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Welcome to a world of travel, entertainment and culture, curated from a global collective of writers, photojournalists and artists. Each article of our award-winning magazine is sure to inspire, no matter which of our destinations you call home.
 
 
The Street
            Back to Open Skies

Travel to Boston

 
 

Newbury Street, Boston

1 August 2014

Words: Brittany Shoot / Images: Kristin Teig

Just one-mile long, downtown Boston’s iconic Newbury Street is a quintessential New England blend of upscale shopping and single-family brownstones. But it wasn’t always so. Many of the neighbourhood’s historic landmarks date back more than a century, when the Back Bay district was still an actual bay of water between Boston and Cambridge. 

Several prominent 19th century architects developed the filled land district in the former colonial capital with a vision to create Parisian-style avenues. The grid of Back Bay streets lined with flowering magnolia trees became a destination. Over the decades, row houses became storefronts, and the once residential Newbury Street was transformed into an eclectic shopping hotspot and was an early home for the influential Massachusetts Institute Of Technology, now located across the Charles River in Cambridge. 

In recent years, numerous luxury brands have moved into the high-rent, high-traffic spaces once occupied by independent retailers and unique boutiques. Famed architect Frank Gehry transformed an empty warehouse into extravagant condos. Big-box stores that dominated the street’s western end have shuttered, helping the road revert to a more eclectic mix of high-end, affordable and decidedly quirky shops, salons and cafés. Amid all the transformation, the spirit of Newbury Street – as a welcoming boulevard for Bostonians and visitors from all walks of life – thrives.

Boston Common and the Public Garden

Gazing at couples tossing Frisbees on the large lawns, it’s hard to believe that until the early 1800s, Boston Common was a pasture where cattle grazed. Established in 1634, the Common was the nation’s first public park. Today, the grassy Common is a popular picnic spot and marks the beginning of the Freedom Trail, a walking path that includes 16 sites from the American Revolutionary War. 

Across Charles Street is the wrought iron fence-enclosed Public Garden, which bookends the eastern side of Newbury Street and served as a backdrop for the children’s classic Make Way For Ducklings. Established as a botanical garden in 1837, the picturesque emerald expanse lives up to its name, with 80 species of regional plants growing across nearly 100,000sqm. 

Rose hedges, lush flowerbeds and numerous fountains and bronze statues frequently serve as a wedding backdrop. At the small pond, enjoy a ride on the popular 130-year-old Swan Boats. You’ll likely see the park’s resident swans quietly paddling near the lookalikes they inspired. 

Boston Common
131 Tremont Street
Boston Public Garden
69 Beacon Street
Boston
Tel: +1 617 635 4505 (number for Parks Dept.)
cityofboston.gov/parks/emerald swanboats.com

Trident Booksellers And Café

Thirty years ago, there weren’t many shops in Boston where you could while away the hours browsing the bookshelves or sit down with a magazine and a cup of coffee. Independently owned and operated Trident, widely considered one of the best bookshops in town, helped revolutionise the city’s café culture and weathered the storm when Barnes And Noble moved in down the street (and subsequently closed).

Trident has also won a number of awards for its book and magazine selection, and is open from 8am until midnight, seven days a week, with a full events calendar featuring author readings. While you’re there, fill up more than a tote bag. On the second level, the full-service restaurant serves fresh juices, strong coffee and filling breakfast favourites such as omelettes and pancakes all day. 

338 Newbury Street
Boston
Tel: +1 617 267 8688
tridentbookscafe.com

Stephanie’s On Newbury

This 20-year-old institution is a favourite on the row, known for its sophisticated American comfort food, stiff cocktails and massive outdoor patio that pairs dining al fresco with some of the city’s best people-watching. The warm interior offers a relaxed lounge and bar in addition to a sprawling two-level dining room. Ask about the seasonal sangria, or go straight to the martini menu to order a pineapple Stoli Doli. 

