Harvard to MIT
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This Boston walking tour takes you to adjacent Cambridge, famous for Harvard Business School, Harvard University and MIT. This is an interesting area to explore, and it’s best done by walking. Across the Charles River is Boston, known for its rich history and cultural attractions, but Boston’s sites should not overshadow the ones across the river. Harvard and MIT both have their own interesting landmarks and attractions that are well worth a visit.
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Route Description for Harvard to MIT
This Boston walking tour takes in some of the most famous academic institutions in the world: Harvard and MIT. While technically in Cambridge, Boston is nearby. These universities are interesting to explore on foot, and feel familiar from their starring roles in many movies.
Harvard Business School was established in 1908 and is consistently ranked as one of the top business schools in the world. Notable alumni include Michael Bloomberg and Mitt Romney. As the first stop on the tour, the Harvard Business School sets the tone for lush greenery and red brick buildings that are a common thread throughout Harvard’s campuses. Enjoy the views of old architecture complete with gorgeous white columns, but be sure to turn your attention across the river as well. Since we are starting out on the Boston side, from Harvard Business School’s campus you can capture some excellent shots of Cambridge.
As you continue on the path on the right of Aldrich Hall, you will reach Harvard Way. Turn left on Harvard Way to see the Baker Library and its famous spire, as well as the business school’s residence halls on the right side of the street.
Harvard Way will reach North Harvard Street and if you turn to the left, you’ll be able to spot stop number two - Harvard Stadium. Harvard Stadium was built in 1903 and was the home of the New England Patriots until the 1970s. The stadium was instrumental in the creation of two key elements of modern football - stadium size and the legal forward pass. In 1906, president Theodore Roosevelt met with a committee to discuss the violence of football since deaths and injuries were rising because of the sport. Many were pushing to increase field size, but Harvard objected because their recently completed stadium could not accommodate a larger field. Therefore, this plan was rejected, field dimensions were agreed upon, and instead the forward pass was legalized. Harvard Stadium has had such an impact on the design of other stadiums that in 1987 it was made a National Historic Landmark.
After leaving the stadium take a left on North Harvard Street, which will take you across the Charles River. While on the Anderson Memorial Bridge, take in the excellent views of both Boston and Cambridge and be sure to pause to snap some pictures. Continue walking straight as North Harvard Ave becomes John F. Kennedy Street. John F. Kennedy Street will take you into Harvard Square, where you’re going to be surrounded by a variety of different snack options. For starters, take the first possible left on Elliot Street and follow it as it curves around. This will lead you right to Charlie’s Kitchen. Charlie’s Kitchen is a fun dive bar with an excellent beer garden, so take some time to stop in here for a drink. After Charlie’s Kitchen, continue on Elliot Street until you can turn right on Winthrop Street. Just across John F. Kennedy Street on Winthrop Street is Pinocchio's Pizza and Subs. Praised by the likes of Matt Damon and Mark Zuckerberg, Pinocchio’s is not to be missed so stop in here for some excellent pizza.
Continue on Winthrop Street until it turns into Holyoke Place and follow the street as it curves to the left and intersects with Mount Auburn Street, then cross the street and the median on to Bow Street and take a right. Follow Bow Street as it curves to the left. Turn left on Massachusetts Ave. which will lead you to Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage and the Harvard Book Store. Grab a burger, peruse the book collection, and then continue down Mass Ave to Harvard Square.
The Square has been a gathering place since 1630 and given the fact that it is adjacent to Harvard’s campus, the Square serves as the retail and dining hub for students. Stores of note include Newbury Comics, Bryn Mawr Bookstore, and the World’s Only Curious George Store. The Square also plays host to many events such as Winter Carnival and Mayfair. The history in this part of Cambridge is evident, but you don’t have to look too far to find modern entertainment that is rich with culture as well. Across from the Square is the Harvard Co-op, which is the best place to shop for any Harvard clothing you may need, so make time to stop in and look around.
Continue to follow Massachusetts Avenue as it loops right past the square in the direction of the greenery and red brick buildings that decorate Harvard’s campus. Keep walking along the outside of the main campus until you reach the Johnston Gate to your right. Enter at the side of the gate and walk forward until you find yourself in Harvard Yard. Behind you, you’ll want to take notice of the John Harvard Statue, which was erected in honor of a founder of the college, but to your right is the fifth stop on the tour- the Widener Library.
This gorgeous building was established in 1915 and is named for Harvard alum Harry Elkins Widener. Widener was a bibliophile and made it clear that his book collection was to go to the university upon his death. Following his untimely demise in the sinking of the Titanic, Widener’s mother took this request one step further. Eleanor Elkins Widener donated the funds for a library in her son’s name and she also played an integral role in much of the architectural decisions.
