Boston has always been a place that seems to exist both in the past and the future in equal measure. Its rich history and strong community roots help to keep it grounded while its visionary developers and innovative designers morph its very existence.
Like many US destinations, Boston has welcomed more domestic tourists than its usual droves of international and group travel. But with the reopening of nonstop transatlantic flights, which had paused during the pandemic, this much-visited north-eastern city is back on track to show European tourists what a warm New England welcome looks like. Hotel occupancy fell to 25 per cent in 2020, down from 82.5 per cent in 2019, but it rebounded to 45 per cent last year and is projected to jump up to 66 per cent for this year.
The ever-changing Seaport District
The past two decades have seen a complete transformation for the Seaport District, a section of South Boston’s waterfront, home to the infamous Boston Tea Party protest of 1773. As the heyday of maritime commerce dwindled and manufacturing slowed in the 20th century, the seaport became all but an abandoned outpost by the early 2000s. But over the next decade, it quickly transformed into one of the country’s hottest real estate markets because of innovative residential and commercial developments, even despite its inherent flood risks.
The Seaport has since become home to most of the city’s new hotel inventory, including Aloft, Element, Envoy and Yotel, and, more recently the Hilton Homewood and Hampton Inn dual-branded property Hyatt Place, and the Omni Seaport with its Lifted Pool Bar, an elevated pool deck and bar offering the city skyline as its backdrop.
More is in the pipeline for Seaport redevelopment: a plan has been green-lit to replace the long-dormant Edison Power Plant with mixed-use residential buildings, and a piazza-style space has opened in the 1.4-hectare complex in the heart of the neighbourhood with two levels of high-end retail, culinary offerings, and recreational opportunities. It’s hard to tell what the Seaport District will look like in another 20 years, but it will keep building and we will keep coming.
Fenway gets bigger britches
Chestnut Hill-based WS Development has partnered with Fenway Sports Group Real Estate and the D’Angelo family (owners of the ’47 clothing brand and the Red Sox Team Store) for what has been dubbed ‘Fenway Corners’– a redevelopment of approximately two hectares surrounding Fenway Park. Hoping to attract year-round pedestrians, the outdoor areas are to include an amphitheatre and public roof deck, and surrounding buildings will be mixed office, retail and residential spaces. The project developers promise to weave the neighbourhood’s historic significance into what looks to be an extreme makeover, something locals have expressed concern over.
Fenway Sports Group and Live Nation have constructed MGM Music Hall at Fenway, slated to open later this year. Though the construction will add a much-needed expanded area to the right-field grandstands and bleachers, including a bleacher function space for up to 600 people, the grand introduction of a 5,000-seat concert hall is the focus of the project. As an extension of the iconic Fenway Park, the hall will add 8,500 sqm and four levels of new event space and amenities to the ballpark. It is anticipated it will host up to 150 events per year.
Reopenings and luxury launches
The Langham Boston reopened in June 2021 after a considered transformation that added more spacious bathrooms with walk-in showers and 1,254 sqm of meeting space, including the Lincoln Ballroom which can accommodate up to 200 guests. Originally built in 1922 as the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the Financial District’s granite and limestone building was converted into a luxury hotel in 1981, joining the Langham Hospitality Group in 2004.
Though its opening date has been pushed back to early 2023, Raffles Boston Back Bay Hotel and Residences is causing quite the stir as the first mixed-use Raffles hotel to open in North America. It joins a collection of 12 Raffles properties worldwide, and will house 147 guestrooms and 146 residences in a purpose-built, 35-storey, LEED Gold-certified glass building just across from the famous all-glass John Hancock Tower.
Featuring six dining venues, including a sky bar and speakeasy, the property will hold 16 gathering spaces, including a 19th-floor ballroom with views over the city, a spa and fitness centre with a 20m pool, and a three-storey sky lobby, said to be the first of its kind in Boston. And let’s not forget the rooftop garden terrace.
A lasting legacy
Boston has always been a draw for sports fans because of its top-tier teams across the professional sports leagues: NBA’s Celtics, NHL’s Bruins, NFL’s Patriots, MLB’s Red Sox, MLS’s Revolution, and The Renegades, last year’s national champions in the Women’s Football Alliance. It comes as no surprise that the city continues to invest in sports – especially at the consumer level.
