25 Best Things to Do in Massachusetts

As one of the original 13 colonies, it is not hard to figure out why the state of Massachusetts has so much history to offer visitors. Important battles and political rallies have taken place in the state during its history and evidence of these remains today in National Historic Parks and monuments.

The state is not stuck in the past however and Boston is a pioneering city with trendy and modern shopping, gastronomy and art on offer. The great outdoors is also a reason to visit the state with varied terrain of beaches, farmland and forests to explore. Here are the best things to do in Massachusetts:

1. The Freedom Trail

Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston

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Faneuil Hall Marketplace

This winding three-mile trail in Boston is home to some of the most important historical sights in the United States.

Traversing the old colonial streets, the trail takes in 16 iconic monuments along the way including graveyards and the well-known Faneuil Hall, also known as “The Cradle of Liberty”, which was where abolitionists and revolutionaries gathered in the past.

The trail is easy to stick and is marked by red bricks and large medallions in the ground leading all the way from Boston Common to the Navy Yard in Charlestown.

2. Cape Cod

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

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Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Massachusetts meets the Atlantic at Cape Cod and offers around 500 miles of beautiful white sandy beaches.

The beaches can get busy in the summer months but there are always quieter spots available for those willing to explore a little.

The Cape Cod coast is protected by the Cape Cod National Seashore, which ensures that the coast here has remained largely unchanged since the early 19th Century.

The Visitors Centres nearby in Provincetown or Salt Pond offer all the information needed for a happy visit.

3. Minute Man National Historic Park

Minute Man National Historic Park

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Minute Man National Historic Park

The Minute Man National Historic Park marks the route marched by British and in turn initiated the American Revolution.

Other points of interest in the park are Concord’s North Bridge which was the site for battle between the Colonies and British and the Visitor Centre which is essentially a museum showing various objects and artifacts from the areas abundant history.

4. Battle Green

Battle Green, Lexington

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Battle Green, Lexington

Battle Green in Lexington, also known as Lexington Green, is believed to be where the first shots of the American Revolution were fired in 1775.

Re-enactments of the belt are held here once a year on the anniversary of the event.

Also found here is a Minuteman statue which immortalizes the words of Captain Parker before the battle “if they mean to have war, let it begin here”.

5. Historic Houses of Salem

Historic House Salem

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Historic House, Salem

There are many historic homes in Massachusetts and the New England area but Salem offers a variety of homes and insight into history and culture, which is hard to match.

The name Salem is widely associated with witch trails and the house belonging to Jonathan Corwin, Judge at the witchcraft trails, can be found here.

The area was also once a thriving China trade port and the Peabody Essex Museum provides an in depth look at this trade as well as housing an impressive 18th Century Chinese building from Huizhou.

6. Plimoth Plantation

Plimoth Plantation

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Plimoth Plantation

Plimoth Plantation is a living museum that aims to explore the lives of the Colonial Americans and there daily lives in what was the first New England settlement by Pilgrims in 1620.

The actors in the museum are costumed accordingly and never step out of character whilst undergoing a series of 17th Century tasks including building, gardening and military exercises.

The museum also explores the lives of Native Americans in the area at the time through the Hobbamock Homesite exhibit.

7. Faneuil Hall

Faneuil Hall Marketplace

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Faneuil Hall Marketplace

Although briefly mentioned as being part of the Freedom Trail, the Faneuil Hall is a must visit spot and deserves its own place on this list.

The hall was built in 1740 and was home to a market and was used as a meeting point.

Over the years it has been the site of a number of revolutionary speeches including protests over taxes in the colonies and anti-slavery meetings.

On the top floor of the building the Ancient and Honourable Artillery Museum which explores military history via weapons, armor and other exhibits.

The building also still serves its original purpose with a lively market on its ground floor, which is well worth exploring.

8. Stellwagen Bank National Marine Park

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

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Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

The Stellwagen Bank is ranked as one of the best whale-watching spots in the whole world.

It has an extremely productive and diverse environment, which encourages a wide mix of marine wildlife.

Around 50 recognized humpbacks return each summer routinely and, as well as whales, there is also a chance to spot other marine animals including dolphins and seals.

There are plenty of whale spotting tours available in the area departing from Gloucester or Provincetown.

9. Old Sturbridge Village

Old Sturbridge Village

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Old Sturbridge Village

Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge is another chance to witness what life was like in the past centuries in New England.

The Old Sturbridge Village covers the early 19th Century and includes homes, mills, farms and shops from the time period.

As with Pilmoth, the costumed actors and actresses at the museum are convincing and entertaining as they undergo routine life from the 1800s.

10. Tanglewood

Tanglewood, Lenox

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Tanglewood, Lenox

Tanglewood is a must visit destination for music lovers, especially in the summer months.

Found in Lenox, Tanglewood’s various venues attract a wide variety of musicians in the summer months and range from symphony orchestras to soloist performances and from world-class musicians to student groups.

Tanglewood is also home to a number of festivals and events throughout the year.

11. Martha’s Vineyard

Martha’s Vineyard

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Martha’s Vineyard

If you need some rest and relaxation whilst in Massachusetts, Martha’s Vineyard is the place to visit.

Simply board a ferry from New Bedford and explore the six towns and beautiful beaches of The Vineyard.

There are a number of farms on the island which are happy to sell their fresh produce to tourists and many outdoor activities can be undertaken on here including sailing and kayaking.

12. Norman Rockwell Museum

The Norman Rockwell Museum

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The Norman Rockwell Museum

The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge pays tribute to one of the most well-known and loved artists from the United States.

The museum houses the largest collection of Rockwell’s work in the world and is a great chance to see art focusing on life in the United States and the issues facing ordinary people such as poverty and civil rights.

If the museum leaves you craving more knowledge of American art, the Berkshire area has also attracted a number of other artists over the years and some of their homes and studios can be explored in the area.

13. Historic Deerfield

Deerfield, Massachusetts

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Deerfield, Massachusetts

The remarkably preserved homes of Deerfield tell the story of its history in the Federal and Colonial periods.

There are 14 historic homes here and several galleries and museums housing over 27,000 artifacts from the area, some dating as far back as the early 17th Century.

The Helen Geier Textile Gallery is a great place to see what early settlers wore and has an impressive collection.

There are also demonstrations of crafts and cookery in the area throughout the year.

14. Boston Common

Boston Common, Massachussetts

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Boston Common

Boston Common is the oldest park in the United States and marks the beginning of the aforementioned Freedom Trail.

It can be found at the epicenter of the city of Boston. The park is home to green spaces as well as a historical burying ground and various other monuments.

Ice-skating is available here in the winter months but spring is a particularly beautiful time to do nothing but enjoy the park itself.

The public garden that connects with the park is the oldest botanical garden in the States.

15. Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill, Boston

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Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill is a stunning little neighborhood in Boston located very close to the city center.

Throughout the past, the neighborhood has been home to the powerful families in Boston.

The houses found in Beacon Hill are a mix of architectural styles ranging from Greek revival to Federal American.

The Nichols museum here shows how the residents of this area lived with its collections of furnishings and art pieces from the era.

16. Harvard

Harvard Yard

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Harvard Yard, Harvard University

Harvard University in Cambridge has an impressive reputation around the world for its academic research and study facilities.

It is the oldest University in America and can be toured for free while guided by a current student of the university.

There is also an insightful guide on the website which can be downloaded and used for self guided tours of the campus.

The Harvard Square is a great place to experience student life with its many shops, ice cream vendors and bookshops.

Also on the Harvard campus are a number of top class museums.

17. Copley Square

Copley Square, Boston

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Copley Square

Copley Square, in Back Bay, is home to the striking Trinity Church: a building designed in a Romanesque architectural style by Henry Richardson.

The church is undeniably impressive from the outside but the many murals and other decorative features inside the building make it well worth admiring its interior.

Also in Copley Square is Boston Public Library, which has been around since 1848. As with the Trinity Church, the interior and exterior of the Boston Public Library are both equally worth seeing.

18. Fenway Park

Fenway Park, Boston

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Fenway Park

Fenway Park is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic sports grounds in the United States. It is home to the Boston Red Sox and was built in 1912.

Fenway Park still retains much of its charm from its early days with the old-fashioned scoreboard and (relatively) small stadium capacity, which makes tickets very hard to come by.

A tour of the stadium is highly recommended even for none sports fans.

19. Boston Museum of Fine Arts

Boston Museum of Fine Arts

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Boston Museum Of Fine Arts

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has a reputation of being one of the top fine art museums in the United States.

