College tour in Boston, some help please

Oct 28th, 2010, 04:39 PM
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College tour in Boston, some help please

My 16y son and I are taking our first road trip together to tour some colleges in Boston. We are traveling from NJ on Wed late afternoon 11/3. We are not at all familiar with Boston, so my question to start is should we travel by Amtrak, and then rent a car? We are planning to stay at the Marriott Copley. Thursday we have 2 tours scheduled, at Northeastern and Boston U. Friday, Boston College and Tufts. How will it be to drive between all campuses, and parking? Should we forget the car and use mass transport? Also can you suggest some ways to spend Thursday evening, a casual place to eat? A sixteen year old boy is going to need a great burger, or pizza, and by evening i will need a coctail and maybe some seafood! Thank you for your assistance...
etk401 is offline  
Oct 28th, 2010, 04:57 PM
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Driving in Boston can be tricky, but the colleges should all have parking reserved for admissions. I have visited Northeastern, BU & BC with my son. BU did not have parking, but I parked on the street without any trouble. Before our BU visit, we had a great burger on Com Ave (Commonwealth)
right near the Citgo sign. Sorry I don't remember the name.

Thursday night go to Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall. It has a food court as well as a few restaurants. Durgin Park is also there. It is a very famous Boston restaurant that should meet all your requirements. Make a reservation if you can.
handy5 is offline  
Oct 28th, 2010, 05:18 PM
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I wouldn't want to be driving all over Boston, trying to figure out the local "you can;t get there from here" and paying for both rental car and parking - as well as looking for places to park a car. - but would take Amtrak and do public transit or cabs instead.

(Have driven to Boston at least a dozen times - to get stuff up there - but have parked the car as soon as I got there and not used it again until leaving.
nytraveler is offline  
Oct 28th, 2010, 07:17 PM
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I would recommend taking AMTRAK to Boston from New Jersey. Driving and parking in Boston are definitely not for the faint of heart, and I would not recommend doing so. Besides, public transportation in Boston is excellent.

You won't need a car to visit any of these colleges if you're staying in Boston or Cambridge:

-take the B-line Green Line subway to Boston University (BU East, BU Central, or BU East stop) and Boston College (Boston College stop).

-take the E-Line Green Line subway to Northeastern University (Northeastern stop).

-take the Red Line subway to Tufts University (Davis Square stop, then about a half-mile walk or short cab ride).

The burger place in Kenmore Square handy5 is trying to remember the name of is probably Uburger. It's very good, the closest Boston gets to Five Guys or In-N-Out Burger, and much better than Mickey-D style fast food.

The best pizza and seafood spots in Boston are located in the North End, close by the Haymarket subway stop, specifically Pizzeria Regina (on Thacher Street) and Neptune Oyster.

Durgin Park is by far your best choice if you want to try old-fashioned Yankee style comfort food (pot roast, potted beef with onions, prime rib, baked scrod, baked beans, Indian pudding with ice cream, coffee jello), a style of food indigenous to the region. It will also be better than most all other food options in Faneuil Hall (though Kingfish Hall isn't a bad place for seafood).
bachslunch is offline  
Oct 28th, 2010, 07:41 PM
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Definitely no car! Every place you're visiting is well served by public transit. Some are even within walking distance of each other. And if you take Amtrak and get off at Back Bay station, you'll be a 2 minute walk to the Marriott Copley.
wyatt92 is offline  
Oct 28th, 2010, 11:39 PM
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bachslunch has it correct - to add a bit. is an excellent resource for routing from point A to point B. Check it out - stick to "subway" (which will actually be above ground trolley for much of your travels). I would skip the bus - can be too confusing. For transportation you buy a Charlie Ticket from a machine at the station - you load it with any amount you choose.

Boston University campus is essentially about a mile long and a few blocks wide on either side of Commonwealth Avenue (called Comm Ave by everyone). I do not know exactly which part has Admission Office, but I am sure you can find it on-line.

You are taking the GREEN line of MBTA to BU - Make sure it is a "B" line car - it may even say Boston College on the front. After Kenmore, the train goes above ground and BU is any of several stops along the way. This same train continues on from BU to BC - it should take about 20 minutes to get there from BU. You will have to find out from BC website which BC stop to take.

If you could shift BU and BC to the same day and Tufts and Northeastern to the other it would make for slightly more efficient travels.

Similar directions for Northeastern - an even more urban campus and find out from Admissions website which stop to take on "E" line. If you mess up with the stops, it is all walking distance, so don't sweat it.

Davis Square in Somerville can be a bit more confusing as a pedestrian. There are always cabs at the Red Line stop there, so ask one of them to take you to Admissions.

After Tufts, if you continue on the Red Line to the end (Alewife) there is a seafood restaurant (Summer Shack) which I think has excellent seafood and is very casual. There are a couple of other local locations which are not as good - and others here will disagree with my preference for this restaurant. Quality seafood anywhere is expensive; they have nice drinks, excellent raw bar, and huge tanks where you can see lobsters and crabs swimming around. My son says their fried chicken is the best.

