From the shores of Cape Cod to historic towns like Plymouth and Salem, Boston is the perfect city to be in for exciting and unique day trips. The city’s ideal central New England location allows you to visit landmarks, attractions and outdoor recreation areas within a short drive to indulge any type of traveler.
If you’re thinking of taking a day trip from Boston, check out this collection of some of the best nearby spots ranging from a quick 20 minute trips to somewhat longer scenic routes. Whether you’re planning a romantic road trip with your significant other or looking for a relaxing spot to turn your business trip in the city into a mini bizcation, you’re sure to find the perfect destination in the list below.
Here are 19 of the best day trips from Boston.
1. Salem, MA
Duration: 30 minutes
For a city filled with interesting attractions and fascinating history, Salem makes a great choice for a day trip from Boston. Notoriously known for the Salem Witch Trials, this stop offers unique activities and sites like the Bewitched After Dark walking tour and the Corwin House where you get to learn more about the city’s eerie past.
During your visit, check out the beautiful 18th and 19th century architecture that’s so well preserved throughout the city. As Salem was once home to very successful merchants of the China Trade, many historic houses are also open for visitors. While there, you can’t miss a visit to America’s oldest museum, the Peabody Essex Museum, which features incredible collections of American, Chinese, Native American and Maritime art among others.
2. Plymouth, MA
Duration: 50 minutes
Another great historic town, Plymouth is perfect for any history buff who also enjoys beautiful coastal vistas. As the first European settlement in New England, the town features plenty of interesting sites and landmarks to visit like Plimoth Plantation, Hobbamock’s Homesite, Plymouth Rock, Pilgrim Hall Museum and you can often catch a replica of the Mayflower II parked at the harbor.
3. New York City, NY
Duration: 4 hours
If you don’t mind the drive, you can definitely check off a few landmarks or notable spots on your NYC bucket list. If you’ve never been, the top tourist attractions like Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square and the Empire State Building will keep you busy for the entire day. If you visit often, plan a trip to a cool or quirky museum like the New York Transit Museum or the Mmuseumm in Chinatown to spend your day.
Don’t forget to reserve a table at one of the city’s many delicious restaurants –– whether it’s a fancy Michellin Star restaurant or a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint, you’re bound to have a great culinary experience during your visit.
4. Martha’s Vineyard, MA
Duration: 2.5 hours
Although not entirely accessible by car, Martha’s Vineyard is a charming island to visit for a day when you simply want to relax. Take a stroll down the white sandy beaches, picturesque harbor towns or gardens. If you’re travelling with the kiddos, you can’t miss a ride on the island’s famous Flying Horses Carousel.
Martha’s Vineyard also offers serene cliff views, unique lighthouses and quite a few wildlife areas to help you decompress from your busy city life.
5. Cape Cod, MA
Duration: 1.5 hours
If you want to do some village-hopping to check out colorful art galleries and small yet interesting museums like the Sandwich Glass Museum, all while enjoying the ocean breeze, Cape Cod should be your next destination. This 40 mile long coastline also offers plenty of outdoor recreational activities like biking, hiking and fishing.
During your trip, learn a bit about Cape Cod’s history by taking a short cruise or boat tour along its coast. They offer special rates for kids and plenty of options including family-friendly cruises with live music or a 21+ music and cocktails tour.
6. Good Harbor Beach, MA
Duration: 50 minutes
Another great day trip for fantastic views of the Atlantic coastline, Good Harbor Beach is a good spot to enjoy a day at the beach. Be sure to arrive early as parking gets full around midday. Spend your day laying on the sand, boogie boarding or walking through the city of Gloucester.
Some notable landmarks and activities to add to your list include the Hammond Castle Museum, Stage Fort Park, Cape Ann Museum and a whale watching boat tour.
7. Glendale Falls, MA
Duration: 2.5 hours
Fully reconnect with nature by taking a trip to Glendale Falls. Walk through the rocky trail and follow one of Massachusetts’ longest and highest waterfalls as it flows down to the Westfield River. In case you’re not much of a hiker, the parking lot is quite close to the fall but many also choose to hike to the bottom to see the falls from different angles.
During the slightly longer two-hour drive, try some car yoga poses to help free your mind of clutter and reset it to a peaceful, vacation mode.
8. Castle Island Park, MA
Duration: 15 minutes
Although no longer an island, Castle Island Park is a quick 15 minute drive from the city and is home to Fort Independence. This granite fort now turned state park, offers tours and fires occasional salutes.
The grounds also have plenty of walking and biking trails and after your visit, you can grab food at a nearby cafe, like Sullivan’s Castle Island or a restaurant in the south of the city.
9. Old Orchard Beach, ME
Duration: 1.6 hours
This old-time beach town is a great destination to visit during the hot summer months. When the tide is low, visitors can really enjoy the the full seven mile white sand stretch or take in the views at the boardwalk. The town also counts with plenty of shops, bars and an amusement park making it a great trip for solo travelers, couples and families alike.
