In Williamstown, no one can hear you scream . . . but at three hours away from Boston and three and a half hours away from New York, it’s not quite in the middle of nowhere. Bursting the purple bubble and getting out there isn’t as hard as you think â€“ Zipcars, the Motorcoach (for New York) and WSO’s ride board are all options for the transportation-challenged. Taking a day-trip or a weekend off can be a great change of pace and a fabulous way to de-stress, and it doesn’t have to be too expensive, either.
If you’re ever itching to spend a weekend in Boston, spend your Friday in Kendall Square, Cambridge. In Cambridge, compared to Central Square, Inman Square and especially Harvard Square, Kendall Square is always the bridesmaid, never the bride â€“ but don’t overlook this charming little neighborhood. If you really want to be in the hustle and bustle among hordes of tourists, Harvard Square is the place to be, but if not, spend a few hours on the stomping grounds of MIT students.
Where to eat
Kendall Square is full of small, inexpensive cafes, but plan ahead â€“ many of them are closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Eat at The Friendly Toast (1 Kendall Sq.) for an update on typical diner fare, where you can try food ranging from pumpkin pancakes ($5.50 for one, $7.50 for two) to the Vegan Valhalla, a sort of vegan burrito ($10.95).
If innovative pizza is more your cup of tea, head on over to Emma’s (40 Hampshire St.), where the crust is thin and the toppings are plenty. Case in point: the fourth pie on the menu includes crispy smoked bacon, roasted Yukon potato, cilantro and dried cranberries ($15 for a 12” pizza). For the less adventurous, pepperoni is always an option ($11.50).
Of course, you may be looking to eat something you can’t find in Billsville â€“ something like shawarma, a Middle Eastern wrap with shaved rotisserie meat. In that case, try Aceituna (605 West Kendall St.), a Lebanese cafÃ© where a chicken shawarma with a drink and a side will only set you back $8.25.
Where to shop
Even just a Quarter Pounder at McDonald’s costs more than a buck, but on the first floor of The Garment District (200 Broadway), a three-story thrift shop, a whole pound of clothes costs just one dollar â€“ on Fridays, at least ($1.50/lb. on other days). Naturally, it’s not for everyone; many people, including myself, can’t stomach the idea of diving into a giant cesspool of musty clothes. But if excavation is your thing, get your gloves (trust me, you’ll want to), and start digging. On the other two floors of The Garment District is a hodgepodge of vintage (starting around the ’70s) and new clothes â€“ much of it junk, really, but I did see a few pairs of Ferragamo shoes for $15. As with any thrift store, if you’re planning on making a trip to The Garment District, be prepared to sift.
But did I mention that this same building houses Boston Costume, the most fabulous costume shop I’ve ever been to in my life? Whether it’s a full-body lobster costume, or a giant feather headdress you’re looking for, Boston Costume is bound to have it. The store stocks myriad masks, wigs, mustaches and even liquid latex, for those of you who are into the painted-on look. Admittedly, Boston Costume is not particularly cheap, but where else are you going to find a Ricky Ricardo mariachi outfit?
If you’re more into squeezing your brain than you are into squeezing yourself into gold lamÃ©, the MIT Press Bookstore (292 Main St.) is the place to find unique books, especially ones pertaining to math and science. The store has a large selection of books and journals published by the MIT Press, along with other academic books published by outside companies â€“ many of the books are not easy to find elsewhere.
What to do
MIT’s List Visual Arts Center (20 Ames St.) has a small collection of modern art in various mediums, but boasts big names like Chagall and Picasso. Admission is free.
If you’ve ever been to a Landmark movie theater, you know that AMC and Regal don’t hold a candle to the art house chain. You may not find Transformers 3 at any Landmark, but you will find fresh brownies at the concession stand and an excellent selection of first-run indie films. Kendall Square has its own Landmark theater â€“ Kendall Square Cinema (1 Kendall Sq.) â€“ with nine screens, and no frills.
Stick around after the movie and end your evening in 1 Kendall Square. The plaza has a wide variety of bars â€“ beer aficionados need look no further than Cambridge Brewing Co., pool sharks can hustle at Flat Top Johnny’s and Irish pub fans can head to Tommy Doyle’s.