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John Sexton / Gavel Media

5-Hour Itinerary: Canvassing Cambridge

This is the return of the 5-Hour Itinerary, a series—based on the New York Times’ “36 Hours”—in which we serve as your guide to the ultimate Boston day-trip, stringing together thoughtfully chosen locations and activities into a one-of-a-kind itinerary.

The summer after my freshman year at Boston College, I was lucky enough to be able to stay in Boston, so I had plenty of time to explore the city both solo and with friends! This itinerary can be done by yourself as a relaxing treat-yourself day, or with a couple friends just to get away from campus.

Getting to Cambridge may seem daunting—traversing across the Charles isn’t on the typical weekend agenda of a BC student, however, it’s actually pretty simple once you’ve gotten the hang of Boston public transportation. I’d recommend taking the MBTA 86 bus from Chestnut Hill Avenue & Strathmore Road and exiting at the Harvard stop in Cambridge, which puts you right in the middle of the action.

10:30 a.m. (sorry folks, early bird gets the worm) – Our first stop is Black Sheep Bagel Cafe for a much-needed coffee and house-made bagel experience. Black Sheep has the absolute best bagels I’ve ever had in Boston along with a simple yet delicious (and decently priced) coffee selection. I ordered the asiago bagel with fresh jalapeño cream cheese and a cold brew and my life was immediately changed. Black Sheep has a unique variety of bagels and cream cheeses, including cajun spiced bagels and maple bacon cream cheese, along with a solid menu of sandwich and toast options. Depending on the day, the line can be a bit scary, but trust that it will be worth it in the end.

11:00 a.m. – Once bagels and coffee have been acquired, I’d recommend taking a stroll around the Harvard Campus or Cambridge Common. Harvard’s campus is definitely a change of pace compared to BC's and it can be super interesting to see the differences between them! There’s tons of trees to sit under and lots of people-watching to be done.

11:30 a.m. – The Harvard Art Museums and Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts are both free for students (!) and have fascinating offerings for a cultured Cambridge experience; just make sure you bring your BC ID if you’re planning on the Art Museums. The Harvard museums offer rotating exhibitions of art from all around the world, currently featuring contemporary sculpture by Arlene Shechet, among others. The Carpenter Center offers film showings from Harvard’s archives and galleries displaying animation, video art, prints, sculpture, and various other types of media created by modern artists.

1:00 p.m. – Thrift break!! Cambridge has great options for a quick thrift interlude. My personal favorites are Garment District and Boomerangs, both offering curated picks that are slightly pricier than your typical Goodwill finds, but definitely worth it. Garment District also has huge bins of clothes in the basement that are priced by-the-pound—there are so many gems waiting to be found down there!

1:30 p.m. – Lunchtime! The Harvard Square area offers tons of different sit-down and fast-casual options depending on your preference, and they’re all within the vicinity of the thrift shops. For all my vegetarians, vegans, and environmentalists, Veggie Galaxy offers classic diner food with a twist: there’s no meat! Everything on the menu is vegetarian by default, and can be made vegan. The Mad Monkfish is another great option, featuring classic sushi fare interspersed with pan-Asian appetizers and entrees. They also have some unique sushi options, including fairytale inspired rolls.

3:00 p.m. – One last stop before heading back to Chestnut Hill: the Cambridge H-Mart! It’s the only one in the entire Boston area, and great for stocking up on instant ramen (they have an entire aisle’s worth). Not to mention their amazing assortment of baked goods that can be distributed among roommates as a “sorry I went without you” consolation gift if need be.

And there you have it! Five action-packed hours in Cambridge that are sure to spice up any day. We’re all so lucky to have access to the city of Boston and all of its surroundings as college students, and we should take advantage of this amazing place as much as we can!

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