Cambridge, Boston Travel Guide
- Home to Harvard and MIT, it's one of the country's foremost academic and intellectual centers.
- Lively and well-regarded music scene
- Diverse dining options
- With its famous universities, museums, and cemeteries, the place is brimming with history.
- It's scenic: sailboats and rowboats on the Charles River, set against the Boston skyline.
- Lots of quality hotels across the price spectrum
- Bars and subway close early
- Most cab drivers don't accept credit cards.
- College town atmosphere may feel restricting to some.
What It's Like
Situated to the northeast of Boston, just across the Charles River, Cambridge seems at once part of and distinct from the city. Cambridge provides much of the classic and academic --- some would say dowdy --- imagery for which Boston is known: stately red-brick townhouses; the sight of rowers launching from ancient boathouses on the banks of the Charles; the almost colonial atmosphere that envelops Harvard, the nation's oldest university. And yet Cambridge virtually buzzes with energy; biotech companies, entrepreneurial startups, and the studious whir of college town activity combine to make it one of the country's most vibrant intellectual centers. Cambridge is also home to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and just as Harvard exudes a musty air of American influence and success (Kennedys, Roosevelts, Obama), MIT proudly embraces its own brand of nerdiness: Where else do you find a street named Galileo Galilei Way?
Much of Cambridge's cultural activity --- though hardly all of it --- stems from the universities. In addition to institutions like the Harvard Museum of Natural History, the MIT Museum, and the historic Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge also has pockets of eccentricity -- scruffy buskers and pogo stick jumpers in the public squares, for example -- that offer glimpses of city life and reminds visitors that Cambridge isn't just another of Boston's upscale suburbs. As with all of Boston, Cambridge nightlife is somewhat cramped by a 2 a.m. closing time at the bars (with many shutting their doors even earlier). And the city's subway system --- known as the T --- stops running just after midnight. Still, Cambridge boasts a lively music scene that benefits from proximity to the Berklee College of Music just across the river.
Where To Stay
In addition to leisure travelers, Cambridge hotels draw a sizeable business clientele: medical groups, biotech companies, and university-related organizations, among others. And they fill up for parents' weekends and sporting events at Harvard, MIT and other area colleges. Keep this in mind when planning your visit; if it's all the same to you, graduation weekend is probably one to avoid.
Unlike those in Boston proper, no Cambridge hotels really have that big city feel. Still, some are farther away from the action than others. The Hyatt Regency Cambridge, on the banks of the Charles, has a pleasantly secluded feeling in spite of being only a quick cab ride away from Cambridge's restaurants and shopping or downtown Boston. For the quintessential Harvard experience, with a price tag to match, try the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square, a frequent host of international, literary and political celebrities (the Dalai Lama stopped by recently).