If the quintessential New England vibe is what you’re looking for, you’ll find it in Cambridge. This city, often referred to as the ‘Intellectual Capital of the World’, is adorned with two Ivy League schools, a bustling downtown with an iconic cultural center, and colonial-style neighborhoods surrounded with hints of educational depth and historical presence that one can only sense in the crisp air of New England.
Niche.com rates Cambridge, MA #1 ‘Best Cities for Young Professionals in the US’ (San Francisco is #2) and ranks it #27 ‘Best City in Massachusetts.’ Certainly, being home to Harvard University and MIT adds some clout to this Boston suburb, but you don’t have to be a student or a professor to want to enjoy everything Cambridge has to offer. You’ll find lots of varied employment options in Cambridge’s strong economy.
Whether you’re moving from cross-country or in-state, we invite you to use our convenient resources. Let us help you find the best Cambridge moving company to get you and your belongings moved, carefully and affordably. When you’re ready, click ‘Get Started Now’ below, and Great Guys Moving will provide you with up to four free estimates to help you begin your journey to your new Cambridge home.
Living in Cambridge, MA: What to Know Before Moving to Cambridge
With an overall livability score of 76/100 and a population of roughly 113,630, Areavibes.com scores Cambridge, MA better than 84% of other cities in MA. Qualities like city amenities, crime rates, housing, employment, school systems, and living costs determine this score. While Cambridge ranks relatively high in most of those categories, resulting in an overall excellent standard of living that most residents pride themselves in, there are a few low-ranking categories you should be aware of before making your move. If the New England climate and cost of living are factors you can endure, you’ll reap the many benefits of a Cambridge lifestyle.
Pros and Cons of Living in Cambridge
- Short commute to Boston: Most areas of Cambridge are less than five miles from downtown Boston, making for a very easy commute into town by car. Or you can enjoy a short ride on the public train, referred to as the ‘T.’
- Low crime rate: Overall, the crime rate is 24% lower than the national average – your chance of being a victim of any crime in Cambridge is 1 in 42.
- Strong education system: Many of the schools in Cambridge have a greatschools.com ranking of 7 or higher; the high school graduation rate was 87.8% in 2018.
- There are a plethora of things to do: Downtown Cambridge has parks, museums, coffee houses, restaurants, nightlife, and shopping.
- Housing is very expensive: Homes here cost 25% more than the rest of Massachusetts. Living less than five miles from downtown Boston doesn’t come cheap.
- High living costs: The overall cost of living index is 30% higher than the national average – this is attributed not only to higher housing costs, but also to goods and services, utilities, and health care.
- For some, the weather: Like any New England city, Cambridge faces cooler and shorter summers, followed by longer, snow-laden winters. While this climate doesn’t seem to deter many, it can require an adjustment if you’re moving from a western or southern region.
- Lack of diversity: Demographically, Cambridge is 67% white, only 7% speak Spanish, and 70% of Cambridge residents were either born in MA or are from another US state. You may need to go to Boston if you want to experience more diversity.
- Property Tax: The residential property tax rate in Cambridge is 1.22%, amounting to about $6.29 per $1,000 of assessed residential value. If you buy a home at the Zillow-reported median price of $796,300, you’ll pay $5,009 in annual property tax.
- Sales Tax: The Cambridge sales tax rate for tangible personal property is 6.25%. The city’s rate is a bit higher than that of its neighbors, with New York having a sales tax rate of 4.0%, Vermont 6.0%, and New Hampshire 0%, but it’s lower than Connecticut’s rate of 6.35% and Rhode Island’s 7.0%.
- State Income Tax: At 5.05%, Massachusetts has the second-highest flat-rate income tax in the US – less than only North Carolina, which has a rate of 5.25%. The other eight states that impose a flat-rate tax system come in at under 5%.
If Cambridge is where you’re planning on owning your next home, you’d better act fast before the prices increase. Market trends on Trulia.com show an average median home price increase each year of 5%, and the price per square foot is increasing by about 4% each year. In 2019, the median home price is $796,300, much higher than the national average of $210,000. A home in Cambridge runs about $854 per square foot, but you can expect the cost to be closer to $888.16 per square foot in 2020 if trends continue. But if the price isn’t a concern, future homeowners don’t have to worry about availability. Trulia reports there are currently 137 homes on the market.
