A who’s who says where to go

They show their visitors here and there at the holidays

November 22, 2009

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Where will you take guests this holiday season and beyond? We asked some prominent New Englanders to share their favorite spots. Hopefully, their answers will inspire you.

COLETTE PHILLIPS, president and CEO of Colette Phillips Communications

Phillips, a native of Antigua, doesn’t love cold weather, so over the holidays she takes guests to places with a view of winter. One of her favorites is the Bristol Lounge at the Four Seasons. “You can look out on the Common and see the trees and lights and snow,’’ she says. “It looks just like a postcard.’’ (She also loves the big Christmas tree in the lobby with all the teddy bears).

For a water view, she loves the Boston Harbor Hotel with its restaurants, or the Seaport. And for a bird’s-eye view, she takes company to the Top of the Hub. “How can you not want to be there with the big Christmas tree at the Prudential?’’

For festivity, it’s Faneuil Hall with all the holiday kiosks. “It has that feel of the old and the new.’’ And for food, it’s her all-time favorite, Hamersley’s Bistro. “Nobody has a better winter menu. The food is comfort food. They cook like you are in your own home.’’ BELLA ENGLISH CAM NEELY, Bruins vice president and Hall of Fame NHL player As Neely says, he’s done his “share of skating.’’ So, he is happy to sit on the sidelines and sip hot chocolate when out-of-town guests take the ice at the Frog Pond. Visiting family members from the west coast of Canada enjoy the postcard-perfect New England images created by the pond and the lights on Boston Common.

“The kids certainly enjoy it,’’ says Neely. “They’ve got a great light setup. There’s the whole package.’’

When time and holiday schedules permit, the Neelys pack up and travel to Woodstock, Vt.

“You want to talk about the feel of New England,’’ said Neely. “It’s just a beautiful old town, little shops, antiques stores. From a Christmas standpoint, Woodstock is gorgeous in the snow. It has that New England outdoor feel of what a nice, crisp, sunny winter day is like in New England. It’s really the image people would have in their mind or from movies, if not from here.’’ SHIRA SPRINGER

MALCOLM ROGERS, director of the Museum of Fine Arts

“Usually what I do is allow them free range [at the MFA] for an hour,’’ said the British-born Rogers whose guests - mainly from England - tend to gravitate toward French and post-impressionist works, and John Singer Sargent’s masterpiece “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit.’’ And to the Egyptian sculpture, which “is almost unparalleled in the world,’’ said Rogers, offering an unsolicited plug. They’ll usually have lunch in Bravo, the MFA’s fine dining restaurant, and “I always hope they’ll do a little retail therapy in the store,’’ he said. “You can’t be a friend of mine in England unless you get a membership. It’s called trans-Atlantic arm-twisting.’’

Rogers also escorts his visitors around the block to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. “It’s one of those places that has a very special personal presence.’’ He’ll steer them to the Titian masterpiece “Europa’’ (“It’s a picture I really covet, personally and institutionally’’) and away from the Dutch Room, where three Rembrandts and a Vermeer were among 13 works stolen in 1990. “As a museum director, I prefer not to concentrate on theft,’’ he said, “but on what I still have on the walls.’’

Also on the Rogers tour: Essex for antiquing, Newport, R.I.’s Bellevue Avenue to see the mansions, and “I end up taking them to the Wrentham mall or Marshalls. People do love shopping there for leisure clothes.’’


SETH WESCOTT, snowboarder and 2006 Olympic gold medalist Wescott likes to chill with his visitors at Sugarloaf in Carrabassett Valley, Maine. He knows the slopes cold since he grew up riding them. Though he owns The Rack restaurant, Wescott escapes with friends to Hug’s, an intimate Italian cafe a few miles from the mountain. “My home is a travel destination for a lot of people, but when I’m there I reconnect with people because I’m on the road a lot,’’ says Wescott. He’s also keen on an overnight at one of the new Maine Huts and Trails lodges along an in-progress 180-mile multi-use trail in western Maine. MARTY BASCH

AMANDA PALMER, solo artist and Dresden Dolls singer-pianist Palmer says, “My favorite place to take any out-of-towners around Christmas (or anytime) is Cafe Pamplona in Harvard Square. The buzz is small and contagious, and the lack of music means that the cacophony of foreign voices, squeaking doors, and espresso grinding take center stage. It’s also perfect for escaping relatives. Bring a few books, grab that corner table, and return home after last call - 11 p.m.’’ JAMES REED

LENNY CLARKE, comedian First off, the beloved Boston funnyman feeds his out-of-town guests, preferably at the No Name Restaurant, on the docks down by Fish Pier. “We’ve never had a bad meal there, the best buy in town,’’ says Clarke. Then they head to the North End so Lenny can show them Paul Revere’s House. “What a dump. No wonder he was always out,’’ Clarke notes. A stroll on the Freedom Trail across the Charles brings them to the Bunker Hill Monument. “They need an elevator there,’’ he adds. His last stop is always the Big Dig. “After all, they paid for it.’’


