Boston, Massachusetts – 2023 Kosher Vacation
This is actually my third post about Boston as I have family in the area so I am there every so often. Also see:
For this trip I hit up more museums, kosher restaurants, and a favorite which will probably bring me back to the region sooner than I would otherwise – Level 99.
Boston Science Museum – I’ve written about this museum a lot in the previous articles … have to stop here if you’re visiting Boston, at least, for the Lightning show. I’m a little disappointed that the place hasn’t been as well kept as it was. The “Mathmatica” section, for example, now has many non-working ‘math toys’ such as the big thing that drops balls down a plinko-like maze creating a bell curve. It was one of my favorite things to watch as a child.
Boston Fine Arts Museum – The museum was better than expected. Coming from the New York area the tendency, and perhaps the truth, is that “out of town” museums are small with not much there. Boston’s was smaller than the “get overwhelmed and feel like you saw nothing” feel of the New York art museum though large enough to keep us going for hours. My youngest said that if she hadn’t pushed the read of us to leave after hours we’d have been there overnight.
One of the curious things is how much ancient Egyptian materials they have plundered. Apparently some guy in the early 1900s went to Egypt with someone from the U.K. and someone from Italy and they agreed to divide up what they took with each other while the museum in Egypt retained the other half. As such, there’s a lot here you don’t see in New York which was very fascinating. The rooms were also laid out nicely and I avoided the American art section for a while because it’s mooshy landscapes and some woven Indian thing usually. Actually … this was good. There were a lot of very clear portraits. Also … there’s a smattering of Jewish art here and there in the museum. Jewish donors I suppose.
Boston Aquarium – It’s an aquarium, you know? It’s nice and whatnot – I’m just not a huge fan of aquariums though as far as they go, hey, it’s . . . . nice. Got some good pictures –
Beacon Hill – This is a monument at the top of a hill where the British and Colonists fought. It is nicely situated between downtown Boston and Cambridge on your way to the next set of museums in Cambridge . . . as you’ll see next.
MIT Museum – SKIP IT. The museum recently moved to a new larger space and is nothing like the old version. The smaller previous museum had a lot of interesting exhibits such as the strobe lights on falling water that you can vary to make the speed of the water appear to change or even go backwards. The new museum was a smattering of poorly conceived stuff that sits stiffer than an art museum and functions about as well as a government website. There is a pile of t-shirts for some reason. Then there’s a big thing on the wall where you can design characters only it takes you at least five minutes to do so with no explanation of how your choices result in what the character will look like and then you have to wait until 89 other characters populate the wall and remember the hexadecimal code for yours even if you were to wait around an hour for it to appear. Another “hands on” exhibit is a big screen with a lot of knobs. After about 15 screens of explanation hitting “next, next, next….” you get to a simulation of the chances of life on other planets using a formula that a fifth grader could write (chance of air, chance of distance from sun, etc…). You set all the knobs to zero and are somehow surprised that the answer is zero.
There’s a computer that makes poetry with you by adding the next line – it would have been impressive ten years ago … and without a keyboard from 40 years ago. For some reason they add something about imagining if there was one gender in the world and everyone could have babies and other stuff that i can’t even call liberal anymore – it’s just self-hating. I only took a few pictures such as the one to the right with the wheel chair races and baby tackling room. Not sure why there’s a big lego brick over an urn though.
Semitic Museum – This is in Harvard University next to the much larger ‘Harvard Museum’. It’s also free. Basically . . . the museum is about Jews and Egyptians and a little about other groups no one remembers. There’s a house from around the first Temple period which is fascinating. There’s the first floor with the animals and second floor living quarters and is referred, among other places, in the gemora, Kiddushin daf 81. Rav Amram saved women on the second floor and took away the ladder so no man could harm them. He himself then took a ladder that required ten men to lift because of his desires which he only overcame halfway up the ladder.
Below is a picture of the house and to the right of that, what a wine jug looked like. When the gemora speaks about carrying such jugs in the street that break when a beam hits them (Bava Kamma) or which are sealed with wax and must remain closed on Shabbos, this is the type of thing probably being referred to.
Harvard Museum – Again showing that a smaller museum when well thought out and focusing on what is good can be better than a large museum, you’ll find here quite a brightly lit, well organized, and deep collection of rocks and minerals complete with chemical formulas. The museum is also famous for the pigmented glass copies of plants made in the late 1800s. Seemed like a good idea at the time – not sure this would ever be done today because, you know, 200 megapixel cameras and scanning electronic microscopes. There’s also a lot of art in this museum – more Native American art compared to the Fine Arts Museum which is white people American art.
You probably want to stay in Brookline which is a suburb of Boston. The Boston metro runs down the main street of Brookline (the “green” line) and this is where all the shuls and kosher restaurants are. Well, three restaurants or so. We tried “Rami’s” which is sort of like … fast food falafel in Styrofoam. Wasn’t our taste.
The kosher Chinese place, The Kosher Wok, was liked by all. There is proper table service and the food is good. Prices are also reasonable. The mashgiach said they were under the Star-K. “Really, where’s that based out of?” She said “Baltimore.” That’s true – the Star-K is based out of Baltimore. The teudah on the wall is for the Crown-K however and this is based out of Boston. As long as the supervision is good, I guess …
Hotels are plentiful in the Brookline area and are minyanim. Just find a hotel with a good price and be careful about the ones that have a hidden parking charge.
Think of what would happen if an MIT professor of mechanical engineering was hooked on mini-games that you play on your phone or in a Nintendo game. Imagine if he bought 28,000 square feet in a suburban mall where a Sears used to be and filled it up. That is what this place is. There are 40-something small rooms, each of which has a different challenge where you can get one, two, or three stars. You have to play with 2 to 6 people in each room and there are only hints, no instructions. You figure it out when you get in there and it’s unforgiving. Make a mistake, you’re kicked out and have to walk around the room (or find another room) and start again. Some challenges are physical, some mental, some somewhere in between. Few people get three stars in these rooms.
The quality is extremely high – the RFID sensor wrist bands always worked properly in our experience as did the rooms even though some no doubt get a lot of wear and tear. For $50, to be there a whole day, it’s a good deal. (You can pay less for 2 or 4 hours.)
Our favorite room was the ‘Ninja’ room where poles of different heights spin around in a circular room like a turnstile. You have to dodge them while your team hits buttons that light up in different places on the wall. Other games require getting through a window without touching a wall, stacking blocks, matching a sound to art, touching the right sensors twister-style, and many others. We’re hypothetically planning our next trip to Boston just so we can go to this place.
My pictures of this stink so we’re just going to skip those. Anyway – the trip was amazing and this place was easily one of the highlights. My youngest daughter said that she wasn’t sure if this or the wanton soup was better.