Boston is a city that has a little bit of everything. It’s not too small and it’s not too large. It doesn’t have a lot of traffic. It’s not overpopulated and not underpopulated. It’s walkable. It’s clean. It’s quiet. It’s convenient.
Transportation. Transportation is easy. There’s the T which is the easiest way to get around. Although a little inconvenient at times, it transports you to the most popular destinations in the Boston/Cambridge area. There’s Hubway (a bike sharing system) that you can use when the weather is friendly (a student membership is cheap). There’s Uber, Lyft and Fasten (which apparently is becoming popular) that can take you where you need to be quickly and efficiently. If you like to walk, then you can make it to Boston’s Backbay area in about 20 min and to the North End and back in less than 2 hours if you wanted to.
Running and Sports. Boston is a healthy city. I can assure you that when the weather is nice, you’ll almost certainly see people of all ages running along the Charles River. People love to run here. It really is motivating. Even when it snows, you’ll find that there are a lot of people that stick to their routine. If you want to run, I would start with running along the Boston side of the Charles River. It’s scenic and it’s always entertaining.
Boston is the ideal sports town with a lot of good teams: The Patriots (American Football), The Red Sox (baseball), The Bruins (hockey), The Celtics (basketball) and more… Go watch their games when you get a chance. MIT also has plenty of intramural teams to keep you busy throughout the year.
Nightlife. If you’re into nightlife, I’ll tell you why this is a great city for that. There are no absurdly long lines. You can bar hop and not worry about cover charges, although there are a few spots in the Downtown area that charge $10-$15 if you’re not on the guest list. That can easily be avoided. The chill lounge bars are mainly in the Backbay area and the rowdy bars are in the Downtown area. Be advised.
A few good spots in:
Backbay: Lolita, Yvonne’s, Sonsie, Minibar, The Brahmin
Downtown: Tunnel, Bijou, Cure, Emerald Lounge, Liberty Hotel (Great Saturday night spot, close to MIT)
Seaport: The Seaport area has some really neat spots in the summer which I highly recommend: Committee, Empire, Drink, The Envoy hotel, Legal Harborside.
South End: If you’re into Jazz, there are two good spots that I recommend: Wally’s, The Beehive. Both are in the South End part of Boston. There’s also Toro which is a good Tapas place. Arrive early or you’ll have to wait a long time to get a seat.
Food. There are lots of great places to wine and dine in Boston.
Breakfast: For a quick bite: Flour Café, Tatte Bakery, Au Bon Pain or Rebecca’s Café.
For a sit down breakfast and brunch on the weekend: The Taj Hotel, The Four Seasons, Parish Café, Stephanie’s at Newbury and Cafeteria. I wouldn’t do this every weekend.
Healthy-ish fast food: Clover, Sweetgreen, Bailey & Sage
Dinner: Select Oyster Bar, Neptune Oyster, Luke’s Lobster for good seafood. Chinatown has some incredible spots that are also affordable. Two that I would recommend are: Shojo and Penang. The North End has some good Italian restaurants. Although, I usually go there for a late pastry and coffee. I would try Fiore ($$$) or Quattro ($$). There is also the Boston Public Market which has some exceptional local selections and Quincy Market which has some tasty restaurants.
Entertainment. The Museum of Science (MIT students enter for free), The Museum of Fine Arts, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, New England Aquarium should all be on your to-do list. The AMC movie theatre is not too far away if you want to catch a movie. Sailing on the Charles River is also a fun activity! The MIT Sailing Pavilion is great and students get to learn and sail for free. Sailing is the easiest and most accessible way to entertain yourself after a long day.
The Boston Common is a fun hangout spot when the weather is nice. When it’s cold, there’s an ice-skating rink. There’s always Harvard Square that hosts lots of good restaurants, coffee bars and pubs. I would definitely check them out. Start off with Felipe’s for some good Mexican food and then head over to Algiers coffee house for some good tea or Middle Eastern food. Or have a good slice of pizza at Otto. To keep up to date sign up for the MIT Arts email list. You’ll get free tickets to Orchestras and Ballets – I highly recommend it! Newbury street and Boylston street are perfect for shopping and also have a number of cute small cafes.
Weekends. If you have time during the summer, I would make a trip to Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard or Newport (Rhode Island). Portland, Maine is also really nice.In the fall, I would head up to New Hampshire or Maine for some fishing, whitewater rafting, hiking or photography. Although, most nice areas are 3+ hours away.
In the winter, I would make a trip to Vermont, New Hampshire for some skiing or even to Montreal or DC if you’re gutsy. New York City has always been a fun spot. It’ll cost you about $25-$30 to get there by bus. About $180 by train and about $100 by plane. You do the math. If you’re from Europe, you may find this absurd. J New York has a lot to offer and I would definitely visiting the city and exploring it if you’ve never been.
For the 10 months or so that you’ll be in the Boston/Cambridge area, this schedule will keep you busy. Enjoy your year unforgettable year at MIT and make the most of it!