With at least 35 colleges, universities and community colleges located in about 48 square miles, there’s no denying it—Boston is a college town. Its neighboring cities are no less scholarly, with eminent institutions and attractions waiting to be explored. Join us on a jaunt through these towns to see what’s in store
Boston may be the city you fly into, whether you are here for business, pleasure or to see your freshman off to school. But it’s worth taking an excursion to outlying Medford, Cambridge and Waltham, which also boast feathers in their graduation caps thanks to their own world-renowned institutions such as Tufts, Harvard, MIT and Brandeis, to name a few.
Once September rolls around, each city teems with co-eds. If you want to explore minus the student population, that can prove a little challenging. We’ve gathered a few ways to go beyond the basic tour book must-sees and experience these college towns like a local.
When visiting an acclaimed institution like Harvard University (America’s oldest insitute of higher education) or MIT, it’s tempting to stay within the campus confines. After all, Harvard is set within Harvard Square and has its famous yard and impressive museums (the Museum of Natural History is a favorite), while MIT extends more than a mile along the scenic Charles River.
But to appreciate Cambridge is to approach it like a Cantabrigian. And, chances are, living local begins at a festival. This city packs almost every weekend with a celebration and the largest of those festivals, Cambridge Carnival, is held on September 8. The marquee attraction is a costume parade complete with cultural music and rhythm rooted in African traditions. Another festival to sink your teeth into is the Cambridge Dumpling Festival (September 22), which turns Prospect Street into a dumpling destination, along with for-sale antiques, art and handmade wares.
Hanging out in Harvard Square should certainly be on the list, but a stroll down Massachusetts Avenue (“Mass Ave” to locals) from Harvard toward MIT leads you to the less-populated Central Square. Here you’ll find funky concerts at The Middle East, fabulous tapas among roaring ‘20s flappers at Cuchi Cuchi, thrifting at Boomerang’s and vinyl at Cheapo Records. On your way is Café Sushi, known among locals for its “bang for your buck” omakase tasting menu.
When it’s time to relax, peaceful Mount Auburn Cemetery is the ideal choice for unwinding. America’s first garden cemetery, its bucolic landscape boasts placid ponds, grand statues (check out the giant Sphinx), breathtaking mausoleums and a panorama of Boston and Cambridge from Washington Tower.
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