Lifestyle

A Booze-Free Guide to Boston for Dry January and Beyond

The best sober activities to do in Boston instead of drinking.

Photo credit: Barbara Kraft
Photo credit: Barbara Kraft

Photo credit: Barbara Kraft

Feel-good science aside, eliminating or reducing your alcohol consumption often feels like an all-access pass to life’s whimsical playground. And another perk: you might wake up a little earlier and a bit more clear headed with a renewed sense of exploration.

Drying out a bit in Boston is a far-cry from sitting at home playing solitaire. We’re staying busy with a wellness brunch with craft mocktails, a newly opened non-alcoholic bottle shop, après ski dance party, balancing ritual spa sesh, and plenty of sledding peppered in for frequent wintery frolics. For Dry January and beyond, here’s an ultimate guide to Boston without alcohol.

Photo courtesy of Para Maria
Photo courtesy of Para Maria
Photo courtesy of Para Maria

Non Alcoholic Wine and Non Alcoholic Drinks in Boston

Dray

Ongoing
South End, Prices vary
A first for Boston-the South End is the proud home of Dray, a new non-alcoholic package store in the South End. The booz-free packie has non-alcoholic wine, beer, hangover-free spirits, and ready-to-drink sips. Stop by to stock up, plan a date night, or hang sesh around your visit by grabbing dinner at Lenox Sophia. This much-loved spot, helmed by chef Shi Mei, serves a seasonal pre-fixe menu and allows BYO beer, wine, and zero-proof cocktails-making it a perfect pairing with Dray’s NA offerings.

Davio’s

Ongoing
Back Bay, Mocktails starting at $12
If you’re drying out a bit and dabbling in healthier foods, Davio’s new Awaken 180° Menu is where it’s at. Entrees, such as Blackened Tuna or pasta with chicken sausage, are centered on 6-8 oz of protein and a hearty serving of vegetables. They skip the unhealthy oils, opting for olive oil instead, use sugar-free vinaigrettes, and replace carb-heavy pasta with zucchini noodles. Plus, you can indulge in their periwinkle-hued, zero-proof Lavender Butterfly Martini-a tonic, lavender, and lemon refresher. Trade the soothing lavender for the feisty pep of jalapeno’s bite, and the Spicy Paloma mocktail is at the ready.

Hot Chocolate, Coffee, and Board Games

January 17 and Ongoing
Citywide, Prices vary
A Hot Chocolate Test Kitchen? Hell ya; plus, it’s free. Spend January 17 taste-testing hot chocolate and innumerable toppings while playing board games or watching The Super Mario Bros. Movie! The Honan-Allston Branch of the Boston Library hosts this DIY hot cocoa buffet with fixins ranging from classic cinnamon to edgier chili pepper flakes. Likewise, there’s a similar slow-your-roll, zero-proof vibe at Knight Moves Board Game Cafe in Brookline. They charge a $10 cover charge, which gives you all-day access to their hundreds of games. You can get a coffee for just $3 (gasp!), and there is free Wi-Fi.

At The Table: The Chef’s Guide to Advocacy

January 18
Cambridge, $75
There’s a whole lot of white noise out there. If you’re looking to raise your voice and enact change in the world, drop by Row 34 for a night of tasty bites, cocktails, mocktails, and advocacy education. Chef Jeremy Sewall is hosting Katherine Miller, author of At the Table, and she’ll discuss the techniques used to create the James Beard Foundation’s Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change. It’s as much about sustainable food as it is about channeling your chosen philanthropic efforts efficiently, plus how to get people’s attention, recruit allies, and enact change.

Après Ski Party at Night Shift Brewing

January 20, 7 pm
Lovejoy Wharf, $10
Not only did Night Shift Brewing just put ski goggles on their owl mascot, but their first non-alcoholic beer, Featherweight, comes just in time to join the soiree and wake up on Sunday sans hangover. The brewery will be transformed into a cozy ski lodge, so plan your après-ware accordingly-think snuggly sweaters with Nordic motifs, trendy ski pants, chic winter boots, and faux fur hats. The Glitter Boys will be doing their usual DJ thing, spinning vinyl across the dance song catalogs of the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Breakfast and Brunch

Ongoing
Citywide, Prices vary
Lentil and Kale Shakshuka and chamomile-infused NA gin drinks await at Para Maria’s Wellness Brunch-a cozy January experience. Each Saturday and Sunday, from 7 am–3 pm, they’re serving wellness and wonder in hearty portions. Order up some Buckwheat Pancakes with house-made blueberry compote and one of the many nuanced mocktails or mushroom coffee with cinnamon nutmeg foam. Looking to sleep in? Eastern Standard just launched brunch Saturday and Sunday, 11 am–3 pm, offering Cinnamon Toast French Toast and classic Steak and Eggs to pair with a non-alcoholic Sophisticated Lady (cranberry and cucumber).

