Down by the River: 8 Fun Things to Do on the Charles

Sailing, science, and the tango on the Charles River in Boston and Cambridge

Who said rivers are just for rowing boats? Not us! We've got eight great ways to find fun in Boston and Cambridge down by the Charles.

Charles River Esplanade

Located along the Boston side of the Charles River Basin, between the Longfellow and Boston University bridges, the grassy green Esplanade is always filled with people. Spread a blanket for a picnic with scenic foliage views or take a jog along the park’s length. Let the kids run free at the Esplanade Playspace, an incredible recreational area for ages 5-12 that features climbing, ziplining and more. The Esplanade is also home to the DCR Hatch Memorial Shell, an iconic site that often hosts free concerts.
Access via the Arthur Fiedler Footbridge, at Arlington and Beacon streets

Harvard Square

The heart of Cambridge, Harvard Square, is a two-minute walk from the Weeks Footbridge at the Charles River. Explore the city’s Ivy League university, the Yard and all of Harvard’s cultural offerings, like the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard Film Archive, and Sanders Theater. In the Square, shop at The Coop, Harvard Book Store, or one of many specialty boutiques, grab a burger at Charlie’s Kitchen or Mr. Bartley’s, and see the best local comics at The Comedy Studio.
JFK Street at Brattle Street and Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge

Museum of Science

It’s a fun fact that the Museum of Science sits half in Boston and half in Cambridge from its perch over the Charles River Dam. Exhibits include the new Hall of Human Life, a dynamic journey through human biology using live data, and “Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed,” which opens Oct. 12. There’s also an IMAX theater, a 4-D Theater experience, a state-of-the-art planetarium, and the always hair-raising live presentations in the Theater of Electricity.
1 Science Park, 617.723.2500

BDT

Boston Duck Tours

One of the city's more unique offerings, Boston Duck Tours combines a rolling street tour with a splash in the Charles River. For 80 minutes, a character guide (conDUCKtor, naturally) drives passengers around from downtown all the way the Charlestown, pointing out sights and relaying interesting facts. Driving straight into the river is the highlight and offers visual perspectives of Boston and Cambridge from points not easily otherwise reached.
Departs Museum of Science or The Shops at Prudential Center, 617.267.3825

Charles River Canoe & Kayak

Get a workout while you sightsee by renting a kayak at Charles River Canoe & Kayak and navigating the waters of the Charles River. The season ends Oct. 13, but this is the best time of year to see the skyline, the MIT dome and Kenmore Square’s iconic Citgo sign set amid New England’s fall colors. True athletes can paddle a one-way, five-mile voyage from Kendall Square upstream to CRCK’s Allston location.
Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617.965.5110

Tango By Moonlight

Bring a partner to the Weeks Footbridge on Oct. 4 for The Tango Society of Boston’s monthly full moon foray. As moonlight sparkles on soft waves, devotees dance the authentic Argentine tango. Novices are encouraged to participate—in fact, experts offer impromptu mini lessons. Best of all, the evening is fun and free.
7:30-11 pm. Weeks Footbridge, Cambridge, 617.699.6246

HvY

Charles Riverboat Tours

Roll along on a charming Charles Riverboat and take in the sights and sounds of the Hub’s left (Cambridge) and right (Boston) banks, including the Esplanade, quaint neighborhoods like Beacon Hill and Back Bay, and esteemed universities like MIT, Harvard and BU (through Oct. 13). Or, if art and design catches your fancy, take the specialized Architecture Tour co-hosted by experts from Boston by Foot and Boston Society of Architects that examines both historic and contemporary Hub architecture (through Oct. 12).
Cambridgeside Galleria, 100 Cambridgeside Place, Cambridge, 617.621.3001

Harvard Stadium

Located south of the Charles River, just over the Anderson Bridge from Harvard University, Harvard Stadium was constructed in 1903 and was the first large permanent arena for American collegiate athletics. It was here that the Harvard Crimson football team played its first home game and it is the field where Harvard athletics continues to play. This fall at home, the Crimson takes on Holy Cross Sept. 19, Cornell Oct. 11, Lafayette Oct. 18, Columbia Nov. 8, and its storied annual battle versus Yale Nov. 22.
1 pm. 65 N. Harvard St., Allston, 617.495.2211

Leigh Harrington
About the author

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