Boston is packed with attractions that are certain to appeal to every kind of traveler. From Quincy Market to Boston Harbor, there are endless destinations to explore in the city.
While there’s plenty to do on a trip to Boston to keep you busy, there are several day trips from Boston that you should consider adding to your agenda, too. Within two hours of the city’s limits, there are a variety of attractions to visit, including historical Salem, scenic beaches, and the interactive U.S. Basketball Hall of Fame.
If you’ve got time to make one or two Boston day trips, check out the list below and discover the best the region has to offer.
Around 30 minutes northwest of Boston, you’ll find Lexington, a town you’ll vaguely remember from your middle school history class. Lexington is known for being the place where the Revolutionary War’s first shot was fired back in 1775.
History buffs will likely gravitate to a day trip from Boston to Lexington, the town where the first shot of the Revolutionary War was fired in 1775. Located around 30 minutes northwest of Boston, Lexington features a wealth of historical attractions, including the Lexington Green battlefield, where the Revolutionary War began, and Buckman Tavern, where American minutemen gathered to talk about the revolution. You can also stop by the 17th-century Hancock-Clarke House, the destination of Paul Revere’s famous “midnight ride.”
If you don’t feel like being on your feet all day, take a ride on the historical Liberty Ride Trolley, which visits all of these attractions and more, such as the homes of authors Louisa May Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson, During the ride, a knowledgeable guide is on board to share interesting tidbits and stories, as well.
Lexington and Concord are located very close to one another—the latter is only 10 more minutes away from Boston. Since both destinations are packed with historical attractions, many travelers choose to combine visits to both towns during the same day trip from Boston.
While Lexington is where the Revolutionary War began, Concord is considered the true center of the revolution. After all, Concord was the intended destination of British troops when they marched from Boston to seize arms and weapons from the colonists. But thanks to Paul Revere’s warnings, the colonists intercepted them in Lexington, and that’s where the war began.
While in Concord, take walking or driving tours past iconic sites like the Old North Bridge, the site of the famous “shot heard ’round the world,” and the Old Burial Hill ground.
But it’s not all about war history in Concord. Literature lovers will be delighted to see the childhood homes of transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, as well as the Orchard House, the home where Louise May Alcott wrote and set her timeless novel, Little Women.
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
If you never miss a basketball game and always fill out your March Madness bracket come spring, spend an afternoon on a day trip from Boston to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, situated about two hours from the city.
This sprawling museum celebrates all things basketball and features multiple memorabilia collections, interactive games and displays, daily tours and programs, and several restaurants. While sports fans will consider a trip to the Basketball Hall of Fame one of the best day trips from Boston, those with only a passing interest in the sport are still likely to be entertained by the sheer variety of activities and exhibits.
Salem is famously known as the site of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and the town has readily embraced its reputation. Salem is one of the best day trips from Boston as you’ll find there’s quite a lot to do here. Spend time wandering down the town’s main street and check out the many restaurants and shops, before walking a block or so off the main drag to explore the old cemetery and interactive Salem Witch Museum.
Once you’ve learned all about the town’s unique history, head to the Peabody Museum, which is the oldest continuously operating museum in the United States. The Peabody started as a place to display quirky items found by sea captains during their travels.
Today, it hosts a massive collection of everything from indigenous art and maritime artifacts to textiles and photography. If you’re an art lover, the museum alone is worth the day trip from Boston.
On a warm summer’s day, there’s nothing better to do than spend the day at Cape Cod. Around 90 minutes from the city, Cape Cod is one of Boston’s best day trips if you’re looking for some time under the sun and on the sand.
Stroll around its quaint streets and admire the Cape’s luxurious, stuck-in-time feel. You’ll notice many blocks and restaurants look almost the same as they did in the 1950s.
Head to the Cape Cod National Seashore, where you can hike, relax on the beach, check out historical lighthouses, kayak in the summer, or take part in a ranger-led environmental program.
Outside of the seashore, Cape Cod has glassblowing and art museums, seal-watching cruises, and more than a few highly-rated restaurants and tasting rooms. Cape Cod is 65 miles long, so be sure to plan your activities in advance, especially if you’re trying to squeeze it all into one day.
Old Sturbridge Village
Old Sturbridge Village is a massive historical center located only an hour from Boston. It’s considered a “living museum,” which means it’s far more than a building with art adorning its walls. At Old Sturbridge Village, historical reenactors go about their lives while chatting with visitors. As you walk around, you’ll see actors making cabinets, welding horseshoes, planting native gardens, cooking, or playing games in the field.
