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College Student City Guide: Boston

Here, we welcome you to that feisty New England city that is still a quintessential college town, where the Red Sox call home and they love that dirty water: Boston.

College often means moving to a new—sometimes, really new—place. The change of scenery, along with the newfound freedom it comes with, is one of the best parts about college. But it can also be a challenge to adjust, especially while juggling the other really new facets of the college experience. That’s why we created this series, diving into the top need-to-know facts and stats about popular college cities and towns. So students can read up on their new home and then get out there!

Here, we welcome you to that feisty New England city that is still a quintessential college town, where the Red Sox call home and they love that dirty water: Boston.

Boston at a glance

Boston Public GardenLocated in picturesque New England and home to more than 100 colleges and universities, many consider Boston the epitome of a “college town.” Settled in 1630, it’s one of America’s oldest cities, which translates into a rich cultural heritage and a pleasantly dissonant mix of colonial architecture and soaring skyscrapers. There are hundreds of restaurants, dozens of museums, and with four distinct seasons and both beaches and mountains within driving distance, there’s no shortage of options for its 250,000 annual student denizens—there’s always something to do in and around Beantown.

Oh, and if you want to blend in with the locals, don’t call it Beantown.



Located in East Boston, Logan International Airport (BOS) is Boston’s main airport and is easily accessible by public transportation. A smaller airport, Manchester-Boston Regional Airport (MHT), is located 60 miles north of Boston in Manchester, New Hampshire.


Portland, MaineBoston is served by Amtrak. Fast Northeast Corridor trains will take you to New York City, D.C., and other destinations in between. The Downeaster service travels between Boston and Brunswick, Maine, with several stops between the two.

Public transportation

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, known to locals as the “T,” operates Boston’s public transportation network, including a rapid transit subway system, commuter and light rails, buses, trolleys, and ferries. The most economical way to use the “T” is to purchase a CharlieCard, which is reusable and rechargeable. CharlieCards can be purchased at various stations and reloaded online.


Driving in Boston is a notoriously tricky endeavor. It’s best to avoid it altogether if you can. Not only can the traffic and pervasive one-way streets make it difficult to get around, but parking can be jarringly expensive—if you can find a spot. If you’re attending college in Boston, you should rely on the city’s public transportation, which is extensive and easy to use. And if you want to get out of town for the weekend, there are plenty of buses and trains that can take you to other parts of New England and the East Coast.


In 2011, Boston launched a bikeshare program called Hubway. You can sign up online for a monthly or annual membership, and within a week you’ll receive a key that you can use to unlock any of the bicycles in Hubway’s network. The first 30 minutes are free, and you can return the bike to any Hubway station. The program shuts down during the winter, but during the rest of the year bikes are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


Walk Score recently named Boston the third most walkable city in America. It’s true: Boston is a big city—but not that big. From crumbling cobblestone alleyways to hole-in-the-wall restaurants tucked away on narrow side streets, there’s so much that’s best discovered on foot. Whether you’re strolling around scenic Jamaica Pond or window-shopping on Newbury Street, walking is a great way to get around and discover the city.


Contrary to popular belief, there’s a lot more to the Boston dining scene than chowdah’ and lobstah’ (although if that happens to be what you’re looking for, you’ll definitely find a lot of both throughout New England). Boston is one of America’s great foodie cities, with hundreds of restaurants to satisfy any craving you may have. From authentic Italian food in the North End to culinary adventures in Chinatown to some of the best seafood in America, you’ll find a little bit of everything in Boston. And as a student-friendly city, there’s no shortage of good cheap eats! Check out websites like www.boston.com and www.bostonchefs.com to explore the city’s many offerings—and be sure to take advantage of Restaurant Week.


Whether you enjoy heading to the theater to catch a Broadway production on a Friday night, spending a leisurely Saturday afternoon wandering the halls of an art gallery, or running a 5k early on a Sunday morning, you’ll find there’s no shortage of things to do (and eat!) in Boston.


Deeply rooted in American history and home to a vibrant community of artists and thinkers (thanks in part to the many colleges and universities in the area), it’s no wonder there are so many museums located in and around Boston. The Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum are two of the most notable museums in the city, and there are also many museums and galleries affiliated with schools such as Harvard, MIT, and MassArt. Not sure where to start? Check out www.museumsofboston.org, a collaborative organization of more than 40 museums in the Boston area.

Performing arts

If theater is your thing, you’ll find several phenomenal venues located in the Washington Street Theatre District, including the Cutler Majestic Theatre and the Citi Performing Arts Center. The city also boasts a wide variety of music, such as the Boston Philharmonic, the Boston Pops, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, all of which give performances throughout the year. You can also find various performing arts events right on the many college campuses throughout Boston, particularly at schools such as Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music. And for a uniquely Bostonian experience, be sure to attend a concert at the Hatch Shell, an outdoor venue located on the Charles River Esplanade.

