Entertainment

Boston's Coolest and Most Romantic Fall Date Ideas

Cuffing season is just around the corner.

Brooklyn Boulders Somerville
Brooklyn Boulders Somerville
Brooklyn Boulders Somerville

For now at least, the old-school comforts of face-to-face socializing are still on the table. Which begs the question-how does one go about this strange phenomenon called in-person dating? Believe it or not, Boston can still surprise with its couple-friendly excursions. We’ve rounded up 19 stellar ideas for you and your paramour to enjoy all day or all night long this fall, whether you’re dipping a toe back in the matchmaking pool or simply looking to pumpkin spice things up with your longtime love.
 

Russell Orchards
Russell Orchards
Russell Orchards

Team up for apple picking (and cider donut feasting)

It’s cliched, sure, but it’s also why we live (and love) in New England. So grab your flannel and prep your IG stories for some cutesy shots amid the region’s most scenic orchards. And as for those donuts-you can’t beat the made-from-scratch beauts at Russell Orchards, which incorporates its very own apple cider into the batter.

quiggyt4/Shutterstock
quiggyt4/Shutterstock
quiggyt4/Shutterstock

Take time to smell the roses (sort of) at Arnold Arboretum

A visit to the arboretum is a no-cost no-brainer. With 15,000 plants and 4,000 trees blooming throughout the year, you’re hardly ever wanting for bucolic scenery. Hike Hemlock Hill, then spread a blanket under a a shady stunner for some al fresco chill time. And if the actual chill is too much to take, a thermos of hot chocolate should do the trick.

North Road Farm
North Road Farm
North Road Farm

Take a beachside horseback ride

Bet you didn’t even know that Crane Beach allows horseback riding in the offseason. North Road Farm offers guided, one- to two-hour beach rides during low tide, allowing you and your sweetie to take your time and soak up those romantic Robin Hood and Maid Marian vibes.

Newport Vineyards
Newport Vineyards
Newport Vineyards

Visit an area winery (yes, really)

No, we’re not Napa, but New England has its own share of lovely little vineyards-and they’re at their very loveliest in the fall, when the surrounding foliage only enhances the beauty of those headlands and alleyways. If you have it in you to go so far as the Outer Cape, Truro Vineyards are another suburb bet.

AstroStar/Shutterstock
AstroStar/Shutterstock
AstroStar/Shutterstock

Stargaze at Coit Observatory

Luckily for lovebirds, every Wednesday night the BU Coit Observatory opens up its facilities to all us non-scientific types for its Public Open Night. The viewing starts after sundown and goes for about an hour, leaving you plenty of time for a romantic dinner afterwards. Just don’t forget your masks, which are required for the entire show.

Brooklyn Boulders Somerville
Brooklyn Boulders Somerville
Brooklyn Boulders Somerville

Climb some walls and celebrate with a brew

It’s a lot more fun to work hard and play hard when you have a companion to join you for both. Start with a good old-fashioned forearm workout at Brooklyn Boulders. Once you’ve sufficiently impressed each other and/or humiliated yourselves, head next door to Aeronaut Brewing, where you’ll be asked to do nothing more than sit, drink, and be merry.

Take in some gratis Shakespeare

Boston Common
Wethinks ‘tis far nobler to experience the Bard in a lawn chair on the Boston Common with a closed container of a little something something. This summer, the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company is back, putting on a complimentary production of The Tempest, a erudite but low-risk date night if there ever was one.

Gerd Hermann/Shutterstock
Gerd Hermann/Shutterstock
Gerd Hermann/Shutterstock

Pedal along the Minuteman Bikeway

Lexington
Enough with the Peloton dates already. The Minuteman is a well-paced, well-paved trail that guides you through charming parts of Arlington and Somerville. Want to go the extra mile? Rent a tandem bike and hit the road-the front seat selfies alone will be worth the effort.

Tune into the library’s YouTube page… for music

Back Bay
Here’s a little known fact: In the summer, the main branch of the Boston Public Library hosts free one-hour concerts in its stunning central courtyard-sometimes during lunch, sometimes in the evening. And we’re not just talking classical; jazz, blues, and folk have also appeared on the menu. As expected, the 2020 season was entirely remote. As for Summer 2021, there’s a decent chance that small groups might be allowed in the courtyard at some point but for now, we say roll out a picnic blanket and enjoy from a safe distance.

