or go on a date. Jaho’s menu ranges from oat milk cappuccinos to boozy bubble tea. Best of all, it’s one of the only cafes downtown that stays open until 10 p.m.
ANISSA GARDIZY, Business reporter
At the moment, my favorite place in Boston might be one I’ve never actually been to — the Boston Globe newsroom. As a new staffer, it’s definitely the place I’m most excited to see, finally. After months of getting to know my colleagues by Zoom, phone, e-mail, and Slack, I can’t wait to meet everyone in person.
BROOKE HAUSER, assistant Living/Arts editor
The park at Post Office Square — formally the Norman B. Leventhal Park — is one of the loveliest spaces in the city, a valley of green amid the peaks of concrete in the Financial District. It brightens the walk to work with bursts of color: rows of cabbages and mums in the fall, neat beds of bright blooms in the spring, funky lighted orbs at Christmas. In the years BC — before COVID — its expanse of lawn was a favorite picnic spot for scores of office workers as the grimness of winter gave way. As downtown eases back to life, it’s ready to welcome us back.
PATRICIA NEALON, assistant Business editor/wire editor
The Boston Harbor Islands are amazing. Each one has its own unique history and personality. There’s Spectacle Island, with its walking paths and gorgeous views of the city skyline; Peddocks Island, where you can camp out overnight in yurts; and Georges Island, which is home to Fort Warren, a Civil War-era granite fortress that’s full of history. Do yourself a favor and take a trip to the islands. Pack a lunch, hop on a ferry, and enjoy the ride through the harbor; it will take you to another world that will give you a different perspective on The Hub.
EMILY SWEENEY, reporter
One of my favorite places in Boston is one that sadly closed during the pandemic. O’Leary’s, an Irish pub on Beacon Street, had been a pre-Fenway ritual for my family since the the early 1990s. Whether the Sox were slogging through a season or winning the World Series, we’d always meet here — a tradition that started between my grandfather, dad, and uncle, followed by the rest of us. It’s probably the first bar I ever set foot in. And if we were lucky, we’d get to chat with the owner, Aengus, who was often behind the bar. I’m told he recently opened a new spot in South Boston, Shamrock Pub, and we’re eager to try it.
BRITTANY BOWKER, Living/Arts digital producer
That stretch of the Charles River, between the Longfellow Bridge and the Harvard Bridge, used to be over a mile long. The tides varied dramatically, revealing the city’s unpleasant, pungent mud flaps. Today that stretch of the Charles is much narrower, the locks keep the tides steady enough, and on a good day you’ll find the collegiate sailing fleets dominating the water. Oh how many times I’ve dodged them giving my sightseeing tours and shouting to my captain when one gets close. Or maybe I prefer those light runs on the Esplanade, with the grandeur of a million small ships pushing me on.
SAM TROTTENBERG, Living/Arts co-op