Must-Do things in Boston?
November 14, 2006 4:12 PM   Subscribe

What things are MUST-DO in Boston after living here for two years?

I've lived in Boston for the past 2 years as a graduate student, and I am running out of things to do. Bostonians -- what activities do you think are a MUST do in the greater Boston area? What places/restaurants are MUST SEE? I am trying to widen my horizons but keep ending up back at the same old places (North End, People's Republik Boston Beer Works, MFA, etc.). I know that versions of this question have been asked before, but nothing quite answers this!

So what quirky stuff is out there???
posted by irisell to Grab Bag (35 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
The smartass answer is "Move somewhere better" but I wouldn't stoop to such comments.

If you haven't visited USS Constitution, you should do so. It's easy to get to and it's fascinating to see what a 200 year old fighting ship looks like.

Old Sturbridge Village is definitely worth an entire day. It's nice any time of the year, but it's spectacular in the autumn during foliage season.

Arnold Arboretum is gorgeous. (Last stop on the Orange Line southbound. Or you can take the Green Line E-train, also to the last stop, if you're leery of going through Roxbury.) For me the single coolest thing there was their collection of bonsai trees, some of which date back to the middle of the 19th century.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:22 PM on November 14, 2006

Don't waste your time with Martha's Vineyard; half of it is tourist hell and the rest is private estates. But Nantucket Island is great. And the ferry ride is lots of fun. (However, get reservations for the ferry weeks ahead.)

Do you have any interest in WWII-era warships? In Fall River there are three: USS Lionfish, a submarine, USS Joseph P. Kennedy, a destroyer, and USS Massachusetts, a battleship. You can't believe how huge the Massachusetts is. (But you can sleep on it.) And you can't believe how tiny the Lionfish is, considering it had a crew of 70.

Woods Hole is marvelous. That area is a wonderful one for vacations, and there's a really neat bikepath that borders the ocean.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:36 PM on November 14, 2006

Be sure to visit Plimouth Plantation, especially this time of year. Venture out to the Boston Harbor Islands. Take a day trip to the North Shore -- visit Marblehead and Salem. Check out the Mapparium at the Christian Science Center. Have a "New England" lunch or dinner at the Union Oyster House and/or Durgin Park. Take in some jazz at Wally's Cafe. Check out the Boston Ballet's production of the Nutcracker and the Boston Pops Holiday Pops (with special guests the 'Barenaked Ladies.') Have 'high tea' at the Ritz-Carlton one day and check out the chocolate buffet at the Cafe Fleuri in the Langham Hotel
posted by ericb at 4:46 PM on November 14, 2006

The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. The Sculpture Park at the DeCordova especially in the snow. A tour of the BPL, or at least a visit to the courtyard. The Boston Harbor Islands when it's nice out again. Ice Skating at the Frog Pond. A walk around Coolidge Corner to Brookline Booksmith, some good resturants and a matinee at the Coolidge. A show at the Middle East. The grilled cheese deluxe at Rachel's Kitchen. A walk along the Esplanade between Longfellow Bridge and Mass Ave... a walk over the Longfellow Bridge...
posted by FreezBoy at 4:53 PM on November 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

And in the dead of winter, get recharged by visiting the collection and indoor garden at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
posted by ericb at 5:01 PM on November 14, 2006

Check out the glass flowers at the Harvard Museum of Natural History.
posted by tentacle at 5:05 PM on November 14, 2006

I second the recommendation for the Arnold Arboretum.

At the restaurant Oleana in cambridge (Hampshire st), the head chef won the James Beard foundation's award for best new chef in the northeast. That was a couple years ago I think. (And getting a reservation is a good idea)

Go apple picking. The Acton area's a great place for this, but it might be a bit late already for this year.
posted by cotterpin at 5:10 PM on November 14, 2006

Another cool place to visit (hopefully not too geeky) is the Ether Dome at MGH, the site of the first surgery using a general anesthetic. (It's open unless there is a meeting scheduled there.) Walk under the seating gallery (which they had to re-size to accomodate today's bigger, taller folks) to read about the history of the dome and see some of the tables and implements in use at the time. If you've ever had surgery, you will emerge unutterably grateful that you live in this day and age.

