Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, contests and more!
Start Your Free Trial

A writer’s guide to Boston

Headed to Boston for The Writer's Conference this fall? Here's your ultimate guide for things to do, places to eat, and sights to see while you're in town.

The cheerful Make Way for Ducklings statue in Boston stars a quacking bronze mother duck trailed by a lively line of waddling bronze ducklings.
Add to Favorites
Advertisement

Why is The Writer holding its conference in Boston?

The Writer has been in existence dating back to 1887, when it was first started in … Boston. Boston’s literary history can be traced from Phillis Wheatley and Henry David Thoreau to current best-selling authors such as Celeste Ng and Dennis Lehane. So we’re headed back to our roots for this conference. This event was originally planned in 2020, but was postponed to Sept. 17, 2022, because of COVID-19.

 

What are the best literary sites to visit in Boston?

Under a towering arched ceiling, Boston Public Library offers visitors long wooden tables to work, all cozily lit by glowing green banker's lamps alongside tall arched windows.
Boston Public Library

The Boston Public Library’s 19th-century Copley Square building is a must-see, with an iconic staircase and plenty of rare collections and intimate settings. Enjoy one of the afternoon teas in the courtyard or slide into the recently renovated Newsfeed Café on Boylston Street for a grab-and-go treat.

The Brattle Book Shop and the al fresco book racks are another popular spot, with many great finds to browse or buy. And it’s a short jaunt from there to the Boston Athenaeum, which is mostly closed to the public, but allows tours or day passes for curious visitors. Dating to 1807, its collections include more than half a million volumes as well as fine-art paintings on display.

Thirty minutes west of Boston, visitors can also explore Concord, which has an abundance of literary sites such as Walden Pond, which inspired Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, and the homes of authors such as Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thoreau—and the place where they’re all buried, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

 

What are the best bookstores to visit in Boston?

An interior shot of the bookshelves at More Than Words
Inside our host bookstore, More Than Words

Our host, More Than Words, has not only a great mission (empowering system-involved youth as employees) but has floor-to-ceiling bookshelves with used and new titles—and a compelling used record collection to boot. In nearby Back Bay, Trident Booksellers & Co. offers a bevy of best-sellers on its Newbury Street location. Put in your name for a table at its famed breakfast and browse away while you’re waiting to be seated.

Venture out a bit farther to Brookline for the Brookline Booksmith, which often draws big authors for book signings and readings, but otherwise offers a strong pick of books spread across two floors. A trip on the Red Line gets you to Harvard Book Store, which dates to 1932 and includes an on-demand book machine that can print a variety of titles. And if you’re desiring something shiny, the Seaport outpost of Porter Square Books features shelves full of staff picks and best-sellers as well as a space for literary events.

 

What are the best places to grab a quick bite in Boston’s South End?

Streets in Boston's South End feature rows of brick brownstones with scenic black iron wrought fences and stairways.
Boston’s South End neighborhood

There are plenty of great spots to eat or drink near More Than Words, which is located in Boston’s South End. It all depends on what you’re looking for.

Advertisement

Tatte Bakery, 345 Harrison Ave. – A great spot for a sandwich, salad or a pastry and a coffee, you can order takeout or slowly savor dishes like the shakshuka in the sun-splashed space.

Cuppa Coffee, 57 Traveler St. — Located a few buildings away from More Than Words, this Australian-owned java joint specializes in top-notch coffee and a Down Under treat: Meat pies.

Sweetgreen, 354 Harrison Ave. – If you’re up for a quick, easy and fresh option for lunch, Sweetgreen’s salads don’t need any further hyping. There’s a reason this chain is synonymous with both the fast casual and salad booms of the past decade.

OTTO, 345 Harrison Ave. – Technically fronting Washington Street, this regional pizza chain offers pizza by the slice as well as whole pies.

Whole Foods, 348 Harrison Ave. – Feeling bad for Jeff Bezos after Amazon’s stock has slipped? Neither are we. But Whole Foods houses a La Colombe for coffee, PLNT Burger for vegetarian options, and the hot bar (or cookie bar) is good in a pinch. And don’t forget to spy the homages to the Boston Herald HQ spread across the store.

Advertisement

Blackbird Doughnuts, 492 Tremont St. – Opened during the donut craze of the past decade, Blackbird serves the circular treats to both those who line up outside the store, and stars like Adele, who ordered them to her room before one of her Boston concerts. Is September too late to try one of their doughnut ice cream sandwiches? We say no. And sister spot Sally’s Sandwiches also shares this space.

