Blessed with beautiful natural areas, Massachusetts contains an array of unique attractions for all types of travelers. In cities and towns, visitors will find museums, unique attractions and great restaurants. In the more remote parts of Massachusetts, there are waterfalls, miles of hiking trails, and tranquil beaches. Classic New England towns and quiet fishing villages line the Massachusetts coast. Massachusetts enjoys a unique history that lives on in full force through its special attractions and well-preserved historic places. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Cape Cod National Seashore (1 hour 45 minutes)
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Renowned for its beauty and mystery, Cape Cod National Seashore features an array of diverse animal and plant life. The forty-mile-long beach is backed by marshes, ponds and upland areas. Wild cranberry bogs and ancient lighthouses dot the long coastline.
Cape Cod National Seashore is filled with opportunities for sightseeing and exploration. Hiking, biking and relaxing on the beach are some popular activities among visitors. There are also designated areas for hunting and fishing, but these activities are only permitted at certain times of the year. Cape Cod National Seashore management also runs junior ranger and junior lifeguard programs for children.
2. Kennebunkport (1.5 hours)
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Kennebunkport is a historic seaside town with a rich seafaring culture. Home to roughly 3,500 people, Kennebunkport is the summer home of former US President George H.W. Bush. Several prominent world leaders, including Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Vladimir Putin and Nikolas Sarkozy, have spent time in this New England town.
The center of Kennebunkport is filled with locally-owned shops, galleries, restaurants, museums and more. For recreation, visitors enjoy walking around town, hanging out at the beach, dining at one of the many seafood restaurants near the harbor, and visiting the local parks. Things to Do in Kennebunkport
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3.New England day trips: Rockport (50 minutes)
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Rockport is home to roughly 7,000 people. This quaint New England town sits at the tip of Cape Ann peninsula and is surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean. Once home to a handful of Native American villages, Rockport's modern population consists mainly of fishermen and artists.
Tourists enjoy seeing Rockport's beaches and walking around the historic downtown area. Halibut Point State Park, Thacher Island, the Paper House, and the Rockport Art Colony Galleries are among the popular tourist attractions in the area. There are also several museums and performing arts centers in town.
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4.Good Harbor Beach (50 minutes)
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Located near the city of Gloucester, Good Harbor Beach features soft white sands and dramatic views of the Atlantic Ocean. When tide conditions are right, visitors can walk out to Salt Island or enjoy some boogie boarding and body surfing. Life guards patrol the beach daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Good Harbor Beach contains restrooms, restaurants, concessions stands, mini marts and other amenities. Paid parking is available near the beach at the general rate of $25 per vehicle or $30 per vehicle on holidays. Since parking space is limited, visitors are encouraged to come early.
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5. Portsmouth (1 hour)
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Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is another iconic coastal town that draws tourists from all over the United States. Portsmouth is packed with history, and some of its most popular attractions include historic homes, forts, cemeteries, gardens, and parks. For families, Portsmouth boasts New England's largest water park along with a marine and science discovery center.
There are beaches and museums that are also great for day trips with kids. Adults will find ample nightlife in Portsmouth along with wineries, golf courses, shopping centers, high-end restaurants, river cruises, hiking trails, locally-organized tours and more. Things to Do in Portsmouth
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6. The Butterfly Place (45 minutes)
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At the Butterfly Place visitors can learn all about butterflies from around the world. The unique observation center gives guests the chance to see and interact with butterflies in their natural habitat. Koi fish and quail birds live among the hundreds of butterflies in the exhibit.
To learn about the butterfly life cycle, visitors can watch a 15-minute video that discusses each stage of a butterfly's life. There is an exhibit that contains eggs, caterpillars, cocoons and chrysalises. Guests can also pick up an at-home hatching kit for butterflies or moths. Souvenirs at the visitor's center include educational books, butterfly-themed gifts, jewelry and more.
120 Tyngsboro Road Westford, MA 01886, Phone: 978-392-0955
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7. Peabody Essex Museum (40 minutes)
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The Peabody Essex Museum, known simply as PEM, contains an array of interesting and beautiful art objects. PEM began in 1799 when pilgrims brought art to North America from Asia, Oceania, India and elsewhere. Known early on as a “cabinet of natural and artificial curiosities,” PEM officially gained its designation as a museum in the early 20th century.
