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Author Topic: Non-obvious awesome things to do on holiday in northeast USA  (Read 6001 times)

actreal

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The wife and I going on holiday (Yank translation: vacation) to Boston, NYC and Washington, DC in January with about a week in each.

Yes, I know it's a cold time of year to be travelling to those parts, but the choice was then or never. We chose then.

I figured the hive mind of the QC forums might be able to come up with some suggestions of cool things to see or do.

Note! We have a guidebook and I have been to all 3 cities before. I do not want crappy normal suggestions like the Statue of Liberty, the Freedom Trail or the Lincoln Monument.

I'm looking for original, quirky and awesome suggestions.

All suggestions fulfilling the above criteria are welcome, but no promises are made to follow any suggestions whatsoever.  :-P
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clockworkjames

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I know nothing about east coast US but if you were coming somewhere I knew I would want to know what kinds of stuff you like, no use suggesting a really cool Jazz café if you hate Jazz.
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The Smithsonian always, ALWAYS has something cool in it. My favourite is the National Air And Space Museum. They have that awesome secondary branch in Dulles, VA too, and I have been there as well and it is awesome. It has the prototype F-35, a Concorde, and numerous other badass shit. And the reg'lur ol' Air And Space Museum has the Wright Flyer, one of the Mercury capsules, SpaceShipOne, Voyager, one of Amelia Earhart's airplanes, and LOADS of other really awesome shit.

You really can't go wrong with museums and airplanes.
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valley_parade

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The aquarium in Boston is cool, if you like penguins. Otherwise it's a little lackluster.

(psst go see the Bruins, they're awesome this year)
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To be completed in this order.

1 - Go to New York City.
2 - Leave North East America.


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Yeah, listen to Tommy, go to West America instead and hang with me for Christmas. I am going to be bored out of my skull.
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Cliffs those things are sure hit.
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In NYC, go to Queens, right underneath th 57th street bridge, there's an area there which lets graffiti artists do whatever they want to in it. It's gorgious. I forgot what it's called. First thing I could think off, from the top of my head.

In general, I would recommend picking up the New Yorker. They're full of little things that are do-able that month, sometimes they have some great ideas.

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Scandanavian War Machine

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Yeah, listen to Tommy, go to West America instead and hang with me for Christmas. I am going to be bored out of my skull.


wait where in west america are you? let's kick it.
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pen

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The aquarium in Boston is cool, if you like penguins. Otherwise it's a little lackluster.

The aquarium is also way too pricey to justify a visit.  Not worth it at all.

Go ice skating on the Frog Pond!  The commons are lit up around Christmas (quite possibly still lit by the time you come to visit) and it's absolutely gorgeous.  I don't skate, but I wish I could so I could skate there!
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valley_parade

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Challenge Rachel to a pizza eating contest.

Now THAT would be something to see.  :-D
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Wait so you're letting something that happened 10 years ago ruin your quality of life? What are you, America? :psyduck:

I is Grammar

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The night-life in DC isn't bad, if you know where to look.  If you like nightclubs, there is a really nice, highclass, one in Dupont Circle, called Town.  Yes, it is a gay club, but it is the best club I've been to yet.  And always hit the Smithsonian.  It's facinating.  I think they just re-opened the American History museum, and it should be all new and shiny. 

Or give me a call!  I live about 30 mins away from DC!  And I'm always interesting.
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Yeah, listen to Tommy, go to West America instead and hang with me for Christmas. I am going to be bored out of my skull.


wait where in west america are you? let's kick it.

I will be in California from the 12th until the 27th. The Bay Area specifically. Where are you?
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In NYC, the Whitney Museum of American Art currently has a couple really excellent exhibits.  Alexander Calder made some beautiful sculpture, as well as a working model circus which is some of the most whimsical art I've ever seen.  William Eggleston has taken some breathtaking and engaging pictures.  Easy to spend hours there.  The MoMA is also great, and worth spending a day on.

