Love that dirty water ...
January 11, 2007 11:15 AM   Subscribe

First time in Boston ... there's

I have a job interview in Boston, most likely Fri. January 26. It will take up a good portion of that day, and is at an office on the waterfront. It will not be my first time in Boston by a long shot - I went to college there and lived there post-college. I will, however, be taking my girlfriend along and she has never been there.

What would be a good way to get someone a real feel for Boston within the time constraints of basically 2 whole days and 2 half-days? My girlfriend is from Atlanta, currently lives in Philly, and is considering (if I get this job) moving to Boston with me. She is interested in seeing touristy things as well as more small-scale exploration of viable potential neighborhoods to live in. (My speed is more Jamaica Plain and Somerville as I can neither afford nor abide the Back Bay and Beacon Hill neighborhoods and types.)

Another key aspect of this trip is to demonstrate to my girlfriend that Boston is not nearly as ghetto as Philadelphia (ie, you can actually take the subway everywhere and not necessarily fear being murdered; fewer homeless on the streets; a viable economy; etc.). Without making this a debate over the qualities of Philly v. Boston (I love them both!), or a liberal hijacking on the meaning of the word "ghetto," some suggestions to that end would also be appreciated.

Thanks in advance, I know it's vague but it leaves more room for a wider variety of suggestions.
posted by LilBucner to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'd say visit Davis Square in Somerville, wander neighborhoods in Cambridge and along that end of the Red Line - if you're going to live near there, show off what the area has to offer. Food, ice cream shops, what have you. Take her to some of the musems, take her down-town.
posted by canine epigram at 11:18 AM on January 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Early American history may be a little too ordinary for someone from Philadelphia, but when I visited Boston, I enjoyed walking on the "Freedom Trail." It's a great introduction to the city.
posted by muddgirl at 11:20 AM on January 11, 2007

I live in Boston now, I grew up in LA. I came out here for a job. I had a job interview for an entire day, and then had one day to check out the city. One of my (now) co-workers picked me up at my hotel and took the bus with me to Newbury street, and we went to Newbury comics. Then I had breakfast and read at the Trident bookstore, meandered down Newbury street to the public garden, walked through the common, then checked out Downtown Crossing. By then I was sold on Boston.

Getting on the train at Park street (now it seems like a weird, grimy station, but at the time it was very charming) and then seeing the view over the bridge between the MGH stop and Kendall on my way back to my hotel was an awesome little kicker.

I don't know if you have control over where you stay, but I think staying in a hotel that's in a cool area and/or near where you imagine you'd live would be a good idea.
posted by pazazygeek at 11:25 AM on January 11, 2007

Having just moved from Boston to Atlanta let me offer some thoughts:

- Boston is a great walking city. I lived there for 8 yrs and never owned a car. You can easily get from neighborhood to neighborhood on foot or by train. I now drive everywhere and really don't care for it. You lose touch with where you are when you're not out and about walking through it. There’s great greenspace (Emerald Necklace in Brookline and Jamaica Plain).

- The neighborhoods. Living in Atlanta what I miss most of all about Boston is the direct sense of being in a neighborhood. There are some great neighborhoods here, but they're far apart from one another and lack a cohesive feel. Each neighborhood is Boston is like a town in of itself. The accents even change depending on where you are.

- Tons to do. Whether music, museums, history, shopping, sports, movies, socializing etc… There’s a little bit of something for everyone. The plethora of colleges keep it lively.

- I’m a woman and while there are definitely some sections of Boston (we’re talking certain sections of Roxbury, Dorchester) I wouldn’t be comfortable in at night by myself there were plenty of places I did feel safe in. I always felt very self-sufficient.

- Boston does have a thriving homeless population, but I have been completely blown away by how aggressive the homeless are in Atlanta in comparison. I also believe Boston has a much better system (if you can call it that) of dealing/caring for the homeless than Atlanta does.

It’s a great little city. There is so much to love about it. Plus, Philly, New York, Canada, the Cape are all conveniently close.
posted by Constant Reader at 11:42 AM on January 11, 2007

If you like walking, start at Davis Square in Somerville, walk to Porter then up Mass Ave to Harvard, through Central, past MIT, across the Mass Ave bridge, hang a left on Newbury or Bolyston, keep going to Tremont and then Park/Downtown Crossing, end up either at North End / Faneuil Hall or Chinatown depending on what you prefer. Then take the T to Coolidge Corner, walk up Harvard St towards Allston/Brighton. End your day at the Super 88 food court.

You'll see a lot that way but not everything.
posted by neustile at 11:42 AM on January 11, 2007

Ooh, they just changed the fare structure on the T. Check out for the details. It's a little confusing but basically, if you are paying with cash or a CharlieTicket, it's $2/ride on the subway. If you use a CharlieCard (which is plastic and durable like a credit card) it's $1.70 /ride on the subway.

Also, you have to pay outbound on the green line streetbound stops now. Just as a heads-up; a lot of people didn't realize it last week when it first started up.

