The Top 120 Sites in Town

Welcome to Surf City. The rise of the Internet culture, in terms of its presence in our daily lives and its increasing hipness, is the ultimate proof that the nerds of the world have not only the best toys but also the last laugh. When the medium was introduced, nothing could have been more supremely geeky. But now all this technological stuff is having a real impact on how we live.

The things you can do from the relative comforts of your desk at home or at work are astounding: You can buy or sell everything from wool scarves to limited-edition Beanie Babies; listen to Bach symphonies or unreleased Mötley Crüe tracks; and figure out how to improve your groundstrokes—all while you're purchasing sperm to whatever specifications you desire for your unborn child.

Of course, we're still in the infancy of the cyber-revolution, but the prospects for the future are even grander. Whether you're a Net devotee or an unrepentant Luddite, there are countless new things to discover in this eternally-evolving universe.

And, even though the Web puts the entire world at your fingertips, let us not neglect our hometown. Here, we've come up with 120 great ways to navigate Beantown online, without ever having to face a zero-degree day or battle for a parking place. Surf's up!

Portal Authority

The following sites are especially helpful for tourists, though they also provide surprisingly useful tools for locals who want to get information on the fly—from sports scores to weather reports to stock quotes:

AltaVista: One of the best search engines—if not the best—AltaVista started as an adjunct of Digital Equipment Corporation and eventually ended up in the hands of Internet mogul David Wetherell's CMGI. Excellent for shopping, directions, investment advice ( is part of the CMGI team), news, and travel services. Launched by the Boston Globe and now owned by the New York Times, this site has more up-to-the-minute information, including weather, sports scores, and headlines, than anything else strictly Boston-oriented, thanks to its proprietary relationship with tons of local sites (including this magazine's). Find a date in the personals section, choose something to do in the events section, and check the traffic before you leave. Reclusive types can stay home and do the crossword puzzle while downloading MP3s.

Boston Online: This is the online guide out of Good Will Hunting, thanks to its “Wicked Good Guide to Boston English.” But that's not the only highlight. For example, let's say you get totally bazo at a kegga on saddadee night and you need to find a quality place to calm ya livva. What to do? Visit the site's guide to Boston public restrooms —which includes an exclusive toilet-paper-roll rating system. There's also a piece on “The Truth About Boston Bagels,” and a list of movies featured or filmed locally. The site also has a surprisingly comprehensive local Web directory.

The Boston Source: This guide to student life in Boston doesn't have many links, but it's got plenty of necessary phone numbers. Good for everything from roommate matching services to fast access to local university home pages, the site also answers such useful questions as where to go to print a color copy of one's resume at 3 o'clock in the morning.

Lycos: Engaged in a neck and neck competition with Yahoo, Waltham-based Lycos offers e-mail, instant messaging, chat rooms, road maps, and the like. And with,, and under the Lycos umbrella, it boasts an array of powerful search engines and Web tools. In addition, Lycos Radio and RichMedia point the way to the future of the portal as a multimedia entertainment and information center. Finally, the Lycos Internet browser allows you to integrate many of the best Internet applications and services into one customizable application.

Sidewalk/Citysearch: The most corporate entertainment-driven site on the Internet— Sidewalk was a Microsoft invention sold to Ticketmaster Online-Citysearch. The best of what's offered: MSNBC news reports, in-depth movie reviews, theater listings, show times, and ski-condition reports. The real benefit, though, is that you can buy tickets to nearly every cultural event in town (but you still have to pay that odious fee).

An easy way for beginners to check out the town, Yahoo's Boston site is a portal with links to everything but the inside of John Malkovich's head. It also gives current weather and sports scores, maps, yellow page directories, and easy access to Boston-related chat rooms. Like many portals, it can be personalized so that you can get the latest on the Big Dig and check your Fidelity stock each time the screen is refreshed.

