Everyone at some point in their life hears the question: Where would you live if you hit the jackpot?
I wouldn’t build a giant McMansion in the suburbs or move to Paris. I might spend a lot of time visiting cities I love — New York, San Francisco, Richmond (yeah, seriously) — but my home base would be a big, open-concept condo in Brookline.
Why Brookline, you ask? Well, you’ve obviously never been there. Equal parts city and suburb, Brookline is the perfect distance from Boston while retaining its town feel. Given this weekend’s forecast for unseasonably warm and sunny weather (especially Sunday), I recommend a trip into Coolidge Corner, which is probably the busiest section of the town. Here’s a quick list of reasons you should visit my favorite stop on the Green Line:
The Coolidge Corner Theatre — The Boston-area’s only nonprofit movie theater, the Coolidge has a walk-up box office and a lobby that feels like an art deco time machine. Not having the suffix “-plex” attached to it is always a good sign. If you’re a new parent, check the website for their baby-friendly showtimes — no one will shush you if your little one whines and wiggles. Here, you can see movies that may not get a long run in big cinemas (or any run at all, like the highlights from this year’s Oscar-nominated short films), as well as live shows, like the upcoming Kevin Smith appearance. Side note: If you’ve got a spare 45 minutes and enjoy absurdity, look up Smith’s detailed story on YouTube about the time he worked with Prince.
Parking — Compared with the city of Boston, parking in Brookline is a breeze. Even on Comm. Ave., angled spaces and ample meters make it easy to find a place to drop a car for a few hours. Just watch out for parking in spaces marked for specific businesses. If you don’t feel like driving, you’ll sit on the Green Line for a while, but the trolley stop is right in the middle of the square, above ground, clean and safe.
The Upper Crust Pizzeria — Yes, it’s a chain. And it’s expensive — a slice of cheese is more than $3, but it’s huge. And so delicious.
Mint Julep — It’s a tiny shop on Beacon Street, filled with super-fashionable clothes and accessories in every price range. Everything is adorable, the employees are nice and knowledgeable, and the sales, when you can catch ’em, are unreal.
The Regal Beagle — Not quite the pub on “Three’s Company,” it’s actually a really cozy, upscale restaurant with a killer comfort food menu. Across the street, the Coolidge Corner Clubhouse is a lively sports bar, and a great stop for a beer and a burger. Side note 2: One of my favorite lines from “Friends”: “I think this is that episode of Three’s Company where there’s some kind of misunderstanding.”
Larz Anderson Park — About 10 minutes from Coolidge Corner, the park is huge, beautiful and full of things for families. There’s a skating rink, acres and acres of trees and grass, the oldest auto museum in the country and some of the best views of Boston you’ve ever seen.
Allston — Yeah, it’s not in Brookline. But it’s not your blog, now, is it? Allston Village is a hop and a skip down Harvard Street from Coolidge Corner. Here you’ve got the Sunset Grill & Tap, Soulfire barbecue, tons of other great restaurants and bars that are priced to be student-friendly. Add in the potential for hours of hipster-watching and you’ve got a great time. The blocks leading from Allston to Coolidge Corner are filled with delis and neat-looking shops. It’s along this route where Brookline’s strong Jewish population has set up many businesses, community centers and worship areas.
The Trader Joe’s parking lot — For convenience and ease of use, it’s about a -4 on a 1 to 10 scale. For entertainment value, however, it’s a fun sight from afar. A parking attendant guides cars in and out of the postage-stamp sized lot with the seriousness of an air traffic controller. And you’d best be parking to visit the TJs and only there. On a nice weekend morning, the place is like the running of the Subarus.
Emerald Necklace/Longwood — Head down Longwood Avenue to the Riverway and take a nice long walk toward the Fenway; known best for its baseball field, it’s easy to forget how beautiful and natural the approach from Brookline is.
Brookline Booksmiths — As a Kindle convert, I have some lingering guilt about abandoning the paper-and-ink books I’ve loved all my life. This store has stayed in business, probably because of the foot traffic from the busy corner, as well as a smart embrace of cultural events.
There’s much more to Brookline than just Coolidge Corner, of course. The town is really special — and residents pay a premium to enjoy it. That’s why it’s my first answer when I get the jackpot question. It’s got some of the best schools in the state, some of the most beautiful parks and best restaurants. It’s the birthplace of John F. Kennedy, and of Conan O’Brien. What’s not to love?