The museum's collection currently sits at 1.8 million items. The Peabody Essex Museum holds 400,000 books, manuscripts and documents, and is also home to 22 historic buildings. The sprawling campus contains an impressive glass atrium and ample space for relaxing and studying. Things to Do in Salem
161 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970, Phone: 978-745-9500
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8. Old Sturbridge Village (1 hour)
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Old Sturbridge Village is a living history museum where guests can get a feel for life in the 1830s. The village features authentic homes, a conference center, a store, a tavern, a sawmill, some barns, a church and a gift shop/bookstore.
There are plenty of spots throughout the village for dining and shopping, and there are also accommodation options for visitors who wish to stay overnight. Old Sturbridge Village holds special events and reenactments throughout the year. For school groups, the village runs special tours with guides in period costumes. Admission to Old Sturbridge Village ranges from $14-$28 for visitors above the age of two.
1 Old Sturbridge Village Road Sturbridge, MA 01566, Phone: 800-733-1830
9. Norman Rockwell Museum (2 hours)
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The Norman Rockwell Museum pays tribute to one of America's most iconic artists. Born in 1894, Norman Rockwell formerly began his art studies at age 14. He honed his skills while attending some of the most prominent art institutions in the United States.
The Norman Rockwell Museum holds the largest collection of Rockwell's works in the world. The museum also hosts educational programs, tours, art appreciation events and school programs to increase appreciation for Rockwell's work among visitors of all ages. In total, the museum holds more than 100,000 items, including photographs, letters, business documents and more.
9 Glendale Road/Route 183, Stockbridge, MA 01262, Phone: 413-298-4100
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10. The House of the Seven Gables (40 minutes)
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The House of the Seven Gables is a stately cabin that dates back to the mid-1600s. Built by a sea merchant named John Turner, the home stayed in the Turner family for three generations before being sold to Captain Samuel Ingersoll in 1782.
Ingersoll left the property to his daughter Susanna, the cousin of Nathaniel Hawthorne. The sprawling cabin served as the setting for The House of Seven Gables. The house has been preserved over the years and now serves as a space for educational programs and special events. The building is also available to rent for corporate events and weddings.
115 Derby Street Salem, MA 01970, Phone: 978-744-0991
11.Castle Island Park (15 minutes)
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Castle Island Park is home to Fort Independence, a pentagon-shaped granite fort that was erected between 1834 and 1851. The impressive structure sits on 22 acres of protected land. Easily reachable from Carson Beach and M Street, Castle Island Park offers beautiful views and plenty of amenities for visitors.
There are trails within the park for walking, jogging and biking, along with beach areas that are patrolled by trained lifeguards. Fort Independence is open from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. Visitors can go on a narrated tour with guides from the Castle Island Association or enjoy a self-guided tour at their own pace. Things to Do in Boston
2010 Day Boulevard South, Boston, MA 02127, Phone: 617-727-5290
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12. New England day trips: Provincetown (2 hours)
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Known as a haven for artists, Provincetown is hailed as America's First Destination because of its pilgrim heritage. The coastal town only has 3,000 permanent residents, but its summer population soars to 60,000+ people. It is one of the most popular areas in the nation for vacationers from the LGBTQ communities. Provincetown is also home to one of America's oldest continuous art colonies.
The multitude of art galleries, museums and arts centers in Provincetown hold all types of creations, including paintings, sculptures, theatrical productions and music. The town also features a handful of historic buildings and districts that have been carefully preserved for tourism purposes. Things to Do in Provincetown
13. New Bedford Whaling Museum (1 hour)
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The New Bedford Whaling Museum tells the story of Massachusetts' robust whaling industry. Founded in 1903, the Museum is home to some fascinating artifacts, including the world's largest ship model, the world's largest collection of whaling logbooks and the biggest collection of Japanese whaling art outside of Japan.
The New Bedford Whaling Museum maintains close ties with Japan and Portugal and has started a relationship with some Arctic communities in Alaska and Canada. The museum is filled with unique artwork and detailed records that cover whaling all around the world. There are also numerous educational programs and events that take place at the New Bedford Whaling Museum throughout the year.
