Boston in the Off-Season

Boston Common snow

A few weeks ago when I found out I was being sent to Boston for a week-long work trip, I was ecstatic. My first trip to the East Coast! I played it cool as my supervisor detailed our travel plans, but inwardly I was in a joyous little tizzy over the fact that someone was paying to fly me to a city that had been on my 2015 travel wish list.

I told a friend about my good fortune a little while later.

“Isn’t Boston under, like, a million feet of snow right now?” she said.

“Oh,” I said uncertainly. “Is it?”

It was. Record-breaking amounts of snow, in fact. When you live in San Diego, it’s easy to forget half the country is trying to survive #snowmageddon2015.

On my way to work the next day I heard an NPR story about the city running out of places to put the never-ending snow. Workers were having to use a type of industrial blow torch to melt the existing snow in their jam-packed snow farms. As I tried to wrap my mind around the concept of snow farms, the reality of the situation sunk in, and I knew it was going to be an interesting trip.

As I started researching things I could do in Boston outside of work hours, I came across this Time article. Here’s the introduction:

“There are a few prerequisites when considering a trip to Boston. First, don't go in February. This may seem obvious, but it bears repeating.”

I started to get a little indignant. Sure, Boston was buried under more than 90 inches of snow and transportation across the city was seriously crippled, but that didn’t mean I was going to sit in my hotel room and miss out. Not-uh. I became even more determined to make the most of my trip. I was going to enjoy Boston, dammit, or freeze to death trying.

Snow fun

Ummm, okay, that's kind of a lot of snow. And yes, that is a tunnel leading to the street.

 

Now back from the trip, I can officially say it: I. Love. Boston. Even in February. Even under mountains of snow! I had such a great time! I’m almost scared to revisit in the spring or summer out of fear I’ll just rip up my return ticket and stay forever. The history, the architecture, the people—I loved it all.

So what did I do during my week there? I took a Freedom Trail tour (worth noting that my guide was clad in colonial attire), ate everything in sight, hung out with new friends (it always pays to chat with your neighbors on flights!), met up with old friends, and even went on an impromptu date.

Oh yeah, and I walked. A lot. Despite the less than ideal weather conditions, I spent the majority of every day outside walking around.

Fitbit, do I get a Badass Badge for doing this in the snow or...?

Hitting the pavement and exploring different neighborhoods, public parks and just getting off the beaten path and taking it all in is one of my favorite things to do when visiting a new city. Turns out, Boston is really walkable, even in negative temperatures and under nearly 8 feet of snow.

At night, tucked into my cozy bed, my face felt warm and flushed, like I had spent all day at the beach. I wondered, was this the onset of frostbite?

Concerned, but not concerned enough to refrain from a selfie showing just how cold I am

 

On my daily trips, I saw things in Boston I had never seen before—things you just wouldn’t ever see living in a place where 50 degrees is considered scarf and mitten weather:

 Using high-pressure hot water to melt 15-foot killer icicles so they don't fall and impale pedestrians. Seems like a fun gig.

 

I also saw a lot of lumpy shapes under mounds of snow that vaguely resembled cars #SeeYouInSpring  

Overall I had a fabulous time and can’t wait to see Boston covered in green grass and flowers, or beautiful fall leaves, or you know, something other than snow. I’m by no means an expert on the city, but here’s a cursory list of my Boston favorites:

 

Neighborhoods

It was no surprise that I found Back Bay and Beacon Hill, two of the city’s most historic neighborhoods, to be the most charming. With rows of brownstones, 18th Century architecture, narrow, gas-lit streets and brick sidewalks, these areas seemed like the quintessential Boston neighborhoods.

In Back Bay you’ll find the famous Copley Square—chock-full of gorgeous buildings—as well as streets lined with posh art galleries and designer shops. Beacon Hill felt more quaint and peaceful, but was just as nice.

I adored Boston’s North End neighborhood simply because it’s basically the city’s Little Italy and boasts more Italian wine bars, pastry shops and ristoranti than you can shake a stick at.

 

Eats

Giacomo's gnocchi

Giacomo’s Ristorante is a tiny, 10ish-table restaurant in the city’s North End with authentic Italian food and a no nonsense staff (seriously, the woman who runs this place is not messing around). Having heard about how amazing this place was, I had to give it a try and was not disappointed. The gnocchi was to die for. I went back here with my aforementioned date because it was so good, and he approved as well—and he’s Italian. Legit.

 

Mike’s Pastry, also in North End, is by no means a local secret. Judging by the lines out the door, it seems everyone and their brother flocks to this place for its famous cannoli. Not a fan of waiting in lines, and not even that much of a cannoli fan, I still had to see what all the fuss was about.

I gorged myself so much at Giacomo’s that I couldn’t even manage the cannolo I had bought for dessert. The next morning I decided to take a bite, just a little sample. I ended up eating the whole thing in one sitting, before 9 a.m. No regrets!

Avana Sushi is a wonderful, no-frills joint in Boston’s Chinatown district. Even though they don’t serve alcohol and you’ll eat from Styrofoam plates, the food is excellent, not to mention dirt cheap (under $5 for a lot of the rolls).

 

Two Favorite Spots

Boston Common, the oldest public park in the U.S., is quite charming, even buried in fluffy piles of snow. I really enjoyed walking through here and seeing people play with their dogs and sled down little hills. While many city streets featured snowbanks littered with cigarette butts and suspicious yellow spots, so much of the snow in the park was pristine and untouched—a true winter wonderland.

The Central Library in Copley Square is so beautiful! I wandered in here not expecting much and was blown away by the architecture. There is a vast collection of art in here, as well. If I lived in Boston I would come here all the time to read and write.

 

Stay

Hi-Boston hostel was the perfect place for me to stay for the three nights I was in Boston work-free. Every local I met seemed utterly mystified that a hostel existed in Boston and that I was staying there. A Lyft driver even thought I said “hospital” at first, and seemed genuinely weirded out when I corrected him and explained I was staying in a room with eight beds.

Confusion aside, Hi-Boston was incredibly clean with all the necessary amenities, plus extra perks: huge, personal lockers, reading lights and chargers for every bed, single stall bathrooms with showers, and an awesome common area with a fireplace. All for $28 a night! I thought hostels were a concept only Europe did well, but Hi-Boston definitely impressed.

 

Have you ever visited a place off-season and been pleasantly surprised?