Since a trip to the Ether Done is not exactly a day-long activity, afterwards take a walk up Charles Street for some fabulous Persian food at Lala Rokh.
posted by tentacle at 5:36 PM on November 14, 2006

New England (aka Boston) Aquarium
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (linked above)
Wally's (linked above)
Top of the Hub (skip the restaurant... the bar on the real top floor is the better deal)
New England Conservatory is always having free concerts
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:38 PM on November 14, 2006

Oh yeah, and here's one more little-known Boston-thing:

Every Wednesday (weather permitting) at the top of Boston University's College of Arts and Sciences, the Coit Observatory has open-telescopes for the public. There's the main telescope, which is very big and usually manned, but there are several 10-12" Schmidt-Cassegrain's on the roof as well, and anyone can use them. No college id required.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:42 PM on November 14, 2006

I lived exactly two years in Boston. It was a long time ago, so I can't tell you what's good there now, but I always wished I'd seen at least one Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins game.
posted by ardgedee at 6:02 PM on November 14, 2006

The Science Museum is pretty cool. They have one of the world's largest Van de Graaff generators there, capable of charging up 2 million volts. You can watch them produce 15-foot long arcs with it.

They also demonstrate Tesla coils.

And the Aquarium is fun.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:07 PM on November 14, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you for all of your ideas! Keep the ideas flying! I am excited to start trying all this stuff.
posted by irisell at 6:12 PM on November 14, 2006

It was sorta mentioned above, but you really should go camping on the Harbor Islands. Having a bonfire on the beach with the Boston skyline in the background makes for a pretty unique experience.
posted by Staggering Jack at 6:17 PM on November 14, 2006

You can take a ferry to P-town for the day (Provincetown).
Whale watch.
Get Tibetian food in Central Square.
Go to the Harvard Museums.
Go see the symphony rehearse.
Take one of the market shopping tours in the North End.
Go shopping in Chinatown for paper lanterns for Xmas and New Years.
Go to the pajama brunch at Tremont647.
Go to drage queen bingo at the Randolph Country club.
Research your roots at a great geneological society- NEGHS on Newbury St.
Go to the Four Season's for tea.
See some a live reggae show at the Western Front (I think Boston has best US reggae scene outside of Florida).
Take a couple sailing lessons.
Go see Lexingon or Concord.
Read Walden and visit it.
Did anyone mention skating on Frog Pond?
How about the swan boats?
You could go on a weekend (or even longer) Schooner trip up the Maine cost.
posted by beccaj at 6:33 PM on November 14, 2006

Eat at the Friendly Toast in Portsmouth, NH.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:40 PM on November 14, 2006

Some of these were already mentioned, but consider these strong seconds from my own experiences!

PLACES: House of the Seven Gables; deCordova Sculpture Museum; MIT Museum; Harbor Islands; Breakheart Reservation; Walden Pond; a tour at Deer Island (I'm serious);

RESTAURANTS: the new chocolate bar Thursday nights at Mariposa bakery in Cambridge; Macchu Picchu; Beard Papa; all the weird Japanese places in Porter Exchange; Moqueca; Magnolia's; Chili Duck; Kelly's Roast Beef on Revere Beach in the heat of summer; Christina's Homemade Ice Cream and the next door spice shop

I should probably stop here.
posted by whatzit at 6:42 PM on November 14, 2006

Oh yeah, and have you been to Sound Bites in Somerville on Broadway? And how about a hot vanilla (specifically) at Tosci's once winter sets in?
posted by whatzit at 7:09 PM on November 14, 2006

I loved the Modern Art Museum, strangely enough -- I say strangely enough because I often don't care for modern art and went there based solely on the facts that it was 1.) near where I was staying and 2.) free. Their exhibits vary but the one I saw (a design-oriented one on portable furniture and such) was neat.
posted by dagnyscott at 7:11 PM on November 14, 2006

I would def go visit Bodega:

So hot and so fresh. It's amazing....
posted by deeman at 7:44 PM on November 14, 2006

No one mentioned candlepin bowling yet? Good. Go to Ron's Ice Cream & 20th Century Bowling. Get some ice cream. Bowl.