10. Crane Estate, Ipswich, MA
Duration: 45 minutes
Visit the stunning grounds of the 2,100-acre Crane Estate. The former summer home of Mr. and Mrs. Crane, Jr., Castle Hill includes a 59-room Stuart-style mansion designed by world-renowned architect David Adler, a sunken garden, a rose garden and 21 outbuildings overlooking Ipswich Bay.
The estate is now open to the public and offers both self-guided and guided tours where you’ll learn more about the history of this opulent mansion and maybe even catch some wildlife wandering about the grounds including deer, turkeys and foxes.
11. Old Sturbridge Village, MA
Duration: 1 hour
Take a look at what life was like in 1800’s New England when you pay a visit to Old Sturbridge Village. This museum houses over 40 restored buildings from the late 1700’s to early 1800’s including homes, shops and farmhouses that are sure to make an unforgettable trip. For just a short, one-hour drive, you’ll be able to tour the houses, the village store, a blacksmith’s shop and watch interpreters tend to their gardens in the largest living museum in New England.
12. Portsmouth, NH
Duration: 1 hour
Another beautiful, well-known coastal city you can add to your list is Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It’s well known for its collection of 17th and 18th century style homes and other historic attractions including forts, gardens and parks.
The city is also perfect for couples as it’s home to several wineries, high-end restaurants, shops and a vibrant nightlife. During your visit, don’t forget to stop by the Strawbery Banke Museum for an interactive tour of nearly 300 years of American history.
13. Newport, RI
Duration: 1.3 hours
Visit the extravagant summer homes of some of New York’s wealthiest of the early 20th century in Newport, Rhode Island. Many of these homes are open for visitors including The Breakers and the Marble House which were the summer homes of Cornelius Vanderbilt II and William K. Vanderbilt, respectively. When visiting these mansions, we recommend sticking to a maximum of two or three as walking through these palatial homes can take some time.
This small 11-mile square city is also home to three National Historic Landmark Districts, a bustling seaport and some excellent golf courses making it a great stop for anyone.
14. The Butterfly Place, Westford, MA
Duration: 40 minutes
For nature lovers, a quick 40 minute drive to Westford will get you to this beautiful conservatory and it’s colorful creatures. The Butterfly Place is an indoor living environment home to butterflies, birds, koi fish, gardens and plenty of walking paths to make your trip a one-of-kind experience.
Keep in mind that the conservatory is kept at 80 to 85 degrees to create a pleasant environment for the butterflies so be sure to dress appropriately. After your visit, there are plenty of places nearby to grab coffee or lunch.
15. Rockport, MA
Duration: 45 minutes
For a small town feel, Rockport on Cape Ann is just a short drive away. With only 7,000 residents, this classic fishing town is perfect if you like the simple things in life. Make this your stop for fresh seafood and locally run business including handcrafted jewelry and craft shops. As Rockport is home to many artists, you’ll find yourself enthralled by the town’s more than 30 art galleries.
16. Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, MA
As most whale watching tours near Boston head out to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, it was a must on our list. The sanctuary is one of the world’s premier whale watching destinations to get a glimpse of the majestic humpback whale and observe their behavior. During your boat tour, there’s also opportunities to dive, birdwatch and even check out nearby shipwrecks.
Departures sites for these tours typically head out from Cape Cod, South Shore and North Shore, including Cape Ann.
17. Provincetown, MA
Duration: 2 hours
A bit longer than most of the trips on this list but a fun stop nonetheless, Provincetown is perfect for those who enjoy a more free-spirited vibe. Also known as P-town, this seaside town has been a favorite amongst artists, musicians and the LGBTQ+ community.
With dozens of nightclubs, cabarets, art galleries, restaurants and shops on Commercial Street, you’ll have no shortage of things to do during your trip. Or if you’d like, simply spend your day taking the sun in by the beach.
18. Concord, MA
Duration: 25 minutes
Concord is a charming little town located just 25 minutes northwest of Boston with interesting historic sites and calming outdoor recreation. For the literary enthusiast, the town features the home of American novelist, Louisa May Alcott. It’s also the site of an important battle of the Revolutionary War where you can catch reenactments in April to celebrate Patriot’s Day.
Usually people like to visit during the fall to catch the vivid foliage that covers the town. For an outdoorsy adventure, there’s also many areas for hiking, swimming and canoeing around Walden Pond.
19. Wompatuck State Park, MA
Duration: 25 minutes
For excellent biking trails, picnic areas and campsites, a quick 25 minute drive to Wompatuck State Park will make for an easy, budget-friendly day trip. With dirt and paved trails and a pond for fishing, the park is great to bring your family or dogs along.
If you’re bringing the kids, make your excursion even more exciting with an outdoor scavenger hunt and a fun animal tracks printable.
Once you’ve chosen your next trip from Boston, you’re ready to book a rental car and head out to explore your next destination. Luckily, all surrounding areas of the city are great to visit any time of year, so whether you’d like to spend some time outdoors or love cultural and historic tours, these locations can cater to any of your interests.