Skating fans in Boston for the 2016 ISU World Figure Skating Championships® should make a special effort to visit the Back Bay, an elegant and fashionable neighborhood of high-end shopping, fine dining, beautiful architecture and people-watching. Unlike most of the rest of Boston, the Back Bay is a planned urban space, built with wide, parallel tree-lined streets when an actual marshy bay was filled in the mid-19th century. The best way to reach the Back Bay is by the T, getting off at Park, Arlington or Copley.
At the eastern end of the Back Bay, next to Beacon Hill, Boston Common and the Public Garden sit side-by-side. The Public Garden is a lovely park, home to flowers and Swan Boats in the summer, and a pretty place to stroll in any season. The Common hosts Frog Pond. In spring and fall, Frog Pond becomes a peaceful reflecting pool, and in summer transforms into a spray pool for kids of all ages, with a children’s carousel beside it in the warm weather months. For years, shoppers warmed up with tea at the Ritz. The tradition continues, although the hotel, by the Public Garden at Arlington and Newbury Streets, is now the Taj Boston, one of the official event hotels.
Handsome Victorian brownstones line Commonwealth Avenue from the Public Garden to Massachusetts Avenue. A block over, quirky boutiques, galleries and fun restaurants run the length of Newbury Street. One more block brings the visitor to the central thoroughfare of Boylston Street, home of designer stores, handsome churches and striking architecture including the Boston Public Library.
The central heart of the Back Bay is Copley Square, a small park bordered by the Library, Trinity Church, the mirrored John Hancock Tower and the Fairmont Copley Plaza. Trinity Church, designed by famed architect H. H. Richardson, is considered one of the most important churches in the U.S. and is well worth a visit.
The Church of the Covenant, at 67 Newbury, was completely decorated by Tiffany in the 1890s, including 42 Tiffany stained-glass windows. The Arlington Church, at 351 Boylston, also has Tiffany windows. Old South Church, at 645 Boylston, is a splendid example of Gothic Revival architecture. Emmanuel Church is home to the world-renowned Emmanuel Music ensemble, which performs a Bach Cantata every Sunday.
The Boston Public Library was designed by not one but two celebrity architects. The magnificent older building was done by the famed team of McKim, Meade and White in the 19th century. The striking newer building was designed by Philip Johnson and opened in 1972.
Just across Dartmouth Street from Copley Square, the skating contingent will be sure to make a beeline for Copley Place, an indoor mall which includes Armani, Barney’s, Burberry, Christian Dior, Eileen Fisher, Ferragamo, Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, Neiman Marcus, Tiffany, and much, much more.
Huntington Avenue veers off at Copley Place; a few blocks down is the Christian Science Center, a wide tree-lined plaza with a long reflecting pool in the center. Boston’s world-famous Symphony Hall stands just across Massachusetts Avenue.
Between Symphony Hall and Copley Place, south of Huntington Avenue, the charming brownstones of the St. Botolph neighborhood host some delightful restaurants and bars. A couple of blocks further, south of Columbus Avenue, is the South End, filled with theaters, clubs, restaurants and nightspots. The South End is the place to be for gay nightlife in Boston.
The restaurants in the Back Bay and South End are almost too numerous to mention. A few favorites: Stephanie’s, Met Back Bay and Tapeo on Newbury Street, Skipjack’s Seafood at Boylston and Clarendon. In the South End, Tremont Street is referred to as “Restaurant Row.” Aquitaine, the South End Buttery, Union Bar and Grille, and Flour are all excellent, but there are dozens more to choose from. The Beehive, a trendy club, has live music nightly and good food.