Thanks to Sharon Weissburg for her suggestions and recommendations.
So, freshman, these are the first days of your new life. It’s up to you to remain in motion. It’s entirely possible to disappear within the Bermuda Triangle of your dormitory, CVS, and campus classrooms. The biggest mistake is holing yourself up in Warren Towers or West Campus. There’s an entire city living beyond the boundaries of Boston Univerisity; it’s up to you to explore and exploit it to the fullest. Hopefully this small directory can help pull you from away campus and into something resembling a real life.
First, here’s some friendly advice: Don’t let an hour’s walk dissuade you. Boston is big and public transportation doesn’t always get you everywhere. Most worthwhile destinations take some effort to reach.
Dining halls aren’t always open and Late Night’s menu is small. Even just $10 at a grocery store can get fruit, deli meats, and plenty else. Grocery stores are also a smart choice for ice cream, sodas, or snack foods since CVS and 7-Eleven tend to overcharge. For West Campus, the Star Market on Commonwealth Avenue is 5 minutes away. For South, Central, and East Campus, the Shaws on Boylston Street is a 10 to 15 minute walk. Both these groceries are open 24 hours a day as well. But be warned: there’s some kooky characters going shopping at 3:30am on a Wednesday morning.
Possibly the worst eating option for a college freshman is restaurants, especially when they are sit-down. These places assume you have a full-time job and income—I know people who have graduated who havevn’t found those yet. Single dishes can exceed $20; forget about appetizers. If you’re dying for something fancier, however, there are options. Coupon sites, like Groupon or LivingSocial, sometimes partner with local restaurants for discounted meals. And Restaurant Week is an annual tradition, where some of the finest North End establishments offer reasonably cheap Prix Fixe menus.
Chipotlé is literally everywhere. What’s the point in dining at a strip-mall staple when there’s many cheaper, tastier options so closeby? Anna’s Taqueria is a local chain that pops up around Coolidge Corner (20 minutes south of West Campus) and El Pelon sells arguably the best burrito in town (15 minutes south of Central Campus).
Newbury Street is one of the most crowded in Boston, and mostly with college students. Newbury, the nearby Prudential Center (the Pru), and Copley Mall are great places to shop at brand-name stores like Zara, H&M, and Anthropologie. Plus, in-between there are countless little boutiques. Newbury is a pleasant and pretty fifteen minute walk from Central Campus along Commonwealth Avenue, but it can also be accessed via the Green Line (get off at Hynes Convention Center, at one end of Newbury Street, or Copley at the other). Of course, the best times to go are February and August, since both boast amazing seasonal sales.
When Newbury and the Pru are too pricey (they often are), or you’re on the hunt for something unique, thrifting and vintage in Boston can’t be beat. The Goodwill on West Campus is the closest and always rewards, but branching out into other neighborhoods can be extremely rewarding. Try Urban Renewals and Buffalo Exchange in Allston, or cross the BU Bridge into Cambridge: both Central and Inman Square offer a bevy of gorgeous and inexpensive vintage. You’ll come away with your arms full and your wallet unemptied.
There’s the Paradise in West Campus, Brighton Music Hall further down Brighton Street, and plenty of bars and basements deeper in Allston. These are all cheap venues with a mix of touring or local bands. To keep up to date on the more underground stuff, make sure to check the Counter Cultural Compass for a listing of the month’s planned gigs.
On the other side of Boston, there’s the Symphony Hall on Huntington Avenue and the Orpheum right outside the Park Avenue T stop. The Symphony, sometimes $20 a ticket (compare that to the price of last multiplex movie you saw), is a strong experience itself if you like and have the patience for classical music and the grown-ups who go to see classical music. The Orpheum always hosts the big-name bands that come to Boston and tickets are usually expensive (~$40) which might keep you, a poor college kid, at bay.
Sure, there’s the Regal Fenway for standard, multiplex Hollywood fare. There’s also the Coolidge Corner theater, a 20 minute walk away from campus, which offers student discounts on Thursday nights, screens films off the festival circuit, sometimes shows old classics (they just did Jaws over Labor Day, and don’t miss their sporadic midnight screenings of The Room), and also shows scary and B-movies at midnight on weekends. The Brattle by Harvard Square is smaller, with only a single screen. For truly obscure stuff, there’s the Harvard Film Archive and the MIT Film Forum, both of which have erratic screening schedules.
Sights & Scenes
Boston is home to a roster of museums, and all are worth a visit. A museum run is a great way to kill a day, whether with friends, visting family, that hot date, or by your lonesome self (tip: find a hot date). The Museum of Fine Arts is literally twenty minutes away, admission is free with your BUID, and it’s impossible to see everything there in a single trip. The Institute of Contemporary Art is a T ride and short walk away (take the train to South Station), with rotating exhibitions of notable working artists; they also offer free admission to BU students. For a funky experience, visit the hilarious Museum of Bad Art or go run around with the little kids at the Museum of Science.
Just because the Law Building is sort of ugly doesn’t mean the rest of the city is, too! Hit up the Boston Public Library: bask in the glow of its gorgeous Renaissance-Revival architecture or take advantage of the dead-silent, barrel-vaulted reading room. Or, take a blanket and sprawl out on the Common or down on the lawns of the Fenway. If you’re feeling truly adventerous, take the bus south to the Arboretum; it’s used for botantical study and contains every tree that grows to New England. A change of scenery can also lead you to your own great discoveries, since the journey is just as exciting as the destination.
I sincerely hope I’ve convinced you to wander. I hardly left Warren Towers my freshman year and I really do regret it. There’s so much to see and no reason to wait, especially with winter coming up quick. Go get ‘em, tiger!