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).
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.
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.