Massachusetts boasts an incredible array of attractions for visitors of all ages. The New England Aquarium and the Boston Children’s Museum are always family favorites, but there are plenty of lesser-known attractions.
If your kids are interested in history, visit the many historic sites in Plymouth or Boston, or participate in an interactive learning experience at the New England Pirate Museum or the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum.
1. Cape Cod Museum of Natural History
Whether you visit Cape Cod every year or you're here for the first time, the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History is a fascinating place to learn about the area's unique ecosystem and diverse wildlife.
Highlights of the exhibits include an aquarium full of marine life, a honeybee display, and a collection of taxidermized local birds.
Visitors are also welcome to enjoy the trails on the 400-acre property that surrounds the center.
During the summer, there's a special kids' summer camp with activities like guided nature walks and hands-on crafts.
869 Main Street/Route 6A, Brewster, MA 02631, Phone: 508-896-3867
2. The New England Pirate Museum
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Not many people know about New England's history of notorious sea-robbers, but at the New England Pirate Museum, this exciting part of the country's history comes to life.
Guided tours take visitors through the museum, showing off historic treasures in the artifacts room and introducing approximately 60 of the most famous pirates from days gone by, and visitors are encouraged to ask questions.
Another highlight is the museum's 80-foot cave, which daring visitors can explore in search of treasure and 17th-century pirates. The museum is open between May and October, and tours take approximately half an hour.
274 Derby St, Salem, MA 01970, Phone: 978-741-2800
3. Berkshire Museum
Established in 1903 by a local businessman, the Berkshire Museum features a wonderful collection of art and historic artifacts.
The collection is constantly growing, but highlights include a genuine Egyptian mummy, an assortment of ancient Mediterranean jewelry, and a room full of specimen of local animals and insects.
Kids will particularly love the Curiosity Incubator exhibit, which tells the story of the human experience through immersive, interactive exhibits like a multicultural dining table and a photobooth.
The museum also often hosts special children's programs and events, including hands-on aquarium discovery programs, pop-up play days, and pajama nights with storytelling.
39 South St, Pittsfield, MA 01201, Phone: 413-443-7171
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4. Boston Duck Tours
With its fleet of replica WWII amphibious vehicles, Boston Duck Tours is the only tour company in Boston that can take visitors on a journey through the city over both land and water.
The tours are narrated by colorful ConDUCKtors, who ensure the tour is an experience guests of all ages will enjoy, and they pass by sites like the Boston Public Market and the city's iconic Make Way for Ducklings statues before splashing into the Charles River.
Tours depart from three different locations throughout the city, and tickets can be purchased online or at the departure sites.
4 Copley Pl #4155, Boston, MA 02116, Phone: 617-267-3825
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5. Cape Cod Children’s Museum
Operated by a non-profit organization, the Cape Cod Children’s Museum is an 8,000-square-foot museum that was created to encourage hands-on learning.
There are approximately 20 interactive exhibits for kids to enjoy, including a play castle, a life-size tree house, and a pirate ship, and a music room full of instruments to play.
A variety of programs are held throughout the week, including sing-along sessions, art classes, and STEM-related crafts.
There are also party rooms that can be rented for birthdays and other special events, and one of the packages includes exclusive use of the museum for two hours. More Cape Cod beaches
577 Great Neck Rd S, Mashpee, MA 02649, Phone: 508-539-8788
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6. Eco Tarium
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Formerly the New England Science Center, the Eco Tarium in Worcester is an indoor-outdoor nature and science museum that offers plenty of opportunities for kids to explore, play, and learn.
The City Science exhibit features hands-on activities and live animal displays designed to interest kids in the wonders of the natural world, while the Mount Washington exhibit allows visitors to experience some of the state's craziest weather.
Other popular attractions include the planetarium and a model 19th-century steam train. If the weather is good, your kids will also love playing in the Nature Explore Outdoor Exhibit, where they can climb, dig, and built to their hearts' content.
222 Harrington Way, Worcester, MA 01604, Phone: 508-929-2700
7. Kidspace at Mass MoCa
Located inside one of the country's biggest contemporary art centers, Kidspace at Mass MoCa is an art museum specifically designed for children to enjoy.
Two exhibits are mounted every year, featuring artists from all over the world, and each artist is carefully chosen for their ability to connect and resonate with children.
Visitors are encouraged to explore the galleries on their own, but a variety of hour-long tours are available for groups. On the weekends, kids can also visit the hands-on studio space known as the Art Bar, where they can make their own creative masterpieces. More things to do in Massachusetts
1040 Mass Moca Way, North Adams, Massachusetts 01247, Phone: 413-664-4481 Ext 8131
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8. Salem Witch Museum
The infamous Salem Witch trials took place hundreds of years ago, at the end of the 17th century, but the Salem Witch Museum allows visitors to step back in time and learn all about this dark period of history.
