15 Best Things to Do in Cambridge, MA

Cambridge, MA
Sean Pavone / shutterstock.com

Who says only beaches and mountains can be travel destinations?

Any city can be a tourist attraction as long as it’s interesting, and Cambridge, MA, is one of the most interesting cities in the United States.

Cambridge is a city of learning and history, not only because of its old buildings but also because it’s the home of the world’s most prestigious universities.

Over the years, leaders in various fields have emerged from the halls of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Besides education, Cambridge also offers a ton of historical and cultural attractions.

You can even go on a shopping spree there.

The city’s neighborhoods, or “Squares,” features theatres, museums, and historical landmarks.

For instance, Harvard Square has plenty of cafes, bookstores, and boutiques for you to choose from.

You even have the imposing walls of the United States’ oldest university as the backdrop.

Do you want to know more about Cambridge, MA? Here’s a list of the best things to do in town.

Explore the Historic Harvard Square

View of Historic Harvard Square
Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock.com

The historian Charles Sullivan claimed that present-day Cambridge began as a Puritan village called Newtowne, founded in 1630 and renamed in 1638.

One of the original streets, Mount Auburn, borders the area known as Harvard Square today.

It was only until the mid-19th century that Harvard Square became popular.

View of Historic Harvard Square
Roman Babakin / Shutterstock.com

This popularity has transformed the small square into a global travel hotspot, attracting over 8 million people every year.

Why do people flock to Harvard Square?

You simply won’t run out of things to do there.

If you want to immerse yourself in knowledge and ideas, just visit any bookstores lining the street.

View of Historic Harvard Square
Kusska / Shutterstock.com

Otherwise, you can hang out at the coffee houses for an afternoon of relaxing.

You can go shopping in Harvard Square, too, and you can’t go wrong with any restaurant there.

Plus, you can watch a performance of Cuban ballet or folk music and then discuss them with like-minded people over award-winning pizza.

Visit Harvard Square at Brattle St., Cambridge, MA 02138.

View of Historic Harvard Square
LnP images / Shutterstock.com

See Masterpieces at the Harvard Art Museums

Sign in Harvard Art Museums
Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock.com

You won’t find a bigger and more esteemed art collection anywhere else in the country than the Harvard Art Museum.

If you want to feast your eyes on outstanding works of art, look no further than this Cambridge museum.

What can you see inside this museum?

Interior View of Harvard Art Museums
Marcio Jose Bastos Silva / Shutterstock.com

You’ll see masterworks from the world’s greatest artists, such as Picasso, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Bernini.

Likewise, you’ll also find art from all over the world.

The museum displays Chinese Buddhist sculptures, ancient Greek vessels, and pieces from India.

View of Harvard Art Museums
Roman Babakin / Shutterstock.com

The Harvard Museum holds 50 galleries, too, so you’ll never run out of artwork to browse.

You might also want to join tours with Harvard students as guides.

Visit the Harvard Art Museum at 32 Quincy St., Cambridge, MA 02138.

Interior View of Harvard Art Museums
Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spend the Day at the Cambridge Common

View of Cambridge Common
Jay Yuan / Shutterstock.com

If you prefer to relax with your friends or family in a green space, you can go to the Cambridge Common.

This 16-acre city park is also a National Historic Landmark, giving the surroundings a cozy ambiance.

Just go outside Harvard Square to reach the park.

View of Cambridge Common
Jay Yuan / Shutterstock.com

While you’re at Cambridge Common, you can bring your kids to the rebuilt Alexander W. Kemp Playground.

Then, you can relax on the lawns, see the historic monuments, and stroll along several pathways.

More than 10,000 pedestrians and cyclists cross the park every day, so it’s a great place to meet new friends.

Visit the Cambridge Common at Waterhouse St. & Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138.

View of Cambridge Common
Jay Yuan / Shutterstock.com

Learn the Earth’s History at the Harvard Museum of Natural History

Papa Bravo / Shutterstock.com

If you ever wanted to see dinosaurs in person, you’d better visit the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

The museum’s paleontology gallery features various dinosaurs, including a Triceratops whose skull was the first one ever discovered.

Besides dinosaurs, you can also visit the Great Mammal Hall, which features mammals living on land or sea.

EvgeniiAnd / Shutterstock.com

You’ll find numerous animals like lemurs, sloths, and even six whales hanging from the ceiling.

Finally, you can head over to the museum’s mineral gallery and look for your birthstone gem.

There are other permanent exhibits in the museum to fit people’s diverse interests.

