Short stay in Boston
February 17, 2015 4:25 AM   Subscribe

Where should an overseas college student looking to meet local students/fun people to hang out with stay in Boston?

I'm going for a conference in mid-March, and will be arriving a few days beforehand just to prepare myself as well as check out the sights. My stay is 8 nights total. I'll be visiting Harvard and MIT for sure, but I'd like to know if there are any specific places/hangouts/watering holes I should visit, or good, safe areas within Boston to book an Airbnb so I can specifically be surrounded by fun people. Not sure if this question is too vague or not - I haven't traveled much and when I do I'm usually with friends! Since I'm flying solo this time I'd like to get out a bit more socially. FWIW I'm F, mid-20s from Australia, pretty chill, love making friends, love my gigs and museums, and (platonically) shooting the breeze over drinks. :)
posted by cucumber patch to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Be aware that the MBTA (subway, buses, and trains) will probably still have "limited" service in mid-March.
You should factor that in to your plans.
posted by jozxyqk at 4:51 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you're looking for other people to hang out with, then hostels are usually your best bet.

The areas where you'll find the most fun young people are Allston (more undergrads though), Cambridge/Somerville (try the Davis and Central stops on the red line), Jamaica Plain, and Mission Hill.

All these areas are full of bars, coffee shops, etc. Bostonians are nowhere near as friendly as Aussies, but if you're outgoing and start conversations, you'll do ok, and probably a lot of people will be intrigued by your accent.
posted by lunasol at 5:00 AM on February 17, 2015

You might consider AirBnB-ing it near Harvard Square or Davis Square. Both have Red Line stops and are pedestrian-friendly with lots of collegey people and things to do. Harvard Square has more stuff, but Davis is less clogged with tourists. Central is a little sketchier - it's fine but not the kind of place I'd recommend socializing with strangers.

There's a good number of meetup-friendly Mefites in the Boston/Cambridge/Somerville area, and we regularly do trivia at a bar near Davis. Call a meetup and you'll likely get a good response. (Bring Tim Tams.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:11 AM on February 17, 2015

Boston is the Ultimate College Town, so it's pretty hard to get wrong. So you know, Boston Proper is home to Boston University, Northeastern, Boston College, Emerson and a million other schools. Cambridge (across the Charles River) is home to Harvard and MIT and a million more other schools. They're two separate cities.

If you want to stay in a safe and lively area, you need to decide first if you want to be in Boston Proper or across the river in Cambridge. In Cambridge (and its cooler, younger and funkier sister, Somerville) I recommend looking for a place in Harvard Square (Cambridge) or Davis Square (Somerville). They're both well-populated, safe and filled with lots of great places to see people. Central Square is between Harvard and MIT and it's sketchy.

If you want to stay in Boston Proper, you should consider Fenway or Back Bay, two neighboring areas in the City. These are the areas where students and professionals work, live and hang out. There's the South End, Southie (not the same place), North End, Jamaica Plain, Brookline and more Boston neighborhoods, but those are further removed from the center of the city.

Downtown Boston itself and Faneuil Hall have fun places to visit (and I advise doing the Museum of Fine Arts, the North End, Chinatown, Aquarium, all that stuff) but they're active during the day and shut down at night.

Boston is a really small city; so don't stress that if you're staying in Harvard Square you'll never get to see Boston.You will. It's a short walk over the Harvard Bridge from MIT to the Back Bay.
posted by kinetic at 5:11 AM on February 17, 2015

I would echo what other people have mentioned about Cambridge/Somerville (Cambieville), JP, and Allston (I probably prefer them in that order). What kind of stuff are you into?

For gigs (as well as films and other art stuff), I think a great resource is They usually have one or more shows a day, and on the weekend, it can bump up to like five or more. A lot of the shows on there on more undergroundish - punk, electronic, sofa folk, shnazz like that. You'll also see a link for Boston Compass, which is like a newspaper zine which has a rundown of all the events going down in the Boston area, including film showings, art exhibits, and other interesting happenings.

I know mostly about Cambridge and Somerville (I live here!). In terms of individual spots, I think good places to meet and interact with interesting people are the Cantab Lounge (bluegrass on Tuesday!, spoken word poetry on Wednesday, other stuff on other nights) and Middle East/Zuzu's (Soulelujah every Saturday - amazing dance party with R&B, soul, funk, etc.) - both are in Central. Inman Square in Somerville is also cool, and there's a spot there called Lilypad that sometimes has shows and events. Aeronaut Brewery in Somerville also has a lot of cool stuff going on (art shows, projector parties, brass band concerts), plus great beer. I think peeps there are usually down and friendly. I also like Wally's in downtown Boston - sweet jazz place. Finally, Cambridge/Somerville have a lot of kickass coffee shops and bakeries (Flour, Petsi Pies, Voltage, Sofra, 1369, Diesel), though people typically just work on their laptops.

