Another "what to do in Boston" question.
October 10, 2014 6:30 AM   Subscribe

Visiting Boston this weekend, and asked my friends to take me to see MIT and Harvard, but they haven't been there either. What is there to see or do that'll mean having a good time?

I'll be here in Boston for the whole weekend. The friends I'm visiting live here, but have only been here for only a couple of years so they are not Boston experts. We want to go walk around Harvard and MIT cause I love to visit university campuses. They haven't been there either (well my friend just started her masters at MIT) so we really don't know where to go or what to do. We'll probably have a few hours to be there, with no hurries except for hunger, so any suggestions for places to see or sit down and people watch or have a snack or drink or whatever are welcome. We are all in our early 30s if it matters.

And just to not leave it out, any "cant miss" Boston suggestions are also welcome.
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (25 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
MIT Ship Museum is small but worth a walk through. Right on Mass Ave.
posted by sammyo at 6:37 AM on October 10, 2014

The Harvard Museum of Natural History is a little gem.
posted by briank at 6:38 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Sunday is the Honk! parade and Oktoberfest in Harvard Square. Festival is from noon to 6pm, parade starts a bit north of there (Davis Sq., Somerville) around noon. Find a place to watch it on Massachusetts Ave. (Mass. Ave.), say around 12:45 or 1pm - north of the Square, not south.

The parade, Oktoberfest.
posted by dywypi at 6:39 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've heard that the MIT Museum is really cool. But the one thing I would recommend is seeing the glass flowers at the Harvard Natural History Museum. The rest of the museum is cool, too.
posted by brianogilvie at 6:40 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Cafe Algiers might work. It's in Harvard Square on Brattle Street. It's a middle eastern restaurant, but it's a nice place to stop in for coffee or a snack or something. The actual meals are a little spendy and the service can be slow, but it's usually not so crowded, so it's a great place for a leisurely stop. Also the decor is pretty cool. They also have an outdoor patio area on the second floor, which is fun when the weather is nice.
posted by litera scripta manet at 6:41 AM on October 10, 2014

Whatever you do....don't rub the golden foot of the John Harvard statue.
posted by ellerhodes at 6:43 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Honk! Festival is the must see cant be missed thing to do in Boston this weekend.
posted by alms at 6:51 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I will chime in again with the Harvard Natural History Museum. My entire family enjoyed it.
For some reason i had the incorrect idea Harvards campus would be small - maybe because it is in an urban area. It is not. It is one of those "movie set" campuses and I could have spent quite alot of time there just people watching.

We did the tourist thing and ate at Bartley's. Really fun and good, but the opposite of leisurely.
posted by domino at 6:53 AM on October 10, 2014

The MIT museum is cool - most of the fun stuff is on the 2nd floor, by the way. Check out the Stata Center, the crazy Gehry building. The library under the Great Dome is beautiful and peaceful and worth a visit. Walk down the Infinite Corridor. Visit the MIT Chapel, it's beautiful. See if there are any art exhibitions at the Media Lab.

If you walk from MIT to Harvard on Mass Ave, you'll pass many good restaurants.

People watching: Harvard Square for sure, 77 Mass Ave front steps (buy food from a food truck and just sit there a while, maybe).

The Harvard Natural History museum is indeed cool.
posted by Cygnet at 6:57 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Toscanini's for coffee and/or ice cream.

The outside deck at Au Bon Pain is the classic spot for people watching in Harvard Square.

Harvard Book Store, Grolier Poetry Bookshop, and Schoenhof's Foreign Books are all amazing and within a few blocks of each other.
posted by otio at 7:01 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Harvard Museum of Natural History has free admission for Massachusetts residents on Sunday mornings, in case you'd rather skip the parade madness. I do recommend it---I believe the glass flower collection is the only one of its kind. Harvard book store and Grolier poetry bookstore are also worth a visit if any of you have a literary bent.

In town itself, you might like to check out the Institute for Contemporary Art --- the building itself overhangs the harbor, and it's fun to watch the boats go by, usually have interesting exhibits. A few blocks away, Congress St. has several cafes and restaurants if you're in the mood for a bite, and one very fancy cocktail place, Drink. There's also a craft brewery nearby, Trillium, but they have limited hours.

I would also heartily recommend the Gardner museum --- it was once a private home in the style of an Italianate mansion, and the collection of art is eclectic and interesting.

