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While Boston is well-known for its role in the American Revolution, there is a lot more to this small city than than its history. From alternative and inventive to artsy and foodie, Boston buzzes with incredibly local culture – well-loved by its residents but often overlooked by visitors. The unexpected spots in this guide provide a sampling of the city's best offerings.

Good for
  • Art and design lover
  • Nightlife lover
  • Food lover
  • Trendy traveller
  • Hidden gem seeker

11 Places

6 City Tips

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11 Places

Wally's Cafe

Jazz Bars

Minuteman Trail

Historic Walking Areas, Biking Trails

Somerville Theatre

The SOWA Artists Guild

Art Galleries

Berklee College of Music

Educational Sites, Concerts

Neighborhood Restaurant

Restaurants

City Feed and Supply

Restaurants

Cambridge Brewing Company

Restaurants

Middlesex lounge

Restaurants

Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area

Islands, National Parks

Out Of Town News

Landmarks/ Points of Interest

Marina K's City Tips

  • Boston's subway ("The T"), trolley, and bus system all operate on the same pass. You can load money on a card, or get a daily or weekly pass.
  • You can buy a paper pass for The T from machines at any station, but if you see an operator, ask him/her for a Charlie Card. Loading money on this card is much cheaper!
  • Ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft are very popular, and cover some city cabs. However, it may be easier and quicker to hail cabs on the street.
  • The subway closes at 12.30 am on weekdays, and 3 am on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • Tip 15% at a restaurant, and $1 per drink at a bar.
  • As a rule, Bostonians tend to dress pretty casually. Men may be required to wear dress shoes and nice jeans to get into some night spots in Boston, but anything goes in Cambridge.
  • Save
    Wally's Cafe
    Jazz Bars
    Marina K Says:

    Although I've visited this wonderful jazz club many, many times, I still sometimes miss it when walking down the street. A narrow, unassuming entrance on a residential block takes you into an equally narrow, long interior, packed with regulars moving, drinking, and socializing to the energetic tunes of a nightly jazz band playing at the very back.

    Good for
    • Budget traveller
    • Hidden gem
    • Friends
    • Solo
    • Senior
    • Couples
    • Art and design lover
    • Nightlife lover
    Tips
    • Opt for beer or wine. This simple place is no-frills, and cocktails are not its forte.
    • According to the calendar, music is from 9:30 pm - 2 am, but it's really more like 10 pm - 1 am - be sure to stop in during the latter times so you don't miss out!
    • If you manage to snag a table, be prepared to share, and chat with your tablemates – while it's unusual for the East Coast, it's all part of the experience.
    • There is no cover charge!
    • For late-night eats after Wally's, head to Anchovies - the eatery is located just a few blocks up Columbus Ave and is open until 2 am.
    • Spend at least some time in the back watching the band play. They look as amazing as they sound.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #2 of 157 nightlife in Boston
    • Best Live music in town 19/10/2014
    • This is jazz! 28/09/2014
    • Wally's Cafe
    Address:
    427 Massachusetts Avenue
    Boston, MA 02118
    Phone:
    617-424-1408
    Other:
  • Save
    Minuteman Trail
    Historic Walking Areas, Biking Trails
    Marina K Says:

    The Minuteman Trail is a converted railway which now serves as a 10-mile park for biking, skating, running, and walking. It's a beautiful way to get out of the city center, do something active, and people-watch during your visit.

    Good for
    • Peace and quiet seeker
    • Budget traveller
    • Everyone
    • History enthusiast
    • Outdoors explorer
    Tips
    • Biking is a fun way to see the trail. Bikes are allowed on the red, orange, and blue lines of The T (subway) all day on weekends and during off-peak hours on weekdays.
    • The trail starts in North Cambridge at Alewife Station (accessible via the red line) and ends in Bedford (accessible via bus).
    • You don't need to do the whole route. You can stop in the cute town centers of Lexington or Arlington (both in the middle) for ice cream, lunch, or to catch a bus back to the city.
    • If you want to rent a bike, check out Bicycle Exchange in Somerville, Urban Adventours downtown, or the city bike-sharing program, Hubway.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #4 of 19 activities in Cambridge
    • Simply gorgeous path 04/11/2014
    • The other mass pike 02/11/2014
  • Save
    Somerville Theatre
    Marina K Says:

    Set in trendy Davis Square, the Somerville Theater was originally designed for opera, vaudeville, and film screenings in the early 1900s. Today, it's a multi-purpose venue for first-run movies, independent film festivals, dance, music, and comedy.

