Anyone who has lived in New England for a significant amount of time knows that there are only two seasons — eight months of devastating cold in the winter and three sweltering months of hot and humid summer. There is an additional week factored in for spring sometime around the end of May and one week for autumn sometime in mid-October. The tri-state area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware where I hail from originally is a bit more traditional with four equal seasons so moving to Boston was a bit of a climate shock for me. The abrupt transition between winter and summer often leaves Boston residents unprepared for the abominable heat that descends ever so quickly and fries us to a nice burnt crisp. It took me about five years to find a variety of different spots in and around the city that help me cool off and enjoy neighborhoods less traveled in the frigidity of a Boston winter.
When I was attending Northeastern University, I rarely ever ventured out of the Back Bay area of Boston. At 21 years old, Back Bay pretty much offered everything I could want or need in my college life: convenience stores for late-night cram session snacks, sports bars with dollar drafts, and a Dunkin’ Donuts on every corner for my sanity. The first summer I ever spent in Boston was four years ago, the scorcher of 2009. I shared a one-bedroom apartment with a friend of mine on the fourth floor of a walk-up on Hemenway Street with absolutely no air conditioning.
I spent most of July slowly deteriorating until I found the sanctuary that is the Colonnade Hotel, which features a rooftop pool and bar that is open to the public for the price of $50 a day or $25 for a half day. As a college student with little to no money at the time, even I found this a reasonable price to escape the heat exhaustion that plagued me both day and night. The pricey pool is the only one in the city open to the public and embodies the high-class characteristic of Back Bay. Even though I’ve since moved out of this neighborhood, I still frequent the Colonnade’s rooftop oasis when I can work it into my budget — of course factoring in the need for a drink or two while I defy Mother Nature.
As the giant party of life known as college ended and my student loans kicked in, I had to move out of Back Bay and into less fancy but still culturally hip digs. I’ve spent the last few years living on the border of Mission Hill and Roxbury, but more or less in the same housing situation — the fourth floor of a walk-up with one window and no air conditioning. The first summer I spent in Roxbury, I ventured out to find a clean and safe alternative to Revere Beach and found myself beyond jazzed when I ended up sailing a boat in Jamaica Pond. I was taking my cat for a check-up at the MSPCA in Jamaica Plain and one of the pup patients in the waiting room had apparently just taken a little swim in the pond. I was intrigued and thus had his owner give me all the details. The pond, much like the rest of Jamaica Plain, is perfectly serene in the sense that it can feel more like a quiet suburb than say Downtown or Cambridge.
The soundtrack to a typical day at the pond usually doesn’t include wailing sirens or honking horns. The pond and surrounding park are both so spacious that it never feels too crowded, but there are plenty of adorable dogs running the perimeter and a number of available boats to rent for an hour or the whole day. There’s a choice between sailboats, kayaks, and rowboats for those of us less skilled in tying knots and steering things. Jamaica Plain is truly a hidden gem because while technically inside city limits, it gives the feeling of being far, far away from the smog, bankers at State Street, and smell of tar melting at Downtown Crossing. Jamaica Pond is the next best thing to a beach within Boston city limits, without the hypodermic needles that tend to populate the shores of Revere.
My very last but not very least favorite way to escape the summertime heat of Boston is to head 20 minutes, by car, train, or bus, south of my neighborhood and into the Blue Hills Reservation just outside of Mattapan. Completely free and completely open to the public, Blue Hills is where I go when I want to truly get away from city life and stretch my leg muscles on any one of the challenging but beautiful hiking trails. The reservation is fairly popular, but offers miles of space so that even at its most crowded you can escape the masses. After a particularly hectic week, with an overflowing inbox and completely full voicemail, I like to escape to this tranquil reservation where I can feel refreshed and rejuvenated even in 90 degree weather.
Each of my “secret” summer spots in the city caters to all the different parts of my personality. I know where to go when I don’t want to lift a finger, when I want to feel sand under my feet and when I want to be alone with my own thoughts. There used to be times when I’d throw my hands up in the air and declare that I absolutely had to move because I couldn’t deal with the New England climate anymore. Going out and finding places to hide from the heat not only cooled me off but also satisfied a sense of adventure that I often feel deprived of due to the unfavorable weather conditions. The adventure is what reinvigorates my love for Boston and makes me look forward to exploring even more. If I can venture out of Roxbury in 100 degree heat then I can definitely do the same this winter when the temperature drops to those precarious single digits. Even though I’ve lived in Boston for five years, there are restaurants, movie theaters and shops popping up in new places all the time — especially in the Seaport District which seems to be Boston’s next big neighborhood. I can’t wait to continue discovering the city that I’ve called home for so many years now.