A hub of culture and allure, the twinkling lights of the marquees in Boston’s theater district draws in visitors from all over the world. Several historical venues and a few newcomers have made this small, yet significant area thrive. Top acts from big cities often use Boston as practice space, allowing for people to see plays and performances before they become famous. Not only are the shows well worth a visit to the district, there are opportunities for shopping, dining and sightseeing as well.
Entertainment did not come naturally to early settlers in Boston. In fact, plays were originally banned by the Puritans until 1793. By the 1900s the number of theaters grew to about 30, which expanded to 50 by the 1950s. As movies became more popular the district went into a decline in sales and closed venues, but by the 1970s some preservationists decided to revitalize the old area into something new.
By the 1980s, some of the other landmarks, like the Cutler Majestic Theater and the Colonial, were purchased by Emerson College and resorted to their former glory. Emerson is known as a performing arts and communications school, so they use these venues for their own shows and study. Other academic institutions, including Suffolk University, got in on the restorations efforts too by purchasing and fixing the Modern Theater in 2008.
Currently, the theater district is sandwiched between a few other famous Boston neighborhoods, including Downtown Crossing. Some people lump the theater district together with Chinatown due to its close proximity.
The main draw to Boston’s theater district is of course the shows. These change on the regular and can feature anything from Broadway musicals to ballets, comedies to concerts. Each venue brings a distinct style and character to their offerings as well. Places like the sophisticated Wang Theater draws very famous and big acts, plus dates its rich history back to the 1920s. Other theaters boasting a long lineage include the Shubert Theater, Wilbur Theater and the Boston Opera House. Depending on scheduling, everyone from Tony award-winning actors to new freshman students can be seen performing at the venues.
There are plenty of wonderful, high-end restaurants to indulge before or after a show in the Theater District. Tantric Indian Bistro is a great place to start for some Authentic India dishes, and Abby Lane is ideal for burgers. Most restaurants stay open late to offer craft cocktails and lounge areas. Due to the central locale of the neighborhood, it’s simple to venture outside the borders and search for other options as well. After drinks, it’s simple to reach hotels, as the Ritz Carlton and the W Hotels are within this neighborhood, just to name a few.
Some of Boston’s best performances, concerts, speaking engagements and demonstrations are held in this district. While many of the shows are on a rotating schedule, there are several annual events that go on at individual venues. Most on the repeated shows are around the holidays, including the Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol. Sometimes Shakespeare plays are shows annually, as well as small awards ceremonies for students and theater companies.