Boston Massachusetts for the New Year

Genie Davis December 14, 2011 No Comments


One of my favorite places to celebrate the New Year has long been Boston. All over Boston, from 10 am to midnight on New Year’s Eve, art shows, theater, live music, and midnight fireworks illuminate the city and start the New Year right. Years ago I shivered watching the fireworks which were then set off over Boston Common – today, they’re over the Harbor and far more spectacular – and any time this lovely east coast city becomes a New Year’s stop, it’s always judged the “best New Year’s Eve ever.”

This year’s offerings include morning puppet shows, evening poetry slams, curated gallery exhibits, tap dance performances, some opera, non-denominational religious services, Shakespeare, indie folk, and The Nutcracker . One all inclusive, inexpensive First Night “button” allows the wearer access to all events. So bundle up and head to the often-snowy Boston streets for an unforgettable, family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration.

Boston's a great town for a family New Year's Eve celebration

Having recently returned from my daughter’s first East Coast music tour — make MY New Year’s and check her sound at, and if you like what you hear, click “like” on her Facebook page nicolelexidavis for a free download— you’ll want to explore Boston itself even before you partake in First Night events.

After all, Boston with is a fascinating city to explore from it’s American Revolution era history to beautiful parks, fascinating cemeteries, and great museums. Whether you’re interested in the cobblestones of Beacon Hill or the wide open green spaces of the city’s Arboretum, the city is inherently walkable – which is why moving from venue to venue in the city’s core for First Night is easy on parents and children alike. However, the first step to any city’s exploration, particularly one as walkable as Boston, one you may very well be navigating on a crowded New Year’s eve, is to get a feel for its many neighborhoods.

At the city’s core, near both Boston’s famous Common and Public Garden, you’ll find Beacon Hill, gas lamps, cobblestones, pretty brownstones dating from the revolutionary war period. My kids loved running up and down the hilly stone streets, admiring the brownstones and watching the gaslights flare to life as the sun sets. You’ll find antique stores and charming cafes along Beacon Hill’s main drag of Charles Street, too.

The Public Garden and Common are not just centrally located greenspace, it’s here that you’ll find swan boats in the spring and summer, admire statues and meandering paths at any time, including the famous child-favorite the “Make Way for Ducklings” statues.

Heading away from downtown slightly you’ll find Newbury Street, which ends at the Public Garden and moves through Copley Square to Kenmore Square and Boston University, near the Charles River. Newbury is one long stretch of shops, restaurants, and bars, all of them upscale, many of them unfortunately outposts of national boutique chains these days. If you walk on down to the Charles River and it’s not iced, you’ll see rowing teams practice, sail boats sailing, and city residents making good use of the bike and jogging paths along the river bank. River frozen solid? You may see skaters and hockey players.

On the other side of the Public Garden and behind Boylston street, you’ll find more brownstones from a slightly more modern age in the South End. Art galleries, jazz and blues venues, and small, homey cafes are sprinkled throughout this thoroughly gentrified Back Bay community.

The North End is, of course, North of the Public Garden and Common, north too of the brutalist architecture of Government Center and the sports mecca that is Boston Garden. The North End is the traditional  Charles River, and is rife with Italian cafes, restaurants, and gelato stands. More tourist oriented than in days past, it’s still a fun place to visit and find a tasty plate of spaghetti marinara. Or grab a slice from famous  North End . Nearby is Paul Revere’s House, and access to the historic Freedom Trail that will lead you back to Boston Common again.

So many wonderful neighborhoods to explore in Boston - a view of Beacon Hill

En route to the Common you’ll find historic landmarks like Old South Church, and Faneuil Hall. The Hall is historic and a stop for kitschy souvenirs, local-treat oriented fast food stands (oysters on the half shell, more pizza, clam chowder are good examples). From Faneuil you’re only a short walk to the Harbor where those New Year’s Eve fireworks will be bursting at midnight.

A little beyond the walking range of most small children, you can jump on the subway at Park Street Station in Boston Common and take the Orange line out to Jamaica Plain. This neighborhood includes the lovely Jamaica Pond and the floral gardens and trees of
Arnold Arboretum, a lovely afternoon ramble if the weather is fine, or you’re looking for some snow to play in. Be aware that JP has some areas that are not yet gentrified, and treat the outlying edges with some caution after dark. The old Victorian’s and excellent organic-source restaurants in the area are another reason to visit Jamaica Pond even if the weather keeps you from a long stroll in the lovely park.

A more suburban outlying area is Brookline, just west of Boston proper, off the Green Line from Park Street. Exit the subway at Coolidge Corner and you’ll find delis, bookstores, movie theaters, and small, locally owned shops.

Park Street Station’s subway will also take you across the river to Cambridge, home of Harvard and MIT, as well as fascinating shops, ethnic restaurants of all stripes, and music bars and coffee houses, such as Passim’s, which welcomes families with small children. Just north of Cambridge is Somerville, home of Tufts University and more interesting dining and shopping options.

No matter where your Boston explorations take you, be sure to set your compass for Boston Harbor at midnight New Year’s eve and let the New Year explode colorfully for your family.

avatarAbout the Author:

Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling.

Tags: Travel Excursions

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