Silver Dove Afternoon Tea

Ongoing
Downtown, Starting at $48
We Bostonians are famous for tossing tea (into the harbor), but these days, we’re content to sit for proper afternoon tea. Silver Dove Afternoon Tea is giving approachable refinement, so you’ll feel right at home, even if it’s your first visit. The $48 pre-fixe menu includes a pot of tea, a tower of savory canapĂŠs-like classic Cucumber Sandwiches with lemon and herb cream cheese-and sweet treats, including White Chocolate Passion Fruit Cake. The tea list is oh-so Oolong long with everything from traditional Earl Grey to Laoshan Green Tea, Cederberg Cinnamon, and White Peach.

Photo credit: Barbara Kraft
Photo credit: Barbara Kraft
Photo credit: Barbara Kraft

Wellness Activities to Do in Boston Instead of Drinking

Lifebloom Candle Making

Ongoing
Downtown, $50
Swap botanical craft cocktails for an immersive, hands-on aromatherapy sesh at Boston Public Market’s Lifebloom Candle Making. The candle bar offers 45-minute guided workshops where you can create a signature candle scent and pour your own 9 oz candle. Your candle must be cured (dry and set up correctly) for 2-hours before you can take it home, so savvy DIYers snag the earlier appointments. This way, you can shop the other vendors in the Public Market.

Spa at the Encore Boston Harbor

Ongoing
Everett, Starting at $260
Most treatments at the Spa at Encore Boston Harbor are a generous hour and a half, so there’s no counting the minutes hoping to relax ASAP. Instead, you’ll drift into relaxation during treatments like the Detox & Tone Massage (think gentle cactus bristles and Sea Buckthorn oil) and Mind and Body Balancing Ritual (cue the Himalayan Singing Bowl and Ayurvedic essential oils). Before and after, take advantage of the cold plunge pool, hot tub, steam room, sauna, and relaxation room.

Open Doors Yoga Studio

Ongoing
Dorchester, Starting at $7 for community classes
Sweat is one of the body’s natural ways to release toxins and all-around ick that can dampen your swagger, and a hot yoga class is a glorious, healing sweat-fest. Not only does Open Doors Yoga Studio offer hot yoga sessions, but there are also warm sessions too, for those looking to ease into the experience. Once you’ve released and stretched, take your wellness journey a little further with events like their Manifestation + Vision Board Workshop on January 13. Hop on the waitlist and join a Candlelight Power Yoga (Hot) Slow Flow class, in the meantime.

Afrobeats Dance Boston

Wednesdays, 6 pm
Roxbury, Free
Warm up with the Afrobeats Dance Boston dance company. These free dance workouts-created in partnership with Boston Parks and Recreation Department and its Winter Fitness Series-are set to African Pop music and focus on celebrating dance and movement from Nigeria, Ghana, and more. This is one of those unicorn scenarios where you’re feeling so damn good that you forget you’re actually working out. If you can’t attend the free Wednesday classes at Vine Street Community Center, the studio’s regular schedule includes community classes starting at $15.

Photo courtesy of The Rink 401 Park
Photo courtesy of The Rink 401 Park
Photo courtesy of The Rink 401 Park

Sports Activities to Do in Boston Instead of Drinking

The Rink 401 Park

Ongoing
Fenway, Starting at $6
Staggering across the ice for a drunken Triple Lutz jump is ill-advised, so Dry January is the perfect time to up your ice skating swagger. Not only is The Rink 401 Park the heartbeat of The Fenway each winter, but it also offers 45-minute open skate sessions at its 6,000-square-foot ice rink for just $6. If you need to rent skates, it’s an extra $7. Better yet, take to the ice for free Iceflow Yoga on Sundays at 10 am. Plus, the Fenway community calendar is chock full of choose-your-own-adventure moments like live music, all-you-can-eat frites, and REI’s Saturday morning run club.