    Good for
    • Hidden gem
    • Local favourite
    • Everyone
    • Art and design lover
    Tips
    • The theater serves New England-local Brigham's ice cream. For an alternate ice cream stop, check out Boston's own JP Licks ice cream shop across the street. You can't go wrong.
    • On the website, check the "Movies" tab for first-run films, and the "Events" tab for film festivals and live shows.
    • Around the corner, Redbones is a well-loved Southern barbecue joint that is also known for its extensive selection of craft beers on draft.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #4 of 12 activities in Somerville
    • GREAT THEATRE 16/11/2014
    • More than a movie theater 02/11/2014
    • Somerville Theatre
    Address:
    55 Davis Square
    Somerville, MA 02144
    Phone:
    (617) 625-5700
    Other:
  • Save
    The SOWA Artists Guild
    Art Galleries
    See more photos
    Marina K Says:

    The SoWa Artists Guild is an association of studio artists with a collection of art galleries in Boston's South End. Every Sunday from May through November, the association hosts a giant market with four parts: an open-air lot of art stalls, a lot for food trucks, a historic space set up as an antique market, and a block of artists' studios open to the public. Throughout the year, more than 60 artist studios also open to the public the first Friday evening of each month.

    Good for
    • Food lover
    • Hidden gem
    • Local favourite
    • Everyone
    • Trendy traveller
    • Shopping enthusiast
    • Art and design lover
    Tips
    • To get here, take the SL5, the silver line (which is technically part of the subway system, but actually a bus), or walk from Tufts Medical Center or Mass Ave Station.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #93 of 195 attractions in Boston
    • Wonderful gallery space 26/10/2014
    • Wide variety of art galleries and studios 11/10/2014
    • The SOWA Artists Guild
    Address:
    450 Harrison Ave
    Boston, MA
    Other:
  • Save
    Berklee College of Music
    Educational Sites, Concerts
    See more photos
    Marina K Says:

    Boston is lucky to be home to the Berklee College of Music, the world's largest independent school of contemporary music. This means that during the academic year, the college hosts a diverse program of daytime and evening performances each day, given both by its talented students and visiting artists.

    Good for
    • Hidden gem
    • Everyone
    • Art and design lover
    Tips
    • Many performances are free.
    • Go to the "Events" page on Berklee's website to see scheduled performances for all 6 venues, all unique and with capacities ranging from 118 to 1,215 audience members.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #113 of 195 attractions in Boston
    • Life changing 28/06/2014
    • Talented musicians make First Night Boston special 02/01/2014
    Other:
  • Save
    Neighborhood Restaurant
    Restaurants (American, Bakery, Portuguese)
    See more photos
    Marina K Says:

    This Portuguese-American, family-owned spot has to be one of the best brunch experiences in the city. There is always a line on weekends, but you can help yourself to free pastries and coffee (or check out hip Union Square!) while you wait. Neighborhood serves up generous portions of hearty, inventive, and flavorful food, and the family service is welcoming and efficient. Bonus: Sitting out on the colorful terrace in the summer is a pleasure.

    Good for
    • Food lover
    • Hidden gem
    • Local favourite
    • Everyone
    Tips
    • Union Square is literally off the beaten path because it has no subway stop. Take the 87 bus from Davis or Lechemere stations, or walk for 25 minutes from Porter Square.
    • Neighborhood serves breakfast and lunch only.
    • In the neighborhood, check out hipster cafe Bloc 11 – it's housed in an old bank building, and one of its several rooms still has the door of an old safe!
    • If you stick around for the evening, find your way to speakeasy Backbar. Its entrance is appropriately located in an alley, so you may have to ask around.
    • If you're hungry, I definitely recommend the breakfast specials. It's a lot more food for a couple more dollars, and they usually have some unique items!
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #6 of 168 restaurants in Somerville
    • Best breakfast if you like a lot of good food! 03/11/2014
    • Their Cream of Wheat is the cream of the crop! 26/10/2014
    • Neighborhood Restaurant
    Address:
    25 Bow St
    Somerville, MA 02143-2933
    Phone:
    (617) 628-2151
    Price range:
    $1 - $20
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    7:00 - 21:00
    Other:
  • Save
    City Feed and Supply
    Restaurants
    Marina K Says:

    For a real community feel, head to City Feed and Supply in Jamaica Plain. This is a combination grocery store and cafe that specializes in natural and local foods. The Centre Street location is a perfect starting point for exploring Jamaica Plain, a diverse family neighborhood.

