It’s a small state, but my home state of Massachusetts is filled with family-friendly activities. From the historic attractions in Boston and Plymouth to the beaches on Cape Cod and the Islands, there’s so much to do. Whether you are visiting Massachusetts on its own, or as a part of a larger New England vacation, here are some places to visit in Massachusetts with kids.
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Places to Visit in Massachusetts With Kids
You can’t talk about places to visit in Massachusetts without leading off with the capital city of Boston. Boston is filled with family activities. To get an overview of the sites of the city, consider the popular Duck Boats (book in advance – they sell out!) as well as the trolley tours.
There are several great museums to visit in Boston. For younger kids, the Boston Children’s Museum offers so many fabulous hands-on exhibits as well as a large climbing feature that’s perfect for burning off energy. There’s also the New England Aquarium, the Boston Museum of Science, and the Boston Museum of Fine Art. All have elements that kids would enjoy. Our favorite of these is the Museum of Science, because there are so many different hands-on things for kids to do. Stay for an IMAX or planetarium show, and you’ll be there for most of the day.
If you are interested in history, be sure to walk the Freedom Trail. You can book a walking tour, or walk it on your own. There’s also the Tea Party Museum and the USS Constitution.
For theater and culture, you can see a show from the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall or a play/musical in the theater district. Several theaters rotate touring productions of national shows. Local productions, including the Blue Man Group, are also available. There’s also the A.R.T. in Cambridge which offers shows (sometimes pre-Broadway) on a regular basis.
In the summer, you’ll want to spend some time on the water. There are several different boat tours on the Boston Harbor that you can take, including whale watches and the thrilling Codzilla ride. Or take a trip to the Boston Harbor Islands, where you will get a national park experience right near the city.
Sports fans will definitely want to visit Fenway Park. If you can’t get tickets to see a game, take a tour of the park. This behind the scenes experience is perfect for fans of baseball.
Salem, which is famous for the witch trials from the 1600s, is located about 40 minutes outside of Boston. This city offers waterfront views, shops, restaurants among the Salem Witch attractions. If you’d like to learn more about the trials, the Salem Witch Exhibit has staged exhibits. You’ll also find the acclaimed Peabody Essex Museum art museum right in the center of town, and the House of Seven Gables just a short walk from the center.
As you’d imagine, Salem comes alive during the month of October for Halloween. While it’s a busy place to visit, there’s so much activity and so many great things to do. Halloween lovers should definitely include a trip to Salem on their bucket list. Public transportation is offered, or arrive early for the best shot at a good parking spot.
See hotels in Salem here.
I absolutely love Rockport. Although I grew up in New England, I only started visiting Rockport a few years ago. Since then, we’ve been a number of times, in summer and winter.
If you visit the Rockport area, you’ll definitely want to go to Bearskin Neck. This neighborhood features shops and restaurants (lots and lots of seafood spots) in a quaint setting. You’ll definitely want to take a picture of Motif #1, which is rumored to the be the most painted building. This iconic building is a replica of an old fishing shack.
Want to be on the water? You can rent kayaks in Rockport, or drive to neighboring Gloucester to take a whale watch or schooner tour. There are also several beaches in the area worth visiting, including Wingaersheek Beach and Good Harbor Beach.
You can stay in Rockport, or make a day trip from another spot in Massachusetts.
Known as America’s Birthplace, Plymouth is a must-visit for anyone who wants to explore US colonial history. Plymouth is located about 75-90 minutes outside of Boston, towards Cape Cod.
Once you are there, you’ll want to visit Plimoth Plantation. This living history museum features several sections, including the Wampanoag Homesite and the 17th Century English village. It’s definitely worth a visit, especially with kids who are just learning about the colonization of America.
There are several different ticket options, which you can either purchase online or at Plimoth Plantation. You can choose to visit just the plantation, or add on visits to the Grist Mill and/or the waterfront exhibit. Keep in mind that the Mayflower II is currently being restored in Mystic, CT, and will be returning sometime in 2019.
Of course, you probably won’t want to miss Plymouth Rock. In reality, it’s a pretty small spot and isn’t very exciting. If you are already in the area, you may want to visit. But there are other better places to visit if you are short on time.
I could dedicate entire articles to all of the kid-friendly things to do on Cape Cod. It’s truly a full vacation experience. Best visited in the summer (or early fall), Cape Cod is filled with quaint shops, clam shacks and other restaurants, family activities, beaches, and great hotels. One popular attraction is the Cape Cod National Seashore.
We like visiting the Sea Crest Beach Hotel, which is located right on Old Silver Beach in Falmouth. It’s perfect for that quintessential family beach experience. Another great resort option is Ocean Edge Resort, located in Brewster. Ocean Edge offers so many family activities, including special programming during school vacations and holidays.
Take a ferry from the mainland (or fly in) for a getaway to Nantucket. This island is located about 30 miles from the mainland in Hyannis but feels almost like another country. It’s relatively small, about 47 miles total, but there’s lots to do. Activities include nature walks, biking, beaches, and shopping. We love the Nantucket Whaling Museum, which offers a view into Nantucket’s history as a whaling city. It’s very busy in the summer, but late spring and early fall can also be a great time to visit.
Ferries do book up during the busy season, so make reservations in advance. Car ferries are available, but we prefer to stay right in town and walk around.
Located about 4 miles from the coast of Cape Cod is Martha’s Vineyard. This island, larger than Nantucket, has several different towns to visit. It has more activities than Nantucket, and is a shorter ferry ride. While you are there, you can visit beaches, shop, eat delicious food, bike, take nature walks, and more.
There are several towns on the island, all with different things to offer. Like Nantucket, you can bring your car on the island if you book a car ferry. Because Martha’s Vineyard is pretty big, I’d recommend bringing your car if you’d like to explore the island.
Closer to Western Massachusetts is Springfield. While Springfield isn’t a major tourist city in Massachusetts, it’s home to a few places you may want to check out.
In the fall, it hosts the Eastern States Exposition, which is one of the top ten fairs in the country. Taking place over 17 days in the late summer/early fall, the Big E (as it’s called) offers agriculture events, concerts, amusement rides, and more. It’s fun to visit at least once with your family.
Springfield is also home to the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Dr. Seuss Museum. Basketball lovers should definitely visit the Hall of Fame at least once. It doesn’t take too long to tour, although there are events and activities that also take place there.
Six Flags Over New England is located in nearby Agawam and is open in season. Springfield is located about 2 hours from Boston and three hours and fifteen minutes from New York City.
If you’ve got younger children, you’ll definitely want to visit Carver. In Carver, you’ll find the Edaville Family Theme Park, which includes Thomas Land. It’s the perfect place for young children to visit for the day. Although it hosts special events throughout the year, Thomas Land is best visited when the weather is warmer.
See hotels in Carver.
The mountainous region in Western Massachusetts is a popular summer vacation destination. You’ll find culture, farm, art, and outdoor activities.
Fitchburg is home to New England’s only Great Wolf Lodge resort. Guests of the resort can enjoy a number of fun kids’ activities including a huge indoor water park, an arcade, a ropes course, among other activities. You’ll have to stay on property to use the water park, so plan an overnight stay. Guests can use the water park on both check in day and check out day. See our full Great Wolf Lodge New England Resort here.