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10 Things Newcomers Need to Know About Winter in Boston

Winter is a magical season in the Northeast, especially in the historic city of Boston: the heart of icy winters and white Christmas Eves (too soon?). But there are some things that newcomers should know about winter in New England. Let’s just say the soundtrack to accompany this time of year in Boston would not be “Silent Night.”

1. It gets freezing cold

Boston winters normally go down to 21° Fahrenheit (-6° Celsius), with the record low being at -13° Fahrenheit (-25° Celsius). That means the average low in Boston is lower than the average low in most mountain and glacier areas around the world. Boston’s average temperature in December and January compares to the average temperature in Aspen in November. So if you’re from Northern Europe or go on annual ski trips with your family and think you’ve experienced cold winters, YOU’RE WRONG! Get as many flannel jackets as you can because three layers won’t be enough to fight the bitter freeze.


2. The snowstorms are violent

After a few short weeks of romantic glitzy fluff, the snow starts to pour down in whipping heaps. You actually won’t be able to see anything in front of you, so don’t expect to get anywhere by foot. This thick wet snow is usually accompanied by very strong winds that make these Bostonian blizzards really vicious. Imagine the snowstorm in the opening scene of Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer times ten! Don’t bother bringing an umbrella. It won’t keep you dry from the endless snow curtain, but instead break or blow away.


Stick with the warm hoody, scarf, and gloves if you dare to step outside. Last year’s blizzard was one of Boston’s top 10 winter storms and the weather channels called it “Nemo.” If you do catch a moderately peaceful day, grab a friend and go sledging at some of these locations around Boston: http://www.boston.com/travel/blog/2009/02/40_great_places.html


3. Get ready for BU’s “snow day(s)”

Yes, the ancient myth is true: there is such a thing as “snow day”–a day on which classes are cancelled because BU decides that the student’s travel to class is unsafe due to severe snow. On snow day, the infamous Snowbrawl is hosted at the Esplanade where hundreds of BU students participate in a massive snowball fight! Look out for the Snowbrawl event on Facebook–somebody will usually posts the exact time and location the night before. (Watch last year’s Snowbrawl: http://www.bu.edu/today/2014/snowbrawl-strikes-back/)


 4. Don’t expect to catch the T (or the BU bus)

So you think you’ll be able to avoid the snow by taking the T or the BU bus? Wrong again. You and about 50 other cheimaphobic people will have that same thought. Taxis will be out of sight, MBTA buses and subways will be completely overcrowded, and BU buses will skip stops because they can’t possibly fit another student. You’ll be waiting no less than an hour (30 min. if you’re royalty) for a ride. Plan accordingly or just don’t go out at all (nobody will judge you…it’s winter).

5. You will slip about once a day

If the ground isn’t frozen, it will be wet or slushy. Snow accumulation reached 24.9 inches in Boston last winter. You need to buy quality winter boots that you would wear in the mountains. Ugg boots are probably the worst possible option for this kind of weather; they were originally created as shoes for surfers. In other words, they are summer shoes. Uggs will neither keep you from slipping on the thinnest layer of ice, nor keep your feet dry while you stomp through the high snow. Timberlands might be a better option, but you need legit snow boots.    


6. You’ll consider the “Frost Ice Bar” warm

At Faneuil Hall you’ll find New England’s largest and single permanent underground bar completely made out of ice. The temperature is 21°F in the bar, which is warmer than Boston’s outside temperature at its low. The bar is open to everyone from 12pm-4:15pm. At 5pm, it is open to anyone over 21. You can lounge in glassy carved furniture, admire the cold crystalline walls, and sip on colorful cocktails out of icy champagne flutes. Jackets and gloves are provided.

7. You will go to “Top of the Hub” after snowfall

No matter how hard you try to avoid this elegant, super-expensive, beautifully overpriced restaurant/bar towering over the glittering lights of Boston you will have to forget your student loans for one night and just enjoy a cup of hot peppermint tea after a fresh snowfall. Being 52 floors above the city, you’ll be able to admire the frosted streets and sprinkled buildings for miles while listening to sultry jazz music.


8. Nobody will judge you if you go skiing

Although you could most definitely ski down Commonwealth Avenue during this time of year, there is a small ski resort 20 miles from downtown Boston known as Blue Hills at Jay Peak, which is a blast for all ski lovers. During the week, passes are $20 from 5pm-9pm and $25 on weekends.


9. Not seeing “The Nutcracker” is a felony

No matter how grown up you think you are, there will always be a special place in your heart for this dazzling holiday tradition, especially with $20 student rush tickets! Go see the classic Christmas ballet “The Nutcracker” at the Boston Opera House starting November 28th for a night filled with magic. The Boston Ballet performs one of the most superb shows with elaborate sets, sparkling costumes, Tchaikovsky’s enchanting music, and a gentle faux snowfall to end the show.

10. Peppermint Mochas will never taste this good

The idea of a thick creamy hot mocha spiced with peppermint will make your mouth and heart melt. Enjoy this delicious holiday treat as a getaway from the storm outside. (The Peppermint Mocha at Blue State Coffee House is my personal favorite!)


Assemble your fuzzy scarves, furry hats and wool gloves because winter is going to be an ice-cold adventure! 


Roxanne is a 21-year old Boston University student from Düsseldorf, Germany, who is majoring in Film & TV and is currently completing a semester in Los Angeles, California.
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