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Things to Do in Cambridge

If Boston is Massachusetts’ boldest, hippest son, Cambridge is the state’s somewhat nerdier but just as cool, older brother. Rightfully so, as the city is home to Harvard University (the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (the country’s most prestigious), just to name a few. A walking tour of each provides a great starting point for any visit to the city, but there are so many more historical and sightseeing opportunities for visitors.

The inaccurately named Harvard Square (it’s actually triangular shaped) is the de facto hub of commercial activity for its namesake school. For decades, it has served as a cultural crossroads where “yuppies” and urban conservatives share the sidewalks and streets with counterculture punks. Travelers can make an entire day of strolling nearby bookstores, coffee shops, shopping outlets, bars, and eateries. Cinema buffs will appreciate the Square’s long history as a backdrop for films from the 1970s Paper Chase, through to more modern releases such as Good Will Hunting and The Social Network.

Just near Harvard Square sits Cambridge Common - a large swath of urban greenery with a history that dates back to the American Revolutionary War. Like Boston Common, this public park offers ample green space within the city limits where visitors are often seen playing all manner of college-appropriate sport, such as frisbee, kickball, and soccer.

For armchair historians, Tory Row is a must-see on any visit to Cambridge. This tiny subsection of Brattle Street is so named for the seven historically key Loyalist mansions built there at the time of the Revolutionary War. Lastly, no visit is complete without seeing the Charles River. Whether you choose a quiet stroll or, better still, a quiet row by boat along the city’s most famous waterway, it’s the best way to get a feel for the city, the people and the history of one of the state’s most beautiful destinations.
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Charles River
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The Charles River meanders 80 miles (129 kilometers) through eastern Massachusetts, including Boston and Cambridge, before emptying into the Atlantic. The Charles, as it’s often called, plays a role in the daily lives of many Bostonians, especially walkers, joggers, cyclists, kayakers, and those who love to quietly relax by the water.

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Harvard University
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Located in Cambridge, just north of Boston, Harvard University is synonymous with prestige and accomplishment. Known for a curriculum that challenges and inspires its students, this Ivy League university boasts over 45 Nobel Prize winners and eight US presidents, including Barack Obama, among its faculty and alumni.

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
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Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the well-respected Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private research university with a strong focus on technology, science, and engineering. Although it’s a 168-acre urban campus, you’ll see visually interesting buildings mixed with peaceful green spaces.

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Harvard Square
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It’s easy to spend an afternoon in Harvard Square, a popular gathering place and a hub for street performers thanks to a lively street scene and close proximity to Harvard University. Travelers will find plenty of local life in this Cambridge neighborhood, as well as restaurants, shopping, an old-school newsstand, and public-art installations.

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John Harvard Statue
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This bronze statue, which stands at the center of Harvard Yard, is frequently visited by both travelers and prospective students, and it’s also been the target of dozens of pranks since its unveiling. Whether it’s covered in tar, paint, or some other substance, the John Harvard statue remains at the heart of the school named for him … even though the statue isn’t actually of him.

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Harvard Museum of Natural History
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The expansive collection of the Harvard Museum of Natural History, located on the grounds of Harvard University, comes from the school’s major research museums. Visitors will find fabulous displays of fossils and dinosaurs, taxidermied animals from around the world, exquisite glass models of plants, and more at this family-friendly museum.

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Cambridge Common
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Cambridge Common is a popular green space near Harvard Square where local recreational sports teams play, picnickers gather, and energetic kids run around. On the site where George Washington gathered troops during the Revolutionary War, the park contains historic cannons and plaques that commemorate some of the revolution’s major events.

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Longfellow House (Washington's Headquarters)
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Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Longfellow House is the former home of poet Henry W. Longfellow and served as headquarters to General George Washington during the Siege of Boston from 1775 to 1776. Visitors can wander the decorated halls of this Georgian mansion and learn about the dynamic Longfellow family.

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MIT Museum
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Founded in 1971, the MIT Museum is home to a wide array of exhibits showcasing the intersection of science, technology, and art, from artificial intelligence and holography to robotics. The museum offers rotating exhibitions on STEAM-based topics, demonstrations by faculty and students, workshops, and hands-on activities.

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Kendall Square
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Kendall Square has served as a transit hub for travelers venturing between Boston and Cambridge for centuries: In 1793, it provided the first direct wagon route between these cities. Today tech firms and offshoots of nearby MIT call Kendall Square home, and travelers will find plenty of accommodations, restaurants, and shopping here.

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