Six of the best winter activities in New England's capital
Winter can be an intense experience in New England – even a casual gander at Google will tell you that. But it’s also one of the most captivating times to visit its capital city of Boston: a place where temperatures might be dropping this time of year, but spirits certainly aren't.
'Beantown' – as it’s affectionately known to locals – is a city that’s not only used to plenty of snow, but positively revels in it. From the cobbled streets and old lampposts of Beacon Hill to the twinkling lights of the harbor, Boston looks undeniably magnificent at this time of year, and has a seemingly endless parade of events and activities to prove that cold really can be fun too. (Not to mention that there are major bargains to enjoy in the first three months of the year, from flights and accommodation to world-class shopping.)
There’s still plenty of winter to come in Boston and that’s great news for those in the know. To that end, here’s our pick of the city’s top six winter activities…
Perhaps you’d expect a northerly city with 1100 acres of connecting parks to excel at ice skating, but Boston exceeds pretty much every expectation. There’s an embarrassment of riches when it comes to outdoor rinks here, from the new offering at City Hall Plaza to the ever-popular Community Ice Rink in Kendall Square. But the most famous (and arguably most beautiful) of all is on Frog Pond at the heart of Boston Common. A hive of young energy and old-fashioned cheer, it’s best skated in the golden light of late afternoon, before refueling with hot chocolate at the all-important snack bar.
Until March 2018. For more information, see bostonfrogpond.com
The Northern Lights might be somewhat elusive in Europe, but it’s as regular as clockwork here. Special seasonal cruises take place aboard the 1920s-style luxury New England yacht of the same name, showcasing Boston in all its winter glory. You simply board Northern Lights, then relax in fully enclosed comfort as you soak up spectacular city skyline views – as well as live music and tasty beverages – while cruising the waters of the harbor. This is the way to see Boston in style.
There’s good news for wine lovers visiting Boston during the winter: the city is home to America’s longest-running food and wine festival – and it lasts for the first three months of every year. The Boston Wine Festival – a string of tastings, seminars and “intimate winemaker-hosted dinners” at the famous Boston Harbor Hotel, is worth the trip alone if you’re serious about your grapes.
January 10 to March 30, 2018. For more: bostonwinefestival.net
For the ultimate winter adrenaline hit, just 45 minutes northwest of Boston you’ll find Nashoba Valley – New England’s largest snow-tubing facility. Picture slippery waterslides constructed of snow, then picture racing down them at speed on inflatable rubber rings. Nashoba Valley has no fewer than 18 lanes to swoop down, and four lifts to return you to the top for a rematch. For a special treat, head here after dark for one of the daily floodlit tubing sessions.
Winter season. For more: skinashoba.com
Yes, it might be cold outside, but that’s no reason to skimp on the sightseeing. Boston is home to some of the richest history of the American Revolution, with much of it tied up in the award-winning Freedom Trail. Wrap up warm and explore in style with a Freedom Trail & Fun Tales tour by pedicab. Picking up from most central Boston hotels, these $170 tours fit three adults (or two adults and two children) and give you the whole tour de force in a remarkably comfortable two hours, with a guarantee of zero frostbite or blisters.
Year-round. For more: bostonpedicab.com/freedomtrailtour/
While most people are glad to see the back of winter, New Englanders give it a proper leaving party – like a beloved relative’s retirement. The highlight of this frosty adieu is Winterfest, taking place at the end of every February in the commuter town of Lowell, half an hour north of downtown Boston. Usually held the weekend after the Super Bowl (which the New England Patriots usually win), highlights including a German-style Winter Beer Garden, fireworks, sleigh rides and a human dog-sled competition. A fitting send-off to all things winter here in Boston.
February 23-24, 2018. For more: lowellwinterfest.com
By Jonathan Thompson