Honorable mentions:

Retail & E-tail

The explosion of e-commerce has launched a million retail sites, including everything from utilitarian to haute couture While it's easy to find something—anything—to buy online, here are a few locally oriented surprises worth bookmarking:

Buy Indies: Independent film buffs take note: The heart of the indie online community is in Boston—right here on this site. Users can purchase thousands of offbeat titles, from the entire “Two Fat Ladies” cooking show collection to cutting-edge computer animation videos to live rock concert footage. Those with professional aspirations can market their movies to a host of indie film distributors.

Consumer World: A remarkable place to find the best deals online, Consumer World was founded by Edgar Dworsky, a local consumer advocate, educator, and former Mass AG. In addition to an impressive listings section including everything from auto insurance sites to travel channels, the comparison shopping and bargain hunting features stand out. If you are buying a house and want to know what the previous owner paid, come here.

Machine Age: The ultimate source for modern design enthusiasts, Boston's Machine Age sells all manner of art deco and mid-century antiques— from Herman Miller furniture to Bakelite radios. The site is as fabulous as the shop: Users can peruse online stores specializing in popular collectibles and retro electronics, find local chapters of U.S. Art Deco Societies, and even barter in a classifieds section.

Discover Newbury Street!: Okay, you can't actually purchase anything here. But it is pretty cool: There's a complete list of every boutique, art gallery, and restaurant on the city's toniest thoroughfare, plus the chance to take a virtual stroll down the eight blocks composing it. Perfect for impatient shoppers who plan their stops—and future purchases—in advance.

Tealuxe: Boston's only “tea bar” is a local favorite anyway, but its Web presence is arguably more impressive than its selection of exotic tea leaves. Not only can you comparison shop from the many teas offered, but you can also buy all the necessary accessories for the perfect pot. In addition, there are Tuesday and Thursday evening live chats with “teatenders,” reader reviews of teas, and precise brewing instructions customized to every blend. Best feature: The site offers all kinds of new items you won't find in their catalog.

Wine & Dine Online

Even eating—that most sensory, sensual of experiences—has been influenced by technology. All the national food magazines run recipes on their sites, and many restaurants are now using the Net to post menus and nightly specials. Tremont 647, for example, has a “kitchencam,” so users can watch chef Andy Husbands work his magic behind the stove. Who needs the Food Network? Top toques in town like Jacky Robert, Ana Sortun, and Ken Oringer are featured on this gourmet-oriented site for serious foodies. Besides chef bios, there are also mouthwatering j-pegs of each cook's best dishes, plus menus and recipes. Bonus: The site will forward e-mails to each chef so diners can contact them directly. Boston's self-proclaimed “Number One Restaurant Guide Online” allows users to search a mammoth database of restaurants across the entire metro area based on the categories of location, cuisine, and/or amenities. It also gives information on delivery, catering, and online ordering. Some restaurants have their menus posted too. Note: There are hordes of listings, but not all have reviews.

Boston Magazine: At the risk of being self-serving, we suggest you check out our own Web site, which boasts more than 300 capsule reviews from Boston Magazine's restaurant listings in addition to dozens of full-length reviews by critics Corby Kummer and Lisa Amand. You'll also find many of the articles in this magazine from the past three years— including “Best of Boston.”

Brookline Liquor Mart: While you can't buy wine online here, the site for Boston's top wine shop does have one excellent feature: It enables users to sign up for BLM's free e-mail newsletter, which has first-rate tasting notes and offers wine geeks the inside track on prearrival specials and discounts. Tip: Brookline's strengths are Rhônes and Burgundies.

Gordon's Liquor Store Incorporated: Now you don't have to go to Waltham to sample this treasure for oenophiles. Gordon's site lists links to international and domestic wineries (buying direct often saves money) as well as to gourmet food purveyors. Plus, you can sign up for Gordon's informative e-mail newsletter, through which you can buy those long-sought-after wines—at a bargain.

Table and Vine: Best known as Northampton's Big Y gourmet supermarket, Table and Vine's site features the store's entire catalog online: more than 4,000 wines, 2,000 beers, and 1,300 gourmet groceries. Wines are listed by region, style, and grape, which makes the site virtually idiot-proof.