It has a vast and impressive collection ranging from ancient Egyptian pieces to Impressionist works.

The new American Wing houses a huge collection of art from the United States and includes everything from paintings to furniture.

20. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

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Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Whilst we are on the subject of impressive art collections, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum certainly deserves a mention.

Within the walls of this unusual building styled on a Venetian Palace, is a collection of over 2500 pieces of art taking the form of paintings, decorative objects, sculptures and even books.

The collection was selected Mrs Gardner herself, who was known for being slightly eccentric but also an expert in the field of art.

21. Boston Harbor

Boston Harbor

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Boston Harbor

Boston Harbor has had a long history and can trace its roots back to the Colonial period when it was used as a shipping port.

During the 20th Century, a large amount of renovation took place at the harbor and the area is well worth a visit when in Massachusetts.

The interactive walkway HarborWalk takes in and connects the many parks, beaches and cafes along the waterfront.

The most notable section of the walk stretches from South Boston to Charlestown and includes Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park.

22. New England Aquarium

New England Aquarium, Boston

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New England Aquarium

Another attraction on the Boston waterfront is the popular New England Aquarium.

The Aquarium is home to over 20,000 marine animals from 550 different species.

The impressive Caribbean reef hosts sharks and turtles while smaller creatures such as small crabs can be touched in the “Edge of the Sea” tank.

Whale watching tours are also available from the aquarium and there is an on site Imax theatre showing short films on the natural world.

23. Boston Museum of Science

Boston Museum of Science

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Boston Museum Of Science

As with many great science museums, the Museum of Science in Boston is hands on in its approach to teaching about science.

The museum explores all areas of science and has over 700 permanent exhibitions.

Notable features in the museum are the Dakota fossil, which is around 65 million years old, the butterfly garden and the planetarium with its fascinating daily shows.

Despite its hands on approach, the museum is not just for kids and is a great day out for all ages.

24. John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

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John F Kennedy Presidential Library And Museum

This museum in Boston is the official memorial of John F Kennedy and was opened in 1979.

There are a large number of photos, exhibits and artifacts from JFK’s life here as well as three theaters.

The museum covers both JFK’s personal family life and his political campaigns.

25. Boston Children’s Museum

Boston Children’s Museum

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Boston Children’s Museum

Three floors of entertaining exhibits can be found at the Boston Children’s Museum, which is aimed at kids up to the age of ten.

The fun exhibits on offer include exploring a traditional Japanese home and a room solely dedicated to different ways of making bubbles.

Where to stay: Best Hotels in Massachusetts (MA)
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List of Image Sources

25 Best Things to Do in Massachusetts:

Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston

  • Faneuil Hall Marketplace: Diego Grandi / shutterstock
  • Cape Cod, Massachusetts: Tono Balaguer / shutterstock
  • Minute Man National Historic Park: Emma Whitmore / shutterstock
  • Battle Green, Lexington: James Morgan / shutterstock
  • Historic House, Salem: Nature Lovin' Geek / shutterstock
  • Plimoth Plantation: Rolf_52 / shutterstock
  • Faneuil Hall Marketplace: Tupungato / shutterstock
  • Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary: Ceri Breeze / shutterstock
  • Old Sturbridge Village: Jeff Schultes / shutterstock
  • Tanglewood, Lenox: T photography / shutterstock
  • Martha’s Vineyard: Mark Martins / shutterstock
  • The Norman Rockwell Museum: jejim / shutterstock
  • Deerfield, Massachusetts: Jeffrey M. Frank / shutterstock
  • Boston Common: RomanSlavik.com / shutterstock
  • Beacon Hill: Albert Pego / shutterstock
  • Harvard Yard, Harvard University: Jannis Tobias Werner / shutterstock
  • Copley Square: CO Leong / shutterstock
  • Fenway Park: Joseph Sohm / shutterstock
  • Boston Museum Of Fine Arts: Felix Lipov / shutterstock
  • Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: ttttaiiii / shutterstock
  • Boston Harbor: f11photo / shutterstock
  • New England Aquarium: CL-Medien / shutterstock
  • Boston Museum Of Science: Roman Babakin / shutterstock
  • John F Kennedy Presidential Library And Museum: Marcio Jose Bastos Silva / shutterstock
  • Boston Children’s Museum: f11photo / shutterstock