Best of Boston Summer 2015: Food, Sites, and Experiences

This past summer I was in Boston for a total of three weeks. Before that, I never spent much quality time in the city. I really liked Boston for a number of reasons. First off, it’s quite clean in comparison to many U.S. cities I have travelled to and lived in. Secondly, it’s not as massive as New York or London (Though, I do love both of them!), which makes its less daunting for a visit. Finally, there are a lot of great places to eat, drink, and hang out, which is not always a given in every city. This post will highlight some of my favorite foods places, sites, and experiences I had in Boston this past summer. 

My Favorite Food Places

J.P. Licks

La CocoaRacha on the 4th

Summer is a great time to eat ice cream, though I tend to eat it year-round. I first heard about J.P. Licks from our local instructors in the microMORPH course and I had my first scoop during the 4th of July. I had the La CocoaRacha, which was a seasonal flavor consisting of Sriracha sauce in chocolate ice cream. Chocolate and chili often pairs together quite well and this food marriage can be seen in ancient Mesoamerica. While J.P. Licks has grown into a Boston-area chain, its original store is in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston (that’s what the J.P. stands for). During the archaeological charcoal workshop we visited the original store where I had a scoop of the dairy-free vanilla coconut ice cream. I have nothing against dairy, but when my lactose-intolerant trench supervisor in Oman (hi Kaitlin!) told me how coconut milk ice cream rocked her world, I had to try it. J.P. Licks dairy-free vanilla coconut scoop was creamy and delicious. For me, the best part of J.P. Licks, besides the variety, is the creaminess of their ice creams. I will definitely get another scoop the next time I am in Boston.

Mei Mei Restaurant

This restaurant served Chinese-American fusion food. Their ingredients are fresh and their food is delicious. They have a somewhat small menu for lunch, but I’ve been told everything is good. I’ve had their magical kale salad and their pork dumplings. Next time I go, I definitely want one of their scallion pancake sandwiches, as I saw a colleague eating it and I had a little bit of food envy.

My Favorite Sites

Bunker Hill Monument

Bunker Hill Monument
One Entrance to the Bunker Hill Monument
Bunker Hill Monument
The Bunker Hill Monument
View from Bunker Hill Monument
View from top of Bunker Hill Monument

The Bunker Hill Monument commemorates the Battle of Bunker Hill, which took place during the American Revolutionary War. It was one of the first confrontations between the newly formed colonial army and British forces. Though the British ultimately won the battle, the significance of the battle is that the Americans put up a surprisingly, good fight. During the weekend of the microMORPH course, some of us decided to walk parts of the Freedom trail. Of the portion I walked, I really enjoyed the Bunker Hill monument. We decided to climb to the top of the monument. During high season (mainly the summer), you will need to go across the street to the Bunker Hill Museum on 43 Monument Square to get a climbing pass. Passes are free, but they are limited and distributed on a first-come-first-serve basis. We only waited about 15 minutes before our scheduled climb time. The climb consists of 294 steps and the space is a little narrow (two people can fit on a step). The site is, as the name suggests, on a hill , which provided a great view of the surrounding area, especially from the top of the monument.

Arnold Arboretum

If you have read my previous blog posts, then you know that the Arnold Arboretum is one of my favorite places in Boston. It’s free to access, beautifully maintained, and great for a morning, evening, or afternoon walk. Here are my five favorite areas in the Arboretum (click here for a map):

1.  Peter’s Hill

Peter's Hill
This is the highest point in the Arboretum and you get fantastic views of Boston.

2. M. Victor and Frances Leventritt Garden

Overlooking Vine and Shrub Garden
This collection features shrubs, vines, and dwarf conifers. It houses a lot of unique plants that and the design of the garden is worth checking out.

3. Conifer Path

conifers - chris devers
Conifers are cone-bearing plants and the Arboretum boasts a beautiful collection featuring 570 taxa. The conifer collection is large so I recommend walking the conifer path to get an idea of the collection.       Photo Credit: Chris Devers via Flickr

4. The Larz Anderson Bonsai Collection

This collection of dwarfed trees was originally imported to U.S. in 1913 by Larz Anderson. The trees in the collection are often rotated for public viewing as they require consistent upkeep. The collection can be viewed from 8am-3:45pm from mid-April to mid-November. If you’re in the area at the right time, I would recommend checking them about.

5. Bradley Rosaceous Collection

Rose Garden
The design of this collection fosters a relaxing atmosphere. There are two ponds and many flowering plants of the Rosaceae family. Yes, there are roses. This is a great place to stop, sit, or even take a nap!

My Favorite Experiences

4th of July Fireworks on the Charles River Esplanade

Fireworks spelling out USA

I’m a sucker for fireworks. Also, I’m rarely in the U.S. for the 4th of July. Even though the 4th of July in most U.S. cities can be a travel nightmare, I was determined to spend it in Boston. Fortunately, I was able to stay with a fellow archaeologist. Her sister had a centrally located apartment (yeah, I got lucky) so we didn’t have to worry about getting on public transit that day. You know you have a great friend when they’re willing to be dragged to the river and sit with you in a huge crowd for an hour and a half to wait to see fireworks (thanks Brooke!). I don’t normally wait in huge crowds for fireworks, but there was something about being in the U.S. for Independence Day that created this exception. Boston did not disappoint and the fireworks show was AWESOME.  If you’re ever in Boston for the 4th, I highly recommend viewing the fireworks show.

Staying with Friends

One of the best parts of my two trips to Boston this past summer was staying with friends. It really made the trips more special. It was great to have a friendly place to stay during the weekend of 4th (thanks again Brooke!). For my second trip, I stayed with a friend from my first archaeological field school, Juan, and his girlfriend, Mary. If you like to eat, I highly recommend staying with foodies (make sure to bring something tasty as a thank you gift!). The three of us enjoyed great food (fresh bread!), drinks (pumpkin beer!), and company (at least I hope so!) for a week. Both experiences were definitely a major highlight of my trips to Boston. Thanks again for the hospitality!

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Smiti Nathan

I’m an archaeologist that travels around the world for both work and pleasure. I have a penchant for exploring ancient and modern places and the people, plants, and foods entangled in them. I write about archaeology, travel, and productivity.



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