Introduction to Cambridge, Massachusetts
The city of Cambridge is part of the Greater Boston area of Massachusetts. The city is best known for being the home of two world-class universities, Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), located within just two miles of each other. Cambridge is bordered by the city of Boston, located on the other side of the Charles River just 3 miles to the southeast. Other surrounding communities include Somerville (to the north), Watertown (to the west), and Arlington (to the northwest).
Settled in 1630 by a band of Puritans from England, Cambridge was originally called "Newtowne." The founding of Harvard College in 1636 prompted the choice of a new name, one more appropriate for a college town in New England. The name "Cambridge" was chosen due to the familiarity of many of the settlers with Cambridge University in England. The year 1636 also marked the incorporation of the town, which became a city in 1846 when the original town (Old Cambridge) merged with two villages (Cambridgeport and East Cambridge) which had formed to the east along the roads leading to bridges linking the area to Boston. The city's major industrial focus in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries centered on factories (largely furniture and glass) but since that time the emphasis has shifted to technology-based enterprises, including electronics, software, and biotechnology research. Cambridge today is very much a college-influenced community combining a strong mix of cultural and social diversity, intellectual vitality and technological innovation.
Cambridge Area Attractions
The charming neighborhoods ("Squares") of Cambridge are rich in options for shopping, dining, and sightseeing, offering plenty of theatres, museums, and historic sites. Central Square, the seat of city government, contains a variety of international restaurants and music clubs. Kendall Square, home to MIT, is the focal point of the Massachusetts high tech and biotechnology industries. Harvard Square, surrounding the historic brick walls of the nation's oldest university, offers a plethora of cafes, bookstores, boutiques, and entertainment choices. Likewise, Porter and Inman Squares offer a diverse selection of dining options, and many artistic and cultural attractions as well.
Among the many attractions in Cambridge is the Museum of Science, featuring more than 400 interactive exhibits, a planetarium, and a state-of-the-art IMAX Theatre. Harvard's Busch-Reisinger Museum is the nation's only museum devoted specifically to the arts of Central and Northern Europe. The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, also at Harvard, is one of the world's oldest museums devoted to anthropology. The Longfellow House, a National Historic Site built in 1759, was the home of the celebrated poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and also served as George Washington's headquarters in 1775 and 1776.
Cambridge is home to a number of annual street fairs and festivals. The Cambridge Carnival in Massachusetts, held in August, is a Caribbean-style carnival featuring costumes, music, street-parades, dancing, and food, which represent the diverse cultures of the Caribbean islands. The Cambridge River Festival, held in June, features music, art, food, and a variety of hands-on art-making activities for kids. October's Head of the Charles Regatta is a 2-day regatta where sailing fans can watch racers from all over the world compete along the Charles River. Each September on the weekend after Labor Day Cambridge celebrates the Italian Festival of Saints Cosmas and Damian. Considered one of New England's premier cultural festivals, this large celebration consists of parades, ethnic food, candlelight processions, amusement rides, games, and live entertainment.
On the other side of the Charles River, the neighboring city of Boston is filled with its own long list of attractions. A small sampling of these is listed here:
- The Boston Symphony Orchestra
- The Boston Pops
- The Museum of Fine Arts
- The Boston Children's Museum
- Franklin Park Zoo
- Faneuil Hall
- The Freedom Trail
- John Hancock Tower
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library and Museum
- New England Aquarium
- Old North Church
- Paul Revere House
- Prudential Center
- The USS Constitution
The city of Boston is also home to a number of major league professional sports teams. Prominent among them are Major League Baseball's Boston Red Sox, who play their games at historic Fenway Park, itself one of the city's major tourist attractions. Also in town are the National Basketball Association's Boston Celtics, holders of one of most storied dynasties in all of sports. Hockey fans can root for the NHL's Boston Bruins, while lacrosse fans can enjoy the Boston Cannons of Major League Lacrosse (MLL). World Team Tennis (WTT) also has a franchise in the city known as the Boston Lobsters. Down the road (about 30 miles to the southwest), the town of Foxboro is home to the National Football League's New England Patriots (winners of three Super Bowls in recent years) and Major League Soccer's New England Revolution.