So….you are here. In the famous city of Boston, Massachusetts. City of clam chowder, lobsters and tea parties of such a massive scale that they left the highest monarchs impressed and speechless for centuries. Welcome!
Hi! My name is Alina and I am an international student from Russia pursuing Master’s degree in NEU in Bioengineering with the concentration in Cell and Tissue Engineering.
I am here to share some (hopefully) useful tips regarding your first winter in Boston. You may have been to Boston before to experience the nice and hot summer, beautiful rainy fall… And if you think that autumn was cold and chilly (yet absolutely gorgeous), here is a surprise: winter.
Well, as someone coming from Russia, like myself, winters here do not seem so harsh or surprising, but if you are coming from a southern regions of the world or US states, you might be a little confused about the weirdly low numbers on your weather forecast and what to do with all that white fluffy stuff falling from the skies. Allow me to give you some guidance on how to survive your first winter in Boston and actually enjoy it!
Keep your hawk-eye on the weather.
Trust me, weather in Boston changes in the blink of the eye, so make sure to keep track on it! You do not want to get out of the house to realize there is another blizzard going on, even though you’ve looked outside five minutes ago and it was all nice and sunny. Get yourself a weather broadcast, weather apps or a talkative weather-following roommate to keep you informed.
Also, watch the weather beacon! Keep an eye on The Berkeley Building! It has they glowy-tower on top that changes colors not just for fun and it tells the weather! (Actually, most of the time it’s useless, since you can’t really see it from distant parts of the city and see it when you are actually out of the house). However, I find the fact that it exists absolutely astonishing, awesome and cute. In fact Bostonians have a nice little poem about the colors of it:
Steady blue, clear view.
Flashing blue, clouds due.
Steady red, rain ahead.
Flashing red, snow instead
So keep an eye on that flashing red!
Keeping yourself warm and cozy layered, like an onion.
If you are from a southern region, you’re probably used to surviving winter with just a leather jacket or a hoodie on. Nice. But that’s not gonna work here, unless you are a fluffy bear. Winter gear and clothes are crucial for your survival, comfort and well-being. Temperature’s drop pretty low, snow gets everywhere and AIR ACTUALLY HURTS your face. Oh..and wind makes you cry. That’s why you need a hood and a scarf and tons of courage. (Pro tip: do not chew mint gum and then inhale a cold air. Trust me. ). Wind is actually the most annoying and problematic thing in Boston.
Tho winter clothes is bulky, you still can work your way to be fancy. Layer up! What is that? It means..putting more than one layer of clothes. The bottom layers are usually some cotton or really good dry-fit t-shirt or so to prevent you from sweating. Do not put synthetic material or anything that is not sweat absorbant underneath. Getting too warm under your clothes is not nice. Then put on some nice fancy or ugly sweaters as well.
For legs: Tights are lifesavers. This is a time of a year when wearing warm heavy wool tights or actual thermoclothers underneath jeans is not shameful but rather an understanding move. On colder days you even can layer several pairs. And please do not wear just leggings alone…your legs will not be happy.
INVEST INTO HEAVY DUTY WINTER JACKET or parka. Preferably with a warm a comfortable hood. Preferably water –resistant or water proof to be good under heavy snow or rain. Nice warm down jacket is usually costly but the once with some geese down are usually the best ones. Farewell good $100-$800 but high price will keep you warm. Also if it feels like the whole Boston is wearing Canada Goose, you do not have too. Any brand will work. Make sure you have a hood, seriously.
Gloves! Scarves! Hats! Your frozen hands will be useless without gloves and scarf will help you to cover your face from the winds.
Get a texting gloves – best invention of all times so you won’t have to feel your fingers slowly turning into icicles while you are reading this article. Hat can be whatever, as long as it keeps you warm. The best ones are usually fleece lined to keep wind getting through the holes.
Boots: while Uggs seem like a nice and cozy choice, from my personal experience they do from okay to absolutely miserable in Boston winter and reason as is: if they are not waterproof, you will just end up with melting snow soaking through fabric into your toes. In the city you will face a biggest shoe-enemy: SALT which is a chemical used to melt ice on the roads along with your shoes. For some reason, Bostonians are really fond of L.L. Beans, however any other brand of nice somewhat tall sole waterproof warm shoes will work, like Sorel, Columbia, The North Face or any other. Also nice and cozy socks, preferably wool socks will be great.
