Boston 101

Introductory course with no requirements but map-reading skills, elementary English, advanced curiosity, some training in fun

The First Church of Christ, Scientist campus.
The First Church of Christ, Scientist campus. (Travis Dove for The Boston Globe)
August 31, 2008
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For students who are new to the area, the Globe's summer interns offer a primer of favorite things.


For the past three summers, I've packed up my life and moved it across the country. I've learned a lot about life's necessities during those times, and boiled them down to the two I can't live without: a good coffee shop open late and a patch of healthy, green grass where I can lose myself in a good book. I haven't found my cafe in Boston, but I have found my reading space - and more.

Just off the Green Line's Symphony stop, and a short walk from the Orange Line's Mass. Ave. stop, is the First Church of Christ, Scientist campus. I'm not a Christian Scientist nor even particularly religious, but I have yet to find a better place in Boston to relax.

Not only is there the requisite swath of green for reading, picnicking, or horsing around, but also there's a lose-yourself reflecting pool, and a healthy amount of amazing architecture that looks out of place in the middle of Boston.

Tours of the church are free, and it's worth peeking at the cavernous main room with its expansive organ and domed ceiling. You can also take a tour ($6) of the Mapparium, an only-in-Boston sort of place where you can step on a bridge that cuts through the heart of a three-story, stained-glass globe. How's that for perspective?

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 210 Massachusetts Ave., 617-450-2000,



In many ways, the Charles River is my main source of serenity in Boston.

Whether I'm gazing at it from a grassy patch on the Esplanade, pausing over it on one of its bridges, or sliding past it on the Red Line, a glance at the Charles always manages to make time slow down.

But nothing beats sitting right in the river, where its mirror-like surface is within arm's reach. For less than $20, I rented a kayak and did just that.

Kayaks are easy enough to use that they allow nonathletes like me to have an intimate experience that isn't too daunting. (The rental center is off Soldiers Field Road in Allston. You can rent a single kayak for $14 an hour; for beginners double kayaks are sturdier and cost only $2 more.)

Gliding along in the slender yellow boat, you are a peer with the geese who paddle the river daily. You're at a level where you can feel the coolness of the Charles between your toes, take in the vastness of a raven blue sky, and hear the echoes that bounce under the bridges you usually drive or stroll over.

You don't get much instruction on how to maneuver the kayak, but the only waves on the Charles are ripples created by motorboats. Navigation is trial and error: Paddle on the right to go left and on the left to go right. Going straight is something you'll have to figure out on your own.

Charles River Canoe & Kayak, 1071 Soldiers Field Road in Allston/Brighton, 617-462-2513,



Dancing is my thing wherever I am, so I pretty much danced my way through the summer at the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio in Boston.

Squeezing in past the stretching dancers, I felt as if I was on the set of "Center Stage," minus the attitude.

The only attitude I found at this bustling studio was in the moves. Bring your hip-hop style to Ian McKenzie's Monday night class or twirl your way to bliss with Bill McLaughlin's Sunday jazz routines. The instructors are high energy, hilarious, and all about improving while having fun.

There's no room for shyness here, aptly located on Friend Street near North Station. All ages are welcome, but most dancers are in their teens or 20s, prone to both goofing off and showing off. In some classes, you get to share the floor with powerful performers, notably Boston dance crews Static Noyze and Wrush. Watching and cheering their TV-worthy moves up close is both inspiring and electrifying.

The positive atmosphere and encouraging instructors are what kept me coming back.

"We absolutely love what we do, and we believe that the people who walk in are the same way," said founder Jeannette Neill. "How else would you greet someone who's wanting to share the same passion?" Neill, 61, teaches 10 classes a week.

So you think you can dance? There's no better place to get better.

261 Friend St., 5th floor, 617-523-1355,



With six world championships in seven years, Boston is a city of champions, so experience it while it lasts.

Since you're in Red Sox Nation, start with Fenway Park, home to the 2004 and '07 World Series champions. Before the game, take a tour ($12 for adults) to brush up on your Sox history.

Across town, the NBA champion Celtics play at TD Banknorth Garden on Causeway Street.

Foxborough's Gillette Stadium is home to the 2001, '03, and '04 Super Bowl champion New England Patriots of the National Football League and the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer.

For Sox and Celtics games, take the MBTA; for Foxborough, about 30 miles away, your best choices are commuter rail or car.

For tickets, check online and don't be deterred by sellout notices; ticket sellers abound on Yawkey Way, Causeway Street, and Patriot Place. If you can't find a ticket, Jillian's of Boston (145 Ipswich St.) has all the high-definition TVs, pool tables, bowling lanes, hot wings, and cold drinks a sports fan could desire.,,; Jillian's of Boston, 145 Ipswich St., 617-437-0300,



An assignment took me to Cuttyhunk Island off the state's southeastern coast, an hour by ferry from New Bedford, and perfect if you're seeking respite from the city.

