day trip to boston!
April 14, 2012 7:46 PM   Subscribe

Help me plan a day in Boston!

I've been living in Providence RI now for 7-8 months and I've only been to Boston once-- so I'm planning a trip. Tomorrow! Or maybe monday. I've looked through past threads about boston and am a little overwhelmed with possibilities, so I'm starting a special snowflake one of my own.


-- I can drive, or take the MBTA from providence. I'm leaning toward the train option because last time I drove in Boston it was a truly terrible experience and I don't want to pay for parking. But I'm open to taking the car.

-- I've been to the MFA, the USS constitution, and bunker hill on a past one-day trip.

--Things I like when I'm sight-seeing: art, especially folk art and photography, botanical gardens, interesting food, people watching, beaches, any kind of street fair/flea market/farmer's market, thrift stores (of the cheap sort), and science and animals.

-- I'll be by myself-- so I'm looking for things that would be fun to do alone, and food that is more take-out-and-eat-in-the-parky-y than sit-down-y.

-- I thought about going to one of the big museums but I think I might enjoy something like that more if I had company so I'll probably save them for another trip. I was looking into the smaller, cheaper museums and the peabody museum at harvard looked interesting... is it? how long would it take to see it?

-- I'm most interested in just walking around a few neighborhoods-- I'm fine with taking the T but I'm not interested in zig zagging my way across the city all day. What would be a good neighborhood (or maybe a couple adjacent neighborhoods) to check out where I could just walk around and see stuff in a low-key way?

-- I like outdoor stuff and it looks like it will be nice so outdoor suggestions are appreciated, but I work at a nature refuge so I'm not really needing to get back to nature in a serious way.

-- Oh, and I guess-- any reason to come sunday over monday or vice-versa?
posted by geegollygosh to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'd suggest taking the red line and stop at Central Square, Harvard Square, Porter Square and Davis Square. There are lots of shops and eat in the park food in all of these places and you can spend a whole day just exploring. You could even walk between Central Square, Harvard Square, and Porter by walking down Mass Ave.
posted by Sal and Richard at 7:51 PM on April 14, 2012

Monday is marathon Monday! Lots of road closures.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:53 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Uh, yeah - Monday is Marathon Monday, so there are big crowds in the Back Bay and it can be hard to get across the race route. But it's also pretty fun to see, and if you don't feel a need to be right at the finish line you will find good spots to see the racers - the wheel chairs Fly and are awesome.

The Peabody at Harvard is nice, and free on Sunday morning (and would get you a walk through Harvard Square from the T). The Isabella Stuart Gardner is amazing, but might be more fun with someone else (get the audio, things are intentionally not much labeled).

I love me some Cambridge, but if I hadn't been to Boston much before I would walk around Beacon Hill and Back Bay, go down to the Esplanade and look at the river, and maybe get to the North End/Harbor. Those neighborhoods are all lovely. So if I were you on this trip, I'd wait till Monday, come up on the T, and explore the neighborhoods and go cheer on some marathon racers.

The North End has lots of not-terribly-pricey food, and there are good recommendations on askme and other websites as to favorites.
posted by ldthomps at 8:01 PM on April 14, 2012

Monday is Marathon Monday. The city will be a fuck-cluster of horrible. That said, Sal and Richard have a fine idea: Camberville offers up lots of nice places to see and do. I live in Davis and the walk from there to Central with stops along the way on Mass Ave is actually pretty pleasant and very do-able, especially if you like bars.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 8:01 PM on April 14, 2012

I'd go tommorow. Go do the SoWa open market!
posted by kpht at 8:15 PM on April 14, 2012

Response by poster: Upon closer examination of the Sunday MBTA timetables it looks like I wouldn't be able to get to boston by train until almost 1pm, so I'll probably be going monday. However, it sounds like the marathon could be kind of fun as long as I wasn't trying to drive anywhere. Thanks for all of the suggestions, I'll be checking back in, my trip is starting to take shape!
posted by geegollygosh at 8:32 PM on April 14, 2012

The MIT museum is super interesting and takes only a couple hours.
posted by illenion at 8:38 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Recommend Mount Auburn cemetery if you like that sort of thing, it's one of my favorite places to walk around in Boston.

If you like art I recommend the Glass Flowers Collection at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Pretty incredible and not pricey.

