The Ultimate Guide to How to Spend a Rainy Day in Boston
The weather's gloomy, but you don't have to be.
Mother Nature loves to laugh in the face of a pleasant weather forecast, hurling flash floods or the occasional out-of-season scorcher over to our neck of the woods. Whether you’re in town for a vacation and suddenly find your harbor cruise doused by a downpour or are a local looking to escape the house before you climb the walls, you can still enjoy lots of activities that are sheltered from the elements. Sure, you already know to hit up the Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and other cultural institutions, but what about letting loose in a foam pit? From bookstore browses to adrenaline rushes, check out this guide to help pass the time.
Browse some vintage reads
Remember when you read things other than on your phone? The Boston area boasts a bookish bounty, with must-visit spots to get lit(erature) including Trident Booksellers & Cafe on Newbury, More than Words by Bay Village, and Cambridge’s indie favorites, Harvard Book Store and Porter Square Books. Nestled downtown and with a giant #2 pencil over the entryway, the Brattle Book Shop beckons with two floors of used books, plus a third floor of rare antiques for sale. You can wander here for hours, thumbing through the treasure trove of tomes, which includes out-of-print rarities and first-editions, along with maps, postcards, and other ephemera. And when the weather cooperates, the shelves in the outside sale lot offer some sunlit literature.
9 West St., Boston, 617-542-0210, brattlebookshop.com.
Catch an arty flick
Instead of elbowing through lines to see the latest blockbuster, consider a jaunt to the Brattle in Cambridge, where the one-screen movie house in a historic brick building celebrates movie magic. The showings here hone in on arthouse flicks, foreign, and cutting-edge films, with special themed multi-film programs that might celebrate a particular director or topic. Also, soak up the vintage vibe with screenings of classic 35mm films, with past showings of Sunset Boulevard and Singin’ in the Rain celebrating the glamor of vintage Hollywood. Plus, it shares a building with frequent Best of Boston winner Alden & Harlow, so you can dart from the movie to dinner (or vice versa) without getting drenched.
40 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-876-6837, brattlefilm.org.
Chart a historic course
Even with all the maps around, it’s easy to get lost in the Norman P. Leventhal Map & Education Center, a museum within the Boston Public Library. Head here to navigate through exhibits of maps, atlases, globes and more, with exhibits open to the general public and available digitally, and other collections available to researchers by appointment. Here, you’ll find artifacts dating from the fifteenth century to the present day, with a lean towards Boston and New England. Landmark items include Revolutionary War-era maps of the city and maritime maps of the New England coast. A hand-painted 1475 circular world map, too, elevates the atlas into a work of art.
In the Boston Public Library – Central Library, 700 Boylston St., Boston, 617-859-2387, leventhalmap.org.
Climb the walls
In life, it’s not always about the destination, but the climb. And perhaps nowhere is that more true than at Rock Spot Climbing, a fitness spot with locations in Southie and Dedham. Here, adventurers can learn the belay technique to help fellow climbers by acting as their tether to terra firma, or you can clip into an auto belay—a kind of pulley system—to climb the rock wall for a safe solo venture. Those not wanting to be tied down can hit the bouldering wall, an angled surface studded with grips to latch onto, for a free-climb that’s part spatial reasoning test, part workout. Plus, yoga classes help you relax those fatigued forearms.
67 Sprague St., Dedham, 617-333-4433; 30 Old Colony Ave., South Boston, 617-269-2084, rockspotclimbing.com.
Enjoy the silence
Harvard’s non-denominational Class of 1959 Chapel, which opened in 1992, offers a moment of quiet carved out of the bustle of Boston. While the structure might be named after Harvard Business School’s class of 1959, which funded the build, the design is a time-warp to the future: Swooping curves, a cylindrical chamber of concrete, and a glass pyramid that offers a mini oasis of a water garden. Topped with skylights that reflect rainbows across the minimal gray walls, this spot offers brightness on even the dreariest days.
Gordon Road, Boston, 617-495-6000, hbs.edu.
When the weather has you weighed down, nothing makes kids and adults alike feel quite as buoyant as jumping skyward on a trampoline. Sky Zone’s aerial adventure zones—with locations in Everett, Danvers, and Kingston—feature wall-to-wall trampolines and activities like dodge ball and American Ninja Warrior-esque obstacle courses. And perhaps the most uplifting part? Catch some air on the trampolines and then swan dive into the plush foam pit, which feels like a bear-hug from a bag of marshmallows.