There's also a thing called GroupMuse, where people host classic concerts in their houses: I've never gone, but I've heard great things.

Lastly, have you considered couchsurfing? I feel like that's a great way to infiltrate life and find homies. Plus, Boston has mad (i.e., many) couchsurfing hosts.
posted by mrmanvir at 5:38 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think it depends what kind of vibe you're looking for. I'm going to massively stereotype everything here, but bear with me.

Kenmore/Fenway is near Boston University, which has a more bro-college population. More sports bars, close to Fenway Park (too early for baseball in March, though), closer to some of the more traditionally touristy things in the city. Some shopping nearby if you want that, including ritzy Newbury Street. The Paradise rock club is nearby, and some bigger venues are easy to get to (House of Blues in Fenway and the downtown clubs). There are also some dives and restaurants on Boylston Street that are heavily frequented by BU and MIT students.

Harvard has, well, Harvard University. I wouldn't call the students there any more refined than BU, but the neighborhood definitely feels more high class. Some great (pricey) restaurants and cocktail bars. The Harvard Museums just reopened, but I haven't been yet. Pretty easy to get to anything in Cambridge or Somerville from here. A couple of music venues (The Sinclair for more traditional rock shows, Club Passim for folky/hippy stuff). Harvard is also an easy walk to Central Square which has some quirkier bars and a few more music places like the Middle East.

Davis Square is a bit further out and has Tufts University. More of a hipster vibe, definitely few to no tourists out this far. Tufts students are mostly inoffensive. Restaurants and bars are good; not quite as expensive as Harvard, a little more upscale than Kenmore for the most part. One real dive bar (Sligo), and the rest of the square is mostly hipster joints with a couple holdouts from decades past when it used to be a really blue collar neighborhood. A couple of music venues - Johnny D's is a lot of blues/soul/funk, the Somerville Theater occasionally has larger shows, and the Davis Square Theater infrequently has live music.

I wouldn't worry too much about picking the right neighborhood, but I would be aware of how the public transit system is set up. The T is a hub-and-spoke system, so all the subway lines feed into downtown only. To get from, say, Kenmore to Harvard via subway you have to take the Green Line all the way in to downtown and then take the Red Line back outbound to Cambridge. There is a decent bus network, but due to the seven feet of snow on the ground right now it's been unreliable at best. I would probably pick a subway line to be on (based on wherever your conference is going to be) and then choose a neighborhood from there.

And call a meetup! Most of the Boston regulars live in the Cambridge/Somerville area, but we'll cross the river if we have to.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:50 AM on February 17, 2015

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the HI Boston hostel, which is right in the middle of Chinatown/the Theater District, yet. It puts you right near Boston Common and within walking distance to three of the four T lines downtown. It's near Suffolk/Emerson/downtown colleges and has its own built-in hostel socializing opportunities. The area can feel a little sketchy late at night if you're not comfortable being alone in a city, but I worked nearby for a summer and never had any trouble.
posted by nonane at 6:31 AM on February 17, 2015

Davis Square has a hostel - if you are looking for a mellow vibe stay there. The hostel in Chinatown won't be mellow, but could be a lot of fun and a lot more activity. I worry a little bit about you going to bars by yourself, as given your age group and being female guys will aggressively try to pick you up, and get your drunk to take you home. So be forewarned if that's not what your interested in that a bar might not be the right spot to meet friendly strangers in Boston.
posted by Toddles at 6:52 AM on February 17, 2015

Also do you know about couch surfing? Might be best option for finding like-minded folks to hang out with, even if you plan to stay at a hostel.
posted by Toddles at 6:53 AM on February 17, 2015

There will be piles of snow everywhere.

Still, consider walking the Freedom Trail, at least partially, as an intro to historic/revolutionary Boston; it takes you to a bunch of places across downtown, many of which have small museums.

The Aquarium is nice.

If you're interested in American sports, you could try to see the Celtics (basketball) or Bruins (hockey). They also offer tours of Fenway Park, even in the off-season.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 11:04 AM on February 17, 2015

not sure if you're athletic (not that you have to be to enjoy it) but is this funnest group around.
posted by le_salvo at 8:50 PM on February 17, 2015

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