18 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford, MA 02740, Phone: 508-997-0046
14. The Clark Art Institute (2 hours 45 minutes)
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The Clark Art Institute is a museum and academic research center that was established by Sterling and Francine Clark in the early 1900s. The institute boasts an impressive collection of sculptures, paintings, drawings and prints from American and European artists.
The academic center of the institute contains a library with more than 230,000 texts. In addition to its detailed exhibits, the Clark Art Institute regularly holds performances and special events. The institute also hosts special educational programs for youth and adults. Lastly, the Clark Institute has online educational programs geared toward families all over the world.
225 South Street, Williamstown, MA 01267, Phone: 413-458-2303
15.Castle Hill (55 minutes)
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Castle Hill on the Crane Estate is a stunning seaside mansion known for its immaculate grounds. Purchased by Richard T. Crane in 1910, Castle Hill was designed by some of the most notable architects of Crane's time. The 59-room mansion that sits atop Castle Hill today was designed by renowned architect David Alder.
Guided and self-guided tours are available at the estate at different times throughout the year. During these tours, visitors can spot all sorts of interesting wildlife, including deer, fox, turkey, migrating birds and hawks. Amenities at Castle Hill include public restrooms and a snack bar. Guests who would like to stay overnight can book rooms at the Castle Hill Inn.
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16.Race Point Beach (2 hours 14 minutes)
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Race Point Beach is a popular recreational area along the Cape Cod National Seashore. Famous for its treacherous waters, more than 3,000 shipwrecks were recorded off the coast of Cape Cod in a 300-year period. Shipwrecks happened so frequently that the Massachusetts Humane Society set up the world's first lifesaving service in the early 1800s.
Today, Race Point Beach is known for its meandering bike trails and expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean. Amenities at the beach include restrooms that are equipped with showers and changing areas. Race Point Beach sits just of Route 6 in Provincetown.
17.Wompatuck State Park (30 minutes)
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Situated half an hour outside of Boston, Wompatuck State Park is the perfect spot for a fun-filled weekend getaway. The park holds more than 250 campsites, 140 of which are equipped with electricity. In addition to ample camping space, Wompatuck has 12 miles of paved bicycle paths and a multitude of hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding trails.
Visitors can catch fish at Cohasset Reservoir or load up on fresh drinking water at Mt. Blue Spring. Wompatuck is named after Josiah Wompatuck, an Indian chief who gave the park land to English settlers in 1665.
204 Union Street, Hingham, MA 02043, Phone: 781-749-7160
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18.Halibut Point State Park (1 hour)
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Open year-round, Halibut Point State Park is known for its incredibly picturesque seascape. Ocean-carved rock and dramatic cliffs line the coastal region within the park. There are plenty of areas for hiking, biking, bird watching and relaxing.
Clear weather days allow visitors to get a glimpse of New Hampshire and Maine. On Saturdays between Memorial Day and Columbus Day, visitors can take a tour of the nearby granite quarry and get a firsthand look at how granite is sourced and cut. Entrance fees to Halibut Point State Park are $5 for cars with Massachusetts plates and $6 for vehicles with out-of-state plates.
Gott Avenue, Rockport, MA 01966, Phone: 978-546-2997
19.Concord (30 minutes)
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The town of Concord has several claims to fame. In its early days, the town was known for being the first settlement located away from the tidewater on a non-navigable river. Concord evolved into an important seasonal Indian camp site due to its diverse bird and fish life.
In 1775, Concord became the first battle site in the Revolutionary War. Some of America's most prolific writers, including Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson, spent time in this important town. Today, visitors can stop by the Concord Visitor Center to learn all about the town's unique history.
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20.Great Marsh Area of Critical Environmental Concern (55 minutes)
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The North Shore's Great Marsh area is known for being the longest continual stretch of salt marsh in New England. The marsh extends from Cape Ann to New Hampshire. Recognized worldwide as an Important Bird Area (IBA), Great Marsh is protected and managed by the state of Massachusetts.
The 20,000-acre site contains marsh lands, barrier beaches, estuaries and upland islands. Thanks to its varied geography, Great Marsh is ideal for hiking, kayaking and wildlife spotting. An organization named the Great Marsh Coalition runs education and outreach efforts to teach people about the value of Massachusetts' marsh lands.
