By Laurie Bain Wilson
You’re a museum-loving, sophisticated city slicker, and your partner is a beach-loving, fresh-air country type. Planning for a long weekend/getaway is tough going. The answer? A favorite of many: Boston and Cape Cod.
Spend a night, or a couple of nights in Boston, a romantic town with European charm—cobblestoned streets, world-class museums, parks for romantic picnics, restaurants with the freshest seafood, and a storied baseball stadium. And, Cape Cod is where you’ll find ribbons of unspoiled beaches, weathered clam shacks, darling villages and roadside antique shops. The two destinations are just about an hour drive apart or, you can take a ferry from Long Wharf in Boston (near Faneuil Hall), where you’ll board Salacia, said to be the largest, fastest catamaran in the country, and arrive in Provincetown in less than 90 minutes. Here, some ideas for where to eat, stay, play in Boston and Cape Cod.
Boston is arguably one of America’s most romantic towns. Hook arms and stroll the banks of the Charles River—or bike to Cambridge, home to Harvard, just across the river. City slickers will eat up the world-class museums and shop in the boutiques that line Newbury Street.
Select Oyster This brownstone spot just off Newbury Street is a pearl. The vibe is a cozy neighborhood, and you can expect the freshest of local oysters and seafood. Info: selectoyster.com.
Harvest Julia Child was a regular (Table 102 is known as Julia’s Corner) at this Cambridge restaurant. She loved the fine French wines served here, as well as American cuisine like Roasted Chicken. Info: harvestcambridge.com.
Boston Public Market Boston’s got many swaths of green for a picnic. Grab some picnic provisions from the 40-plus local vendors at this indoor market at Haymarket Station—like a chunk of cave-aged cheese from The Cellars at Jasper Hill or a lobster roll from Red’s Best. Info: (bostonpublicmrket.org). Tip: Take your goodies to the nearby Rose Kennedy Greenway for a romantic picnic.
The North End New York’s Little Italy is Boston’s North End. There are many Italian restaurants, and Italian bakeries—Mike’s Pastry (mikespastry.com) and Modern Pastry (modernpastry.com) are two of the most popular spots for cannoli’s and cappuccinos and other treats.
Saltie Girl A darling, Newbury Street-ish tin-sized restaurant with 25 seats. The menu: fried waffles and lobster with sweet corn butter and spicy maple syrup, an amazing raw bar, and sustainable tinned fish specials, too. Info: saltiegirl.com.
The Verb Hotel The best adjective to describe the Verb hotel is retro fun. It’s a ‘70s and ‘80s music-themed hotel with a vinyl library and record player in the guestrooms. But baseball fans will score big here, too—the hotel is adjacent to Fenway and many rooms look out at the ballpark. A great spot to stay after a game—and your dog is more than welcome, too. Info: theverbhotel.com.
Boston Harbor Hotel This five-star hotel is Boston defined. It’s located on the Boston Harbor waterfront at historic Rowes Wharf (you can dock and dine) and features music concerts (during warm weather), an award-winning restaurant, Le Meritage, and handsome guestrooms that are spacious and have cityscape or harbor views. Understated elegance like the town it represents so well. Info: bhh.com.
Loews Boston Hotel With a convenient Back Bay location, this 222-room hotel has a past—it’s the former Boston Police Headquarters. The Precinct Kitchen + Bar here is lively—and the outdoor patio, with flat-screen TVs, is an arresting spot for a cold Sam Adams, good conversation and a Red Sox game. Info: loewshotels.com/boston-hotel.
Element Boston Seaport/Aloft Boston Seaport If you want to explore the Seaport District—or downtown Boston—by bike, the complimentary Bikes-to-Borrow program is one reason to stay at the Element Boston Seaport. Complimentary breakfast and a nightly reception with wine and apps is another. Info: elementbostonseaport.com.
Sister property Aloft is a fun stay for tech-lovers. The hotel is Starwood-Marriott’s tech-forward incubator—book one of the voice-activated rooms, and you’ll get an iPad with a custom app that you’ll use to control your in-room experience (think “Hey Siri, please turn on the lights.”) There’s a cool WXYZ Bar, too. Info: aloftbostonseaport.com.
XV Beacon This 62-room boutique hotel sits pretty near the Boston Common and Freedom Trail, and the private Roof Deck has skyline views. Each guestroom features a gas fireplace, and the hotel will also let you test drive two of Lexus’ coveted cars, the RX450h F Sport and the GS350 F Sport between 8 AM and 8 PM. Or, take advantage of the complimentary chauffeured house car service to spots within three miles of the hotel. Info: xvbeacon.com.
The Mandarin Oriental, Boston Located in convenient Back Bay, this hotel has the only Forbes Five-Star awarded spa in Massachusetts, exceptional service, and Bar Boulud, a French-inspired bistro for Champagne sipping. Info: mandarinoriental.com/boston/back-bay/luxury-hotel.
Taj Boston Across from the Public Garden, and around the corner from Newbury Street’s best boutiques, the Taj is a luxe stay for an urban getaway. Bonus: The hotel is also sustainability-conscious and home to 12 apiaries on the third and 17th floors of the hotel—the chef at Café at Taj Boston uses the hyperlocal honey in cocktails and some dishes. Info: thetajboston.com.
The Ritz-Carlton Boston This hotel in the Theater District lives up to its Ritz name. You’ll want to book a deluxe city view guestroom that overlooks Boston and Boston Common for a peek at Boston from above. Bonus: Channel the 1950s in the retro-chic Avery Bar. Info: ritzcarlton.com.
Fenway Park Baseball lovers will want to take in a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. Or, you can also tour America’s oldest baseball park (1912)—built by Irish immigrant Charles Logue who arrived from Country Derry in 1881. Take the tour and you’ll see the famed Green Monster, up-close bullpen views. Info: mlb.com/redsox/ballpark.