Zagat's: brings to the desktop all the familiar attributes it does to the desk drawer—for free. The minirestaurant reviews are identical, rating the categories of food, dicor, and service from zero to thirty and providing an average dollar figure per person for each eatery based on hundreds of surveyor reviews. You need to be a registered site member to use the service, but this costs nothing.

Honorable mentions:

Athletic Support

The Net has made the most memorable moments in sports history available for reviewing all the time, anytime. It has also made it possible to intimately track the career of almost any athlete.

Boston Boating: A must for boating, fishing, and water-sports devotees. Not only are there practical links for everything from tide reports to marina supply companies, there are also handy charts and graphics (“The Rope Stop” catalogs all the important knots) and news and events sections updated weekly.

Boston Red Sox: Having thus far escaped the Curse of the Bambino, is great for stats geeks and gift-shop denizens alike. Readers can view the field from a variety of seats before ordering tickets, and then chat with Nomar before a game. They can also experience the best moments in Fenway history with sepia stills and quick-time videos of Ted Williams' last at bat and Carlton Fisk's homer in the bottom of the twelfth in Game 6 of the '75 World Series. (No, there are no videos of Bill Buckner.)

Boston's Sports Guy: Bill Simmons' columns are a must-read for local, loyal, good-natured sports fans—as long as you agree with him. With his random yet amusing columns (the “Idiot's Guide to the FleetCenter,” “Grading the Wimbledon Babes,” etc.), Simmons has established himself as a premier ranter, ripping everything from the sports media to his own lousy football picks.

A Celebration of the Boston Marathon: You can be a cyber Rosie Ruiz and run the Boston Marathon—virtually—in under one minute! Sponsored by WBZ, this site tells a stellar history of the first 100 years of the Boston Marathon, from 1897 to 1996. It documents the race's origins and history with photographs, personal stories, and “factoids.” (Forty-six bottles of antiseptic handwash were used in the 100th running.)

School Curious why Charlestown High jumped four spots in the boys basketball standings? Find out what happened here. With daily updates, is the best way to stay informed about high school sports; community outreach stories and an emphasis on high academic achievement make it stand out.

Honorable mentions:

Wired for Sound

Of all the niche scenes in Boston, the music community—whether you're a fan of alternative rock or classical —is perhaps the best one represented on the Web.

Boston Bands: With listings for hundreds of rock and rap recording artists, this site also has a calendar feature with updated daily happenings. Plus, for each group there's a description of the music, a logo, a home-page link, an e-mail link, and, best of all, an opportunity for online critics to smash or trash listening samples. (Favorite band name listed: Who's the Fat Guy?)

Boston Symphony Orchestra: For the folks who'd rather listen to more civilized strands than, say, the tunes of a band like Gasbag, here's the page the folks at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood, and the Boston Pops call home. Users can become members of the organizations, and choose and purchase seasonal tickets packages.

The Skinny: “The Definitive Source for Electronic Living” is a must for drum'n'bass, electronica, dance hall, and techno aficionados. Besides including all the latest news and gossip on all the latest musicians, the Boston section of the site tells you when and where the next rave is happening.

Honorable mentions:

Step on It

The Web is good for dance fans in two ways. First, there are sites devoted to artists and troupes; second, there are instructive sites for novices and, er, the rhythmically challenged.

Boston Ballet: As Mel Brooks once put it: “Men in Tights!” Women too! The Boston Ballet has gone online, and that means you can read profiles of all the dancers, plus buy tickets and sign up for classes.

DanceNet on the Web: Sponsored by 14 studios and orchestras, provides users with the most up-to-date events listings for swing and ballroom dancing in town, with information about musicians, CDs, classes, and lessons on how to improve “technique and styling.” If you look closely, you can even get info on how to “do the hustle.”

Liam Harney Irish Dance Company: Riverdance star and Boston native Liam Harney has a site good for the latest scoop on his new show, CelticFusion. If you couldn't guess, “it's taking the world by storm.”

