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Summer in the city can be a scary thought to the uninitiated. Oppressive heat and humidity, poor air quality and the stench of city streets combine to create a desperate impulse to escape from the urban jungle to the beach.
Conventional wisdom holds that any sane person, given the chance, would depart Cambridge as soon as possible for Cape Cod or Block Island or Newport or the Maine coast.
It ain't so.
Cambridge, especially Harvard Square, is actually kind of fun in the summer, Survivors of previous hot months here will agree that there's nothing to dread--in fact, there's a lot to enjoy.
The Harvard Square part of Cambridge is less urban than it might look to the neophyte emerging from the T stop. Far from being a concrete jungle (well, except for Holyoke Center) this region actually has trees. Many parts of the Square, including Harvard Yard, Radcliffe Yard and the Cambridge Common, are delightfully leafy, shaded enclaves. In the winter, the city's open space turns into mud. But during the summer months, students can sprawl on Harvard lawns that were carefully made green for the Commencement crowds.
The weather in New England can get a bad rap. Yes, there was a hurricane a couple of years ago. Yes, temperatures can reach the high nineties. Yes, it can get very, very humid--almost stifling. And yes, this particular summer, is expected to be unusually warm. But most evenings and mornings, the weather is pleasant. A fan will cool off a bedroom, classroom or office. If the heat gets too oppressive, there is an easy antidote--water.
Harvard Square is not landlocked. Subversives may favor cracking open a fire hydrant, but there are plenty of other ways to get wet this summer. The fountain in front of the Science Center is a prime place to cool off. Beaches are within an easy ride by public transportation. And the Charles River, while hazardous to swim in, is perfect for rowing, canoeing or sailing.
After a day in the water, subversives and sailors alike will be able to dry off and enjoy a cool drink. In the winter, the outdoor seating areas of the city's cafes are closed, the chairs and tables stowed in storage. But in the summer, Cambridge's sidewalk society is in full bloom. On weekend nights, musicians and magicians line the streets. The best of the street performers can draw crowds of as many as 200.
The streets of Cambridge are not the only places to find cheap music during the summer. Free outdoor concerts abound at such venues as the Hatch Shell in Boston and Charles Square in Cambridge.
It's a different scene from the winter months. There aren't any outdoor concerts during the winter. And even if there were, most Harvard students would be too busy to show up.
The slower summer pace allows students to take advantage of many things they would not have time for during the year. Doing things during the summer is less of a hassle; the annoying people who get in the way during the year are off being annoying somewhere else--like Hyannis, Cape Cod, Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard.
For those left in Cambridge, life is good. All of the summer reading a person could want is in the Harvard library system. All of the ice cream a person could want is in the six shops within a 10-minute walk of Harvard Yard (see related article, this page). There is free live music on the streets every night. When it gets too hot, people play in the fountain in front of the Science Center. For summer in the city, it's pretty much ideal.
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