50 Years of ‘Best of Boston’: Arts & Entertainment

In honor of this year's 50th anniversary of Best of Boston, we’re taking a look back. This month: strip clubs, playgrounds, and infidelity haunts.

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All throughout 2024, we’re celebrating the proud and distinguished history of our annual Best of Boston issue, which turns 50 this July. And from disco dancing to paddleboarding, we’ve certainly had a lot of good times over the years.

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Best Strip Club

The Mouse Trap Cabaret. Back in Dirty Old Boston, this was the place to go if you wanted to see a little skin. As the editors were quick to note, “they do take it all off.” Bonus points for being located in Park Square—“slightly safer” than the nearby red-light district known as the Combat Zone.

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Best Way to Learn Disco Dancing

The Joy of Movement Center. File this under: Best of Boston categories you’d only find in the ’70s. “Plenty of different strokes for different folks,” we wrote. “All levels of skill, various schedules, and no white suits.” Groovy, indeed.


Best Cheater’s Bar

Harry’s Bar. “Far enough out of town so you won’t get caught. Close enough to get home for dinner.”


Best Out-of-Body-Experience

The Tours at the Boston Athenaeum. Unless you’re a member, these days, you have to pony up $15 per adult for an “Art & Architecture” tour at the Athenaeum. But back in 1989, you didn’t have to pay a penny—and, as Boston staff wrote, “the guides are straight out of Boston Brahmin Central Casting. Delightful.”


Best Cinema

The Capitol Theatre. “You won’t pay more than four buckaroonis to see a movie in this cute cinema house, and the snack bar offers espresso, ice cream, and frozen yogurt. For similar reasons, check out the nearby Regent Cinema.”


Best Jazz Club, Scene

Wally’s Café. Still alive and kicking today, Wally’s is one of the few things in Boston that’ve stood the test of time. And 50 years after its founding in 1947, the tiny jazz club was still growing. “With the shutdown of the Willow and the yuppification of Bob the Chef’s, Wally’s proposed [move across the street] is the best thing going,” the editors wrote.

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Most Likely Reason the Curse Might End

Pedro Martínez. Boston editors had a feeling the curse might be reversed when they heard Martínez utter this gem: “Wake up the damn Bambino and have me face him. Maybe I’ll drill him in the ass.” Three years later, of course, he helped bring the World Series trophy to Boston.

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Best Bowling Alley

Lanes & Games. “Bowling is enjoying an indubitable renaissance as of late, with funky alleys attracting a quasi-hipster bar crowd. But as much as we enjoy our fancy drinks, bowling is at heart a sport of beer in plastic cups and no-glam atmosphere. Lanes & Games in Cambridge has never had an identity crisis about what it is: a legitimately retro bowling alley (note the circa-1947 interior) with 54 lanes of candlepin and tenpin, a pro shop, and lots of leagues. From the ‘Grip it and Rip It’ stickers to the bowling bag–sized lockers in the restrooms, this is the real deal.”


Best Playground

Thomas M. Menino Park. Where do the children play? In 2016, at least, it was at this Charlestown space offering 38,000 square feet of fun. “The breathtaking views of Boston Harbor and the skyline give even the most blasé stroller jockeys a reason to look up from their phones,” the editors gushed.


Best Way to Get Out on the Water

Paddle Boston. Post-pandemic, you couldn’t blame anyone for wanting to escape civilization. That’s why we appreciated the experts at Paddle Boston, who, as Boston staffers noted, will “hook you up with the gear—and the guidance—you need to get out on the Charles or the harbor.”

First published in the print edition of the April 2024 issue with the headline, “BOB50: Arts & Entertainment.”