Honorable mention:

Acting Out

Unless your interests are exclusively in the realm of Cats revivals, the Net is a terrific resource for Boston's theater scene. Many of the productions listed online are hard to find out about elsewhere.

American Repertory Theatre: Buy tickets, and check the schedule for future productions at Robert Brustein's acclaimed American Repertory Theatre. Bonus: Buying online saves you $5 per ticket.

Broadway in Boston: Great White Way fans who don't get to hop the shuttle as often as they'd like to should come here first for information and tickets on touring productions. All the information is positively positive and there is a requisite gift shop, but the ability to order big-name performance tickets makes everything else worth it.

Larry Stark's Theater Mirror: Local critic Larry Stark gives you reviews on the theater scene and lets budding performers know when auditions are being held for various productions. This site is a real forum for both Larry's thoughts and those of his audience, with discussions like “Critically Criticizing Critics!” The page is rough around the edges, but shows promise. Get his agent on the phone!

Honorable mention:

The Exhibitionists

Ah, the .org section, notable for educational and not-for-profit sites—like museums. Sometimes visiting one of these sites is more fun than making the pilgrimage to the museum itself. Why? No lines.

Museum of Fine Arts: Take a one-hour online tour through some of the most interesting parts of the art collection, or read the curator's statements about upcoming, current, and past shows.

Museum of Science: The Museum of Science has far-out online exhibits that let users explore all the workings of funky stuff like bacteria, metal deposits, and frozen lightning (aka “Lichtenberg patterns”). The site even makes fractals fun. Sadly, the Virtual FishTank is available only at the museum.

New England Aquarium: This site offers the first guaranteed seasickness-free whale-watching tour. It also lists everything you need to know about the aquarium, plus updates on what you can do to help save endangered species. One feature is not for the faint of heart: the gruesome details of how North Atlantic right whale #2030 was killed by fishing gear.

For info on arts grants:

Sophisticated online resources for new parents like the ones below are tailor-made for the post-Spock set:

Boston Parents' Paper: Part of the and conglomerate of sites, this local version has parenting tips for children of all ages. Users can get expert advice on everything from children's health to their clothes. Family-trip discounts are available.

JuniorNet: Boston-based JuniorNet is a service for kids 3 through 12. The site promises fun learning experiences, from games to articles on subjects like exotic wildlife. Content partners include Sports Illustrated for Kids and the Weekly Reader. Note: This is a subscription service; the first trial month is free, $9.95 per month after.

Boston.Urbanbaby: Urbanbaby is springing up in major cities as a hip parents' guide. The target audience: young mothers only. Experts dole out advice about bottle rejection with an urban flair deftly emphasized by sleek illustrations. Curious about what fashion designer Nicole Miller has to say about motherhood?

Honorable mention:

Looking for Mr. GoodGeek

You're beautiful, you're fabulous, you're still single? The Net may well be the most dubious place to find a mate since '70s nightclubs. However, these two nightlife sites might help improve your chances. Designed for industry pros behind the bars, this site is also good for the rest of us: There's a small listings area, a section of 11 “silly little bar tricks,” and chats with “Heather the Cybertender,” who can teach anyone how to make a good slippery nipple.

Boston Night Guide (BNG): This site promises “bars, clubs, late-night eats, date spots, events, and much more.” Singles can also enter the BNG Date Contest and tell all about their experiences—or read the ones listed and laugh.

Looking Backward

It's better than Social Studies class: The following web sites are great places to go to learn more about the city.

The Bostonian Society: The Bostonian Society's museum and library, as well as its collection of more than 50,000 artifacts, photographs, maps, and more, are available for online perusal. Download a transcript of the Boston Massacre trial, or visit gift shop, which sells Pledge of Allegiance throws rugs.

Boston Web Project: The Boston Web Project connects history with architecture in virtual space by offering users the chance to tour Boston's oldest and most important buildings, from the Paul Revere House to the Pru. Calling all Palm Pilot owners.

