19 Awesome Attractions in Massachusetts

Adina Keeling Avatar
Boston harbor at sunset, a fun thing to do in Massachusetts
You can camp near the city on the Boston Harbor Islands. Photo credit: Pixabay

Known for its stunning shoreline, prestigious universities and bustling New England cities, Massachusetts draws millions of visitors each year with its diverse tourist attractions. The urban hub of Boston is sprinkled with cozy cafes, beautiful places, delicious restaurants and world-renowned museums. The picturesque islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard offer a relaxing natural getaway.

Also known as the Bay State, Massachusetts is rich in historic buildings, sights and museums. First inhabited by Native Americans, the state became one of the original 13 colonies and saw significant battles of the Revolutionary War. Many of the state’s parks and historic sites still preserve these stories, inviting visitors to experience history in interactive and immersive ways.

With endless opportunities for sightseeing and fun things to do — from the state house in Springfield to waterfalls in the Berkshires to the stately Harvard University in Cambridge — narrowing down a Massachusetts to-do list can be tricky.

Start with our list of the must-see attractions in Massachusetts.

Revolutionary war costumed guide leads tourists on a Freedom Trail tour in Boston, a fun thing to do in Massachusetts
A costumed guide leads the way on a Freedom Trail tour in Boston. Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

1. Walk the Freedom Trail, Boston

Coming in at number one is the Freedom Trail. This 2.5-mile long path through Boston connects 16 historically significant sites that highlight the American Revolutionary War. Museums, churches, parks and meeting houses line the trail, which traces more than 250 years of history and attracts more than 4 million visitors every year.

Popular sites include the Old North Church, Faneuil Hall, Bunker Hill Monument and Boston Commons. The path also includes the Paul Revere House and the USS Constitution (AKA “Old Ironsides”), the world’s oldest warship still afloat.

There are a number of ways to experience the trail. Choose from a selection of guided walking tour, some of them led by 18th-century costumed guides. Tours are also offered in a variety of different themes, ranging from African-American Patriots to Revolutionary Women to Pirates & Patriots. To see the trail at night, book the Lantern tour or the Private Historic Pub Crawl.

SheBuysTravel Tip: If you’re exploring the Freedom Trail with kids, try this scavenger hunt to keep them interested.

2. Shop and Discover History at Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston

Faneuil Hall Marketplace is a popular stop along the Freedom Trail. In the heart of Boston, this site features a cobblestone promenade and includes four historic buildings: Quincy Market, North Market, South Market and Faneuil Hall. The first three sites collectively form a large marketplace packed with more than 100 vendors, restaurants and pubs. In the warmer months, this popular shopping destination also attracts street performers and entertainers.

Located adjacent to the marketplace, Faneuil Hall was a meeting room that saw significant discussion and debate about the Boston Massacre, the “tea crisis” and the American Revolution. More than 250 years old, the space earned the title the “Cradle of Liberty” for these discussions. Take a free tour to learn more about the hall and the history made there.

3. Visit the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

This Boston art museum houses nearly 500,000 works, making it one of the largest art museums in the world. The museum hosts rotating and permanent exhibits that display paintings, artifacts, photographs, textiles and jewelry from all over the world and all throughout history.

With three different dining options, two shops and a packed program calendar, there’s lots to do in the museum in addition to viewing the exhibits. The museum hosts live music and art classes for all ages.

SheBuysTravel Tip: If you’re visiting Boston with kids, check out one of these kid-friendly Boston museums.

People sunbathing on a bay beach in Cape Cod Massachusettts
The Cape’s got strong waves on the ocean side and calm waters on the bay. Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

4. Relax at Cape Cod National Seashore

Cape Cod National Seashore spans 40 miles of stunning seashore and is perfect for travelers seeking a relaxing beach vacation. Some of the area’s most popular beaches include Nauset Beach, Marconi Beach and Herring Cove beach.

In addition to swimming beaches, the area is home to marshes, dunes, ponds and lots of wildlife. Visitors can explore one of the many hiking trails or go biking, picnicking, kayaking or boating. If you don’t know where to start, head to the Salt Pond Visitor Center to learn about Cape Cod and its many attractions.