Also worth looking into is the lecture and conversation series, LIVE from the NYPL.  They have had some incredible guests and speakers in the past, and based on the one event I've seen, do a really wonderful job.
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est

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Some day I would like to go to the White House so I can say that I have seen the place where ex-President Bartlet did his thing.
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Liz


I have seen the place where ex-President Bartlet did his thing.
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yeah yeah yeah I love the northeast! how old are you? do you like art? music? eating? shopping? exploring?
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radical dame

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Those are three of the best cities in this country (others including, but not limited to, Chicago, San Fran, Seattle, Miami). No matter what you do, you will have a good time there.
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jhocking

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Well no, you could easily have a shitty vacation in those places. For example, you could rashly decide to join a tour group, and find yourself trapped on a bus full of people who don't speak English. My mom did that in San Francisco.

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Town.  Yes, it is a gay club, but it is the best club I've been to yet.

Isn't Town right by the 9:30? I could have sworn I went to a gay club called Town there.

Also for DC listen to what Patrick said. He speaks the truth.
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0bsessions

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You might consider elaborating on yourself a bit. I know tons to do in Boston, but considering your short post history, none of us know shit all about you to establish what you may or may not care to do.

Dependent upon when in January you're going, you might be able to catch a forumite meetup. A few regulars will be hanging out the weekend of January 16-18 in Boston. We're planning to go sledding, drink hot chocolate and wear mittens. We'll even have an Australian with us, so you might even feel a bit at home.

Regardless of what you do here, the absolute first thing you should do upon hitting the area is buy a weekly pass for the T. This is $15 USD per person and gets you unlimited rides on local buses and the subway. This will get you pretty much everywhere worthwhile. Even if you're renting a car, do this. Driving in the city is complete lunacy, especially if you're not familiar. This place is designed more for walking than driving.

I hope, for your sake, you're at least 21. The amount of things to do here in the winter is drastically reduced if you're under 21. If you are, make sure you have your passport on you at all times, as it counts as a valid photo ID to my knowledge. There are tons of good music clubs and bars in and around. That also depends on your kind of bar, too. Some folks like busy dance clubs, I myself prefer a good down to earth pub setting. Generally, both can be found within a five minute walk of pretty much anywhere in Metro-Boston.

This will be the beginning of winter for us. Snow starts to really set in in January/February. Take a day early on to basically just wander around aimlessly. That's really the best way to take in the city. Boston's only about three or four miles from one end to the other and pretty much everything is service by the subway should you get tired or cold. Optimal places to start are Charles Street, Downtown Crossing, Kenmore or the Prudential Center and then just wander in a circle.

The city's broken up into multiple districts like any other. Charles Street is heavily old, small shops and eateries. Government Center/Faneuil Hall is commonplace shops, weird architecture (Home to the World's Ugliest Building and a large amount of bars with a lot of variety. The Boston Garden (Great if you're a sports fan, the Celtics and Bruins play there) and the harbor are near there as well. Downtown Crossing is more commonplace shops (Macy's, Payless Shoes, Filenes, etc) and a lot of American fast food. Park Street has the State House, Boston Commons, Public Gardens and Beacon Hill, which are all probably the prettiest sections of the city and great for walking around (The Public Gardens is rather meh in the winter). Nearby there is Newbury Street, which has most of the upscale shopping the city has. Tons of window shopping around there, some quirky stores are in there too. Also adjacent to the Prudential and Copley buildings, two middle scale malls with good shopping without the price tag of Newbury Street. Copley Plaza and Berklee College are near here too. Copley is a nice view with most of the city's modern architecture nearby. Berklee has a strong music scene nearby, being a music college. Shortly from there is Kenmore Square which has mostly sports bars and dance clubs and Fenway Park, which is where the Red Sox play.

