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Best Day Trips From Boston

After exploring Boston, it’s time to leave the city and experience all the region has to offer. Whether you enjoy theme parks, quaint seaside towns, or a city known for witches, there is a day trip from Boston that everyone will enjoy.

Several travel bloggers have offered their personal recommendations for day trips. They’ll share why it’s worth your time as well as how to get there. If you’d like to book a tour, there are also links to two reputable companies--Viator or Get Your Guide--for some of these destinations.

A street in Portland Maine
Portland Maine

Portland Maine

Shared by Empty Nesters Hit The Road

The number of things to do in Porltand Maine is endless.  This small and compact city offers visitors the chance to explore 400 years of history while also eating excellent food. In fact, Bon Appetit Magazine voted Portland the Best Restaurant City in the U.S. in 2018. This is a day trip from Boston that will not disappoint.

Like Boston, Portland offers a self-guided Freedom Trail, but with a different purpose. Here the trail follows the history of slavery and then abolition in the city. As a far North port city, Portland became a critical stop on the Underground Railroad which helped escaping slaves achieve their freedom in Canada. 

For anyone wanting to get out on the water, there are many options for boat cruises that explore the nearby islands. Or, learn how to catch lobsters on a Lucky Catch Cruise.

Finally, don’t leave this city without eating seafood, most notably lobster. From the more casual lobster roll to a full lobster meal, this is the ideal city to eat the red crustaceans.  

There are several options for transportation to Portland, Maine. For visitors with a car, the trip should take under two hours. A bus ride will also take less than two hours. Train service is available and the ride typically lasts 2 and a half hours.

Martha's Vineyard

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

Shared by The Daily Adventures of Me

I love the bustling city of Boston, but to experience the charming side of Massachusetts take a day trip to the uber-charming island of Martha’s Vineyard. The trip will take you around 3 hours (by car and ferry). If you don’t have a car, you can even catch a bus from Logan Airport to catch the ferry over. If you would rather, you can take  a short, inexpensive flight.

Once on the island, there are lovely towns with incredible food and shopping. Be sure to see the famous gingerbread cottages in Oak Bluffs. There is a bus that will take you around the whole island to enjoy beaches, farms, forests, hiking, kayaking and a history of the Kennedy family. One of my favorite spots is the historic fishing village of Menemsha.

Martha’s Vineyard is my favorite spot in Massachusetts, so be sure to visit. Read on for more ideas in 47 Fabulous Things to do in Martha's Vineyard.

Leave the driving up to someone else and book a tour to Martha's Vineyard!

Home of Jonathan Corwin House, a judge in the Salem Witch Trials
Home of Jonathan Corwin House, a judge in the Witch Trials

Salem, Massachusetts

Shared by Empty Nesters Hit The Road

The first thing that comes to mind during a visit to Salem is witches. During 1692 and 1693 more than 200 men and women were accused of witchcraft and 20 would be found guilty and executed. It was a dark time in American history. 

A day trip to Salem will definitely include the story of the witch trials, but it turns out this town has much more to offer. Salem was an important port city in the early days of the United States, and with that came tremendous wealth and influence in the fledgling country. As a result there are many museums, restored homes and historic sites to explore during a visit.

We opted to take a two hour walking tour of Salem which allowed us to learn about the town’s history starting with Native Americans of the area and concluding in the early 1800’s. As our guide walked us through the historic streets of town he recounted the tragic stories of the witch trials, shared the critical roles played by Salem’s citizens in the American Revolution and concluded with the city’s prominent abolitionists.

We opted to travel to Salem by train, which is just a 30 minute ride from Boston’s North Station. Other options include a boat ride to salem, or an organized tour that includes transportation and a guide.

Choose from a wide selection of Salem tours with Viator.

Ice castles fountain
Ice castles fountain

Ice Castles, North Woodstock, New Hampshire

Shared by Parenthood and Passports

Each winter, an empty field in the small town of North Woodstock, New Hampshire is transformed into a real-life winter wonderland. It’s called Ice Castles, and the frozen experience truly lives up to its name. The fairytale attraction looks like something straight out of Narnia. Made entirely from ice, the acre-sized interactive experience features ice slides, fountains, crawl spaces, tunnels, mazes, slot canyons, and frozen thrones. At night, LED lights embedded inside the ice illuminate the castles, changing from brilliant hues of blue and purple to vivid red, pink, and white, all in sync with music. You can also take a horse-drawn sleigh ride passed the ice castles and through the nearby woods.

Although Ice Castles is only open during January, February, and March, the frozen paradise is worth bundling up and making the short drive from Boston to see. The scenic 2-hour drive takes you through the White Mountains, and the charming town of Lincoln, New Hampshire. It is the perfect winter day trip for those looking to escape the city and experience something unique and magical. We spent about an hour exploring Ice Castles and going down the slides, which are great for both adults and kids. Afterwards, stop off in Lincoln for lunch or dinner. The cute mountain town has a cozy feel and is the perfect end to a great trip.

Nantucket, Massachusetts

Nantucket, Massachusetts

Nantucket island is a perfect day trip from Boston to get out of the city and experience island life. The charming island is full of natural beauty from long white beaches to thick lush green forest. The first thing that will meet you when you arrive with the ferry are the colonial houses scattered all around the island.

You can rent a bike to experience Nantucket. In the summer months, you can also take the local bus to, among other places Surfside and Siasconset. The latter holds one of the finest beaches at the island and if you walk along the little path above the beach you will get to Sankaty Head Lighthouse.

In downtown, there are several museums to explore, among them the Whaling Museum and the Nantucket Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum. There are also plenty of coffee shops, boutiques and restaurants to enjoy while you walk through the cobbled streets of downtown. If you opt for seeing other parts of the island, this is a great place to walk around when you wait for your return ferry in the evening.