The highlight of the museum is a dramatic history lesson that brings the trials to life with a series of stage sets and life-sized figures, but there is also an exhibition hall that teaches visitors about various aspects of witchcraft and history.
The museum is open year-round, and it offers extended hours during the Halloween season in October, when it tends to be particularly busy.
19 1/2 N Washington Square, Salem, MA 01970, Phone: 978-744-1692
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9. Metropolitan Waterworks Museum
© Metropolitan Waterworks Museum
Perfect for kids who have an interest in history or in engineering, the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum is located at the historic Chestnut Hill Reservoir.
The reservoir was built in 1887, making it the first metropolitan water system in the country, and it stands as a true testament to the innovation of 19th-century America.
The highlight of the museum is its three coal-powered steam engines, all of which stand more than three stories tall and can be seen both from the ground and through the glass windows in the Overlook Room.
Guided tours are offered five times a day, and admission is by donation.
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2450 Beacon St, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, Phone: 617-277-0065
10. Animal Adventures Family Zoo and Rescue Center
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Originally established as a small rescue center for exotic animals, the Animal Adventures Family Zoo and Rescue Center is a family-run center that prides itself on caring for exotic animals who have nowhere else to go. The animals on display include everything from wallabies to fennec foxes, and animal shows are held three times a day. For an additional fee, guests can also spend some one-on-one time with the exotic animal of their choice. If your kids are interested in an extra-special all-day program, the zoo also offers an exciting 'Zookeeper for the Day' experience.
336 Sugar Rd, Bolton, MA 01740, Phone: 978-779-8988
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11. Berkshire Scenic Railway and Museum
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Situated in the town of Lenox, the Berkshire Scenic Railway and Museum was established to preserve the railroad heritage of Massachusetts. The exhibits feature a replica "Block Station" and a wonderful collection of historic equipment, and guided tours are led by knowledgeable volunteers. The museum also offers short train rides from one end of its property to the other. For a longer train ride, visitors can hop aboard the Berkshire Scenic Railway for a beautiful trip through the Hoosac Valley, but be aware that trains leave from the station in Adams rather than from the museum itself.
10 Willow Creek Rd, Lenox, MA 01240, Phone: 413-637-2210
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12. Boston Children’s Museum
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Conveniently located on the Children's Wharf, the Boston Children’s Museum is one of the oldest museums of its kind in the country.
It's full of fun hands-on exhibits and activities designed to encourage kids to learn about art, science, culture, and other related topics, and highlights include a two-story Japanese House imported from Kyoto, an exciting Science Playground, and an Art Studio.
If your kids want to get active, there's even a three-story climbing structure. The museum also offers a range of educational programs and events, including family science workshops, dance classes, and multicultural holiday celebrations.
308 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210, Phone: 617-426-6500
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13. Kid-Friendly Things to Do in Massachusetts: Boston Harbor Cruises
Operating out of the historic Long Wharf, Boston Harbor Cruises is the perfect way to explore the waters off the coast of Massachusetts.
The traditional cruise provides an excellent 90-minute overview of all the most significant historic sites around the harbor, but there's also a special 45-minute USS Constitution cruise for visitors who have less time.
If your kids aren't particularly interested in history, the company also offers a whale watching tour that goes out to the Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary and the exhilarating Codzilla speed cruise, which reaches speeds of up to 40 mph and involves 360-degree spins.
1 Long Wharf, Boston, MA 02110, Phone: 617-227-4321
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14. Boston Pizza Tours
If you and your kids love pizza, Boston Pizza Tours offers the opportunity to eat your way around some of the most historic areas of the city.
Families typically choose the classic North End tour, which includes stops at some of the most historic sites in the city as well as at three incredible pizzerias.
If you're in the mood for something spooky, there's also a Haunted Pizza Walk, which takes guests into the crypts underneath a historic church.
Reservations are recommended for all tours, and dietary restrictions can often be accommodated if the company is notified in advance.
71 Commercial Street, Suite 134, Boston, MA 02109, Phone: 855-487-4992
15. Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum
The Boston Tea Party was one of the most important events in American history, and even though it took place more than 200 years ago, the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum is an excellent place to visit even for people who aren't very interested in museums.
After being given a role card, visitors are invited to step aboard replica ships, where they'll participate in an interactive drama featuring a talented cast of actors.
Before leaving, stop by Abigail's Tea Room to enjoy a cup of one of the same tea varieties that were unceremoniously dumped into the harbor in 1773.
