15 Best Things to Do in Cambridge (MA)

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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For those who make the trip to Cambridge in Massachusetts, expect to be dazzled by this university town which is most famous for being the location of world renowned Harvard University. The city has a student feel to it which means that you will find vibrant nightlife, eclectic restaurants, as well as a wealth of other events such as standup comedy night and live music performances.

In addition to this youthful atmosphere, Cambridge is well known for its wealth of museums, many of which are affiliated and located within Harvard University, and are known for paving the way in restoration and research projects. If you get out and about in Cambridge, you will also find leafy spots such as parks and reservoirs, and you can even take to the water here and go on a boat tour that will let you see the city in a whole new light.

Lets explore the best things to do in Cambridge:

1. Harvard Art Museums

Fogg Art MuseumSource: flickr
Fogg Art Museum

Part of Harvard University, the Harvard Art Museums are made up of three distinct museums, the first of which opened in 1896. As such, the Fogg Museum is not only the oldest of the three museums, but is also famous for its eclectic exhibits that includes Western artwork such as paintings, print work, photographs, and even sculptures that date from as early as the Middle Ages to the present day. The second museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, first opened its doors in 1903 and is a great place to come if you are interested in German artwork. Finally, rounding off the trio is the Arthur M. Sackler Museum that dates from 1985 and has Asian art such as Korean, Japanese, and Chinese pieces.

2. The American Repertory Theater

The American Repertory TheaterSource: flickr
The American Repertory Theater

The American Repertory Theater, also known as A.R.T for short, is a theater company from the Cambridge area who are located at Harvard University. The group was first established back in 1980 and this is the place to come if you want to see new American dramas as well as other genres like musicals. The theater is said to be one of the most important in the United States and has won a number of accolades over the years including illustrious Tony Awards and even a Pulitzer Prize.

3. Harvard Museum of Natural History

Harvard Museum of Natural HistorySource: flickr
Harvard Museum of Natural History

First opened in 1998, the Harvard Museum of Natural History has over 12,000 different natural specimens and is known for being one of the most visited museums in Cambridge. Here you will find dinosaurs, meteorites, gems, and even fossils. There is also a Kronosaurus which is a marine animal that would have dated from the time of the dinosaurs and measures 42 feet. You can also find the Blaschka ‘Glass Flowers’ here, a world famous collection of glass plants. For younger visitors, many of the exhibits are interactive and encourage hands-on learning.

4. Fresh Pond Reservation

Fresh Pond TrailSource: flickr
Fresh Pond Trail

A park and local reservoir in Cambridge, the Fresh Pond Reservation is home to a 155 acre lake as well as 162 acres of land. There are trails around the lake that span over 2 miles and you can run, hike, or cycle in the area. If you fancy a game, then there is also a golf course located here, where you can enjoy the 9 hole green as well as taking in some of the flora and fauna of Cambridge at the same time.

5. Longfellow House

Longfellow HouseSource: flickr
Longfellow House

The former home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a famous American poet, the Longfellow House is also known as Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site. Built in 1759, the house acted as the headquarters of George Washington during the Revolutionary War in 1775 until 1776. The house and adjacent gardens can be visited daily and there are also guided tours for those who want to know more about this historically significant home. Depending on when you visit, there are also special events hosted at the house that include reenactments of historical scenes, musical concerts, and poetry readings.

6. Charles Riverboat Company

Charles Riverboat CompanySource: groupon
Charles Riverboat Company

Started in 1990, the Charles Riverboat Company is the best place to take to the waters of the Charles River and check out the Cambridge area from a different vantage point. On a tour here you can expect to be taken around the Charles River Basin as well as Boston Harbor and you can also learn all about the history of the Cambridge area at the same time. Tours are all presented by friendly and knowledgeable locals who have lived in the area for years and can give you a range of insider tips and tricks to get the most out of your stay.

7. Harvard Square

Harvard SquareSource: flickr
Harvard Square

Known as the historic center of Cambridge, Harvard Square is a plaza located next to Harvard Yard, also the center of Harvard University. The square is a popular hangout for university students and as such you will find laid back coffee shops, bookstores, and shops here, as well as some of the best restaurants in Cambridge. Much of the area is pedestrian so that you can stroll around at your leisure, and there are street performers and musicians here daily. In the evening this makes the perfect place to enjoy the outdoors in Cambridge and you will find live music and other events spilling out into the square.

