No trip to the Boston area would be complete without a hop across the river to Cambridge to visit one of the area’s most popular attractions— the bustling neighborhood of Harvard Square. In fact, there’s so many terrific shopping, dining, cultural and nightlife options available in the shadow of prestigious Harvard University, that we at Panorama started wondering if you couldn’t fill a week’s visit with just the Square. Turns out, we came up with eight days worth of fun for Ivy-leaguers and the rest of us.
Saturday, October 13:
Do the Time Warp Again
In this era of home-theater excess, people seem to have forgotten how to enjoy the simple pleasure of seeing a movie with a live, engaged crowd. The folks who turn out for the weekly Saturday midnight screenings of the 1975 cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Loews Harvard Square Theater (10 Church St., 617-864-4580) certainly remember, turning up in droves dressed in the outrageous, gender-bending outfits of the sci-fi musical’s colorful characters. Before you head over, spend the day putting your own outfit together, searching for distinctive vintage clothing at Oona’s (1210 Mass. Ave., 617-491-2654), funky alt-modern outfits and accessories at Urban Outfitters’ Bargain Basement (11 JFK St., 617-864-0070) and Hootenanny (inside The Garage Mall, 36 JFK St., 617-864-6623) and makeup—lots of it—at Origins (8 Brattle St., 617-868-8090). From there, it’s just a jump to the left...
Sunday, October 14:
When Bay State members of the fairer sex plan a day out together, the temptation is to spend the whole time flouncing up and down Newbury Street—but just how much haute couture can one take before it loses its appeal? A gals’ day out in Harvard Square offers just as much fun potential with only a fraction of the ’tude. Start your lady-centric Sunday off with brunch at Zoe’s (1105 Mass. Ave., 617-495-0055), where the selections range from traditional breakfasts to Greek specialties to sinfully delicious frappes (try the pumpkin!). Next, enjoy a shopping trip: get everything you need to outfit your bachelorette pad at Bowl and Board (1063 Mass. Ave., 617-661-0350), pick out fine chocolates and other gourmet foodstuffs at Cardullo’s (6 Brattle St., 617-491-8888), find the perfect pair of reasonably priced shoes at Berk’s (50 JFK St., 617-492-9511) and try on modern fashions at Mint Julep (6 Church St., 617-576-6468). Make sure to save some time for an afternoon appointment at Carriage House Salon (33 Church St., 617-868-7800), where you can enjoy massages, facials, manicures and hair treatments to make you feel as beautiful outside as you do inside.
Monday, October 15:
Be an Ivy Leaguer for a Day
Obviously, not all of us could get into Harvard. But it’s a lot easier to fake it for a day than you might have imagined. The first thing you’ll need to do is pay a visit to the Harvard Coop (1400 Mass. Ave., 617-499-2000), where you can purchase any kind of Harvard T-shirt, sweatshirt or athletic jersey you desire. Then head out on one of the Unofficial Tours of Harvard University (www.unofficialtours.com). Departing from outside the Harvard Square T stop, these irreverent student-led tours run six times a day and take visitors all around the Harvard campus and provide a slew of insider stories—which you can later swap with real Harvard students at hangouts like Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage (1246 Mass. Ave., 617-354-6559), La Creperie (1154 Mass. Ave., 617-661-6999) or while showing off your wicked big brain during the popular Trivia Night at John Harvard Brew House (33 Dunster St., 617-868-3585).
Tuesday, October 16:
Bookworm Your Way through the Square
During your travels through Harvard Square you might find yourself confused by the absence of a Barnes & Noble or Borders superstore. Harvard Square is one of the last remaining outposts for quality independent and used bookstores in the Boston area. Lovers of obscure old tomes can spend a day perusing the stacks at local gems like Schoenhof’s Foreign Books (76A Mt. Auburn St., 617-547-8855), Raven Used Books (52B JFK St., 617-441-6999), the Harvard Book Store (1256 Mass. Ave., 617-661-1515) and the aforementioned Coop. After all that digging, take a little time to unwind and read one of your finds at L.A. Burdick’s (52 Brattle St., 617-491-4340) over a cup of hot white chocolate, before heading over to Memorial Church (1 Harvard Yard, 617-495-5508) at 8 p.m. for a talk by legendary horror scribe Stephen King, who’ll be discussing his choices for this year’s edition of The Best American Short Stories.