Outside the city is even more stuff. I live in Cambridge, which is the big college sector with Harvard and MIT nearby. Strong hipster element if you're into that sort of thing. Somerville is fun if you're a dirty hippie.
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Trollstormur

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If you're out near boston, I understand it's customary to get drunk and beat your wife. Maybe it's past time you popped her in the mouth, eh?
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also israel

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That would probably be more amusing if it wasn't grounded in fact.
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Dazed

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That is so clichéd. These days we just get drunk and beat other people's wives.
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Scandanavian War Machine

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Yeah, listen to Tommy, go to West America instead and hang with me for Christmas. I am going to be bored out of my skull.


wait where in west america are you? let's kick it.

I will be in California from the 12th until the 27th. The Bay Area specifically. Where are you?

aw fudgsicles nevermind.

i'm up by Seattle.
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Ballard

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There's plenty to do in New York.

I dunno what that other graffiti suggestion was but if you're really into that sort of thing, check out the Freedom Tunnel which runs from 125th St. to Midtown under Riverside Park. The grates from the park illuminate large alcoves in the walls; this creates what is essentially a natural gallery space and has made the place an attractive display area for street artists. The work on display there generally goes above and beyond your typical street tagging, ranging from murals depicting the eviction of the mole people (when the tunnel originally fell out of use by Amtrak, shanty towns sprung up inside and flourished for years. When Amtrak decided to use the tunnel again, they bulldozed the shanty towns and kicked out arrested all the homeless. Evidence of their lives, everything from school bags to novels to cheese graters, and in one spacious area even an electric chandelier, still lies scattered on the ground) to a chiaroscuro study of the Venus de Milo. Even a recreation of Goya's "The Third of May".

Mind you, this is an active train tunnel on private property owned by Amtrak, and if you're caught there you're in danger of receiving a trespassing charge. The tunnel houses two tracks in opposite directions but is approximately four tracks wide, leaving of plenty of room for humans. It's 99% safe as long as you are mindful of your surroundings (the ground is covered in debris from the bulldozed shanty towns) and duck into the cover of darkness when you hear a train coming (they come approximately every half hour and make a loud honking noise that is heard at least 20 seconds before they appear). My friend and I have led three expeditions down there so far and have never been caught, nor have ever encountered another living soul save the passengers/conductor on the passing trains. We did once make enough noise to attract the attention of a small child above ground in Riverside Park who followed us for ~15 minutes, trying to peek through the grates.

</tangent>

There's also plenty of dives, some cute cafes, and some fantastic restaurants that I can suggest if that's the kind of thing you want. Lots of live music and street entertainment if you steer clear of the touristy areas (Times Square, Midtown, though the latter is nice to walk through during the Holiday season to look at the decorations).

Places you generally can't go wrong with and shouldn't miss:

Beard Papa's - amazingly delicious cream puffs in various flavors. (There's four here, one on Astor Place in the East Village, one in the West Village, one in Midtown, and one on the Upper West Side)
L'Arte Del Gelato - fantastic Italian-style gelato, which could unjustly be compared to American ice cream. Don't be tempted by any of the other gourmet ice cream shops located steps away from their Bleecker St. location. This one is by far the best. (There are three, one inside the Chelsea Market (a delicious destination in and of itself, it houses plenty of gourmet shops as well as the Food Network's main studio where they shoot Iron Chef America and a bunch of other crap), one on 7th Ave. between Bleecker St. and West 4th, and one in Lincoln Center (home of the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, and the American Ballet Theatre as well as a massive private library of media open to the public and the famed Julliard School) closer to Midtown).
Le Petit Belge - delicious Belgian waffles served with a variety of toppings. There isn't much indoor seating. The place is a high-class hole in the wall, but the dessert is totally worth it. (As far as I know, there is only one, by Union Square on East 14th St.)
Pommes Frites - authentic Belgian frites and myriad sauces to go along with them. Ketchup here is a crime though they will oblige if you ask. This is also a hole in the wall, considerably less high class but cozy and inviting nonetheless. If you manage to grab a seat in the back, that is. If you don't, they serve their frites in heaping portions inside large paper cones, so you'll be fine walking down the street with one. (There is only one, in the famed "birthplace of bohemia/punk rock mecca yada yada St. Mark's Place)
Max Brenner's - chocolate heaven. If you like dessert, you must go here. Ignore the shitty review, that guy knows not what he's talking about. (I'd suggest the one in Union Square over the address listed there. It's larger yet cozier.)