If you’re planning on renting, you’ll have plenty of options with 237 rental properties listed as of summer, 2019. You can expect to pay more per month to rent in Cambridge; the median rent is $3,300/month. In Cambridge, 64% of residents rent their housing, mainly due to the numbers of students attending local universities.
Cost of Living
In general, Massachusetts is not known for being an affordable state, but Cambridge’s location and affluent amenities inflate that price tag even higher. The cost of living index in Cambridge is very high, ranking at 202.7 overall compared with the national average of 100, according to bestplaces.net. The factors that contribute most to this high ranking include housing, which scores four times higher than the US average at 417.2; utilities at 117.8; and miscellaneous costs, like entertainment, restaurants, and shopping, at 123.7.
The EPI Family Budget Calculator reports that a family of four would need to earn at least $113,558 per year for a moderate lifestyle in Cambridge.
Weather & Natural Disasters
To some, the weather in the New England region can be a serious negative, but many revel in its unpredictability and contrasts. According to US Climate Data, the two warmest months for the Boston/Cambridge metro area are July and August, with average muggy highs of 81F and 80F, respectively. The coolest months are January and February, with average freezing lows of 22F and 25F respectively.
New England is known for its changing seasons, so if you’re more partial to a particular season, the local adage is – just wait, and it will change. Regardless of the seasons, precipitation is a year-round reality because Cambridge is in a humid continental climate zone. The months with the highest precipitation are March, with an average of 4.33 inches of rain and snow mix, and November, with an average of 3.98 inches of mostly rain.
January and February see the most average snowfall, with 13 inches of snow falling in January and 11 inches in December. While temperatures pick up slightly in March, the average snowfall is reduced only from 11 to 8 inches, meaning snow is still quite prevalent in the early stages of spring.
Additionally, Massachusetts has experienced nearly every kind of natural disaster in its history, from flooding and tornadoes to hurricanes and blizzards. While not all of these natural disasters are common occurrences, all New Englanders are encouraged to stay prepared for anything. Mass.gov offers safety tips for every kind of threat Massachusetts residents could face.
Economy & Job Market
New residents to Cambridge, MA will not only find a vibrant housing market but an equally strong economy and job market as well. Of course, a city that houses not one, but two Ivy League schools, and is so close to the state’s capital is bound to foster a local economy most other cities can only hope for. However, Cambridge finds strength from other industry sources as well.
According to Livability.com, 97.9% of Cambridge residents are active in the workforce, and the median household income is $79,416. Major industries include education, biotechnology, internet and software technology, healthcare, and the government. Jobseekers working in any of those industries will find they have a variety of employment options in Cambridge, and for those who work in different fields, Cambridge is perfectly located for a short daily commute into Boston and other surrounding cities.
Not surprisingly, a 2018 survey reported that Harvard University and MIT come in as the two largest employers, followed by the City of Cambridge, Biogen, Akamai Technologies, Cambridge Health Alliance, and Hubspot are some of the largest employers in Cambridge.
Traffic & Transportation
If you prefer to bike, walk, or use public transportation to get around, Cambridge is for you. Referred to as a ‘bikers paradise,’ walkscore.com gives Cambridge a walk score of 87, a bike score of an amazing 96, and an overall transit score of 74. These high scores mean you can get most errands accomplished easily on foot, by bike, or by public transit. Might as well get rid of the car!
Boston-area newbies will quickly learn about ‘The T,’ the major commuter rail and subway train operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA.) ‘The T’ is the main form of public transportation to get into Cambridge from neighboring towns and to get to and from every part of Boston. To head into north or south Boston, Cambridge has six different Red Line stations for ‘The T,’ each a mile apart throughout the city, running every four and ten minutes. To get around Cambridge, locals also use the public bus. By 2020, the MBTA reports that their partnership with the City of Cambridge will yield even better routes and services.
I-90 is the major highway running east-west just south of Cambridge, and I-93 runs north-south just east of the city. Locals and residents will want to avoid both of those routes during rush hour, as the majority of driving commuters who work in Boston will take those highways. Otherwise, according to the Cambridge Traffic Map, drivers can expect normal to medium-flow traffic further away from the downtown Boston area you are.
What to Do
Prepare to be immersed in history, culture, architecture, art, and literature. Cambridge and the Boston-metro area are full of enriching sights, landmarks, public markets, and museums that people travel from all over the world to see.
If you’d like to start with a historical and cultural tour in Cambridge, you can visit the Harvard Museum of Natural History or the 175-acre Mount Auburn Cemetery, America’s first landscaped cemetery. Then you can stop by Harvard Square and tour this cultural epicenter of shops, cafes, statues, and memorials. Then top off your day with a relaxing walk along the Charles River.
The Harvard Art Museums complex includes three separate museums of eclectic exhibits to enjoy. Guided or self-guided tours of the MIT campus are worthwhile, and the rotating exhibits at the MIT Museum are fascinating if you’re into finding out what inquiring MIT minds are up to these days. The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology features exhibits that focus on Indigenous North, Central, and South American cultures. With over 1,000,000 artifacts, it has one of the largest collections of cultural objects in the world. The fascinating Harvard Semitic Museum, founded in 1889, holds more than 40,000 Near Eastern artifacts. History buffs will certainly want to see Longfellow House Washington’s Headquarters where General Washington set up during the Siege of Boston. The building was also the home of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
If you’re looking for some outdoor time, visit the 155-acre Fresh Pond Reservation and the expansive land that surrounds the pond. Jogging, walking, and biking are favorite pastimes. You can even tee up at the nine-hole golf course. When it’s time for some dining and entertainment, you’ll find countless options for all kinds of exceptional cuisines surrounding Harvard University and down Massachusetts Ave towards MIT. A unique spot for a bite is the Cafe ArtScience where a restaurant, art gallery, bar, and event auditorium collide in weird and surprising creativity.
Adventure-seekers willing to go beyond city limits can enjoy a short ride on ‘The T’ into Boston’s Back Bay station, and continue their historical tour by visiting the Boston Public Library and the Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Visitors can also enjoy Quincy Market for lunch and browse the variety of food and shopping options, or head down Newbury St and marvel at the iconic Boston brownstones, trendy boutiques, and Victorian brick row-houses. Sports fans can easily catch the Red Sox at Fenway Park, the Celtics at TD Garden, and the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. And if you love concerts and music, you’ll find plenty of those here, too. There’s an endless array of things to do in this historically rich area.
Schools & Universities
Cambridge residents delight in knowing that the school system and educational options here are among some of the best in the state and country. The Cambridge Public School system serves the City of Cambridge, ranking #29 out of 218 school districts in Massachusetts, and #44 out of 10,782 school districts in the country, according to Niche.com. The student graduation rate is 90% with an average SAT score of 1200, 200 points above the national average of 1000. Clearly, these schools are doing something right.
Some of the high-performing schools in Cambridge include Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School, which scores a 9/10 on greatschools.com; The Amigos Elementary School, with a score of 7/10; and the Community Charter School of Cambridge, which also has a score of 7/10.
If post-secondary education is in your future, prestigious MIT and Harvard are within two miles of each other, but some other top higher education options include Cambridge College, Lesley University, Longy School of Music, and Hult International Business School. And in Boston, options continue with Boston University, about 10 minutes south; Northeastern University, 12 minutes south; and Tufts University, 14 minutes north.
More good news for future Cambridge residents: Both violent crime and property crime are below the national average. Bestplaces.net reports a ranking of 34.4 for property crime compared to the national average of 35.4. For violent crime, Cambridge ranks 21.7 compared to the national average of 22.7. Neighborhoodscout.com reports Cambridge is safer than 21% of other US cities, and your chances of being a victim of property crime are 1 in 42.
While this city is considered safer than most, it’s good to know where the majority of crime occurs. In Cambridge, the areas most affected are the neighborhoods closest to Boston: East Cambridge, the MIT neighborhood on Memorial Dr, and Technology Square on Broadway.