If you are going to watch the marathon, one of my favorite neighborhoods in Boston is Coolidge Corner (race route goes along Beacon Street). Some of the best food I've ever eaten. Use the Yelp app to find the good restaurants.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:47 PM on April 14, 2012

Seconding the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which my favorite museum in Boston, and possibly anywhere in the world - eclectic collection in a gorgeous setting.
posted by naoko at 12:42 AM on April 15, 2012

I am totally biased but I think Jamaica Plain is a great neighborhood to visit. You could drive there from Providence and park or take the commuter rail to Ruggles and then hop on the orange line to Forest Hills or Green St Station. I would start with coffee and pastries at Canto Six or Ula Cafe. I would hit either Forest Hill Cemetery, The Arboretum or The Pond for a nice walk, then walk on Centre St and do a little shopping. Boomerangs and Good Will, Kitchen Witch and On Centre. Then lunch at either the new burger bar Grass Fed or City Feed. And then I would hop on the 39 bus and go to The Isabella Gardner museum- which just opened a new wing. You can then hope back on the Commuter rail at Ruggles- a semi short walk from the Gardner.
posted by momochan at 4:34 AM on April 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think Boston on Marathon Monday is a DELIGHTFUL clusterfuck. Count on the Green Line (all the subway lines, but the Green Line especially) taking, oh, FOR BLOODY EVER to get anywhere. Like, seriously, unless you are unable to walk for some reason DO NOT TAKE THE GREEN LINE TOMORROW. And be careful about leaving enough time to get back to your train back to Providence.

That said, I think a Fenway-centric visit would be a good way to go. You could check out the Gardner museum, which is great; I don't know when you last visited the MFA, but a couple of years ago they opened a gorgeous new Art of the Americas wing which is well worth visiting. They are right near each other, and they'll give you a whopping $2 off your tickets if you visit both. You could get off the train from Providence at Ruggles or Back Bay - Back Bay is right at the marathon finish line, which is fun but crazy, Ruggles is in a neighborhood that is sketchy-looking but pretty safe during the day.

You could walk along the Fenway over on Brookline Ave., where there will be a Red Sox game on one side of the street and a marathon on the other side. Carnival atmosphere; I love it, but it's not for agoraphobes.

For food, you could go to El Pelon over on Peterborough St. Good burritos, fun atmosphere, outdoor seating. There are other decent places to eat over in that same area. Or go up to Mission Hill (on the E line or the 39 bus, whichever comes first) - there's a good Salvadoran place called Montecristo. Any place up there is going to be full of people on their lunch breaks. Or you could go up to Jamaica Plain, too!

Anyway: just plan for things to take longer than you expect, and walk whenever possible.
posted by mskyle at 5:56 AM on April 15, 2012

I say it in every Boston thread - Mapparium!
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:00 AM on April 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Mapparium, Gardner museum and MFA are closed on Marathon Monday, fyi.
posted by JamesD at 6:45 AM on April 15, 2012

Honestly, Marathon Monday will be a bit of a mess on anything but the subway. Closing down Beacon Street for the runners really screws up traffic and there will be so many people in from out of town that I can't imagine parking will be feasible. Take the train - it's a lovely train ride anyway.

A possible itinerary: Go see the marathon finish line (you could get off at Back Bay as noted), then walk down Boyleston and/or Newbury St (they are parallel and a block apart). That will bring you to the Public Garden. Cross it to get to Boston Common which you can cross to get to the red line at Park St. Then take the red line to Harvard Square. You can get a pretty inexpensive lunch at Clover (vegetarian fast food) or a more expensive one at Crema (cafe). If you enjoy shopping, Black Ink and Cardullo's are a lot of fun to look around in, though both are a bit overpriced (I'd say Black Ink is worth it, Cardullo's less so if you know where else to look). I'd especially recommend stopping in at Burdick's Chocolates on Brattle St for a snack (especially since the Easter bunnies are on sale). It is supposed to be hot, you may desire ice cream. Ignore trendy Berry Lime and go to either J. P. Licks for adventurous flavors or Lizzy's for classic.

If you still have a lot of time/energy, Mount Auburn cemetery is a nice idea as well, especially if you're interested in photography and such. Since most trees don't have leaves it's still a little barren looking (or was from the road when I went by yesterday) but there should be some lovely flowers - I think the dogwood trees are getting ready to bloom. I can attest to it being lovely over Memorial Day weekend. You can take either the 71 or 73 bus from Harvard Square to Mount Auburn cemetery. If you decide to go, you should absolutely go to Sofra to get some food at the same time. It's slightly pricy, but I cannot recommend it enough. It was my entire reason for leaving the house yesterday.

PS: Jamaica Plain is also a nice wander, but I prefer it in the summer, myself. A wander around Goodwill, then ice cream from the original JPLicks and a wander down to Jamaica Pond? *happy sigh*
posted by maryr at 9:40 AM on April 15, 2012

Everything at Harvard is open on Monday - come see the glass flowers at the Museum of Natural History, and you can take the 71 bus to the Mount Auburn Cemetery recommended above ...

See: the visitors site and the Museum of Natural History for more info.
posted by mozhet at 1:31 PM on April 15, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I had a good time, checked out the marathon (and against your sage advice took the green line-- mistake!), ate some good food, went to the Harvard museums and walked along Mass ave. I'm definitely planning on using some of these other suggestions on future trips now that I know how easy it is to get to boston via train!
posted by geegollygosh at 7:25 PM on April 18, 2012

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