Several years ago, on the eve of Fourth of July, I found myself anxious that summer was half over. An unsettling idea informed by a belief that not only did not serve me but also was possibly just untrue! After an espresso and a moment of reflection, I declared it total nonsense and elected that Independence Day would hereon represent the kick-off to summer – not the middle – and would now be marked by the months of July, August and September. Sorry June, you’re yesterday’s news.
Many of the best summer events and activities are free or respectably affordable and occur within a short and pleasant walking distance from some of the most popular neighborhoods, specifically the North End, Faneuil Hall and the Seaport. I say ‘pleasant’ since the Rose Kennedy Greenway has made strolling the waterfront a truly enjoyable experience. There are no less than five art installations along the Greenway, including a compelling piece entitled ‘May This Never End’ by Matthew Hoffman, a 4-by-319-foot bright, yellow message; amusing and playful, a terrific start to a great day. Most exhibits are framed by a burst of colorful, perennial blooms and meticulously cared for by a battalion of horticultural enthusiasts. (Warning: Liberty gardeners may suffer from serious plant envy).
Further along the Greenway and a stone’s throw from Hanover Street, in the Armenian Heritage Park, is an extraordinary labyrinth; this circular winding path, inlaid stone nestled tidily in green grass, “celebrates life’s journey” and when undertaken is uncanny in its ability to calm one’s nerves. Also of note in the Park is an abstract sculpture, sitting atop a reflecting pool, which changes shape once a year and is said to honor the immigrant experience!
Traverse another block and you’ll discover a traditional, yet unique, carousel made up of animals common to Boston including lobsters, skunks and harbor seals. At three bucks a ticket why wouldn’t you awaken your inner child and go for a spin? As my cartwheeling, anisette sipping Italian grandmother used to say: “One is never too old to say yes to fun!”
Looking for disruption and great street food? Look no further than the many food trucks that gather daily across from the Boston Harbor Hotel (Psst: this hotel is also the insider’s scene for free midweek outdoor music – and a movie on Friday nights!). Usually you will find no fewer than four artfully decorated trucks offering lunch for less than ten bucks including the Chicken and Rice Guys, Cupcake City and Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese, with plenty of seating nearby.
At this point in your journey you may be getting tired and thirsty! Given the balmy temperatures (aka humidity) of summer in Boston, perhaps you’re also a wee bit hot and ‘perspired’? Well look no further than Massachusetts Bay Lines, located at Rowes Wharf, and their new vessel the Brigantine ‘Formidable’. This 50-foot sail vessel is replete with a gnarly Captain and crew in pirate garb (optional) at the ready to take you on a not-soon-forgotten harbor tour unlike any other. Best feature – besides the panoramic views and price – you can bring your own cold beverages; no expensive, surprise bar tab at the end of this salty, seaward sojourn! However if a sailboat sunset cruise sounds too adventurous they also offer motorboat harbor tours and new this year: Amusement Cruises with live music, “The Dirty Dottys,” and hysterical high seas humor, “Gary Marinos’ ‘World Gone Cra-Sea’” on Thursday and Friday evenings, respectively.
And finally Labor Day. Historically this anachronistic holiday was a time of mass exodus from Boston, a last chance to grab your bikini or surf shorts and head for the beach – not anymore. Boston Harbor Now, a newly merged organization representing environmental advocacy and National Park priorities, has assured us that those not desirous of a final traffic jam will find plenty to-do, including a jaw-dropping fireworks display, entitled ‘Illuminating The Waterfront’. This epic battle of barges, pyrotechnic blaze takes place over Boston’s Inner Harbor. It is meant to applaud the important and hard work of so many spanning decades that have selflessly and tirelessly restored Boston’s harbor. It starts just after sunset, 8:30 p.m., allowing plenty of time for you to grab a delicious meal in the North End, take a brief carousel spin and still secure an unobstructed view seaward, enabling you and your sweetheart to gasp, giggle and gleefully gesticulate into the night.