How to Survive (and Enjoy) a Boston Winter

Snowy Sidewalk in SomervilleWith Boston winter’s average temperature around 30 degrees and average snowfall of over 10 inches, the snowy season can be a shocker for a non-native like myself. But there are some easy things you can do to change your winter from “why do I live here!?” to “now this is the way to live”. Survival tips first; if you’re a winter veteran, skip ahead to tips on how to enjoy what our winters have to offer.

Make Your House Warmer Than an Igloo

Tons of Boston / Cambridge / Somerville apartments are old. Some of you may be on oil heating, even. Regardless, heating bills can rise higher than rent if you’re not careful. Three things can keep you warm, and help you save on heating:

  1. Basic insulation is easy. While stuffing walls and attics full of fiberglass can be major projects, a lot of heat is lost through easy-to-insulate doors and windows. Curtains or window insulation film can help, and door draft stoppers are essential. And while it might sound silly, outlets in outside-facing walls have been one of the biggest source of drafts in my apartments. Cheap socket sealers solve the problem.
  2. Get a programmable thermostat. For $20, this thermostat can be programmed to automatically set the temperature for different periods of the day (e.g. warm before you wake up, cool while you’re away at work, warm again for when you get home, and less warm while you’re sleeping). No more waking up to a freezing house or wasting heating money while no one’s home.
  3. Get a space heater. Sometimes it’s better not to heat the whole house. Sometimes you want to be warmer than your Alaska-raised housemates. I’ve had one of these heaters for a year now; it makes a home office / bedroom cozy, and costs a fraction to power versus what raising the thermostat would cost.

Watch What Bostonians Wear in Winter

GQ hilariously rated Boston as the worst dressed city in the United States… but they visited during the summer. In the winter, pea coats instantly transform Bostonians into trendy metropolites. Or so we’d like to think.  While a good coat goes a long way, what’s actually keeping us warm is usually what you can’t see. Wearing layers is the only way to manage moving between sub-freezing temperatures to heated buildings. If you plan on doing anything outside, get some thermal underwear tops and bottoms.

The other essential item for Boston winters: boots. Preferably waterproof. For most of the season, sidewalks do not exist in Boston. They’re replaced with snow, ice, or usually slush. Nothing will make you more miserable than cold, wet feet. Invest in a good pair of boots you can wear with anything.

The Good (White) Stuff

Winter isn’t all bad. A few things you can enjoy between blizzards:

Having fun in the snow. Check the boston subreddit after a fresh snowfall to find someone organizing a snowball fight. Grab a sled and head to the hillsides of the Boston Common for a good time. Join the Boston Ski Meetup to get out of the city and make some new friends. Or surprise your neighbors with an army of snowmen in their front yard.

Enjoy some romance – go ice skating. The Frog Pond, in the Boston Common is the best-known spot for ice skating, but Kendall Square’s Community Ice Skating and The Charles Hotel in Harvard Square both have great skating rinks too.

Visit the businesses that are better when it’s cold out. I have never enjoyed LA Burdick (in Harvard Square) hot chocolate more than when it’s 19 degrees outside. The top hot pot spot in Chinatown, Kaze Shabu Shabu, is worth trying. While all the other food hipsters are being deprived, you can stock up at the Somerville Winter Farmers Market. Even Starbucks are better when they’ve got their fireplace going.