Where can I practice driving in the Boston area?
May 29, 2012 6:40 PM   Subscribe

Where can I practice driving in the Boston area?

Please give me your specific recommendations for good driving practice locations in the greater Boston area!

I'm in the early stages of learning to drive (at the ripe old age of 27) and I need some good places to practice. I know I should be looking for empty parking lots and back roads, but those are rather scarce in my dense Somerville neighborhood and I'm not very familiar with the slightly-less-urban parts of Greater Boston. If you learned to drive around here, where did you practice?
posted by JuliaJellicoe to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Up on rt16 there's a pretty big parking lot. Then the side streets just past that in Medford are a lot wider and pretty quiet. Keep heading on side streets towards Winchester.
posted by sammyo at 6:56 PM on May 29, 2012

I can't speak to Boston, but my mom took me to a large cemetery to practice driving. They have a nice little road system, often with small parking lots where you can practice parking, and unless there is a funeral happening, there's usually no one around. Granted, you can't really drive with any speed, but it's a great place to start feeling comfortable behind the wheel.
posted by kimdog at 6:59 PM on May 29, 2012

Movie theater parking lots in the morning are good. Movies don't start until noon or so.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:01 PM on May 29, 2012

Here's a good space - not very big, but long enough to get up a little speed. It's a snow dumping ground for Cambridge during the winter, but it's usually empty other times.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:04 PM on May 29, 2012

My Dad always taught me in High School parking lots on Sunday mornings.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:14 PM on May 29, 2012

It's south of Boston, but the Blue Hills Reservation has some very nice back roads which are low speed and not so heavily traveled.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:15 PM on May 29, 2012

The ginormous parking lot in the Valley of Things (aka "gateway center", where the costco is) is perfect for this purpose and practically next to Somerville. I've used it for this very purpose.

The Assembly Square area is a good close second, although construction happens unpredictably around there.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:27 PM on May 29, 2012

If you don't mind going up Route 1 for a short ways, the Showcase Cinema parking lot in Revere is enormous (they hold swap meets and carnivals there) and always empty during the daytime and most weeknights.
posted by xingcat at 7:29 PM on May 29, 2012

My boyfriend learned to drive around that neighborhood. We went to the parking lot between Day and Dover for very initial practice (now that they rent out spots after hours this may no longer be practical, but at the time it was just a business parking lot and empty during evenings and weekends), and then did a lot of loops down Orchard Street and back up Mass Ave.--you can vary the difficulty level by picking which street you use to turn to Mass Ave., some of them are light controlled and some are stopsign controlled; Beech and Orchard for example is a little tricky to drive straight through but easy to turn right onto to get to Mass Ave. from. We also did Route 16 into Medford and also went up Mass Ave into Arlington which is pretty quiet if it isn't rush hour, then a lot of random side streets in Medford and Arlington.

When he got a little more practice we did stuff like going between Kendall Square and Davis Square and taking Route 2 to 128 to Waltham. That happened to be our work commute but it's a good place to get highway practice...the entrance to Route 2 from Alewife Brook Parkway is controlled by a traffic light (even though morons constantly run it shortly after it changes, watch out for that) so you don't have to worry about merging, and the merge from 2 to 128 is a little tricky, but the entrance lane doesn't go away--it just exits the highway--so if you panic and can't make the merge you just end up exiting the highway rather than crashing into a guardrail.
posted by phoenixy at 8:28 PM on May 29, 2012

Try the Tufts campus on a Sunday. Lots of empty parking lots and streets that aren't too busy. You can also meander around the Mt. Auburn cemetery in a car. You can't go very fast at all, but it will give you good practice.
posted by Sal and Richard at 8:32 PM on May 29, 2012

If you're at all worried about your road test, I just wanted to share that I took a few driving lessons and then took my road test through the driving school, and it was really easy... like, almost suspiciously so. I literally drove around the block once and that was it. They must have had some kind of arrangement with the RMV. They were out of Brookline I think... Just FYI!
posted by désoeuvrée at 9:14 PM on May 29, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks so much, everyone! Awesome answers.
posted by JuliaJellicoe at 5:07 AM on May 30, 2012

Whenever I tell someone where I work (in Cherry Hill industrial park in Beverly), they say "Oh, of course, I taught my kids to drive there" or "Oh, yeah, I don't think I've been there since I learned to drive", depending on their age. I doubt my industrial park has a corner on the market; there are very likely others much closer to Boston with a mile-long loop, big parking lots, and very low traffic on the weekends.
posted by aimedwander at 6:50 AM on May 30, 2012

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