If shopping helped you work up an appetite, begin with a bowl of classic New England clam chowder before digging into a lobster pot pit or Stephanie’s signature cheddar-stuffed meatloaf. Lighter fare such as crisp salads and warm club sandwiches are available all afternoon. Dinner reservations recommended. If you can’t snag a spot outside, ask about seats near the cosy fireplace or under the second-floor skylight. 

190 Newbury Street
Boston
Tel: +1 617 236 0990
stephaniesonnewbury.com

Newbury Comics

The flagship location of this now 20-plus-location New England institution sells an array of music, DVDs, comics and clothing – and surprisingly few comics, so don’t be misled by the name. 

Like Trident, Newbury Comics, which first opened in 1978, outlasted the wave of big-box video and music stores that flooded the west end of the street during the past few decades. Fun fact: rocker Aimee Mann was a cashier at the Newbury Street location in the early 1980s. Now, the only famous faces you’ll find in Newbury Comics are emblazoned on concert t-shirts. 

332 Newbury Street
Boston
Tel: +1 617 236 4930
newburycomics.com

Emack And Bolio’s

In 1975, Boston music lawyer Bob Rook opened his rock-themed ice cream and frozen yoghurt parlour as a late-night haven for his musician friends and clients. Rook infused his enterprise with good karma, naming it for two homeless clients to whom he offered pro bono advice. 

Follow the splash of psychedelic colour into Emack And Bolio’s, where you can savour delicious flavours with hippy-inspired names like Trippin’ On Espresso and Chunk O’Funk, a caramel ice cream with chocolate-covered pretzels and Oreo bits. For a far-out treat, order a scoop in a ‘marsh-mellow’ glazed waffle cone covered with Fruit Loops cereal. If you’re still craving an encore, check out E&B’s selection of delicious homemade fudge. 

290 Newbury Street
Boston
Tel: +1 617 536 7127
emackandbolios.com

The Society Of Arts And Crafts

The Arts And Crafts Movement of the late 1800s intertwines with the modern age at America’s oldest non-profit devoted to handmade artwork. Founded in 1897 by a group of Boston artists, architects and collectors, the Society Of Arts And Crafts features four exhibitions each year, an intriguing mix of established and emerging New England artists, many trained at nearby design schools including Massachusetts College Of Art and Design and the Rhode Island School Of Design. 

Along the row of otherwise identical brick buildings, look for the green archway above consignment store The Closet. The ground-level gallery is filled with local designers’ creations, including a wide selection of unique contemporary jewellery at surprisingly reasonable prices. Check the schedule for upcoming events and shows, like Craftboston, an annual spring crafts showcase, and the Society’s biannual exhibition of functional ceramic cups that runs every November to January. Open Tuesday to Saturday and Mondays by appointment.

332 Newbury Street
Boston
Tel: +1 617 236 4930
newburycomics.com

The Fairy Shop

Everyone who wanders up Newbury Street eventually sees The Fairy Shop, if only because its delightful outdoor bubble machine perpetually fills the street with delicate, rainbow-hued bubbles. 

Inside, the whimsical shop is filled with garden gnomes, plush mermaid and dragon toys and a selection of sterling silver jewellery fit for a fairy. Store hours are at the whim of the owner, Michael, a merry man who will gladly help you select a glittering crystal or find a fanciful gift. 

272 Newbury Street
Boston
Tel: +1 617 262 2520
thefairyshop.com

Emmanuel Episcopal Church

Built in 1861 – the first building on Newbury – this towering cathedral is one of the architectural crown jewels of the city. Step into the warm, welcoming space – if only to catch a sunbeam shining through the recently restored, stories-high stained glass windows that parishioners have enjoyed for over a century. 

The contemporary church congregation’s focus on social justice means you’ll find every manner of secular and pious activity in the beautiful, bustling building, including an art studio for the homeless. The in-house orchestra and chorus, Emmanuel Music, performs more than 50 concerts annually. Check the calendar for their next cantata. 

15 Newbury Street
Boston
Te: +1 617 536 3355
emmanuelboston.org

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