Several dozen residents and a few hundred fair-weather visitors populate this 2-mile-long, 1-mile-wide gem, defined by its hillside homes, one-room schoolhouse, and beautiful harbor.

Sightseers can relax on the small beach or walk the rocky coast. The seaside escape is legendary for the striped bass that swim in nearby reefs. Grab lunch from the general store or pack a few snacks to keep you going until the return trip aboard the M/V Cuttyhunk.

The ferry leaves daily at 9 a.m. from the state pier in New Bedford, and departs the island at 4 p.m. Round-trip tickets (adults $40) must be used the day of purchase. Parking $5/day. Schedules depend on the season and weather; call 508-992-0200 or visit to check.



Most everyone I knew during my three months in Boston lived in student neighborhoods along the T's Green and Red lines, and usually refused my pleas to explore farther-afield districts south of downtown. The trains are too slow and the commute too long, they said. So they missed out on the hidden glories of the much-maligned Orange Line.

A 10-minute walk from the Mass. Ave. stop, Back Bay Yoga allows newbies to try out a few poses without breaking the bank. The first two weeks of unlimited classes at the third-floor studio, which offers participants a cityscape view while they're stretching, is just $25.

After yoga, take the train south to Stony Brook station, where another 10-minute walk lands you on Centre Street at the Milky Way, a combination bowling alley-bar-restaurant that's home to Jamaica Plain hipsters and serves a killer veggie burger. Go Monday night, when bowling is free.

In the same neighborhood, it's worth waiting in line for weekend brunch at the Centre Street Café, a cozy hole-in-the-wall five minutes from the Green Street stop. Slurp coffee, eat generous helpings of local, organic yumminess - including the Cuban scramble and waffles heaped with fresh fruit - and try to figure out why the friendly server always has a grungy Barbie doll in his back pocket.

Finally, Forest Hills is your stop for exploring Boston's leafier side. Harvard's Arnold Arboretum is a research tool that holds more than 4,500 species of plants and trees. Just as importantly, it's a public oasis of green with miles of paved and gravel trails. Check it out when you're in need of quiet contemplation, or a place to take a date on a romantic stroll.

Back Bay Yoga, 1112 Boylston St., 617-375-0785, back; Milky Way, 403-405 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-524-3740,; Centre Street Café, 669a Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-524-9217,; Arnold Arboretum, 125 Arborway, 617-524-1718, arboretum



Strolling along Newbury Street, I lingered at window displays along Boston's ritzy shopping thoroughfare, taking in lavish brands like Chanel, Burberry, and Ralph Lauren. But bargain shoppers like me can enjoy more than window shopping at two of Newbury's lesser-known names - The Closet Inc. and Second Time Around. These two resale shops, nestled among the higher-price-tag establishments, are clean, well-kept, and full of quality couture for a thrifty shopper.

But beware: Finding a suitable purchase can require some digging. Both shops offer clothing for men and women ranging from the eclectic to the practical. With a pile of options, you can find a pair of jeans to add to your everyday wear or an outrageous top that you will don for a single occasion. Another Globe reporter boasts that her hottest dress is from Second Time Around, and a friend says his best shirt is from The Closet. There are also markdowns on designer names, so every day feels like a sale with offerings of new and gently used merchandise. Though neither shop allows returns, both provide dressing rooms for trying on.

The Closet Inc., 175 Newbury St., 617-536-1919; Second Time Around, 176 and 219 Newbury St., 617-266-1113;



Below the bestsellers lining the left wall when you enter Brookline Booksmith, an independent bookstore, a basement of used books awaits. Once downstairs, you can make a beeline for the new arrivals, but it's better to wander. Properly prowled, the cellar would take hours to exhaust.

Be warned, though, the allure - and prices - down there can be hard to resist. For my friend Ryan, it was overwhelming. "I don't know what I'm going to do," he said on a recent trip, stumbling among the shelves, a load of books spilling from his arms. He couldn't decide what to put back. There was that book he'd been searching for; then the one he just came upon (a story about werewolves, written in verse); and the one that a staff member had tagged with the handwritten note, "This is my favorite book. XOXO."

He stared at one of the books and said, "I feel like I can't put it back - it's $7." A woman sitting on the steps, picking through the dollar books, overheard him and laughed. "I don't even let myself go upstairs," she said.

It's definitely worth a dig.

279 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-566-6660,



Boston is a beautiful city; even a West Coaster like me can admit that. But sometimes you need a break from the daily grind. It just so happens that break comes pretty easy here.

For a cool $71, you can book a round-trip ticket to Provincetown, the small-but-very-fun enclave at the tip of Cape Cod. It might not be something you do every weekend, but Provincetown is great as either a day trip or an extended weekend vacation.

