The Boston Marathon, held on Patriot’s Day every April, is the world’s oldest and most prestigious marathon. You may even be making plans to travel to Beantown for the 2019 marathon and, if so, I’d like to help you with suggestions on places to eat, stay and play during your visit. I had the privilege of running the Boston Marathon in 2018. My family lives north of Boston, so I have visited many times. Boston offers a wide variety of things to see and do, and is the hometown to some of the best restaurants in the world. A food critic I am not but I know good food when I have it and I’d like to share some of my favorite places with you.
A tiny, high-end raw oyster bar is what this place is known for, but in my opinion, they have the best lobster roll in Boston and is located in Boston’s North End. The wait can be pretty long, depending on when you go, and they don’t take reservations. I’d suggest going for lunch and getting in line 30-45 minutes before they open. There are adorable side shops near Neptune’s so if you’re with friends, take turns waiting in line while others shop. If not within walking distance, Über to Neptune’s as parking in the North End can be challenging.
Trattoria Il Panino
“Ample, traditional Italian meals in intimate indoor and (slightly) more spacious outdoor spaces.” Located in the North End, Trattoria is a very popular Italian restaurant, and is perfect for maximizing your glycogen stores, aka carb loading. Our local running club has its pre-Boston Marathon dinner here each year. It fills up fast so make reservations.
Also located in the North End, this famous Italian restaurant is another perfect place to carb load. Their menu offers a wide selection from brick oven pizza to ravioli to baked lasagna. Proclaimed to be one of the top 10 Italian restaurants in the world, they’re most famous for their brick oven pizza. Reservations recommended. (Pictures below: James Hook, Neptunes, Coppa, Grill 23.)
James Hook & Co
If you want to see some of the largest lobsters in the world, go to James Hook & Co. Their location is pretty neat, it’s on the water and you can take a stroll around the Harborwalk. Don’t miss the chance to take a picture in front of the large lobster outside this shop. Like Neptune’s, their lobster rolls will not disappoint. I absolutely love this place!
“Small, hip spot specializing in Italian small plates, pizza, pasta and charcuterie including salumi.”
After a long day of cheering for the 5K runners and in need of quality carbs, my husband took me to Coppa. They have various pasta dishes and pizza, along with a wide variety on their menu, as well as delicious desserts and coffee. It’s located in the South End of Boston. I love this spot.
Grill 23 & Bar
“Classy chophouse presenting surf 'n' turf classics and an ample wine selection in ornate rooms”. Known for their steaks and shellfish, Grill 23 & Bar is a perfect place to go for a fancy, upscale post marathon meal.
My runner friend and sommelier, Brian, recommends Prezza. We ate here a couple days before we ran the marathon. The food and service were amazing.
“A cozy ambiance for upscale, modern interpretations of Italian peasant fare, with handmade pastas.”
I couldn’t get over how delicious the homemade raviolis were. They melted in my mouth. Another great place to carb load, also located on the North End.
“Urbane, contemporary hot spot with multiple fireplaces, crafting elevated farm-to-table tavern fare.”
Great spot for a post-race burger. Located in Boston’s Back Bay, Post 390 take’s American classics and refines them. The perfect place to relax post marathon, medal hanging around your neck as you reminisce about the day’s events.
Legal Sea Foods
While this restaurant is a chain, the seafood is some of the best you’ll find. Try their clam chowder. There are a few Legal Sea Foods in Boston. One location is within a mall and parking can be a little complicated so if you need to get some shopping done, this is a great place to try.
Hei La Moon
Want to try something different in Chinatown? The best Dim Sum, a traditional Cantonese food, in Boston. Order from their menu or pick from a wide variety of delicious small plates off their carts. Carts roll around to each table and waiters will describe each dish. Pick or pass and wait for another chart to bring something different. The food is outstanding and the prices are. Brunch for three adults cost $35. We loved this spot and is highly recommended. Afterwards, visit Gracenote coffee shop and be sure to check out Chinatown.
Eataly is not exactly a sit down restaurant, but it has a very cool open Italian market type vibe. You will find all sorts of goodies here, ranging from handmade pastas, chocolate and a wide variety of cheese and cured meats.
“Eataly Boston is a vibrant Italian marketplace that features an array of cafes, counters, restaurants, and a cooking school. Eat, shop, and learn.”
