Breaking in Boston: Cheap ways to spend ten days

by Beacon Staff • February 25, 2009

Spring break-10 anxiously awaited days without classes-is right around the corner. While many college students imagine spring vacation as the holy trinity of beaches, babes (or bros) and booze, it's not so practical to plan an elaborate trip while the economy crashes and burns.

Staying in Boston might seem dreary when it still feels like winter here, but with a little ingenuity, it's easy to fill a week exploring all those areas of Boston that there's never time to visit when classes are in session. And the best part is that almost everything listed costs no more than MBTA fare.

bThoreau-ly Entertaining/b

Sometimes, it's necessary to leave town altogether and, in that case, jump on the commuter rail and take the train to Concord, a quirky little town known for hosting the first battle of the American Revolution and housing transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau for two years while he wrote his book iWalden/i.

Visit Thoreau's cabin, stroll around Walden Pond and enjoy a meal at one of the small restaurants on the town's Main Street. It's only an hour away but it's enough of an escape to let you forget city life, even if just for the afternoon.

bFreedom Trail/b

For the more historically inclined, follow the bright red line down Tremont Street, also known as the Freedom Trail. Instead of leading you and the Tin Man to meet the Wizard, it conveniently drops you off right in front of Paul Revere's House and the Old North Church. The curious can see remnants of the American Revolution and reenact the Midnight Ride, albeit without a horse.

This living history is conveniently located in the North End, also home to Mike's Pastry or Lulu's Bake Shoppe. Snack on a chocolate dipped cannoli with powdered sugar at Mike's or enjoy Lulu's signature cupcake, filled with marshmallow cream and designed to look like a Hostess confection. History never tasted so good.

bBeachy Keen/b

Many choose to hit the sand for Spring Break and while it might seem like an unlikely destination up north, it's still possible to enjoy a beach day in Boston, albeit a slightly chilly one. A ride on the Number 9 bus takes you to Castle Island on the south side of the harbor.

If it's a really warm day, a quick dip in the water is optional. But if it's too chilly to swim, you can watch planes take off from Logan Airport, swing on the many jungle gyms or wander around the pentagonal Fort Independence, built in 1644. It was only used once during the Revolutionary War but is now open to visitors and guided tours.

bArtsty Fartsy/b

Artistic Emersonians tired of paying admission at the Institute of Contemporary Art can enjoy the art galleries in the South End. Stop by 450 Harrison Ave. (accessible by foot or the Silver Line bus towards Dudley Station) to enjoy the work of more than 30 different up-and-coming artists from the Boston area, members of the SoWa (South of Washington Street) Artist's Guild.

The guild is a non-profit organization for professional artists and holds public and private shows open everyday to the public. As an added bonus, stop by on March 6 between 5 and 9 p.m. and meet the guild's artists during "First Fridays," a monthly celebration that connects art enthusiasts of all skill levels.

bGet Lucky/b

As for the final weekend of break, St. Patrick is coming a few days early this year, with the annual parade through South Boston occurring on the morning of March 15. Watch step dancers and pipe bands while floats travel through Boston's most Irish neighborhood and everyone dresses in as much green as possible. It's always crowded but worth it to see one of the most Irish city in the country celebrate its patron saint and blow off steam.

bArnold Arboretum/b

For those craving a nature fix without leaving the comforts of the T, ride the Orange Line to Forest Hills and take a walk through the Arnold Arboretum. A 265-acre plot in the center of Jamaica Plain, this public park is home to hundreds of trails and more than 7,000 different plants that certainly differentiate it from the Boston Common and the Public Gardens.

Visit one of America's oldest bonsai collections or enjoy being away from the traffic and climb a hill that looks like a home for hobbits. Jamaica Plain might not be as warm and alluring as Jamaica at the beginning of March, but for a dose of nature uncommon in the city, it can't be beat.

It might not be the Bahamas or Cozumel but for spring break this year, Boston might just be a suitable substitute.