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Where I Live: Boston is abuzz with life, ideas

Residents love their city for its many colleges, walkability, varied cuisine, seaside options and, of course, the history.

Josh Javor, a white man with glasses and a baseball cap, and Dominque McClean, a Black woman with long hair in a dress coat, smile at each other as they walk down stairs into a subway entrance.

Friends Josh Javor and Dominque McClean head to Boston’s subway (the nation’s first) while enjoying a recent afternoon together. (Photo by AJ Rebecchi)

“There is something so alive here in a hustle and bustle of learning and adventuring that I absolutely love.”

Those 19 words from Josh Javor ’16 won’t fit on a bumper sticker, but they certainly sum up the draw of Boston.

Ian Mulholland ’14 has a theory about what’s at play: “I think the fact that there are so many different universities across the city really makes it a place where people are bringing new ideas and pushing them.”

While Boston is the 29th most populous city in the country, it boasts the fourth-highest number of colleges. All those schools — more than 100 in the Boston metro area, depending on who’s counting — fit snugly in a city Buckeyes love for its walkability, varied cuisine, seaside options and, of course, history.

“I think you can walk it and enjoy it for all of its little nooks and crannies and surprises that appear,” Mulholland says.

One of those surprises might be a Venetian palace built at the turn of the 20th century across from the marshlands of the Back Bay Fens.

“Isabella Stewart Gardner. Are you kidding me?” Dominique McClean ’16 exclaims in naming her favorite museum, found in that palace. “It’s really cool that this museum basically exists because she drew up a trust that said, ‘You can keep this here, but it has to be the same as it was on the day I died.’”

That includes the empty frames from which paintings were cut in 1990 in the biggest unsolved art heist in modern history. Thirteen works of art, estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, were stolen.

If the art museum that Gardner built — with its stunning sky-lit courtyard — isn’t your idea of a religious experience, the hallowed home of the Red Sox may be, and it’s merely a walk around the Fens.

“Fenway is just like a cultural cathedral of the city,” Mulholland says. “I think that is where the heartbeat of the city rests.”

If you put your faith in shopping, Newbury Street is in the neighborhood, too. You can find options from designers such as Marc Jacobs and Chanel to locally owned Betsy Jenney and Soodee.

“You can wander about and discover stuff,” McClean says. “The thrifting on that street is really good.”

Josh Javor and Dominque McClean talk as they sit a small table in an outdoor dining area on a city block. In the background, the coffee shop sign says, “Thinking Cup.”

Javor and McClean have tea and espresso on Newbury Street. (Photo by AJ Rebecchi)

No doubt all the walking is going to build an appetite. And that’s where Boston’s neighborhoods really cook.  

“My dad is from Barbados, so I really like Caribbean food,” McClean says. One place to find that is in the neighborhood Jamaica Plain, JP to the locals. She recommends Top Mix Bar and Kitchen for both food and drink.

Angie Byrne ’03, ’06 MPH loves bringing visitors to Jamaica Plain to tour the original Samuel Adams brewery. Its visitor center makes it more formal than it used to be, but “it’s still a lot of fun.”

In the West Broadway neighborhood, McClean has discovered Committee for brunch. “It’s a Greek place, so they have great Greek pancakes and French toast.” Still, the calamari at Committee is McClean’s favorite. And in the South End, she has found delicious Puerto Rican fare at Vejigantes.

If you’re talking Ends, there’s nothing like Boston’s North End. “Everyone and their mother loves going to the North End. You can eat your way through it,” Byrne says.

Mulholland elaborates: “I think every storefront is a restaurant or bakery or Paul Revere’s house. It’s also a beautiful place to just take an afternoon stroll in the summer and grab either dessert or coffee and sit along the beltway there.”

Everyone seems to have their own go-to in the North End. “La Famiglia Giorgio is one of our frequent places … the gnocchi is homemade and heavenly,” Javor says.

Tyler Miller ’10 likes a restaurant called Table. “They have two long tables, so it’s all community style, family style. And you sit down at tables basically with strangers and have a prix fixe, seven-course meal with good drinks. You get to meet a lot of fun people in a really fun environment and enjoy fantastic food.”

Byrne says Giacomo’s Ristorante has some of the best Italian food she’s ever tasted. The restaurant is tiny, but the portions are generous.

For that after-meal cannoli, Byrne says the locals know to go to Modern Pastry. But ask Kyra Hess ’16 and she’ll cheerfully dispute that, saying the North End’s best cannoli comes from Bova’s Bakery. “It’s 24/7, too!”

No matter where you choose to dine, if you want to get back on your feet afterward, one great place to head is the nearby Rose Kennedy Greenway, a 1.5-mile linear park. “They dropped the highway and created this amazing green space,” Byrne says. “There’s something for everyone along the Greenway.”



A lone lighthouse rises on a spit of land along water.
Boston’s skyline rises behind Boston Harbor at sunset.

Bostonians surely love their water

With his “two if by sea” reference in “Paul Revere’s Ride,” poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reminds everyone that Boston is a coastal city. You don’t have to tell Tyler Miller twice. “Our favorite thing to do is be on the water,” he says, noting Boston Harbor’s 34 islands and peninsulas, each with its own unique traits.

Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park is the largest recreational space in eastern Massachusetts. Among many features, the islands are home to historic forts, trails and beaches. Organized and self-guided activities abound, especially in the summer. Ferries to the islands leave from Boston’s Long Wharf.

“I’ve boated through many of these islands and had a great time enjoying the views of Boston’s skyline and getting away from the city,” says Josh Javor.

Javor also enjoys biking along the north side of the Charles River heading east. “The best view of the skyline is right as you’re passing MIT. At sunset, the glass buildings stand out in amazing contrast with the darkness of the city in the east and the reflection of the sunset off the glass buildings coming from the west.”

Angie Byrne says that the Esplanade is a great way to enjoy the Charles on bike, on foot or just sitting on one of the docks. And on the Fourth of July, the Esplanade’s Hatch Shell is the place to celebrate with the annual Boston Pops concert. “Fourth of July is the big summer to-do thing in Boston,” she says.

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