    Good for
    • Food lover
    • Local favourite
    • Everyone
    • Shopping enthusiast
    Tips
    • Amble down Centre Street, and poke into any place that looks interesting. You'll find many unique thrift shops, bookshops, and cafes.
    • During the summer, grab a picnic lunch and head over to nearby Jamaica Pond to enjoy the weather and people-watching.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #327 of 1,851 restaurants in Boston
    • feeding my bagel addiction since 2011 03/10/2014
    • Unique restaurant with amazing food 23/08/2014
    • City Feed and Supply
    Address:
    672 Centre St
    Boston, MA 02130
    Phone:
    (617) 524-1700
    Other:
  • Save
    Cambridge Brewing Company
    Restaurants (American, Hamburgers, Mediterranean, Pizza)
    See more photos
    Marina K Says:

    Cambridge and Somerville, an easy walk or 'T' ride across the river from Boston, are known to be somewhat snobby about their beer. To meet customer demand, many bars have a variety of IPAs, Belgians, dark ales, and craft beers on tap, including brews from nearby Vermont and Maine. But Cambridge Brewing Company keeps things local. The microbrewery has been turning out craft brews and seasonal New England grub since 1989, and is known for its funky experimentation. Case in point: My favorite CBC try was a beer and sake hybrid. Beers rotate out seasonally, but no matter when you visit you can expect other innovate drafts, like beer with notes of roasted jalapeños, green tea, or butternut squash.

    Good for
    • Food lover
    • Local favourite
    • Trendy traveller
    • Friends
    • Solo
    • Senior
    • Couples
    • Nightlife lover
    Tips
    • While CBC also happens to serve great food, there are a number of fun alternative options nearby. Try Friendly Toast (breakfast all day) or State Park (campground theme).
    • Located in Kendall Square, this spot is deceptively not at Kendall Square station – it's a 10-minute walk up Broadway Street.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #71 of 402 restaurants in Cambridge
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Higher hopes 19/11/2014
    • Great beer, good food 19/11/2014
    • Cambridge Brewing Company
    Address:
    1 Kendall Sq Ste 100
    Cambridge, MA 02139-1562
    Phone:
    (617) 494-1994
    Price range:
    $0 - $20
    Hours:
    Sun
    11:00 - 3:00
    Mon - Thu
    11:30 - 3:00
    Fri
    11:30 - 4:00
    Sat
    11:00 - 4:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Middlesex lounge
    Restaurants
    Marina K Says:

    For a night of dancing, skip the club district and head to Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge. The layout is simple: a relatively small, square room. The music: a perfect mix of favorite dance tunes and funky DJ mixes – think pop and '90s, with smooth transitions between variations on favorite songs. The crowd: just plain fun.

    Good for
    • Local favourite
    • Trendy traveller
    • Friends
    • Solo
    • Couples
    • Nightlife lover
    Tips
    • The dress code is completely flexible: You will see some guests dressed up for a night out, and others who look like they just came from working on a thesis in the library.
    • Try to get here before 10:30 pm to avoid a line.
    Plan to stay:
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #257 of 402 restaurants in Cambridge
    • late night bar with music 08/06/2014
    • Great place for literary events 08/03/2014
    • Middlesex lounge
    Address:
    315 Mass Ave
    Cambridge, MA
    Phone:
    617-868-2866
  • Save
    Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area
    Islands, National Parks
    See more photos
    Marina K Says:

    One thing that even locals take for granted is how easy and inexpensive it is to get out on the water. Take a ferry to Boston Harbor Islands to enjoy a 20-40 minute ferry ride (depending on which island you visit), along with beautiful views of the skyline and a chance to picnic or relax on the beach.

    Good for
    • Peace and quiet seeker
    • Everyone
    • Outdoors explorer
    Tips
    • You can buy tickets right at the ferry, but check schedules online ahead of time.
    • Georges and Spectacle Island are the most popular, and you can see both in one day with one round-trip ticket.
    Plan to stay:
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #17 of 195 attractions in Boston
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Private Yacht Cruise 09/11/2014
    • A lovely day out 06/11/2014
    • Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area
    Phone:
    617-223-8666
    Other:
  • Save
    Out Of Town News
    Landmarks/ Points of Interest
    Marina K Says:

    Smack in the middle of Harvard Square and right next to 'The T' station, Out of Town News is an iconic site and may just be the most common meeting point for connecting with friends in the Square. But you also need to spend some time inside – this typical-looking news-stand sells foreign magazines and newspapers from all over the world.

    Good for
    • Peace and quiet seeker
    • Hidden gem
    • Local favourite
    • Everyone
    Tips
    • Take your reading to a local cafe: Try Pamplona (the oldest cafe in Harvard Square), Clover (which started as a food truck), or cozy Crema (with a loft-style interior).
    • For more foreign language reading, head to Schoenhof's, a independent foreign book store.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #13 of 42 attractions in Cambridge
    • World press here 16/09/2014
    • Very Cool Selection of Periodicals 22/08/2014
    • Out Of Town News
    Address:
    Zero Harvard Square
    Cambridge, MA 02138
    Phone:
    617-354-1441
    Other:
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