TRUDY COXE, executive director of The Preservation Society of Newport County

Coxe knows her way around Newport. She lovingly lords over the fabled mansions, and knows just where to entertain guests over the holidays.

“I bring them to ‘Christmas at the Mansions,which we’ve done for 16 years: The Breakers, Marble House, The Elms, all decorated in holiday splendor, and on Dec. 19, they’d be my guests at the annual holiday dinner-dance at The Breakers, one of the best events all year,’’ Coxe said.

Thousands of poinsettias adorn the three mansions, along with evergreens, wreaths, and 19th-century ornaments, with dining tables set with period silver and china and great halls, bedrooms, and sitting rooms coming to holiday life.

Such holiday decorations take liberties with history, however.

“These houses weren’t used in winter, they were closed down’’ when owned by the likes of the Vanderbilts, Coxe said. “The decorations are our fantasies, so we’re not being accurate. But we are having fun.’’


DAVID N. CICILLINE, mayor of Providence This is like asking a parent to name his favorite child. You get a politically diplomatic answer that tries to cover all bases, homing in on several spots, including funky Wickenden Street with its small shops and trendy cafes, and the city’s downtown commercial district, with white lights strung pole-to-pole. But two spots are especially hot for showing off Cicilline’s city to out-of-towners.

Federal Hill. I love bringing people there, for the food, the arts, the galleries - that whole holiday festive air,’’ Cicilline says. “And Benefit Street is so great. They call it the ‘Mile of History’ because it’s the oldest street in America, and for the holidays is beautifully decorated, with single white lights in the windows of historic homes and balsam swags on light posts. It’s just a great place to walk during the holidays.’’ PK

CAROL ROSE, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts Rose prefers to take visitors on what she calls the “liberty tour.’’

That means visits everywhere from the battlefields of Lexington and Concord to Thoreau’s model shack off Walden Pond to the Freedom Trail and the African-American Freedom Trail.

“There’s so much here that has shaped our nation, whether it’s the ‘Shot Heard ’Round the World’ or the Plimoth Plantation,’’ Rose says. “These are places that have shaped our sense of who we are. It’s amazing to let people see what they read about in history books.’’

Rose likes to mix history with modern culture. For that, she recommends the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, MASS MoCA in North Adams, and the Lowell jazz festival. Her tour doesn’t gloss over the darker side of local history, from the Salem witch trials to indentured servitude at Merrimack Valley mills.

“There are things to see that we’re not as proud of,’’ Rose says. “But it’s good for us to confront that part of our history, too.’’ DAVID ABEL

ERNIE BOCH JR., president and CEO of Boch Enterprises

Sure, Boch sells cars by the boatload. But whenever guests “come on down,’’ it’s music he obsesses about. Boch plays guitar in his band, Ernie and the Automatics. So here’s where he takes company: “The House of Blues, because I love it. The Middle East in Cambridge, if they like the modern stuff; we’d have dinner upstairs first. For jazz, Scullers.’’

For food? Douzo in the Back Bay for sushi. Grille 23 for steak. (“But if you want steak and a great social atmosphere, we’d go to either Abe & Louie’s or the Capital Grille.’’) For a bar? “The Model Cafe right in Union Square in Allston. It’s a dive and I absolutely love it.’’

For holiday lights, in Boch’s opinion, you can’t beat the display at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro. More than 400,000 lights illuminate 10 acres: “Kids and adults love it.’’ BE

MING TSAI, chef-owner of Blue Ginger, host of “Simply Ming’’ A favorite for the Tsai family and friends is the Museum of Science. “The kids have fun and don’t realize they’re learning something,’’ Tsai says. He also likes to make a stop in Chinatown for lunch or dinner. “There’s good dim sum, Chinese food, and five and 10 dollar trinkets to be found at the stores,’’ he says. Away from the heat in the kitchen, Tsai’s a big sports fan who enjoys seeing the Bruins and the Celtics. “They’re both on fire. There’s nothing quite like live hockey and live basketball,’’ he says. When he needs to get outside, Tsai takes his friends skiing at Wachusett. “It’s amazing how good the skiing is an hour away from Boston.’’ SJ

TESS GERRITSEN, author, most recently, of “The Keepsake’’ Walking up the Mount Battie auto road in Camden Hills State Park in Maine is one of Gerritsen’s favorite ways to atone for the holiday food frenzy with friends. “It’s about 1.3 miles to the top, but the views are great. You look over Camden Harbor, with the islands in the distance, and turn around to see the green hills west of Camden.’’ She also enjoys introducing guests to the Owls Head Transportation Museum. “You get to see the most amazing cars and planes, and everything is in exquisite condition.’’ Depending on her guests’ tastes, she might bring them to two local art institutions. “The Farnsworth has an incredible Wyeth collection and a great variety of other art. The Center for Maine Contemporary Art has changing exhibits, so you never know what you’re going to see. It’s always a little surprise.’’