Remember how I’ve said in addition to running, coffee and donuts are my favorite? I love anything with sugar! Here are a few of my favorite places that’ll satisfy your sweet tooth.
Bellhops deliver more than luggage to your room and in this case, our bellhop delivered a great recommendation in Kane’s Donuts. I enjoyed the coffee but the donuts stole the show. Race week in Boston is insane, everything in town transforms to all things marathon, including the donut shops and Kane’s was no exception as their donuts even became Boston themed.
When in Washington, D.C., Georgetown Cupcake is my favorite place for cupcakes and they have a shop in Boston too. They will customize cupcakes if you call ahead. While my mom was receiving cancer treatment in Boston, I was able to do a special cupcake for the nurses who cared for her. Georgetown Cupcakes made a special cupcake just for her. It was so special. By far, these are my favorite cupcakes and I’m so glad they’re in Boston now. (Picture below - my husband special ordered cupcakes when I got my confirmation email into Boston).
If in Boston, you have to go to Mike’s. Founded in 1946 and a staple of the city, they’re famous for their original cannolis and they have every flavor combination imaginable. Many rave about Modern pastry, but in my opinion, Mike’s Pastry is much better.
Maria’s Pastry Shop
“Unassuming Italian baker offering acclaimed sweets such as cannoli, torrone and marzipan.” Another famous pastry shop in Boston. You’ll love their cannolis as well. (Pictures below: Georgetown Cupcake, Mikes Pastry, Kanes, Marias Pastry)
The Westin Copley Place, Boston
I’m a big fan of Westin hotels and they cater to the running community, making you feel welcome and wanted. Runners, if you forgot to bring your stuff, they have spare shoes and running clothes! They’ll even give you maps with charted running routes from and around their hotels. This Westin location is perfect for anyone wanting to stay near the finish line but book early because they fill up fast.
An elegant 5-star hotel, this is where we stayed for this year’s marathon. With “hints of its 1920s Renaissance Revival heritage” the Langham is located in the financial district. It’s not near the start or finish of the marathon but you can taxi, Über or walk from the finish to the hotel. An advantage of it not being near the finish line was it wasn’t super busy around that area. If you prefer to stay in a quieter area, not in the heart of all the action, stay here. They have an excellent spa, fitness facility and elegant restaurants. I highly recommend this hotel, and we thoroughly enjoyed the high tea time in the lobby. It’s something straight out of Buckingham Palace.
This high-end hotel comes highly recommended by many of my friends. Though I’ve not stayed at the Lenox personally, I hear it will not disappoint and it’s in a prime location. It’s located near the marathon finish line. There are several options for dining or you can walk out your door and explore Boston and various other options for food.
Courtyard Boston Copley Square
When my mother was a patient at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute I stayed here for some time. It’s not far from the Fenway baseball park. Here’s an excellent description of this hotel and it’s location:
Conveniently located in Boston's charming Copley Square neighborhood, the historic, boutique Courtyard by Marriott Copley Square Hotel combines old world charm with modern amenities. Our ideal Back Bay location is just steps away from Boston's best shopping, restaurants, museums and attractions, like Fenway Park, Trinity Church, the Prudential Center and Newbury Street, as well as the Hynes Convention Center.
Omni Parker House
The location isn’t perfect but it’s alright and I recently stayed here for the Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon. If you’re running the marathon, the hotel isn’t located near the start or finish but it is an easy Über ride away.
The building is beautiful, with a lot of charm. Because of its age, the size of the rooms are smaller in size than what we’re used to in America. If you travel to Europe, the room size would be normal. Cozy, not a lot of wiggle room and the walls seem thin allowing noise from surrounding rooms. The lobby was gorgeous. The elevators looked like something straight out of a movie. Free mini tacos are served in the lobby for happy hour, and there’s a there’s a Starbucks in the lobby, as well as a restaurant. Many restaurants and shops are within walking distance. Not my favorite place to stay but on the plus side, they offer military/government discounts.
The Omni Parker House is a very historic hotel. To learn more, visit their website.
