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First Word

Hidden gems

Leaders from around Northeastern’s global network recommend local spots where visitors can explore and unwind.

St. Edward State Park 
Dave Thurman
Regional Dean and CEO

St. Edward State Park, the former grounds of a Catholic seminary that operated between the 1930s and 1970s, is set in the hills 400 feet above the northeast shore of Lake Washington. With more than 300 acres of second-growth forest, several miles of hiking and mountain-bike trails, and access to the lake, it’s a favorite spot for people who appreciate accessing nature without having to drive hours to get there.

We live just a few miles away, so it’s a favorite place to go with the dogs for a quick evening hike, a cushy trail run in the rain, or, by linking to neighboring county parks, a longer mountain bike ride. Twenty dollars per year for an annual access pass is a bargain. Our Thanksgiving weekend family tradition is to pop over for a quick hike right after the turkey goes in the oven. 

Portland, Maine
Eastern Promenade 
Margaret Angell
Head of Partnerships and Operations, Roux Institute

Eastern Promenade — Prom for short — runs along the eastern edge of the city at the top of Munjoy Hill. It offers beautiful views out over the many islands of Casco Bay. If you want a real Portland experience, grab a cup of coffee and pastry at Standard Baking Co. and walk up the hill and around Eastern Prom. When you get to the apex and can see out over Fort Gorges, pause and pull up the poem “My Lost Youth” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a beautiful tribute to Portland. The poem refers to a War of 1812 naval battle that took place right off Portland, probably visible from that spot. The American and British captains were both killed in the opening salvo and were buried side by side just down the hill in Eastern Cemetery. “My heart goes back to wander there,/ And among the dreams of the days that were,/ I find my lost youth again.”

Granville Entertainment District 
Steve Eccles
Regional Dean and CEO

Vancouver’s gem is the wonderfully eclectic downtown, centered around historic Granville Street, where you can visit the Orpheum Theatre to enjoy the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra or see a local or international band at the Commodore Ballroom. Districts like Granville Street depend on the music industry, and they’re ready for a revival when the time is right.

San Francisco and Silicon Valley
Windy Hill
Hillary Mickell
Regional Dean and CEO

For an escape from the Bay Area’s much publicized and trafficked outdoor nature spots, I disappear into an amazing “naked” space — so called for its lack of trees — hidden in the sleepy community of Portola Valley. Windy Hill starts as an unassuming, wandering, flat stroll, but quickly morphs into a steep, uphill, continuous hike. At the top, you’re rewarded with amazing views stretching all the way to the Pacific — though sometimes you crest and stare into equally impressive pillows of Bay Area fog.

Kensington Market and Distillery District 
Aliza Lakhani
Regional Dean and CEO

The Toronto team loves to bring visitors to the Kensington Market neighborhood and the pedestrian-only Distillery District. They’re both filled with arts, entertainment, galleries, restaurants, bars, boutiques, and specialty food stores, and both reflect the influence of multiple cultures. The Distillery District is one of Toronto’s most historic areas, with cobblestone streets dating back to the early 1800s, while Victorian homes line Kensington Market’s streets.

Community parklets 
Naomi Goulder
Dean for Academic Development & Innovation and Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, New College of the Humanities at Northeastern

London is transforming its parking spaces into “community parklets” — with games, bike racks, sculptures, flowers, message boards, or anything the residents who initiate it propose. Community parklets challenge the idea that curbside space is only for cars. Parklets are inventive, inclusive, and playful spaces where you can escape the structure of the city within its confines.

U.S. National Whitewater Center 
Peg Bernhard
Interim Dean

The Whitewater Center has something for everyone: rapids and flatwater, hiking trails and ropes courses, restaurants and beer gardens, and concerts. So whether you want to relax and slow down or push your limits, you can find it here. A public-private partnership built the center to serve as an Olympic training location for whitewater sports, as well as a place where the community can recreate and learn.

World’s End
Carla Brodley
Dean, Khoury College of Computer Sciences

World’s End, southeast of the city in Hingham, is a park on a hilly peninsula in Boston Harbor, with views of Peddocks Island and other harbor islands. From the northernmost hill, you can also see the Boston skyline, which I’ve loved watching change over the years as the city has become a tech hub. Its four miles of hiking trails and carriage paths cross wetlands and woodlands. I like bringing visitors here because it’s always such a surprise to people — not just where it’s located but how beautiful it is.

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