19 new and fun things to do for families, couples, and singles
From public art to virtual reality, baby animals to senior activities, and lots of night life options, here’s where things are happening.
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1. The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum
Oh, the places you’ll go inside this imaginative museum, the first in the world dedicated to Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss. It’s a riot of color and squiggly lines, where kids can write on the walls in Seuss’s bedroom, go fishing in McElligot’s Pool, meet Cat in the Hat, climb a wump with humps, and, soon, hear Horton’s Whoville band. Second-floor displays feature family heirlooms, artifacts, letters, and never-before-seen illustrations by the beloved children’s author.
21 Edwards Street, Springfield, 413-263-6800, springfieldmuseums.org/about/dr-seuss-museum
2. Baby Animals at Franklin Park Zoo
Zoo visitors in 2017 saw a veritable stork’s nest of adorable baby critters. In particular, its Species Survival Plan brought forth an eastern bongo (a type of antelope), two Siberian cranes (through the first successful breeding program in North America), and two cotton-top tamarins, the charmingly curious and agile little monkeys crowned with long elegant tufts of white fur. The newest baby tamarin is mere months old, and still clinging to its parents.
1 Franklin Park Road, Boston, 617-541-5466, zoonewengland.org
3. The Central Flea Market
Sprawling across a parking lot steps from the Central Square T stop, Central Flea was so successful in its once-a-month trial run in 2017 that next year it’s scheduled every Sunday from May through October. The dynamic mix of retro style, Afrocentric design, hipster home goods, Third World imports, contemporary jewelry, neo-hippie crafts, and New Age notions mirrors Cambridge’s playful weirdness. Inexpensive tables guarantee a balance of the art gallery and the flea market.
95 Prospect Street, Cambridge, newenglandopenmarkets.com/central-flea
4. The Grand
This impressive club splashes upscale glitz on Boston’s late night scene. It’s lively (and loud!), with a dance floor and luminous bar plus private spaces and VIP seating. Wear your flashiest to match the opulent surroundings, including an open glass staircase, gold and leather accents, and a custom kinetic lighting system (as well as dancers bearing light wands) that creates eye-popping visuals. There are often long lines, but once you get in (minimum cover: $20), you can dance the night away!
58 Seaport Boulevard, Boston, 617-322-0200, thegrandboston.com
5. Mindtrek VR
This virtual reality arena bills itself as America’s largest, but it looks like 4,000 square feet of empty warehouse until players put on their VR headsets. Then it feels so real that stepping near the edge of a virtual rooftop makes the heart race. Groups of up to eight people spend 45 minutes (cost: $49 per player) fighting zombies or killer robots, or solving a three-dimensional puzzle. A smaller site opened in Marlborough just after Christmas, with one game to start.
34 Cummings Park Drive, Woburn, 781-787-2600, mindtrekvr.com
6. Neponset River Greenway Extension
Leaf-loving urban dwellers rejoiced as a 1.3-mile addition to the Neponset River Greenway seamlessly connected this popular bike and walking trail into Mattapan Square, after a decade of work. The addition runs from Central Avenue in Milton to Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan, and features an elegant steel-and-timber suspension bridge and a treetop canopy walk over the Mattapan Trolley tracks. The trail now connects from near Dorchester Shores through Pope John Paul II Park and down to Hyde Park.
Mattapan and Milton, 617-727-6034, mass.gov/locations/lower-neponset-river-trail
7. Norwood Space Center
The buzz of activity in this repurposed former mill starts with Curio Market + Whimsy, a curated weekend artists market and collaborative that launched in October. Besides arts, crafts, and workshops, Curio showcases items from two venues opening here this year, the David Bieber Archives, with hundreds of thousands of posters and other items chronicling the history of rock ’n’ roll, and The Sneaker Museum. Both collections held exhibitions this year, previewing an emerging destination.
83 Morse Street, Norwood, 782-269-5515, norwoodspacecenter.com
8. Puzzle Break Newton
This family-friendly, interactive “escape the room” venture in Newton Centre is a blast, especially for groups of six to 12 people. Three themed game rooms feature different 60-minute challenges (cost: $32 per person). Groups work to find clues and solve puzzles so they can locate the key that unlocks the door to escape. A little math, some out-of-the-box thinking, and a lot of logic get you through, and a friendly aide is on hand to answer questions and provide guidance when needed.
792 Beacon Street, Newton, 617-932-7943, puzzlebreakma.com
9. Science of Sharks
The aquarium’s newest exhibit immerses visitors in the underwater world of an intriguing, often feared species. You can get close to Halmahera “walking” sharks, coral catsharks, and other small shark species, and view shark pups up close. You can also see what it’s really like to swim with the sharks in habitats around the world, thanks to a large-scale video splashed across the back wall. A life-size replica of a tiger shark is a good place for a selfie.
New England Aquarium, 1 Central Wharf, Boston, 617-973-5200, neaq.org/exhibit/science-of-sharks
10. Supper Club at Capo
The popular South Boston Italian restaurant added an expansive downstairs club, cooking up a banging dance/bar scene. Lines have been out the door and down the block, especially when part of the place is booked for events. The large performance stage features live entertainment almost every night — comedy, jazz, country, DJ — with a stage-front dance floor, 40-foot main bar, two retro stage-side lounges, and a dartboard that sees a lot of action.
