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We’ll Be Back August 24

Meanwhile, great ways to pass the time until the semester’s start

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Photo by Chris Devers, from Flickr Creative Commons

As happens every year, we’re taking a short August hiatus, a deep breath before we all plunge into a new school year. We’ll resurface August 24; classes begin September 2.

But we can still leave you with recommendations for cool things to do in and around Boston over the next few weeks.

Here’s a quick 10:

Starlight Flicks at the Hatch
For 24 years, WBZ Radio has sponsored free summertime movies, dubbed Free Friday Flicks, at the Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade.

Through the end of August, a different film is shown every Friday night. So grab lawn chairs or a blanket, pack a picnic, and head to the river.

The following movies roll through the month:
August 14: Inkheart
August 21: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
August 28: Iron Man

Veterans know to get to the Esplanade early to stake out prime turf and see what freebies and food samples are being distributed at the WBZ tent.

The Hatch Shell is accessible by T: Red Line, Charles/MGH stop; walk across the footbridge at Charles Circle and head left (upstream) along the river to the Hatch Shell. Green Line, Arlington Station: walk north (toward the river) on Arlington Street and David Mugar Way and cross on the Fiedler Footbridge to the Hatch Shell. In the event of rain, call the Free Friday Flicks Hotline for cancellation information, 617-787-7200.

Sand Between Your Toes
Beach days can be few and far between, especially if you’re stuck in the city without a car. Luckily, Boston’s North Shore beaches are easily reached via commuter rail.

The white sand of Crane Beach in Ipswich stretches for miles, becoming a summer haven for both people and wildlife. The more than 1,200 acres of beachfront, dunes, and maritime forest are managed by the Trustees of Reservations, a land conservation group in Massachusetts. Take the Newburyport Commuter Rail Line to the town of Ipswich and then hop on the shuttle that will take you to the beach, where you’ll pay a $2 admission fee.

A North Shore alternative is Singing Beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea, half a mile from the rail stop on the Rockport Line. Walk-on admission is $5, and children under 12 are admitted free. And why the name? Wind passing over the dunes here sometimes makes a whirring, musical sound.

La Dolce Vita
Sultry August evenings in the city are made for sitting outside, taking in the breeze and watching the world go by at street level. There’s no place better to do that in Boston than the North End, where the whole neighborhood is a stoop. Best accompaniment: a scoop or two of gelato (the Italian version of ice cream). True, you probably couldn’t toss a meatball in the North End without hitting a restaurant that has the frozen treat on the menu, but here are a number of establishments that specialize:

Gelateria, 272 Hanover St.
Café Paradiso, 255 Hanover St.
Caffe Vittoria, 296 Hanover St.
Mike’s Pastry, 300 Hanover St.
Napoli Pastry Shop, 120 Salem St.

Culture on the Doorstep
If Boston is starting to feel all too familiar, break out of the midweek routine, take an extended lunch break, and head downtown.

On August Wednesdays, visual artists, street performers, and food and craft vendors are creating a cultural spectacle, called Arts on the Arcade, at City Hall Plaza. Performances range from rhythm and blues to Chinese folk dance, and the street market is packed with goodies. Grab some fried dough and meander through the stalls. Pick out a painting or buy some fresh produce for dinner. Act like you’re on vacation. Prove that you don’t need to produce a passport to exercise your sense of wonder.

Arts on the Arcade continues every Wednesday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., through August 26. Performances start at noon. Take the T to Government Center. Admission is free. More information is available here.

Punk’s Dead, but Music Lives in Kenmore
Hard as it is to believe these days, Kenmore Square was once Boston’s alternative nightlife hub. Amid plenty of bars and late night eateries, one scene reigned: the Rat.

Seedy, loud, no holds barred, the Rat (shortened and toughened from the Rathskeller) was the city’s premier rock and punk venue, credited with helping launch the careers of the likes of J. Geils, the Ramones, R.E.M., and the Police. When it closed in November 1997, punk presence in Kenmore vanished, gradually replaced by upscale restaurants and bars that are more trendy and respectable, but not livelier.

Presiding over the evolving nature of Kenmore Square is the mainstay Hotel Commonwealth. So it is fitting that the hotel’s bar, the Foundation Lounge, should try to blend the energy and music of those Ratty times into today’s sophisticated surroundings.

The music begins at 9 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Foundation Lounge in the Hotel Commonwealth, 500 Commonwealth Ave., Kenmore Square. There is no cover charge. For more information, call 617-859-9900. To get there on the MBTA, take the B line or 57 bus to Kenmore Square.

Yoga and Yogurt
Shed that stress, unwind that mind by practicing yoga for free along the Charles River Esplanade.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation hosts hour-long yoga lessons at the Hatch Shell on Mondays at 6 p.m. through September 14. Classes attract as many as 100 yogis, some who can wrap themselves into pretzel shapes, others who can’t find their toes. All are welcome, because the focus of the program, modeled after free yoga in New York City’s Bryant Park, is to make Boston a healthier city.

Participants are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing and bring along a yoga mat, water, and identification. All ages are welcome, but those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

After class, a half-mile jaunt to the Charles River Plaza will seem like a piece of cake — or better put, an opportunity to cool down at boYO (short for Boston Yogurt) with fat-free, gluten-free, and guilt-free frozen yogurt. Healthy toppings include fresh fruit, but more guilt-ridden options like cookie crumbles and caramel chips are available, too.

