Travel

How to Honour Black History Month in Boston

From museum exhibits to workout classes and pop-ups shops featuring Black-owned businesses.

Embrace Boston
Embrace Boston
Embrace Boston

In a city internationally known for its historical landmarks, it’s essential to acknowledge and shine light on the major influence that Black leaders and historical figures have made-and continue to make-on Boston and its surrounding areas.

So, in honour of Black History Month, we’ve rounded up historic places in and around the city where you can learn about Black history and how the community has shaped Boston into the city we know today. Plus, there are plenty of fun events, dinners, and pop-up shops where you can support Black-owned businesses this month-and it’s all here in our guide to celebrating Black History Month in Boston.

Stop by the recently unveiled Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. monument

Ongoing
Boston Common
In case you haven’t already had an opportunity to check out the new monument, head to the Common to see “The Embrace,” the 20-foot-tall bronze statue honouring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his wife, Coretta Scott King. Designed by artist Hank Willis Thomas in collaboration with MASS Design Group, “The Embrace” is situated within the 1965 Freedom Plaza, which also honours 69 local civil rights leaders active between 1950 and 1970.

MIDA
MIDA
MIDA

Dine in or order takeout from Black-owned restaurants

Ongoing
Various locations
For new and familiar flavours that pack some of the most delicious punches, Boston’s community of Black-owned restaurants are a great way to recognize the month. There’s Soleil brought to you by chef Cheryl Straughter in Nubian Square for freshly cooked Southern fare, Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen in Roxbury for the ultimate comfort food (also a known spot for live entertainment and soul music), Jamaica Mi Hungry brought to you by chef Ernie Campbell for some of the best jerk chicken you’ll find nearby, Lucy Ethiopian Cafe right off the Symphony T stop is a destination for supreme vegetarian options, and chef and owner Douglass Williams’ MIDA in the South End and Newton has exceptional pasta made in-house. For even more ideas and go-to spots, check out our list of some of the city’s most essential Black-owned restaurants or the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition’s restaurant guide for recommendations in just about every neighbourhood in the area.

Black Owned Bos.
Black Owned Bos.
Black Owned Bos.

Support local Black artisans by shopping at Bos. Shop South End

Ongoing
South End
First launched in 2019, Black Owned Bos. began as (and continues to be) an engaging platform and resource used to highlight Black-owned businesses across Boston. Now, with its very own brick-and-mortar store in the South End, shoppers can browse hundreds of curated gifts from more than 20 Black-owned brands. Wares range from home goods to jewellery to apparel, with curated gift boxes for special occasions available online. Keep an eye on the store’s events page for more ways to celebrate, including its upcoming collaboration with Time Out Market Boston for the Spread Love Market on Saturday, February 11 from noon to 5 pm.

Boston African American National Historic Site
Boston African American National Historic Site
Boston African American National Historic Site

Explore the Museum of African American History

Ongoing
Beacon Hill and Nantucket
With locations in both the Beacon Hill neighbourhood and Nantucket, the Museum of African American History is New England’s “largest museum dedicated to preserving, conserving, and interpreting the contributions of African Americans.” The museum, open year-round, has a collection of more than 3,000 items accrued over the past 50 years, with artifacts telling stories from as early as the 1600s into the 20th century. You can reserve your ticket online for $10 per adult, and $8 for youth and seniors (children under 12 can enter for free but you still need to register online). And, if you’re interested in contributing to and supporting the museum’s mission to showcase these powerful stories of leading Black historical figures, families, and more, you can donate online.

Take a stroll down the Black Heritage Trail

Ongoing
Beacon Hill
For stops along national historic sites, the Black Heritage Trail allows individuals and groups to reflect on the city’s past community leaders, activists, and other historical figures. Although guided tours are only offered in the summer, you can set out on your own adventure by following along via the virtual map on the National Park Service’s website, stopping by sites including the Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial, honouring one of the first Black regiments to serve in the Civil War, and the John J. Smith House, a leading community activist and entrepreneur who operated a barbershop that became an important centre for abolitionist activity. When you’re nearing the end of the tour, you’ll also get to visit the Abiel Smith School and African Meeting House, both part of the Museum of African American History.

Matthew Ireland/Flickr
Matthew Ireland/Flickr
Matthew Ireland/Flickr

Spend an evening at New England’s first Black-owned jazz club

Ongoing
South End
After being temporarily closed for two years, Wally’s Cafe Jazz Club is back in business and setting the stage (quite literally) for some of the best young musicians and jazz performers in Boston. Founded in 1947 by Joseph L. Walcott, who immigrated to Boston from Barbados in 1910, Wally’s Cafe Jazz Club has seen the likes of nationally and internationally recognized musicians while offering weekly jam sessions for aspiring musicians and vocalists. Whether you swing by to show off your musical chops or grab a drink or two, Wally’s Cafe should be at the top of your Boston bucket list.

Visit the Museum of Science for special events and Black history spotlights

Saturday, February 4 – Sunday, February 5
Lechmere
Boston’s Museum of Science will kick off Black History month with a celebration weekend featuring special guest speakers, live poetry readings, dance and music performances, and more. Tickets for the event can be purchased online for $29 per adult, $25 per senior and $24 per child. Throughout the month, the museum will also be spotlighting influential Black scientists and engineers as part of their Black History Month celebration.

Fit4Life Movement
Fit4Life Movement
Fit4Life Movement

Find Black-owned fitness studios to support

Ongoing
Various locations
If your New Year’s resolution involves finding and committing to a workout routine, look no further. Mission Hill’s trillfit, founded by CEO Heather White, is a Black- and woman-owned business that offers hip-hop, boxing, and strength-training classes that make working out a blast. Additional local Black- and woman-owned establishments worth putting on your radar include Boston-based Relevé with Rachel, Fit4Life Movement in Roslindale, and 4 Corners Yoga + Wellness in Dorchester, which on February 12 and 26, will invite yogis to take part in a viewing and discussion of the film Till. Plus, the studio will be offering free 30-minute virtual community classes throughout the month (see schedule online).

Support BIPOC creators at City Winery’s Cocktails + Comedy

Tuesday, February 21
West End
City Winery’s Cocktails & Comedy tour is making its way to Boston this month. The tour, a “live event platform that showcases exceptionally talented comedians and mixologists of color, with an intentional focus on amplifying the talents of women and BIPOC creatives,” is brought to you by co-creators Lauren “LP” Paylor O’Brien and Rojo Perez, who met on the set of Netflix’s Drink Masters. The event will feature a cocktail hour with O’Brien, drinks crafted by guest mixologist Natalie Migliarini, and a comedy show hosted by Perez and headlined by fellow comedian Tone Bell. Tickets can be purchased online starting at $35 per person.

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Jillian Hammell is a contributor for Thrillist. You can follow her on Instagram.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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