The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has been a bastion of art and culture since it was founded in 1903. The building, inspired by and designed after a 15th-century Venetian palace, contains three floors of galleries surrounding a garden courtyard that remains verdant with plant life from the dawn of spring through the darkest, most subatomic depths of winter. Gardner, who founded the museum, spent her life curating and encouraging the art collection, which contains more than 2,500 objects, including paintings, sculpture, textiles, illuminated manuscripts, and rare books lifted everywhere from ancient Rome to 19th-century France. While visiting this citadel of scintillating visions, witness landscapes by Whistler, Renaissance-era Flemish tapestries, and religious wood sculptures from 16th-century Germany. Exhibitions provide specific, detailed glimpses into varied subject matter; an exhibit on terracotta sculpture of the Italian Renaissance runs until May 23.
To keep the spirit of its musical roots ever near, House of Blues Houston keeps a metal box of mud from the Delta Mississippi beneath its stage and proudly displays the traditional crazy quilt. As the only venue in the revered chain to be built vertically rather than free floating, House of Blues Houston stands as a pillar of entertainment in the Houston Pavilions complex. The hot spot’s Bronze Peacock Room commemorates Houston's rich history and the blues clubs where Lightnin' Hopkins and Big Mama Thornton held sway, and features an enormous hand-painted mural depicting other local legends such as Albert Collins and Johnny "Guitar" Watson.
In the early ?70s, Boston-area resident Mike Farny dreamed of creating affordable outdoor recreational activities for his community to enjoy. In May of 1973, Mike set up shop in the MDC Norumbega Police Substation of Newton/Auburndale and began realizing his dream. The location?directly next to the historic Totem Pole Ballroom?perfectly enabled the environmentally friendly practice of canoeing and kayaking. Mike's vision blossomed over the years to include four other locations, each offering rentals, tours, and instruction.
Today, on-staff guides lead tours of the Charles River and Boston Harbor to educate participants in ecosystem conservation, view the skyline and sunset, or explore historic structures. Select trips also include lunch to fuel participants as they navigate difficult waterways and jump through flaming hoops. To prepare customers entering the water for the first time, instructors coach riders of all levels in private or group lessons at the paddling school, which draws on more than 30 years of instructional tradition. Staffers can also equip boaters in the shop?where P&H and Bor?al kayaks hang alongside Tahoe paddleboards and Wenonah canoes, dreaming of one day being the inspiration for a traditional sea chantey. Crew members help clients choose their ride and accessories from these selections and others through free daily demonstrations.
According to founder Adam, Veggie Galaxy was born out of the quest to define the true spirit of the American diner. His fixation on the venue type began in childhood, as he whiled away hours sitting atop cushy bar stools and hugging vintage jukeboxes. Later in life, Adam became a vegetarian and soon noted the lack of meat-free options on diner menus. He knew that though sizzling bacon is often present at a successful diner, it is not integral to its essence. So, he built his own vegetarian- and vegan-friendly space that adhered to the guiding principle of all great eateries: corralling groups in and feeding them well.
In regards to the latter goal, Veggie Galaxy's vegetarianism is "an afterthought" to head chef Brian. Though every dish on the diner's menu remains herbivorous—and in the case of several plates, gluten-free and vegan—the kitchen's top concerns are taste and in-house prep. The restaurant demands everything, from the ketchup to the burger buns, be made on-site and from scratch, a standard which won them a DigBoston's Dig This Award for vegetarian and vegan food in 2011. As for the patties that go inside the housemade buns, they mold them from black beans and a mushroom-chickpea mix instead of beef, just as tempeh supplants bacon and seitan replaces steak. The all-vegan bakery abides by the same system. Taza's vegan, organic stoneground chocolate goes into savory cookies, and house-toasted coconut decorates layer cakes.
Between launching city-centric websites like Cambridge Uncommon and Salem Uncommon and teaching journalism classes at Cambridge Community TV, freelance journalist Sam Baltrusis wrote his book Ghosts of Boston: Haunts of the Hub. In its pages he reveals 300 years of city history and ghost stories. He details unexplained sounds and hovering objects seen inside the Hub?s dorm rooms, apparitions witnessed on the Boston Common, and a colonial British solider glimpsed on the tracks at the Boylston station. His deft pen has also led him to become a regional stringer for The New York Times and his second book, Ghosts of Cambridge: Haunts of Harvard Square and Beyond hit shelves in September 2013.
Not content with relegating his words to the page, Sam also brings them to life through seasonal walking tours. Guides lit by handheld lanterns lead guests through the shadowy streets of downtown Boston. They divulge stories of murder and recall Cambridge's ominous history. They also answer questions such as which Harvard hall is the most haunted, which area church is home to the ghost of a British redcoat soldier, and which famously mustachioed ghosts are just wearing fake mustaches. The founder's literary background shows through on the tours, too, which are peppered with the lore of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Dickens, and Edgar Allen Poe. When he's not guiding in-person guests, Sam doubles as a paranormal expert on the Biography Channel's, "Haunted Encounters" and on Ryan Buell's Paranormal Insider Radio.