This December, Bostonians are getting their very own winter wonderland, and it’s located right in City Hall Plaza. In the middle of what used to be a giant, and often barren, expanse of red brick in front of Boston’s City Hall now lies a winter oasis filled with over 40 wooden cottages, a custom-designed ice skating rink, and large buildings housing chocolate and wine tastings.
Originally scheduled to open to the public on Dec. 2, the grand opening of “Boston Winter Presented by Berkshire Bank” at City Hall Plaza was rescheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday following weather-born delays. But even the temperamental Boston weather did not stop “Boston Winter” from undergoing a soft opening over the weekend, much to the delight of locals who made their way to the plaza to explore all it had to offer.
After entering the open-air enclosure that contains “Boston Winter,” this weekend’s visitors were faced with a giant, festively decorated lawn chair—the perfect opportunity for a photo. After snapping a quick picture, visitors had the opportunity to explore the holiday shopping market.
Inspired by traditional European markets and housed in a collection of 42 quaint wooden cottages that sprawl in winding avenues throughout the enclosure, the holiday market may just be the perfect place to hunt down that elusive holiday gift for a friend or family member. Each cottage contains a different pop-up shop, such as the Etsy Artists of Boston, The Grommet—a product-launch platform dedicated to promoting the success of small businesses—and B&B Glass Studios, a Massachusetts-based glass design studio. The market provides a variety of items to explore and brands to discover. Many of them, such as Lovepop, a pop-up greeting card company, were launched by some of Boston’s very own innovators.
As visitors wandered through the paths of the holiday experience, many taking breaks to duck into the tiny stores, they made their way to the center of “Boston Winter.” From there, Bostonians could appreciate the 20-foot-tall Holiday Tree—an installation of glowing red and green lights powered by the four bikes surrounding the tree. Those who pedal fast enough and manage to illuminate the star atop the tree will trigger a special light display in celebration. When Hanukkah begins, the Holiday Tree will be joined by a giant, glowing menorah.
From the center, visitors can also access the ice skating rink, which opened to the public during yesterday’s grand opening ceremonies. Designed in an innovative curving shape, this nearly 11,000-square-foot skating path will be open to the public until Feb. 28. It will no doubt be the site of many selfies due to the glowing-green sign it surrounds that spells out BOSTON in giant letters.
Visitors who work up an appetite, whether from wandering through the market or skating the day away, can stop at one of the several food vendors located within the market. These include the Urban Lodge beer hall, or the Bavarian Village cottage, which sells traditional European options like sausages, soft pretzels with mustard, and mulled wine. More adventurous eaters even have the chance to participate in the Vinopolis Wine tasting, an exhibit that originated in London, or the Chocolate Story, an educational chocolate tasting featuring Boston’s own Taza Chocolate.
“Boston Winter” is the first installment of Berkshire Bank’s “Boston Seasons” project, the first in a series of projects developed by the Boston Garden Development Corp. (BDGC) and the City of Boston Property Management Department, that aims to re-energize the City Hall Plaza space. And as Amy Latimer, President of the BDGC, revealed to The Heights over email, this is a form of innovation new not just to Boston, but to New England as a whole.
“New England has never before seen a three-month long holiday festival like this before,” Latimer said. “The ice skating path is New England’s first custom designed skating path.
And while Latimer also notes that the holiday markets that inspired the “Boston Winter” holiday shopping market are common occurrences in Europe, and even beginning to emerge in other major US cities, this is Boston’s first time hosting a holiday market of this magnitude.
After Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09, announced the initiative in early 2016, Latimer explained that officials immediately began developing the year-around seasonal activation plan that will take place over the next three years, often drawing inspiration from cities across the country.
“For inspiration, some of the leadership from Boston Garden Development Corp did a whirlwind tour of other major cities that have unique and successful spaces similar to Boston’s City Hall Plaza,” Latimer wrote. “They took the best concepts and applied them to the city’s vision of a vibrant, communal space—hence, New England’s very first custom ice path!”
And so far, the concepts have proven immensely successful. Grace Barr, a Chelsea resident who decided to visit “Boston Winter” after hearing about it on the news, was delighted by what she found, and plans to return to “Boston Winter” through its duration in the Plaza.
“It’s wonderful, I think [the holiday market is] great with the different booths,” Barr said.
Featured Image by Madeleine D’Angelo / Heights Editor