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Boston. Growing up less than three hours away in Albany, it was a frequent destination for everything from historical field trips to wholesome mother-daughter vacations. When I was in Junior High, my dad took a job there, and my mom and little sister and I started making more frequent trips to visit, in addition to his weekend commutes back home. In high school and into my early college years, the apartment he bought in Cambridge became an occasional crash pad for my friends and I when we were heading to Boston for a concert or event, or simply wanted to play grownup with an unsupervised group getaway. Suffice it to say, I’ve spend many a weekend in Beantown.

Modern Boston

Yet frankly, it was never my favorite. I always saw Boston as New York’s uptight older sister, a buttoned-up city where last call was at 12:30, where the unofficial uniform was Ugg boots and a Northface jacket, where parking was a horror show and the subway nonsensically stopped running before the bars closed. I saw it as stuffy and stuck in the past. I wasn’t too bummed when my dad relocated again, this time to Philadelphia.

And then, this summer, my sister moved to Boston.

Boston Travel Blog

Boston Travel Blog

We all, Olivia included, were pretty devastated for her to leave New Orleans — but damn we were proud that she landed her dream job on the Clinton campaign! I immediately made plans to visit on the way back from Martha’s Vineyard. As she settled in, she reported seeing the city through new eyes. Trendy restaurants and cafes. A beautiful park stroll as a work commute. And, for the party animals out there, a handful of bars that do stay open until the legally-allowed 2am, and to get them home safely. If anyone knows how to find the best in a new city, it’s my tour guide extraordinaire little sister. Suddenly, I was excited to see it for myself.

We planned two short nights in the city post-Martha’s Vineyard. As most of the crew who’d been on the island had to travel onward through Boston, we had quite the caravan — me, Ian (who was taking a bus out of the city), Janine (who was visiting friends in the suburbs), Kirsten (who was flying out of Logan International), and Olivia (who lives there!).

Boston Travel Blog

Boston Travel Blog

While my sister is now living in a charming studio, at the time of our visit she was sleeping in more or less the hallway of a Craiglist multi-person sublet — not exactly ideal for hosting a group. Hence, we made other arrangements — a stay at the super swank hotel, located in the heart of Beacon Hill, and just a stone’s throw from the entrance to Boston Commons.

XV Beacon Hotel

XV Beacon Hotel View

Exhaustive searches for boutique hotels and even hostels in Boston turned up few that I’d consider to match my taste. But XV Beacon checked all the boxes — amazing location, gorgeous views, thoughtfully designed rooms, and a trendy onsite bar and restaurant. I mean, can we just talk about this suite for a minute? Olivia very strongly considered moving herself right in.

XV Beacon Hotel Suite

XV Beacon Hotel Suite

XV Beacon Hotel Suite

XV Beacon Hotel Suite

XV Beacon Hotel Suite

With just two short nights I had little time to work, but the moments I did steal away to my laptop felt pretty luxurious from this desk, and with that view!

XV Beacon Hotel Suite

XV Beacon Hotel Suite View

The downstairs lobby was small, but who needs one with a room larger than most city apartments? And there were some pretty amazing amenities waiting for us on the top floor. First, a small gym that thankfully we did get one chance to use. Second, a gorgeous rooftop balcony! Hello hot tub, and city views for days. I couldn’t get over this lush little patio.

XV Beacon Hotel Rooftop

XV Beacon Hotel Rooftop

After our first night in the city, which involved Kirsten and Olivia getting some cousin bonding time and Ian and I holing up in the hotel with a romantic dinner of burritos (before you cast judgement, let me direct you to the Nutella milkshake on the menu), we met up to escort Olivia to work via a stroll through Boston Commons. My only real regret of the trip is not making time for a run through this park. It’s Boston’s answer to Central Park, and I don’t know how I went so long without appreciating what a gem it is.

Anyway, while Olivia went off to change the world, Ian and Kirsten and I went off to sightsee. Our first stop? One of my childhood favorites, the .

Boston Aquarium

Boston Aquarium

Boston Aquarium

Boston Aquarium

Boston Aquarium

It was just as special as I remembered. I have high standards for zoos and aquariums, and this one’s focus on education and specific calls to action for sustainability left me freshly impressed. And it’s simply gorgeous on an aesthetic level — the building and the spiral design of the central tank is enough to make any architecture buff swoon.