8. City Wine Tours

City Wine ToursSource: citywinetours
City Wine Tours

For those who want to learn about wine in the Cambridge region, look no further than City Wine Tours. The tours here will take you to different areas of the city where you can discover delicious wines as well as eat some local food. Tours last for approximately two hours and will visit a range of restaurants and wine shops and as this is a walking tour you can also take in the local sights on foot as you go.

9. MIT Museum

MIT MuseumSource: flickr
MIT Museum

If you want to learn all about MIT, or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then head to the MIT Museum. The museum first opened in 1971 and has a large collection of technology related items such as robotics and recent research and technology developments made by the institute. The museum will also take you back through the history of MIT and you can see exhibits related to holography and maritime history, as well as period photographs and other antique memorabilia.

10. Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology

Peabody Museum of Archeology and EthnologycSource: flickr
Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnologyc

Situated right on the campus of Harvard University, the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology is famous for being one of the largest museums dedicated to anthropology in the world. It is also one of the oldest, having been established in 1866, and to that end it has an amazing 1.5 million objects on display. The items are mostly dedicated to the study of archeology and ethnography in the Americas and you can expect to see maps, photographs, and other important artifacts that will take you back over 10,000 years.

11. Central Square

Central SquareSource: flickr
Central Square

Central Square is known for being part of the Central Square Historic District of Cambridge and is also listed as part of the U.S National Register of Historic Places. Here you will find not only period architecture but also vibrant nightlife in the form of live music venues, theaters, and bars. During the day time there are pretty churches to visit as well as a wealth of ethnic restaurants that represent the diversity of Cambridge.

12. Cafe ArtScience

Cafe ArtScienceSource: bunnyandporkbelly
Cafe ArtScience

Next to Le Laboratoire Cambridge, an innovation center in Cambridge, you will find Cafe ArtScience, a restaurant that specializes in bringing food and science concepts together. With that in mind, items on the menu include inhalable coffee and ham emulsion and there is a machine here that turns liquid into vapor. Certainly if you are looking for a very different dining experience then this is one place not to miss when you are in town.

13. Sanders Theatre

Sanders TheatreSource: flickr
Sanders Theatre

The Sanders Theater is famous in Cambridge for being a historical location that is part of the High Victorian Gothic Memorial Hall. The theater was completed in 1875 and has a capacity of over 1,000 spectators at one time. Events held here include concerts, live music performances, and lectures, so make sure you check what’s on when you are in town. If you do come for a visit, make sure to look out for some of the signature architectural features here that include busts of famous past speakers as well as statues and pretty stained glass windows.

14. Flour Bakery and Cafe

Flour Bakery and CafeSource: cambridge
Flour Bakery and Cafe

Located on Massachusetts Avenue, the Flour Bakery and Cafe is a famous fixture in Cambridge. This bakery and coffee shop is known for its delicious homemade bakes and you can expect to find iconic items here such as Flour sticky buns, brioches, and baguettes. As well as baked goods there are also signature chocolate truffles and if you want to come here for lunch you will also find sandwiches and soups. The bakery and coffee shop is so popular that you will probably find that you have to queue no matter what time of day you arrive, although many residents will tell you that it is well with the wait.

15. The Comedy Studio

The Comedy StudioSource: thecomedystudio
The Comedy Studio

If you are in the mood for a little comedy in Cambridge then head on over to The Comedy Studio. Here you will find some of the best standup in the region which includes a mix of performers from regular fixtures on the comedy scene to newcomers who are just polishing their act. As well as watching a show you can also have dinner and drinks here and if you are feeling brave you can try out the signature cocktail of the club known as the ‘Scorpion Bowl’.

15 Best Things to Do in Cambridge (MA):

  • Harvard Art Museums
  • The American Repertory Theater
  • Harvard Museum of Natural History
  • Fresh Pond Reservation
  • Longfellow House
  • Charles Riverboat Company
  • Harvard Square
  • City Wine Tours
  • MIT Museum
  • Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology
  • Central Square
  • Cafe ArtScience
  • Sanders Theatre
  • Flour Bakery and Cafe
  • The Comedy Studio