Emily Batt (MBA ’20) gives us a primer for exploring the city.
According to an old adage, Mark Twain once remarked,
In New York they ask, “How much is he worth?” In Philadelphia, “Who were his parents?” And in Boston they ask, “How much does he know?”
Whether apocryphal or not, Boston’s emphasis on learning literally shapes the city; each September, 150,000 students flock to Boston and swell its population by 25%. I first counted myself among this cohort 12 years ago when I moved to the city to start college. But it’s the Boston ethos—this love of learning and a characteristic resoluteness—that has kept me here since.
Perseverance is the pulse of the city. Perhaps it’s due to Boston’s Puritan roots, as a city whose early residents endured bitter winters for the prospect of a freer life; a city whose new inhabitants, undeterred by hills and obstacles, charted winding roads around them, creating the messy network of streets we know today; a city that, when approaching capacity, filled in a bay to make land where there was previously sea. That spirit persists, and Boston today remains a city that embraces tough challenges. It’s a city where students from all over the world beat incredible odds for the chance to learn at elite institutions; a city where over 1,000 biotech companies vie to crack the big questions of health and humanity; a city whose highest athletic honor is conferred for conquering a notoriously grueling 26.2-mile course.
In Boston, we confront what’s difficult because we see opportunity. We pursue problems when we are captivated by the prospect of solving them. We don’t shy away from hard work, hard questions, or hard looks at our own selves. Indeed, we believe these create value. I hope you find the same, RCs, and that your time in Boston brings you nothing less. I hope you love it here like I do.
The T, short for MBTA, is a network of subways and buses that will carry you across the city. Pick up a Charlie Card—a reloadable smart card named for a fictional 1949 folk song hero who gets trapped in the subways forever—at a service kiosk of any major station. The Harvard stop’s kiosk is open until 3 p.m. during the week, 7 p.m. on weekends. Bluebike stations, Boston’s metro-area bike share, are widely accessible, but scooter sharing is available only in Brookline. Ride-sharing is the de facto choice for many.
Neighborhoods not to miss
Harvard Square will become a second home, but Boston beyond the crimson bubble offers many havens worth exploring.
Union Square (2.3 miles from campus)
Bow Market is a veritable hub for creative shopping, exciting dining, and exceptional drinking. Browse the 30+ businesses in this extraordinary two-level market and keep an eye out for events there; last year’s “après ski” party—with hot wine and outdoor fire pits—made Boston winter seem almost fun. Other Union standouts: Celeste for fine Andean dining, Loyal Supply Co for crafty gifts, Union Square Donuts for inventive treats.
East Cambridge and Inman Square (2.3 miles from campus)
The city’s best outdoor hangout can be found among abundant greenery in the back of the unassuming Atwood’s Tavern. Plus, when the air gets chilly, head inside to catch live music every night. Trina’s Starlite Lounge is another worthwhile stop; follow the fridge (@starlitefridge) for laughs and wisdom from alphabet magnets.
Davis Square (2.6 miles from campus)
Candlepin bowling is a Boston tradition, and it’s even better when paired with Flatbread pizza, as at Sacco’s Bowl Haven in Davis Square.
Brookline (2.6 miles from campus)
Swing by Blossom Bar for some of Boston’s best cocktails and visit the historic Coolidge Corner Theatre for classic movies and independent features playing among red velvet curtains. Get lost for hours in the colorful aisles of Brookline Booksmith.
Kendall Square (2.8 miles from campus)
Visit State Park for an admirably divey environment, the Smoke Shop for respectable BBQ in Boston, and the Garment District for Halloween- or theme-party costumes.
Beacon Hill (3.6 miles from campus)
Prototypically Boston, the brick-lined streets of Beacon Hill are the stuff of postcards. Stop by in the fall for perfect foliage: Acorn Street for photos, Charles Street for shopping and dining, Louisburg Square for townhouse-ogling.
The South End (4.6 miles from campus)
Vintage finds, handcrafted goods, food trucks, and local produce live together at the SoWa market, every Sunday May through October. The market is surrounded by artists’ studios which open their doors for First Fridays each month. Great restaurants abound in the South End, but don’t leave the area without stopping by Wally’s for the best jazz in the city.
Jamaica Plain (4.6 miles from campus)
While it’s still warm, rent a rowboat on Jamaica Pond or visit the Arnold Arboretum for a dose of nature within city limits. Don’t miss Exodus Bagels, El Oriental De Cuba, or J.P Licks for food, Papercuts or Tres Gatos for books and records.
Seaport (5.5 miles from campus)
The Seaport has transformed what once was piers and drydocks into a humming new neighborhood. The Institute of Contemporary Art offers an impressive collection and rotating exhibits. Visit the rooftop of the Envoy hotel for sweeping cityscapes, or the long tables of the Harpoon Brewery for communal elbow-bending.
Don’t leave Boston without:
Seeing the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
The ISGM courtyard is the most captivating spot in the city. It—and the rest of the museum—remains exactly as Isabella, an eccentric philanthropist, designed it in 1903, with one exception: empty frames hang where two thieves stole works worth $500 million in 1990. It is the greatest known property theft in history, and the crime remains unsolved.
Visiting the Boston Public Library
The BPL is stunning inside and out: the courtyard offers quietude and beauty in the center of the city, and while case-prep captures your mind, the Baker Reading Room will capture your heart.
Secret shopping at Bodega
If you find yourself in a standard convenience store wondering where to find the purported high-end streetwear and sneakers, you’re at the right place. Walk toward the Snapple machine in the back and be amazed.
Picnicking on the esplanade
The Charles River Esplanade has something for everyone: riverside running trails, picturesque picnic spots, a beer garden by Night Shift, free concerts in the Hatch Shell. Situated between Back Bay and the Charles River, the Esplanade is accessible via footbridges over Storrow Drive.
Snow-ball fighting in the Common
There is nothing more peaceful than snow falling softly on the expanse of the Boston Common. It’s also ripe for disruption: snow-angels or snow-balls, you pick.
Eating cannoli in the North End
Settle the Mike’s vs. Modern pastry rivalry for yourself. Best enjoyed after a stop at Neptune Oyster.
Biking the marathon route
At midnight before the day of the race, hundreds of cyclists don costumes and speakers and ride the marathon route from Wellesley to Back Bay. It’s communal, exciting, and fun, even when the next morning the runners outpace your time on-bike.
Learning some history
Follow @todayinboston for a daily dose of digestible Boston history.
Emily Batt (MS/MBA ’20) is a joint MS/MBA student with the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. She was previously a design engineer and product manager in hardware and software technology companies. She was trained as a physicist, loves the arts, and always has too many tabs open.