Read More: Where to stay in Cape Cod, where to eat in Cape Cod and the best things to do in Woods Hole.

Boston swan boat, a must-do in Massachusetts
A swan boat ride is an iconic Boston activity. Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

5. Explore the Boston Public Garden

Established in 1837, the Boston Public Garden is the oldest botanical garden in the US, and an excellent place to spend an afternoon. This Victorian garden features beautiful floral displays, water fountains, a 4-acre lagoon and several iconic sculptures, including a George Washington statue.

Stroll through the 24-acre garden, admire the beautiful scenery and have a picnic in the park. In the summer months, ride in one of the lagoon’s swan boats.

Read More: Want Decades of Fun? Check Out the Berkshires in Massachusetts

Interior of Fenway Park in Boston
Fenway Park is one of the classic American baseball stadiums and a must-visit while in Boston. Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

6. Cheer on the Red Sox at Fenway Park, Boston

Home to the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park is one of the oldest ballparks in Major League Baseball and one of the best things to see in Boston. Sports fans will love cheering on the Red Sox in this historic ballpark.

The restaurants and pubs just outside the stadium are a great place to grab a beer or a bite to eat before the game. Plan your next visit and book game tickets here.

7. See Salem’s Witch Trial Attractions

The 1692 Salem Witch Trials, which led to the deaths of 25 people accused of witchcraft, are a haunting tale of hysteria, fear and power. This infamous historical event continues to draw visitors to Salem, MA every year.

Dive into the city’s dark history and visit the Salem Witch Museum. This museum uses presentations and stage sets to transport visitors to the 1692 trials. Other Salem attractions include the Witch House, which belonged to one of the trials judges, and the Salem Historic Cemeteries, where Giles Corey was pressed to death when he refused to confess to witchcraft.

8. Visit the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem

There’s more to Salem than its witchy attractions, namely the Peabody Essex Museum. This world-renowned art museum features art from the 1700s onwards. In addition to paintings, the exhibits display textiles, sculptures and photography from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.

In addition to visual art, the museum boasts interactive exhibits, beautiful gardens, historic architecture and a busy events calendar.

Boston Harbor skyline during the day
The view of downtown Boston from across the harbor in Charlestown. Photo credit: Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau

9. Spend a Day at the Boston Harbor

Take a break from Boston’s urban hustle-bustle by checking out the Boston Harbor, just minutes from the city’s center. Get to know the area by strolling down the 43-mile Harborwalk along the city’s shoreline. This path connects seven beaches with restaurants, museums, parks and shops.

The Boston Harbor can also be explored via the water. Hop on a ferry or rent your own boat to get out on the water. Ferries also travel to the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park, located just beyond the seashore. Made up of more than 34 distinct islands and peninsulas, this underrated park invites visitors to swim, hike or go camping.

SheBuysTravel Tip: The best beaches near Boston make for great day trips from the city.

10. Enjoy Island Life at Martha’s Vineyard

Speaking of islands, Martha’s Vineyard is an absolute must-see in Massachusetts. Located just south of Cape Cod, this island is a popular summer destination for many New Englanders. It is characterized by sandy beaches, lighthouses, farmer’s markets, cozy cottages, farmland and retro ice cream parlors.

Martha’s Vineyard has six distinct towns, complete with seafood restaurants, boutiques, resorts and golf courses. There are arcades, water sports, and lots of outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing and boating. The island is also known for attracting celebrities, so keep your eyes peeled for famous people!

11. Relax at Nantucket

If Martha’s Vineyard is a bit too mainstream for your taste, consider the even tinier and more remote island Nantucket. Also off the coast of Cape Cod, this island is home to several resorts, boutique hotels and rental homes.

Nantucket is lined with pristine beaches, the most popular being Jetties Beach. When you’re not sunbathing, visit one of the island’s three lighthouses or head downtown to windowshop or grab a bite to eat at local restaurants or sweet shops. To learn about the island’s long history in the whaling industry, check out the Nantucket Whaling Museum.

