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 Travel Article Travel Article Archive  
May 2010 Email this to a friend

Boston

By Robert David Sullivan

Nobiz, Boston

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NOTE: This is an archive article. For an updated and expanded Boston article click DailyXtraTravel

When people from this metropolis tell you where they're from, they rarely say "Boston." This is a city of neighborhoods, so you're more likely to hear people name the South End, Back Bay or any of the dozens of other enclaves as their home. Just about the only time people claim to live in Boston is when they actually live across the river in Cambridge, home to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
If you're thinking Boston is proud of its past, you're right. Most visitors, even those here for just a day or two, fit into their itinerary at least one of the sights they read about in history class, such as the Old North Church. (Remember the "one if by land, two if by sea" lanterns warning of the direction from which the British were coming?)
Sure, it's great to go shopping in historic Faneuil Hall or follow guides in powdered wigs around the Paul Revere House. But Boston is also a cutting-edge city. Look for clubs hosting the latest indie bands, restaurants with the trendiest fusion cuisine and boutique hotels that are so minimalist there's barely a place to sit down.
Boston is the gateway for one of the country's top gay vacation destinations, Provincetown. The best way to get there is via one of the speedy vessels run by Provincetown Fast Ferry.

Getting here
Like most places in Boston, Logan Airport is served by the oldest subway system in the US, the MBTA, known locally as the "T." There's also a water-ferry connecting the airport to the downtown harbor. If you prefer, a taxi ride to downtown will usually take just 10 minutes. Trains and buses arrive at South Station, which is also on the T.

Getting around
This is not a city where you'll want to drive around, so park the car and take public transportation. The T makes getting around town quick and easy. Better yet, walk to your destination. The "Big Dig," which buried a highway that once ran through downtown, has reconnected many neighborhoods.

Neighborhoods
The gay districts of Boston are very walkable, so put on some comfortable shoes and go out exploring.
South End: The hub of the community is the South End, a neighborhood of grand bow-front houses that had fallen into disrepair until catching the eyes of gays armed with hammers and paintbrushes. There are plenty of gay restaurants along the major thoroughfares of Tremont Street and Columbus Avenue, and a handful of popular gay bars.
Back Bay: Also popular with gays, Back Bay is dominated by Victorian-era brownstones. The southern part of the neighborhood is more commercial and has some of the city's tallest skyscrapers.

Local media
Bay Windows is a top-level gay weekly newspaper.
EDGE Boston has gay entertainment listings and event updates.

The Boston Globe, one of two general public daily newspapers in the Hub has a useful website Boston.com for reviews and event listings all over New England.

The Phoenix is the local weekly general circulation newspaper for arts, entertainment and local news.

in focus
Tickets to the theater
Boston's Theater District isn't exactly Broadway. There's a place called the Intermission Tavern, but it has more of a sports-bar vibe, and the venerable Wilbur Theatre was recently turned into a comedy club. Still, the area is on the upswing, with more marquees going up in what used to be the city's red-light district.
The revitalization has been helped by Emerson College (where the gay kid on the TV series Glee would fit right in), which already runs one performance place, the Majestic, and is taking on another: the gorgeous Paramount Theatre, an Art Deco movie house on Washington Street that's been dormant since it stopped showing porno flicks in the 1970s. Even if you don't get to see a show here, the Paramount, which is next door to the similarly restored Opera House, is a must-visit for architecture fans and anyone interested in historic preservation.
For a great view of the Paramount marquee, grab a cocktail at Blu, above the LA Sports Club in the Ritz-Carlton complex. Show-tune queens should also check out the Encore Lounge (275 Tremont St), a few blocks away and Boston's only full-time piano bar. Like most piano bars, the gay vibe is stronger on weeknights, when the Lion King crowd isn't tempted to drop in.
If you're looking for specifically queer content rather than family-friendly glitz, head to the Boston Center for the Arts, in the South End, which has several stages and art galleries. (It's at 539 Tremont St, but take a cab from the Theatre District if you don't have a map, or you will get lost.) Resident troupes include the SpeakEasy Stage Company (mounting The Great American Trailer Park Musical through May) and the Theater Offensive, now in its third decade of producing original and imported gay shows. The BCA also hosts events such as the Boston Theater Marathon (this year on May 22 and 23), which features 50 original one-act plays repeated throughout the weekend and always includes plenty of contributions by gay and lesbian artists.
The BCA plaza is still a queer crossroads, even if the neighborhood is not the gay ghetto it used to be. And if you're looking for a bar or restaurant where you won't be the only one holding hands with your boyfriend, you've got a couple of dozen options within a few blocks of the plaza.

