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Boston: a city home to so much culture. From museums to historic greens where great battles were
fought, this was definitely a totally different experience from California.
It felt a little deja vu the first time I walked down the streets of Wellesley (a suburb near Olin, where I went to school)-- it felt almost exactly like Old Town, Pasadena (just a lot smaller). I later discovered that Pasadena was modeled after the East Coast. So in some sense, I never really lived in a different place (moved from one highly affluent area to the next), except, the weather was quite different.
It's a small enough place where public transportation actually works pretty well! Be sure to get a multi-day pass or a Charlie Card to get around-- a subway ride is about $2 now (as of 2015).
If you only have a day, well, you have a lot of walking ahead of you!
"Follow the red brick road"-- check out the Freedom Trail-- it connects a bunch of historic sites but they have nothing to do with each other.
If it's a nice day, take a walk across the bridge to Cambridge/go to the Esplanade/check out Beacon Hill (a very pretty neighborhood with a great knick-nack store, The Black Ink. Get ice cream at Toscanini's in Cambridge (you might want to ask for a kiddie size).
If it's a crappy day, check out the Aquarium, the Museum of Science, or get some clam "chowda" at Faneuil Hall or Legal Sea Foods. There is also the first public library (aka. the Boston Public Library) located in Copley Square, and the Harvard Museum of Natural History if you're into old-school oddities. Check the box offices at Symphony Hall or Berklee's auditorium if you want to catch a music performance.
If you've got more time, check out the squares in neighboring Cambridge:
Kendall: famous for MIT, it's an interesting walk around. (There's also an interactive music chimes display in the T station underground.) They've got decent food trucks on the weekdays.
Harvard: famous for Harvard, you can join in the hordes of tourists trying to see John Harvard's statue. Lots of great eats here!
Porter Square: There's a multi-story building next to Lesley University that's got a Japanese/Asian food court! Additionally, they have an awesome book store in the Porter Square Shopping Center known as Porter Square Books, and just next to the shopping center is probably one of the best ramen places in the greater Boston area.
Davis Square: Good burgers can be found, as well as things college students like. (This is where Tufts is located.)
And if you have a car, you can go see...
Where to Eat:
Ice cream. New Englanders take this very seriously.
Kimball Farms deserves to be mentioned on its own-- they've got bumper boats, a driving range, a batting cage, a general store, classic summer eats, and they're in quite a pretty part of New England!
Asian Supermarkets (hey, they're important!)
By the cape