Visit the Harvard Museum of Natural History at 26 Oxford St., Cambridge, MA 02138.

Check Out Innovative Art at the MIT List Visual Arts Center

Who says MIT is only for engineers and scientists?

Art enthusiasts can also visit MIT to appreciate the creations of the world’s most inventive artists today.

You only need to enter the List Visual Arts Center.

The center is a “creative laboratory” that lets artists push the envelope and experiment with their craft.

The center hosts six to nine special exhibitions that feature site-specific work from dynamic emerging artists every year.

The center also maintains a permanent collection and commissions new work from artists through the MIT Percent-for-Art program.

You’ll truly never run out of art that bends your mind with their genius when you visit.

Visit the MIT List Visual Arts Center at 20 Ames St., Cambridge, MA 02142.

Study the World’s Cultures at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology

I, Infrogmation, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

As a town of learning and knowledge, it’s only right for Cambridge to feature museums devoted to various fields of study.

It’s also no small feat that these museums are interesting and thought-provoking.

Drop by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology if you want an example.

This museum displays historical artifacts taken from cultures across six continents, such as totem poles and enormous Maya sculptures.

Artifacts in Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

You’ll also find several priceless ancient artifacts. It’s just a few minutes' walk from Harvard Square, too.

Likewise, the museum is famous for its extensive collection of Native American and Mesoamerican artifacts.

This collection features life-size versions of Mayan monuments and rotating exhibitions showing Native American tribes.

Visit the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at 11 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138.

Marvel at the Design of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts

View of Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts
Ario Barzan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Not only is the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts a terrific art gallery, but it is also beautiful proof that architecture is also an art form.

It is the only building in North America that celebrated French architect Le Corbusier designed.

As a result, it stands out for its modern aesthetic amid a traditional location.

View of Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts
Gunnar Klack, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Le Corbusier wanted the building to evoke freedom and limitless creativity.

He drew up a building that was a “synthesis of the arts,” unifying architecture with painting, sculpture, and visual arts through his innovative design.

Today, the five-level building offers glimpses into the creative process because a ramp in the middle lets guests roam freely and watch artists at work.

View of Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts
Ario Barzan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Climb to the top of the ramp to enter the Sert Gallery, which features contemporary artworks.

At street level, you’ll find various exhibitions following Harvard’s Department of Visual and Environmental Studies curriculum.

Visit the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at 24 Quincy St., Cambridge, MA 02138.

Learn More World History at the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East

Another Harvard Museum you can visit is the Museum of the Ancient Near East, where you can learn everything to learn about the region, from prehistory onwards.

Its exhibits fully showcase the richness of its peoples’ history and culture.

For example, you’ll find a full-scale replica of a home in the Iron Age, plus life-sized casts of Mesopotamian monuments and authentic mummy coffins.

You’ll also see ancient tablets where the earliest forms of writing appeared and evolved.

If you want to visit the so-called cradle of civilization, the first thing you should do is check out this museum.

Visit the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East at 6 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138.

Get Physical at Danehy Park

View of Danehy Park
TING FANG / Shutterstock.com

Standing around in all these museums might become tiresome, so you better haul yourself to Danehy Park and get active.

This 50-acre recreational facility has everything you need if you want to break a sweat.

You’ll find athletic fields, a few walking and jogging paths, and even some wetlands.

The artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles also designed a 1.5-mile path of recycled glass and asphalt, which ends on top of Cambridge’s highest point, a hill standing 72 feet above sea level.

That’s just one of the unmissable spots in Danehy Park.

Visit Danehy Park at 99 Sherman St., Cambridge, MA 02138.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Go Shopping at the Historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace

View of Historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Roman Babakin / Shutterstock.com

Ten minutes away from Cambridge lies the city of Boston, a city equally rich in activities for everyone.

For example, if you want to shop and learn more about American history, you can go to Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace and hit two birds with one stone.

The Faneuil Hall Marketplace dates back to 1742 when the United States’ Founding Fathers described the place as “The Cradle of Liberty.”

View of Historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace
jenlo8 / Shutterstock.com

The mixed-use festival marketplace hosts more than 70 retailers and 40 office tenants.

Retail space occupies 200,000 square feet of the place, while the rest take up 160,000 square feet.

You can buy unique items from any popular shops there and then relish global cuisine at the restaurants and pubs populating the marketplace.

View of Historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace
jenlo8 / Shutterstock.com

Likewise, you can drop by the world-famous Quincy Market Colonnade.

If you just want to walk around, you can follow the cobblestone promenades and enjoy the music and routines of street musicians and performers.

