Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Cambridge, MA

  • Published 2023/01/27

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 /

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.

Grounds of Historic Harvard Square

Roman Babakin /

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.

Trail of Historic Harvard Square

Kusska /

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.

Buildings at Historic Harvard Square

LnP images /

See Masterpieces at the Harvard Art Museums

Sign in Harvard Art Museums

Wangkun Jia /

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?

Sculpture in Harvard Art Museums

Marcio Jose Bastos Silva /

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.

Exterior of Harvard Art Museums

Roman Babakin /

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

Fall scene at Cambridge Common

Jay Yuan /

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.

Sculpture at Cambridge Common

Jay Yuan /

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 /

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

Exterior of Harvard Museum of Natural History

Papa Bravo /

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.

Fossil in Harvard Museum of Natural History

EvgeniiAnd /

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.

Monkey skeleton in Harvard Museum of Natural History

EvgeniiAnd /

Check Out Innovative Art at the MIT List Visual Arts Center

Exterior of MIT List Visual Arts Center

Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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

Exterior of 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.

Display in Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

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

Exterior 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.

Facade 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

The grounds of Danehy Park


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.

Field at Danehy Park

Eddie Gong /

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.

Browse through Unique Items at Cambridge Antique Market

Are you seeking one-of-a-kind presents for friends and family or something to keep for yourself?

The five levels of amazing treasures at Cambridge Antique Market make for an excellent way to spend any day.

They provide options for everyone with more than 150 Dealer Spaces.

Browse various products, including toys, books, fine silver, furniture, artwork, collectibles, vintage apparel, glassware, and more.

Pay a visit to the Cambridge Antique Market, available from 11 am to 6 pm every day except Tuesday.

Chill and Dine at the Red House Restaurant

Cambridge’s heart, New England’s flavor, and the spirit of the seasons merge at The Red House Restaurant.

It debuted in May 2000 as the initial restaurant to renovate and turn the iconic Red House in Harvard Square into a four-season restaurant.

Molly Lindbergh, the founding owner’s daughter, has transformed the Red House’s past into a new adventure.

The restaurant’s newest Conservatory Bar offers creative takes on traditional New England seafood recipes, a complete-service raw bar, and captivating Botanical Cocktails.

The Red House boasts two fireplaces, a botanical-inspired bar, and a sizable four-season terrace that makes it possible to make the most of every day.

View Specimens Exhibited at the Museum of Comparative Zoology

Exterior of the Museum of Comparative Zoology

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The comparative connections of animal life are the center of private research and educational institutions known as the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) at Harvard University.

Annually, the MCZ welcomes dozens of visiting researchers and stores millions of animal exhibits arranged into nine sections.

Over 21 million living and extinct vertebrate and invertebrate samples are in the MCZ collections.

It continues to be the main area of study and instruction for MCZ, Harvard, and other students and scholars.

MCZ specimens are available for viewing at the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

Explore the Cooper Gallery

Debuted in the fall of 2014, the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery includes current and historical displays and installations of African and African American craftsmanship.

African businessman Mr. Cooper has spent under 40 years working in the continent’s and the world’s natural resources industries.

The Cooper Gallery boasts 2,300 square feet of exhibit space and additional areas for seminars, meetings, and educational programs.

It was designed by famous architect Sir David Adjaye OBE of Adjaye Associates.

It is the sole gallery at Harvard devoted exclusively to art from the African Diaspora.

The Cooper Gallery offers workshops, artist talks, symposiums, lectures, and shows that introduce audiences to various international art archives and cultural practices.

Watch a Production at the American Repertory Theater

Exterior of the American Repertory Theater

John Phelan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Harvard University’s American Repertory Theatre (ART) is a major player in the American theater scene, creating ground-breaking work motivated by taking risks and deep curiosity.

Robert Brustein started ART in 1980 and served as its director until 2002, when Robert Woodruff took over.

The Harvard University American Repertory Theater is committed to pushing the limits of theater while always involving the public as a participant.

The theater is essential to Harvard’s undergraduate Theater, Dance, and Media focus, providing directing, theatrical literature, singing, designing, and dramaturgy classes.

Every year, ART actively involves local academics and members of the community in project-based collaborations, workshops, discussions with artists, and other programs.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Go Shopping at the Historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace

View of Historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace

Roman Babakin /

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.”

Grounds of Historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace

jenlo8 /

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 /

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 /

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.

Signage of Paul Revere House

2p2play /

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.

Facade of Paul Revere House


Explore the Boston Riverside at the Charles River Esplanade

Aerial view of Charles River Esplanade

Richard Cavalleri /

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 /

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.

Paddling on Charles River Esplanade

Dan Lewis /

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.

Street scene at Old South Meeting House

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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.

Exterior of the Old South Meeting House

Diego Grandi /

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 /

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!

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