Wednesday, October 17:
A Little Cul-cha
Befitting a neighborhood boasting a world-class educational institution, Harvard Square is a great spot for enjoying fine cultural pursuits like museums and theater. You could easily spend an afternoon strolling through the Harvard University Art Museums, which include the Busch-Reisinger, which specializes in Central and Northern European artists; the Fogg, home to European and American art from the Middle Ages up to the present; and the Sackler, which boasts extensive Islamic and Oriental collections (32 Quincy St., 617-495-9400). In the evening, one of Cambridge’s finest drama companies—the American Repertory Theatre—hosts the thought-provoking The Veiled Monologues at its Zero Arrow Theatre (Zero Arrow St., 617-547-8300). After the show, you and your special someone can end your very classy and cultured day with a late night supper at that hidden jewel for French cuisine, the venerable Sandrine’s Bistro (8 Holyoke St., 617-497-5300).
Thursday, October 18:
Oldies but Goodies
Harvard Square has certainly changed with the times, but pieces of Harvard Square’s history still abound. An evening of celebrating Harvard Square’s past could begin with dinner in the cozy subterranean restaurant Grendel’s Den (89 Winthrop St., 617-491-1160)—a fixture since 1971. Following dinner, head over to legendary folk venue Club Passim (47 Palmer St., 617-492-7679)—opened in 1958 as Club 47—for a show by popular singer-songwriter Erin McKeown. Then, end your night with a nightcap over at Casablanca (40 Brattle St., 617-876-0999), a popular restaurant and watering hole that’s been satisfying Ivy Leaguers and others since 1955.
Friday, October 19:
Wet Your Whistle
Sometimes you just want nothing more from a night out than to sample a few delightful libations, and Harvard Square has some happening nightspots well-equipped to help you do just that. Before the evenings get too chilly, you can start your night at Shay’s Pub and Wine Bar (58 JFK St., 617-864-9161), sipping your beverage of choice on their sunken patio. Just around the corner, OM (92 Winthrop St., 617-576-2800) boasts unique aromatherapy cocktails in a sleek, modern space perfect for lounging. Over at the Charles Hotel, the classic cocktail lounge Noir (One Bennett St., 617-661-8010) serves up decadent libations inspired by classic film noirs ’til 2 a.m. Once you’re full of liquid courage, Redline (59 JFK St., 617-498-9851) is a great place to get up and boogie, with their Friday DJ nights “The Friday Alternative.” Finally, if you’re feeling those inevitable late-night munchies, stumble (delicately, of course) over to Felipe’s Taqueria (83 Mt. Auburn St., 617-354-9944), which serves fresh, tasty burritos, tacos and more ’til 2 a.m.
Saturday, October 20:
Embrace Your Inner Child
After a night devoted to such grown-up pursuits, it might make sense to spend the next day in Harvard acting like a kid again. The neighborhood has some great shopping options for the young at heart—including Games People Play (1100 Mass. Ave., 617-492-0711), where, seemingly, every board game or jigsaw puzzle you could ever want reside; and two great options for comic books, New England Comics (14A Eliot St., 617-354-5352) and Million Year Picnic (99 Mt. Auburn St., 617-492-6763), where you can feed your superhero fantasies. Recapture your misspent days in the video game arcade at Urban Outfitters, where old school arcade versions of Pac-Man and Galaga can still be played for a quarter, and follow it up with a delicious ice cream sundae at Lizzy’s (31A Church St., 617-354-2911). Finally, cap off your afternoon in the company of the silver screen’s favorite manchild, as the Brattle Theatre (40 Brattle St., 617-876-6837) hosts 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. screenings of everyone’s favorite tale of a boy and his bike, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.
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