- Gas Service – There are two main providers of gas for Cambridge, MA: Eversource Energy and National Grid. National Grid customers can click here to register their information and get started with service. Those wishing to use Eversource may set up their gas account by clicking here.
- Electric Service – National Grid also provides electric service. Customers can begin their service by creating an account online. Eversource provides power service also. Customers may do the same by creating an account and submitting requested paperwork.
- Water Service – The City of Cambridge Water Department facilitates the delivery of water to residents. New residents should contact the department directly to begin services.
- Trash Pick-Up/Recycling Service – The City of Cambridge Public Works Department provides weekly curbside collections of trash, compost, and recycling. Contact the Public Works department directly to set up service and learn more.
- Internet & Cable Service – Xfinity/Comcast is the largest cable and internet provider in this area. To get started with your cable and internet service, visit their website to login and create an account. They’ll handle the rest.
Best Neighborhoods in Cambridge, MA
For those wishing to live within walking distance of Harvard Square, restaurants, and nightlife, West Cambridge is a neighborhood to consider seriously. West Cambridge is a rather dense neighborhood located just one mile west of Harvard Square, five miles west of downtown Boston, and borders Concord Avenue and the Charles River.
With a population of about 8,000 and a median resident age of 40, this neighborhood is convenient, making your commute to restaurants, nightlife, and several public transportation options very easy. But location and convenience, as we know, don’t come cheap.
The median home price is $966,746 – higher than the median price for the city overall, and if you’re renting, you can expect to pay a little over $2,000 per month or more. In West Cambridge, 57% of residents own their homes, so you’ll find more people there who probably plan to stay.
For attractions near this neighborhood, the historic Mount Auburn Cemetery is located about three minutes away at the southwestern edge of the neighborhood, and the Harvard Museum of Natural History, just seven minutes east. Mount Auburn Hospital, a teaching hospital highly rated among patients, is also located in West Cambridge.
For those moving to West Cambridge with children, the two best schooling options are Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School, with a score of 9 on greatschools.com and located 1.5 miles north of West Cambridge; and the Amigos Elementary and Middle School, with a score of 7 on greatschools.com and located just three miles south. West Cambridge is all about coziness and convenience.
If you’re looking for a small-town feel within a larger city, then check out North Cambridge. This residential neighborhood is larger, younger, and a bit more diverse and transient due to somewhat lower rent prices. With a population of over 11,000 and a median age of 35, 73% of North Cambridge residents rent their homes and have moved from a variety of places.
Located at the northernmost part of Cambridge about 10 minutes north of downtown and Harvard Square, bordered by the town of Arlington and the Alewife Brook Parkway to the north and the Fitchburg Commuter Rail train tracks to the south, you’ll find the cost of living here, overall, is a bit lower.
The median home price for a house in North Cambridge is $595,000, and the average monthly rent is $1,650. Unlike West Cambridge, North Cambridge is a little more removed from the hustle and bustle of Harvard Square and other downtown areas, so you’ll find several grocery and convenience stores, churches, small businesses, a movie theatre, and a large public park. Despite it being one of the most populated neighborhoods, North Cambridge provides a comfortable atmosphere within the city.
North Cambridge is also located near several schools within the Cambridge Public School District, including Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School, rated a 9 out of 10 on greatschools.com and located at the southern part of the neighborhood, and the Rindge Avenue Upper School and Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, both at the southern end of North Cambridge, and holding a greatschools.com rating of 6 and 5, respectively.
Residents of North Cambridge also have options for nearby things to do. The Alewife Train Station this neighborhood can transport you easily on the ‘T’ right into Boston’s South Station in just under 25 minutes. For dog owners and outdoor lovers, Danehy Park is a 50-acre public green space for sports, jogging, and picnicking, located just south of North Cambridge in Neighborhood 9, and right next door is the Danehy Dog Park that your furry pal will love. Families will enjoy having Apple Cinemas Cambridge nearby, as well as the Central Rock Gym for indoor rock climbing, located just west of the neighborhood in Cambridge Highlands. As you can see, North Cambridge provides all of the amenities you might expect of a small town, but you’re still just a short drive away from more activity when you want it.