Visit Faneuil Hall Marketplace at 4 S Market St., Boston, MA 02109.

Revisit US History at the Paul Revere House

Exterior View of Paul Revere House
Zack Frank / Shutterstock.com

One of the greatest heroes of the American Revolution was Paul Revere, who went on the famous “midnight ride” to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock of the arrival of the British Army.

Revere hailed from Boston, and the city honored him through preserving his wooden house at 19 North Square, which he built in 1680.

Today, the three-story Revere house is the oldest house standing in downtown Boston.

The restoration made to the Revere House didn’t alter its historic value.

Exterior View of Paul Revere House
2p2play / Shutterstock.com

Today, 90% of the house’s structure is original.

Likewise, you can go upstairs to find furniture that belonged to the Revere family.

You can join guided tours like the Boston Old Town Trolley Tour to visit the Paul Revere House, one of the first historic homes converted to public museums.

The Paul Revere House is at 19 N Square, Boston, MA 02113.

Exterior View of Paul Revere House
LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock.com

Explore the Boston Riverside at the Charles River Esplanade

View of Charles River Esplanade
Richard Cavalleri / Shutterstock.com

Locals know this 17-mile stretch of shoreline along the Charles River as the “Esplanade,” attracting travelers looking for a leisurely vacation.

Walking paths abound on the property, allowing you to jog, walk, bike, or even roller-blade there.

The Charles River is also a gorgeous spot, whether summer or winter.

On warmer days, you can go canoeing.

View of Charles River Esplanade
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

During the winter, ice-skating is the way to go.

Summertime also becomes eventful at the famous Hatch Shell, where live concerts and movie screenings can be seen.

You can also get some sun along the riverbank, letting the gentle Charles River breeze cool you down.

View of Charles River Esplanade
Dan Lewis / Shutterstock.com

Step into Early American History at the Old South Meeting House

Exterior View of Old South Meeting House
Roman Babakin

Boston is one of the United States’ most historic cities, and it’s got the landmarks to prove it.

One such building is the Old South Meeting House, the largest building in colonial-era Boston, and where the first act of American defiance against British rule occurred.

The building was a meeting house for Puritans in 1729.

Today, it’s now one of the country’s most important colonial-era buildings. It’s also one of the earliest museums in the country.

Exterior View of Old South Meeting House
2p2play / Shutterstock.com

On December 16, 1773, a group of more than 5,000 piled into the meeting house to protest the British Crown’s tea tax.

After a failure to reach a compromise, Samuel Adams signaled the beginning of the Boston Tea Party.

The Sons of Liberty led the march to Griffin’s Wharf.

And then, the men dumped 342 chests of tea into the freezing sea, rallying Americans across the 13 colonies to fight for independence.

Visit the Old South Meeting House at 310 Washington St., Boston, MA 02108.

Get to Know the 35th US President at the John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

Front View of John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site
Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock.com

Fifteen minutes away from Cambridge lies the city of Brookline, the birthplace of John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States and one of the 20th century’s most famous figures.

The John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site intends to take visitors back to the president’s childhood days.

If you’re curious about what made JFK tick, you could visit his childhood home.

Sign in John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site
Pi.1415926535, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1967, the Kennedy family donated the house to the National Park Service to deepen Americans’ appreciation of their country’s history.

Mrs. Kennedy, JFK’s mother, handled the recreation of his childhood home.

The John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site is at 83 Beals St., Brookline, MA 02446.

Expand Your Knowledge at the Museum of African American History

The history of the United States is incomplete without mentioning the contributions of African-Americans.

If you’re curious about these contributions, you should visit the Museum of African-American History in Boston, the largest museum in New England.

What can you see in this museum?

It contains four national historic sites dating back to the early 1800s and the Black Heritage Trail.

You can also find permanent exhibits containing important historic artifacts and artwork on your visit.

Likewise, you’ll trace the historic achievements of free African Americans and the white abolitionists who changed the course of US history.

Meanwhile, the Black Heritage Trail is a walking mile that runs for 1.6 miles, guiding you to the largest collection of historic African American sites.

These sites show you the lifestyles of free African Americans just before the Civil War.

Visit the Museum of African American History at 46 Joy St., Boston, MA 02114.

Final Thoughts

Cambridge is a city of knowledge and history near other historic American cities.

If you want a crash course in American history, you will do well to start your education in Cambridge.

Keep track of what has changed and what has remained the same as you explore the museums and historic sites.

Book your trip to Cambridge today!