Mendon Twin Drive-In
Mendon Twin Drive-In
Mendon Twin Drive-In

Cruise into a drive-in movie

Mendon
If there’s a silver lining to this pandemic, it’s that we’ve all learned to embrace life’s simple pleasures. Exhibit A: Double features at the drive-in. Mendon Twin Drive-In shows both first-run flicks and some throwback favorites on the weekends after Labor Day. Throw in a snack bar and a beer garden, and it’s a throwback date for the ages.

SoWa Boston
SoWa Boston
SoWa Boston

Get cultured at SoWa’s Open Studios

450 Harrison Avenue
Every first Friday of the month, all year long, the SoWa arts district welcomes curious passersby into its hub of creativity. Artists fling open their studio doors, showcasing vibrant galleries and keeping them open late so you can pretend to understand what you’re looking at for hours on end.

November Project
November Project
November Project

Sweat together (for less)

Various
PG-rated heavy breathing on the first date? It’s a good way to find out if you’re fitness compatible. Enter November Project, where early morning, large-scale group workouts take place atop the Harvard Stadium stairs among other outdoor locales. Go forth and flex.

Island Creek Oysters
Island Creek Oysters
Island Creek Oysters

Enjoy some outdoor oysters at The Raw Bar at Island Creek Oyster Farm

Duxbury
Care for a few al fresco bivalves with your bubbly? Sounds like the ideal day date to us. Island Creek Oyster Farm has reopened its seasonal outdoor bar and hangout spot in Duxbury, which overlooks the water and dishes out beer, wine, canned cocktails, tinned fish, and of course, hand-shucked oysters galore (with the occasional lobster roll pop-up). Plus, leashed dogs are not only welcome but practically de rigeur.

Trillium Brewing Company
Trillium Brewing Company
Trillium Brewing Company

Kick back with a drink outside

Various locations
Seasonal al fresco drinking options are not only alive and well, but they’re sticking around well into the colder months. Among the city’s myriad options are the Prairie Fire Beer Garden, Summer in the Square, Trillium on the Greenway, The Beer Garden at W Boston, The Colonnade Pool, Rooftop at Revere, The Anchor, Cisco Brewers Seaport, and the Owl’s Nests on the Esplanade and in Allston.

Embark on a walking tour of the city

Various locations
There are two ways to go: Download any number of the city’s self-guided tours, from the two-and-a-half hour Freedom Trail tour to the fascinating Black Heritage Trail or Women’s Heritage Trail, pop in your matching AirPods, and head out together. Or, harness your inner cartographer and wing it without any recorded guidance. Either way, it’s free, it’s educational, it’s outdoors, and it’s great nerdy fun.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Spend an afternoon exploring the Museum of Fine Arts

Fenway
Now open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm, the Museum of Fine Arts is back in action helping refined Bostonians lose themselves in world famous exhibits. Tickets will cost you $25 per person without a membership, but only $5 on Wednesday from 3 to 4 pm. (Heads up, you’ll have to get your tickets online to facilitate limited-capacity browsing.)

Bow Market
Bow Market
Bow Market

Load up on shops and snacks at Bow Market

Union Square
A quaint courtyard in the heart of Union Square, Bow Market has just about everything you need for a fulfilling first date, including outdoor dining, a brewery, and top quality window shopping. And as soon as the nights start getting crisp, the fire pits will make their comeback.

Stroll through Boston’s prettiest streets

Beacon Hill
Sometimes simply ambling around one of our favorite Boston neighborhoods is all it takes to win over that special someone. Explore Beacon Hill (at night for extra ambiance) and take in the stunning brownstones for an easy going but surprisingly charming time. Judging from all the little shops and restaurants stashed along Charles Street, you’ll find a new conversation-starter around every bend.

Coolidge Corner Theatre
Coolidge Corner Theatre
Coolidge Corner Theatre

Catch a cult classic

Coolidge Corner
The iconic Coolidge Corner Theater is finally back open for business, which means you can once again enjoy first runs and midnight screenings in the flesh. And by showing your support now, you can ensure a future filled with cozy date nights and the best popcorn in town.

Swing by the seals

Financial District/Waterfront
While you’re out and about downtown, enjoy one of the city’s greatest simple pleasures: the New England Aquarium’s outdoor harbor seal exhibit. If you’d like to get a closer look at aquatic life, the aquarium itself is again open to visitors, but you’ll still have to purchase tickets ahead of time to limit capacity.

