Boston Essentials

A laundry list of Boston's activities, eateries, walks and freebies.

Food and Drink Essentials: Best Places to ...

EAT OYSTERS

There are a dozen varieties at Neptune in Boston's North End neighborhood, a cozy place with 26 seats and 16 bar stools.

B&G Oysters in Boston's South End neighborhood, a small venue overseen by celebrity chef Barbara Lynch. Lynch also cooks a mean soft-shell crab on those nights she's working behind the bar.

STOP FOR HOT CHOCOLATE

Burdick's in Harvard Square, a local spot that looks a bit like a Starbucks and is just as crowded. Selection includes chocolate cakes, homemade candies and enormous cups of hot chocolate.

STOP FOR A BAGEL

Kupel Bagels in Brookline, the favorite spot for true New York quality bagels and hands-down favorite among this suburb's large Jewish population.

BUY ITALIAN PASTRIES

On weekend nights, there is always a long line at Mike's Pastry on Hanover Street, because loads of tourists cram into the bakery on the main drag in Boston's North End.

Though Mike bakes a mean ricotta pie, insiders know there are wonderful, authentic pastries nearby at Maria's Pastry Shop, a tiny shop on Cross Street.

Also try Modern Pastry a few steps down Hanover Street from Mike's.

EAT CLAM CHOWDER

Legal Sea Foods is a Boston institution, and it's milky clam chowder is subtle and superb. Also, try the Blue Fish plate, a specialty using a local fish.

Proprietors of corner bars and unpretentious restaurants all over the city -- including the Steamship Authority Ferry to Martha's Vineyard -- pride themselves on their clam chowder. Give any of them a try, and it's unlikely you'll be disappointed.

BUY CHEESE AND WINE

Formaggio's in Cambridge is as good as any Italian cheese shop, with hundreds of cheese, as well as prosciuttos, olive oils and other delicacies. The staff is extremely helpful with selections, too.

Walk into the Wine & Cheese Cask in Somerville and tell one of the store's staff you're having for dinner or celebrating a big birthday and they'll recommend the perfect wine or champagne.

BUY ITALIAN SPECIALTIES

Bella Pasta in Medford is a half-mile from the Somerville border and makes fresh pasta daily.

Sessa's in Davis Square in Somerville has prosciutto, dried pasta, pepperoncinis, Italian cold cuts -- you name it. It's a few steps from the Davis Square subway stop.

BUY VEGETABLES

The open-air vegetable stands at Haymarket Square -- near Boston's waterfront and North End -- offer loads of inexpensive vegetables and an old-fashioned city atmosphere every weekend.

A. Russo & Sons is a half-hour drive from downtown Boston, but it’s worthwhile. Russo's has every imaginable fruit and vegetable, all of superior quality. Avoid Saturdays which are a mad house. Founded more than 75 years ago by Antonio Russo, it is still a family business.

Entertainment Essentials: Best Places to ...

SEE FENWAY PARK FROM THE OUTSIDE

The Bleacher Bar opened in May 2008. Fans can have a beer at this Lansdowne Street bar, which is on the same level as the baseball field. Patrons look through an enormous door cut into the center field wall and directly on to the field. Unfortunately the bar isn't opened during games.

SEE FENWAY PARK DURING A GAME

Box seats on the third base line. Prices for Red Sox are high and rising, a trend reinforced by the team's consistent strong performance since its 2004 World Series win.

WATCH A PARADE

St. Patrick's Day parade in South Boston, or "Southie." This traditionally Irish neighborhood's parade features everything from step dancers and local firefighters to the Irish-American gay and lesbian organization, and lots of people in funny green hats. Get there early because the route is jammed. But the St. Patrick's Day breakfast, where local politicians roast each other and put aside their differences, makes the day a truly Boston tradition.

Gay Pride Parade in Boston in June. Tens of thousands attend the boisterous event and all participate, including Gov. Deval Patrick, who marched with his wife, Diane, and 18-year-old daughter Katherine.

VISIT A CEMETERY

The Granary Burying Ground in bustling downtown is impressive. Three signers of the Declaration of Independence, including John Hancock, Paul Revere and five victims of the Boston Massacre are buried here.

Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge is a fascinating place to stroll Boston's later history. Prisoner advocate Dorothea Dix, Christian Science Church founder Mary Baker Eddy, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, Polaroid Corp. founder Edwin Land, investigative journalist I.F. Stone and others are buried here. Bird-watching, inspections of tree varieties and a view of Boston's skyline from the top of tower hill are rewards for hiking the hilly cemetery.

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