Boston Marathon Expo
Whether you’re running the marathon or not, any runner in Boston for marathon weekend needs to check out their health and fitness expo. They have it all! Every shoe brand creates a Boston Marathon limited edition exclusive for each year’s race. They’re unique and you won’t find them anywhere else. Plus the Boston Athletic Association invite celebrity elite runners to be on hand to sign autographs or give talks. You never know who you might meet. If anything else, go for the free stuff! While there, be to stop by the Abbott World Marathon Majors booth and look for my name on the Six Star Finishers wall!
Boston Marathon Finish Line
The painted marathon finish line stays up year round on Boylston Street, and is a popular spot for runners to visit. Be careful to dodge cars as you run out in the middle of the street to grab a quick selfie. Always fun to visit after it’s freshly painted for the upcoming race.
Adidas Run Base Boston
All things Boston Marathon can be found here. They host group runs from the store, and as mentioned before, they have clean public bathrooms and showers in the store. Check out their store here.
Afternoon Tea at Langham
My sister planned for all of the women in the family to attend the “Afternoon Tea” at the Langham. If you decide to attend, you’ll need to book your time ahead of arrival. We dressed up and were treated like royalty. It was so much fun. If you’re staying there or not, this is a fun thing to do. Pictures below are courtesy of my best friend Tina Florance.
Embracing The Langham's classic heritage, The Reserve offers guests its signature afternoon tea, The Langham Afternoon Tea with Wedgwood, recalling the grandeur of the brand’s flagship, The Langham, London, where the tradition was born in 1865.
The Freedom Trail is a walking route that runs through the heart of Boston linking many of its historical sites. It encompasses sites from Colonial era, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War and into the modern period.
About two and a half miles in length, the Freedom Trail runs from the heart of Boston and across the Charles River. Inasmuch as the historical sites do not lie in a straight line, you have to zig zag somewhat.
I am not a Boston Red Sox fan, however, I hear the thing to do is catch a baseball game at the oldest baseball stadium in our country – Fenway. Be sure to wear your medal to the game the day after the race!
City Tours and More
Check out Old Town Trolley Tours or the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. The Trolley is a nice way to see parts of the city without walking. Tours are a little less than two hours. Another fun activity that doesn’t involve walking are the Duck Boat Tours, offering a narrated sightseeing tour of Boston in a World War II style amphibious landing vehicles.
A historical place that has transformed into an open market with clothing shops, restaurants and bakeries. The Freedom Trail will lead you here, so it’s a fun spot to just sit down and relax. Visit their website here.
Boston Athletic Association (BAA) 5K
Not doing the marathon but in town to cheer and be surrounded by all the excitement? Run the B.A.A. 5K which is held a couple days before the marathon. It’s a great way to run in Boston, earn a unicorn medal and experience how well the B.A.A. organizes an event. The race attracts elite runners and is also very fun to watch!
There are a couple located around Boston. I went to the one in the North End and also near Boston Commons. Not only is it a wonderful experience but they serve delicious coffee, and all sorts of breakfast foods as well. Visit the Thinking Cup’s website for more information.
An adorable coffee shop in Chinatown that I highly recommend. I sensed my barista enjoyed what he was doing, and I felt the love, attention to detail and passion he put into making my flat white. He created an experience, even though it was only a cup of coffee. Check out the Gracenote website.
A Japanese coffee shop on Milk Street, offering an interesting experience unlike any other. You’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to Japan. I was enthralled by the way coffee was brewed in Japan, when we visited for the Tokyo marathon, making me excited to see this coffee shop in Boston. Also found in Kyoto, Japan, Ogawa not only serves exceptional coffee, they serve cake rolls, similar to the famous Japanese dessert. Try the chocolate one, it’s delicious!
Boston Common Coffee Co.
My friend, Cheryl, and fellow Abbott World Marathon Majors coffee lover, lives in Boston and says this is THE best place for coffee in Boston. It wasn’t open when I was close by it, so I’ll have to take her word for it.
Well, there you have it. I hope you find this blog to be useful as you plan your travels to Boston. One word of advice, you don’t really want to stay near the start line of the marathon. My advice is to stay closer to the finish line area and take a shuttle to the start in Hopkinton.
Please feel free to comment below with some of your favorite Boston experiences! I want to hear what you have to say!
Disclaimer: I was not paid for my recommendations. These recommendations are my own. These recommendations are not a reflection of the opinions of Abbott World Marathon Majors either.