443 West Broadway, Boston, 617-993-8080, caposouthboston.com
11. The Telephone Museum
The new home for engineer and telephone enthusiast Vincent Valentine’s collection honors Boston as the place the phone was invented. It also gives children, and their parents, screwdriver-in-hand learning in electric theory and arithmetic, via workshops that let them dismantle historical phones. The collection includes everything from seriously old-fashioned candlestick phones to mod princess phones of the 1960s and 1970s in era-appropriate hues of aqua, avocado green, sky blue, baby pink, and burgundy.
289 Moody Street, Waltham, 781-314-6864, telephone-museum.org
12. Tolles Parsons Center Wellesley
This airy, sunlit 13,000-square-foot senior center opened in October and is already a hot spot for the 60-plus set (you don’t have to be a Wellesley resident to go). It offers a lively, welcoming site for drop-in socializing in the cafe or in front of a gas fireplace, as well as art, dance, and fitness classes. There’s also a wired activity room and well-stocked card/game room with two pool tables.
500 Washington Street, 781-235-3961, wellesleyma.gov/378/Tolles-
13. Parsons-Center Virtual Reality Batting Cage
If you’ve ever fantasized about belting a baseball over the Green Monster, the Red Sox VR batting cage is a must. When you strap on the VR headset at the exhibit added this summer under the Fenway bleachers, you feel like you’re in the batter’s box, facing big league pitching. And when you send one soaring, the crowd roars and Sox announcer Dave O’Brien shouts, “You got all of that one!” The technology is portable and available for private parties.
4 Yawkey Way, Boston, 877-733-7699, boston.redsox.mlb.com
14. Year Of the Woman Artwork
America’s women-driven political protests inspired “Year of the Woman,” art by mostly local female artists, shepherded by public art nonprofit Now and There. In 2017, Slideshow (analog photos reflecting stories of local women, shown at City Hall Plaza during HUBweek in October) and Thrive (paintings, photographs and sculptures by nine artists, displayed at The Beehive September 13 to October 18) ran their course. On view through September are two murals: Detroit artist Ann Lewis’s See Her (mixed-media work on incarcerated women, on the side of a Boston row house) and Patterned Behavior, the first-ever public artwork commissioned for the Esplanade. Silvia Lopez Chavez’s 127-foot-long mural depicts life along the river, and has become a favorite of joggers and passersby.
808 Tremont Street and Charles River Esplanade, Boston, 617-982-3860, nowandthere.org/projects
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15. Bully Boy Distillers Tasting Room
Set in an industrial quarter of Roxbury’s Newmarket neighborhood, the Victorian decor of the 26-seat tasting room makes it warm and welcoming. Glass windows behind the bar reveal the gleaming still, and spirits drawn directly from barrels emphasize that you’re here for the still-to-glass experience. Since opening in April, the big question is what’s better: The clear and dark spirits that Dave Willis distills or the inventive cocktails they power? We think it’s a tossup.
44 Cedric Street, Boston, 617-442-6000, bullyboydistillers.com
16. City Winery Boston
The genius of this comfortable, candlelit wine bar and 300-seat music venue is how it pairs an intimate concert experience with an upscale tasting menu and mile-long wine list. The new Boston outpost was still ironing out kinks after a delayed opening in late November, and lacks some of the woody warmth of the original New York location. But the sound and sight lines were excellent, as were the house-made wines — poured straight from the barrels.
80 Beverly Street, Boston, 617-933-8047, citywinery.com/boston
17. Down the Road Brewery
This new taproom stands out even in an Everett neighborhood flush with craft breweries, thanks in part to a wall lined with 15 mostly vintage pinball machines (Pin-Bot, anyone? Theatre of Magic?). Head brewer Donovan Bailey’s tradition-twisting drafts are as enchanting as their mythical namesakes — like a double IPA named for Undine the water spirit, or a pale ale dubbed Pukwudgie, after the mischievous Wampanoag wild man of the woods. There are usually at least 10 on tap.
199 Ashland Street, Everett, 617-454-4255, downtheroadbrewery.com
18. Percival Brewing
Dorchester native Filipe Oliveira’s Percival Beer Co. finally has a space to call home after years of contract brewing its flagship Dot Ale. Craft meets art, as one long wall hosts a rotating exhibition of regional artists (Robert Dec’s From Earth to Fire is on display through February 2). Live music or comedy often complements the rotating tap selection, and quart-sized “crowler’’ cans can be filled fresh to go (the Bobby Ferguson oatmeal stout deserves space in your fridge).
83 Morse Street, Suite 4B, Norwood, 781-352-3043, percivalbeercompany.com
19. Trillium Beer Garden
From June to October we could sip Trillium’s superlative craft brew under the stars on the Greenway. This beer garden wasn’t fancy — string lights and some picnic tables and a truck full of Congress Street IPA and other nectars blessed by the beer gods. But compared with the hulking double-decker highway that once dripped rusty rainwater on this spot, it felt like beertopia. Shockingly, a 2018 return to the Greenway isn’t guaranteed. Thankfully, Trillium’s new indoor beer garden in Roslindale keeps its pints pouring through winter.
4228 Washington Street, Boston, 617-453-8745, trilliumbrewing.com
Best of the New things to do contributors: Diane Bair, Karen Campbell, Cathleen Cusachs, Michael Fitzgerald, Jon Gorey, Patricia Harris, Marni Elyse Katz, Shirley Leung, David Lyon, Meaghan McDonough, Shira Springer, James Sullivan, and Pamela Wright. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter @BostonGlobeMag.