For dinner on Thursday I would take Green Line to "Haymarket" stop (this will be "Inbound" from BU, BC, Copley) and walk over to North End for your son's pizza and a few drinks for you. Either search here for posters favorites or just walk thru and pick from posted menus. This is also near Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market area - a refurbished area of shops and restaurants with some very teen-friendly restaurants if he prefers.

You can easily do this on public transit, including Amtrak. Others will tell you the same, but as one who would often prefer to drive, even in a strange city, even I will tell you to give the car a rest for this trip. It will also give your son a taste of traveling around Boston.

Any other questions - ask again. There are a number of Bostonians who are regulars here who will be happy to answer
gail is offline  
Oct 29th, 2010, 07:08 AM
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We loved Pizzeria Regina in the North End. It's been around since the 1920s - delish.
volcanogirl is offline  
Oct 29th, 2010, 07:28 AM
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All this is good advice, but what you do depends a bit on when you are scheduled at each place.

Thursday should be easy. You can get on the E line outbound at Prudential to Northeastern, but it is actually within walking distance from the Marriott Copley. Basically, you go out the front door and turn left on Huntington Avenue. When you are through at Northeastern, take an E train inbound to Arlington Street, cross to the outbound side and take a B train to Boston University, probably Boston University Central. The admissions material will tell you. You can only change from inbound to outbound lines free at a few places. Arlington Street is one of them.

For Boston College, you will walk from the hotel to Boylston Street take an outbound B train from the T entrance at the corner of Boylston and Dartmouth streets across the street from the Boston Public Library.

From BC to Tufts is more difficult. If everything goes perfectly, it will take you an hour, changing from the Green Line to the outbound Red Line at Park Square for Davis Square. I wouldn't bet on everything going perfectly. Try to finish at BC by 11 and not need to be at Tufts before 2. Even later is better because:

Davis Square is a great college neighborhood, with a lot of places to eat. We all have our favorites but both the diner and Redbones are great experiences. Ask directions locally.

I would take a taxi from Davis Square to Tufts, by the way. It won't cost much, and by then you won't need to walk out there, then find the admissions office, then take a walking tour.

These will be four very different institutions. Northeastern and BU are both really urban, Tufts and BC are both suburban. It will be interesting to see which has the greatest appeal.
Ackislander is offline  
Oct 29th, 2010, 07:30 AM
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OK, I'm ganna go a little bit against the grain here. First on Thursday definately use public transportation to visit BU and NE. It really is the only way to get the feel of college living in the city. Actually you could also walk to both campuses giving you a hint of symphony/Church of Christ corridor and Fenway neighborhood from Marriott Copley as well.

Now this is where I change up from others opinions. Friday you are going to ends of the earth as far as trains are concerned. The commute to Boston College will take time, with lots of stops and then you would have to backtrack all the way to pick up the Red Line and head to nearly the end of the track again. On Friday, I would go to the rental desk at your hotel and pick up a car for the day. Spend your morning in the nearly gated BC and environs, which is a much more cloistered campus. Then head across the river, taking in river view and Harvard Square and on to Davis Square.

So yup, that's my opinion and I'm sticking to it. Thursday public transportation, Friday a one day car rental that you can drop at the end of the day after exploring the outer reaches.
Kealalani is offline  
Oct 29th, 2010, 07:32 AM
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I meant Christian Science corridor!
Kealalani is offline  
Oct 29th, 2010, 07:59 AM
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I too agree with using the T instead of driving. Yes, for Friday (when you visit BC & Tufts), it will be easier with a car; HOWEVER, when you add in the time it'll take to:

1) go to a rental location to pick up a car
2) get through traffic and adding in an additional 30 minutes for getting lost
3) Stuck in traffic forever when you leave Tufts to return to Copley on I-93 on a Friday afternoon
4) returning the car at the rental location

It's almost a wash between driving vs public transit. Plus, it's MUCH MUCH cheaper to take the T than to rent a car for a day.

In addition, since your son most likely will not have a car when he attends school, I think it'll give him a sense of what it's like to be taking the T, esp to schools a bit farther out like BC & Tufts.