Sports with a side of fun
Posh bowling alleys were all the rage a decade ago, but now, darts are getting their own upgrade. Described as “darts for the 21st century”, Flight Club Boston offers a range of multi-player games for a social gaming experience in semi-private areas designed to bring people together and keep them entertained. To cool off, bespoke cocktails and carefully crafted sharing boards and pizzas are on offer.
Another addition to the Seaport District, Spin, made its debut in autumn of last year. Part of the small ping-pong club chain that first opened in New York City in 2009, Boston takes seat number seven in the franchise. Four Olympic-calibre ping-pong tables welcome players of all levels in a multi-sensory space with a sliding garage door that leads to a patio with an ad-hoc gallery of graffiti, street art and murals from local artists. And if ping-pong isn’t your thing, there is dancing and a DJ, two private lounges and a full-service restaurant and bar.
FOOD AND DRINK
There’s a sturdy beer brewing history here with the likes of Sam Adams and Harpoon, and the scene continues to grow. Only a few months new, Lamplighter CX is the local brewer’s second location. It has set up a taproom and nanobrewery within the residential and retail development project Cambridge Crossing where it hocks its popular New England IPAs and taste-tests barrel-aged brews.
Meanwhile, Flying Embers Brewery and Social Club, which originally hails from California, chose Boston last summer as its second main hub and continues its focus on craft experimental beers, hard kombucha and seltzers. And then there’s the first Latino-owned brewery in the state – Roundhead Brewing Company – which is set to open its brick-and-mortar location in Hyde Park.
Nia Grace – owner of the famed Roxbury eatery Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen – partnered with Northeastern University to open The Underground Café and Lounge last autumn in Roxbury. As part of a financial incentive that works with neighbouring communities to help bolster local businesses, especially ones owned by women and people of colour, Northeastern’s Lightview dorm first-floor retail space will now serve up Grace’s seafood gumbo and red velvet waffles to students, locals and tourists.
Second up for Fox and Knife owner, James Beard award-winning chef Karen Akunowicz, is Bar Volpe. Opening last winter, her southern-Italian inspired fare is served in a small space with upscale diner vibes just down the street from her first restaurant in South Boston. We hear the culurgiones (Sardinian stuffed pasta) are to die for.
Though Boston could never win in the barbecue game against its home turf origins in the South, the city has a few smoked meat joints that put up a fair fight. M&M BBQ is one of the oldest, originating as a food truck in 1982 run by Maurice and Marion Hill. Now, their grandson and third-generation pitmaster, Geo Lambert, has opened the first M&M BBQ inside Dorchester Brewing Company. The famous ribs and dumpster fries have come along for the ride.
Food halls to the rescue
Instead of going to one restaurant and ordering from one menu, food halls have become a bastion in dozens of US cities for tourists and locals alike. After a two-year delay, High Street Place opened in March, featuring 20 food and drink vendors in the previously underused five-storey atrium connecting 160 Federal Street and 100 High Street. Savour the hand-rolled bagels from Mamaleh’s Delicatessen, slurp Pho-Men noodles at Kutzu, or sip Champagne from a baptismal in Bubble Bath. The choice is yours.
If you’re headed to a game at TD Garden, the 18-vendor Hub Hall debuted in September 2021 and works with mostly local chefs and restaurant groups to bring more than just hot dogs to the stadium, including pizza, tacos, burgers, oysters, seafood, and pastries. Boston staple Lily P’s has an outlet serving its superlative fried chicken. Plus there’s a wine bar and a beer bar to ease those tense game moments.
TAKE ME THERE
You can book your next trip to Boston with United Airlines at united.com.
United flies daily nonstop to Boston from London Heathrow on a 767-300 featuring 46 United Polaris® business class seats, 22 United® Premium Plus seats and 99 United Economy seats.
Customers travelling in business class can enjoy access to the United Clubs℠ at Heathrow’s Terminal Two and Boston Logan.
Words: Valentina Valentini