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Op-Ed: Introductory Boston Culture

by Megan Mulligan

Photography by Madeleine Arch and Andrea Vega

Welcome to Boston! Speaking from personal experience, moving to a new city can be very tough; to some this may even be an understatement. However, I’ve always enjoyed travelling and new adventures, and moving to Boston was a decision that seemed full of possibilities for new experiences.

I soon found that some of these new places were either too expensive, inaccessible without a car or better not traversed without company. Provided below is a short sampling of some of Boston’s many “culture” spots: music venues, art galleries, museums and other points-of-interest, including both the lesser-known and some popular tourist spots worth visiting.

ISABELLA STEWART GARDNER MUSEUM: This art museum is among the many that BU students can enjoy with free admission. Although I wanted to stay away from “usual” culture spots, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a favorite among newcomers and Boston natives alike. The museum has three floors of carefully curated artwork, all described by the museum website as “the most significant of their type.” The museum also has a beautiful courtyard that can be seen from nearly every room. The museum holds an event called “Third Thursdays” on the third Thursday of each month that features free music, a cash wine bar and artist talks throughout the galleries.It’s only about a 25-minute walk from the George Sherman Union.

URBAN RENEWALS: A thrift store claimed to be among the best for bargains by in 2012, Urban Renewals is “packed with massive amounts of merchandise,” with items often priced below $20. Urban Renewals is located at 122 Brighton Ave. in Allston, a 25-minute walk from the GSU toward West Campus. More expensive consignment and secondhand shopping options include Buffalo Exchange in Allston and Second Time Around on Newbury Street.

THE LAWN ON D: This outdoor interactive space offers games like cornhole and bocce during specific “open lawn” hours, as well as other events open to the public. The Lawn hosts the “Punkin Fest” in October every year, where guests are invited to carve pumpkins. Upcoming events include a Jazz Brunch every Sunday in September and “Lunch Break” music events. The Lawn’s latest interactive art installation, “Swing Time,” was recently featured in INSIDER, an online lifestyle/travel magazine. The Lawn is less than an hour from the GSU by T. Take the B line inbound to Park Street, then switch to the Red Line toward Braintree and exit at South Station. You’ll need to walk a bit, but it’s worth it.

SOUTH END OPEN MARKET: One-third art market, one-third farmers market and one-third food truck festival, the SoWa Open Market in Boston’s South End features local artisans, farmers and businesses every Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. The Market runs every Sunday until early October. Prices vary and tend to be on the higher end of the spectrum, but the market is a perfect way to spend early afternoons in the fall—as a plus, proceeds benefit local businesses. The market is a 30-minute T ride from the GSU to Boylston Street, plus an additional few minutes of walking.

MIDDLE EAST RESTAURANT AND NIGHTCLUB: This is a popular Cambridge restaurant and bar that hosts bands and other guest performers in both its upstairs and downstairs rooms. The bands are typically local or generally less well-known, but the spaces are roomy enough and don’t feel too cramped when at-capacity. One of my cherished first-year experiences was a meet-and-greet at the Middle East with Ben and Jerry (yes, of ice cream fame)! Most events are 18+ or all ages and reasonably priced under $20. It’s accessible from the GSU by the 47 bus toward Cambridge.

The best first-year exploring advice that I can give as a second-year student, however, is that there is no real, failsafe “advice.” Don’t just follow tour guides and treat Boston like one big list to check off—know which kind of events, restaurants and experiences you enjoy or are looking for first. Branch off toward specific events or areas of Boston as you discover what entices you the most. Above all, do what makes you comfortable and enjoy your first year!

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