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For most Bostonians, Jamaica Plain (or “JP,” as most call it) is a neighborhood distinguished by the tranquil waters of Jamaica Pond, the diverse retail milieu of Centre Street, and attractive green spaces, including the Parley Vale Preserve.
Most casual visitors to Boston don’t get over that way, and that’s quite a shame.
With this guide, you can find your way to a weekend of compelling activities in an area that’s ideally suited to those looking for something a bit different than the average Hub visit.
Photo: Ducks on Jamaica Pond in October by Dave Rezendes via Flickr
Home Away from Home on South Huntington Avenue
The enVision Hotel is one of Boston’s newer hotels and it’s located right beyond the bend of South Huntington Avenue as the road makes its way into Jamaica Plain proper. It’s a short E Line or 39 bus ride from the Back Bay and they also offer parking for guests as well for a fee.
Welcome to the enVision Hotel
As you step in the lobby, you’ll notice a pleasant room designed for guests to gather, congregate, and get familiar. There’s coffee downstairs in the morning here, along with a range of books and papers to sit and linger over as you plan your day. They also have nightly events here that include an ice cream social and other fun ways to convene and converse.
A glance around the welcoming enVision Hotel Lobby
The rooms are quite commodious and they include the usual amenities that one might expect in such a boutique hotel, including a flat screen TV, down pillows, free WiFi, a morning newspaper, and a refrigerator. Guests dedicated to their workout routines will also appreciate the well-kept fitness center, with its free weights, running machines, and more.
Comfy surroundings at the enVision Hotel
Of course, if you have any questions about Boston or what to do, slip on down to the front desk and ask the helpful staff member on duty about getting around, concerts of note, and directions to local attractions. You’d do well to check out their modest and well-appointed cafe, too, which features pastries delivered fresh each morning.
Slide on over to Sorella’s
Many JP residents have a favorite go-to breakfast spot and the mere mention of such a repast can bring out a raft of possible contenders. My nod goes to Sorella’s, which is a 15-minute walk (or 39 bus ride) from the enVision. It’s a cash-only, no-frills type of joint that fills up very quickly on weekends, so get there early, especially if you have a larger party.
They have an array of spot-on daily specials and fresh juices, plus an exquisite breakfast burrito (go with the Fireball version in this department). Veggie types will be well accommodated with tempeh or tofu substitutes and my top choice in the pancake arena goes to the gingerbread of pumpkin varieties.
Walk it Off: Take a Journey Through Olmsted Park
After such a breakfast, you’ll want to do a bit of wandering. Fortunately, Olmsted Park is just a 10-minute walk away. Created as part of Boston’s elaborate Emerald Necklace, the park includes several trails and scenic views of nearby Ward’s, Willow and Leverett Ponds.
Wide open green space inside Olmsted Park by Erik Hansen via Flickr
In the spring and summer, visitors shouldn’t miss the lovely daisy field, the wildflower meadow, and the pleasant Sundays in the Park concerts, which start up in July.
In a Curious Corner of Jamaica Plain, a Rock Worth Your Time
Most Boston visitors would not likely think about the city’s geological history or expect to find rather extensive rock outcroppings scattered about. Jamaica Plain and Mission Hill have some rather fine examples of Roxbury puddingstone all around. This unique stone finds its most fascinating expression in Nira Rock, which is a most wonderful bit of geology, combining fruit orchards, a hilltop meadow and more.
Visitors can elect to scale the 40-foot rock face here using their own equipment or, for the less ambitious, just spend some time leisurely wandering around. It’s easily one of the most wonderful and unique destinations in Boston and it doesn’t cost a dime to visit. It’s not hard to find, but you might wish to consult their directions page beforehand.
Quite a Troika, this Tres Gatos
For a bit of dinner, you should walk on over to Tres Gatos to check out their tapas and wine bar. Actually, Tres Gatos is a triple-threat, as they also have books for sale and a well-curated selection of records for your consideration. While you browse or eat, you can take in their acoustic jazz and folk sets, which generally happen on Monday and Tuesday nights (check their calendar for complete details).
Photo: Tres Gatos interior via Facebook
The menu is divided into five inviting sections, including “Tapas”, “Paella”, and “Dulces”. On the tapas side, my vote goes to the kale and sausage and the roasted cauliflower. The wine list is thoughtful, and after giving it the once over, I’d also take a look at the cocktails, which include the perfect Cat’s Cradle (rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and green chartreuse). The whole scene is rather lo-fi and welcoming, which makes it a respite from downtown restaurants that can feel a bit overwhelming and raucous.
Max Grinnell is a writer based in Cambridge, MA, who writes about cities, public art, geography, travel, and anything else that strikes his fancy. His writings can be found online at www.theurbanologist.com and he tweets over @theurbanologist.
Photo at the top by Erik Hansen via Flickr