Top experiences
Play ball: Fenway Park is a must for baseball fans. And it's conveniently located near the Fens, the city's most popular cruising area.

Boys on film: The Museum of Fine Arts hosts many film festivals each year, including the Gay & Lesbian Film/Video Festival in May.

Travel to Italy: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (280 The Fenway) is a Venetian-style palazzo with an unmatched art collection. If you have a chance to hear a concert in the Tapestry Room, don't miss it.

See the sea: This stretch of the coastline is jaw-droppingly lovely. To float around the city's gorgeous harbor, contact Boston Harbor Cruises (617-227-4321).

Harvard campus: The legendary university boasts acres of beautiful buildings fronting multiple common greens shaded by mature trees. Unbeatable eye-candy -- and smart, too.


Accommodations

Near the gay nightlife, the Chandler Inn (26 Chandler St; 617-482- 3450) is a boutique hotel in the South End that's central to just about everywhere, either on foot or with a short hop on the T. Three stations are nearby, including Back Bay with Amtrak service. Fritz is their ground level gay sports and video bar with restaurant.

For affordable lodgings close to everything 463 Beacon Street Guesthouse (463 Beacon St; 617- 536-1302) is a Back Bay brownstone near Hynes Convention Center, Newbury Street shops, and all the nightlife. Guestroom kitchenettes have private bath, cable TV and wi-fi, and short-term apartments are available.

Two renovated townhouses make up the Oasis Guesthouse (22 Edgerly Rd; 617- 267- 2262). This Back Bay lodging on a quiet street has comfort and amenities including satellite TV, and Wi-Fi, close to Newbury Street shops and restaurants and Hynes Center too.

Zee Paragon Suites (10-18 Brainerd Rd, Allston/Brookline; 617-232-7844) has single rooms, studios, duplexes and suites near Boston University. Plenty of restaurants and boutiques are easily walked to along nearby Harvard Street.

Casa Do Zequita (1534 Commonwealth Ave, Brighton; 617-264-7535) has been a popular B&B on the Boston College route of the Green Line T, but the guys are retiring at the end of May, 2010.


Bars & Clubs

The Alley (14 Pi Alley at 275 Washington) is a friendly neighborhood type bar between Government Center and Downtown Crossing; popular with bears, leather men, and regular guys who like to relax with drinks over a game of pool, meet their friends and ask visitors all about themselves.

The Boston Eagle (520 Tremont St) draws young professionals to its South End location. It's long been the place to begin and end your night, and conversation flows as freely as the beer here.

Club Cafe (209 Columbus) lounge, video bar, and bistro has a new look with spacious dining room, big bright front windows, and a new 'Napoleon Room' piano bar (homage to the old Bay Village club). There's Thursday through Sunday dancing in their club in back; also karaoke and drag shows.

DBar (1236 Dorchester Ave) is out a bit from the center in residential Dorchester (take the Red Line or a taxi). This full-service restaurant suddenly transforms into a gay nightclub and lounge with dancing after 10pm.

Fritz (26 Chandler St), the neighborhood sports bar below the Chandler Inn, is a second home to many South Enders. Weekend brunch here is a social affair as well as a good meal, and players and fans of their softball team are often about the place.

A venerable establishment, Jacques (79 Broadway, Bay Village) has talented and sassy female impersonators galore and lots of spirited customers who aren't shy to show their appreciation.

Machine (1256 Boylston St) below Ramrod draws a dance crowd on Thurdays and Fridays. Every night has an event and their roomy games bar is the place to warm up for, or chill out from the dance club.
Machine also hosts Phantom of the Opera on Thursdays and Sundays, with "mash up" burlesque theater from Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans.

Paradise (180 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge) has the sexiest strippers south of Montreal (sometimes with guest dancers from there too) performing nightly on stage and mingling with the crowd. Downstairs the floor is packed for relaxed and cruisy weekend dancing with no cover charge.

Widely-known and popular, the Ramrod (1254 Boylston St) has long been a gathering place for those into leather and denim, and there's still a strict dress code enforced on Saturdays. Tight Levis and chaps will do nicely. But the complex also includes the downstairs Machine dance, theater club and games room.

