Help me geek out in Cambridge, MA
July 16, 2006 1:16 AM   Subscribe

I'm scheduled to be in Cambridge, MA from August 1-4 for a training class, and I'm looking for geek/tech-oriented ways to pass my downtime.

Basically, I'll have the afternoon/evening of the 1st and each night (post-5pm) thereafter free, and I'll probably be staying at one of two hotels near the Cambridgeside Galleria if that helps geographically. I'm not opposed to walking or MBTA, though I'd rather not go miles and miles from that general area. I would assume that with MIT within walking distance, there'd have to be something to occupy myself with, but I have no clue where to start.

As an aside, (since I'm not sure that it merits a separate MeTa meetup post about it) would anyone have an interest in getting together for food/drinks sometime during the visit, or showing a random stranger around the area?
posted by sysinfo to Travel & Transportation around Cambridge, MA (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
MIT is a long walk from Harvard Square. I did it. It took about an hour. I made the mistake of confusing T stops with London Tube stops in distance. They're quite a bit further, and well worth the $1.25.
posted by tommorris at 2:25 AM on July 16, 2006

The Galleria is in East Cambridge. Within 1 mile of Tech Square. (T- Stop) So really not near anything techy-cool since IMHO most of that stuff is about another mile further towards Central Square.(T-stop). The MIT Museum is there. Since this is MIT there ain't a lot to do at night...So do what the rest of the world does when it comes to Cambridge. Eat at Mary Chung's, check out the music at The Middle East (or eat there too), TT The Bears, and the several other music spots in Central Square.
posted by Gungho at 4:50 AM on July 16, 2006

MIT is not a long walk from the Cambridgeside Galleria, though. Well, not all that long. I recommend seeing the Stata Center on Vasser Street, for an object lesson in the dangers of architect vanity. (In this case, it's Ghery.)

Part-way across the river from the Galleria is the Museum of Science, which is good, even if not the best of its kind. It has apparently absorbed part of the former Computer Museum.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:55 AM on July 16, 2006

I've never been but TOMB is a neat sounding live-action game/theater experience that I have heard very good things about that appeals to my inner (and outer, for that matter) geek. It's certainly not walking distance, but it's probably only a 15-20 minute T ride, depending on how long you have to wait for a D train.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:13 AM on July 16, 2006

Walking to MIT is no problem from the Galleria. Definitely hit the MIT Museum.

If you're up for a movie, the Landmark Theater at Kendall Square is convenient and generally has cool -- and possibily geeky -- stuff showing. Up the road a ways from there is the Garment District, a rather big thrift store.

Oh, and you might want to have dinner at Helmand right next to the Galleria. Great Afghanistani food.
posted by schoolgirl report at 5:22 AM on July 16, 2006

A couple of events going on during that time:

the highlights of the MIT Museum's old hacks exhibit have been moved to the Stata Center (we're still moving a couple more in), so definitely check it out.

the Broad (rhymes with load) Institute's Midsummer Night of Science lectures, with one on genomics and medicine on Aug 1 (near Kendall Square, free but registration requested).

Tech Model Railroad club meeting August 2: the birth of the modern hacking vocabulary happened here, and they've got a great railroad layout to boot (first floor of the MIT Museum building, free)

the MIT Anime Club has a showing scheduled on August 4.

maybe a bit of an offbeat suggestion, but you could personally contribute to science by signing up to be a vision or brain and cog sci experimental subject: most of the listed experiments have fairly flexible scheduling and pay $5-10.

MIT Events calendar
posted by nonane at 6:12 AM on July 16, 2006

There's no reason to limit yourself to that area - it's not far from Harvard Square or Boston itself on the T. There's always lots happening in both areas.
posted by kdern at 7:06 AM on July 16, 2006

Sadly, you will miss swapfest which is maybe one of the geekiest things you could possibly attend.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 7:36 AM on July 16, 2006

Other fun things to do: walk through the infinite corridor - there are always lots of activities posted there (ask anyone on the MIT campus where it is), including ballroom dancing, etc. Visit the media lab - best if you can get in and walk around or get someone to tell you about what they are doing. For less geeky but equal fun, be sure to check out the music playing at the middle east (one of the early nirvana venues). And to potentially meet lots of geeky grad students, have a burger at the Miracle Of Science Bar & Grill at 321 Massachusetts Ave. Check out this wikipedia post for more on the area you are going.

Also check the harvard website for fun events like this "star party" that the harvard smithsonian center for astrophysics is putting on on 8/4. The harvar gazette is a good place to start.
posted by zia at 8:21 AM on July 16, 2006

Every night at 8:00 pm during your stay there is a performance of The Taming of the Shrew on the Boston Common. The Commonwealth Shakespeare Company puts on a huge production each summer. I haven't seen this one yet, but in the past they've been great and well worth seeing.

Head from your hotel to the Kendall/MIT Red Line stop (about a half mile), head inbound to the Park Street stop, exit the station and head out onto the Common.
posted by Chanther at 8:31 AM on July 16, 2006

For geek stuff: definitely check out the Tech Model Railroad club. You might want to check out MITERS next door, in case anyone is working on a project currently. MITSFS has the largest open-shelf sci fi/fantasy collection outside of the Library of Congress. Parties tend to be private and unadvertised [except on the appropriate email lists], unfortunately, but check out posters - there certainly is stuff going on [many undergrads stay the whole summer, so campus is not empty], though it may be a little more low-key.

The Thirsty Ear and the Muddy Charles are the two main pubs on campus, though there's a new one in 32 [er, the Stata building] called the R & D pub. You'll probably see mostly grad students and postdocs in the pubs.

And yeah, don't be afraid to take the T. The Lechmere stop [Green Line] is right down the street from the Cambridgeside Galleria, and the Kendall/MIT T Stop [Red Line] is right by MIT; get a map of the T and it shouldn't be too hard to figure out, since there are only four lines. [Don't expect the map to bear any resemblance to the actual relative phsyical locations of the T stops, though.] Boston and Cambridge are pretty compact, as cities go - everything's walkable, fairly easily. [I wouldn't call the walk to Harvard very bad, for example - 20-25 minutes, unless you're going particularly slowly.] Pandemonium Books is a cool sci fi/fantasy store that also has games, small-press titles, etc., and there's a lot of interesting ethnic food in the Central Square area. The Kendall Theatre (indie movies), Helmand (Afghan food), the Middle East & TT the Bear's (music), the MIT Museum (geeky art and science/MIT stuff), people-watching in Harvard Square or the Boston Commons... All these are worthwhile too.
posted by ubersturm at 10:36 AM on July 16, 2006

Keep an eye on Boston Tech Events at also stuff going on at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society...
posted by tpl1212 at 6:27 AM on July 17, 2006

Not exactly on target, but 2nd St. Cafe is a great lunch spot near your hotel.
posted by gregchttm at 8:44 AM on July 17, 2006

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