If you go for the day, try to book the earliest ferry, which usually leaves at 9 a.m. from Long Wharf right off the Aquarium stop on the T's Blue Line. A friend and I showed up at about 8:55 one morning (though I wouldn't recommend cutting it that close) for the 90-minute trip. The return trip varies, but even if you have to head back at 4 p.m., that gives you about 5 1/2 hours to enjoy P-town.

Don't miss Commercial Street (I'm pretty sure you couldn't if you tried). It's full of old-time ice cream shops, boutiques (both name brand and not-so), and quirky restaurants. If you're a beach person, you have access just off Commercial Street - just follow that salty scent.

Boston Harbor Cruises, 617-227-4321 or 877-733-9425,



I took advantage of northern New Hampshire's rugged landscape for a camping trip. Here's how to plan your own:

Recruit at least 15 friends. Pray it doesn't rain.

Reserve the Nunnemacher Cabin in Lyme, N.H., through Dartmouth College; it sleeps 20, comfortably, and has dishes and a gas stove. Don't mention to your friends that the cabin is about a 3/4-mile uphill hike on the Appalachian Trail.

You will reach the trailhead, just over two hours from Boston, around midnight. Send a scout team to find the cabin. When they return, sweat-soaked and mud-covered, positive no cabin exists, have refreshments waiting. Send up another team; they will return two hours later having found the cabin.

Marvel at the stars. Crack jokes about serial killers in the woods. Laugh nervously.

Reach the cabin after an arduous hike. Erupt in joy. Stay up until dawn, gossip and sing songs, and marvel that no one's complaining about the hike, or the downpour. Finish the climb to the mountaintop. Gaze out at thick fingers of fog creeping through the evergreen hills, blue-black in the hazy dawn.

Sleep. Head into Hanover. Use a public restroom. Swim in the Connecticut River. Head back to the cabin and repeat, with a communal, candlelight meal.

Wake up early the next morning. Cook a big breakfast. Clean house. Carve your initials on the dining table.

Get in the car and head home, muddy and smelly, grinning lazily.

Dartmouth Outdoors, 603-646-2834,



Sooner or later, you'll want to head down to New York for big-city fun - and you can do it, thanks to low-cost buses, for $20 or less. In fact, if you book a ticket far enough in advance and choose the right company, you can pay as little as $2 for a round trip.

I took advantage of these fares several times this summer during my sports internship at the Globe. I have two brothers who live in Greenwich Village and, on my days off, I'd take the MBTA's Red Line to South Station, get on a bus, arrive in Penn Station, catch a cab, say "Bleeker and McDougal," and I was there. In my case, the round-trip bus fare was about $20.

Megabus was my favorite ride to NYC. It's roomy, leaves early in the morning and late at night, and it recently added Wi-Fi so you can choose to browse or snooze on the trip. BoltBus, Fung Wah, Lucky Star, Peter Pan, and Greyhound also make the trip.




The posters were everywhere this summer, all pointing to the New England Aquarium.

In one, a tell-tale fin swam alongside a boat in the Charles River. Another transformed the Boston Hatch Shell into the mouth of a great white shark.

The ads lured me to a summer exhibit called "Sharks and Rays" that brought nearly 40 sharks and stingrays to the aquarium. It ends tomorrow, but for $19.95, the cost of an adult ticket, the aquarium is a great take any time.

At the summer exhibit, you could dip your hand in a touch tank as bamboo sharks, cownose rays, and other animals slid along the edge of the pool.

There is much more to see besides the relatives of Jaws. The aquarium is the permanent home to glowing jellyfish, fuzzy penguins, exotic fish, and an IMAX theater.

It's easy to get to; just take the Blue Line to the Aquarium stop. Especially on weekends, the line to get in can get a bit long, but it moves quickly. And the floating show inside is definitely worth the wait.

1 Central Wharf, 617-973-5200,



The blue-green ocean water swirled into a circle of bright teal as white foam churned to the surface. Seagulls hovered above the ring of bubbles, and excitement grew aboard our whale-watching boat less than 100 feet away. Seconds later, two enormous humpback whales burst to the surface, scattering birds and capturing plankton, jumping fish, and gallons of water inside their cavernous mouths.

Whale-watching with the Dolphin Fleet of Provincetown made a great weekend jaunt for my family and me during their visit to Boston this summer.

"It's like science fiction," one tourist gasped in a British accent, peering over the railing at the endangered knobby-headed humpback whale below.

As we cruised through Stellwagen Bank, the naturalist aboard gave an easy-to-follow biology lesson on the sea monsters that ply the waters off Cape Cod. Passengers leaned into strangers along the rail to snap photos or catch a closer glimpse of the whales. Their proximity and repeat breaching kept exclamations of delight coming, from my grandpa to my 9-year-old brother, on the 3 1/2-hour voyage.

Dolphin Fleet of Provincetown, ticket and information office at 132 Bradford St., Provincetown, 800-826-9300, Daily April-October. Adults $37, discounts for groups.


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