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A street performer in Harvard Square
A street performer in Harvard Square


The City of Boston is well known as a college town but the City of Cambridge is where the high IQs are found. When you cross the Charles River on the Red Line, you enter the diverse, thriving hyper-intellectual matrix popularly known — affectionately or derisively, depending on your politics — as the People's Republic of Cambridge. (Board the train at the Downtown Crossing stop so you can jumpstart your morning with a steamed bun or custard tart from one of nearby Chinatown's many bakeries; local faves include Eldo Cake House and Ho Yuen Bakery Inc.) Disembark at MIT/Kendall Square to explore the eminent egghead mecca that is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Not only is its museum a rather underappreciated wonder involving robots, holography and model ships, but its grounds are a treat for art-and-architecture buffs. See buildings by Frank Gehry, I.M. Pei and Eero Saarinen and sculptures of Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Jacques Lipchitz.

Chinese New Year in Boston
Chinese New Year

A couple of outbound T stops away is Harvard Square. The area surrounding the nation’s foremost academic institution is hardly the colorful bastion of counterculture it once was; the storefronts comprise as many franchises as indie outlets. Still, it hustles and bustles with the best of them. So replenish your energy stores by treating yourself to a lunch at Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage, a Harvard landmark and a shrine to all things carnivorous. Choose from a menu of burgers named after local and national celebrities and politicians (think Tim Thomas and Lady Gaga), then shout your order to the wizened guy at the door before jockeying for elbow room at one of the long picnic-style tables. Don't forget to order a thick, creamy frappé — Boston's code for milkshake. Afterwards, take a free student-guided tour of the university itself, or explore its stellar yet rarely crowded small museums. Thousands of glass-blown flowers are on display at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, while the tiny but gem-studded Busch-Reisinger Museum, adjacent to the better-known Fogg, includes a collection of German artwork with some Expressionist eye-poppers.

Courtesy of Ming Vandenberg, Harvard Museum of Natural History
Harvard Museum of Natural History

Come dinnertime, ride back to Central Square for a hearty meal at Craigie on Main. This is the place for unusual food pairings like a confit and roasted milk-fed pig's head for two. Throw back an innovative libation or two (anything with bitters like Northern Lights is a house specialty) alongside tweedy professors at the bar, then move into the main dining room for the popular six-course tasting menu. It's a seasonal romp that changes daily and attracts a chummy neighborhood crowd. Bring the day full-circle by returning to Boston proper to reap yet more entertainment value from higher education: The Berklee Performance Center at Berklee College of Music showcases an eclectic mix of artists from the world over (including its own student body).

And so you bid goodbye to Boston, aka Beantown, the Hub of the Universe and the Athens of America. Enjoy your visit!

For more information, visit the Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau at


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* Images from the Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau. Harvard Museum of Natural History photo from Ming Vandenberg, HMNH East Coast Grill photo from the restaurant.

(Updated: 10/09/12 NW)

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