A stroll through the common and the public garden is also quite lovely this time of year, with the foliage beginning to turn.
posted by Diablevert at 7:02 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

A few other good people watching spots: Crema Cafe in Harvard Square has excellent coffee and outdoor seating; there's often live music on the little plaza outside. If beer appeals more than coffee, Tory Row also has outdoor seating.
posted by rebekah at 7:14 AM on October 10, 2014

Not only Honk, but there is an Oktoberfest celebration in Harvard Square - several bars should have some outdoor drinking areas near the end of the parade route, so you should be able to grab a beer and watch the parade come in.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:23 AM on October 10, 2014

Here's an interactive map of Harvard.

Just strolling through Harvard Yard is a thing to do. Many classrooms are there and all the freshmen dorms so it is always full of activity. It might be worthwhile to stroll down to the river too see the upperclassmen Houses such as Lowell or Eliot. Just south of Adams House is the distinctive Harvard Lampoon building too.
posted by vacapinta at 7:26 AM on October 10, 2014

Yeah, the Au Bon Pain will also have people hanging around playing chess. Not like hustlers, like chess nerds from the universities. The quality of play will be very high if you're into that. If you're not it's worth getting a pastry and eavesdropping on their conversations. ("Our country's biggest weakness on the international stage is the total lack of a culture of youth chess instruction!")
posted by vogon_poet at 7:53 AM on October 10, 2014

If you are going all the way over to Natural History museum at Harvard, stop by the giant glass building just to its left (Northwest Labs). You can see two spectacular whale skeletons hanging from the ceilings if you peek through the windows. The building is likely closed on the weekend, but if there's a security guard there, they might let you come inside the foyer to get a better look.
posted by synapse at 8:07 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

77 Mass Ave front steps (buy food from a food truck and just sit there a while, maybe).

This is a super-specific un-recommendation, but if you see a Chinese food truck (that incongruously shares space with a falafel food truck) roughly in front of 50 Mass Ave during lunch hours, do not go there; the food is not good. I would recommend the food trucks around Kendall Square instead.
posted by andrewesque at 9:35 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

So many good suggestions above - it's making me feel homesick for Cambridge.

My favorite Boston Sunday thing to do was to walk from Porter square (where I lived) through Harvard square, down Central Ave all the way to MIT, then over the bridge and to Boston Commons, eat in Chinatown, and wrap up with a movie on the big screen there. Not for the easily tired out!

Also, Davis square had the best coffee shops and the best brunch pancakes. Harvard square is still worth it for the book stores.

Walk everywhere. Much of Boston is very walkable, and it's much easier to walk and take the T than to drive.
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:45 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Architectural tour in Cambridge of the Harvard & MIT area to see the modernist buildings. 20+ buildings, all designed and built within a 30-year period, from late 1940s to 1970s. The architects include Walter Gropius, Josep Lluis Sert, Le Corbusier, Eero Saarinen, IM Pei, just to name a few.
posted by Gungho at 10:09 AM on October 10, 2014

The BAA Half Marathon is on Sunday in Franklin Park over near JP, you could totally watch then do a Sam Adams brewery tour.
posted by floweredfish at 2:07 PM on October 10, 2014

I'm a current student at Harvard and can take you to some neat places that need a student ID to access - feel free to MeMail me if interested. [This offer is good to anyone who sees this before I graduate May 2015!]
posted by estlin at 3:15 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a certain bias, but the decorative bookbinding exhibition we have up right now at Houghton Library at Harvard is very beautiful and open to absolutely anyone for free. FYI, we're open 9-5 Saturday but closed Sunday.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:16 PM on October 10, 2014

Seconding the Harvard Natural History Museum: coelacanth for the win!

Also, Cardullo's in Harvard Square, for your imported tea, candy, and chocolate fix.
posted by MrBobinski at 6:25 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Cardullo's is still there? Oh man. I've had several heavenly experiences there (and one terrible one - check expiration dates!).
posted by RedOrGreen at 6:37 PM on October 10, 2014

I always enjoyed walking along the Charles River, which you could easily access from either the MIT or the Harvard campuses. (You could technically walk between the two campuses along the river, but it's a solid 2 mi one-way.)

I also was a big fan of kayaking on the Charles and the kayak rental business now has a location at Kendall Sq. As the Charles River is calm, no kayaking experience is necessary, although it might be a bit chilly now out on the water.

I'd nth the Harvard Natural History Museum and agree that the Au Bon Pain that otio mentioned would be the prime spot for people watching (as featured in Good Will Hunting).

Re Boston, I think hitting up some of the following would give you a good feel for the city: Boston Commons, North End, Newbury St, Fenway Park (ideally a game, but their season's over, so you might have to make do with a tour).
posted by comradechu at 8:39 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older Where can I buy a lightbox in NYC or...   |   Tax question - how do I (or do I) pay tax on a... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.