 

What are the best places to eat dinner in the South End?

A farmer's market stand at Boston's SoWa Market is heaped with radishes, carrots, leeks, and other vegetables.
A farmer’s market stand at Boston’s SoWa Market

You’re in luck if you’re looking for a sit-down meal in the South End as it’s home to some of the best food in Boston. Below are most that are within a mile or so radius of More Than Words. And yes, there’s many more gems—even in the South End (think Toro or Mida)—than we listed.

 

If you’re in the mood to cross the Broadway Bridge, South Boston also offers an array of options as well, including the critically acclaimed Fox & Knife as well as Lenox Sophia. Meanwhile, a few blocks north of More Than Words takes you to Chinatown and its favorites such as Peach Farm and Shojo. And if you’re in town till Sunday, don’t miss the SoWa Boston festival, which mixes food trucks with local artisans in a memorable al fresco setting.

 

What are the best tourist spots to visit in Boston for the weekend?

Boston's Fenway Park has rows and rows of bright-red seats overlooking the famous green ballfield.
Fenway Park

Fenway Park

Coined by author John Updike as “the lyric little bandbox,” the baseball stadium turned 110 years old this year. The Red Sox are playing the weekend of the conference, but if you don’t want to spring for pricey tickets to a game, opt instead for a 60-minute tour to see the famed Green Monster up close.

Freedom Trail

All history buffs will want to follow the red-bricked road for 2.5 miles, from the Boston Common to the Bunker Hill Monument, checking out historical sites from the Paul Revere House to the newly renovated USS Constitution. And don’t miss the Black Heritage Trail, which also starts at the Boston Common—specifically the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial that was inspiration for Robert Lowell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning For the Union Dead poem.

Public Garden

Adjacent to Boston Common lies this expertly manicured plot of land. Book lovers in search of the Make Way for Ducklings statue need only look out for the crowd of kids to find the row of ducks that pay homage to Robert McCloskey’s classic. Movie lovers in need of a seat might try to spy the bench Matt Damon and Robin Williams sat on during Good Will Hunting. And a jaunt just outside the Garden can take you to the Edgar Allan Poe statue.

Esplanade

Located on the banks of the Charles River, this riverfront stretch is a great spot for a stroll or a bike ride on a sunny day. Hang out on Adirondack chairs on a dock, meander near the lagoon or explore the Hatch Shell, which houses the Boston Pops for the annual July Fourth celebration.

Rose Kennedy Greenway

Built where the old Interstate 93 once loomed before the infamous Big Dig buried it underground, this series of parks includes a massive mural overlooking the food truck-filled Dewey Square, a carousel for kids with hand-carved animals and plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the tree-filled oasis.

Harvard University

While you might want to avoid any well-worn Harvard Yard car puns in your writing, there’s no need to avoid visiting the actual place. Snap a photo of the John Harvard statue on campus, stroll through Harvard Square or explore the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

Shopping streets

Newbury Street, located in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, ranges from ultra-luxe spots near the Public Garden such as Valentino or a Chanel store modeled after Coco Chanel’s Parisian apartment to more approachable shops on the other end of the street such as Newbury Comics or men’s shop Ministry of Supply, which was founded at MIT. One neighborhood away, shoppers can find Beacon Hill’s Charles Street, which sports gas street lights, cobblestone sidewalks and a bevy of local boutiques such as Ouimillie and December Thieves.

Museums

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum courtyard features lush plants of varying shades of green, soft white flower bushes, and statues nestled around a tiled patio.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum courtyard

The Museum of Fine Arts is likely the most well-known of all the Boston museums with permanent exhibits such as the Art of the Americas as well as touring ones such as the Obama Portraits Tour, which is on display during the conference weekend. Nearby, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has gained in notoriety since the museum was robbed of 13 works from painters such as Rembrandt, Manet and Vermeer—but don’t miss the stunning courtyard.

Elsewhere, the Institute of Contemporary Art on the banks of the Boston Harbor lends an air of culture to the Seaport neighborhood as well as a fresher take on art in its own museum. Head a little further south to Columbia Point to find the JFK Presidential Library, which details the 35th president’s life from growing up in Massachusetts to his tragic end as commander in chief. Originally Published

Advertisement