Boston Aquarium

Boston Aquarium

Boston Aquarium

Boston Aquarium

Boston Aquarium

Boston Aquarium

And I mean, can we talk about the cuteness that is an upside-down baby stingray? Worth the price of admission alone! (Well, not really. The price of admission is pretty steep at $26.95, but it does become a better value if you can go for the IMAX package at $31.95. Sadly, we didn’t have time for a movie, which is a shame as the onsite theater is excellent.)

Boston Aquarium

Boston Aquarium“Can’t pose for a photo right now, Meihoukai. I’m performing turtle surgery.”

And, you know, there’s a pretty bitchin’ gift shop on the way out. We couldn’t help but stop for a silly selfie.

Boston Aquarium

Post-aquarium, I took my two sidekicks for a stroll through the iconic Faneuil Hall, and we settled down for a meal in the square. Cheers to that, indeed.

Trendy Boston

That afternoon, I said a sad goodbye to Ian, who I wouldn’t see for another two months. At this point I’m pretty much a pro at goodbyes, but they can still sting. The remedy? A big ‘ol dose of girl time, in the form of my cousin and little sis.

When Liv got off work we gathered at , XV Beacon’s onsite bar and restaurant. We kicked things off with a craft cocktail tasting at the bar and were impressed by both the knowledge of the bartender and the quality of his delicious creations. Even if you don’t head here for a meal, I can’t imagine any future trips to Boston without swinging by this gorgeous bar for a drink.

Mooo Boston

Mooo Boston

That said — do make it a meal, if you can. We were downright obsessed with this upscale steakhouse thanks to exceptional service, a beautiful dining room, and a killer prix fixe menu. While the prix fixe dinner menu has sadly been phased out, there’s still a great deal available . The best part? They delivered our to-go desserts straight to our room for some silly sleepover noshing.

Mooo Boston

The next morning, Kirsten and I sifted through an array of nearby yoga studios within walking distance and landed on for a morning vinyasa class in a brick-walled, light-filled studio. The best part? Our first class was free! And our teacher’s cute Boston accent was a bonus. After a healthy meal at the adorable , also a whopping four minute walk from out hotel, we retreated to XV Beacon (who’d graciously granted us a very late check out) to spend a few final hours in rooftop bliss.

Before I knew it, it was almost time to say goodbye to Boston. As soon as Olivia was out of work, we met her and Janine (who’d very kindly taken my car to the suburbs so I could avoid the literal nightmare that is finding and paying for Boston parking) for a final early dinner. After that, it was a whole lot more goodbyes! One major thumbs up I can give to Boston: the airport is crazy close to the city center, and very convenient to reach both via public transit and car. A long final squeeze at the airport curb later, I was in the car and on my way back to Albany from Boston, once again.

This time, I was driving with a different attitude. This trip showed me a new Boston. One that’s probably always been there, but I wasn’t quite looking for yet. A city with beautiful scenes to photograph, fantastic cocktails bars to find, and vibrant young people breathing life into it all the time. There’s one in particular I’m quite fond of. And I’m sure I’ll be back to visit her soon.

Boston Travel Blog

Boston Travel Blog

Have you ever changed your mind about a city after years of telling yourself it just wasn’t for you? What can I not miss next time I’m in Boston?

Many thanks to XV Beacon for providing me with a media rate in order to write this review. As always, you receive my honest opinions regardless of who is footing the bill. 

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60 Comments...
  • Shaun's Cracked Compass
    December 1 2015

    I really liked Boston! It has that old town feel you don’t get much of in North America. Taking in a game at Fenway was pretty awesome. Hitting up all the various bars and restaurants for oysters was excellent and exploring the harbor islands is recommended.
    Shaun’s Cracked Compass recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 3 2015

      The harbor is gorgeous. I do love me a city on the water!

