New England: 14 unique places and things to do in Massachusetts
The states of New England include Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Each of them is unique, and it’s pretty easy to spend days or weeks there. Vermont has its syrup, Maine has its shoreline, New Hampshire has its White Mountains. Nevertheless, Massachusetts has a lot of history, delicious food, and a lot of places which will leave you breathless. In this article, you will find 14 of the best places and things to do in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts – Ressources & Recommendations
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The best way of getting to know Boston is walking the freedom trail. Begin at the Boston Common, the green lung of the city, and finish at the Bunker Hill Monument, where the first major battle of the American Revolution took place. You cannot miss the route, because a red brick line is embedded on the sidewalks around the city and lead to 16 major historical sites and marked this 2.5-mile route. You will find some handouts with all the essential information at the tourist info or the central station. Or you attend one of the walking tours and listen to the guide. With the right timing, you can watch the cannonball fired by the USS Constitution around sunset.
2. Cambridge, the university city
Just a short drive from Boston, you will find Cambridge, the home of two of the most famous elite universities. Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institue of Technology. If you like, you can take part in a walking tour of the university* area and experience the campus life, or you explore Harvard and Cambridge by yourself.
When I visited, I had mixed feelings. On the one side, I was impressed that I walked indeed across the campus of such an elite university; on the other hand, I also was a bit disappointed. I still cannot describe exactly why, maybe, in my imagination, everything looked so much bigger. Sometimes, things seem to be shinier than they are in reality.
3. Cape Ann
It will be a 45 minutes car ride from Boston to Gloucester, which I would recommend as a home base for the next two or three days. From here, you can go to Rockport, Halibut State Park, Salem, and Gloucester itself.
The best hotel for your stay would be the Atlantis Oceanfront Inn* in Gloucester. Whenever I go back to that area, I definitely will stay there again. It has a beautiful ocean view from each room, it has the most beautiful sunrises I saw, and the rooms, the service, and the breakfast are extraordinary.
Start your day by watching some whales and other maritime animals with the 7 Seas Whale Watch at Gloucester. Just in case, prepare yourself with some medicine against seasickness. The sea can be very rough, and if your stomach is not used to it, you might get problems. You can also ask the crew in an “emergency.”
Afterward, explore Gloucester and visit Rockport. Shop around Bearskin Neck and enjoy Motif #1. Do not forget the beaches. Continue to Halibut State Park and take a walk alongside the old granite quarry and the shores.
Since 1626, when the first settlers arrived in Salem, many people come to visit and mostly wanted only one thing; Witches! As it is probably best known for the witchcraft trials in 1692, this colorful coastal city has more to offer like a rich maritime heritage, historic architecture, and a lot of stories from almost four centuries.
For a first overview, take a ride with the full narrated Salem Trolley Tour. In one hour, it brings you to all the essential attractions, and you can hop on and off whenever you want. Visit the Salem Witch Museum, the Old Burying Point, the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, or the Salem Pioneer Village.
The best time or better, most exceptional time to visit Salem is probably Halloween. The whole city goes crazy, and there are extra Halloween specials, as the show at the Gallows Hill Museum & Theater or the annual Hawthorne Hotel Halloween Party.
When I visited Salem, I missed Halloween about a few days, but the preparations for this day was already ongoing, and I could feel that it is a special time for the city and its people. Maybe it is an excellent reason to go back one time?
5. Lexington & Concord
If you cannot get enough of history, even if you already walked the freedom trail in Boston, Lexington and Concord is the place to be for you. About half an hour from Boston, you will find the birthplace of American Liberty! Take a tour to Concord and ride along the historic Battle Road and learn everything about the legacy of the events from April 19, 1775. Start at the Lexington Battle Green, where the outnumbered Lexington militia confronted the British army, and end up at the North Bridge, where colonial militiamen fired upon British Regulars.
Right between Boston and Cape Cod, you will find Plymouth, the place where it all began. The first settlers landed here at the iconic landmark, the Plymouth Rock, in 1620. The Pilgrims arrived by the Mayflower and established New England.
Today, you can experience history at the Plimouth Plantation*, a fully functioning village, and an open-air museum. Learn how the settlers lived in the old days. Costumed actors behave as in former times. They cook, eat, and feed the animals, everything as they did in the settlement time. Even the Mayflower II. a reproduction of the original Mayflower is usually on display.
