By Charlie McMahon (SAR’23)
Imagine this: it is a BEAUTIFUL blue-sky Saturday in September here in Boston. You have just moved into your dorm at Kilachand Hall and cannot get over those stunning Charles River or skyline views. You want to get out and see what Boston has to offer, but you don’t know exactly where to start. That’s where I come in! I have compiled a fun list of must-dos in Boston. As a lifelong Boston resident I know what’s good and what to avoid. So if you’re looking for some fun ways to make the most of those low key weekends in the city, keep reading!
First things first, after arriving in Boston, you are going to want to get a Charlie Card. These refillable cards are the best way to access public transportation (which we call the T) in and around the city. You can get Charlie Cards from T workers in many of the bigger train stations in the area (Back Bay, Park Street or even Kenmore) as well as the service desk at the Star Market in Fenway, the 7-11 on Jersey Street or the 7-11 on Massachusetts Avenue (we call it Mass Ave). After getting your Charlie Card loaded up, you’re ready to go exploring throughout the city!
After getting your Charlie Card, I would recommend hopping up on the Green Line at Kenmore and heading to Copley Square, home of the main branch of the Boston Public Library. You can soak in the beautiful paintings in the reading rooms and sit out in the courtyard on a warm afternoon. Importantly, you’re going to want to sign up for a Boston Public Library card. As an on-campus resident at Boston University, you qualify as a resident of the city of Boston, regardless of whether or not you call Massachusetts home. Now you might be asking “with such an amazing library system here at BU, why would I want to get a library card at the BPL?”
Although BU has many partnerships with nearby museums which I will go on to explain later, it is not an exhaustive list. However, having a BPL card offers you access to a database of museum passes for attractions all through the city! Card holders can reserve passes for the Museum of Science, the New England Aquarium and even access to the Boston Harbor Cruises to visit the Boston Harbor Islands!
After stopping in at the Copley Branch of the BPL, you can get back on the Green Line and head up to Haymarket Station. After a brief walk, you will be in Boston’s North End! Filled with history like the Old North Church where two lanterns were famously hung signaling the British invasion and referenced in Paul Revere’s famous ride. Stop in at Monica’s Mercato for some delicious sandwiches which you can eat along the Rose Kennedy Greenway. After lunch, you can visit Modern Pastry and Mike’s Pastry to get some cannoli. This is a hot rivalry for Bostonians. Everyone has an opinion as to which bakery has the best cannoli (insider tip – check out Bova’s Bakery on Salem Street if the lines are too long. You will not be let down).
Meandering out of the North End, I would recommend you start walking south along the water. You will come to the New England Aquarium which has a bunch of public docks where you can sit and relax watching the airplanes land at Logan Airport or admire the breathtaking views of Boston’s skyline.
An alternate cultural experience would be to check out Boston’s Chinatown. There are so many amazing restaurants like the Gourmet Dumpling House, Hei La Moon or China Pearl. Tea-Do and Kung Fu Tea are also great stops for some boba or refreshing smoothies! If you’re going to visit Chinatown, make sure to stop at the iconic Chinatown Gate and walk through Chinatown Park.
Perhaps you don’t want to head so far away from BU. There are some really awesome neighborhoods to explore a bit closer to home!
Take the C-branch of the Green Line to Coolidge Corner to experience another of Boston’s beloved neighborhoods. This is technically in Brookline, but it is close enough to campus that I am still going to talk about it. On a rainy day, catch a movie at the Coolidge Corner Theater, a Boston-area cultural icon (and recently named one of the most beautiful movie theaters in the world!). Stop in at Zaftigs or Rami’s for a quick bite to eat before walking down to Amory Park to throw around a frisbee or just relax and soak up the sun! Check out J.P. Licks, a famous Boston ice cream chain for a sweet treat too!
Fenway is also a really cool neighborhood to check out and visit. Be sure to sign up for the $9 Red Sox Ticket program! Sox tickets can get expensive, so having the $9 program is an awesome college life hack. Whether or not you are a baseball fan, catching a Sox game at Fenway Park is an essential part of being a Bostonian and is not something to be missed.
Speaking of great student deals, BU has a partnership with many local museums like the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Institute for Contemporary Art. As a BU student with a valid student ID, you have free access to browse amazing collections to your heart’s content. Fun fact: the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum is home to the largest art heist in the world. When Mrs. Gardner established the museum (in what was at the time her home), she made a clause in the charter for the museum saying that staff were not allowed to alter her collections or rearrange any of the pieces. If that contract is broken, all the art must be sold and the profits are specified to be donated to Harvard University. As such, you can see the empty picture frames on the walls where the art thieves cut the paintings from the frames, eerily awaiting the return of the artwork.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Although Boston may not be a geographically huge city, there is no shortage of things to do or places to check out. The city is incredibly walkable and is becoming more friendly to bikers as well! If you like biking, check out the BU student discount for Boston’s Blue Bike subscription service!
So get out and explore what Boston has to offer! The city is eagerly waiting for you!
All photos credit Charlie M.