  • Marni
    December 1 2015

    I LOVE Boston. I fell head over heels with that city from the first moment I stepped foot in it. Sadly, I seem to have misplaced nearly all of my pictures from my trips to Boston, so I loved living vicariously through yours in this post. The aquarium is definitely one of my favorite stops, along with simply walking along the harbour front. Next time you go, if you haven’t been, you should check out the Museum of Fine Arts. It’s quite impressive.
    Marni recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 3 2015

      I went in high school for one of the the aforementioned field trips, but I should absolutely return as an adult. I’ll put it on the list for next time! And I’m sorry to hear about your lost photos — that’s awful!

  • Adrienne
    December 1 2015

    Glad you came around to seeing the good in Boston! I lived in Boston in college and grad school and absolutely loved it. I thought it was the perfect place to be a student because there are so many college and universities and so much affordable fun stuff to do. I recall all the bars staying open until 2 am, but maybe I was just at the right bars 😉
    Next time you visit you should check out the North End (wonderful Italian food) and Cambridge (universities, hipsters and great views of the Boston skyline from the bridge). Get JP Licks if you like ice cream. And visit in the fall sometime! Boston (and New England in general) is absolutely gorgeous that time of year 🙂
    Adrienne recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 3 2015

      There definitely are some bars that stay open until 2am, but from what I’ve read (there’s a lot of controversy right now about some bars trying to push the legal closing time to later) the majority actually close at 1am and do last call at 12:30. I’m sure college bars are the exception 🙂 And back when I was really Boston bar hopping, the T wasn’t running as late as it is now, which meant it was a huge hassle to stay out late anyway. Cambridge is actually where I’ve spent the most time as that’s where my Dad’s condo was! Harvard Square was just a stroll away — loved that spot.

  • Leah
    December 1 2015

    I never made it to Boston while living on the East Coast. I don’t really remember why, I guess I was just too preoccupied with New York? I’d like to visit it eventually but yeah, it just doesn’t hold that much appeal. That hotel is absolutely gorgeous though!
    Leah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 3 2015

      I love the little rivalry between New York and Boston 🙂 You know which wins in my mind!

  • Kayla
    December 1 2015

    Loved reading this post of Boston! I’m a proud Bostonian and love this city greatly. The next time you are in Boston you definitely have to check out Castle Island. It’s a great stop to walk around, great views of the city, a little food shack with the best onion rings and my favorite part is watching the planes come and go out of Logan. A Red Sox game at Fenway is also a must. Stroll down Acorn St. Get cannoli’s at Mike’s Pastries and stroll around the North End. Harpoon Brewery Tour. The list goes on and on.

    • Meihoukai
      December 3 2015

      I’ve never even heard of Castle Island — I’ll have to check it out! I’m not much of a sports fan but I could probably get into the spirit for Fenway 🙂

  • Kacy
    December 1 2015

    I’ve only been to Boston once and to be honest I felt like I could take it or leave it, but I’ll always give a place a second chance. I’m glad you found a way to love the city finally. The hotel looks incredible.
    Kacy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 3 2015

      Yeah, this was like my millionth visit, so it definitely took me some time too! Going to familiar old places through the new eyes of a blogger definitely helps me shake up my old perceptions.

  • The New England Aquarium looks unreal!
    amanda | Lesson Plans & Layovers recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 3 2015

      One of my favorites in the world. A must see!

  • Rebecca
    December 1 2015

    New Orleans to Boston … that’s some culture shock! But I’m a New England girl to the core and I definitely think she wins on that one 🙂 To me Boston always feels so much more intimate than NYC. Best of luck to your sister!
    Rebecca recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 3 2015

      It is indeed a big change! While New Orleans definitely had her heart (and mine) we are all enjoying having her close on the East Coast. I saw her way more this summer than I would have otherwise, so I was super grateful for that.

  • So interesting! I just visited Boston for the first time this summer and I actually wasn’t a huge fan. I live in Philly and it totally reminded me of the city A LOT. Which did/does your Dad like better? Perhaps I’ll give it another try in the future. For now I will just continue trying to find a Boston ornament for my Christmas tree. 🙂
    Amanda | Chasing My Sunshine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 3 2015

      My dad vastly preferred Philly. He thought it was hard to fit in in Boston, where he felt there was always a big divide between transplants and those who were born there. Within weeks of moving to South Philly he was at block parties, hanging out with the neighbors and feeling very much a local! He loved it there and it was a hard decision to move to LA (man, my family moves around a lot!)