Take a cooking class without leaving the comfort of home

Virtual
You love the idea of “trying new things,” but you’re also kind of fine with staying put, especially now that you’ve become so good at it. Thankfully, Cozymeal lets you book online cooking lessons with some of the city’s most celebrated emerging chefs-no fancy new duds required.

Land's Sake Farm
Land’s Sake Farm
Land’s Sake Farm

Pick a fresh bouquet of flowers

Weston
On a local farm kick? Land’s Sake in Weston has pick-your-own-flowers, everything from zinnias to snapdragons to sunflowers, and also offers flower arranging classes every Friday. While you’re there, stock up on goodies from the farmstand including honey as well as fruit and other fresh-picked produce.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat!

Meaghan Agnew is a contributor for Thrillist. 

Entertainment

With One Orgy, 'Queer as Folk' Sets a New TV Standard

Peacock's reboot of the gay drama is finally giving queer disabled people some of the representation they've been seeking on television.

Peacock
Peacock
Peacock

Everything is ready for the orgy. The snacks and drinks are prepared, the disco ball is hanging, and there are mechanical lifts to help people in and out of their wheelchairs. As a few guests mingle and a go-go dancer gyrates, Marvin (played by Eric Graise) rolls onto the stage in his wheelchair to act as emcee. With the help of a sign-language interpreter, he kicks things off by announcing, “I know you’re all dying to tear each other’s clothes off, or to have your attendants take them off for you.” This is no ordinary orgy; it’s “#F*CK Disabled People,” the titular orgy from Episode 4 of Queer as Folk.

The Queer as Folk reboot, released this month on Peacock, is already far more diverse than the versions of the show that came before it: more racially diverse, more body types, more genders, and multiple disabled actors in key roles. Episode 4 pushes the envelope beyond almost anything seen on network TV. It’s the kind of representation that disabled viewers-and actors-have been dreaming about, centring on a queer disabled orgy and one stunningly beautiful sex scene.

Ryan O’Connell, who both co-writes and acts in the series, recognized the reboot’s potential when it came to better representing the lives of queer disabled people like himself. Key to this was sharing the screen with multiple disabled actors, including recurring appearances by Graise. Marvin’s presence had already sold O’Connell on the show when he began meeting with series developer Stephen Dunn, who had previously directed the coming-of-age movie Closet Monster. “He was like, ‘I also want you to star in it too,’ and I was like, ‘Wait, you want two disabled people?'” says O’Connell.

O’Connell grew up enjoying the sexy, soapy escapades of the American Queer as Folk, Showtime’s five-season adaptation of the British series of the same name. Amid widespread bigotry and the AIDS epidemic, the two popular shows offered a rare picture of happy gay life. But O’Connell longed for a reflection of himself on the screen. That impulse eventually led him to create Special, the Netflix sitcom about a gay man with cerebral palsy seeking love, sex, and friendship. Queer as Folk gives him another special opportunity: to tell sexy, soapy, positive LGBTQIA+ stories with an ensemble cast wherein he wouldn’t be the only disabled character. “I was so shocked in a way that was truly depressing, but it’s so rare as disabled people that we get any kind of inclusion whatsoever, let alone that there’s two of us,” O’Connell says. “Immediately, writing for the reboot, I felt a sense of ease.”For Graise, working on a show written by O’Connell was a “dream come true.” He continues, “I’d always said there needs to be a disabled person in the writers’ room, but I had no idea how significant it would be and how much it meant to me. And even Stephen Dunn has a disabled friend who Marvin is very much inspired by.”

Marvin is outgoing, even wild in his energy. When we meet him at a bar in the first episode of the series, he acts like he owns the place, flirting and serving up wicked verbal jabs with equal ease. Before we get to know him better, O’Connell’s shy, sheltered Julian Beaumont seems to fade into the background by comparison. Initially, he serves mostly as a foil to his more outgoing older brother, Brodie (Devin Way), who, in many ways, is the chaotic core around which the rest of the ensemble orbits. During the first three episodes, the brothers, along with Brodie’s on-again, off-again lover Noah (Johnny Sibilly), convert their shared New Orleans home into the epic party house known as “Ghost Fag.” It’s Ghost Fag that attracts Marvin, in the fourth episode, with the idea of hosting a queer disabled orgy. We don’t learn as much about Marvin’s background, but it’s clear he’s made himself a cornerstone of the LGBTQIA+ community despite the everyday ableism he faces.

