Boston is a true gem of a city in the continental USA. Its residents are proud to call Boston home, and its visitors absolutely adore it. It offers history, culture, gastronomy, shopping, and everything in between. It is still worth a day trip from Boston to get a taste of the area’s splendor. If you are driving yourself, all of these trips are feasible in a day, however, if you are taking public transit, you may want to consider staying the night to get the full experience.
1. Salem, Massachusetts
The town of Salem was founded in 1626, making it one of the oldest in the country. The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 are the most famous part of Salem’s history. While Salem is most popular during its October Haunted Happenings festival, it’s a wonderful place to visit all year long. Visitors to Salem are often fascinated by its witches, but the city also features breathtaking architecture, world-class museums, and historical sites.
Request tickets to the Salem Witch Museum as soon as you arrive. There is usually a designated entry time for several hours later. Enjoy a brief film at the National Park Service Visitor Center before you explore the Salem Heritage Trail, an easy-to-follow self-guided tour of historic Salem. Be sure not to miss the House of the Seven Gables, the oldest house in New England, and the Witch House, the only remaining house from the infamous trials.
It is only about 40 minutes from Boston to Salem, which makes it the perfect day trip destination. Take the Newburyport-Rockport line from Boston’s North Station for the quickest commute. If you are visiting on a weekend, you can often find “all you can ride” tickets for $10. It’s a short drive, but you may have to contend with some traffic and difficult parking. Commutator trains stop a few blocks from downtown and run on a regular schedule, every hour.
2. Providence, Rhode Island
Rhode Island’s capital city, Providence, has a reputation for being highly underrated, as it is the smallest state in all of America. In spite of its small size, it is rich in culture, history, and gastronomy.
The RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) Museum is one of the best things to do in Providence. The school is one of the best in the country, and its museum showcases work by its students. A wide range of items are available here, from textiles to glass to paintings and jewelry. You can also explore the vintage shops and hip restaurants on the West End or stroll around the old colonial streets of the East Side. Make sure you stay for lunch and dinner so that you can sample some of the best restaurants Providence has to offer.
If you happen to be visiting on a Saturday during the summer months, you should check out Waterfire. During Waterfire, fires are set ablaze along the Providence River center. As you stroll around Waterplace Park, you’ll see street vendors selling their wares and performing. Gondola rides can also be arranged on the river if you want a really special experience.
Public transportation is plentiful and reliable in the city, but it is very pedestrian-friendly. If you are coming from Boston, you can take the train, which takes only 30 minutes and leaves you in the city center. It takes about 50 minutes to an hour to drive or take the bus. Parking garages and metered parking are available in downtown Providence for a fee. A ticket WILL be issued for not feeding the meter!
3. Rockport, Massachusetts
This quaint seaside village is just a short drive north of Boston, making it a great day trip. From a boat, you can admire the scenery from the water. Since it’s on Cape Ann’s tip, it makes a great place for boat rides. The village is surrounded by a beautiful tapestry of boats.
This site is known for its red fishing shack with buoys hung on one side called Motif Number 1. The name was given by an artist, and the view is definitely quintessential New England, attracting art lovers to the region.
Visit the nearby Front Beach or browse the shops in town. Small, independently owned shops offer a variety of items. A lot of amazing galleries can also be found around town since Rockport is an artist colony.
Roy Moore Lobster Co. offers the best lobster rolls or “lobstahs,” as the locals call them. You can also watch the waves crash at the end of the picturesque Bearskin Neck from the rock jetty. Make your way back into town for homemade ice cream at the cute little Ice Cream Store. It’s a quaint town that represents coastal New England so well. And when it comes to accommodation, you can find many great hotels in Rockport, which is a perfect place to call home when you visit Cape Ann.
4. Hampton Beach, New Hampshire
Hampton Beach is packed with beach-oriented activities, despite the fact that New Hampshire’s coastline is less than 20 miles long. All of the visitors are a mix of families on vacation and college students having a good time.
Hampton Beach boasts a long stretch of soft, white sand with waves that range from barely detectable to surfable. There is a wide boardwalk directly behind the beach that offers shops, restaurants, bars, arcades, and food trucks with plenty of options for everyone in your group.
Hampton Beach Casino is also a worthwhile stop. The casino offers a variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment options. You can play arcade games, take a water slide, play indoor miniature golf, and shop for souvenirs.
From Boston, driving is the best (and fastest) way to get to Hampton Beach. The trip takes about 60 minutes. If you cannot drive, you can take the train from North Station to Newburyport and a 20-minute taxi ride from Newburyport. Taking this route will take you about an hour and 30 minutes.
5. Concord & Lexington, Massachusetts
Lexington and Concord are perfect day trips from Boston for history buffs. From Boston, you can visit both of these towns in a day and gain a unique insight into the start of the American Revolution. As it happens, the battle of Lexington and Concord is where it all began, when the Minutemen fought courageously for American freedom from Britain.
Wilson Farm is a popular attraction in Lexington in addition to American historical sites. On the farm, you’ll find a whole range of prepared foods, cheeses, fresh fruits, and freshly baked confections. You may want to bring a backpack if you plan to picnic at Walden Pond, the famous sanctuary of Henry David Thoreau. Those who visit Walden Pond can take a dip or learn more about Henry David Thoreau’s home. It takes about an hour to walk around the pond.
Visit Lexington Green, the site of the first battle between Minutemen and Redcoats. Located in the heart of Lexington, this beautiful green is brimming with history. Spend some time wandering through the center, checking out shops and restaurants. The Minuteman Historical Park in Concord offers tours of battlefields and monuments, and you may catch a reenactment if you time it right.
You will only have to drive 20 minutes from Boston to make this day trip. It will take you about an hour and twenty minutes to get there via subway and bus.
6. Plimoth Plantations, Massachusetts
The Plimoth Plantation is another absolute hidden gem for anyone who loves the past. Wondering what the lives of the first pilgrims to America were like? Come see it first-hand at Plimoth Plantation. As you explore, learn, and experience, you will travel back in time to Massachusetts in the 17th century.
Besides the Mayflower replica, the open-air museum includes a small village, a working water-powered mill, and a replica of a Native American settlement. There are actors portraying people who lived during this period, live animals that would have been used, and farms that are in operation. Native American people are dressed in period clothing in the Wamponaug settlement instead of actors. They provide a fascinating look into the relationship between the pilgrims and the Native Americans.
March through November is when the museum is open. Taking a bus from Boston to Plymouth, then taking a short taxi ride to Plimoth Plantation from there (less than five minutes) is the easiest way to get there. It takes approximately one hour to complete the trip.
7. New Bedford, Massachusetts
The city of New Bedford is located on the coast of southern Massachusetts. Due to its ideal harbor location, it was the center of the fishing and whaling industries in the 19th century. In addition to being the world’s premier whaling port, New Bedford was once known as “the city that lit the world” due to its whale oil production, which was used in oil lamps.
There are many narrow cobblestone streets and alleyways, historical buildings, and fine dining restaurants on the waterfront. The Whaling Museum should not be missed when visiting New Bedford.
If you’re visiting New Bedford for a day trip from Boston, a bus is the best way to get there. There are roughly the same travel times as driving (about an hour and fifteen minutes), yet parking is not a concern.
8. Provincetown, Massachusetts
Provincetown is situated on the easternmost end of the Cape Cod peninsula, at the easternmost point of Massachusetts. With so many galleries and boutique shops, it boasts a thriving artist community. Provincetown, affectionately known as P-Town by the locals, is extremely tolerant and accepting, making it a leading LGBTQ holiday destination. Hit up a ‘tea party’ in the afternoon with a cocktail! It’s also a great idea to go to a drag show.
It is also a great family destination due to its remote location and peaceful environment. Sunbathing and playing in the surf are ideal activities on the white sand beaches. Race Point Beach is often listed as one of the best beaches in the nation. To be honest, I don’t enjoy swimming on the Cape due to the presence of sharks; however, each to their own.
Half the fun of P-Town is getting there from Boston. Getting to Provincetown is as simple as taking a ferry from the World Trade Center Pier. Take the earliest ferry there and the latest ferry back. Your arrival time will be 10:30 and your departure will be at 19:30. To avoid any surprises, check the schedule well in advance.
9. Portland, Maine
There are just about 100 miles between Boston and Portland, the largest city in Maine by population. Portland is a wonderful day trip from Boston, allowing you to fully experience the typical New England ambiance that is so sought after by travelers. A coastal city with a high concentration of shops, eateries, museums, art galleries, tours, and more, Portland is a lively coastal town. The small city has so much to offer that it’s easy to stay more than a day.
Apart from strolling around the harbor and admiring the views, some of Portland’s most popular attractions include the Museum of Art, the Observatory, Victoria Mansion, and the Old Port.
Taking the train from Boston to Portland takes two and a half hours, but driving takes under two hours. You can also take the bus, which is slightly cheaper but takes two hours and ten minutes.
10. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
On Cape Cod’s peninsula is Martha’s Vineyard, which is a relatively large island. In the past, it was a whaling center, like many other seaside communities along the east coast. In recent years, it has become a popular vacation spot for celebrities and the upper class.
Martha’s Vineyard is made up of six small towns, each offering a unique character and dining and lodging options. If you don’t have a car or want to ride a bicycle, there is a shuttle service that will take you between towns.
You can observe the sun setting over the water at Menemsha – one of the few locations on the east coast where you can do this – in addition to visiting the Gay Head cliffs at Aquinnah and Moshup Beach.
A day trip to Martha’s Vineyard from Boston is possible if you’re ambitious enough. It is a good idea to stay overnight, so you won’t be rushed and can immerse yourself in the relaxed ambiance of the island. This is an ideal destination for a weekend getaway. The ferry leaves from Woods Hole, not far from Boston. Drive time is one hour and fifteen minutes, ferry time is forty-five minutes. Woods Hole can be reached by bus in one hour and forty-five minutes.