Home to Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one historic suburb of Boston you won’t want to miss. Between the city’s many museums, cafes, bookstores, neoclassical architecture, and restaurants, Cambridge is chalkful of must-see sights and experiences for the whole family.
Consider these exciting things to do in Cambridge, Massachusetts, when planning your itinerary.
Best Things to Do in Cambridge for History Buffs
1. Harvard Museum of Natural History
Visiting the Harvard Museum of Natural History should be high on your list of things to do in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Situated on campus inside the University Museum Building, this facility serves as the public-facing museum for three research institutions: the Harvard University Herbaria, the Museum of Comparative Zoology, and the Harvard Mineralogical and Geological Museum. Permanent exhibitions include fossils, gemstones, meteorites, historic plants, and much more.
2. Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology
One of the oldest museums of its kind, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology houses more than 1.2 million objects on Harvard’s campus. Exhibits cover millions of years of biological, social, and cultural history.
The museum’s vast collection mainly focuses on North and South America, but visitors can also view notable pieces from Asia, Africa, Europe, and other parts of the world. Archaeological items on display include elements from the Lewis and Clark expedition, materials from Mayan excavations, and ceremonial objects from Peru. Please plan to spend at least half a day at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, as it’s simply one of the best things to do in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for history lovers.
3. Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East
If you love ancient history, the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East is one of the best things to do in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Since 1889, the museum has preserved and exhibited artifacts from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Israel, Persia, and other Near Eastern cultures.
The museum aims to showcase the vast array of diversity found in the ancient eastern Mediterranean region. Pieces on display have been excavated across the region, including modern-day Egypt, Iraq, and North Africa.
4. Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments
Another must-see museum at Harvard University is the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments. Since 1948, the facility has preserved Harvard’s many acquired scientific instruments, some of which date to 1672.
Items on display include historic telescopes, microscopes, thermometers, and early computers.
Best Arts and Science Attractions in Cambridge, MA
5. MIT Museum
The number of things to do in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for those who appreciate the arts and sciences is practically endless. The MIT Museum has long been a top attraction for visitors. Its collection consists of technical archives, films, photographs, prints, objects, rare books, and holograms of interest to the MIT community.
While its former location at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is closed, the MIT Museum will reopen on October 2, 2022, in Kendall Square. Until then, the store remains open at the Main Street location.
6. Museum of Science
Located in Science Park on the Charles River and connecting Cambridge and Boston, the Museum of Science strives to inspire a love of science in everyone who passes through its doors, making it one of the best things to do in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
During your visit, experience a 4-D film, visit the planetarium, attend a live presentation, or participate in a hands-on activity. The Museum of Science offers innovative learning experiences for all ages!
7. Harvard Art Museums
If you’re an art lover, one of the best things to do in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is visiting the Harvard Art Museums. Consisting of the Fogg Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, the Harvard Art Museums play a leading role in conserving and developing art history and conservation science for Harvard University the greater community.
The oldest of the three museums, the Fogg Museum, was established in 1895. Collectively, the museums boast art collections dating from ancient times. Expect to view late-medieval sculptures, ancient decorative arts, eighteenth-century paintings, Western art, and more.
8. Museum of Fine Arts Boston
One of the most popular things to do in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for art enthusiasts is to visit the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. One of the largest art museums in the world, the MFA houses over 450,000 pieces of art, including over 8,000 paintings.
Items on display include ancient Egyptian artifacts, Chinese calligraphy, Native American works, and impressionist pieces by the likes of Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh.
Best Shopping Destinations in Cambridge, MA
Let’s be honest; shopping is probably high on your list of things to do in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to shop ’til you drop while visiting the Boston area.
CambridgeSide is an enclosed mall offering some of the biggest name brands, including Old Navy, Gap, and Best Buy. Restaurants include Sarku Japan, Chipotle, and The Cheesecake Factory.
10. The Garment District
Whether you’re shopping for new, used, or vintage apparel, The Garment District is a must! Touted as “an alternative department store,” The Garment District boasts more than 12,000 square feet of retail space.
One of the unique things about The Garment District is its shop-by-the-pound offer. Each morning after opening, the store puts out 850-pound bales of mixed clothing and tables laden with accessories. Load up on anything you want and pay just $2.00 per pound!
