As a higher education administrator for the last 15 years, you could say I am pretty familiar with the colleges and universities in and around the Boston area. We are lucky to have so many amazing post-secondary institutions in the Greater Boston area, so planning a trip to check out several is totally feasible!
This guide is meant to give you some tips and tricks to make the most of your visit to the area as well as some sample itineraries that you can customize for your specific needs. Whether you’re coming just for fun or to help make a college decision for your soon-to-be high school graduate, this guide is for you!
Check out our curated Boston higher-education itinerary, then read on for more great info on visiting Boston’s colleges, universities, and more!
WHAT TO DO IN BOSTON
Any visit to Boston can be both business and pleasure; even if you are embarking on the potentially stressful and very expensive college exploration process! Because there are so many colleges and universities here, you can get a lot done, see some great sights, and eat some yummy food while you’re at it.
The first step is to decide which institutions you want to check out; this may be based on location/proximity or on specific programs your family member might be interested in. There are many smaller specialized schools, like Mass College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Berklee College of Music, and MassArt, or larger institutions, like Northeastern University or Boston University.
There are MANY colleges and universities within walking distance of each other. For example, Colleges of the Fenway is a collaboration of five schools near — you guessed it — the famous Fenway Park. So if you’re visiting one of those, depending on the season, it may be great to line your trip up with a home game (just be aware of the traffic!).
Suffolk University and Emerson College are next-door neighbors, tucked into the theater district and right across from the Boston Common. Don’t forget about nearby Cambridge, which is home to some premier institutions, including MIT and Harvard, which are worth a visit even if your student is not applying there!
Once you have a list of the schools you want to visit, you can start mapping out your trip! Some great attractions to consider squeezing into your visit include walking the Freedom Trail, taking a Duck Tour, enjoying the famous Make Way for Ducklings statues or Swan Boats in the Boston Common, checking out the Rose Kennedy Greenway, and exploring one of our great museums like the Museum of Science or Children’s Museum. I also recommend walking through Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. There are tons of shops, restaurants, and often live performances.
WHERE TO EAT IN BOSTON
There are SO MANY good restaurants in Boston. Check out the sample itinerary for some recommendations based on neighborhood. But here are some general highlights of some of my favorites:
- Harpoon Brewery has not only good drinks but amazing pretzels.
- Silvertone is one of my old-school favorites. It’s located in the theater district, near Emerson and Suffolk. They have excellent steak tips and cocktails in a dive bar environment.
- The North End. If you like Italian, you really can’t go wrong with any restaurant in this neighborhood. My personal favorite is Carmelina’s. And you have to finish off your meal with a treat from Mike’s Pastry.
- For pizza, Ernesto’s is an excellent choice.
- If you make it out to Cambridge, I recommend Clover Labs (there are several Cambridge locations as well as a few in Boston) and Shybird.
HOW TO GET AROUND IN BOSTON
Many of the colleges and universities within Boston and Cambridge are accessible via public transportation. For example, you can take the Green Line and hop on and off at many different institutions. All college websites will include the closest T stops on their “visit us” page. Using the MBTA website is honestly a bit clunky, but if you put in your destination it will give you a few options to get from point A to point B. You can also use Google Maps and choose the “Transit” option to see the best public transportation routes.
HIDDEN GEMS IN BOSTON
- Ramler Park in the Fenway area.
- MAAM is a museum located within MassArt. Amazing work!
- A Fenway student fan favorite is crepes from Neighborhood Cafe.
- The Verb Hotel is a very cool boutique hotel that is close to everything (super close to Fenway), and it has a heated pool — parenting win.
- The Eliot Hotel is on Commonwealth Avenue and near Berklee, Northeastern, BU, and more!
- The Omni Parker House is wonderful if you’re looking for some history and nostalgia during your stay.
BEST SOUVENIRS IN BOSTON
I think the best souvenirs are from the college bookstore. Every school has one! They are not always cheap, but a nice college sweatshirt is something useful that will last!
- Don’t do more than two official college tours in one day. Even though they only last about an hour typically, it is a LOT of information and will get all jumbled if you do too much at once.
- Do bring a backpack or tote bag to carry all the folders, brochures, and mementos you will likely get from official visits.
- Don’t book tours with schools you’re definitely not considering.
- Do walk around the campuses of ones you’re just curious about!
- Do look at the school’s event calendars to see if you can connect your visit with a cultural, athletic, or performance event — participate in one of the classic traditions! This gives you a really good feel for the campus community. Some examples include the annual Beanpot (annual ice hockey tournament), big-name speakers, festivals, and more!