DANIEL JOCZ , sculptor -art jeweler, Cambridge and Tyringham

When friends visit Jocz in Tyringham over the holidays, he’s sure to take them to see the current art jewelry show at Sienna Gallery and give them the nickel tour of the Christmas decorations in Stockbridge. “I’m a sucker for all that New England tradition,’’ he says. But before it gets dark, he’ll also show them “the only Fluxus headstone I know’’ in the Tyringham cemetery, a granite obelisk with a bronze metronome topped by a giant eyeball on the grave of avant-garde art collector Jean Brown. For dinner, drinks, and music, the gang will adjourn to the Dream Away Lodge in Becket, a legendary counterculture hangout in the woods where “the bar food is likely to be candy corn but the menu is organic local food.’’ DAVID LYON

SAM HAYWARD, chef-owner of Fore Street, Portland, Maine Hayward enjoys introducing friends to the seasonal Childsplay concert by Bob Child, a Cambridge fiddlemaker with ties to Maine. “It’s absolutely astonishing to see 20 to 30 fiddle players, from amateurs to significant touring artists, on stage with a professional band accompanying them, including keyboards, cello, double base, guitar, wind instruments, sometimes a vocalist or even a Celtic dancer to do jigs and dances.’’ Preceding that, of course, is dinner at Fore Street. Another must, especially before or after a holiday feast, is walking the roads and trails around Merrymeeting Bay. “It’s one of the largest freshwater estuaries in the world, and most people have never seen anything quite like it, especially in late fall when migratory birds are still coming through. We might see eagles, bard owls, perhaps a coyote or two.’’ Upcoming Childsplay concerts: Dec. 4 in Portland, Dec. 5 in Somerville, Dec. 6 in Lexington. HN FRITZ WETHERBEE, “New Hampshire Chronicle’’ contributor Wetherbee is a bit of a self-confessed homebody when it comes to heading out during the holidays. But he’s not too much of a Scrooge. This is also the man who, along with his brother Robbie, wrote some original Christmas music for a WMUR-TV special a few years back.

His favorite place to go when it’s time to head out with friends? Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth.

“I love to do the Candlelight Stroll, to get really dressed up and visit all the historic homes and drink in the Christmas spirit and then have a Shirley Temple Black [a rum-based Manhattan with a bit of cherry juice] at the bar at the Black Trumpet down by the tugboats,’’ he says. “And finish off the evening with a chili dog at Gilley’s.’’, 603-433-1107, adults $18, children $8, family pass $38. Dec. 5-6, 12-13, and 19-20, 4-9 p.m. JOE RAY

MARGUERITE ROBICHAUX, artist When friends from her native Louisiana visit Robichaux at her western Maine mountain home, she likes to take them snowshoeing or cross-country skiing “to look for animal tracks and winter birds.’’ Among her favorite places to go are Sugarloaf’s Outdoor Center and Eustis’s Cathedral Pines preserve. She also recommends the Maine Huts & Trails system. “It’s about two miles in to the Flagstaff Hut via the Lakeside Trail from the Long Falls Dam Road trailhead in North New Portland. It’s so much fun to stay there overnight. The food is good, the staff is great, it’s just a unique experience.’’ For après-ski fun and food, she heads to Sugar Loaf to The Bag & Kettle, a brew pub with “consistently wonderful comfort food,’’ or The Rack, a popular barbecue spot. “A Year in the Woods of Maine,’’ an exhibition of new works by Robichaux, opens Dec. 5 at the Pucker Gallery, 171 Newbury St., HN

ROSS POWERS, snowboarder and 2002 Olympic gold medalist Powers takes holiday visitors to where he trains: Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow, Vt. The southern Vermont native grew up in Londonderry and lives close by with his family. The groomed slopes and terrain parks of Okemo keep him busy, but he’ll also point to off-trail spots like the resort’s fitness and aquatic center called the Spring House and the Ice House ice rink for either skating or a game of pick-up hockey. Powers also might take them for a snowmobile ride in the woods. Then there’s shopping. “I’m not much of a shopper but Manchester is a fun place to go with all those outlets,’’ he says. MB

JAMES McCAFFREY, director of the Massachusetts Sierra Club McCaffrey describes Thompson and Spectacle islands in Boston Harbor as the city’s “biggest-kept secrets.’’

“It’s really magical and beautiful out there, and you can get there by public transportation,’’ he says. “You can take hikes, have picnics. I think people forget they’re out there.’’

Outside Boston, he recommends Purgatory Chasm in Sutton, a broad span of granite formed in the Ice Age. “It’s interesting in that it has unique geological formations, with a small ravine and a real unique atmosphere,’’ McCaffrey says. “You feel like you’re in a different state.’’

He likes to visit Mount Greylock, the state’s highest peak, during foliage season and Mount Wachusett any time of year. “If you hike on the backside of the mountain, you’re hiking in the largest old growth forest east of the Connecticut River,’’ he says of Wachusett. “Most people don’t realize just an hour west of Boston is several hundred acres of old growth forest. It’s a really beautiful spot.’’ DA