100 Things You Need to Do Before Graduating From a College in Boston

Editor-in-Chief, Carnegie Communications

You’re going to need all four years. Trust.

Boston is unequivocally one of the nation’s top college destinations. (And as an Emerson College grad, it’s certainly #1 in my heart.) More than 250,000 students flock to 50+ schools in and around the city each year. Not so surprisingly, Boston is also super student-friendly, with tons to see and do. Use this guide so you don’t miss out.

Most of the stuff on this list is free or cheap too, especially with a student ID. Here are the categories covered:

  • Nightlife
  • The great outdoors
  • Holidays
  • Food
  • Sports
  • Theater and film
  • Music
  • Museums and culture
  • Touristy stuff

Special thanks to all of the Boston students and alumni who shared their suggestions! And if you think I missed anything, you gotta let me know in the comments.


Mary Ann's Boston

An artsy partial shot of Mary Ann's

The great outdoors

Lilac Sunday at the Arnold Arboretum

Lilac Sunday at the Arnold Arboretum

  • Brave the elements with your BFFs and go for a walk during a blizzard—because there will be a blizzard during your time in Boston.
  • Walk or bike through the Emerald Necklace to see how it got its name.
  • Stroll through the charming yet luxurious brownstones in Beacon Hill and the South End. Try to guess the property values.
  • Grab your fixie and head down the Southwest Corridor bike path.
  • Breathe in Lilac Sunday at The Arnold Arboretum.
  • Actually, just go to The Arnold Arboretum, period.
  • Have your mind blown by the oasis in the middle of the city at the Boston Nature Center.
  • Walk through Boston Common at night. But not past midnight because safety.
  • Have a beach day in Nahant or Revere.
  • Camp on the Harbor Islands.
  • Picnic on the Esplanade. Bonus points if it’s the first nice spring day and only 50 degrees outside.
  • Visit the giant reflecting pool at Christian Science Center. Pro tip: it’s better at night.
  • Enjoy the peace and quiet of Mount Auburn Cemetery. Everyone else there certainly is.
  • Loop around Jamaica Pond.
  • Climb Quincy Quarries.
  • Impress your friends—or your date—by showing them Cambridge’s “secret” rooftop garden.
  • Count the smoots on the Mass. Ave. Bridge.
  • Walk from one end of the city to the other. For reals, Boston is smaller and more walkable than you think. 
  • Do your shopping outdoors too by hitting up the South End Open Market @SoWa.


Fireworks Over the Charles River

Fireworks over the Charles River

  • Abandon your preconceived notions of “personal space” and do Salem on Halloween.
  • Also for H’ween: go Trick-or-Treating on Beacon Hill. Because you’re never too old for free full-sized candy bars.
  • Go to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Southie, where everyone’s Irish for the day.
  • Use your time as a Thanksgiving orphan to volunteer. See: Greater Boston Food Bank, Rosie’s Place, Pine Street Inn. Register early because holiday volunteer slots fill up fast.
  • Check out the annual Christmas tree lighting on the Common. “Cold, but a good time.”
  • Watch the 4th of July Fireworks from the Esplanade. Make sure you go in the morning with your crew to claim a spot. Spend the day snacking and taking turns to watch the blanket while someone finds a bathroom.
  • Observe the spectacle that is move-in day, September 1. Yowza. (This is only if you are already safely moved into your apartment or dorm and have no need to leave for at least 36 hours.)


Flour Bakery Sticky Buns

Flour Bakery and Cafe's famous sticky buns. Image via serious eats


Fenway Park

Fenway Park, Big Green Monster and all

  • Go to a Red Sox game, of course. Or at least take a tour of Fenway.
  • Bruins and Celtics games also count.
  • Sail or kayak on the Charles. But resist the urge to go swimming if you’re hot, because it’s not worth the tetanus.
  • Even if you don’t go to BC, BU, Harvard, or Northeastern, cheer on your favorite team in the Bean Pot.
  • Stake out a spot anywhere along those glorious 26.2 miles and cheer on the Boston Marathon runners.
  • Head to the Charles for the, uh, Head of the Charles Regatta.

Theater and film

Improv Boston

A presumably funny dude on Improv Boston's stage


Paradise Rock Club

Outside the Paradise Rock Club

Museums and culture

Institue of Contemporary Art

Institue of Contemporary Art being all chic and . . . contemporary

Touristy stuff

Make Way for Ducklings statue

The Make Way for Ducklings statue, adorable as ever

  • Spend an overpriced, overcrowded night barhopping at Faneuil Hall.
  • Take your family on a Duck Tour. Unless they’re locals, they’re gonna love it.
  • Visit the Make Way for Ducklings statues in Boston Garden.
  • Go behind the not-so-secret secret door at Bodega. Remember you’re a poor college student who can’t afford anything inside.
  • Rub shoulders with the future leaders of America/your peers at Harvard Yard. (But don’t even think the phrase “pahk the cah . . .”)
  • Watch the Hasty Pudding parade while you’re there.
  • Get—er, split—dessert on a weeknight at Top of the Hub. Why pay just for the view when you can enjoy it with warm cookies in your mouth?
  • Check out the New England Aquarium. Stopping by the (free) harbor seal tank outside the museum counts.
  • Go ice-skating on the Frog Pond.
  • Window-shop on Newbury Street.
  • Trek out to Columbia Point to visit JFK’s Presidential Library and Museum (unless you go to UMass Boston, in which case you’re already there).

And here’s #100: make every moment you’re a student in this gloriously feisty “college town” count.

P.S. NEVER call it “Beantown."


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