Slightly more out of the way destinations:

Amy Ruth's - best fried chicken and waffles you will ever have. More worth the subway ride to Harlem than I can ever describe in words. Have the first thing on the menu- the classic fried chicken and waffles, though you can't go wrong with anything.
Dinosaur BBQ - totally fucking authentic barbecue, despite being quite a distance from the BBQ Belt (the American Southwest and parts of the Southeast where barbecue is not so much a food but a way of life). This one's also in Harlem, same trip but completely worth it.

West Harlem in general is not a bad place! The Apollo Theatre, the presence of Columbia University and Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, and the remnants of the Harlem Renaissance have kept it a safe and colorful, if not wealthy, neighborhood. Just don't stray into East Harlem, which is pretty slummy.

Shit, this post took about an hour so I hope it's at least somewhat useful to you.

Good luck and enjoy your trip!
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Scandanavian War Machine

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hey, what's that documentary about the eviction of the mole-people called?

a friend of mine said it was pretty good but she has since become addicted to heroin and disappeared so i can't ask her what it was called and my memory just ain't what it used to be.
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Also I would like to point out that the combination of Sailor Moon and faux-Kerouac / Sonic Youth spelling is perhaps the purest distillation of what this forum is that we have yet been presented with.

0bsessions

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What in the hell does that have to do with this thread?
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I've decided to give up psychology and become a peacock
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Scandanavian War Machine

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Ballard mentioned them in his post, so i thought he might know the movie. i can't find it anywhere, since i don't know what it's called.
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Quote from: KvP
Also I would like to point out that the combination of Sailor Moon and faux-Kerouac / Sonic Youth spelling is perhaps the purest distillation of what this forum is that we have yet been presented with.

Ballard

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http://www.amazon.com/Search-Mole-People-Kenny-Chery/dp/B000050933

Sorry to derail briefly. Back on track folks (no pun intended).
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Dinosaur BBQ - totally fucking authentic barbecue, despite being quite a distance from the BBQ Belt (the American Southwest and parts of the Southeast where barbecue is not so much a food but a way of life). This one's also in Harlem, same trip but completely worth it.

YES. Yes, you will go to the Dinosaur BBQ. Yes, you will have the best barbecue you have ever had in your life. Period.
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Man but just don't get Eugene to plan it for you. I mean, it all turned out really good when him, me, Huda and Katie(KTkat I think) went to Max Brenner's, but reserving like a table for what was it, 12 people at Dinosaur?
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Ballard

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It was more like 8, and it would have been fine if most of those people had bothered to show up.

I'm looking at you Tyler, Huda, Misha, Tommy who's flight got delayed.
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There's plenty to do in New York.

I dunno what that other graffiti suggestion was but if you're really into that sort of thing, check out the Freedom Tunnel which runs from 125th St. to Midtown under Riverside Park. The grates from the park illuminate large alcoves in the walls; this creates what is essentially a natural gallery space and has made the place an attractive display area for street artists. The work on display there generally goes above and beyond your typical street tagging, ranging from murals depicting the eviction of the mole people (when the tunnel originally fell out of use by Amtrak, shanty towns sprung up inside and flourished for years. When Amtrak decided to use the tunnel again, they bulldozed the shanty towns and kicked out arrested all the homeless. Evidence of their lives, everything from school bags to novels to cheese graters, and in one spacious area even an electric chandelier, still lies scattered on the ground) to a chiaroscuro study of the Venus de Milo. Even a recreation of Goya's "The Third of May".

This sounds so completely wonderful. If I'm ever in New York, I'm going to check this out for sure.
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It was more like 8, and it would have been fine if most of those people had bothered to show up.