Plimoth-on-Web: Click here to land on Plimoth Rock: Get information about the museum, dining hall, and craft center on Plimoth Plantation. The site is kid-friendly, with an area called Hobbamock's Homesite that teaches history from a Native American perspective.

Honorable mention:

Navigation Tools

We don't need to tell you how difficult it can be to get around town. We can tell you that the following sites will make the experience a whole lot easier.

The Central Artery/Tunnel Project: Here's where to get the latest updates on the infamous Big Dig. Highlights: how many times Foxboro Stadium can be filled with all the displaced dirt (13), and when the ambitious project will be finished (your guess is as good as theirs).

Massport: Sit back and watch the planes take off—from your desktop. The Web site for Logan Airport lets savy travelers scan arrival and departure times, get information on air cargo transport, check for internal airport delays (broken elevators?), and peruse the local airport traffic. Links to airlines and updates on Cruiseport can make for speedier pickups and deliveries.

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority: Everything you need to know about the T but were afraid to ask. Click on any subway or commuter-rail stop on the map and find out about area parking (237 spaces at the Winchester Center Commuter Station on the Lowell line), rail rates and schedules, local points of interest, maps, and bus connections.

Massachusetts Speed Traps: Part of The Speedtrap Registry, Inc., a five-year-old international organization dedicated to helping good drivers (note: there is no encouragement to break the law) avoid getting tickets, the site chronicles all the hot spots in the Boston area— and what happens if you get caught careening through them.

The Mass Turnpike Authority: Ever wonder what happened to the orange-roofed Howard Johnson's restaurants on the Mass Pike? You can find this and many other facts about the 135-mile road that connects Boston and New York on its own Web site. Use the mileage chart, check the toll schedule, and get information on carpool pass, bus service, and resident tunnel discounts. While there are no instant traffic updates, there are nice pictures of the pike's board members.

Registry of Motor Vehicles: Want to see your driving record? You can't do it online, but you can get the information on how to do it by mail, by phone, or in person. Want to know if your brilliant idea for a vanity plate has already been taken? This information is available in addition to downloadable license applications, accident report forms, veteran plate requests, and anything that drives you crazy standing in line at the Watertown DMV.

Civic Center Dumb Laws: If you think Massachusetts can't even dig a tunnel without screwing it up, this site—with the motto “Big Government. Small Brains. Dumb Laws.”—is for you. Offering a state-by-state listing of all the “dumb” laws on the books, the Boston section includes such gems as the fact that it is illegal to eat peanuts in church. But don't feel too bad: In New Hampshire, there are days of the week when “citizens may not relieve themselves while looking up.”

Commonwealth of Massachusetts: “Welcome to the official home page of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” Ever wonder exactly what the Office of the State Comptroller does? How the state lottery works? How the government thinks we should save energy in our homes? This site has tons of information about every office in the state government, plus downloads of the publications the offices generate—in case, say, you want to request official records from the Criminal History Systems Board.

Environmental Protection Agency: Need to see an index of watershed indicators? Here's your place. Get environmental profiles of the entire state, and pick up such tips as exactly what an aquifer is in the discussion section.

Strictly Business

Why be an angry consumer when you can use the net to find out everything you need to know about local businesses and stocks on the city's exchange?

Better Business Bureau (BBB): Need information on a company you want to sue? Trying to get your neighbor evicted? Want to make sure your own record is clear? Check out the Northern New England BBB, where you can file a complaint online.

Boston Stock Exchange (BSE): Visit the BSE to see what's trading. Read “News from the Floor” and annual reports from the exchange. Press releases? Oh yeah. Employment opportunities? Uh huh. But a stock ticker? Not yet.

Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce: If you like to network, this site has leadership forums galore. There are also lots of links, programs, and policy initiatives on a wide variety of community topics— just glancing will make you a better Bostonian.

