What's there to do in Boston, anyway?
November 24, 2007 12:24 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to kill a cold Monday in Boston?

I'm a grad student flying in this Monday for a conference, and I'll have all afternoon and evening to get a taste of Boston.

I've already read the previous threads on boston + travel, but a lot of those suggestions (like the Freedom Trail) sound like they'd be pretty darn cold, especially since I've gotten used to balmy Houston weather this time of year.

Also, what are the quintessential Boston foods? Where are the famous places that I shouldn't leave without grabbing a bite at?

Are there any shows or special events in town that I shouldn't miss? MIT's calendar of events wasn't very helpful, and I couldn't find the one for Harvard students. Upcoming.org also didn't seem to have very much listed.

Relevant Info:
- I'll be staying near the Broad institute (MIT/Harvard area), but it looks like the train will get me just about anywhere I want to go.

- I'm a science and technology geek, so I love seeing museums or other cool educational or historic sites. I'm already planning on dropping into the MIT Museum, but that doesn't take long, from what I've read.

- Again, bonus points for indoor activities, because it's cold and I'm a big wuss.
posted by chrisamiller to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (20 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
The best place to find a general calendar of events is the Boston Phoenix. Harvard events are listed in the Harvard Gazette.

The MFA, although it's not science or technology related, is a really good museum. The science museum has some material that's interesting to adults, but not a ginormous amount.

Quintessential Boston foods: chowder, maybe lobster rolls (I think they're kind of out of season now). Legal Seafood is reliable, although I'm sure there must be better non-chain restaurants out there that I don't know about.
posted by phoenixy at 12:44 PM on November 24, 2007

Best answer: Don't miss Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. Short walk from the Harvard Square red line T stop. You won't regret it.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 12:48 PM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

New York native, but Boston is one of the coolest places that aren't New York. There are literally so many things to do that it is a pity that you only have one afternoon of free time. What I'd do if I had only an afternoon.

Peabody museum at Harvard. you can lose a few days there. Truly amazing.

JFK Library

Paul Revere's house - even if you don't like historic houses (most are cheesy) this is very interesting.

Not to be obnoxious, and I understand you already stated you are a cold weather wuss, but it won't be *that* cold on Monday. You could bring a coat and walk around - you'll be fine, and it is a great city to walk around in. True it's colder than Houston, but it ain't Fairbanks Alaska either. You might get there and say, WTF I'll brave it!
posted by xetere at 12:57 PM on November 24, 2007

Best answer: Museum of Science for your indoor geeking needs, and Faneuil Hall Marketplace for yummy eats, shopping and historic sightseeing.
posted by Koko at 1:01 PM on November 24, 2007

I'm going on a family vacation for Yule up to Boston, Wellesley (where my grandmother lives), and New Hampshire for skiing. And we were looking for some stuff to do in Boston as well so this has been very helpful. I grew up in CT so I can't wait to see snow again. I'm in Florida now so it's been like 4 or 5 years. Have fun up north!
posted by purelibertine at 1:05 PM on November 24, 2007

. . . just make sure any of the museums mentioned above are open -- most museums are closed on Monday.

Seconding that it's a great city to walk around -- and once you get moving, you won't feel so cold and if you do feel cold it's a great excuse to duck into a coffee shop or bar/restaurant (I know I've mentioned Jacob Wirth's before, but it grows rosier as it becomes more of a memory).

If I were in Cambridge/Boston, I'd take the red line to Arlington, get out at walk down Newbury and check out the Boston Public Librar, Copley Plaza, that cool church (Trinity?) and then walk back up towards the Garden and Common on a parallel street (can't remember the names) then I'd head up towards the state house and then down to the water through downtown -- check out downtown crossing, the horror that is City Hall, Faneuil Hall, head over to the Aquarium, walk along the water etc. At some point you can pick up the green line back to the red line . . .

I know this is a bit vague, and I am doing it from memory, but it's a pretty small city and I bet you can get the gist of what I am saying if you look at a map.

I bet you're going to be spending quite a bit of time inside with whatever brings you to the area so think of it as your chance to embrace the cold and enjoy.
posted by nnk at 1:37 PM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

You're right that the MIT museum doesn't take too long, but you definitely ought to go - fascinating stuff. Tough thinking of other stuff, though, as most of what i love about Boston is walking the city. My personal favorite thing is the Sam Adams brewery tour, but it's not offered Mondays.

The one thing you must do, IMHO, is to eat some pizza at Pizzeria Regina. So great, especially on a cold day. You can take a cab, but it's not hard to find on foot, and walking has the bonus of seeing the character of the (italian) north side in all its glory. You can take the T in from cambridge easily - it's not a bad walk from the Park Street station on the Red line.
posted by ncc1701d at 1:54 PM on November 24, 2007

x2 on the above suggestions for the Cambridge side. For Boston, the Mapparium is something you wont see anywhere else, and it is a reasonable walk from the equally unique Gardner Museum.

