SMFA’s campus on the Avenue of the Arts in Boston is a quick trip by foot or public transportation to a wide variety of restaurants, historical sites, shops, galleries, museums, and more.
Explore these personalized maps from the SMFA Admissions team to get a better sense of the city that surrounds us!
1. Glove Cycle – Mags Harries
Catch the T (Boston’s subway system) from the Porter Square station, where SMFA faculty Mags Harries’ clever installation, Glove Cycle, lives.
2. Dewey Square Mural
See a much-larger-than-life, rotating selection of murals in Dewey Square by internationally renowned graffiti artists, muralists, and artists like Os Gemeos, Super A, and Shinique Smith (an SMFA alumna).
3. The Charlestown Bells – Paul Matisse
Walk from Boston proper to neighboring Charlestown alongside the iconic Zakim Bridge. Where the Charles River meets Boston Harbor, you can play a lovely tune on this interactive installation by local artist Paul Matisse (grandson of Henri Matisse and stepson of Marcel Duchamp).
4. Sargent Murals at the Boston Public Library – John Singer Sargent
After you study John Singer Sargent’s mural sketches and paintings close up at the Museum of Fine Arts, see his work in action on the walls and vaults of the Boston Public Library.
5. Greenway Carousel – Jeff Briggs, William Rogers
Animals native to Boston Harbor (joined by a few imagined creatures), sculpted and painted by locals Jeff Briggs and William Rogers respectively, spin around the Greenway Carousel, delighting visitors of The Greenway and nearby Faneuil Hall, Boston Harbor, and the North End.
6. Make Way for Ducklings – Nancy Shön
Alongside the tulip-lined pathways of the Public Garden, SMFA Alumna Nancy Shön pays tribute to Robert McCloskey’s beloved tale, “Make Way for Ducklings.” Though maybe not intended as an interactive art piece, the community nonetheless delights in dressing up the ducklings in scarves, sunglasses, or the jerseys of the latest sports team to win something big.
7. Whale Mural – Ronnie Deziel
MA natives remember driving by the Whale Mural on I-93, in which clown fish spell out “BOSTON”. Nowadays, you can explore the South End neighborhood, passing through the SOWA Arts District, to see the iconic aquatic mural.
8. Rainbow Swash – Corita Kent
Former nun and prolific Boston artist Corita Kent designed this unlikely Boston landmark, a rainbow splashed across a gas storage tank in Dorchester, Boston’s largest neighborhood.
9. Giant Milk Bottle - Arthur Gagner
This milk bottle has been around town: originally a humble homemade ice cream stand on a Taunton roadside, its list of owners is varied and includes the Rough and Ready Underwear Company. It now dispenses snacks outside the Children’s Museum in Southie, a short walk from downtown across the Fort Point Channel. Is it art? I don’t know, but it’s definitely cute.
10. The Wall (Graffiti Alley) Central Square
Locals and internationally known street artists alike (think Shepard Fairey, Stikman, Swoon) collaborate on this colorful alleyway in Central Square.
If you’re anything like me, as you consider which school to attend, you’re wondering, “Where can I get pizza nearby?” Lucky for you, I’ve already done the work for you. Here’s a list of pizza places I have visited throughout Boston to help you locate that emergency slice of pizza.
1. Tremont House of Pizza- Open until 3 am. A perfect option for a snack after working into the wee hours of the night in the studio.
2. Penguin Pizza- More of a sit-down experience. Always 4 options for slices- pepperoni, cheese, some special vegetarian option, and some special meat option. Good appetizers and pasta as well. I would recommend going on a day when they have slices of the Blanco available (pesto sauce, roasted garlic, fresh mozzarella).
3. Il Mondo- BIG slices of pizza. Lots of different toppings to choose from. Worth walking the 10-minute walk from 230 The Fenway.
4. Crispy Dough- Walk up to Mission Hill and grab a cheap slice of good pizza at Crispy Dough. They always have several varieties available, but I always end up getting a slice of Buffalo Chicken and a slice of the Five Cheese Pizza (sometimes a slice of pepperoni too).
5. UHOP- Closest to the SMFA building. That’s all you need to know.
6. Bella Luna- So you ended up on the Orange Line and need a slice of pizza. Stop by Bella Luna where our security guard Walter Benson is in their hall of fame and prints by SMFA alum June August are on display. Grab a slice of cheese or pepperoni or get a whole pie of one of their specials.
