Things to do in Boston during FOSS4G 2017

FOSS4G Boston 2017 is less than a month away!

You should go.


Well, because I probably won’t be able to make all of it (insert sad face emoji here)

I have a great reason – my second child will be born days before the start of FOSS4G and it wouldn’t be fair to my family if I am having the time of my life with all of you spatial nerds while there is a new human at home.

So, you should go. You should really go.

There is a chance that this will be the largest FOSS4G ever, but the conference will still be of a size where you will be able to meet all your twitter pals in person, get to share ideas with the some of the smartest people in spatial, and listen to talks from some of the most influential minds that are moving spatial into realms people were only dreaming of a few years ago.

The program has something for everyone.  You can focus on analysis, viz, or databases and walk away with more geo-knowledge than you came to Boston with.  The workshops look great too, and the people teaching the workshops are the same people building or contributing to some of your favorite FOSS4G projects. The conference planning teams have done an amazing job putting this all together!

But, what should you do when you aren’t geo-ing, hacking, or conferencing? Well, here are a few suggestions from a *local that will get you into the city to see the sights.

Boston/Cambridge/Somerville is a great place to visit during the summer. There is lots to do in the city center, but I encourage all those visiting Boston to get out and check out some of the neighborhoods.  Bring comfortable shoes, because you’ll be doing a lot of walking.

Eat your way through Somerville!  Where do I start.  You’ll get plenty of advice on where to eat in Boston, so let’s take a trip North to where I roam. When you are at Harvard for the workshops, take the Red Line north to Davis Square to start your binge.  I am a big fan of Boston Burger Company and Five Horses Tavern.  Posto, Foundry, and Saloon are also really good.  If you are looking for a great Irish Pub, check out the Burren.  After dinner, get in line for some ice cream at JP Licks, and hang out in the square to do some people watching and listen to the street performers.  If you a comic/pop culture nerd, check out Comicazi, a few steps down Highland Street from the Square.  It’s one of the best comic shops you will ever go to.

If you want a totally different Somerville experience, take the Orange line to Sullivan Square and explore East Somerville up Broadway.  Taco Loco, La Brasa, Casey’s, Vinny’s – there is something for all tastes.  All are within a 15 minute walk from Sullivan Square and all are on Broadway.

Other awesome Somerville restaurants that aren’t easily T accessible include Sarma (make your reservations now), anywhere in Union Square, Highland Kitchen, Soundbites, Ball Square Cafe (brunch) , Magouns Saloon, Daddy Jones, and many, many more.

I’m on a Boat -Jump on a ferry and check out the Boston Harbor Islands.  The tickets are pretty cheap and you’ll get a boat ride with some awesome views of the city.  Georges Island is my go-to island, but Spectacle Island has lots of trails and great history with the Big Dig.

Not the actual boat

Explore Cambridge with Hubway – Head up to Cambridge and take the Hubway to explore (and let me know when you do so I can isolate the data for the 2018 Hubway challenge (which I may or may not enter)). Cambridge is one of the most bike friendly cities in the United States, with an expanding network of dedicated bicycle lanes. While you are in Cambridge, pedaling around Harvard and MIT, travel north on Massachusetts Ave and stop by Ward Maps and pick up some cool Boston map-morabilia.

Baseball!  America’s increasingly boring past time!  The Red Sox will be in town that week where they play the Cardinals and Yankees.  The Sox have been pretty good this year, but interest in town hasn’t been as high as in past years, so you might be able to get bleacher seats at a reasonable price.  In general, Fenway is expensive, so if you do go to a game, be prepared for steep food and drink costs.

Alternative idea – head down to Fenway on game night, walk around pregame and soak up all the atmosphere, and catch the first few innings at a bar or restaurant in the neighborhood.  Or, go on a tour during the day (but at the same time, not skipping sessions!).

Second Alternative Idea – Check out the Boston Breakers, professional women’s soccer team. They play over in the Harvard Athletic Complex in Allston and they have two home games the week of FOSS4G.  The Revolution play in Foxoboro and the stadium is not easy to get to.

Go for a Run – I know a lot of people will be doing the first annual FOSS4G 0.0k, but a few may want to get in some miles and do some tourism-running (which I do everywhere I go).  There are lots of open group runs in Boston/Cambridge/Somerville, but only one has been running every week, since 1995. The Somerville Road Runners have been hosting their Thursday night 4.06 run, no matter the conditions, for the past 22 years.  The run is on a challenging, but good course that will take you through a few different Somerville neighborhoods.  The race starts and ends at Casey’s Bar, an East Somerville institution, that is about a 10-15 minute walk from Sullivan Square (Orange Line).  It also has the best course map of any run in the country.

I love this course map

Map Nerd Stuff – Any trip to Boston for a geo/map/spatial nerd isn’t complete unless you visit the Mapparium at the Mary Baker Eddy Library. I could try to describe what it’s like to visit, but I wouldn’t do it justice.  You just have to go (also, their cartography would be a rad Mapbox style) and see it yourself.  You should also check out Leventhal Map Center at Boston Public Library, a premier public collection in a premier public library.

Seriously, this would be an awesome tile set for a map app!

I hope everyone really enjoys the conference and the city! It should be a ton of fun!


* I’ve been in Somerville/Medford for 7 years, and since I wasn’t born here, I can never, ever say I am technically from here…That’s just how it works