21.The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (1 hour 45 minutes)
© The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is dedicated to the more than 300 famous players who have been inducted in the hall's 50+ year history. The 40,000 square-foot space contains all types of basketball memorabilia.
The Hall of Fame has a distinctive sphere-shaped entryway that can be spotted from miles away. There are regular events held at the building to honor basketball's most prominent stars and to bring basketball fans together. Visitors can buy shirts, hats, photos, art, basketball equipment and other souvenirs at the Hall of Fame store. Things to Do in Springfield
1000 Hall of Fame Avenue, Springfield, MA 01105
22.Salem (35 minutes)
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Salem, Massachusetts is known worldwide for being the site of the infamous Salem Witch Trials in 1692. Outside of its colorful history, Salem is known for being a peaceful seaside town with all sorts of interesting tourist attractions.
One of Salem's most popular offerings is the Bewitched After Dark Walking Tours, where visitors can stroll around the streets of Salem as part of a tour led by a modern-day witch. Visitors also enjoy seeing the Corwin House (The Witch House), and Burying Point, the oldest cemetery in Salem. For a change of pace, tourists can hop on a Mahi Mahi Cruise to see the beautiful coastline that surrounds Salem Sound. There is also the Salem Witch Museum, the Salem Haunted Magic Show and more.
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23.Plimoth Plantation (50 minutes)
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Plimoth Plantation is a living history museum located less than an hour outside of Boston. Known for serving as the set for many modern films, Plimoth Plantation began in 1947 with two English cottages and a small waterfront fort. Now Plimoth contains a range of historic pieces, including the Mayflower II, the Wampanoag Homesite, several barns, and a grist mill.
Plimoth Plantation regularly holds educational and seasonal events for families. The Plantation also partners with schools to provide in-classroom demonstrations and to facilitate hands-on history lessons. Plimoth Plantation is open for visitors year-round.
137 Warren Avenue, Plymouth, MA 02360, Phone: 508-746-1622
24.Lexington (30 minutes)
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Lexington, Massachusetts, is another key city in American history. Steeped in rich Revolutionary War history, Lexington has more than 10 historic battle sites, cemeteries and memorials. At the Minute Man National Historic Park, visitors can learn all about the young men who put their lives on the line to protect colonists.
Visitors can also see the Lexington Battle Green, where the war with Britain began in earnest in 1775. At the USS Lexington Memorial, there are five granite markers that are dedicated in memory of the people who served aboard the Lexington ships. Tourists can also stop by the Lexington Depot to see the historic train.
25.Glendale Falls (2 hours 10 minutes)
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Glendale Falls is one of the longest and strongest waterfalls in Massachusetts. Fed by more than five square miles of watershed areas, Glendale Falls is a relaxing and scenic destination. In the forest surrounding Glendale Falls, visitors can see many types of beautiful trees and bushes, including hemlock, birch, beech, maple, shadbrush and mountain laurel.
Several short trails in the area provide visitors with unobstructed views of Glendale Falls and the quiet woods that surround it. Glendale Falls is open year-round and admission is free for all. There is plenty of parking nearby.
