In Boston, the first day of spring doesn’t align with the vernal equinox, aka March 21; rather, it erupts in early April on Opening Day. That’s when Fenway Park, the oldest Major League ballpark still in use and home to the Red Sox and the team’s famously loyal—and vocal—fans, renews its yearly glory.
Few experiences compare with the wondrous atmosphere inside. But, be prepared: game night is a battleground of the inebriated, excited, and excitable that extends from the seats to the surrounding streets.
If you want to take on the challenge but need a game plan in case you can’t handle Red Sox Nation, check out these spots, which are close enough for a quick escape, but far enough to take you away from the madness, whether for a few hours or an entire night.
Linda Clarke is a freelance travel writer whose work has been published in the Boston Globe, New York Daily News, and several other print and online publications.
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1. The Verb Hotel
With its courtyard pool and rock 'n roll vibe, The Verb Hotel is so Los Angeles, so not Boston. This pop art twist on the classic midcentury modern Fenway Motor Hotel, which became a retro-cool Howard Johnson hotel before The Verb opened, is supposedly where people like Tony Bennett have laid their heads. Its décor includes a Marshall amp, a jukebox, and a rack of vinyl; posters and amazing rock memorabilia; and plectrum shaped tables. Last fall, The Verb reached its trendy status when noted chef Tim Cushman opened Hojoko , a Japanese tavern serving Cushman's customary delectable food, including Robata grilled fish and meats (yes, the server has heard the domo arigato Mr. Robata guffaw before). Chow down on shiitake tempura rolls with truffle foam and the best seaweed salad you'll ever eat. Wash everything down with high-octane slushies and sake bombs.
Photo by Linda Clarke
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2. Game On!
No longer a fratty sports bar, Game On! underwent a complete transformation last fall creating a comfy wood-clad neighborhood bar with an embedded Max & Leo's coal-fired pizza joint. Besides seriously good coal-fired pizza and calzones from Bostonian twin brothers, Max and Leo, there's a full menu to enjoy while sipping a Wachusett Green Monstah (a refreshingly bitter IPA), or whatever you fancy, just feet away from Fenway Park's famous Green Monster wall (literally). This isn't yet another place to drink and eat, and wait for the gates to open, though: Get your own game on in the basement bar, which houses Blazing Paddles, a Ping-Pong table, and a corn hole board. It also has a window onto the visiting team's batting cage—perfect for visiting fans to give up close support to their team.
Photo by Linda Clarke
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3. Tiger Mama
Over on Boylston Street, chef Tiffani Faison's second hit has been bustling since its opening. The sub-tropical Tiger Mama comes from the Daniel Boulud and Alain Ducasse-trained Top Chef. The Asian themed Tiger Mama culls recipes from Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia, converting the likes of Cha Ca La Vong (a unique turmeric marinated halibut with peanuts served over vermicelli) and the New England slanted chili jam clams (clams with a red curry jam, Thai basil, and sticky milk bread jam) into sharable bites.
Photo by Mike Diskin
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4. Hotel Commonwealth
Opened in 2003 opposite the Kenmore Square T station, the Commonwealth's new Fenway Park Suite, which debuts this season, is filled with everything an ultimate Sox fan would want—other than a World Series win. The suite has original ballpark seats on its terrace and priceless Red Sox memorabilia inside, including the #6 from The Green Monster scoreboard. There are signed baseballs from Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, and Pesky; tickets from the 1946, 1967, and 1975 World Series games; a coffee table signed by numerous Red Sox legends; and Massachusetts artist Stephen Sheffield's mixed-media photographic artwork of renowned catcher Carlton Fisk, which was created for Fenway Park's centennial in 2012. For the less financially endowed, choose a Fenway room overlooking the ballpark.
Photo courtesy of Hotel Commonwealth
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5. The Bleacher Bar
Located in the middle of Lansdowne Street marked by a red neon sign, The Bleacher Bar is a secret spot in plain sight; even locals pass by this decade-old watering hole without noting its existence. Bostonians possibly think it some tourist trap with overpriced wares, but it's not. It's a small, dimly lit bar with a casual menu. Tucked underneath the bleachers, it's folding garage doors offer a magnificent view right onto the field, and are opened in warm weather. Don't expect the windows to be open on game days, otherwise this would be the primo watching spot. The Bleacher Bar is a great Fenway-adjacent spot to enjoy a drink and a bite year-round, and it just so happens to offer a view of the diamond.
Photo by Linda Clarke