Touristy things: I am generally no good at this as I've lived here all my life, but my mom went on one of those duck tours when my grandparents came to visit and she said it was kind of fun - interesting, at the very least. The Freedom Trail also has guided tours, which I've done on field trips. They are really interesting and stop by a lot of Revolutionary-era sites. There is also Quincy Market but that is basically an outdoor shopping mall now; you'd see the same stores in any American mall.

I always like the Aquarium and the Museum of Science. They're not really Boston-specific but they are fun to do. And definitely go to Lansdowne St. so she can see Fenway Park!

As for neighborhoods - I live in Brighton over by BC now, which is OK but mostly apartment blocks. I used to live closer to Oak Square/Brighton center and I really liked it. Lots of trees, most of the apartments are in multi-families and on quiet streets. You also don't need a parking permit for most of Oak Square, either, and there is always plenty of parking. The main disadvantage is that the T doesn't go over there; you'd have to take a bus to get into the city.

Somerville has its nice parts too - friends of mine just bought a condo near Union Square and the square seems to have a lot of little shops and stuff like that. Someone mentioned Davis Square - that's a great place to hang out too. Central Square in Cambridge is a touch sketchy (waaay better than it used to be, though), but they have some great bars there, if you guys are into that kind of thing.
posted by sutel at 11:46 AM on January 11, 2007

Provided winter doesn't come roaring back with a vengeance (it's been incredibly mild so far), I'd take the Orange Line to Forest Hills, take a stroll through the Arboretum (the best spot in the city for a nature fix), then walk over to Centre St. to get a feel for JP if you're thinking about living there. It's simple, cheap, and would show off the many beauties and advantages of life in JP or Roslindale. Also, the Orange Line goes through some of the roughest neighborhoods in the city, but is not really sketchy or scary at all, so that might show her the relative safety of Boston. Good luck.
posted by otio at 11:52 AM on January 11, 2007

Warning, it is freaking cooooold (finally) right now in Boston. Being heavy on the walking may turn her off. Do things that show you the city but keep you warm... like someone said, take the red line to Kendall so you go over the river (I love that view). Go to Newbury St where you can go in and out of stores, restaurants, and cafes frequently to stay warm. Same thing might work for the North End -- between the restaurants and pastry shops, you can dart in and out as needed. Aquarium of and MoS are good too. I hear the MFA is nice. If you have lots of money, take her to Top of the Hub for dinner and let her see the whole city -- gives you a sense of city size and layout, and being able to see things like Fenway Park, the Common, the river, and MIT from there show a few good examples of what the city has to offer.
posted by olinerd at 11:52 AM on January 11, 2007

If it's not too terribly freezing, go for a walk in the Public Garden and wander over to the Frog Pond on the Common. Although if it's not freezing, there may be no skating. I know you don't want Back Bay (neither do/would I), but I found myself walking down Marlborough the other night and it was pretty beautiful.

The South End is also a nice place to walk around, with good restaurants and the beautiful brownstones.

I second the view from the Red line as you cross the river. I love the quirky things about Boston: the Citgo sign, the lights that change at the top of the Pru, etc.

If you're on the waterfront, point out across the water and tell her there are excellent small islands out there that you can take the ferry to in the summer to picnic and/or camp.

As for Somerville--definitely Davis (coffee at Diesel maybe) and in JP go for a walk around the Pond. On second thought you could do a tour of squares from Davis to Porter and then Harvard and Central along the Red line. All have good stuff to offer and folks from elsewhere always enjoy seeing Harvard.
posted by jdl at 12:04 PM on January 11, 2007

Psst...olinerd is a's only 30F right now...still balmy :)

For something neat, check out the Charlestown Navy Yard. The USS Constitution is docked here and the Bunker Hill Memorial is close by. There also a neat little Revolutionary War museum that does live reenactments hourly. If it's a nice sunny day, you'll get fantastic views of the city from the docks.

Easiest way to get there is green or orange line to North Station. There's a free shuttle that comes every 15 minutes across the street that will take you there (the shuttle says Partners Healthcare).

Also, seconding the Arboretum and the view from the Red Line over the Charles.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 12:18 PM on January 11, 2007

neustile's route is perfect.
posted by danb at 12:20 PM on January 11, 2007

A agree with a lot of the previous suggestions, and I want to reiterate that if your girlfriend is not used to the coldcold weather, you should make sure you're not outside (walking or not) for any long strech of time - too much walking in the cold will turn most people off to the Boston area.

That said, to work off previous posters, I suggest you show her around via T, with heavy emphasis on the Red line.
Here are some concrete suggestions/possibilities:
-Go to Davis Square, which is probably close to the kind of rental price you'd be looking for, and maybe take in a movie at the Somerville Theater and/or grab some food at the Burren/Diva/Johnny's.
-Take her to Harvard Square, which is more bustling, and get hot chocolate at Burdick's or a margarita at Border Cafe.
-Go into town and show her Faneuil Hall and all the shops, then walk over to the North End for dinner or a pastry from Modern or Mike's.
-For museums, visit the aquarium. The penguins are so cute. For touristy things, it's this or the Museum of Science, which I also recommend, or the MFA. For an off-the-beaten-path-type museum, try Harvard's glass flower exhibit instead.