I'm looking at you Tyler, Huda, Misha, Tommy who's flight got delayed.

I was fashionably late.
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actreal

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Thanks all for the suggestions so far.

I deliberately didn't give much guidance in my first post because I didn't want to narrow people's suggestions and perhaps miss out on something interesting. However, I agree with the various posters above that this makes it a lot harder to come up with suggestions in the first place.

Things I like doing on holiday include: learning about stuff (museums, art galleries, etc.), eating (particularly local food that I would get in Australia) and generally experiencing the difference of being wherever I am to wherever I'm from. Walking around aimlessly in a new place just taking it all in is always good.

I know stuff all about American history so things you might only think worthy of a school trip I might find enthralling.

I tend to go hard at the touristing all day and crash at night. To me, dark nightclubs where you don't know anyone are the same all over the world. I do like pubs, particularly for a lazy lunch with a local beer (although I have not found many decent American beers in previous trips). I'm well over 21, although Americans do like to "card" older-looking people more often than anywhere else I've been in the world.

@0bsessions

I think we'll be staying outside the range of Boston's wonderful public transport system (Newton?), so we had been advised to rent a car. However, my thoughts that this would be sub-optimal have been confirmed by your comments. Would you suggest trying to get a taxi closer in and then use the T to get around?

@ Ballard

Your food suggestions sound awesome. Last time I was in New York I stayed on the Upper West Side and we wandered into West Harlem to see Columbia University (Spiderman or perhaps Spiderman 2 had just come out) and had no problems so we might have to try your restaurant suggestions.

The tunnel sounds intriguing but I'm terrified hesitant about breaking any laws while in the US. With the security overkill everywhere, it's very hard to travel around the US on a foreign passport even if you are white and speak perfect English.

We have Max Brenner's in Melbourne, in fact in the same building as my office. It is awesome and very difficult to resist.

We'll be staying near Penn Station I think, but we'll get subway passes. Last time I was in NYC, my best mate and travelling companion tried to wander from our hotel (Upper West Side) to Downtown and back over the course a day. He almost made it, but was knackered by the end of it.
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valley_parade

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There are two or three T stations in Newton, all on the Green Line. I know there's Newton Highlands and Newton Centre (with an "re").
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Wait so you're letting something that happened 10 years ago ruin your quality of life? What are you, America? :psyduck:

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Whether or not you rent a car, do make sure to ride the T at least once, switching between several lines.  I've ridden subways in many cities and Boston's is definitely the most bizarre.  Like, the Red line is a subway train, the Green line is a trolley, and the Silver line is actually a bus. surreal

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@0bsessions

I think we'll be staying outside the range of Boston's wonderful public transport system (Newton?), so we had been advised to rent a car. However, my thoughts that this would be sub-optimal have been confirmed by your comments. Would you suggest trying to get a taxi closer in and then use the T to get around?

As Shane mentioned, there are multiple T stops in Newton and many bus routes. No cab necessary. I'd avoid renting a car altogether. I don't know how bad winter is in Melbourne, but the roads up here are less than ideal in January anyway. Figure out the address of where you're staying and going to MBTA.com to find out the closest routes.

All the best stuff in Massachusetts is accessible by public transit. Really, it's mostly the East Coast and then the rest of the state is just hanging on and leeching off our cool. Via subway, bus or commuter rail (Which is, at most, around ten bucks a trip) you can hit up the entire city, parts of Cape Cod, Salem, Lowell and Providence. You can even get to some pretty good skiing via train.
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redglasscurls

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Rent a car when you are in DC and go out to the National Arboretum! It is absolutely huge and gorgeous every time of year, a relaxing green respite on the edge of DC and its crappy neighbor Prince Georges county. The grounds are huge and a lot of fun to wander/drive, and there is an astounding bonsai collection in the asian gardens right near the parking area.
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Edith

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When you're in DC you will be just a stone's throw from Gettysburg and also from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia which has tons of history. I mean tons. Sometimes there is a lot of ice in and around DC that time of year, though, so it kind of depends on the weather if you'd want to do that.
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redglasscurls

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Gettysburg is about a 2 hour drive from here, if you're into history enough for that. I think it's a bit more than a stone's throw- stone's chuck maybe? Stone's lob? It's best in fall, since there is no shade from the ungodly heat in the summer and not much protection from winter wind.
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also, related to burning stuff: a friend threw up on a hot water heater once, the vomit steam burned her face. awesome!