306 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210, Phone: 617-338-1773
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16. Buttonwood Park Zoo
Occupying seven acres in the middle of Buttonwood Park, the Buttonwood Park Zoo is a wonderful zoo that has been proudly accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Despite its small size, the zoo houses more than 200 species of animals from all over the world, including elephants, black bears, and primates from South America.
Visitors are welcome to explore the zoo at their leisure, and zookeeper chats about specific animals are held several times a day. Kids will also enjoy the zoo's carousel and train ride, and every Monday, the zoo hosts a live music and puppet show for younger visitors.
425 Hawthorn St, New Bedford, MA 02740, Phone: 508-991-6178
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17. The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
Created to inspire a love of art and reading, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art was founded by the author of the classic children's book The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Instead of permanent galleries, the museum has three rotating exhibits at a time, each of which is centered around a different author, country, or theme. Visitors are also welcome to stop by the Art Studio to dabble around and create their own artwork, stroll through the century-old apple orchard outside, and spend some time relaxing in the library with one of the 4,500 excellent children's books.
125 W Bay Rd, Amherst, MA 01002, Phone: 413-559-6300
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18. Lupa Zoo
Set on a privately owned 20-acre property, the Lupa Zoo is a family-friendly attraction dedicated to animal conservation and education. The exhibits have been carefully designed to mimic the animals' natural habitats, including plenty of spaces to hide, and visitors can expect to see everything from zebras to exotic monkeys to camels. There are also several children's playgrounds, and the zoo is happy to host kids' birthday parties and other special events. Hours of operation vary according to the season, and family memberships are available for anyone planning to visit more than once a year.
62 Nash Hill Rd, Ludlow, MA 01056, Phone: 413-583-8370
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19. Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary
Encompassing almost 100 acres of land right next to the Bristol Blake State Reservation, the Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary is a former mill site that now serves as a haven for local wildlife. There's an excellent trail system with plenty of boardwalks that allow visitors to easily traverse the fields and wetlands, and popular family trails include the half-mile Pond Loop Trail and the 2,000-foot interpretive sensory trail, which leads through a wide range of terrain. The sanctuary also hosts a variety of programs for kids year-round, and summer day camps are offered for kids between the ages of 4 and 15.
108 North St, Norfolk, MA 02056, Phone: 508-528-3140
20. Red Sox Fenway Park Tour
A must-do for any baseball lovers, the Red Sox Fenway Park Tour takes visitors on an exciting adventure around the home of the Boston Red Sox. Visitors will learn about the history of baseball and the Red Sox, and they'll also get to see the famous Pesky's Pole and maybe even sit on the Green Monster. On game days, there is also a special Pregame Tour that gets visitors early access to the ballpark and brings them to the field's warning track. Tours last approximately one hour and are offered year-round, and it's best to buy your tickets in advance if possible. More beaches near Boston
4 Jersey St, Boston, MA 02215, Phone: 617-226-6666
21. New England Aquarium
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Found at Boston's Central Wharf, the New England Aquarium is one of the city's top attractions, and it's not hard to see why. The aquarium's central attraction is an enormous tank designed to replicate a Caribbean reef, which is surrounded by a spiral staircase that allows visitors to spot sharks, stingrays, and colorful fish from multiple levels. A penguin exhibit surrounds the bottom of the tank, and other popular animal galleries include the jellyfish room, the interactive New England tide pool, and the Thinking Gallery, which features rare and ancient fish. There is also an IMAX theater that plays ocean-themed films. More info
1 Central Wharf, Boston, MA 02110, Phone: 617-973-5200
22. Boston National Historic Park
Boston has played a key role in American history, particularly during the Revolution, and the Boston National Historic Park showcases this history in an exciting, informative way. The park is spread across various sites downtown, in South Boston, and in Charlestown, but the best place to start your visit is at the Downtown Visitor Center, where friendly volunteers will help you plan your day. Highlights of a self-guided tour include Faneuil Hall, the Paul Revere House, and the Old North Church, but if you'd prefer to have a guide, ranger-led tours of many sites are available on a seasonal basis.
Building 5, Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston, MA 02109, Phone: 617-242-5601
23. Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises
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Whale watching is one of the most exciting things to do in New England, and the Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises takes visitors out to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to meet the friendly whales of Cape Cod. The company proudly has a sighting rate of more than 90%, and a naturalist is on board to provide information about the whales and answer questions as needed. Tours are offered between mid-April and the end of October, before the whales head south for the winter, and the trip typically lasts between three and a half and four hours.
269 Millway, Barnstable, MA 02630, Phone: 508-362-6088
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