I don't think you could do all that in a weekend, and I suggest that you not attempt too much: have a morning activity, afternoon adventure, and dinner plans, and you'll find your day is very full.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 12:34 PM on January 11, 2007

This askmefi might give you ideas.
posted by Amizu at 12:42 PM on January 11, 2007

I live in Boston (well, near Davis, technically) and every time I have visitors who have never been to Boston and have a limited time in town I take them to two places: Harvard Square and Government Center/Quincy Market area. From there it's easy to walk to any number of excellent spots (North End for a long walk or food, Newbury street for window shopping, etc), or to catch the T to go home or explore a neighborhood further away. Walking these two areas, I think, gives a pretty good idea of Boston's history, attractiveness, and overall feel without completely exhausting yourself at the same time.
posted by AthenaPolias at 12:44 PM on January 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's goddamned cold in Boston right now! Bring mittens and a flask!

And I say this coming from the Buffalo area, where we laugh at the very notion of 'cold'.
posted by waxbanks at 1:22 PM on January 11, 2007

And it looks like you'll be a week late for a meet-up. Although, meeting some losers from the internet may not be the best way to sell someone on a new city.

If you come up to Davis, takes some time to stroll the surrounding areas. You can shave big bucks off your rent by moving into a place a few minutes walk away. My wife and I are next to Ball Square and love it.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:33 PM on January 11, 2007

You should eat at Durgin Park.
posted by koeselitz at 2:27 PM on January 11, 2007

if I had only a few hours in Boston I'd go see this and this
posted by matteo at 2:37 PM on January 11, 2007

Great place to stay: Sheraton Commander in Cambridge just minutes from Harvard Square. Fun dinner (if you like delicious barbeque): Redbones in Davis Square. Walking around Harvard Square and Harvard Yard. Fogg Museum at Harvard. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum near the Museum of Fine Arts. Harvard's Peabody Museum. Walking up and down Newbury St as mentioned above, and the Public Gardens. Walking around the Fresh Pond Reservoir in Cambridge, driving along Brattle Street near Harvard Square and seeing the beautiful homes. And most of the above are close to anywhere you might live in Somerville.
posted by madstop1 at 6:21 PM on January 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also, you have to pay outbound on the green line streetbound stops now.

That should be made unconstitutional.

Half Day #1: Faneuil Hall/Freedom Trail (Recommended Dining: Durgin Park or Union Oyster House)

Full Day #1: Back Bay (Recommended Dining: coffee and a pastry at the little cafe in the Boston Public Library)

Full Day #2:
Cambridge/Somerville (Recommended Required Dining: Redbones, Davis Sq.)

Half Day #2: Duck Tour/Aquarium (Recommended Dining: across from the Aquarium there's a Legal Seafood and another restaurant that is even better, but I can't remember it's name. Legal is more Boston-y though.)
posted by Rock Steady at 7:48 PM on January 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by schoolgirl report at 7:50 PM on January 11, 2007

2nding the mapparium. I grew up in Boston, moved to Philly three years ago, and finally went to the Mapparium last year. It was wikked awesome. If you are of the vegetarian persuasion, try out Veggie Planet in Harvard Square. If you're a little on the wild side, watch Rocky Horror at midnight (if you're there on a Saturday night) at the Church Street movie theater in Harvard Square.
posted by nursegracer at 9:00 PM on January 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Haven't been there yet, but Boston's newest museum is getting a lot of good press.
posted by barjo at 9:17 PM on January 11, 2007

The Make way for Ducklings statues in the Public Garden.
Herrell's ice cream in Harvard Square--grab a spot in the vault if you can.
If you like poetry, Longefellow's house in Cambridge.
posted by brujita at 9:38 PM on January 11, 2007

posted by brujita at 9:38 PM on January 11, 2007

The ICA downtown is worth a visit; it's Boston's first notable piece of architecture in a while and even if you dont like the building or the art on display there are great views out over the ocean. From the ICA it's a nice walk through a bit of downtown and into chinatown if it's not too cold out. I recommend Shabu-Zen and Peach Farm restaurants both on Tyler st. in the heart of china town.

I'll also add a list of random eating/drinking suggestions tending towards the 20/30 something crowd: Franklin Cafe (one of the best in the city), Delux Cafe, Miracle of Science, Middlesex for drinks, High Rise for sandwiches, Cuchi Cuchi for drinks (if you can stand the interior). Oh, and the MIT press bookstore if worth a stop esp. if you're into design, architecture, art, science, or math.
posted by bryanboyer at 11:45 PM on January 11, 2007

Seconding the Sheraton Commander. That's where my current company put me up and I really enjoyed it. It was uniquely Boston, right in Harvard Square, and exceptionally comfy.
posted by pazazygeek at 7:57 AM on January 12, 2007

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