To get the island you will need to take the bus from Boston to Hyannis early in the morning and then continue by ferry to Nantucket. There are several buses and ferries a day.

Providence, Rhode Island

Providence, Rhode Island

Shared by Everyday Wanderer

For many of us who live west of the Mississippi River, Rhode Island is an intriguing state. It’s the smallest in the Union. And, despite what its name suggests, it’s not an island. So when my daughter and I visited Massachusetts, we jumped at the chance to take a day trip from Boston to Providence. 

We traveled from Boston to Providence via train, another unique experience for Americans who live outside of New England. It was incredibly convenient and affordable to catch the 40 minute, less than $20 ride from the South Station Train Terminal that delivered us to the Providence Station. Centrally located in Rhode Island’s capital city, the Providence Station allows day trippers to easily visit a variety of places. 

We began our day in Providence with a visit to the Rhode Island State House. Constructed from white Georgia marble, the capitol has the fourth largest self-supported marble dome in the world. (St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is the largest in the world, so this building has impressive company!) 

Pro Tip:  While the Rhode Island State House is impressive at any time of day, don’t miss the opportunity to see it at night when more than 100 floodlights cast upon it cause it to seemingly glow.

Just down the hill from the state house, the Providence River winds through the city. We enjoyed exploring Waterplace Park and the Providence riverwalk. We were delighted to see the city setting up for WaterFire, an art installation along the riverwalk that takes place on specific dates between May and November. As we waited for night to fall and the pyres to be lit along the riverwalk, we enjoyed a meal al fresco, explored the Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design campuses, and browsed the vendor displays set up along the riverwalk for WaterFire.

We wrapped up our day trip with a train ride back to Providence, glad we took the time to explore a part of the intriguing state of Rhode Island while visiting Boston.

Plimouth Plantation
Plimouth Plantation

Plymouth, Massachusetts

Shared by Three Kids And A Car

If you mix a little bit of old with a little bit of new, you come up with Plymouth, MA, and its the perfect day trip from Boston. The star of the town is, of course, Plimoth Plantation, which is located slightly outside of the center of town. In this living history museum, there is a recreation of what the Plimoth Colony is believed to have looked like seven years after the Mayflower Pilgrims first landed in 1620, establishing one of the first settlements in the United States. Not only can visitors see what life is like here and talk to some of the Pilgrims, they can also watch demonstrations by some of the artisans. (Try the freshly baked bread!) The museum also includes a replica of Wampanoag settlement, where they discuss the life of the Wampanoag people and show how they made canoes and clothes, among other necessities. 

The Mayflower II, a full-size replica of the original Mayflower can be found at the harbor in downtown Plymouth along with a walk-through museum the gives a better understanding of life on the ship during the trans-Atlantic crossing (though it is currently anchored in Mystic, CT for repairs until 2020 to restore it in honor of the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim’s sailing). Finally, not too far from the ship and its museum, along the banks of Plymouth, the Plymouth Rock sits, famed for being the location that the first Pilgrims set foot in New England. 

Throughout the quaint downtown, there are a number of historical sites that are mixed in between some of the most delicious restaurants and ice cream shops. Here it’s possible to spend the day browsing local shops and taking in harbor views. The town is located along Cape Cod Bay, and with a history rich in shipbuilding and fishing, the active bay is spotted with vessels of all sizes, which means, fortunately, the seafood is fresh. The harbor waterfront is an easy and beautiful place to stroll with just enough activity to keep everyone entertained. It’s also the starting point of some great excursions like whale watching and deep sea fishing. 

With so much history to explore and so many hands on experiences to have, not to mention the natural beauty of the area, the one-hour trip to Plymouth is worth the short trip from Boston.

Six Flags New England

Six Flags New England

Shared by DQ Family Travel

Six Flags New England is a fantastic theme park in the Northeast corridor. It is located in Springfield, Massachusetts, just a few minutes from the Connecticut border. It makes for a great day trip from Boston as it is just under two hours by car. Six Flags offers plenty of thrill rides for adventure seekers and gentle rides for younger ones.

In the summer months guests can also enjoy the attached water park which is included with admission. Visiting during late September and October provide an extra element of fun as they transform the park with Halloween decorations. Their annual Fright Fest after dark is a unique way to celebrate the holiday and enjoy a good scare in one of the many scream zones located around the park.

After Thanksgiving, Six Flags New England is open on the weekends to celebrate the holiday season with Santa visits, hot chocolate, and fun activities for the kids. The theme park does close January through mid-April. Regardless of the season you choose to visit Six Flags New England is an ideal day trip from Boston.

Wollaston Beach at dusk, Quincy, Massachusetts

Quincy, Massachusetts

Shared by Pure Wander

Quincy, Massachusetts is a city just south of Boston. You can reach any of Qunicy’s four subway (T) stops on the red line, about a 25-minute ride out of Boston’s South Station.

Quincy is best known for its historic residents-- including a few presidents! John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams were both born here. John Hancock, a president of the Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence also resided here.

Besides visiting some of the colonial-style churches and historic homes that still stand today, Quincy has plenty of culture, food and shoreline to offer. Unofficially, Quincy is the sister Chinatown to Boston due to its large Asian population. You can enjoy fresh sushi at Fuji, Japanese hotpot at Shabu and Vietnamese pho at Pho Pasteur. There’s also tasty tea shops like Vivi Bubble Tea and street snack spots for a quick bite.

There are up and coming hotspots along Quincy’s main road, Hancock Street. Try Alba’s new rooftop bar or the casual taco place, Baja Box along Wollaston Beach. Here you can enjoy views of the Boston skyline across the water.

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