Honorable mention:

Want Ads

Sick of feeling overworked and underpaid? The Internet has generated thousands of job sites, most of which allow users to post resumes, search want ads, and comparison shop for salaries. Most of the biggies are national, like (which is based in Maynard, Massachusetts, and offers a search of more than 300,000 jobs in addition to an online career advice center and a “communities” section for chatting about various professions). The ones we've listed below are for special interest local gigs. Happy hunting! Calling all MIT grads: Do you know CICS, COBOL, DB2, DECVAX, FOCUS, AIX, C/C++, CORBA, UNIX, Java, Linux, Basic, Director, Adobe Photoshop, IMS, MVS, SAS, VSAM, PowerPoint, HTML, RoboHelp, Word, XML, Windows, Visio, IEEE, etc.? If so, it seems you're badly needed in this town.

New England Opportunity Nonprofit Organization Classifieds: This site is best for finding jobs with social consciences and includes listings from the Catholic charities and a variety of community and social service organizations. Not for the monetarily motivated.

Honorable mentions:

Realty Bytes

Find your dream home on the web, and then figure out how to get the best mortgage. Come here for the skinny on more than 20 different local neighborhoods, each of which has its own link. Hey, just because you can't judge a book by its cover doesn't mean you can't judge a 'hood by its Web site. While you're here, you can also reminisce about the Blizzard of '78 and get in on the great area code debate. Real Estate: Part of the network, this site is a good example of what's out there to help you gather information about brokering mortgages, finding open houses, and, of course, perusing listings.

Boston Apartments OnLine: This site specializes in rentals of every shape and size, in every neighborhood, at a variety of price points—including a “no fee” section.

Honorable mentions:

Buying Time

Saving money is great, but saving time may be even better. The following web pages are designed to make life more convenient in a host of different ways. Order up and pig out: From Woburn to Quincy, will get your groceries delivered to you by a “team of specially selected and trained delivery professionals” in a cute little van. The order fulfillment center has more than 7,000 items to choose from, including fresh produce, meat, milk, dry goods, and healthcare products. Need more than groceries? Check out to find links for everything from flowers to file cabinets all available for delivery in your area.

The Weather Channel: Now that it's achieved a cultlike following, the Weather Channel has a Web site to match the allegedly soothing qualities of its forecasters. Come here for weather updates and other quirky yet practical features like local “Flu Reports.”

Honorable mentions:

Et Cetera

There's some unique stuff out there online, and we're barely scratching the surface. A few favorites:

Boston FireBuff: Click here for everything you ever wanted to know about the men in red, including the latest news, events, and photos of the guys in action. Eerie, but interesting: Users can track local blazes with the site's 24-hour Fire Log.

Massachusetts Horticultural Society: A comprehensive list of seasonal flower shows is in bloom online, right here. In addition, there is also information on joining the Society and its upcoming programs.

New England Confectionary Company: Wafer-thin: Learn interesting facts here about Cambridge's own NECCO Candy Company. (“In excess of 4 billion NECCO Wafers are sold each year. Enough to stretch completely around the world.”)

Slam News Service: They may be the Gong Show equivalents of poetry readings, but slams have a mighty and devoted following. Stay up on the underground scene—often hard to track elsewhere—right here, where you can get the most accurate scheduling information.

Xytex Corporation: Looking for a Zen Buddhist who enjoys “travel skydiving” to father your next baby? Then this is the place, a medical laboratory set up to help you find the perfect sperm donor. Based in Augusta, Georgia, Xytex (which also has a branch in Woburn) is a licensed, accredited lab with a very professional site. Potential buyers can select the hair, eye, and skin color preferences for donors, and read about their maternal, paternal, and even sibling medical histories. The site promises a 24-hour response to donor order forms, and offers more in-depth donor profiles (including photographs) for an additional $10 fee.

Honorable mention:

Tribal Rites

You know who you are; why not find out who else is out there:

Chinatown Committee:

Boston Irish Guide:

Boston Irish Reporter:

Boston GLASS:

Boston Jewish Film Festival:

Brazilian Students and Scholars:

Carribean-American Roots In Boston Extended:

Greek Boston:

Hawaiian Music and Culture:

Jewish Boston Online:

The Jewish Advocate:

Latino Professional Network:

Museum of Afro American History in Boston:

National Organization for Women: