One Day in Kendall Square

Just two T stops from the heart of Boston, Kendall Square in Cambridge offers much more than its techy reputation lets on—world-class art, dining and fun.

For years, Kendall Square has been a hub of life sciences and technology companies—and it still is. But recently, the Cambridge 'hood has begun to sport a quirky-funky-nerdy-chic lifestyle vibe as restaurants have moved in, shops have opened up, and locals have discovered the area’s charms. We suggest hopping on the Red Line—just two stops from Park Street—to spend a day exploring. 

Kendall Square Roof Garden

Activities

There is much to see and do in Kendall Square. Fresh for the winter season, Community Ice Skating @Kendall Square opens mid-December, offering afternoons and evenings of fresh-air, rink-bounded fun for $5. 300 Athenaeum St., Cambridge

Given Cambridge's love for all things esoteric, Kendall Square Cinema is a local hot spot for indie films, foreign flicks and documentaries, screening such recent pictures as "Kill the Messenger," "Boyhood" and "We The Economy." 355 Binney St., Cambridge, 617.621.1202

Cambridge Historical Tours and its lab coat-clad guides lead the intriguing walking tour "Innovations," which focuses on Kendall's past and future with such topics as Grand Junction Railroad, the Whitehead Institute and MIT Media Lab. Public tours only run April through October, but private tours can be set up year-round. 617.520.4030

Here's a tip for travelers who seek out a city's hidden gems: Kendall Square Roof Garden is an open-air park tucked on top of the parking garage at Cambridge Center. Open daily dawn to dusk, it's free to get into this grassy, leafy escape that boasts trees, flower beds, benches, picnic tables and a bird's-eye view of the Boston skyline—just take the elevator, if you can find it. 4 Cambridge Center, Cambridge

MITPA

Culture

So much to do, so much to see.

Get your science and technology fix at MIT Museum, which showcases innovations and advances made at its namesake university. Among the incredible exhibits: robots and Artificial Intelligence, kinetic art, holography, cutting-edge inventions by MIT students, and the science behind photography. 265 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617.253.5927

But. Not only is Kendall Square a hotbed of science and technology, it's got some pretty neat pursuits in the art-related world. The MIT campus is home to 50 amazing works of fine art and architecture created by masters of the 20th and 21st centuries, includinig Sol LeWitt, Jaume Plensa, Mark di Suvero and Frank Gehry. And it is free access to this extraordinary public art installation77 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617.253.1000

MIT List Visual Arts Center hosts cutting-edge and contemporary multimedia art exhibitions by living artists who push boundaries. 20 Ames St., Cambridge, 617.523.4680

Le Laboratoire Cambridge, an innovative, science-based art and design center that opens beginning October 31, is the local spawn of Le Laboratoire Paris, which was founded seven years ago in France by Harvard prof David Edwards. Its Le Lab Exhibition Gallery's inaugural exhibition "Vocal Vibrations" spotlights a collaboration between MIT composer and inventor Tod Machover, architect Neri Oxman and Buddhist monk Tenzin Priyadarshi, and guides visitors on the effects of vibration on the human body. 650 East Kendall St., Cambridge, 617.262.4969

Xylem

Shopping

The shopping scene in Kendall Square is still waiting to arrive, but there are a few players who have a leg up on the competition.

Devotees of obscure, but good, and hard-to-find wines, beers and liquors can enjoy an afternoon stopover at Cambridge Spirits. Way more than just a "packie," this place boasts such exclusive finds as a private barrel selection of Four Roses bourbon, local specialties like Narragansett Beer's coffee milk stout, and Monkey 47, a new dry gin from Germany. Plus, frequent tastings educate on what's new in the market. 9 Broad Canal Way, Cambridge, 617.494.9000

Since 1882, The Coop at Harvard | MIT (pronounced "coop" not "co-op") has been Cambridge's student population's go-to for everything from school books to insignia t-shirts, and today it is a popular stop for the two universities' prospective pupils and astute alumni. 3 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, 617.499.3200

State Park

Dining

Kendall Square is a food lover's promised land featuring celebrated chefs, cozy gastro-lounges and incredible cooking. 

Breakfast at The Friendly Toast fortifies you for exploring the Kendall Square ‘hood. Meals are a gastronomic awakening into a world of creative comfort food. A few things to enjoy include the chocolate chip-studded coconut cakes and the fresh herb omelet stuffed with goat cheese, roasted peppers and cashews. 1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617.621.1200

For lunch, stop at Michael Leviton’s Area Four for a casual, convivial meal. Chef Jeff Pond cooks by way of wood-fired ovens, which gives fantastic flavor to the crunchy, sourdough-crusted pizza. Don’t miss the garlic knots—and trust us, go "supreme." 500 Technology Square, Cambridge, 617.758.4444

Popular stops for caffeine addicts include Tatte (318 Third St., Cambridge, 617.354.4200) with its Stumptown coffee and buttery nut tarts, and Voltage Coffee & Art (295 Third St., Cambridge, 617.714.3974) where espresso is served alongside contemporary art exhibitions.

Post-meal cocktails can and should be had at den of casual unconvention State Park (1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617.848.4355) or with a glass of artisanal Italian wine at cozy Belly (1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617.494.0968).

Leigh Harrington
About the author

Leigh formerly served as the Boston editor for Where and was the br...