I never used them, however many people buy heat packs for shoes and arms to keep themselves warm.
But foremost remember: winter is not as scary and terrible as they describe it on the news. You will get through it! Remember: complaining about the weather is ok, but not too much. Everyone is doing it.
Forget diamonds, chapsticks are your best friends now.
Skin care. Can’t stress enough how it is important, almost a common sense. Lotions, chapsticks, face and hand cream are your saviors from cracked and rough skin during winter time. Your skin is variable to cold temperatures, water evaporates quicker, winds dry lips and literally everything. Also, on sunny days, sun contributes as well, by roasting what’s left. I use thick cream and a UV-protective chapstick. Pick your skin protectant depending on your skin type and personal choice. Oh, I know, it might be tempting to lick your lips when they dried on cold, however that actually makes them even more drier. Make sure you have at least one chapstick in every pocket. They have a tendency to disappear when you need them the most.
Be a sunshine on a gloomy day.
Sun is a rare guest in winter, glumpy sky, snow and cold can get into you, bringing down to gloomliness of depression. Lack of sun and therefore vitamin D is a major reason for many people to get winter seasonal depression. Some vitamin D supplements might help (also make sure its ok for your personal condition and health to use supplements). More fruits and vegetables, good tea or coffee as well are great helpers… and keep a positive attitude! Winter is not forever, even if it feels like White walks just broke through the wall. There are so much stuff you can do in winter! Boston is absolutely gorgeous in snow!
No excuse to miss out on social life.
“ But.. Its cold and snowing..I do not want to go out” Nope. Even if you feel like using cold weather as an excuse to not go out. Well..life in Boston never freezes. Nightclubs, bars, cafes, museums are all packed even more than usual. If you worry about the bulkiness of your coat in the club or at the concert – do not. Most of the places have a nice service called “coat check”. You just give them your coat to keep till the event is over and they give you a paper with your number that you use to get your coat back afterwards.
So..all packed and warm and ready to go! What to do? A lot!
Lace up those skates and get on ice! Boston Commons frog pond, Government center or Matthew’s arena of NEU or many other places are ready and open for you. That is active, that is fun and welcomed for all levels. Quite a common and easy accessible by walk and public transport outdoors activity and not so expensive at all! Check out this nice article with all the spots to skate.
If mountains are calling and your soul needs more adrenaline – skiing is just for you! Last winter my pals and I went all the way up to upstate New York to Whiteface ski resort near Lake Placid – place hosted winter Olympics twice in last century! However no need to go that far.
There are some skiing areas next to Boston, usually accessible by a short (max up to an hour) car ride, such as Blue Hills Ski Area, Nashoba Valley Ski Area, Weston Ski Track, Great Brook Ski Touring Center. Also keep in mind famous White Mountains of New Hampshire which are worthy a trip. If you do not have a car, here is a little option for you: MBTA Commuter rails open additional service to Wachusett Mountain ski resort during ski season! Might also be worthy of checking.
The one and only reason I am mentioning this, is actually that I took a Salsa class for a semester through Campus Recreation Instructional Programs.
Which is super fun and apparently very popular in Boston. Havana club offers salsa nights: includes some salsa lessons at the beginning and a great social party after! No worries if you do not have a partner – you will definitely find one! Plus beginners are welcome. It is 21+ event, tho. But it definitely something to do if you feel like dancing away from a snow for a while.
University Beanpot – Hockey games!
Boston University, Boston College, Harvard University and Northeastern University hockey teams compete every winter for the title of being the best. Grab tickets and cheer up for Huskies at Matthews Arena!
Museums, Theaters , Newberry Street Decorations, dozens and dozens of events.
Walk around the city to enjoy the winter decorations that give that nice christmassy feeling, visit one or all of the Boston museums, light festival in Somerville, go to theaters and cinema, visit Boston Symphony Orchestra, get into Boston library public tour: list is basically endless, you just need to look up what is around you! There is plenty! Sweet tooth? Boston winter craves so much for hot chocolate – explore all the famous hot chocolate spots and make a list of your favourites! Taza Chocolate factory in Somerville offers some tours to factory with some chocolate testing as well.
Also do not forget to arrange a snowball fight with your friends and build a snowman..or a snow fortress!