7. Cape Cod
From Boston, you need a good hour by car, or you can make a Canal Cruise*.
Cape Cod has similar to Cape Ann a lot to offer. From visiting and strolling around Provincetown to hike the Cape Cod National Seashore. Enjoy the beautiful beaches with its massive dunes on the one hand side, and the Atlantic ocean on the other.
And once you get hungry, try the fried mussels which are available everywhere or eat at the Lobster Pot in Provincetown, which is a recommendation from a fellow traveler.
8. Martha´s Vineyard
From Cape Cod, Hyannis, in particular, take the ferry to Martha´s Vineyard, where a lot of the famous and rich spend their summer vacation. Discover the picturesque and beautiful gingerbread houses in Oak Bluffs, or the New England flair with the grey wooden buildings, white churches, and fences in Edgartown. Rent a bike and explore the island and enjoy the sunset while taking the last ferry of the day.
Another day trip to one of the nearby islands, Nantucket. A ferry to Nantucket is also available from Hyannis. Gay Point Lighthouse, the first and oldest one of the islands, welcomes you when you arrive at the port of Nantucket. When strolling the historic old town, it is obvious why the byname of Nantucket is “Little Grey Lady.” Most houses have grey wooden faces, and you will find cobbled stone streets, which is quite seldom in the USA. Similar to Martha´s Vineyard, you can rent a bike and explore the rest of the island. But be aware of the contrary winds and the up-, and downhills.
If you a fan of amusement parks, you are right at Springfield. Six Flags New England is located just a short drive outside of Springfield. Are you a shopping fan? No problem, either! Springfield is known for its massive shopping center and outlets. And, of course, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame awaits you, too.
11. Chesterfield Gorge State Forest
A bit more western than Springfield, nature enthusiasts will love the Chesterfield Gorge State Park. Hike alongside the gorge and enjoy rushing waters and scenic views. More activities, like hiking, cycling, skiing, fishing, hunting, and camping are possible. Everything you need when you want to be one with nature. Notably, while fall foliage, this must be a kind of magic.
12. The Berkshires
The Berkshire Hills expand from to the borders to Vermont in the North, New York in the West, and Connecticut in the South, and are the home of the highest mountain (1095 m) in Massachusetts; Mount Greylock. They include the valleys of the Green, Hoosic, and Housatonic rivers, and has sprinkling lakes and ponds.
No wonder that they are best known as a vacation destination with many outdoor activities leaves foliage viewing possibilities, a farm-to-table food scene, and flourishing arts institutions. The basis of the tourism industry in this area is mainly music, arts, and recreation. So if you want to relax for a few days in nature, this might be the right place for you.
And if you miss the big city, no worries! In less than three hours, you are back in Boston, New York City, or Albany.
13. Bash Bish Falls State Park
Do you like waterfalls? The Bash Bish Falls is the highest single-drop waterfall in Massachusetts. If you made it here, you are about two and a half-hour west from Boston and almost in the neighboring state New York. Hiking, picnicking, exploring the nearby Mt. Washington State Park, or visit the Taconic State Park by crossing the border to New York. It´s is a paradise for nature lovers.
14. Mohawk Trail
The Mohawk Trail is known as the first scenic road in New England which was first opened in 1914. It consists of 50,000 acres of state parks and forests and is a great vacation alternative. Notably, during the time of the “Indian Summer,” you will find breathtaking views and opportunities to watch the fall foliage.
The trail follows a historic Native American footpath that connected Connecticut and Hudson River Valleys. Today it is part of the U.S. 2, one of the oldest highways of the US and leads you to traditional churches and other architectural and natural wonders, like the Bridge of Flowers, or the Glacial Potholes in Shelburne Falls. In my opinion, the potholes are a bit more interesting than the Bridge of Flowers, but hey, I never was that close with flowers.
This is, of course, just a small list of things to do in Massachusetts, and this New England state has so many things to discover. From a wide range of history, from the first settlers to the birth of American Liberty. Forests in the West, and beaches and seashores in the South. Massachusetts is worth a visit year-round, but each season also has its unique personality. The change of colors of the leaves in fall, Christmas time in Boston, Halloween in Salem, and the beach, year-round at Cape Cod.
Have you been to Massachusetts? Have I forgotten anything to mention? Write to me below in the comment section and do not forget to log in to Dream and Wanderland and receive all new posts about the Indian Summer first before anyone else.