What should I do with a half-day in Boston?
February 15, 2010 2:05 PM   Subscribe

I'll have what's more-or-less equivalent to an eleven hour layover in Boston on Wednesday, Feb. 17 from around 6am to around 5pm. I'll be on foot and starting from the Boston Sheraton/Prudential Center. Bearing in mind that I'll either be pulling a carryon or need somewhere to stash it, what should I do with my time there? Note also that I'm an undergrad elsewhere, so if there are any neat events going on on campus (especially MIT or Harvard), I probably wouldn't stand out TOO much attending. I'm also up for meeting local MeFites. Thanks!
posted by jdherg to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: what are your interests? is this your first visit to Boston?

i'm going to Boston tomorrow morning, to see my brother for a few days. it's my second visit, and i plan to re-visit the ICA (awesome art gallery), walk through the Boston Common (beautiful park), wander around the city a bit, visit the aquarium (something i wish i had done last time).

there is a lot to see and do, depending on what you like. if you're happy to wander around, Boston is a very walkable city. maybe stash your bag somewhere, do part of the Freedom Trail, check out the Museum of Fine Arts, and grab a late lunch/early dinner before you have to go.

if you've never been to the top of the Prudential Center, and it's a fairly clear day, go up to the observation floor. it's awesome.
posted by gursky at 2:23 PM on February 15, 2010

Go to the Museum of Science, it's a great way to kill a few hours. They have an Imax as well, so you can also catch a show. The last time I was there, they had a coat and bag check, so you should be able to stash your carry on there too. There's a T stop too, so it's easily accessible by public transportation.
posted by katypickle at 2:24 PM on February 15, 2010

What are your interests? What's your budget? Are you good with public transportation? Boston's a pretty big city.

The ICA's definitely worth seeing, but will only take a couple of hours and isn't very close to anything else fun. Harvard has a collection of museums that are great. The MFA and the Museum of Science are very fun but expensive (~$20).
posted by oinopaponton at 2:49 PM on February 15, 2010

since you're already near the pru, if you have a bit of time to check out the mapparium over at the christian science mother church. it's pretty and the acoustics are freaky.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:59 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Man, I wish I was going to be there! Usually, I'd say walk around, but it's probably going to be gross. The T is really easy to get around with, though. The Gardner Museum is nice, as is the MFA. I'm also a big fan of the aquarium. The aquarium is a short walk from Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall, though those are more touristy shopping things.

The Museum of Science is cool, though expensive. I always really liked just parking myself in Harvard Square or MIT's quad and watching people - but that was back when I wanted to be a college student. The excitement has probably worn off. That being said, MIT is definitely fun to wander around in. And it's a doable walk from MIT to MOS. It's also easy to get from MIT/MOS to pretty much anywhere - back towards the Pru, for instance. Harvard Square is getting less and less funky, but the Garage is fun to hang out in, and there are still some nice independent book stores (I'm partial to the travel book store) and good Indian food. Have fun!
posted by ChuraChura at 3:01 PM on February 15, 2010

I hate to speak ill of the Museum of Science but it's really more of a Museum of the History of How To Get Kids Excited About Science because they don't really have anything to see and it hasn't changed much since at least the early 80s. Which makes it an awesome nostalgia hit for locals, but I don't know if it'd be worth paying for for you.... plus it's a snowy school vacation week, so it's likely to be pretty crowded with little ones working off the cabin fever.
posted by moxiedoll at 3:22 PM on February 15, 2010

You'll be just around the corner from the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, which is a great place to sit around and people-watch.

I'd second moxiedoll's comments about the Museum of Science. I love natural history museums, but that one feels a little dated. (You may be visited by the urge to strangle someone after listening to teenagers run up and down on the musical stairway for a few minutes.)

Others have recommended you visit Harvard Square via the T, which isn't a bad idea. One of my favorite spots there is the Grolier Poetry Book Shop.
posted by cirripede at 4:32 PM on February 15, 2010

If you think you'll be looking for breakfast and already walking towards the Boston Common from the Prudential Center, I suggest eating at Mike and Patty's (menu at the site linked below). Seriously, awesome food. Whenever I go to Boston, I make sure to find a way to eat there because its a little hole in the wall with good food.

Mike & Patty's
12 Church Street
Boston, MA 02116-5514

I would also suggest walking around the Charles River - the view is beautiful.

Harvard Square is also a nice area to walk around but it would be hard to get there walking. If you can figure out public transportation then I would definitely check it out.
posted by icy at 7:37 PM on February 15, 2010

I would go in the other direction out towards the Museum of Art (Green line), where I would check my coat and carryon and spend the day not being bothered by the cold and with an onsite cafe for lunching.
Granted, you don't see much of Boston, but you're in out of the cold with art to look at, and you're not lugging your stuff.
The Harvard Museums are cool, but they are old and creaky and don't have amenities. The Grolier Poetry Bookshop is too small to walk around with your luggage. Most of Harvard Square has become chain stores.
If you really want shopping, there is a big (warm, enclosed) modern mall right near Prudential, on Boylston Street.
If you really want to walk around brick-paved streets, Newbury Street is much closer than Harvard Square.
posted by egret at 10:58 PM on February 15, 2010

Best answer: While you're at the Sheraton/Pru, why don't you ask at the hotel desk if you can leave your suitcase there until the afternoon? That's something they do for hotel guests all the time (especially common scenario on the last day of a conference, for example) and if you ask nicely and/or bluff a hotel stay, (and tip the luggage guy) it might work well for you. Even if they won't do it, they could perhaps recommend a place to check it.
posted by aimedwander at 11:20 AM on February 16, 2010

Response by poster: In the interest of closure: I checked my bag at the Sheraton desk then went to the top of the Prudential Tower (or, at least, to the Observation Deck) and saw what seemed like forever. I grabbed my bag, went to Harvard to wander the Yard and catch a lecture, then took the T to the airport.

Marked as best those answers I ended up using. Thanks for all of the suggestions!
posted by jdherg at 2:40 PM on February 23, 2010

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