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 great day trips in Massachusetts with kids.
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Day Trips 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. You can even choose to stay in Boston and take various day trips from Boston as well as explore the city.
To get an overview of the sites of Boston, consider the popular Duck Boats (book in advance – they sell out!) as well as the trolley tours. This can be a good way to see everything quickly and get a good understanding of the history of Boston.
There are also 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. Visit early in the day for lower crowd levels, because it definitely can get busy.
There are other fantastic museums in Boston. These include 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. The museum also features traveling exhibits. It’s a great place to learn about science and have fun.
The New England Aquarium, located on the Boston Waterfront, offers both indoor and outdoor exhibits. It also features an IMAX theater offering nature-themed movies.
The Boston Museum of Fine Art is probably best for older kids. In addition to the art galleries, there is also a popular mummy exhibit that kids enjoy. They do have some kids’ programming throughout the year, so check their website for details.
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.
A walking tour is a great option for families looking to learn more about the history of the Freedom Trail. 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.
If you are planning to visit multiple attractions in Boston, it’s a great idea to purchase a CityPASS. WIth the CityPASS, you’ll pay for one ticket and then get admission to multiple attractions. Here’s what’s included:
- The New England Aquarium
- The Boston Museum of Science
- Boston Harbor Cruises
- A choice of either the Franklin Park Zoo or the Harvard Museum of Natural History
Visit the CityPASS website to purchase.
Salem, which is famous for the Salem witch trials from the 1600s, is located about 40 minutes outside of Boston on the North Shore and is one of the best day trips from 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 Museum has staged exhibits.
You’ll also find the acclaimed Peabody Essex Museum art museum right in the center of town, the House of the Seven Gables, the Nathaniel Hawthorne Birthplace, and more, 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. It gets extremely busy during the entire month of October.
See hotels in Salem here.
I absolutely love Rockport, located on Cape Ann. 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. It’s one of my favorite small towns. The entire Cape Ann area, is a beautiful spot for a scenic drive, and it’s just a short drive from Boston.
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 can park in one of the municipal lots or find on-street parking.
While you are there, you’ll definitely want to take a picture of Motif #1, which is rumored to 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 sandy beaches in the area worth visiting, including Wingaersheek Beach and Good Harbor Beach.
You can stay in Rockport or Gloucester, 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. It’s a great place to stop either for a day trip as part of a road trip down to Cape Cod.
Once you are there, you’ll want to visit Plimoth Plantation (recently renamed Plimoth Patuxet). 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 Patuxet. You can choose to visit just the plantation or add on visits to the Grist Mill and/or the waterfront exhibit. The Mayflower II was being restored in Mystic, CT, but is now back home in Plymouth.
Of course, if you are interested in history, 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 just to see it. 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, especially in the summer.
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, which is part of the National Park service. The Cape Cod National Seashore includes beaches all the way to the tip of Cape Cod in Provincetown.
When we visit Cape Cod for at least an overnight stay, 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. It has many different types of lodging, from rooms to villas.
In addition to beaches, you’ll also find museums such as the Whydah Whaling Museum and the Heritage Museum and Gardens in Sandwich. Mini golf is another popular summer activity, and make sure you get a famous lobster roll at some point on your vacation.
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. These include Edgartown and Oak Bluffs. 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, Massachusetts. While Springfield isn’t a major tourist city in Massachusetts, it’s home to a few places you may want to check out, either for a day trip or on your drive out of Massachusetts.
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, fun amusement-park food/snacks, 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, which is south of Boston. 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, if you want to go on the rides. Annual events include the Christmas Festival of Lights.
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. In the summer, visit the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home, Tanglewood.
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.
Sturbridge MA, located west of Boston, features Old Sturbridge Village. It’s New England’s largest outdoor living history museum. You can learn all about life in the 19th century in New England from various historians throughout the exhibits. If you are headed to New York, Sturbridge is on the way.
See our Massachusetts destinations to visit story here.
Want to learn more about the American Revolution? Travel west of Boston to Concord Massachusetts, where you can visit Minute Man National Historical Park. There are various events offered throughout the year, but you can visit at any time to explore the park.
South of Boston, near the Rhode Island border, is Fall River. This waterfront city is home to Battleship Cove, an attraction that offers five historic naval ships, including the USS Massachusetts.
Outside of Massachusetts
Massachusetts is a relatively small state, and some of the best day trips can expand beyond Massachusetts. Options include Newport, Rhode Island, where you can explore the Newport Mansions and the beautiful Cliff Walk, as well as Salem New Hampshire, where you can visit the amusement park Canobie Lake Park.