Beyond the surface differences, Julian and Marvin couldn’t be more divergent. In addition to their differing disabilities (Marvin, like Graise, is a double amputee), they come from disparate economic classes and have radically contrasting outlooks on life. Julian protects his vulnerability with an introverted lifestyle and a carefully cultivated routine, while Marvin hides his behind a boisterous exterior. Just like real life, not all members of a marginalized group get along, or even have very much in common.

“I don’t ever try to feel the burden of representation because there’s no point-you have to write from a place of truth,” says O’Connell, who wrote Episode 4 with Alyssa Taylor. “It was really fun creatively to have these two disabled characters who are so wildly different from each other in how they conduct themselves in their relationship to disability and to sex and all those things, but also I think in Episode 4 it was really interesting to show their commonalities.”

Peacock
Peacock
Peacock

Both Marvin and Julian get laid over the course of the episode, but even before their clothes come off, the orgy scene fills the screen with something seldom seen on TV: disabled people in all their sexual glory. The scenario was inspired by a 2015 disabled sex party co-hosted in Toronto by Andrew Gurza, the show’s disability awareness consultant. After Gurza joined QaF, he mentioned the party in the writers’ room. “Mine was a lot more tame than this should be,” Gurza recalls telling them. “I’d like this to be a lot racier.”

Gurza even appears in a sex scene during the episode. “Being together on the show was an amazing moment,” says O’Connell, who cites Gurza as one of his inspirations. “He’s so honest and demands that his voice be heard and makes no apologies for that, and I try to do the same.”

As the orgy continues, both characters hook up with sex workers. It’s clear the actors and creators wanted to affirm that sex work is work. “It’s incredibly difficult work, not only the physical labour but the emotional space you have to hold for somebody to make them feel seen and heard and not judged. It makes me happy to showcase their work in a more positive light,” O’Connell notes.

Sachin Bhatt, who plays Ali, the sex worker hired by Marvin, agrees. He adds that his role is an all-too-rare example of a Southeast Asian man being sexual on-screen. “Anyone who’s not a cisgender, white male has many more mountains to climb,” Bhatt says. “So for me it was really exciting to play this sex worker because they wouldn’t typically cast an Indian for this role.”

Peacock
Peacock
Peacock

While their relationship is transactional to begin with, Ali is respectful, playful, and caring throughout his interactions with Marvin. However, his feelings for his client intensify during Episode 4 as the pair connect alone in a room at Ghost Fag. “We bonded instantly,” Bhatt recalls of Graise. “It was very important to both of us that we get the intimacy and the vulnerability right.”

For Graise, who also appeared on Netflix’s Locke & Key, that actorly connection made the sequence what it is. “We spent a lot of time kiki’ing off-set and discussing what we wanted out of this scene for both of us. The scene wasn’t just about me. It’s also Ali exploring Marvin’s body in a way that he’s never explored with anyone before, and his insecurities and trepidations about interacting with a disabled body.”

Unlike previous interactions shown between them, Ali asks to top Marvin this time-and to interact with his body in new ways. “Can I touch your legs?” Ali asks. This was influenced by Graise’s own life, as someone he dated for three years realized he’d never touched Graise’s legs. After some tender caressing, Marvin wraps his thighs around Ali and they make love. Graise’s background as a dancer is evident in his elegant movement throughout the scene, which contrasts with some of the polished, more “Hollywood”-style sequences that appear elsewhere in the series.

“Sachin and Eric really fucking landed that plane,” O’Connell says. “It was everything I want in a sex scene, which is that it was vulnerable, it was tender, it was awkward, and it was sexy.”Beyond the new Queer As Folk, it’s rare for media to let disabled people be either queer or sexy. O’Connell cited a few other examples, such as Jillian Mercado’s role in The L Word: Generation Q or the work of playwright and actor Ryan J. Haddad, but it’s sparse overall. With one episode, Queer as Folk has set a high bar for other shows to follow, and the series as a whole demonstrates how disabled actors can portray real, complex, and flawed human beings.

“A cognitive dissonance happens when we watch things on our TV screens, where, all of a sudden, we want things to be simplified,” O’Connell says. “Isn’t it art’s job to reflect humanity accurately?

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Kit O’Connell is the Digital Editor at the Texas Observer, and lives in Austin, Texas with their spouse and two cats. Follow them @KitOConnell.

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