By Rebecca Wallwork
Today Joey McIntyre lives in Los Angeles. The entertainment capital is a fitting home base for the performer who recently starred in the CBS sitcom “The McCarthys,” filmed on a studio lot in Culver City, Calif., and embarks on a huge New Kids On The Block tour this year, traveling throughout North America and concluding with the NKOTB Cruise in October. Despite his new home and frequent traveling, McIntyre’s heart belongs to Boston. It’s the city where he grew up, before hitting the road as a teenager as one-fifth of a pop mega-group. When his boy band days (phase one) were over, it was Boston that McIntyre returned to. Even now, as a Californian, he makes frequent trips home to visit friends and members of his sprawling family, and he hasn’t lost his Boston accent—which served him well in his role as hardcore Beantown sports fanatic Gerard on “The McCarthys.”
“It’s a really beautiful city, a special place,” McIntyre says of Boston. “As I get older, I appreciate it more. I think everybody has that moment of going back home and appreciating [the place] they just wanted to get out of when they were a teenager.”
The biggest changes McIntyre, now 42, has seen since moving west in the early 2000s are most evident downtown. “People came back to the city and started building a life there,” he says. “You know, the rebirth of the inner city. [The late] Tom Menino, who was the mayor for [more than] 20 years, did a good job of—this isn’t really a word—but the ‘pedestrification’ of the city. It’s much more green and walkable. It’s been cleaned up and shined up so people can appreciate it more.”
We asked McIntyre to walk us through his recommendations for a perfect day in Boston.
For starting the day, McIntyre reminisces about the fancy brunches at historic establishments that he enjoyed with his mother (who passed away in 2014), but he has a great tip for something more casual, too. “The best breakfast, as far as I’m concerned, is Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe [scheduled to reopen in 2015]—it’s on Columbus in the South End,” he says, noting that the family business has been there for almost 100 years. “There’s a line out the door every single day, especially on the weekends. Inside, it has a long diner bar and just everything—the pancakes, the omelets—is the best.”
When you’re ready for your next meal, forget Boston baked beans; the food McIntyre relishes has a more international vibe. “I haven’t gotten a free meal there in 25 years of giving them shout-outs, but the best Chinese food is in [nearby] Brookline and that’s at the Golden Temple. I always have to hit them up. They have these … Golden Temple mai tais. So good.”
He’s also a fan of Boston’s Italian food. “It’s always nice to go to Little Italy in the North End. I think they’ve really kept the traditions. The restaurants, the food and the feasts and everything—it’s still authentic.”
McIntyre always makes a beeline for Boston’s lush, leafy spaces when he returns. “There’s a spot in my hometown Jamaica Plain [neighborhood] called Jamaica Pond,” he says. “It’s part of the Emerald Necklace [park system], which Frederick Law Olmsted, who did Central Park in New York, designed. Growing up, Jamaica Pond was literally right down the street from me and I always felt lucky to grow up in the city but [also] to have all those green areas.”
Now, as the father of three children under the age of 10, McIntyre often finds himself in the city’s other famous parks as well. For a kid-friendly day of sightseeing, he recommends starting at Boston’s Public Garden. “You can see the swan boats, see the ducks and the pond. ‘Make Way for Ducklings,’ the famous kids’ book, took place there, and it’s exactly how it looks in the book—beautiful,” he says. “Then you can walk through Boston Common, which is a little bit more rugged; it’s got tons of history and is right by the State House.”
The McIntyre family-day itinerary continues less than a mile away at Faneuil Hall. “There’s so much food, you’ve got the cobblestone streets and lots of history there,” he says. “And then that brings you right to the harbor, where the New England Aquarium is. We’ve always been famous for that. If you have little kids, they can run around a bit.”
Face in the Crowd
No story about Boston is complete without a mention of Fenway Park, but McIntyre can actually lay claim to playing for a sold-out crowd in the ballpark with his fellow New Kids and the Backstreet Boys in 2011. The moment is one of his proudest. But you’re just as likely to find him in the stands at a Red Sox game. “It’s such a special place,” he says. “And it’s so cozy compared to any other stadium, even if you’re behind the pole. I remember a few years ago I had bleacher seats. People were saying, ‘What are ya doin’ there? You should be behind home plate.’ But I’m just a kid from Boston and I love Fenway Park. To me, there’s not a bad seat in the house.”
Other places you may find McIntyre in the audience, rather than onstage himself, include Wally’s Cafe Jazz Club on Massachusetts Avenue. “It’s one of those classic clubs. Not smoky anymore, but it’s a long narrow room with the bar at one end. There are always great jazz musicians there and kids coming from Berklee College of Music, sitting in and getting their chops. You can just sit and have a drink and listen to music. It’s just a really cool hang,” he says. “And then you’ve got Lansdowne Street, which has all the clubs—mostly dance clubs but there’s some live music there, too.”
Art and Soul
McIntyre admits he’s not a big gallery-hopper, but he points anyone who is interested in the arts to the Museum of Fine Arts in the Fenway neighborhood. Also nearby, what McIntyre calls “a cooler choice,” is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. “It used to be where [collector] Isabella Stewart Gardner lived so it houses all this artwork, [some of] which she borrowed … but never gave back,” he explains. “She was quite a character. The museum is this old Victorian home where you can meander around and come into all these cool, spooky rooms. So that’s something different.”
Another cultural hub close to McIntyre’s heart is back in his Jamaica Plain neighborhood. “There’s a place called The Footlight Club, the oldest community theater in America,” he says. “I didn’t know how lucky we were to grow up four blocks away from it—until I went to New York and saw these tiny little black box theaters. Here we had this huge old theater as well as places like Faneuil Hall. I used to sing right on Faneuil Hall as a kid with a group called Neighborhood Children’s Theatre of Boston and we’d pass the hat around.”
Thanks to Boston’s relatively compact size and layout, McIntyre says he steps back in time on every visit. “If you’re downtown and you’re trying to get to Jamaica Plain, you can go through Dorchester to get there; you can go through Southie to get there; you can go through the Fenway or the South End—so you’re always going through different neighborhoods where there’s tons of memories,” he says. “Roxbury is a [neighborhood] right in Boston where my parents were born and that’s where I ended up meeting Maurice Starr who started New Kids On The Block. We used to rehearse in Roxbury. So driving through there and Dudley Square, there’s no escaping it. You’re touched by moments in the city’s history and moments in your own history.”
One small word of warning: Driving isn’t for everyone in this New England capital. “The topography, with the parks and the way the city is planned—driving-wise, it makes people crazy,” McIntyre says. “The future was literally mapped out by cows in the 18th century and it’s still that way today.” But that blend of past and present, even when they clash, is integral to Boston’s charm.
“As [fellow Bostonian] Joe Perry from Aerosmith says, it’s a world-class city with a small-town feel,” McIntyre says. “And I agree.”
Loews Boston Hotel is situated in the city’s desirable Back Bay neighborhood, in a historic limestone building that was once the headquarters of the Boston Police Department. The hotel’s varied services, from babysitting to complimentary shoe shining, make it ideal for both families and businesspeople—even pets are treated as VIPs.
For more information and reservations, visit loewshotels.com.