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The 11 best things to do in Massachusetts

Branch out beyond Boston to check out these other historic and fun spots around the state


Massachusetts is known for its colonial history, New England charm, and its coastal getaways, but if you know where to look, there’s a whole lot more on offer to explore. Here you’ll find countless historic sites, nature spots and cultural landmarks for exploring. 

Of course, much of the action happens over in Boston (people flock to the city for Juneteenth, Boston Pride and the Harborfest), but don’t discount the rest of Massachusetts for your next trip. Tackle the Freedom Trail first, and then consult the rest of our list for a full itinerary on things to do in Massachusetts. 

📍 The best things to do in Boston
🍲 The best restaurants in Boston
🏘️ The best Airbnbs in Boston

At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines.

Best things to do in Massachusetts

1. Freedom Trail

This three-mile trail takes you through Boston, highlighting key sites in the history of the US. Boston is a very walkable city, and a great way to see the city while getting a history lesson is to follow the trail. You’ll start at Faneuil Hall, where revolutionaries and abolitionists gathered, through the atmospheric North End, past the Paul Revere House, the Old State House, crumbling gravesites, and through narrow city streets all the way to Charlestown, home of “Old Ironsides.”

2. Martha’s Vineyard

Massachusetts has several popular coastal getaways including Nantucket and Cape Cod, but the Vineyard is the place to be for summer relaxation. It does attract celebrities, but New England families have been coming here for generations. Take a ferry to this idyllic island community of six small towns. There are quaint old cottages, farmstands, gardens, miles of beaches, shopping, and exceptional dining.


3. Stellwagen Bank

Stellwagen Bank is one of the best spots for whale watching in the world. Each summer, around 50 individual humpback whales, identified by researchers, return to this hotbed of biological activity. Female whales bring their calves to teach them to hunt for food in the plentiful waters. Take a whale watching cruise to learn more about the whales and their habitat. You might spot seals, porpoise, and dolphins too. 

4. Old Sturbridge Village

To get a real feel for early American settlers, Old Sturbridge Village is a unique and immersive experience. Costumed actors convincingly go about their routines and demonstrate farming, blacksmithing, cooking, and general daily life throughout almost 60 reconstructed buildings on 200 acres. There’s a mill, shops, homes, and a working farm with livestock. Set aside your notions of a boring school field trip and go back in time to experience an important moment in our nation's history. 


5. Tanglewood

Come here for an open-air performance venue in Lenox, summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Along with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, opera, jazz, contemporary works, and even popular artists are on the roster at Tanglewood. It’s a must for music lovers, as the open-air, fan-shaped structure known as “the Shed” offers a unique environment for enjoying live music. The venue also hosts family events, and Saturday morning rehearsals are open to the public.

6. Woodman’s of Essex

While there are dozens of spots for notable seafood across the state, Woodman’s – family-run since 1914 – stands out for its top-notch seafood and impressive history (the family claims to have invented the fried clam more than 100 years ago). Beloved by locals and tourists alike for fried clams and fresh lobsters, it’s a summertime tradition to wait in line for a huge platter of fresh, deep-fried seafood with fries and onion rings. 


7. Salem

Sure, Salem can be touristy, and it puts its gruesome history out front and center, but the city is more than just witches. Salem, famous for its 1692 witch trials, features several historic districts and a wealth of different architectural styles, from post-medieval to Victorian. The Peabody Essex Museum houses the worlds largest collections of maritime art and Asian export art. Round out a visit with a stop at The Witch House (the only remaining structure with direct ties to the Witch Trials), a haunted walking tour, or perhaps a psychic reading. 

8. Norman Rockwell Museum

This is the largest collection of original Norman Rockwell art as well as a tribute to the beloved artist. The museum presents exhibits from contemporaries and other like-minded artists, and hosts many arts-related exhibits throughout the year. The 36-acre property is lovely to stroll, and guided tours are offered regularly. The surrounding Berkshires have attracted other artists, many of whom open their studios to the public. 


9. Montague Bookmill

This independent bookstore is housed in a converted 1842 gristmill, and you can get lost in the splendor of its rooms, jam-packed with used books and nooks to read them in. Large windows offer a view of the Sawmill River in the tiny town of Montague. The Bookmill hosts musical performances on a regular basis. To revive after a long reading session, stop in the cafe, then browse the art gallery. 

10. Minute Man National Historical Park

You’ll see more than just a battlefield when you tour this park. The visitor center hosts an award-winning presentation about the opening days of the war. A wooded trail takes you by key historic sites. Ranger programs feature stories, reenactments, and musket-firing demos. Be sure to visit The Wayside, a home where both Louisa May Alcott and Nathaniel Hawthorne lived. 


11. deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park

This 30-acre sculpture park and contemporary art museum in the leafy town of Lincoln displays painting, photography, and other media by contemporary artists. The surrounding natural beauty of the grounds of the deCordova enhance the enjoyment of the rotating display of modern and contemporary outdoor sculptures. A range of events and workshops are held throughout the year. Don’t miss unique happenings like “Art and Ales,” featuring beer tastings among the sculptures. 

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