      • Amanda
        December 4 2015

        Totally interesting! I didn’t feel connected to Philadelphia at all the first five or so years that I lived here. But as soon as I moved more towards South Philly, things changed. South Philly must be magic. 🙂

        • Meihoukai
          December 6 2015

          It definitely could just be neighborhood to neighborhood, and workplace to workplace. But he loved Philly so much!

  • Mary B
    December 2 2015

    It took me 3 or 4 visits over as many years before I started to really enjoy NYC. I think it was too overwhelming at first, coming from North Carolina and having never navigated a public transportation system! And I was also viewing it through underage, broke, college eyes :-/. As an adult, I’ve really grown to love it, and the public transportation is now one of the things I appreciate most!

    Glad you learned to love Boston, and congrats to your lil sis on the awesome job!
    Mary B recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 3 2015

      I feel the same way about London! It took me a lot of time to love it, and I think a big factor was not being broke anymore.

  • becky hutner
    December 2 2015

    I’m sure I’d like Boston, I just don’t have any PRESSING reason to visit ya know? And considering all of the other places I need to visit, it somehow doesn’t make the list. Is that unfair? I mean, I feel like I’ll get there eventually so I maybe don’t need to make it a priority? Amiwrong??
    becky hutner recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 3 2015

      I know how you feel! There are lots of places on the planet I feel that way about (ie. most of Europe).

  • Dominique
    December 2 2015

    For some reason, Boston has always been high on my list of places to see in the US. I don’t know what started my love for the city but it must’ve been a movie or TV series 🙂 Your pictures once again confirm I have to visit! I never imagined Boston would have more of a parking problem than NYC, for me New York is traffic jam central! Good to know not to rent a car when visiting Boston 😉
    Dominique recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 3 2015

      Maybe it’s just my luck but I find parking in NYC to be much easier than parking in Boston. Boston is the most difficult place I’ve ever driven and/or attempted to park!

  • Leigh
    December 2 2015

    Glad you’ve finally warmed up to Boston! As a Chicagoan, Boston always felt very homey to me, so I’ve loved the few trips I’ve taken there. Great neighborhoods and public transit super easy for first timers. Now New York on the other hand…. 🙂
    Leigh recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 3 2015

      They are definitely similar cities! I can see that connection. I think a trip to Chicago to have the same experience is in order 🙂

  • Daniel
    December 2 2015

    For some reason, I agree with Becky. I really feel for some reason that there are just too many places I still have to visit before going to Boston. I assume that circumstances might bring me to the area, and it looks that your trip there was amazing, but for me, there is still a long list of places to travel to.
    Daniel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 3 2015

      Same. The US has so many exciting cities to visit! I might have had a change of heart this trip, but I still don’t blame you if Boston isn’t near the top 🙂

  • elle
    December 2 2015

    Loved the upside down baby stingray! Adorable! I was waiting for you to visit and write a review of Newfoundland. Is there a trip planned in your future?

    • Meihoukai
      December 3 2015

      Sadly, Newfoundland was cut from last summer’s plans as ticket prices were so high and time was so tight. I definitely hope to make it a reality someday, hopefully next summer!

  • Jael
    December 3 2015

    Wow. That’s quite the killer hotel room. How much did it cost per night?

    • Meihoukai
      December 6 2015

      Hey Jael, prices vary wildly for a hotel like this based on the season, current sales, and if it’s a weekday/weekend. Click through to their site to see what the current deals are!

  • Caroline
    December 3 2015

    Oh Boston. I have family there, and I have to say…I LOVE it in the summer, HATE it in the winter. The wind off the harbor is brutal…and winter lasts for 6 months there, they often have freezing temps starting in October and lasting until April! Just couldn’t handle that full time, haha.

    • Meihoukai
      December 6 2015

      Yeah, I can’t say I’m much of a fan of winter anywhere!

  • Marie
    December 3 2015

    Everything is killing it. I love every detail of the suite. The place really is clean and looks peaceful.
    Marie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 6 2015

      It was a very relaxing retreat! Right off the park, too… an oasis in the city.

  • Jeff
    December 3 2015

    Those are great places to go in Boston. I think visiting a place for the second time can become a changer. Maybe that’s why you had a change of mind. It’s when you appreciate the things you missed or just needed a second impression. Just like what I had with Cagayan de Oro City in the Philippines. I appreciated this city now that I currently stay here for work purposes. 🙂
    Jeff recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 6 2015

      Indeed, I love going back to the same places over and over again. Most of the countries I’ve been to, I’ve been to more than once!

      • Jeff
        January 20 2016

        That’s awesome to hear Meihoukai! Sure is fun! 😀
        Jeff recently posted..

  • Katie
    December 4 2015

    I actually loved Boston from when I first got there but Seattle took me three visits to fall in love with. It is now my favourite US city which I NEVER thought would happen after my first lacklustre visit
    Katie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 6 2015

      That’s happened to me as well, with London. Third time I suddenly GOT IT and now I find myself daydreaming about trips there every once in a while!

  • Sarah
    December 4 2015

    The upside-down baby stingray is SO CUTE. There’s a sentence I never thought I would say.

    Funny how you can totally change perspectives on a city. I used to hate London – and now I can’t imagine living anywhere else!
    Sarah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 6 2015

      Haha, he was the highlight of the aquarium for me. What a cutie!

  • Katie
    December 4 2015

    Love hearing that you’ve come away from your visit to Boston with a new appreciation for it! My dad’s originally from New England and in college I found myself with a disproportionate number of friends from the area, so Boston’s always ranked as one of my most-visited and most-loved cities. I’ve considered moves there before — but the cold!! Not for me. Definitely adding the aquarium to the list for my next visit — that baby stingray is too much!!
    Katie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 6 2015

      Try to catch an imax while you’re there, too! It’s the coolest imax theater I’ve ever been in — and they have Dippin’ Dots. Yum!

  • Kristen
    December 4 2015

    Now that your sister is a resident, tell her to get a Boston Public Library card (anyone who works, lives, or studies in Massachusetts is eligible). Besides being a BEAUTIFUL library, members can get free (or steeply discounted) passes to all area museums. These passes usually are good for up to 4 guests. I’ve been able to see the Aquarium, the Museum of Science, and the Gardner Museum for free (and bring a friend for free) instead of paying the $20+ entrance fee. The best secret about Boston, I feel!

    • Meihoukai
      December 6 2015

      Oh man! I wish I had known about that before forking over $80+ to bring everyone to the aquarium. I just emailed her 🙂 Thanks for the tip!

  • Julia Nix
    December 5 2015

    what is ur plan for christmas n new year, alex?

    • Meihoukai
      December 6 2015

      Hanging here in Koh Tao with good friends 🙂 What about you, Julia?

      • Julia Nix
        December 6 2015

        Soaking in your posts whilst dreaming of being away from work 🙂

  • Amy
    December 5 2015

    I loved Boston! It’s such a pretty place with a strong, independent character. I think we went Faneuil to eat practically every day we were there too! Olivia knows how to choose her home bases!
    Amy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 6 2015

      I know, right? I could keep a pretty busy travel schedule just by following my crazy family around. (Love your latest post title, by the way!)

  • Natalie
    December 12 2015

    I’ve gone back and forth about NYC a couple times. I moved there for school and it took me a long time to adjust. Then I fell in love with it and thought I would live there long term. After living in Spain for a year I came back and found I wasn’t in love with it anymore. I think how much you like a place largely depends on where you are in life.
    Natalie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 12 2015

      That’s very true Natalie. I’ve been to plenty of places where I’ve thought, “You know? I’d enjoy this more in a decade.” We all go through phases!

  • Britt
    December 14 2015

    It’s always great discovering a city that you have known quite well in a whole different light. The same thing happened with me and Sydney when I had to go there for a visa run in September.

    Oh Nutella milkshakes- no judgement at all from me 😉
    Britt recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 15 2015

      I want to cry just thinking about them. How soon do you think I can get to Boston from Thailand?

  • TravelToBlank
    April 4 2017

    It is always great to see a new fan of our hometown! Boston is rich in history and flowing with culture.
    TravelToBlank recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 6 2017

      Indeed! I really am grateful that my sister’s move allowed me to get to know it better.