11. The Harvard Shop
It wouldn’t be a trip to Cambridge without a stop at The Harvard Shop. Comprised of three store locations in Harvard Square, The Harvard Shop is your go-to place to score Harvard apparel, merchandise, and souvenirs.
The Harvard Shop sells everything from classic tees and loungewear to pet products and accessories.
Things to Do in Cambridge Outdoors
12. Cambridge Common
If you’re looking for things to do in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where you can get outside and enjoy nature, plan to spend some time in Cambridge Common.
This National Historic Landmark is a sixteen-acre park just outside Harvard Square. Discover historical monuments, paved paths, a playing field, and shade trees.
13. Fresh Pond Reservation
Visitors who love fishing and wildlife viewing should check out Fresh Pond Reservation. The site’s many public amenities circle Fresh Pond Reservoir and include a municipal golf course, an ecology center, a public park, playgrounds, and wooded trails.
With multiple walking paths and access points, you can walk as much as 2.5 miles around the longest loop for an invigorating workout.
14. Mount Auburn Cemetery
While you might not consider a cemetery one of the greatest things to do in Cambridge, Massachusetts, you’d be missing out on one of the city’s most tranquil and beautiful outdoor spaces.
The best way to explore the 175-acre Mount Auburn Cemetery is on foot. Bikes, rollerblades, scooters, and the like are not allowed due to the revered nature of the site.
15. Magazine Beach Park
A seventeen-acre park situated along the Charles River, Magazine Beach Park features an outdoor gym, a pool, and several historic buildings, including the stone Powder Magazine storage site.
Mass Audubon also hosts seasonal nature programs at the Powder Magazine building from April to November. If you can’t attend an event, enjoy the park’s many recreation areas, walking paths, and natural habitats.
Best Restaurants in Cambridge, MA
16. Little Donkey
No matter your age or interests, dining out is one of the best things to do in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Little Donkey is one of the area’s top-rated restaurants boasting outdoor patio seating, craft brews, and global tapas created by James Beard Award-winning chefs.
Menu items include ricotta and black truffle toast, Korean rice cakes, grilled Kalbi, and profiteroles.
Situated in the heart of Harvard Square, Harvest is a celebrated restaurant that’s been a Cambridge staple since 1975. The menu emphasizes fresh ingredients and celebrates New England farmers in a beautiful, welcoming setting.
While you can visit Harvest anytime, consider making a brunch reservation. Brunch entrees include fried chicken and waffles, brioche French toast, and New England lobster roll with house-made chips.
18. Cambridge Common Restaurant
When visiting Cambridge Common, stop by the Cambridge Common Restaurant. This casual American eatery offers both indoor and outdoor dining and takeout and delivery, making it one of the most convenient things to do in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Classic menu items include pretzel bites, fish and chips, burgers, and salads. You’ll also love the draft beer, cocktails, and wine selection.
Fun Things to Do in Cambridge, MA with the Kids
19. North Point Park & Splash Pad
Are you looking for family-friendly things to do in Cambridge, Massachusetts? Look no further than North Point Park & Splash Pad!
Situated across from the Museum of Science, this exciting playground boasts a spray deck, picnic tables, and play structures for all ages. You can even take advantage of dog-friendly spaces and walking trails.
20. LEGOLAND Discovery Center Boston
Exploring LEGOLAND is simply one of the best things to do in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The ultimate indoor playground, LEGOLAND Discovery Center, boasts a LEGO City play zone, a 4-D cinema, and amusement rides. You can even view Boston made entirely out of LEGO at the MINILAND attraction!
21. Boston Children’s Museum
It wouldn’t be a trip to Cambridge with the family without a stop at the Boston Children’s Museum.
Situated on Children’s Wharf, this state-of-the-art museum is dedicated to educating children of all ages. Exhibits include a science playground, a PlaySpace for toddlers, an Art Studio, a Construction Zone, and much more.
Time to Visit Cambridge!
Now that you know the many exciting things to do in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it’s time to start planning your trip! What must-see sites will you be adding to your itinerary?
Once you’ve explored Cambridge, consider visiting another one of America’s most iconic cities: Nashville, Tennessee. With its many museums, historic sites, and entertainment venues, Music City should be high on your travel list.