7. Nick’s Pizza- Closest to the Medford campus. I usually get a calzone here, but their pizza slices are good as well.
8. Oath Pizza- In Davis Square. They don’t do slices, so this is kind of cheating, but they do offer personal sized pizzas to order. They also have GF and Vegan options.
9. Chacho’s Pizza & Subs- Do you want a slice of Hamburger Pizza, an Empanada, Cheese Fries, and a Pretzel Hot Dog? Go to Chacho’s. They have a wide variety of food, including slices of pizza.
10. Same Old Place- After eating ice cream at the J.P. Licks in Davis Square and the J.P. Licks near the Fenway campus, you’ve decided to go to the original J.P. Licks in Jamaica Plain. First, grab a slice of cheese or pepperoni pizza from Same Old Place across the street.
Don’t get me started on all the places within a few hours’ drive where I like to go to escape (like the Cape Cod National Seashore, the ridiculous number of swimming holes and waterfalls in Vermont, and in the winter you can visit a literal castle made of ice in New Hampshire – I love New England). But here are my favorite places to see some nature that you can get to without a car.
1. Blue Hills Reservation
It includes 125 miles of hiking trails, a ski area, a creepy bog with carnivorous plants – and it’s just big enough that you can get lost, but also small enough that you can find your way out after you get lost. I say that from experience.
2. Boston Harbor Islands National Park
From downtown Boston you can catch a ferry to several of the islands for either a day trip or for camping; I recommend camping at Bumpkin Island on the fourth of July for the best view of fireworks displays from towns all along the coast.
3. Mount Auburn Cemetery
I know it’s a cemetery, but it’s a really pretty one with great birdwatching and architecture.
4. Revere Beach
Look, I grew up smack in the middle of the United States so it still blows my mind that you can take the subway to the beach. THE SUBWAY. TO THE BEACH.
5. Arnold Arboretum
This place is magic, if magic grew on trees. And, when it’s covered in snow, it has the best hill for sledding at super high speeds.
Those are the top five. There are a lot of places I left off like Boston Common, Boston Public Garden, Jamaica Pond, Mystic Lakes, Rose Kennedy Greenway (which connects Chinatown and the North End for the best food/walking tour ever), Franklin Park Zoo (plus abandoned zoo grounds in another part of the park), The Fens (which is just outside of my office so I get to watch the baby geese while I work), the Charles River Esplanade (you can rent a kayak on the river and then kayak to the Galleria mall when you need a snack – KAYAK. TO THE MALL.), and all the little garden oasis spaces that pop up in places like the Gardner Museum and the Boston Public Library.
1. Motto Books at CCVA. If you want your artbooks fancy, international, and limited-edition you want Motto books. Who are these artists? And why am I so compelled to buy their books?
2. Brattle Book Shop. One of the oldest bookshops in the country. Antiquarian books on the third floor, $1-$5 sale books in their extensive outside stalls, and everything else in between!
3. Raven Used Books. John, the owner, started out by founding the Montague Bookmill which houses over 50,000 books in a former grist mill (it’s a bit of a drive to western MA though). Raven is more manageable in size, but still has a huge selection of books at 50%-80% off the cover price. Philosophy, literature, classical studies, architecture, art, music, and foreign language books galore!
4. The Museum of Fine Arts Bookshop. Our neighbors, our namesake, our one-stop artbook destination. Just cross the street to peruse hundreds of artbooks that reflect the diversity of the MFA’s encyclopedic collection.
5. The basement of Deep Thoughts Records. I needed to sneak at least one record shop onto this list – luckily Deep Thoughts has a first floor full of records and a basement full of used books!
6. Brookline Booksmith. “Dedicated to the fine art of browsing.” Book clubs, community events, and lots of recommendations. Used books in the basement (is this a Boston thing?)
7. Black Market Flea. Bi-monthly DIY flea market featuring an assortment of local zines and various hand-made sundries.
8. ICA Bookstore. Sit back and let the expert book buyers of the ICA curate your experience. Also, I should add that this is the best collection of art tchotchkes in town.
9. Harvard Bookstore (named for the square not the university – though, to be fair, the square was named for the university). IMHO, the best of the best – a broad range of subjects, a deeply discounted remaindered and used book basement(!), author events, self-publishing, friendly (and knowledgeable) staff. You want it, they got it!
10. MIT Press Bookstore (this one is named for the university). Get your geek on! Art! Architecture! Computer science! Cognition! Neuroscience! Linguistics! Deep discounts on MIT Press books!
