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Le Laboratoire's "Life in Picoseconds" exhibition in Boston

Le Laboratoire's "Life in Picoseconds" exhibition (©Charles Reilly Film)

Boston's Best Brainy Attractions

By Mike Hodgkinson on 04/13/17, updated 04/24/17
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Around 200 years ago, when the founders of modern-day Boston set out to create a global center for well-meaning thinkers, the city became known as “the Athens of America” and—not so modestly—the “hub of the solar system.” These days, Boston retains its status as the Big Papi of supersmart cities: a great place to upgrade your gray matter whether you’re interested in science, literature, philosophy or cutting edge makerspaces.

Even if the only smart thing you’ve done so far this year is write the words “Tom Brady: Greatest” backwards in Sharpie across your midriff while looking in the bathroom mirror, there’s no excuse for passing up the chance to investigate these hotspots of learning and curiosity.

The Museum of Science

Always a cornerstone of April's Cambridge Science Festival, the Museum of Science is a year-round nexus for knowledge-seekers of all ages, offering immersive Planetarium shows like the SubSpace Project (the music of Coldplay, Rihanna and Justin Timberlake mashed up with stunning night-sky visuals), "Astronomy After Hours" (free Friday stargazing) and "Book Club for the Curious" on the second Thursday of each month.

Wooden figure at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology

The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University

We recommend you check out American anthropology exhibition, “All the World Is Here” featuring more than 600 fantastic objects from Asia, Oceania and the Americas. If you're interested in exotica traded by Boston ship captains during the 18th Century, look no further. A wooden pipe exquisitely carved into the shape of a flying man? The dog sled that used to belong to Arctic explorer Admiral Robert Peary? A shadow-puppet dragon wearing bright red lipstick? You'll find them all here, and much more besides.

Detail from a Tlingit knife at Harvard's Peabody Museum

Cambridge Makerspaces

Hackers, makers and fledgling techno-tinkerers should head for Artisan’s Asylum, whose stated mission is, "to support and promote the teaching, learning and practice of fabrication." Here, you can invent the future with courses such as "Wearable Interactive Electronics" and "Introduction to 3D Modeling." Also located in Somerville are the maker communities at Cambridge Hackspace and (for budding bio-hackers) Boslab.

Boston Athenaeum in Boston

Boston Athenaeum

This is in many ways the Fenway Park of global libraries—gracefully ancient, beloved by dedicated fans and hugely impressive for first-time visitors. Founded in 1807, Boston Athenaeum remains a stately hub for the curious.

Boston Public Library

Just walking through the doors here raises your IQ a couple of clicks, and there's way more to the BPL than checking-out books. You can also check out superstar writers in the flesh with the Author Talks series—Neil Gaiman spoke to a packed house in April—in addition to cutting-edge exhibitions such as "Regions and Seasons: Mapping Climate Through History."

Food for Thought: Brainy Restaurants in Boston

The quest for brain food is impossible without actual food, which is where the smarter corners of Boston really come into their own, slaking our thirst for knowledge while offering world-class refreshments. The Miracle of Science Bar & Grill in Cambridge, with its Periodic Table-style wall menu, puts a stamp of academic validity on the simple act of chugging a craft ale, while Café ArtScience near Kendall Square gives its cocktails and plates a state-of-the-art scientific reinvention and also—with Le Laboratoire Cambridge—hosts regular free talks from the cutting edge of art and technology.

Le Laboratoire's "Life in Picoseconds" exhibition