The Randolph Country Club (44 Mazzeo Dr, Randolph) is a focus of social life for South Shore and suburban gay folk, and getaway for Bostonians. With outdoor pool for summer frolics and cozy lounge fireplace on cold winter days, they have a convivial mix of old and young, men and women. Drive 30 minutes south on I-93 to Route 24, take first exit.

In Back Bay, Rise (306 Stuart) is a weekend after-hours membership club for serious dancing into the later hours, gayest on Saturdays. This is helpful in a town where pulic license bars have to close quite early.

Three of the biggest gay dance events of the week in Boston are now orchestrated by one team. The Chris Harris Group presents:
Glamlife Thursdays at The Estate (1 Boylston Pl);
Epic Saturdays, at (former Avalon location) House of Blues (15 Lansdowne St); and Hot Mess Sundays at Underbar (275 Tremont St).
For more New England events from these guys see Chrisharrispresents.com.

In North Shore suburban towns around Route 128 there are some clubs on the way back from Cape Ann or the beaches of New Hampshire or Plum Island area.
In Lynn are: Fran's Place (776 Washington St, Lynn) with sports bar and dance floor, open 3pm to 1am; and 47 Central (47 Central Ave, Lynn) a long-time locals' neighborhood gay bar for everyone, old school style, with dancing on Saturdays.
At the shore by New Hampshire, Hobo's Club & Cafe (5 Broadway, Salisbury Beach) has food, comedy, pool tournaments, live music, weekend dancing, and Saturday/Sunday breakfast buffets. Sunday dinner buffets come with the $5 cover for the band.


Saunas
City Hall hostility to bathhouses makes Boston a rare exception among large American cities: there are none. In all New England, only the more libertarian Providence Rhode Island has them, just over an hour to the south by road or train.

Club Body Center (257 Weybossett St, Providence) exercise and games rooms, porn video lounge, fetish shows, steam, tanning, day pass, and they never close. Mega-Plex (257 Allens Ave, Providence), saunas, showers, club-house amenities and private rooms for overnight stays.


Restaurants

For Italian food and coffee, head to Hanover Street and the surrounding area of the North End.
For Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese food there are restaurants aplenty lining the streets of Chinatown.
Back Bay's Newbury Street has cafes and restaurants of many varied cuisines and price range.

Quincy Market at Faneuil Hall is a cornucopia of taste treats, both inside the three main buildings and in streets around. During market days at nearby Haymarket the many open stalls overflow with fruits, vegetables, and fish, all fresh and cheap. This small block, home to the Union Oyster House, survived the wrecking ball and harks back to an older Boston.

Click HERE for a list of 50 Boston and Cambridge area restaurants.


Gay Shopping

Calamus Bookstore (92B South St) right by South Station, remains one of the world's best gay bookstores. Calamus has a wide selection of books, magazines, videos, cards, and calendars, a helpful well-informed staff (about both books and Boston), and visiting gay authors from time to time.

Marquis Leathers Inc. (92 South St) above Calamus stocks just about everything you can think of made from leather, as well as videos, magazines, and toys.


On stage

The Boston Center for the Arts (539 Tremont St) consistently offers among the best North American queer and alternative theater. Besides the Colonial Theatre (106 Boylston), the Charles Playhouse (74 Warrenton St), the Shubert (265 Tremont St), and the Wang (270 Tremont St), all in the Theatre District, where there are another dozen stages.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops play at Symphony Hall (301 Massachusetts Ave), each among the most respected and best known groups of musicians in the world.

The Boston Lyric Opera plays the Citi Performing Arts Schubert Theatre and other venues. Opera Boston performs at the Cutler Majestic Theatre (219 Tremont St).

For what's on where and when, check each of the website links above, or see the Boston Globe listings at Boston.com.


Events planner

May
Gay & Lesbian Film/Video Festival
Hosted by the Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave
May 6-16, 2010
Stories of the LGBT experience with special focus on international cinema.
Bostonlgbtfilmfest.org

June
Boston Pride Week
June 4- 13, 2010
with weekend parade and festival.
Bostonpride.org

September
Harbor to the Bay
Annual AIDS-fundraising bicycle ride from Boston to Provincetown.
Third week of September
Harbortothebay.org

Mr Boston Leather
Ramrod, 1254 Boylston St
See details at Ramrod

October
Out on the Edge
A major festival of queer theater
Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont St
Theateroffensive.org

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