Boston might be more famous for its museums than its nightlife, but there’s certainly plenty of both.  When you combine the two, sophisticated Bostonians turn out in droves.  "Gardner After Hours," held at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on the third Thursday of each month, is just such an event.

Maybe you’ve downed cocktails in a museum before?  If so, you might be expecting music along the lines of a string quartet.  But here, the atmosphere is completely different.  Once you get past the velvet ropes, you’re not greeted with Haydn or Mozart.  Instead you’ll hear the thumbing sounds of spin professionals like DJ Coralcola.  The subdued lighting and tightly-packed crowd adds to the relaxed and informal atmosphere.

Unlike many cocktail parties, there’s more to do here than eat, drink and talk.  On any given night there might be live musicians performing in one part of the museum, informal tours in another part, and people trying their hands at sketching somewhere else.

But best of all, there’s the collection itself.  Art by masters like Botticelli, Vermeer, and Rembrandt share the space with signed letters from George Washington and Teddy Roosevelt.  There’s so much to look at and talk about, boredom is impossible.

Once folks get a little loosened up (Bellinis are a cocktail of choice since the building is a facsimile Venetian palazzo), friends and strangers alike ask each other questions about the amazing stuff on display or share their theories about the infamous 1990 robbery, a still-unsolved heist that netted $500 million in art.

The party ends at just 9:30 pm, so think of this as a unique place to start your night before walking to a bar in Brigham Circle or hopping a cab to nightclubs on Lansdowne Street, in the Theater District, or wherever the spirit takes you.

Isabella Stewart Gardner, affectionately known as "Mrs. Jack," had a reputation as a party girl.  She’d be glad to know that her palatial former home, now the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, is once again host to music, laughter, and the sound of clinking glasses.

Gardner After Hours, Third Thursdays 5:30-9:30 p.m., see "" for price schedule

About The Author

Contributing editor John Stephen Dwyer is in love with his native Boston but has also done work in Amsterdam, London, New York, Paris and other cool cities. In recent months he's photographed notables including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, and Rosalynn Carter.

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