Four Trips to Make the Most of the $10 Commuter Rail Weekend Pass
It's cheap. It's unlimited. It's time to take advantage.
Picture this. It’s 9 a.m. Your head rests against the window as the landscape sails by in a blur of autumn colors, and the conductor announces that your stop is close. This might sound like a fantasy for Boston commuters reeling from recent MBTA snafus, but actually, this nirvana of public transportation can be yours. For only ten bucks, the weekend commuter rail pass lets you take as many rides as you want along the entire commuter rail network on Saturdays and Sundays. And with leaf peeper season in full swing, now’s the time to download the MBTA app, snag a rail pass, and exploit the hell out of it. Feeling overwhelmed by the options? Try one of these trip itineraries.
Trip #1: Saltwater Sojourn
Hop aboard the 8:30 a.m. Rockport train and head to Manchester station. Tuck into a decadent brunch at Allie’s Beach Street Cafe—try the smoked salmon and boursin omelette!—and then walk an easy half mile to Singing Beach for a stroll. Next, catch the 12:20 p.m. Boston train. Disembark at the Salem station and enjoy an afternoon of art and architecture. Visit the Peabody Essex Museum, and poke around the House of Seven Gables’ seaside gardens and colonial bedchambers. Cap off the day with oysters and fresh fish at Turner’s Seafood before boarding the 5:50 p.m. Boston train back to North Station.
The Extra Mile: If you’ve still got some gas in the tank, swap Turner’s for a drink at Jaho Coffee Roaster & Wine Bar before catching the 5:50 p.m. Rockport train. Get off at Gloucester, just in time for a sunset seafood dinner at the Gloucester House, which sits right on the harbor wharf. Take the 10:05 p.m. Boston train to North Station.
Trip #2: The Countryside Journey
Slip into your best walking shoes and take the 8:35 a.m. Wachusett train to Lincoln station. Cross the road to the commuter rail parking lot and walk the dirt road that runs along the railroad tracks. At the field, take a left into the Codman estate (maps available here) and wander the woods and wetlands. If you feel adventurous, hike west to Concord Road, turn left and briefly stroll down the road to St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, and pick up the trail to Mount Misery (download maps here.)
Once you’ve had your fill of forest, return to Lincoln station for the 11:19 a.m. Wachusett train and get off at Fitchburg station. Rehydrate with a triple dry-hopped “Zeus” IPA at River Styx Brewing and savor the Fitchburg Art Museum’s photography collection, which includes images by Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams. Double back to Fitchburg station and catch the 3:48 p.m. Boston train to North Station.
The Extra Mile: Board the 3:48 p.m. Boston train, take it to the West Concord station and then treat yourself to an early farm-to-table supper at Saltbox Kitchen (open on Saturdays only) or Woods Hill Table (reservations are recommended). Then glide back home on the 6:57 p.m. Boston train.
Trip #3: The Stay-Cation
Pack breakfast, catch the 8:40 a.m. Haverhill train, and get off at the Wyoming Hill station. A 15 minute stroll through Malden to the intersection of Aaron Street and Fellsway East will deliver you to a parking lot for the Pine Grove Path. Pick up the trail and enter the Middlesex Fells Reservation for a foliage-rich hike to the Cascade, a 40 foot-tall horsetail-style waterfall. (Grab a map here.)
Retrace your steps to Wyoming Hill, take the 11:12 a.m. Boston train back to North Station, and then walk down the Rose Kennedy Greenway to South Station. Here, you’ll jump on the 12:50 p.m. Fairmount train to Blue Hills Avenue station. Refuel with a velvety, fruity beverage at Shea Butter Smoothies and take it to go, because the Lower Neponset River Trail is steps away. You can also jump on an old-school MBTA Mattapan Trolley and ride over to Central Ave, where you’ll find mouth-watering New American fare served in a tricked out garage at Steel & Rye. When you’re ready to head home, return to Blue Hills Avenue for the 4:36 p.m. Boston train.
The Extra Mile: Before heading to Blue Hills Avenue from South Station, pick up a Bluebike, take it on the train, and pedal along the entire Neponset Trail to its waterfront terminus in North Quincy! When you’re done, double back on the trail to the Butler Red Line station and head back into the city.
Trip #4: The Tale of Two Cities
Get on the 8:40 a.m. Worcester train. Take it to Union Station, just a short walk from Armsby Abbey, where you’ll have your pick of savory brunch fare, or the Hangover Pub, New England’s first bacon gastropub. Then try out the Worcester shopping circuit with a trip to Crompton Collective, where the city’s creators sell their own handmade gifts under one boutique roof.
Catch the 12:50 p.m. or 2:30 p.m. Boston train back to South Station and transfer to the 4:30 p.m. Providence train. You’ll roll into town just in time to try the exquisite mutton dan-dan noodles and blueberry miso bok choy at North. Then, once the sun goes down, find a spot by the river and take in one of this year’s final WaterFire shows. (The last one is slated for November 2.) Catch the 9:59 p.m. Boston train back home, or splurge with a night’s stay at Graduate Providence, where chic interior design meets Providence’s quirky film history. The recognizable “shaggin’ wagon” from Dumb and Dumber is often parked out in front.
The Extra Mile: If brunch doesn’t leave you in a caloric stupor, take the 12:50 p.m. Boston train to Framingham to sample artisanal lagers and ales at Jack’s Abby and Exhibit A Brewing. Walk off the suds with a half mile stroll to West Natick station and catch the 3:14 p.m. train to South Station.