Voted as #2 ‘Best Neighborhood for Young Professionals’ on Niche.com, East Cambridge is one of the city’s oldest residential neighborhoods. Located at the eastern border of Cambridge about 12 minutes east of Harvard Square, I-93 creates the eastern border, and the Charles River is on the southeast. Boston is directly across the Hwy 28 bridge. Today, this urban neighborhood is home to many of the city’s industries, old and new, and is home to 11,645 residents.
71% of these residents rent their homes. The cost of living in East Cambridge is pretty on-par with many of the other neighborhoods in this city. You’ll find the median home price is $600,500, and the median monthly rental cost is $2,000.
East Cambridge residents have easy access to several great schools in the area, including Cambridge Rindge & Latin School located just 10 minutes west, and rated a 5 out of 10 on greatschools.com; Amigos Elementary School, located 12 minutes southwest and rated a 7 out of 10; and Martin Luther King Jr. School, located 10 minutes west and rated a 7 out of 10.
Living in this neighborhood that sits right on the Charles River and so close to Boston puts you directly in the center of anything you’d want to do. But you don’t need to make the trek into the city to find activities. Some of the most popular attractions located right in the neighborhood include Kendall Square, a large cultural and social gathering space that’s surrounded by MIT and major technology companies; the Museum of Science, just a few minutes east; Cambridgeside, a large light-filled retail shopping center; and North Point Park, a public park next to the Charles River that offers several playgrounds for kids and beautiful views of the city and river.
If you want a little of everything that both Cambridge and the Boston metro area offer, living in East Cambridge will not disappoint.
Residents who live in the neighborhood of Mid-Cambridge are in the heart of it all. This large neighborhood, bordered by Central Square to the east and Harvard Yard to the west, has a population of 16,238. While Mid-Cambridge is predominantly residential, parts of it are occupied by Harvard’s campus and the iconic Harvard Yard. Here, where 65% of residents rent their homes, you’ll find a median home value of $529,000 and a median monthly rent of $1,730.
Ranked #5 ‘Best Neighborhood to Live in Cambridge’ according to Niche.com, Mid-Cambridge has access to quality schools. Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, rated a 5 out of 10 on greatschools.com is only a few minutes north; Amigos Elementary School, rated 7 is about 6 minutes south; Martin Luther King Jr. School is rated 7, is 5 minutes south; and Rindge Avenue Upper School is 12 minutes north and is rated 6.
For things to do in this neighborhood, you have Harvard Yard, the Cambridge Public Library, and wonderful restaurants and cafes. Just outside of Mid-Cambridge to the west is Cambridge Common, a Revolutionary War memorial park with fields, a bike path, and a playground; just north of the neighborhood in Ward Two is Lincoln Park, a lovely green space with a baseball field, community garden, and a dog park. For those wishing to go into Boston, a 30-minute ride on the ‘T’ or a quick 15-minute drive will get you there.
Niche.com ranks this urban neighborhood as #1 ‘Best Neighborhood to Live in Cambridge.’ Located on the southern end of the city and bordered by River St, Massachusetts Ave, and the Grand Junction Rail Line, this neighborhood runs adjacent with the Charles River and is about 10 minutes south of downtown Cambridge and Harvard Square.
With a population of 12,261, Cambridgeport is full of restaurants, cafes, bars, and some beautiful parks, so the residents get to enjoy the amenities of a small neighborhood that still maintains a comfortable residential feel. The median home price is $673,078, and the median monthly rent is $2,000. Here, 65% of residents rent their homes.
Nearby schools include Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, rated 5 and about 7 minutes north; Amigos Elementary School rated 7/10 and about 2 minutes north; and Rindge Avenue Upper School, 17 minutes north and rated 6/10.
Residents of Cambridgeport delight in the variety of public parks available to them. Magazine Beach Park, the largest of them, covers 17 acres along the Charles River and has a pool, an outdoor gym, and historic buildings. Fulmore Park and Dana Park are smaller residential parks that offer children’s playgrounds.