11. Grolier Poetry Book Shop. The name says it all (it’s all poetry!)!
Maybe I got a little carried away with this list, but you should eat at all of these places!
Contemporary interpretations of traditional Pan-Asian dishes and house-made noodles. They rotate their menu regularly so there’s always something new!
2. Mei Mei
Right by the BFA residence halls! An upbeat restaurant serving locally sourced Asian-American fusion fare like scallion pancake sandwiches. They also host dinner clubs, dumpling class and pop-up restaurant events.
Always fresh and made-to-order Mexican food in a casual eatery. You will see their food truck often on the Medford campus!
4. Ganko Ittetsu Ramen
Three kinds of wok-cooked, Sapporo-style ramen soups make up the menu at this compact noodle shop. Don’t be intimidated by the line, go check out Brookline Booksmith across the street while you wait.
5. Clover Food Lab
Creative, vegetarian/vegan American cooking & sandwiches served in a casually stylish space. In addition to their permanent classics they offer special seasonal options that focus on what is available for harvest from surrounding farms or special collaborations with local chefs!
Warm, low-key storefront dispensing Thai street noodles and snacks from central, northern & Isan regions. If you want authentic Thai street food that brings the heat, check them out!
Turkish Home Cooking. Enjoy delicious Turkish Breakfast all day long and mouth-watering Turkish Tapas for your lunch and dinner dining pleasure.
8. Lucy Ethiopian Café
Injera bread with combo platters are offered at this small, warm cafe with African details. Vegan options too!
9. Lithuanian Citizens Association’s Lithuanian Kitchen
The only restaurant in the New England area offering traditional Lithuanian cuisine! Open Saturdays and Sundays, but cepelinai is only served on Sunday (which is when you should go!)
10. Grasshopper Restaurant
A Vegetarian/vegan Chinese eatery, specializing in meat & seafood substitutes & vegan desserts.
11. Cafe Polonia
Polish comfort fare includes pierogi, kielbasa, potato pancakes & other classics in a crafty space. And if you’re sad to be leaving after your meal there, check out the 3 neighboring Polish delis to get some goodies to bring home!
12. Momo N Curry
A taste of India and Nepal. Delicious momo with a variety of flavorful fillings! This place is tiny, so not great for large groups, but perfect for take out!
Over the Summer Evelyn Rydz (SMFA alumna) and Ellie Tiglao (chef and co-owner of this Filipinx-American restaurant in Somerville) collaborated on a community-storytelling project that would inform Evelyn’s exhibition at the ICA Watershed and Tanám’s menu. Tanám is also a worker cooperative!
14. Bazaar on Cambridge and Bazaar on Beacon
Russian markets offering homecooked classics in their deli and bakery from borscht to babka.
Offering Korean traditional dishes to Mexican fusion and everything in between. There's something for everyone. I highly suggest their fried chicken.
Local mini-chain eatery offering Vietnamese noodle soups. Their delivery radius is quite large which is good to know for Boston winters!
17. Saloniki Greek
Industrial-chic fast-casual Greek plates, pitas, deserts & more. Perfect for a quick lunch or a casual dinner, plus they make their pitas fresh to order so you know you won’t be disappointed.
18. Midwest Grill
Carnivores flock to this upbeat all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse for tableside-carved meat. (NEVER invite your Vegetarian/Vegan friends here).
19. Life Alive Organic Café
Friendly, funky, quick-serve spot for organic veggie/vegan wraps, salads & smoothies. Perfect for your Veggie loving friends!
20. Old Havana Cuban Restaurant
A Casual restaurant that serves traditional Cuban fare for breakfast, lunch & dinner. It’s never not a good time to eat here.
Hip, eco-minded cafe for vegan baked goods & ice cream, all made with local ingredients. Unique flavors and the best hot fudge I have ever had.
22. Tres Gatos
Cozy, colorful Spanish tapas restaurant & wine bar with a tiny shop in the back selling books & music.
23. Cafe Beirut
Corner cafe doling out classic Lebanese specialties in a no-nonsense setting. Delicious entrees and desserts!
24. Orinoco Brookline Village
Venezuelan eatery known for smoky arepas, served in a cozy space. Best. Yuca con mojo. Ever.
25. Zaftigs Delicatessen
Classic Jewish deli with all-day breakfast at this bustling joint.
26. Sofra Bakery & Café
Bakery for Middle Eastern sweets & savory bites, plus a small patio. Has a variety of prepackaged sweets and foods as well as Persian inspired donuts on the weekend!