Annual events

Here are just a few of the many events that Boston hosts each year:

Outdoor activities

Cape CodNew England in general and Boston in particular are brimming with opportunities to get outdoors, 365 days a year.

In the warmer months, you can take advantage of the many beautiful beaches located near Boston, such as Spectacle Island and Revere Beach. If you feel like taking a drive, Cape Cod is just 70 miles from Boston, or you could head north up the coast to Rye, New Hampshire, or Portland, Maine. There are also many pristine lakes in the region, such as New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee, where summer sports like wakeboarding and jet skiing abound. The Charles River, which runs through Boston and Cambridge, is also known as a venue for water sports such as kayaking, rowing, and sailing.

Throughout the year, the region’s mountains offer countless outdoor activities. In the summer, you can hike the Appalachian Trail or, if you’re brave, try tackling Mount Washington, the unofficial “Home of the World’s Worst Weather.” In the fall, you can go for a drive and join the “leaf peepers” on the Kancamagus Highway, or take in the view from above on a zip-lining expedition in Vermont. And in the winter, you’ll find numerous ski resorts where you can hit the slopes, rent a snowmobile, or simply cozy up in a cabin with a warm cup of cocoa and a good book.

Professional sports

New Englanders are fiercely loyal to Boston’s professional sports teams:


In general, Boston is incredibly safe, but like any large city, there are good days and bad days. For the most part, however, Boston’s crime rate has dropped significantly over the past 20 years, thanks in large part to the proactive efforts of the Boston Police Department.

Colleges and universities have safety and security offices that work hard to ensure that all students are protected and can feel comfortable while on campus. But both on campus and off, use your best judgment: don’t walk around by yourself after dark, call the police if you ever feel threatened or if you see something suspicious, and trust your instincts—if you have a bad feeling about a location or a situation, remove yourself from it.


Unfortunately, housing in Boston can be extremely pricey, and if you’re coming from a part of the country where housing is relatively affordable, you’re in for a serious case of sticker shock. Forbes recently listed Boston among the worst cities for renters, with the average monthly rent ringing in at $1,752. To put that number in perspective, the average monthly rent in Cincinnati, listed among the best cities for renters, is just $717.

But don’t let those figures discourage you. If you’re living on campus, many dorm options can be relatively affordable. For example, room and board at Boston College, Simmons College, and Suffolk University comes to around $1,500 per month—that’s for a roof over your head and your daily meals. And if you’ll be living off campus but the rent in Boston is a little too steep for you, consider checking out apartments in “commuter towns” a little farther afield where rates may be more reasonable.


If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes. — Mark Twain

According to The Weather Channel, the warmest month in Boston is July, with an average high of 82, and the coldest month is January, with an average high of 36.

Spring and summer are usually temperate and pleasant, but New England winters can be brutal. If you like snow, you’ll like Boston, because it tends to get a lot of it. In the record-setting winter of 1995–1996, nearly nine feet of white stuff fell on the city. More recently, in the winter of 2012–2013, Boston received 42.4 inches of snow, which is far less dramatic but still nothing to sneeze at.

Fall is when New England really comes to life. Temperatures hover in the 50s and 60s, warm apple cider becomes readily available, and trees throughout the region burst into a postcard-perfect spectacle of color. What could be more quintessentially collegiate than the sound of leaves crunching beneath your feet as you stroll across campus on a crisp October morning?

Colleges and universities in and around Boston

Here’s just a small sampling of the dozens of schools located in the Boston area (you can click here for a more exhaustive list):

Just for fun

Famous Bostonians

Born and raised (mostly!) . . .

  • Ben Afflek, actor
  • Steve Carell, actor and comedian
  • Matt Damon, actor
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Robert Frost, poet
  • President John F. Kennedy
  • Jack Kerouac, poet and writer
  • Conan O’Brien, comedian
  • James Taylor, singer
  • Mark Wahlberg, actor
  • Barbara Walters, broadcast journalist


Check out these fun facts from www.cityofboston.gov:

  • Boston was originally named Shawmut by the local Native Americans. It was founded on September 17, 1630 and named after Boston, England, a town in Lincolnshire from which several prominent colonists originated.
  • The Boston University Bridge on Commonwealth Avenue is one of the only places in the world where a boat can sail under a train passing under a car driving under an airplane.
  • While the Library of Congress contains the most volumes in the country (29,550,000), Harvard University is second with more than 15,000,000, and the Boston Public Library is third with more than 14,000,000.
  • Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, is the oldest original Major League Baseball Park still in use.
  • The Boston Cream Pie dessert was invented at the Omni Parker House in Boston. It is now the official dessert of the State.

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