A 90-minute getaway to Cambridge

By Sabrina Amiri

cityrover.com/Flickr

During the winter months, when the Pioneer Valley is bombarded by a barrage of tumultuous weather and activities are limited, people tend to hunker down and cabin fever can set in. Thankfully there is a cure for winter boredom, and it’s only a 90-minute drive east to one of Massachusetts’ most underrated cities: Cambridge.

While Boston is often the more popular getaway destination, Cambridge has just as much if not more to offer by way of food, drink, music and shopping. The city has plenty of unique sites that make it the perfect spot for a fun day trip.

One of the more underrated restaurants in Cambridge is Grendel’s Den, an eclectic bar and eatery with a lively atmosphere conveniently tucked away barely a block from the Harvard Square T-stop at 89 Winthrop St. Some of Grendel’s biggest draws are its half-priced meals with any $3 drink order from 5:30-7 p.m. specials, which pulls in hordes of students from Harvard University and other surrounding schools. The list of $3 drinks includes absinthe cocktails, organic sodas for the under 21 crowd, a slew of locally brewed beers and any of its “Guest Beers,” a special selection of brews that the bar hosts regularly. Currently, the bar is featuring Left Hand Milk Stout, Affligem Noel and Sierra Nevada Celebration. An added bonus to Grendel’s lively atmosphere is its well known reputation for championing sustainable and organic food choices as well as supporting local vendors for both food and drink.

Cambridge is also home to a myriad of renowned music venues, making it one of the best cities to catch an intimate show. One of the more popular joints is The Middle East, known by many for its infamous weekly indie-electro dance party “Throwed.”

On any other day of the week it’s a very small, dark basement venue underneath Zuzu’s, a restaurant with delectable Middle Eastern fares, but on the weekends The Middle East becomes a haven for fans of multiple genres of music. Found on the ever-bustling Massachusetts Avenue, the Middle East has become known for its relaxed rock-friendly vibe and hosts a multitude of unique shows every month.

The Cambridge Natural History Museum is another location in the area that attracts many visitors. The CNHM is one of three research museums in the area but the only one that is open to the public. Over 21 million different specimens are housed in the museum, and over 12,000 of them are out on display. From reassembled dinosaur skeletons to exotic botanical displays, CNHM is an ideal location to spend an afternoon learning about the wonders of the natural world.

A walk down Cambridge’s Main Street eventually leads to the Entrepreneur Walk of Fame, a New England take on the Hollywood standard. A series of stars emblazoned with the names of distinguished entrepreneurs from the Boston area line the sidewalk around the Kendall Square T stop, providing passersby with a brief inspirational quote from each of the “stars.” There are currently seven names on the walk including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison. The plans to add another five names to the display each year will eventually extend the walk onto the nearby MIT campus, creating an inspirational path of sorts. The display was created to show the prowess that entrepreneurs have in modern society and has become a large attraction to visitors of the Harvard and MIT areas.

As for shopping, Cambridge is very well known for its thrift stores. The Garment District, which is actually a store and not a district, is almost more of an experience than it is a store. The hot mess aptly named “Dollar-A-Pound” is located on the first floor, where shoppers simply pore over treacherous mountains of consigned clothes and pay by the pound. The rest of the first floor is wall-to-wall costume gear, with just about any and everything imaginable for sale, from ascots to masks to wigs and beyond. The upstairs is covered entirely with clothes, with half of the floor being devoted to clothes organized by decades and the other half consisting of designer consignment accoutrements.

These few things are really just the tip of the dazzling iceberg that is Cambridge. From MIT to Harvard and from Harvard Square to Porter Square lies a veritable trove of fun and exciting haunts waiting to be stumbled upon.

Sabrina Amiri can be reached at [email protected] Emily Brightman contributed to this article.