Click for possible route/stop changes on the day of your tour.
Visit Cambridge and explore The M.I.T. Museum, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Harvard Square.
Just across the Charles River from the city of Boston sits Cambridge, Massachusetts. This quaint New England town is an eclectic mix of cool shops, student hang outs, hip restaurants and cafes and of course, two of the most prestigious universities in the nation. Although just moments away from the hustle and bustle pace of Boston, this historic Massachusetts city has a persona all its own. If you’re planning a visit to Cambridge, here’s a guide that will help you make the most of every moment.
The History of Cambridge and Harvard University
The year was 1631 when the first houses were built in the city of Cambridge, and at that time the settlement was known as “Newtowne.” Intended to become the capital of Massachusetts, NewTowne was one of several Massachusetts cities that was founded by the original Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Soon after settlement, Harvard College was founded and what is now known as Harvard Square was established. It was during this period of development that the leaders felt it was time for a new name, one that captured the nostalgia of their English homeland. Newtowne became Cambridge in 1638 and it was this same year that John Harvard, a Puritan minister, bequeathed his library and half of his estate to the college.
Named after its benefactor, Harvard University is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Today, there are more than 360,000 alumni living in the United States and 190 countries around the world. Steeped in history and tradition, Harvard University offers degree programs for undergrad, graduate and professional students and has an average enrollment of 20,000 students per year.
Things to Do in Cambridge
Whether you’re looking to indulge in an authentic meal, to pick up an antique bike (or any other quirky item), kick back in a bookstore or sip a coffee in an outdoor café, Cambridge delivers. This charming New England city is abundant with cool things to see and do. Take a look:
The center of activity for Harvard University and those who reside in western Cambridge, Harvard Square is located at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Brattles Street. Visited by more than 8 million people every year, this historic heart of Harvard University is where you can enjoy a meal, shopping, street performances, a variety of cultural entertainment and much more. Framed by the university and marked by exquisite architecture, the locally nicknamed “Square” is the first thing to see when you arrive in Cambridge.
One of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world, Harvard University provides a remarkable experience for visitors. Here, you can see the John Harvard monument, which is a bronze sculpture located on the west side of University Hall. Be sure to rub the statue’s left shoe for good luck, it’s a Harvard student tradition! Tours of the University provide an opportunity to learn about its rich history and include a walk through Harvard Yard, Massachusetts Hall, the dorm where John Adams and John Hancock both lived and Memorial Hall, which is dedicated to the Harvard students who served our country during the Civil War.
The Harvard Art Museums, located within the University’s grounds, includes the Fogg Art Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum. Within these three museums there are nearly 250,000 objects to view that include all mediums and range from ancient eras to the present day. The Fogg is famous or its numerous Western paintings, sculpture, photography, prints and drawings from the middle ages to the present. Here, you can see works from Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gough, Edouard Manet, among others. The Busch-Reisinger is renowned for its magnificent oil paintings and sculptures. The Arthur M. Sackler has a vast collection of Asian artwork, Chinese bronzes and ceremonial weapons as well as Buddhist cave-temple sculptures, ceramics and much more.
Founded in 1866, the Peabody Museum at Harvard University is one of the oldest museums dedicated to anthropology and the study of ancient and contemporary cultures and peoples. At this unique establishment, you’ll be treated to a view of more than 1 million objects, a collection that’s touted as the most important of its kind in the world. Browse through the largest surviving collection of artifacts from Native American people during the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806 as well as one of the largest photographic archives in the world that documents the culture of indigenous peoples.
The United States’ first rural cemetery, this Cambridge cemetery is a National Historic Landmark and the final resting place of more than 95,000 people. Among the buried are famed poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Edwin Booth, George L. Aiken and Benjamin Waterhouse, the first doctor to test the smallpox vaccine in the U.S. As you stroll through these beautiful, rustic grounds, you’ll be entranced by the abundance of natural splendor. More than 60,000 monuments celebrate the legacies of those buried here and the Washington Tower provides striking views of the 175-acre property.
As the home of Henry W. Longfellow, one of the world’s most revered poets, this house was also once the headquarters for General George Washington during the siege of Boston. You’ll have the opportunity to tour through the same rooms and hallways that Longfellow and Washington both walked in. You can also view an incredible collection of original objects including artifacts, decorative and fine arts, furnishings, textiles and clothing, toys, family papers and historic letters from prominent figures. Be sure to take a moment to enjoy the lovely garden that is adorned by beautiful flowers and trees.
At the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue, Prospect Street and Western Avenue, the historic district of Central Square is known for its many bars, live music and theater venues and ethnic restaurants. Close to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it’s also home to numerous video game companies and an array of gorgeous churches that are worth a view.
The campus of this world renowned science and technology institution extends more than a mile along the Charles River Basin. Massachusetts Institute of Technology was founded by William Barton Rogers in 1861, with the founding philosophy of “learning by doing.”
The M.I.T. Museum is a window into the world of some of the latest and most exciting research at M.I.T. Visitors can explore over 150 years of education and research in the forefront of science, engineering, and technology. Located at 265 Massachusetts Avenue, the museum presents an exciting array of exhibitions, covering everything from artificial intelligence and oceanography, to architecture, three-dimensional holograms, and the world’s largest collection of the much loved kinetic sculptures by Arthur Ganson.
For a pleasant day in the outdoors, take some time to visit the Fresh Pond Reservation in Cambridge. This 155-acre lake is framed by an even larger acreage of land and a perimeter road that’s ideal for jogging, walking and biking. A beautiful way to enjoy nature, the reservation is also home to a nine-hole golf course.
Dining in Cambridge
When hunger strikes, you’ll be in luck as Cambridge is filled with exceptional dining choices. Whether you’re looking for Mexican cuisine, burgers, pizza, seafood or Italian cuisine, there’s something to please everyone’s palate. Venues range from casual to fine dining with an impressive selection of eateries, outdoor cafes, coffee shops, bistros and more.
For those looking to be adventurous at meal time, make a visit to Café ArtScience. A cross between restaurant, bar, art gallery and event auditorium, this quirky place serves up inhalable cups of coffee, crispy heads of grilled Massachusetts shrimp and many more totally weird and remarkable items. You’ll feel like you’ve ventured to a new dimension in the future, and perhaps even landed in a science lab eatery.