Boston is so centrally located in New England. It’s the perfect spot for a family vacation, because you’ll be able to see a wide variety of family attractions, including cultural and historic spots. In addition, you can stay at a hotel in Boston and take several different day trips – seeing different attractions and maybe even a different state. While there are so many different options, here are some of our favorite day trips from Boston.
Disclosure: Note that we’ve received complimentary admission to some of the things mentioned here. All opinions are my own.
Day Trips From Boston
This is one of the easiest day trips from Boston. You won’t even need a car. During the summers, you can head to the ferry at Long Wharf in Boston. There, you can board for a short trip to one of the several islands making up the Boston Harbor Islands State and National Park.
These islands offer a variety of different amenities and programs, so review the information before deciding where to go. There are different ferries going to the different islands, so you’ll want to know which one you are choosing before getting to Long Wharf. Food options vary, so research in advance.
We’ve enjoyed a trip to Spectacle Island, where my kids were able to explore tide pools and hang out on the small beach. Some of the islands also have great spots for exploring, so plan and pack appropriately. Many families enjoy traveling to Georges Island, which is the most popular island. There, you’ll find a Civil War era fort that you can walk around. Georges Island is often the first stop on the ferries to the other islands, so you may be able to combine it with another island.
Right over the New Hampshire border is Portsmouth, a coastal town filled with shops and restaurants. There’s also the the Water Country water park, and several outdoor parks. It’s located about an hour outside of Boston. Despite its location in another state, it’s actually pretty close.
Grab lunch at one of the waterfront restaurants for some gorgeous views. History lovers may enjoy a trip to Strawbery Banke, a living history museum.
About an hour and a half from Boston, you’ll find Newport, RI. This gorgeous town is a vacation destination in itself. Newport was once the preferred summer vacation spot for rich families including the Vanderbilts, who owned the Breakers and Marble House mansions as summer homes. Both of these properties, as well as other Newport Mansions, are available to tour during your trip to Newport. Arrive early, as these properties get busy, especially during the weekends.
You can also take a boat ride, check out a baseball game, shop, eat, and so much more while you are in Newport. It’s definitely a place that you could visit for more than one day. But, if you only have time for a day trip, I’d focus on seeing one mansion (probably the Breakers) and then heading to Brick Marketplace/Thames Street. There, you’ll find quaint shops and restaurants right on the waterfront.
See more things to do in Newport with kids here.
Right over the RI border is Mystic, CT, located about an hour and forty-five minutes from Boston. There, you’ll find Mystic Seaport, the largest maritime museum in the United States. It’s mostly outdoors, so it’s best for a visit in nice weather.
Kids also love the Mystic Aquarium, which is one of my favorite aquariums to visit. Don’t miss the Beluga whales! Mystic Aquarium features the largest outdoor beluga whale exhibit in the United States. The whales are so interactive and fun to watch.
Across the street from the Mystic Aquarium is Olde Mistick Village, where you’ll find shops and restaurants in a quaint little historic village. It’s fun to walk around there, and there are several restaurants where you can grab lunch.
See things to do in Mystic here.
Any history trip to Boston should include day in Plymouth, MA. There, you can see Plymouth Rock, and explore Plimoth Plantation. If your vacation plans include a trip down to the Cape Cod National Seashore, you’ll find Plymouth on the way. But you definitely only need a day there, so it’s an easy day trip from Boston.
There are plenty of delicious restaurants and great shops in Plymouth as well. If you have limited time, I’d recommend only going to Plimoth Plantation. Plymouth Rock, while famous, is pretty disappointing in person.
North of Boston is Cape Ann, where you’ll find Rockport, MA. This quaint seaside village is one of my favorite places to visit for the day. Bearskin Neck is the perfect spot to visit for the day. It offers shops, restaurants, and art galleries. You’ll also want to photograph Motif #1, an iconic fishing shack that is one of the most photographed buildings.
There are also several beaches on Cape Ann – including several in neighboring Gloucester. Our favorites are Good Harbor Beach and Wingaersheek Beach. Go early to make sure you get a parking spot.
Kittery Maine is the first Maine town that you’ll find right over the New Hampshire border by Portsmouth, NH. It’s mostly known for some fabulous outlet shops. There are several outlet malls, all located on the same street. It’s easy to drive to each plaza, park, and shop.
During your day in Kittery, Maine, you can also explore Fort McClary State Park and be adventurous at Take Flight Adventures. Be sure to stop at one of the many seafood restaurants and stands to pick up a delicious lobster roll. Options include Bob’s Clam Shack and Robert’s Maine Grill (where the lobster roll and chowder pictured above came from). While in Kittery, you’ll also want to stop at Yummies, a store filled with all kinds of candy.
If you want, you can combine a trip with Kittery with a stop in Portsmouth, NH. They are in different states, but are adjacent. It’s easy to visit both.
See things to do in Kittery here.
If you want to visit Walden Pond, made famous by Henry David Thoreau, you’ll need to head to Concord, MA. Located about 40 minutes from Boston, Concord is also home to Minute Man National Historical Park. If you don’t have a car or don’t want to drive, there’s also a commuter rail station in Concord.
If you do choose to drive, you can also visit Lexington. Head to Lexington Common (Battle Green), the start of the American Revolution. History lovers may enjoy the Liberty Ride, a guided tour through Lexington and Concord with costumed guides.
If you have kids that love Thomas the Tank Engine, I’d definitely recommend taking a trip to Edaville Family Theme Park in Carver, MA. This park is best for youngest kids and offers Thomas Land, plus other amusements. Carver is about an hour and a half from Boston.
Like all amusement parks, it’s best to arrive at Edaville early in the day. We recommend riding the train first thing, because it can get very busy. It’s mostly a summer park, but Edaville does also offer special events throughout the year, including Halloween and Christmas.
See our Edaville Family Theme Park tips here.
Home to the infamous Salem Witch Trials, Salem, MA is about 50 minutes from the city. Almost everything that you’ll want to see in Salem is located right in the same area. Once you arrive, you can park and walk around.
In addition to several museums dedicated to the Salem Witch Trials, you can also explore the Peabody Essex Museum right in the city. The museum features a large collection of Asian art, and hosts lots of family activities throughout the year. It’s closed on Mondays, so be sure to visit on a different day.
Salem is located on the waterfront, so you’ll also be able to do a short boat trip or tour. There are also many walking tours of the city, if you want some guided narration while you are visiting.
West of Boston, you’ll find Sturbridge, MA. Anyone interested in history may enjoy a trip to Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum. It’s a little over an hour from Boston, and is an easy drive down the Mass Turnpike. Purchase tickets online in advance to save time in line.
This city, located about 90 minutes from Boston, features a number of family-friendly attractions. Sports fans will want to visit the National Basketball Hall of Fame. It’s several floors of sports memorabilia, as well as a full basketball court. You’ll probably want to plan to spend a couple of hours there.
There’s also a relatively new Dr. Seuss Museum. Younger kids will enjoy this. You can read more on the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum here.
For most of these day trips from Boston, you’ll probably want to rent a car. There are other options to getting to some of the places, including Amtrak train (to Mystic and north to Maine), commuter rail, and ferry. In most cases, driving is the easiest, and parking isn’t too difficult. You may also find that you want to stop at more than one location, making it useful to have a car. If you don’t have a car rental for your Boston vacation, you should be able to just rent one for the day.