Just spent a few days in good ol' beantown. I've never been there before, and I had transportation and lodging taken care of, so how could I not go? My friends have been hyping it up for the past 5 years, so I had to see for myself if it's actually as cool as they claim.
My opinion: it would be a great place to live, not so great to visit.
Or rather, if you're looking to DO a lot of things then it's not very special. However, there's a lot to see, and a lot of places to go. One of the things that struck me most about the city is just how clean it is. Very very clean. Little-to-no litter, and all the streets are kept very well. Also, I really liked the amount of GREEN found in and around the city. A lot of little parks, and little squares ensures that it's not just some big concrete jungle.
The other aspect that I really liked is the character of the city. Boston is obviously a very old city predating the creation of the US, so there's A LOT of history. What's great is that the citizens have kept the history very much alive which makes for unique and interesting buildings and architecture. You'll see a 17th century church beside a huge 40 stories high sky scraper. It's similar to Montreal in that regards. So if you're a Bostonian and you haven't visited Montreal, I recommend checking it out. Same mix of old and new world.
Then there's the streets. I don't know who designed Boston's layout but they must have been on some seriously powerful drugs. There are no traditional intersections to speak of, instead you get between 5 and 10 streets meeting at one point at all sorts of odd angles with no rhyme or reason. If it wasn't for my friend's GPS unit we wouldn't have gotten 2 blocks away from his apartment. Even WITH the GPS unit we still got lost!
Back to what there is to do. I asked resident PW Bostonian KD1964 if she had any advice on what to check out... and she sent me back quite the extensive list. I ended up doing about half of the recommended things and it definitely made my trip a lot more pleasant. Harvard and MIT are gorgeous to look at, though I have to say that I was a little disappointed in Harvard. Maybe I built it up in my mind, or fell for all those romantic portrayals in movies, but it's not THAT special. I did get a sneak peak at the freshman dining hall though, and that WAS pretty nice. I also checked out QueenBee Girls, home of another PWer Stylez. Considering their focused on women's fashion my opinion probably shouldn't be trusted, but it's a very nice store with very helpful staff :)
One thing about Harvard that people have to check out is the Glass Flower display at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. I honestly can't stress how amazing the exhibit is. I mean, it's glass flowers right? what's so special about that? But once you see them and you see how insanely detailed and lifelike they are you'll be convinced. I mean, even though I KNEW these things were made out of glass, each time I examined one my brain just assumed it was real. It's difficult to explain, but it really blew my mind.
Outside of the usual site-seeing (Little-Italy is super nice as well) I did a couple of fun activities. Au Revoire Simone is a female trio out of Brooklyn that was playing at TT the Bears. I've actually never heard them before, but they sounded interesting to I checked it out, and was pleasantly surprised. It was an intimate venue, and the crowd was lively. The girls on stage were pretty... stoic, but their music is very enjoyable. After the show I asked them if they had plans to visit the local venue here (Starlight) but they'd never heard of it. One day maybe.
The other night I went to a Guitar Hero event happening at a pub. As regular visitors to the site know I'm a pretty big GH fan, so I wanted to see what this GH Night was all about. It was pretty interesting, they had a tournament with the winner getting $50. I arrived to late to take part in the tourney. Still, the two finalists were pretty friggin good, so it's not like I would have won.. but I do think this Canadian boy would have made it pretty far. Still, there weren't too many people there, but it was still interesting to see somewhat regular people playing this game at a pub like that. Apparently these kind of things are "sweeping the nation".
I'm glad to be back, minus the 20 hours of driving. And I'm very glad I got to see the city. I can see why my friend loves the city so much. But I'm also glad my stay wasn't too long. Five days was enough to get a feel for the city, and see the things that I wanted to see. Any longer than that and I probably would've started to get bored.