Clark Wright Road, Middlefield, MA 01243, Phone: 413-532-1631
25 Best Day Trips from Boston
- Cape Cod National Seashore (1 hour 45 minutes), Photo: Courtesy of Patricia - Fotolia.com
- Kennebunkport (1.5 hours), Photo: Courtesy of Enrico Della Pietra - Fotolia.com
- New England day trips: Rockport (50 minutes), Photo: Courtesy of Mary Lane - Fotolia.com
- Good Harbor Beach (50 minutes), Photo: Courtesy of Eric BVD - Fotolia.com
- Portsmouth (1 hour), Photo: Courtesy of Sean Pavone Photo - Fotolia.com
- The Butterfly Place (45 minutes), Photo: Courtesy of Wesley - Fotolia.com
- Peabody Essex Museum (40 minutes), Photo: Peabody Essex Museum
- Old Sturbridge Village (1 hour), Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Schultes - Fotolia.com
- Norman Rockwell Museum (2 hours), Photo: Norman Rockwell Museum
- The House of the Seven Gables (40 minutes), Photo: Courtesy of Pierrette Guertin - Fotolia.com
- Castle Island Park (15 minutes), Photo: Courtesy of diak - Fotolia.com
- New England day trips: Provincetown (2 hours), Photo: Courtesy of luna marina - Fotolia.com
- New Bedford Whaling Museum (1 hour), Photo: New Bedford Whaling Museum
- The Clark Art Institute (2 hours 45 minutes), Photo: The Clark Art Institute
- Castle Hill (55 minutes), Photo: Courtesy of pmstephens - Fotolia.com
- Race Point Beach (2 hours 14 minutes), Photo: Courtesy of cindy goff - Fotolia.com
- Wompatuck State Park (30 minutes), Photo: Courtesy of demerzel21 - Fotolia.com
- Halibut Point State Park (1 hour), Photo: Courtesy of Satoshi Kina - Fotolia.com
- Concord (30 minutes), Photo: Courtesy of Christian Delbert - Fotolia.com
- Great Marsh Area of Critical Environmental Concern (55 minutes), Photo: Courtesy of belizar - Fotolia.com
- The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (1 hour 45 minutes), Photo: The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
- Salem (35 minutes), Photo: Courtesy of rockerchick 1080 - Fotolia.com
- Plimoth Plantation (50 minutes), Photo: Courtesy of m heston - Fotolia.com
- Lexington (30 minutes), Photo: Courtesy of spirit of america - Fotolia.com
- Glendale Falls (2 hours 10 minutes), Photo: Courtesy of Kisa_Markiza - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Patricia - Fotolia.com
Spotlight: The Butterfly Place
The Butterfly Place is a nature reserve located in Westford, Massachusetts. Featuring a well-kept indoor garden with hundreds of butterflies in free flight, the site also holds a gift shop, indoor exhibits, and outdoor picnic area. Formed in 2005, the Butterfly Place is a popular attraction for school field trips and visitors interested in nature as it displays many species of animal cohabiting in the same indoor garden. Offering a discount scheme, the Butterfly Place sees seniors receive a discount in the gift shop with an admission purchase, while military personnel and their families as well as scout troop groups receive discounted entry. Weddings can be booked at the Butterfly Place, as can birthdays, corporate events, family gatherings, bridal showers, and many other event occasions. Pre-booked visitors are able to release two live butterflies into the indoor garden for an additional price. The Butterfly Place is handicap accessible and has free parking.
Exhibits and attractions
Before visitors enter the indoor butterfly garden, they can visit the caterpillar exhibit, which houses many different species. The various exhibits feature caterpillars in environments suited to their natural habitats. With a variety of eggs, chrysalides, and cocoons on display, visitors are able to observe all stages of these beautiful creatures and read about the lifecycle of the butterfly before they see them in flight. Each of the displays features a detailed information placard with details about each species. Many of the cocoons are from overseas and are at different stages of metamorphosis. A 15-minute educational video also plays continuously and visitors can watch and learn about the lifecycle of butterflies as well as a collection of facts about the species.
If a visitor has questions about the butterflies or the displays and exhibits, there is a show and tell bench, where a member of staff is always seated. The member of staff is open to all questions relating to the Butterfly Place. The interior of the butterfly garden is maintained at a temperature of 80-85°F as the butterflies prefer a warm environment. There are up to 50 different types of butterfly within the garden, including the banded orange, Greta oto, and blue morpho butterflies, to name a few. The majority of the butterflies are from New England, but there are also some tropical species. Furthermore, the garden features a large variety of plants, trees, flowers, and bushes as well as man-made streams and a koi pond. Flightless Chinese painted quails can be found at the ground level, while Atlas moths can be seen on leaves and in the air.
The gift shop is the first point of call when visitors enter the building. Offering butterfly-related gifts and souvenirs, the shop sells jewelry, educational materials, and books. Popular purchases are the butterfly hatching kit, which children and families can buy to raise butterflies from the egg stage to fully flying butterflies at home, after which the butterfly is released into the wild. Many of the items in the gift shop are also available online on the company’s associated online shop. Offering butterfly hatching kits, painted lady caterpillars, and much more butterfly-related merchandise, the shop enables money made from sales to go back into maintaining the Butterfly Place.
Located outside is a spacious picnic area with benches for visitors to use. Wildlife and a variety of bird species can also be spotted here. Depending on the season, the outside picnic area is covered by a tent.
120 Tyngsboro Rd, Westford, MA 01886, Phone: 978-392-0955
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