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How to get out of town without wheels

WaterFire, a fire sculpture installation in Providence, R.I., takes place on designated Saturday evenings throughout the summer. Photo courtesy of WaterFire

When the mercury hits the 80s, even the coolest parts of the city offer little relief. (The Swan Boats, while lovely, don’t move fast enough to catch a breeze.) At such times, the best solution is to get out of town. But without a car, where can a Bostonian go?

With a few bucks in hand, plenty of places. The MBTA does some of its finest work outside the city limits, offering commuter rail service to beaches and seaside towns up and down the coast. BU Today highlights four summertime destinations that can be reached by public transportation.

Singing Beach, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass.
Singing Beach — named for the “singing” noise the sand makes beneath your feet — is arguably the best beach in the state: it is beautiful and clean, with plenty of space for both Frisbee players and sunbathers. Plus, it boasts the ever-important amenities of restrooms and a concession stand. There is a walk-on entrance fee of $5, which is well worth it. To get there, take the Rockport-bound commuter rail (tickets are $6.75, one way) from North Station and get off at the Manchester stop. Singing Beach is about a half-mile walk from the station.

WaterFire, Providence, R.I.
On designated Saturday nights throughout the summer, the city of Providence sets its river on fire, and visitors come from all over New England to see the sight. WaterFire is a fire sculpture installation that began in 1994. Dozens of braziers are placed throughout the river, and close to 100 bonfires glow as the accompanying music reverberates off the city’s buildings. Vendors and performers complete the festival feel, and the fires, which start at sundown, often burn past midnight. WaterFires are scheduled for September 1, September 15, September 29, October 6, and October 27. Providence is an hour’s ride from South Station on Amtrak ($12, one way) or by bus, Bonanza (about $15 round-trip), and the river is a short walk from both the train station and the Kennedy Plaza bus station.

Boston Harbor Islands, Boston, Mass.
The Harbor Islands aren’t actually out of town at all, but being there feels like an entirely different world. There are 34 islands in the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, and many of them offer hiking trails, tidal pools, and camping sites and are easily accessible by T and by ferry. Tour the Civil War–era Fort Warren, on Georges Island, or visit the country’s oldest continually used lighthouse, on Little Brewster Island. Ferries leave from Long Wharf in Boston and the EDIC Pier in South Boston, both reachable by T; ferries cost $10 and $12 (round-trip), depending on the day of travel. For more information, go to the Harbor Islands visitors’ guide.

Tanglewood Jazz Festival, Lenox, Mass.
Take in the tranquil and scenic Berkshires while enjoying this year’s Tanglewood Jazz Festival, Friday, August 31, through Sunday, September 2. The annual festival, presented by the Boston Symphony Orchestra at its summer home in western Massachusetts, features the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band, French jazz vocalist Mina Agossi, and Brazilian superstars Cesar Camargo Mariano–Romero Lubambo Duo, with vocalist Leny Andrade, among many others. Buses depart Symphony Hall on Friday and Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and stop at the Riverside MBTA station at 5 p.m. The cost is $30 round-trip.

Jessica Ullian can be reached at jullian@bu.edu.