Also, I second taking a ferry to Provincetown.
posted by A dead Quaker at 8:20 PM on November 14, 2006

Cannoli at Mike's or Modern. Or both.
posted by Joe Invisible at 8:26 PM on November 14, 2006

... and the MIT museum.
posted by Joe Invisible at 8:28 PM on November 14, 2006

FYI, Modern Pastry makes a better cannoli, but if you want anything other than a cannoli, Mike's has everything. All the (authentic) Italian restaurants in the North End get their cannoli's from Modern.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:20 PM on November 14, 2006

...or 4AM cannolis and fresh bread at Bova's, the 24-hour bakery in the North End. Similarly, the South Street Diner's another one of the handful of places open 24 hours; good for a horribly greasy 4AM meal. Go drink hot chocolate at L.A. Burdick's. Go to the arboretum (mentioned several times above) in the autumn, and then again in the winter. Most of the museums mentioned above are well worth your time. Catch a show (or many shows) at the Middle East, TT the Bear's, or for smaller, odder bands yet, Great Scott. Go get all manner of fresh food at Haymarket.
posted by ubersturm at 9:38 PM on November 14, 2006

I saw this on today:

25 things to do in Boston for under $25.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 10:30 AM on November 15, 2006

Burdick's is justly famous for their chocolate, but don't pass up their chocolate truffles either; when you are at Porter Exchange, don't miss the Japanese bakery, which is really just a counter.
posted by of strange foe at 11:01 AM on November 15, 2006

Johnny's LJ & What's Happening around Massachusetts is a good weeklyish listing of quirky, cheap, and interesting stuff to do around Boston and New England. He's turned me on to quite a few things I would never have even thought of on my own. I think he also has a mailing list and other methods of distribution if LJ isn't your thing.
posted by jdunn_entropy at 2:47 PM on November 15, 2006

Whoops. Sorry for the double post. Looks like I knew the same thing under a different name.
posted by jdunn_entropy at 2:49 PM on November 15, 2006

Loved all of the above are some I haven't seen yet:

Cold tea (illegal afterhours beer) in Chinatown.
Martinis at the Oak Room.
Boston Tea Party Reenactment.
4th of July Pops concert at the hatch shell.
Harvard vs. Yale football game (this Saturday!).
St. Patrick's Day parade in Southie.
Rock concerts in Central Square
Little Joe Cook at the Cantab on Staurday nights

Walk around the scenic areas (Jamaica Pond, Harvard Arboretum, Mt. Auburn Cemetery), explore the neighborhoods (JP, Eastie), and take advantage of the universities and all of their museums, film fests, etc. Oh yeah, and definitely catch the Sox, the Celts, and the Bruins, at least once.
posted by emd3737 at 3:39 PM on November 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Already there are some great suggestions; here's my additions:
I second Burdick's, and add a link and the suggestion that you try the hot chocolate.
If you have a car, head out to the Nashoba Valley Winery for a tasting and tour. If you want to eat at the restaurant, you have to make a reservation in advance.
When it's warm enough, take a Sunset Cruise around the harbor.
At the Milky Way, you can have some karaoke with your bowling.

Suggested Restaurants:
The Elephant Walk (pricey French/Cambodian)
Not Your Average Joe's (local chain with good affordable fare)
Ristorante Fiore (North End Italian food)
Redbones (Davis Sq. barbeque; I suggest the pulled pork)
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 2:07 PM on November 16, 2006

Oh, yeah, speaking of film: Between the Harvard Film Archive, The Brattle Theatre, The Coolidge Corner Theatre, and heck, The Kendall Theatre, you should be able to gorge on incredible cinema. Indie, cult, foreign, documentary, art, totally obscure - you'll find it at one of those theatres.
posted by ubersturm at 3:46 PM on November 16, 2006

Er, I b0rked the Coolidge link. Oops.
posted by ubersturm at 3:47 PM on November 16, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you all for all of your suggestions! They are much appreciated!
posted by irisell at 8:51 AM on November 25, 2006

« Older What is it about NW USA that makes it such a...   |   How can I teach my husband to be a man to the... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.