Jannis Werner / Stockimo / Alamy
Samantha DiMauro
August 06, 2014

Not long ago, I counted myself as one of the nearly 400,000 collegiates who call Greater Boston their campus. With more than 50 universities and colleges in the metropolitan area, the schools’ facilities, events, and ample grounds are as crucial to city life as they are to campus culture. From professors’ public lectures and readings to the sweeping libraries and stadiums, the institutions of higher learning invite locals and visitors alike to experience college life. Take part in a healthy school rivalry (like the Holy War between Boston College and Notre Dame) by attending a game, or watch emerging talents perform in intimate comedy clubs or theaters. Even Marathon Monday—a citywide school holiday—lets visitors sample the student scene. In Boston, you don’t need a student ID to experience play like a college kid. Simply check out one of these iconic locales or events and you’ll quickly learn why Boston is such a popular place to study.

Emerson’s Cutler Majestic Theatre

Originally built in 1903, this Beaux Arts opera house shows off with red marble columns and plush velvet seats. With its towering proscenium, and enough gilded varnish to be dubbed “The House of Gold,” the second-story balcony is the best place to see works by ArtsEmerson. Last year, I marveled at Sequence 8 by circus-arts company Les 7 Doigts de la Main, known for its captivating spectacles of aerial acrobatics. 

MIT Museum

Mind-blowing works at the intersection of art, science, and technology are kept in this space, curated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Opened in 2013, Kurtz Gallery for Photography has featured such exhibitions as Stanley Greenberg’s Time Machines. The photographs on display relayed important vantage points on modern technology, such as the atom smasher and other experimental machines.

Beanpot Tournament at TD Garden

Every February during the bitter Boston chill, things get heated at this four-team tournament—a beloved city tradition since 1952—that pins men’s hockey teams from Boston College, Boston University, Harvard University, and Northeastern University head-to-head. The prize? A coveted silver pot of beans, of course. I can already feel the tension building for the next showdown.

Harvard Yard

This grassy, 25-acre college quad is the oldest part of the oldest university in the country. Visit the yard’s landmarks, such as the John Harvard statue, the Tercentenary Theater, and Massachusetts Hall, the longest standing building on campus. To get the lowdown on all 400 years of Harvard history, I recommend the Cambridge Historical Tours’ guided walk through the grounds, led by a costume-clad guide full of clever wit and charming stories.

MassArt Fashion Show

For 95 years, MassArt’s fashion students have seen the magnum opus of their collegiate careers on the catwalk. Graduating seniors reveal their designs to the public, while sophomores are challenged to create wearable art. Zany-yet-functional gowns have been made wholly out disco-ball mirrors, repurposed computer parts, and glossy ribbons of film reels. Don’t worry if you miss the show—many designs receive a runway reprise during Boston Fashion Week in the fall.

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