Allybee

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I live in newton, there are many t-stops! like, four, if you don't count chestnut hill! absolutely no need for a car or taxi. PM me if you have any questions about newton (there is not a whole lot to do here).

more things to do in boston! keep in mind that I'm a high school student so my friends and I like getting into museums for free and window shopping.

- go to the ICA! I have not been there yet and the permanent collection is supposedly subpar but the current exhibition (the works of tara donovan) is supposed to be awesome and the architecture of the building is beautiful (it is brand new). the MFA is worth a trip even if you go to the metropolitan because it has john singer sargent murals and it is the first museum I think of when I think about boston. you should also check out the galleries and studios in the south end if you like art, there's a really cool culture... but when you're in nyc definitely go to chelsea for the best galleries in the country (the world?).

- definitely go to the north end for italian food. mmmmn. eat some cannoli.

- the JFK museum is worth a look if you are really into American history (not my personal favorite, but again, I'm 17). you mentioned school trips which makes me think of the peabody essex museum. I haven't been in ages, I remember a lot of taxidermy and gemstones. skip the overpriced aquarium, the museum of science will also not interest you (it is aimed towards young children). huh, maybe save the museums for DC, where they are all free.

- just to reiterate what john said, I feel like most of boston can be taken in by wandering (I never quite figured out what tourists do here, besides the freedom trail). my friends and I wander harvard square pretty often (harvard students, record and clothing shops, street performers and musicians are enough to entertain us for an afternoon). we also "shop" on newbury street, but we never really buy anything. we also go to the garment district in cambridge when we actually want to buy clothing; it's a huuuge second hand clothing store. lately we've been frequenting inman square but I guess that makes us "filthy hippies" or something.

- super 88 is an asian market chain, but there is a really big one in allston on brighton avenue with an asian food court with every type of asian food (indian, vietnamese, chinese, thai, japanese...) that you could ever wish for. and it is delicious and cheap. I would give you more restaurant suggestions but this is basically the only place that I eat now when I'm not eating in my house. its accessible by the T but easy to miss - it's on the B branch of the green line. it's near urban renewals, another awesome second hand clothing store. but oh my god super 88 I think I'm going to go there tomorrow. also down the street is gitlo's, delicious delicious dimsum, but the restaurant is really small and if you can end up waiting a really long time so you might as well just go to super 88.

I'll try to think of more things that aren't the freedom trail. if someone tells you to go on a whale watch (do they even do those in january?) don't do it, it's a trap, you will vomit everywhere.

also, in DC, go to the national zoo and see the pandas so cuteeee.

ouch this was really poorly put together, sorry, I didn't mean for it to become a "this is what I do in boston" but... that's kind of what happened.
« Last Edit: 10 Dec 2008, 14:51 by Allybee »
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radical dame

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Inman Square is lousy with filthy hippies, but S&S has the best steaks in metro Boston.
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Ballard

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*writes down Super 88 for future reference*

Man, I know this probably seemed like a tourist trap to Boston locals but I was so sad when Marché closed. We had a tradition of going at least once every time we were in Boston and one time we went and they just weren't there anymore. The only remaining ones are in Canada.
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SilentJ

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The thing I often overlook about the Smithsonian museums is that they're free to go to.  DC is the only city I've ever been to with free museums.
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- go to the ICA!

When did they officially drop "/ICA" from the Hynes station? It confused the hell out of me when I first noticed it.
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Wait so you're letting something that happened 10 years ago ruin your quality of life? What are you, America? :psyduck:
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