No one does fall better than New England. Come September, the days are shorter, the air is crisper, and the leaves start changing to fiery hues of red, orange and yellow. And a quarter of a million college students flood Boston and Cambridge, adding a renewed energy to the city we call home.
Make the most of the autumnal splendour this month at alfresco music events. The Boston Calling Music Festival will bring Vampire Weekend, Local Natives, Kendrick Lamar, and Berklee-grown heroes Passion Pit to City Hall Plaza on 7 and 8 September. Look for the beer garden and local food trucks, too. A little further afield is the two-day Life is Good Festival at Prowse Farm in Canton, just south of the city. Ready your lighter for Jack Johnson, the Roots, Hall & Oates (yes, that Hall & Oates), and more, on 21 and 22 September. The theme of this year’s free Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival, a block party on Columbus Avenue, happening on 28 September, is ‘Jazz: The Next Generation’. It will feature artists such as Meshell Ndegeocello and the Will Calhoun Trio, as well as family activities and an instrument ‘petting zoo’. All of these tunes just might inspire you to tickle the ivories between 27 September and 14 October, when the Celebrity Series of Boston will place 75 pianos around the city for British artist Luke Jerram’s public installation, Play Me, I’m Yours.
Looking for something more active? The second annual Sharkfest, a 1,500-metre swim in Boston Harbour, from Piers Park Sailing Centre in East Boston to the Moakley Courthouse on Fan Pier, is set for 21 September. (Don’t worry, the name has nothing to do with the spate of Great White sightings this summer off Cape Cod.) Landlubbers should stick to the New England Aquarium, where the Giant Ocean Tank reopened in July after a 10-month, $17 million renovation. The four-story habitat is home to more than 2,000 aquatic animals – 140 different species! – including Myrtle, the famous 560-pound green sea turtle.
Boston is a thriving arts hub, and there are two hotly anticipated shows opening this month. Award-winning director Mary Zimmerman returns to the Huntington Theatre Company (which recently won the Tony for best regional theatre), with her song-and-dance-filled romp through Rudyard Kipling’s tales in The Jungle Book, opening 7 September. And All the Way, a look at Lyndon B Johnson’s first year in office and starring Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, lands at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge on 13 September.
All this art talk really works up an appetite, and Boston is, of course, steeped in seafood. Here’s the shortlist: B&G Oysters in the South End for chowder; Neptune Oyster in the North End for the raw bar; and Island Creek Oyster Bar in Kenmore Square for a lobster roll. But there’s more to our buzzy restaurant scene than bivalves and bisques. This month, James Beard-winning chef Tony Maws of Craigie on Main fame will open his second spot, the Kirkland Tap & Trotter, outside Harvard Square on the Cambridge-Somerville line. As the name suggests, there will be a lengthy suds list alongside Maws’ farm-to-table fare (think grilled spice-crusted chicken wings with radishes and arugula, and grilled sardines provençale) at this neighbourhood spot. South of the Charles River, nestled in the Back Bay, is Asta, a rising culinary star – Boston magazine recently crowned it best new restaurant in the 40th annual Best of Boston awards. L’Espalier alum Alex Crabb turns out avant-garde cuisine, only available in three-, five-, or eight-course tasting menus, and sommelier Paige Farrell delights with spot-on wine suggestions.
Serious shoppers looking to boost the retail economy while in town should hoof it to Newbury Street, where several new stores have opened: Steven Alan proffers casual duds for the cool kids; Denim & Supply Ralph Lauren has jeans for every occasion; Frye, which originated in nearby Marlboro, is brimming with the company’s iconic boots; and Benefit is keeping everyone pretty. To escape chains, head to the charming South End and stock up on small-batch foodstuffs at Olives & Grace, unique gardening supplies at Niche, and urban-preppy menswear at Sault New England. Plan your visit for a Sunday, so you can also take in the art and crafts at bustling SoWa Open Market, which runs through October.
Speaking of style, the well-heeled will be out in force from 27 September to 5 October for Boston Fashion Week 2013. This year's event encompasses fashion shows and other fabulous events (check bostonfashionweek.com for updates) throughout the city and is dedicated to the late local couturier-to-the-beau monde, Alfred Fiandaca. So, raise a toast and don your best heels in his honour. ’Tis the season for sleek knee-high boots, after all.
Courtney Hollands is senior lifestyle editor and weddings editor at Boston magazine (bostonmagazine.com)