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MIT student blogger Yuliya K. '18

Summer in Boston by Yuliya K. '18

what happens outside MIT

To fully appreciate MIT’s location, venture to downtown Boston. The Institute campus combines the chillness of living Cambridge and the proximity to a big city. It only takes 10 minutes to get downtown from East Campus. From there, it’s an ~11-minute walk to Chinatown, State House, Boston Common, Public Garden etc. I travel Downtown almost every week: to shop, eat, see a movie, or simply take a walk down the Freedom Trail to the ocean. In the summer, there are even more reasons to leave the MIT bubble—the city features an array of events and performances. Below are the four I attended last year. I’ll keep you updated for more Boston activities this summer (and let me know what I missed in the comments below).

Boston Skyline, as seen from MIT

Faneuil Hall (incl. Street Performances)

Faneuil Hall is both a reminder of Boston’s glorious revolutionary past and an embodiment of modern consumerism and globalism. Here, you can go on a historical tour, then shop at places like Urban Outfitters, American Eagle, Banana Republic, and Uniqlo—a gradient for different budgets. You can also buy souvenirs, including hot sauce from the world’s #1 hot shop. When you get hungry, head to the Quincy Market (largest food hall in New England, behind Faneuil) for local seafood and international cuisine, of visit historic restaurants, including the one from Cheers. You can eat your food under the beautiful Quincy Market dome, or outside on the benches, watching the sun set and the lights turn on—highly romantic. Wait until the family-friendly venues close, and you can join the crowd of bar-goers. Faneuil Hall is also beauitful in the winter, with lights, music, and a giant Christmas tree or Valentine’s Day ice bench.

For entertainment, Faneuil’s daily street theatre features a line-up of world-renowned performers, and sometimes, you can watch four at a time in various locations around the Quincy and Faneuil buildings. In the front, it’s gymnasts and hip-hop dancers. Between the buildings and in the back, musicians or circus acts. My favorite performer is a 10-year old boy who sings and plays piano and sax for his “college fund”; it is both a sad reminder of college costs and a way to see a child prodigy in action. I’m also a fan of Kilted Colin, whose performance I’ve seen three times, twice with impressed friends. Where else could you see a funny man in a skirt riding a unicycle while playing the Star Wars theme on the bagpipes and juggling large knives (see below)? Oh, and there’s a surprise involving Colin’s kilt in the end.


Left: Faneuil Hall. Right: Kilted Colin’s performance finale (unicycle, bagpipe, and knives).

Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl

So. Much. Ice cream! The Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl is the best sort of fundraiser: with unlimited dessert! Pay at the entrance, get a sunny handstamp, and eat as many cups of ice cream as you can handle. Smart people stack the cups for tracking purposes, and walk around with truly glorious cup towers. I didn’t track my consumption, but definitely ate a lot. And it was life-changing—I discovered the Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream! In between sampling various brands and flavors, my friend and I visited the photobooth with cute blow-up ice cream shapes and hats. There were other activities as well, helpful for breaks in between portions, but the lines in front of the brands’ tents served a similar purpose.

The event is a bit pricey, but worth it if you arrive hungry. Also, 88 cents of every dollar raised supports the life-saving mission of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute—a great cause. If you like ice cream, convince your friends to join you in the lines, and come by the City Hall Plaza around June 6 every year. It’s right across from Faneuil Hall.


July 4th Fireworks

There are two places to see Independence Day fireworks. One is the children’s version by the ocean, the other is the adult version over the Charles River. The children’s version takes place at sunset on the Sunday before July 4th, at the end of the annual Boston Harborfest. It’s earlier and more subdued than the fabulous River version, but still worth it if you like fireworks and don’t mind being around children. You can grab food or a milkshake at nearby Quincy Market, and get super close to the fiery action at the Harbor. The Harborfest fireworks didn’t happen this year, but I hope they bring them back in the future for a perfect blend of peaceful and exciting. Great time for introspection, too.

The adult option is the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular on July 4th by the Charles River, which attracts around half a million people. It’s preceded by several free concerts, with celebrity guests on the 4th (last year, it was Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas; this year, it’s Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr.). People start gathering for the concert at noon, but you can also listen to the music from speakers on the other side of the river.

The River fireworks is when you most appreciate MIT’s campus—it is the only Cambirdge location right across the festivities. The fireworks are a simple road crossing from East Campus or the Green Building. My EC neighbors once took two couches to the riverbank in the afternoon, and chilled until the fireworks— couldn’t do that anywhere else!

On the way to July 1st Harborfest fireworks

Boston GreenFest 

GreenFest is geared towards “real” adults, but is also fascinating for engineers. I was intrigued by the futuristic flying solar pods for mass transit (read more here and see picture below). I wasn’t “real” adult enough to get the pitch on energy conservation (I was first asked if I paid the electric bill). I did, however, see vendors with sustainable products, get free stuff, and catch a reggae concert. I also took advantage of the free samples of expensive organic drinks and foods. My favorite GreenFest food booth featured a touch-screen quiz you could take to determine the right trail mix for your personality. That perfect trail mix was then dispensed for you at no cost. The machine malfunctioned when it was my turn, but I look forward to taking this most useful personality quiz around August 10 this year. Other GreenFest activities are artists performances on three stages, a Local Food Emporium with international cuisine, Wine & Beer Garden, EcoForums, BostonGreenFilmFest, and exhibitors/vendors. GreenFest is held on the same City Hall Plaza as the Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl, and all events are free.

TransitX Flying Solar Pod (left) and composting toilet (crapper + tinkler, right)