Take some time to enjoy the environment in Harvard Yard, but when you’re ready to move on to stop six, take a left and walk north toward the Memorial Church and exit the main area of the campus onto Cambridge Street. Cross Cambridge Street and follow the path to Kirkland Street. Take a left on Divinity Avenue and your first left once you pass the Tozzer Library. You will find yourself facing the Harvard Museum of Natural History.
The Harvard Museum of Natural History is comprised of three museums- the Museum of Comparative Zoology, the Harvard University Herbaria, and the Mineralogical & Geological Museum. The Museum houses exhibits ranging from exploring climate change to models of sea creatures made of glass. This one-of-a-kind museum experience costs $12 for adults and is open 9:00 am - 5:00 pm daily.
After exploring the museum, take the path between the Tozzer Library and the Museum of Comparative Zoology heading east, then, take the second pathway left and the first right. Take a left at the Harvard Divinity School followed by the fourth possible right which will take you behind Andover Hall, then take a right on Francis Ave, your second left on Kirkland Street, and the first right on Irving Street. Irving Street will intersect with Cambridge Street at Cambridge Latin School and here you will take a left. Strolling through suburban Cambridge is a nice change from exploring much of Boston, so take a bit to enjoy the greenery on this part of the walk. Shortly after Cambridge Street intersects Hampshire Street, it will be about perfect timing to stop for a snack or drink and an excellent location will come up shortly on the left side of Cambridge Street. Bukowski Tavern is a dive bar with fantastic pub food, but their draft list really makes it worth stopping in.
Once you’re refreshed from a pint, continue on Cambridge Street until you can take a right on Prospect Street followed by a left on Hampshire Street. After a bit on Hampshire Street, you’ll come up on Bunzey Park and across the street from the park is a small shopping center where The Friendly Toast makes its home. If you’re not stuffed from Bukowski Tavern, you definitely need to stop into The Friendly Toast. Everything here is delicious, but their brunch food is incredible. I would recommend taking a break from the hike for a waffle.
Exit The Friendly Toast back onto Hampshire Street which will curve around and intersect with Broadway. Take a left on Broadway followed by a right on Galileo Galilei Way, then, take a left on Main Street and a right on Ames Street. Follow along Ames Street and it will take you to stop number nine - the MIT List Visual Arts Center.
The MIT List Visual Arts Center is a contemporary art gallery that opened on MIT’s campus in 1985. The gallery describes itself as a “creative laboratory” and really represents the forward-thinking vibe that is present throughout MIT. With exhibitions that are always exciting and intriguing, the List Visual Arts Center is definitely worth a stop inside. The gallery is closed on Mondays though, so keep that in mind when planning a trip.
Continue on Ames Street until it intersects with Memorial Drive, then turn right to walk along the Charles River until reaching the last stop - Killian Court. Looking across the river, you’ll have an excellent view of Back Bay and, depending on the weather, you’ll be able to take some great pictures of boats or of the Boston skyline. Be sure to take time to enjoy this vantage point before turning your attention back to MIT’s campus.
Originally a paved area, Killian Court became the serene green space it is today in the 1920s. Now, it is the site of commencement or used for studying or frisbee games. The Maclaurin buildings and the Great Dome surround Killian Court. Built in 1916, they display more of a historic, traditional aesthetic rather than the modern or experimental vibe that is common through most of MIT’s campus. At the time, though, the plan was to have the buildings surround Killian Court in a U-shape, leaving the space open toward Boston, symbolizing an openness to urbanization. After this walk, relaxing in Killian Court would be well deserved, but you could also catch a cab on Massachusetts Ave, grab the #1 bus at the Mass Ave stop, or walk across the bridge to the Esplanade to continue exploring Boston.
Insider Hints for Harvard to MIT
- Many tourists rub the foot of the John Harvard statue in Harvard Yard for good luck. However, you might want to think twice before doing this as there are many rumors that Harvard undergrads have made sure that the statue isn’t exactly clean.
- Start the walk with an appetite because you are definitely going to want to grab food at one of the excellent restaurants in Harvard Square.
- Avoid doing this walk on a Monday. Every other day of the week you’ll be able to explore the galleries at the List Visual Arts Center.
Getting to the Harvard to MIT Trailhead
To begin this hike that is focused on exploring these intriguing sites, take a cab to the intersection of Western Ave and Kresge Way or take the 70 or 70a bus to the Western Ave stop. Walk across the parking lot toward the Spangler Center and walk along the path to the right of the building.
Harvard to MIT Elevation Graph
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Harvard to MIT Reviews
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