69 Norman St., Everett, 617-387-1000; 100 Independence Way Liberty Tree Mall, Danvers, 978-252-3000; 101 Kingston Collection Way Kingston Collection Mall, Kingston, 781-514-7595, skyzone.com.
Get some air
Prefer your adrenaline rushes in a slightly less “hurl yourself out of an airplane”-type way? Make the trek up to Nashua, New Hampshire (I mean, it’s raining, so what else are you going to do?) to experience the skydiving-adjacent thrill of floating, sans parachute, above SkyVenture’s indoor vertical wind tunnel. Skittish participants take note: There’s no jumping or free-fall feeling, and instead you’re guided by an instructor like a baby bird learning to take wing. If you prefer to skip the sky in favor of the surf, you can boogie to the indoor surfing rig, which pumps out a 32-foot jet of water for you to hang ten on a real surfboard.
100 Adventure Way, Nashua, NH, 603-897-0002, skyventurenh.com.
Make a splash
While the weather might’ve drowned your dreams of hitting local beaches, you can still make waves in the 16 indoor pools in the Boston Centers for Youth & Families fitness facilities around the area. From the Curtis Hall Community Center in Jamaica Plain to the Flaherty Pool in Roslindale and beyond, these pools invite kids to dive in for swim lessons, while adults can sign up for lap swims and water fitness classes. Just think—it’s like a trip to the shore, all without the sand and the sunblock.
Various locations, 617-635-4920, boston.gov.
Play some mind games
If escaping a single room sounds a little too simple, try your brain at Boda Borg, where you and a team of three to five others face physical and mental challenges spread out over 18 different rooms within the 30,000 square-foot facility. With physical difficulty categorized as either easy, medium, or hard, the challenges range in themes. One quest has you trying to escape from the famed prison of Alcatraz, while in another room you’re navigating a haunted house. And the challenges aren’t just physical, either. Other rooms prod at your mental stamina (and patience) with quizzes, memory puzzles, and ticking clocks.
90 Pleasant St., Malden, 781-321-1081, bodaborg.com.
Curate your own film festival
If you have a hankering to revisit the glory days of browsing the aisles for hours at your favorite movie rental spot, then the Video Underground in Jamaica Plain is a reel treat. Billed as the last video rental store in Boston, the spot features around 10,000 titles, from mainstream releases to anime, arthouse gems, docs, and more. But snagging top billing is your chance to rent out the VU Screening room by the hour, where parties of up to 30 guests can enjoy their own mini movie festivals and chow on candy and special treats like flatbread pizzas and mini vegan cheesecakes from the on-site café. Beats another night with Netflix.
3203 Washington St., Jamaica Plain, 617-522-4949, thevuinjp.com.
Savor some bites with a side of shopping
With a wealth of tables on its sprawling patio, plus greenhouses, cozy fire pits, and indoor dining, Bow Market—Somerville’s food-hall-meets-shopping center—is a veritable buffet for the indecisive diner. Craving a morning nosh? Hit up Mike & Patty’s for a packed breakfast burrito, and wash it down with an Americano from Remnant Brewing. Comfort food? Peep the poutine and vegetarian burgers and dogs at Saus. For dinner, slurp down some fresh oysters at Hooked before you feast on plates like soy and brown sugar-cured pork butt at Filipino-American eatery Tanám, and end things on a sweet note with playful macarons from Maca. And the best way to walk off those hearty helpings is with some retail therapy, maybe at Bobby from Boston’s for men’s and women’s vintage treasures, or by browsing the books and bottled natural wine from Wild Child.
1 Bow Market Way, Somerville, bowmarketsomerville.com.
Support local art and activism
The Dorchester Art Project’s 5,000-square foot space in Fields Corner is a bit hard to classify—in the best possible way. Artist studios, a zine library, a gallery, a retail store, and a performance venue all find a home under one roof. Run by the arts nonprofit Brain Arts Org, DAP combines art and activism to serve and support historically excluded communities. Since you probably don’t need to troll Amazon for another boredom buy, hit up the store to buy art and other goodies by local makers, and browse discounted and thrifted craft supplies, clothing, and more. Each weekend also sees the Melanin Owned Businesses Vendors flea market taking over the lower level of DAP to showcase a wealth of wonders by local businesses.
1490 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester, 857-400-8982, dorchesterartproject.org.