I’m sure that everyone has adapted (maybe begrudgingly so) to the 5pm darkness and the beginnings of coat weather, but what makes me a fan of this time of year is the cozy spots to curl up in and the ease of making indoor plans. This is all fun and exciting in the beginning….
…until Seasonal Affective Disorder hits.
Every year, humans of the northern hemisphere experience less sunlight in the winter and find their moods lower as a result. While this time of year is marketed as a time of joy and cheer, sometimes it can be hard to access with upcoming deadlines, exams, or just general end of year chaos. In short, sometimes we all need a good cold weather cry.
Remember when I said I once cried in the Met? I was a sophomore in college in NYC and had a very rough week – deadlines were coming up, there was friend and family drama, it felt like the world was closing in. So I went to the place that made me happiest in the city: the Degas gallery in the Met. But somehow even the ballerinas couldn’t cheer me up. I wandered the galleries on that quiet Thursday morning until I found myself in front of a giant stone Buddha. I sat on the bench in front of it and sobbed for a few minutes. A guard came over and we discussed art and why I loved museums so much. Because of that day, I decided that I wanted to teach in museums and help others to find the same comfort that I find in them.
Since that day, I have been compiling a list of top spots to let it out in museums I have visited, as well as spots friends have told me about. This is one iteration of that list, primarily based here in MA. Places that are free are marked with an asterisk.
- The New England Aquarium
It’s no Mystic, but it has plenty of dim lighting and enough constant chatter that a sob here and there won’t be too out of the realm of reason for other patrons. If you go on a weekend, odds are there is a small child crying somewhere in the building. You’ll have a buddy!
- Museum of Fine Arts
There are so many nooks and crannies in this place that would be perfect for a little cry. My personal recommendation is the Shapiro Courtyard or the bathrooms just down the stairs from there. The mummy gallery is also a good spot – low lighting, a macabre vibe, and fewer people.
- Paul Revere House
Maybe I’m biased because I work there, but I find the site comforting. The house has seen hundreds of years of foot traffic, and there is a great classroom on the ground floor of the visitor’s center that doesn’t see much traffic and can offer a space out of sight for the private breakdown.
- Peabody Essex Museum
This is one cool museum with a lot going on. Personally, I would recommend the maritime galleries. There are little pods where you can watch a video about a specific piece and are just private enough. The first gallery also has a great soundscape and fun lights. If you are someone who loves boats, this is a great place to cry in a super cool town. Bonus points if you go at this time of year when Salem is quiet.
- Harvard Art Museums*
With a great cafe (try the lemonade!) and thousands of years of history and art, you can’t go wrong with HAM. There are many galleries with audio installations, but my personal favorite quiet place is in gallery 1610 where there is a big golden ball in the middle of the space. There’s something calm and contemplative about being in a space with several depictions of Buddha.
- Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
It may seem a bit off the beaten path, but hear me out. Yes, this is a busy and occasionally cramped museum. However, there are 3 spots I would say could be good for a cry. The first is the hallway where the bathrooms are in the older building. The second is by the coat check in the new building, and the third is the back part of the contemporary gallery space. Often this is where the museum poses questions to visitors about their interpretations of the works on display.
- USS Constitution Museum
Something about boats, revolution, and the inevitable earworm of “My Heart Will Go On” make this a good spot. The wind can get you pretty hard when you stand on deck. You’re not crying, the Boston weather is just mean.
- New England Ski Museum*
Located at the base of Cannon Mountain in Franconia, NH, this volunteer-run establishment is just yards from the oldest aerial tramway in the country. Go see some snow, maybe take a ride to the top and have a Sunday morning cinnamon roll at 4080’. The exhibits in the museum are pretty cool too!
- Mystic Seaport
There are so many places to go and buildings that are just fun. You can learn about maritime industries, build a boat out of wood scraps, or just play pretend in the apothecary. Lots of great private spots, and some cool things to hear about – the admission will certainly convince you to spend a day there.
- Addison Gallery of American Art*
Every few months, the museum changes all of its galleries and exhibition spaces. There is a great library with a book ladder a la Beauty and the Beast (tragically it doesn’t move like it does in the movies) and some comfy green chairs that migrate throughout the galleries. Currently they are in the largest upstairs gallery. The town of Andover is also very walkable and has several fun little spots to eat, some greenery to experience, and some great small businesses.