And going into Boston is quick and easy. A 10-minute drive will land you right in the Back Bay of downtown Boston; an 11-minute drive will take you to the Museum of Fine Arts, and in 15 minutes you could be at the Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Living in Cambridgeport is like having downtown Boston right in your backyard.
Located just a mile and a half north of downtown Cambridge and Harvard Square is the only neighborhood that seems to be lacking a real name. Neighborhood 9, as it’s interestingly called, is a moderately dense neighborhood with about 12,000 residents, bordered by Harvard Yard to the south, Porter Square to the north, and Concord Ave to the east.
While this neighborhood may be similar in many ways with some of the others, it’s home to Danehy Park, the beautiful 50-acre public space that draws many for outdoor activities such as jogging, dog-walking, and meeting with friends. The median home here is $667,000, about average for Cambridge neighborhoods, and the median monthly rent is $1,750, perhaps a little lower than average.
Nearby schools include Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School, about 5 minutes north and rated 9; Rindge Avenue Upper School, 4 minutes north and rated 6; and Maria L Baldwin school, about 5 minutes east and rated 5.
History lovers will appreciate having the Cooper-Frost-Austin House, the oldest extant house in Cambridge, as well as the historic Asa Gray Garden House, just a few minutes away. Getting into most parts of Boston is an easy 20-minute drive, where you can easily visit Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Common, and more attractions.
Future Cambridge residents looking for a quieter neighborhood with a historical touch will love Neighborhood 9.
What do you get when you combine affordable rentals by the Charles River with a location that’s just a mile south of Harvard Square? You get about 12,361 people living in the neighborhood of Riverside. Bordered by Massachusetts Ave, River St, and the Charles River, average monthly rent prices are among the lowest in Cambridge at $1,500 per month. These low rental rates could be why 77% of Riverside residents rent, and only 23% own. A median home price is also a bit lower at $515,000. In every other way, the slightly dense Riverside neighborhood is similar to the other neighborhoods in that it offers restaurants, cafes, and bars right along Massachusetts Ave, and an easy commute on the ‘T’ into Boston’s Back Bay station.
Residents of Riverside have convenient access to several schools in the Cambridge Public School District, including Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, located about 10 minutes north and rated 5 out of 10 on greatschools.com; Amigos Elementary School 11 minutes south and rated 7; and Martin Luther King Jr. school and pre-school located just a minute or so away and rated 7.
Riverside residents enjoy a great mix of convenient options for things to do and places to go. Most notable Riverside landmarks include the Corporal Burns Playground, known for pick-up basketball games and offering water activities; Riverbend Park, a lovely open space with aligned along the river; and the John W. Weeks Footbridge, a pedestrian bridge that connects Riverside to the neighboring town across the river, Allston. Just a mile north, residents can enjoy Harvard Yard and all of the surrounding shops, cafes, and restaurants.
If you’re looking to rent in Cambridge, Riverside may be just the neighborhood for you.
Perhaps the smallest neighborhood, Cambridge Highlands, is located about two miles north of downtown Cambridge and Harvard Square. Its suburban vibe is a result of commercial and industrial pockets mixed in with the residential areas.
Cambridge Highlands is a slightly older and more established neighborhood. Almost half of the 3,418 residents are 35 or older, many are retirees, and 59% own their homes – perhaps one of the highest percentages amongst all Cambridge neighborhoods. Here, the median home value is $600,000, and the median monthly rent is $2,000.
Families with school-aged children will find highly-rated schools in the neighboring town of Belmont, within the Belmont Public School District. Belmont High School is about 7 minutes west and rated 8 out of 10 on greatschools.com; the Mary Lee Burbank School, 5 minutes west, is rated 9; and Winthrop L Chenery Middle School, 5 minutes west, and rated 8.
Convenient amenities include the Central Rock Gym, an indoor rock climbing gym located at the northern end of the neighborhood; Apple Cinemas Cambridge, where you can see films in a cozy old-fashioned setting; and several restaurants, fitness studios, and small stores that line Concord Ave on the southern end.
If a little peace and quiet within Cambridge are what you desire, you may want to explore Cambridge Highlands.
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