Yoga classes are offered at the Hatch Shell on Mondays from 6 to 7 p.m., weather permitting. The Hatch Shell is accessible by T: Red Line, Charles/MGH stop; walk across the footbridge at Charles Circle and head left (upstream) along the river to the Hatch Shell. Green Line, Arlington Station: walk north (toward the river) on Arlington Street and David Mugar Way and cross on the Fiedler Footbridge to the Hatch Shell. For more information, call 617-727-1058. BoYO is at 175 Cambridge St., Boston. For more information, call 617-227-2696.

Art Appreciation, Easy on the Pocketbook
The Institute of Contemporary Art is free to all comers every Thursday night. Through August, there will be HarborWalk Shuffle Performances on the ICA plaza from 6 to 8:30 p.m. as artists present new and upcoming albums from Matador and XL records, including Seattle’s Cave Singers.

To find your way to the ICA, take the Red Line to South Station and transfer to the Silver Line Waterfront bus. The ICA, 100 Northern Ave., is short walk from either the World Trade Center or the Courthouse station.

Right on campus, Absolution of the Wind, an exhibition of photographs by Emily Corbató, is on display at the Rubin-Frankel Gallery in the University’s Florence and Chafetz Hillel House through December 21. Corbató’s photos were taken on the windswept barrier-beach of Plum Island, Mass.

The gallery is on Hillel’s second floor, 213 Bay State Rd.; it is open during the summer from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Sports Revival
As the summer winds down, BU sports ramp up.

Men’s soccer takes to Nickerson Field for its first exhibition game on Wednesday, August 19, at 7 p.m., against Northeastern. Field hockey heads home for a scrimmage against the University of Victoria on Jack Barry Field, Vassar St., Cambridge, on Tuesday, August 25, at 5:30 p.m. And don’t forget women’s soccer — the team’s first game is at Nickerson at 7 p.m. on Thursday, August 27.

BU is looking for some early wins, and fans always help.

It’s Big, Green, and Close
The 265-acre Arnold Arboretum, in Jamaica Plain, is owned by the city of Boston and leased to Harvard University, which maintains the grounds and conducts horticultural research. It’s home to more than 15,000 plants, which according to the arboretum constitute one of the largest and best documented woody plant collections in the world.

This green oasis is perfect for picnicking and exploring. Free guided walking tours are offered many days, and self-guided tours are available here.

A hint to photographers: with so many exotic and beautiful things to look at, bring every lens you can get your hands on, from macro to telephoto. This is an ideal place for a photo expedition.

The Arnold Arboretum is free and open from sunrise to sunset 365 days a year. The visitors center is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. The arboretum is easily accessible by T: take the Orange Line to the Forest Hills station.

Thoreau’s Footsteps
One day trip offers the added attraction of following in the footsteps of the great literary escapee Henry David Thoreau: a mental health day at Walden Pond.

The Walden Pond State Reservation is about a mile and a half from Concord Center. The reservation encompasses a 102-foot-deep kettle-hole pond formed by receding glaciers and Walden Woods, 2,680 acres of mostly undeveloped woods. Designated a National Historic Landmark, the area is considered the birthplace of the conservation movement.

The reservation and the pond are largely unchanged from Thoreau’s day — that and their literary connection make Walden perhaps the most famous pond of them all. The transcendentalist thinker retreated to a one-room cabin on its banks, where he lived from July 1845 to September 1847 and wrote his most famous book, Walden.

The pond is a popular destination for swimming, picnicking, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. Its extensive shoreline, with little pocket beaches dipping off a hiking trail, makes for a great escape and offers real privacy even on a crowded day.

Driving is by far the easiest way to get to Walden, in Concord, Mass., but it is also possible to get there by commuter rail and by bike. Driving: take the Mass Pike (I-90) west to Rte. 95/128 north and take exit 29B onto Rte. 2 west. At the third set of lights, go left on Rte. 126 south. Parking (only $5 for the day) is a quarter-mile on the left, the pond is on the right. Commuter rail: trek to North Station on the Green Line, then take the Fitchburg commuter rail line, getting off at Concord Center. It’s a 25-minute walk from there (bikes can be brought on the train on weekends). By bike: navigate through the city to Cambridge’s Alewife MBTA station, and then things improve. The Minuteman Bikeway leads to Lexington; local roads connect to Concord. The park is open year-round.

More information, including park hours, is available here or call the visitors center at 978-369-3254.

3 Comments

3 Comments on We’ll Be Back August 24

  • Anonymous on 08.09.2009 at 3:57 pm

    really? do your research

    after lamenting boston music’s scene receding into allston and the surrounds in the wake of kenmore’s gentrification, the best music recommendation you can make is the foundation lounge??? how much did they pay you?
    “it is fitting that the hotel’s bar, the Foundation Lounge, should try to blend the energy and music of those Ratty times into today’s sophisticated surroundings”. yeah. the operative word there is “try”. thanks for the rec but you should try harder when recommending a legit music venue.

  • Anonymous on 08.09.2009 at 11:43 pm

    i second the first comment.

  • Anonymous on 08.11.2009 at 2:07 pm

    Keep in Mind

    I agree with the first comment but you have to keep in mind that BU owns Hotel Commonwealth so basically its a clever way to advertise to students to go spend money on drinks and food.

    I like the other recommendations to find the greener areas in and around Boston and the included directions are good as well.

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