In summary, I would recommend driving IF
1) you already have a car, and
2) you are very, very familiar with driving in Boston

You've received many good suggestions regarding food options. If you're too pooped out on Thursday (after the tours) and don't feel like taking the T to North End, bear in mind there's a fairly decent food court inside Prudential Center. You can walk there from the Marriott via pedestrian walkway in under 3 minutes. Also at the Pru, there's Cheesecake Factory, PF Changs, and several other casual restaurants. You can eat at any of these places without putting your coats on because they are connected to the Marriott Copley.
yk is offline  
Oct 29th, 2010, 08:57 AM
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I've always enjoyed that Bostonian posters can have differing opinions and usually all of them are still right and maintain a polite agreement to disagree! I took my niece on tours of BU and BC which are so different. She chose PennState, much to the happiness of her PA parents footing the bill! Have a wonderful few days exploring the city and college communities! Each has much to offer.
Kealalani is offline  
Oct 29th, 2010, 12:54 PM
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My opinion:

On Wednesday, either drive to Boston or take the train, whichever you prefer. It's true that the streets in Massachusetts are sometimes inefficiently laid out and hard to navigate, and that Massachusetts residents are the nastiest, most vicious group of people I've ever met in the U.S.A. They're particularly bad while driving, where their hostility often combines with mind-boggling incompetence. However, Copley is very close to the Mass Pike, and your exposure to Boston drivers on city streets will be minimal if you just drive to the hotel and leave the car there (besides, if you're accustomed to New Jersey drivers, you can probably handle it!) On the other hand, Copley is right next to the Back Bay train station, so it would be extremely convenient to just get off of the train there and walk to the hotel.

On Thursday, take public transportation, as directed above. Even if you drove to Boston, leave the car in the garage that day.

On Friday, either drive your own car, or take a taxi from BC to Tufts. Do not attempt to drive yourself unless you have GPS navigation. There's no need to rent a car for a day when there are taxis available.
hawksbill is offline  
Oct 29th, 2010, 01:16 PM
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Although I don't agree with hawksbill's rant about Boston drivers, I do agree with the very sensible suggestion to take a taxi from BC to Tufts on Friday. It will be expensive but less than renting a car, and much less stressful.

You can take public transportation out to BC, which is at the end of the Green B or Boston College line (BU is the same trolley line). Cab to Tufts, then take the Red Line back into Boston (change at Park St. for the Green Line to Copley if you go back to your hotel).

If you're tired on Thursday, beyond the offerings at the Prudential Center, you can wander over to Boylston and Newbury Street and certainly find a restaurant.

I hope you have a fun and rewarding trip!
cw is offline  
Oct 29th, 2010, 02:12 PM
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Thank you all so very much for your suggestions. We will take amtak then use public transport on Thursday and Friday AM. I like the idea of cabbing it to Tufts. Is it like in NYC where you stand on any street and hail a cab, or more like the suburbs, where you need to call for it?
We are trying to see if son has a preference for the different types of campuses, and I think using public transportation will make an impact as well. Thanks again, I am probably looking forward to it more then he is!
etk401 is offline  
Oct 29th, 2010, 05:01 PM
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If you're meeting with someone at BC, ask them about taxis when you get there. Then maybe they can call and schedule a time for your pick-up.

There are lots of taxi companies in Newton--I suppose you could call one in advance. BC is actually in both Newton and Boston, but their address (i.e. zip code) is Chestnut Hill, which is made up of parts of Boston, Newton, and Brookline.

Weather permitting, do walk either to or from Northeastern from the Marriott. It will give you a sense of that area of the city, and it's not too far.
cw is offline  
Oct 29th, 2010, 05:20 PM
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glad your looking forward to the trip, as you won't be looking forward to the tuition! 4 very different campuses and schools to consider.
Kealalani is offline  
Oct 29th, 2010, 06:08 PM
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I'd assume someone at the school (BC) can call a cab for you; eg, if there's a guard at the entrance. If all fails, my guess is there will be cabs waiting near/around the BC Green Line T stop.
yk is offline  
Oct 29th, 2010, 06:49 PM
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You will have a *much* more pleasant experience if you are negotiating public transportation and/or a few cabs than if you are trying to read non-existent street signs and manage traffic whose ways of driving are hard for those unfamiliar with the local customs.

I do not think Boston drivers are bad. I have lived here long enough that I much prefer their driving styles to my native Midwest or even LA where we spend a lot of time. HOWEVER, for a novice to the area it is frustrating and not worth the potential aggravation for something that should be a nice bonding experience for you and DS.
socialworker is offline  
Oct 29th, 2010, 06:51 PM
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etk401: there are some parts of the Boston area where you can just stand on a street corner and hail a taxi, like in New York. Copley would be like that. I think you'd also have good results on Huntington Avenue near Northeastern, or on Comm Ave near BU. But the areas around BC and Tufts won't be like that.

The suggestions above sound great. I might suggest taking along the phone numbers of some taxi companies, so that you can call one from your cell phone, if necessary. To expand on cw's last comment, one interesting thing about the Boston area is that different taxi companies are authorized to pick up in different places. For example, a taxi company might be allowed to pick people up in Cambridge, but not Brookline. Especially if time will be tight, you might want to look into that in advance so that you'll have some appropriate phone numbers ready.

I think maximizing your walking and use of public transportation is a great idea. It will give your son a better idea of what it would be like to be a student at all the various schools, give you and him a better sense of the areas around the campuses, and generally give you both a much more favorable impression of Boston, which really is (in my opinion) a great town to go to college in.
hawksbill is offline  

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