I’ve lived in Boston for just about four and a half years. Well, let me be more accurate: I’ve lived just outside of Boston for just about four and a half years. If you’re new to the area, you’ll find that actual Bostonians find this distinction to be very important. So I’ve lived in the Cambridge area, and I’m pretty comfortable being around here. Downtown Boston is a whole other place, though, one I’m trying to get into the habit of visiting and exploring more often.
And that’s definitely something that all students attending MSPP should do. Get to know your own area, get to know Boston, and for your own sanity – get to know what festivals are happening around you! It's not all Red Sox, Bruins, Patriots and Celtics madness (although, let's face it, Boston stands transfixed beneath the glow of a sports screen)! In and around Boston are some truly fantastic little fairs and festivals, full of great food and shows, and you get to know the culture of the different suburbs and many “squares” of the Boston area.
Having lived mostly in the Cambridge area, most of my favorites are around there, but www.boston.com/thingstodo and www.yelp.com are fabulous ways of keeping up with whatever sorts of events float your boat.
Davis Square's Art Beat, which usually takes place in the later part of July (lots of craft booths, fun activities to get involved in, music galore, and delicious food. I’d go into detail about the food, but that deserves its own entire post)
http://www.somervilleartscouncil.org/artbeat/2013 (link for last year, just to get a sense)
If you’re into film, you’ll love the Independent Film Festival Boston, held in April and spread out over a few different theatres (the Somerville Theatre being a pretty populated venue)
Cambridge Block Party: I don’t know what website to give for this, but keep an eye out for it on Boston.com and other such sites in June. It's a family-friendly event that goes from about 7-11pm and involves a lot of loud music near Central Square, line dancing, innumerable glow sticks, and just about the best time you've ever had dancing with people you don't know.
Outside the Box: I’ve never actually been to any of the events, but this year's fantastic and I’ll definitely be checking it out next year! http://outsidetheboxboston.org/
Summer is generally a fantastic time to mosey around the city and soak up some free culture, so do check out http://www.cityofboston.gov/summer/ as well as a particular favorite of mine at the Hatchshell: http://mix1041.cbslocal.com/category/mixfest-2013/ (who doesn’t look free concerts?!) These get really packed, so if you’re interested in going, be sure to get there early (think the day after Thanksgiving…)
Moving to a new city, a new culture, can be hugely daunting, and it can be hard to resist the comfort of what you know: your apartment, MSPP and the gym. Being around new people and good energy will help to keep you from running on empty, I promise you. I'm currently working on expanding my own experiences of Boston, so I'll keep updating about new finds, and if you need more suggestions, feel free to comment with questions about any of that!