While at the museum, take historical craft classes, have lunch at a colonial tavern, or sign up for historical or architectural tours. You can also wander around the 80-acre property at your leisure.
Frederick Law Olmsted was one of the first celebrity architects in the United States and the designer of New York’s iconic Central Park.
Thankfully, you don’t need to head to New York to see one of Olmsted’s famous designs. Only 30 minutes outside of Boston you’ll find another popular Olmsted-designed park, World’s End.
Sitting on a peninsula that juts into Hingham Bay, the park was once going to be used as the headquarters for the United Nations, but it was ultimately spared from development and is now is a preserved natural area.
Covering more than 250 acres, the park has five miles of walking paths winding between marshland, bird sanctuaries, and shoreline. If you’re driving, stop on the way to World’s End at one of the bakeries in Quincy and pick up some snacks and drink to enjoy later during a picnic in the park.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
The inviting fishing town of Portsmouth has a truly unique blend of old and new. The port and its thriving fishing industry are the centers of life in the town, and nearly all of the buildings near downtown have a maritime look and feel.
In contrast, Downtown Portsmouth is a lively and hip area, full of farmers markets, artisan shops, trendy art galleries, antique stores, music venues, and chocolate shops.
Portsmouth is only about an hour north of the city, making it a popular day trip from Boston. While you’re there, consider taking a walking tour of Portsmouth’s historical sites or booking a guided harbor tour.
It’s also an excellent Boston day trip if the weather is cold or rainy, as you can spend all day at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, the Strawbery Banke Museum, or heading in and out of Portsmouth’s many local breweries.
Less than two hours from the city, Portland is a popular day trip from Boston—and a popular overnight trip, too. During the warmer months, Portland enjoys pleasant weather, calm waters, and a lively downtown area full of events geared around the town’s short summer season. You’ll find festivals take place nearly every weekend, from an outdoor film fest to wine walks and quirky clam celebrations.
Popular activities in Portland include historical tours and guided cycling adventures, wine and food tasting tours, and various live music and theater performances at more than a dozen arts venues.
Another fun activity is to go on a driving tour of Portland’s seven historical lighthouses and stopping for a picnic lunch at a private stretch of New England beach somewhere along the way.
Cambridge is a great day trip from Boston since it’s located across the river and is easily reached by public transportation, making it an ideal option if you’re traveling without a car.
Cambridge is known as the home of M.I.T. and Harvard University. If you’re interested in visiting the Ivy League school, there are portions of the campus that are open to the public. Highlights include the Harvard Art Museum, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, and the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts.
Off-campus, you can explore the varied eateries and stores popular with students or visit the U.S.S. Constitution Museum, which celebrates “Old Ironsides,” a naval ship built in 1794. If the weather is nice, make time to stroll along the Charles River walking path or sit in the sun to people-watch at Harvard Square.
If you’ve already been to Portsmouth, or want to go somewhere a little less busy, head to Rockport. This town shares many charms with Portsmouth, including fresh seafood restaurants, a walkable downtown area, and historic buildings, but tends to be a little less crowded than its Maine counterpart.
For a day under the sun, head to Front Beach and Long Beach, the town’s most popular beaches, where it’s easy to find a comfortable spot along the ample stretches of sand.
Take a stroll through Bearskin Neck, the tiny village along the waterfront, where there are several restaurants with waterfront views and outdoor dining, as well as small parks where you can enjoy a picnic with treats bought from the area’s bakeries, shops, and seafood shacks.
Try and get out on the water in Rockport, too. It’s ideal for first-time kayakers and paddlers since the harbor is far less busy than Boston, meaning you’ll have less boat traffic and minimal wakes.
Love American history? Then head to Plimoth Plantation, a living museum that recreates the spirit of Plymouth Colony, the first British settlement in the United States, which was founded in 1620.
The plantation includes a recreated 17th-century town, a period-appropriate grist mill, and a historic homesite. There’s also a full-size reproduction of the Mayflower ship, plus a livestock barn with heritage breeds and a large cinema, museum, and gift shop.
Plimoth Plantation also features exhibits and attractions focused on indigenous culture. Visitors can learn about the Wampanoag through exhibits and the historical reenactors that are from local tribes. Throughout the spring, summer, and fall, there’s a robust events schedule that includes everything from traditional gardening demonstrations to farm markets and pottery making.
Now that you know all about the best day trips from Boston, it’s time to start planning your next cruise to New England and beyond.
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