The Freedom Trail One of Boston’s popular attractions is The Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile, red-lined trail that takes in 16 historic sites, including the USS Constitution, Paul Revere’s House and the Bunker Hill Monument. Start at the Boston Common and end in Charlestown—you can do it yourself, at your own pace, or, book one of the organized tours like Ye Olde Tavern Tours “because beer makes history even better”. Info: yeoldetaverntours.com. Culinary aficiandos can book the Boston Foodie Tours’ fun Feed’em Trail Historical Scavenger Hunt. Info: bostonfoodietours.com.
The Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum The art is world-class, but this gem of a museum also shows off rich gardens and a lovely courtyard—works of art that rival the paintings hanging on the walls. Info: gardnermuseum.org.
The Cape is shaped like a muscular arm—you’ve got the pretty village of Chatham at the elbow and Provincetown at the wrist, and both should be on your Cape bucket list. Sleepy seaside towns such as Wellfleet are not too far from P-Town, and where you’ll find lovely art galleries and the popular bars that locals and visitors gravitate to after a day on the beach.
Quahog Republic Dive Bar This is a wicked popular spot in Falmouth, a favorite dive bar with quahog chowder, stuffed quahogs, “monsta lobstah rolls” and a solid local vibe that’ll give you a real taste of Cape Cod. Info: quahogrepublic.com.
Chillingsworth Restaurant Elegant, but not suffocating, Chillingsworth is housed in a late 1600’s house in Brewster. Expect dishes like Warm Brewster Oysters and Seared Cape Scallops. For a more casual setting and smaller bites, there’s Chill’s Bistro and Bar. Info: chillingsworth.com.
Chatham Squire Inn The wildly popular Chatham Squire in the heart of preppy downtown Chatham is spot-on for a local brew and steamers—and a lively bar scene. Info: thesquire.com.
The Harbor Lounge A lounge and restaurant in Provincetown that’s loved for its martinis and intoxicating harbor views—come at sunset. Info: theharborlounge.com.
Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar For the best-fried clams on the Cape, this roadside spot, that’s also on the Cape Cod Bike Trail, is a goldmine. There are picnic tables to dine—and the lobster dinners come with the works (corn on the cob, chowder, steamers). Info: arnoldsrestaurant.com.
Ocean Edge Resort This sprawling 429-acre mansion seaside resort has one of the Cape’s best seasonal beach bars—on a dune where you’ll want to sip a Cape Codder at sunset (exclusive for hotel guests only). There are condo-style accommodations (best for families and pets), but couples will want to stay in the Mansion guestrooms with access to a private beach—and that beach bar. Tee off at the 18-hole Nicklaus-designed golf course, swim in your pick of pools, play tennis on clay courts, and who can resist the serenity-now Beach House Spa. Info: oceanedge.com.
Eben House An absolutely charming inn in the heart of Provincetown, and just a quick walk to the ferry from Boston, this is where you want to stay in P’Town. A gourmet breakfast is included in the sweet breakfast room, and there’s a saltwater pool for a swim and a sun soak. Info: ebenhouse.com.
Chatham Bars Inn If you love an inn with a porch for a cocktail and water views, this is a good bet. Book a room in the historic inn, spread out in one of the cottages, or in a sexy spa suite for a wellness experience. And get out on the water, on one of the resort’s luxury boat fleets for a lobster pulling, oyster digging or fishing excursion. Info: chathambarsinn.com.
Lamb and Lion This award-winning inn in Barnstable is uniquely welcoming, fun and lovely. Pack the dog—this inn is also one of the most pet-friendly inns on the planet. Book a room, a suite, a converted horse stable or barn—you’ll hang by the solar-heated swimming pool, in the year-round hot-tub, in the wellness studio (massage, hello!) and linger over breakfast in your room, poolside or, wherever you want. Info: lambandlion.com.
Captain’s House Inn Within walking distance of the Chatham Fish Pier and beach, this Cape favorite in Chatham has deluxe suites with whirlpools and soaking tubs, and fireplaces, too. And, you can take breakfast and tea in the lovely gardens in the warmer months. Info: captainshouseinn.com.
Cape Cod National Seashore One of the Cape’s treasures is this 40-mile stretch of land and sea between Eastham and Provincetown. There are almost a dozen self-guided trails to explore, and two visitor centers, too. Beach bums rejoice. Info: nps.gov/caco/index.htm.
Art’s Dune Tours Take a dune buggy tour through the Cape Cod National Seashore, and you’ll see not only miles of dunes and beachscapes but dune shacks where artists have lived through the years—and still do. Special: Book the sunset lobster bake tour. Info: artsdunetours.com.
Cape Cod Baseball League It may not be the MLB or Fenway Park, but most of the players that play in this prestigious Cape league end up playing professional baseball, including Jason Varitek and Jacoby Ellsbury. Practically every Cape town has a team and home ballpark where you’ll cheer on the next generation of major league players—one of the Cape’s most popular summer pastimes. Info: capecodbaseball.org.
Chatham Don’t miss a visit to this quintessential preppy New England village. Main Street is lined with shops and restaurants—and Chatham Candy Manor for a piece of homemade fudge (watch them make it, too). Info: candymanor.com.
Miniature Golf Cape Cod takes mini golf very seriously, and you’ll find fun courses in practically every town. One of the best: Pirate’s Cove in South Yarmouth—it’s a fantasy of pirates and waterfalls. Info: piratescove.net.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Take a walking tour to get the most out of this incredible marine science research institution in Woods Hole. Woods Hole is also where you can catch a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket for the day. Info: whoi.edu.