Sledding

Ongoing
Citywide, Free
Still maximizing the frozen fun of Boston’s best winter experiences, sledding is a top-tier dry January activity. Get tipsy on twisty-turvy snow tubes and flying saucer-style sleds and laugh ‘til you’re crumpled in a glorious pile at the bottom of the hill. Yes, there are hills in town; you just have to know where to look. Danehy Park, in North Cambridge (near Gran Gusto and their lovely pizzas), has a doozy of a hill, and it’s wide enough so other sledders won’t cramp your style. Other options include Larz Anderson Park in Brookline, Boston Common, and the President’s Lawn at Tufts University, along the Somerville-Medford line.

Blue Bike Adventure Pass

Ongoing
Citywide, $10
It’s easy to write off biking as a no-go in winter, but it’s entirely doable and wonderfully freeing. Watch the forecast, and reserve a Blue Bike Adventure Pass when one of those sparkly-bright sunny days pop into the forecast. A $10 pass gets you 24-hour access to the thousands of bikes in Boston for unlimited 2-hour rides. Maybe you cycle over to your favorite coffee shop and use just one 2-hour session.

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Melanie Carden is a private chef turned travel writer. She’s equal parts adrenaline-seeker and Golden Girls vibes. You can find her trying new things, thrifting for treasures, grinding it out on a trail, or lounging on a picnic blanket-Aperol spritz in hand. She’s fickle about social, but the sporadic nuggets are worth the wait-cricket tacos, anyone?

Lifestyle

The Best New Bookstores in LA are Curated, Specific, and Personal

Discover a new favorite book, join a book club, and maybe even do some karaoke at the new wave of LA bookshops.

Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

A couple of years ago, the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland released a perfume designed to evoke the smell of a bookstore. The scent has notes of wood, violet, and the lovely and unusually precise word biblichor, the particular aroma of old books. The reality of the scent is what it is-mostly sweet and floral-but more important is the imagery it conjures. The best bookstores are both cozy and mysterious, familiar and surprising, with endless potential for discovery.

Los Angeles has a wealth of independent book sellers, including beloved legacy shops like The Last Bookstore, The Iliad, and Chevalier’s. But a new wave of bookstores has been growing over the last few years, shops that eschew the traditional one-of-everything mindset to focus on specificity, curation, and point of view. There are bookstores with themes, bookstores that double as event spaces, bookstores that reflect their neighbourhoods, bookstores that take inspiration from a specific person-whether that’s the shop owner, a historical figure, or a little bit of both-and so many more.

Like the niche-ification of the internet and the culture at large, these new and new-ish bookstores provide a space to discover books, ideas, and perspectives led by an expert, the kind of things that you may never have found on your own. They can also be a safe harbour for pure nerdiness, a place to dive deep into your favourite category or cause. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a list of some of the best new bookstores in LA, with a focus on curated shops with their own specific perspectives.

Photo courtesy of Octavia's Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf

Octavia’s Bookshelf

Pasadena
Pasadena is a famously book-friendly city, with bookstore royalty in the form of legendary Vroman’s and its own literary alliance. Now it has one of the most exciting new bookstores too. Octavia’s Bookshelf is owner Nikki High’s tribute to the science fiction master Octavia E. Butler, who was a Pasadena native herself. The name of the shop provides a clue into High’s inspiration, titles she imagines Butler would have had on her shelves, with a focus on BIPOC authors. The storefront is small, but the collection is impeccably curated and the space is cozy and welcoming for readers of all backgrounds.

Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop

North Figueroa Bookshop

Highland Park
Vertical integration can be a beautiful thing, especially when it allows independent creators more control over their products. The new North Figueroa Bookshop is a shining example of the concept, a storefront built on a collaboration between two publishers, Rare Bird and Unnamed Press. North Fig features titles from those presses, of course, including lots of striking literary fiction and memoir, but it also features a curated collection of other books. They’ve made it a point of emphasis to serve the needs of the local Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Eagle Rock community-there’s lots of fiction from fellow independent publishers, other general interest titles with a focus on California history and literature, and plenty of Spanish-language books.

Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

Zibby’s Bookshop

Santa Monica
Speaking of vertical integration, there’s another new combined publisher and bookstore on the other side of town. Zibby’s Bookshop is the brainchild of Zibby Owens, Sherri Puzey, and Diana Tramontano, and it’s the physical home of Zibby Books, a literary press that releases one featured book a month. That system is designed so that each book gets the full attention and resources of the press. Owens is an author, podcaster, and book-fluencer, and she has become something of a lit-world mogul with a magazine, podcast network, event business, and an education platform too. The shop has a unique sorting system, built around a feeling for each book-in store many of the shelves are labelled by interest or personality type, like “For the foodie,” or “For the pop culture lover.” On their webshop, you can browse for books that make you cry, escape, laugh, lust, or tremble. There are recommendations from Owens and the staff, sections for local authors, family dramas, and books that have just been optioned. If this all seems a little overwhelming, you should probably avoid the section dedicated to books that make you anxious.

The Salt Eaters Bookshop

Inglewood
Inglewood native Asha Grant opened The Salt Eaters Bookshop in 2021 with a mission in mind-to centre stories with protagonists who are Black girls, women, femme, and/or gender-nonconforming people. Over the last year and change that it’s been open, it has also become a community hub, a place for Inglewood locals and people from across town to drop in, to see what’s new and to discover incredible works in the Black feminist tradition. They also host regular events like readings, discussions, and parties.

Lost Books

Montrose
Thankfully, legendary downtown bookshop The Last Bookstore’s name is hyperbole, and owners Josh and Jenna Spencer have even gone so far as to open a second shop, Lost Books in Montrose. Instead of the technicolour whimsy of the book tunnel at The Last Bookstore, Lost Books has a tunnel of plants that welcomes you into the shop, which opened in the summer of 2021. They sell those plants in addition to books, and coffee and vinyl too, which makes Lost Books a lovely destination and a fun little surprise in the quaint foothill town just off the 2 freeway.

Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe

Stories Books & Cafe

Echo Park
Ok, this one is fudging the criteria a little-Stories has been open for almost 15 years. But over those years the shop has become a pillar of Echo Park community life, hosting readings, discussions, and events, and their cafe tables function as a de facto office for about half of the neighbourhood on any given afternoon. After the tragic recent passing of co-owner and Echo Park fixture Alex Maslansky it seemed like the shop’s future was in doubt, but thankfully after a brief hiatus co-owner and co-founder Claudia Colodro and the staff were able to band together to reopen and keep the beloved cafe and bookstore going strong.

Page Against the Machine

Long Beach
The name alone makes it clear what you’re getting at Page Against the Machine-revolutionary progressive books, with a collection centred on activist literature, socially conscious writing, and a whole lot of political history. The shop itself is small but the ideas are grand, with fiction by writers like Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, and Albert Camus next to zines about gentrification and compendia of mushroom varieties. They also host regular readings and discussions.

Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte

Re/Arte Centro Literario

Boyle Heights
Boyle Heights has its own small but mighty combined bookstore, art gallery, gathering space, and small press in Viva Padilla’s Re/Arte. Padilla is a poet, translator, editor, and curator, and as a South Central LA native and the child of Mexican immigrants, she’s focused on Chicanx and Latinx art, literature, and social criticism. Re/Arte’s collection has a wide range of books, from classic Latin American literature to modern essays and everything in between. Re/Arte is also now the headquarters for sin cesar, a literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays from Black and Brown writers. There are always community-focused events happening too, from regular open mics and zine workshops to film screenings and more.

The Book Jewel

Westchester
Most bookshops host events, but few host them with the regularity of The Book Jewel, the two- year-old independent bookstore in Westchester. Their calendar is so full with readings, several different book clubs, signings, and meet and greets that there are sometimes multiple events on the same day. The shop also hosts a ton of family-focused readings, with regular storytime on Sunday mornings often followed by a talk with the author. It’s a great fit for the relatively low-key (but not exactly quiet) suburban neighbourhood, and it’s no coincidence that storytime lines up with the Westchester Farmers Market, which takes place right out front.

Reparations Club

West Adams
Most bookstores lean into coziness, aiming to be a hideaway for some quiet contemplation or maybe a quick sotto voce chat-not so at Reparations Club, the exuberant and stylish concept bookshop and art space on Jefferson. Owner and founder Jazzi McGilbert and her staff have built a beautiful and vibrant shop full of art from Black artists, including books but also records, candles, incense, clothing, and all sorts of fun things to discover. There’s a perfect seating area to sit and hang out for a while, and they host a range of wild and fun events from readings to happy hours, panel discussions to karaoke nights and more.

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Ben Mesirow is a Staff Writer at Thrillist.

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