It may be on the chilly side for you compared to Houston, but Boston is a great walking city (though very easy to get lost in). Wear a coat and hat and have fun.
posted by quarterframer at 2:14 PM on November 24, 2007

Re: the Gardner Museum (Isabella Stewart Gardner) -- if you're going to be in the area for more than Monday, try to get over there -- even if only for an excellent lunch at the cafe and some time enjoying the oasis of the inner courtyard. It's a special place.
posted by nnk at 2:24 PM on November 24, 2007

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is really unique, the benefactor-ess was an amazing character and when she donated all her art she specified that nothing could be moved. Wonderfully eclectic! Much smaller but right downtown is the BOSTON ATHENÆUM, one of the first libraries in the US.
posted by sammyo at 2:27 PM on November 24, 2007

If your into the TV science and technology, but at the Boston Museum of Science they have a CSI: The Experience which Ive heard is really interesting, I haven't made it over there yet.
posted by lilkeith07 at 2:45 PM on November 24, 2007

the mapparium is pretty awesome. for the acoustics more than anything else.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:15 PM on November 24, 2007

Nthing the MIT museum. I also like the aquarium. You may also want to look at events for other Boston area colleges (BU, Emerson, Berkeley College of Music, etc) I get e-mails periodically about arts stuff at MIT. Here are the events for Monday:
November 26
AKPIA@MIT Lecture. Antiquarianism and Connoisseurship in 19th century Cairo:
Some Reconsiderations?
5:30pm-7:30pm, 3-133

November 26
Visual Arts Program's Monday Nights@VAP Program: "Stitching
Communities"--Fashion designer Carla Fernandez.
7:00pm-9:00pm, N51-337
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 5:17 PM on November 24, 2007

Adding my vote to the Gardner (although Mondays are bad for 'seums, not sure about the Gardner). Furthering Sammyo's point that "she specified that nothing could be moved", this even holds through when things got stolen - the empty frames the paintings were cut from remain as they were. It's a cool museum. A gem.

But really, the reason I came in here was to encourage you to find a nice pub. The Gardner is not far from both the Brendan Behan and Doyle's. Either one would be a fair way to wrap up (or begin) your afternoon. Doyle's even has good food.

I haven't lived in Boston for some years but I understand that the area around both of these places has grown to be quite nice for the arty/shoppy type stuff, if that's your thing.
posted by dirtdirt at 5:47 PM on November 24, 2007

Best answer: Hey, kuujjuarapik, the Harvard MCZ is a research facility and not open to the public.

I think you might mean the Harvard Museum of Natural History, home of the badass glass flowers. It's open seven days a week!
posted by weatherworn at 8:08 PM on November 24, 2007

ice skate on the common

go to a large bookstore (there's one on newbury street, i think). grab a book you're interested in. find the cafe. acquire caffeinated beverage of choice. find the book browsing section, preferably the one with the fireplace. lounge.
posted by lunit at 9:37 PM on November 24, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for some great suggestions. One thing is clear - I'm going to have to make it back to Boston when I have more time.

I'm thinking I'll check out the MIT museum and the Harvard Museum of Natural History (which seems to include the Museum of Comparative Zoology, FWIW). Then, I'll head down towards Faneuil Hall Marketplace and see what I have time to do in that area.

Also thanks to xetere, for pointing out that it's not going to be as cold as I had feared. I was in St. Louis for thanksgiving and figured with highs in the 30's there, it would be even worse in Boston. Looks like it will be fairly mild, so hooray for that!
posted by chrisamiller at 12:04 AM on November 25, 2007

traditional boston food - go get a roast beef sandwich with sauce.

after your museum hopping week shake your booty at middlesex lounge in cambrige
posted by fumbducker at 8:23 PM on November 25, 2007

If you've got any more room in your schedule:

Another Harvard museum (I've checked, it's open on Monday): the Collection of Historical Scientific Implements—so much old technogeekery.

Some Harvard Square shops that are cool:
Million Year Picnic
(comic book store)
Harvard Book Store (independent bookstore; it's my favorite, and shouldn't be confused with the Coop, the University bookstore)
The Grolier Poetry Bookshop (all poetry all the time!)

There are a lot more places I could point you, but it sounds like you've got limited time. If you go through Harvard Yard, don't touch the John Harvard statue. Trust me, you wouldn't want to—it's gross.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:38 PM on November 25, 2007

If you're likely to be able to wrangle a handful of fellow nerds, hit Pub Trivia. There's a bunch of locations throughout the greater Boston area tonight. I did trivia at Red Line (at Harvard Square) last Monday and it was good. Johnny D's (Davis Square) is a comfortable big place, too, but I've never been there for trivia.
posted by Plutor at 5:38 AM on November 26, 2007

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