12. Experience the 17th century at the Plimoth Patuxet Museums

History lovers will adore the Plimoth Patuxet Museums, formerly Plimoth Plantation. This collection of living history museums in Plymouth tell the story of the indigenous people and the settlers who occupied the land in the 17th century. The museums are made up of several different exhibits, including the Plimoth Patuxet, the Mayflower II, the 17th century English village and the Plimoth Grist Mill.

Interact with costumed interpreters playing the role of pilgrims who inhabited Plymouth Colony. Kids can play with pilgrim toys and watch skilled artisans make pottery and herbal remedies. The museums are open seasonally from early April through late November.

13. Old Sturbridge Village

Old Sturbridge Village is another popular living museum that consists of a recreated rural New England town. With costumed historians and antique buildings, this museum takes visitors back to the early 19th century. The town covers more than 200 acres and has 40 historical buildings, where blacksmiths, potters, cabinetmakers and other craftsman are hard at work. The town has a school, a bank and three water-powered mills.

Visit the museum’s gardens and greet the pigs, cows and chickens that live in Old Sturbridge.

14. Visit the Norman Rockwell Museum

This Massachusetts art museum houses the largest collection of Norman Rockwell’s art, including paintings and sketches. The museum is located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where Rockwell spent the last 25 years of his life.

In addition to Rockwell’s art, the museum has a Norman Rockwell archive that displays photos, letters and other documents that belonged to the artist. In both traveling and permanent exhibits, the museum also highlights works by other artists, particularly American illustrators.

Ships at the Boston Tea Party Museum
The ships at the Boston Tea Party Museum. Photo credit: Kyle Klein

15. Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

This floating museum takes visitors back to 1773 when patriots dumped 342 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor. This historic event paved the way for the American Revolution, and is the focal point of this interactive museum.

The museum is complete with a live reenactment of the famous event. With live actors, historic artifacts and recreated 18th century sailing-vessels, visitors are transported to 1773 and will even get a chance to take part in the event that changed American history.

16. Visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

This Boston art museum is modeled after a beautiful Venetian palazzo and exhibits more than 2,500 art pieces primarily from Europe, Asia and American. The art was once the private collection of socialite and art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner, who opened the museum in 1903.

The museum includes works by Rembrandt, Michelangelo and Degas, among other famous artists. To rest while still enjoying the museum’s ambience, stop by at the Café G for a glass of wine or a bite to eat.

17. Explore the House of the Seven Gables

Located in Salem, the House of the Seven Gables is a National Historic Landmark District and the setting of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of the same name. It was built in 1668 and was Hawthorne’s birthplace.

Also known as the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, the restored home now operates as a museum. Tickets include a guided tour.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Stay in one of these Salem hotels to extend the history, mystery and fun.

18. Visit the New England Aquarium

This popular aquarium in Boston attracts more than 1.3 million visitors each year and is a popular attraction for all ages. Thousands of animals, including penguins, seals, sea lions, sting rays and turtles live in the aquarium. The Simons Theatre, another feature of the aquarium, plays four different movies every day on a six-story-high screen.

The museum also partners with Boston Harbor City Cruises to offer whale watching tours. These tours take visitors to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary where they are sure to see some whale activity.

19. Minute Man National Historical Park

The Minute Man National Historical Park preserves the site of the first battle in the American Revolution. This 970-acre park is located in parts of Lexington, Lincoln and Concord. Hike the 5-mile Battle Road Trail to follow much of the original trail soldiers traversed in 1775. Along the way, check out the Hartwell Tavern, a restored 18th century home open to visitors.

Before exploring the park, view the multimedia theater program inside the Minute Man Visitor Center to learn more about the historic battle. The center also has a bookstore and an exhibit.

Adina Keeling is a freelance travel writer from San Diego, CA. She worked in local news for a year until her wanderlust drew her to Costa Rica, where she is now based while freelancing and traveling the world. She has lived in three different countries and traveled to 27. An avid solo traveler, Adina wants to empower other women to safely travel alone.
Read full bio

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *