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If you plan to visit Boston and its surrounding sights, you’re in luck as there are a wealth of unforgettable day trips that can be enjoyed from this beautiful historic city. After seeing the city’s wealth of historic attractions, venture further out to see some of the top destinations in Massachusetts. From iconic destinations like Cape Cod and Salem to the picture-perfect Kennebunkport, these are the top day trips from Boston.
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Bostonians are fortunate to have such easy access to the Cape Cod National Seashore, a 40-mile stretch of picturesque sands, with lighthouses and wild cranberry bogs dotted along the way. Here you’ll have the chance to enjoy a wide variety of activities from relaxing on the beach to hiking, biking, swimming, and fishing. Tour one of the five historic lighthouses that are open to the public, or take a whale watching tour to be mesmerized by the humpbacks, seals, dolphins and other marine life that are often spotted. On the northern tip of the Cape in Provincetown, you can explore a colorful downtown area that’s home to everything from grand mansions and fine eateries to fabulous seafood shacks, fudge shops, art galleries and book stores, along with plenty of interesting people watching.
In Sturbridge, just an hour from the city, you’ll find Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum where guests can step back in time to the early 19th-century, exploring authentic homes, a general store, schoolhouse, pottery shop, tavern, sawmill, barns, church and more. History truly comes to life here, with re-enactments also hosted throughout the year. Costumed interpreters guide visits on foot, via stagecoach, standing beside a potter’s wheel or the blacksmith’s forge, or meeting with farmers and their animals at work. While you’re here, you can also visit Sturbridge Pottery which features unique, one-of-a-kind works along with a lovely artist-tended garden filled with fragrant, perennial blooms.
Salem is less than a 40-minute drive from Boston and hosts a number of fascinating things to do, including visiting the oldest continuously operating museum, the Peabody Essex Museum, which opened back in 1799, when museums were officially known as a “cabinet of natural and artificial curiosities.” A group of sea captains founded the East India Marine Society with a specific charter provision to collect such specimens, the legacy becoming this museum which holds 1.8 million pieces of maritime, Asian, African, Indian, and Oceanic art plus 22 historic buildings, including the Qing Dynasty Yin Yu Tang house. It also has literary connections as the birthplace and home of Nathaniel Hawthorne, which can be toured, in addition to being the site of the infamous Salem Witch Trials, where in 1692, 20 townspeople were accused of witchcraft and put to death and can be experienced through re-creations today.
This southern Maine seaside town has a rich seafaring culture. Set along the Kennebunk River, about a mile from its mouth on the Atlantic, Kennebunkport may best be known for Dock Square, the center of town which hosts a variety of local craft shops that sell everything from hand-crafted jewelry to souvenir t-shirts, along with a diverse range of restaurants, like legendary mouth-watering lobster served at Mabel’s Lobster Claw Restaurant. It’s also popular for boating excursions like whale watching tours as well as lobstering adventures where visitors can actually step into the shoes of a real-life fisherman and even pull up a lobster trap. If you want to get out on the water independently, you’ll find a number of spots to rent boats, canoes and kayaks too. Stay overnight at one of Kennebunkport’s top hotels.
Artists have been flocking to this postcard-perfect town that’s located just 40 miles from Boston for over a century, thanks to its spectacular natural light. In recent years, it’s had a bit of a resurgence, with once boarded up shops now colorfully decorated, welcoming visitors in, with Bearskin Neck a scenic stretch of shops, art galleries, and eateries – Roy Moore Lobster Co. which overlooks the water is an ideal place to enjoy a lobster roll and clam chowder for lunch. Rockport is also famous for its seal, Andre, a harbor seal whose true story was the subject of a 1994 feature film, “Andre,” and the book A Seal Called Andre. Take a selfie with his life-sized granite statue, located at harborside.
The village of Plymouth was founded in 1620 and is best known as the site of the landing of the Pilgrims. Visitors can view Plymouth Rock, which marks the spot of their landing, and while there isn’t much to it, there are lots of other historic things to see and do, like the chance to hop aboard the Mayflower, a full-scale replica of the ship, complete with exhibits and tours led by costumed guides. At Plymouth Plantation, a living history museum, you can see Plymouth just as it was in the 17th-century. The modest timber-framed houses are furnished with reproductions of the types of objects that the Pilgrims owned, aromatic kitchen gardens, and heritage breeds livestock, while talented actors play the townspeople that passionately tell their tales about living in those early days of America.
If you’re into sailing, head to Newport, just a little over 90 minutes from Boston. Known as the “Sailing Capital of the World,” the city was home to America’s Cup for half a century with some of its winners offering the chance to charter a cruise on. It attracts boaters from across the globe with its beautiful beaches and New England charms. While you’re here, don’t miss touring the Newport mansions like The Breakers, a National Historic Landmark operated by the Preservation Society of Newport County, that’s considered the grandest of all Newport’s mansions and a symbol of the Vanderbilt family’s social and financial preeminence during turn-of-the-century America, was built as a summer home for Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1893. It has more than 65,000 square feet of indoor space along with a perfectly manicured 13-acre lawn overlooking the Atlantic. Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) established the family fortune in steamships and later in the New York Central Railroad, a pivotal development in the industrial growth of the nation during the late 19th century.