6 Things to Know Before Living in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Few small towns are as fortunate as Cambridge. How many can boast one Ivy League school, let alone two? There's a reason it's known as the intellectual capital of the world and most people would be hard pressed to disagree. But Cambridge has more to brag about than just prestigious universities. Students may love it, but so do retirees, young families, and career professionals. With its parks, jobs, attractions, and charming, well-designed streets, it’s a city that can appeal to everyone. If you’re curious about life in the Boston area, here's what you should know before living in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Lots of Great Jobs
Living in Cambridge isn’t cheap, but with two of the nation’s top research universities and the state capital next door, the local economy is so strong its housing and necessities are more affordable than they first appear. Harvard and MIT are the city’s biggest employers, but Cambridge is also home to a number of thriving software, healthcare, biotechnology, and internet companies, not to mention government contracts.
Cambridge is the headquarters of Biogen, a multinational corporation developing treatments for Alzheimer’s, depression, and lupus. Then there’s Akamai Technologies, one of the world’s largest distributed computing platforms, and Cambridge Health Alliance, one of the region's biggest, most comprehensive medical services providers.
The average salary in the city was over $84,000 last year. And don't forget, residents who have trouble finding work in their chosen field can always head across the river to Boston, which provides even more opportunities for skilled workers and ambitious professionals.
Easy to Get Around
Unlike most American cities, Cambridge is built for pedestrians, not for cars. Walk Score gives the city top marks for its centralized, mixed-use neighborhoods and large public squares. Practically everything you might need day-to-day is reachable on foot, and only 10-15 minutes from your front door.
Living in walkable neighborhoods promotes healthy activity. A half hour of fresh air boosts endorphins and reduces cortisol (the stress hormone), which strengthens your mood and sleeping patterns. It even improves your social and economic well-being. Walkable communities have stronger bonds and better home values, not to mention fewer traffic accidents.
But pedestrians aren't the only ones who benefit. Cambridge gets a near-perfect biking score as well. There are paths connecting almost every major street, square, and intersection in the city. Cyclists can cruise along the Charles River, head out to explore the countryside, or ride their bicycles to work or to see their friends and neighbors.
Close to Nature
Cambridge’s green spaces are as well thought out as its urban ones. The city contains more than 80 parks and playgrounds, where you can go to escape the urban grind. Alewife Brook
Reservation is the largest and most spectacular: over 120 acres of wetlands and wildlife, perfect for hiking, fishing, and bird watching. In early summer, the lakes and rivers teem with herring, swimming upstream for their annual migration.
The city is also within easy driving distance of Middlesex Fells Reservation, known as “The Fells” to locals, which contains over 100 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails. Families can picnic in crisp, green meadows, while the more adventurous go out sailing in Spot Pond or climb the park’s rocky cliffs. In summer, residents flock to Cape Cod to play, swim, and sail along the windswept shoreline.
Not surprisingly, a city that’s home to some of America’s top universities is also home to one of its top school districts. Cambridge public schools are ranked 44th out of 10,782. Its student-teacher ratio is 10:1. Its SAT scores are 200 points above the national average. And its graduation rate is around 90 percent.
Of course, if you’re planning to continue your education, there are few places with better options. Besides Harvard and MIT, students can enroll in Cambridge College, Lesley University, Longy School of Music, or Hult International Business School, all located within city limits. Or head south across the river to Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern University, Berklee College of Music, or up north to Tufts.
Cambridge is a safe place to live. Violent crime is at rock bottom. While every city has a few rough spots, no one looks over their shoulder when they walk down the street in Cambridge. Your odds of being a victim here are 1 in 342, making it one of the safest places to live in the country.
Cool, Eclectic Places to Hang Out and Have Fun
Cambridge is a city that celebrates small venues and offbeat attractions. Here, clubs and theaters aren’t just fun, they’re one of a kind.
- Brattle Theater. One of the last rear-projection movie theaters in the United States, specializing in classic and independent cinema. During finals week, it transforms into a showcase for Humphrey Bogart. His movies run Sunday through Saturday, with fans dressing up to shout their favorite lines at the screen.
- Lizard Lounge. A small, intimate speakeasy off Harvard Square that features local and national bands. Even its lighting scheme is famous, nothing but sensual red. Come grab a drink, but don’t expect the same act twice. The Lizard Lounge prefers to mix it up. Some nights it's rock and roots. Other times it's Balkan folk or classic opera.
- Grendel’s Den. A basement bar with wholesome, casual food, old-world wines, and a rotating selection of American and foreign beers. Not one to settle for the ordinary, it hosts poetry and storytelling events as well as live music.
- Club Passim. A legendary beatnik bar once haunted by the likes of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Joanie Mitchell. No genre is too far out for this place, so expect the unexpected. American folk, classic jazz, Celtic rock ‒ every evening is a surprise.
- Hong Kong Restaurant. Cambridge’s favorite Chinese restaurant. The food may be unforgettable, but the drinks are out of sight. Check out their signature Scorpion Bowl, a secret cocktail recipe that's served in a basin and drunk by everyone at the table.
- Modica Way. The edgiest alleyway in town, a living mural where cult artists come to show off their skills and imagination. Birthplace of the Obama “HOPE” poster, it draws cutting edge painters from across the U.S.
Moving and Living in Cambridge, Massachusetts
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