There’s so much to do and see in Boston that you may wonder why you’d ever want to leave. But that’s part of the beauty of New England: there are new experiences waiting for you, and they’re all just an hour or two away.
If you’ve ever driven through the massive Western states, you will have even more of an appreciation for the sheer number of adventures waiting for you in a relatively small area. But beware! The X-Factor for any day trip in New England is the traffic.
1. Provincetown, Massachusetts
Provincetown, or P-Town as it’s lovingly called by locals, is famous for its welcoming atmosphere and artistic community. There are several ways to pass a day in P-town. You can stroll through the quaint streets, stopping in some of the 60 art galleries that call this P-town home.
The Cape Cod National Seashore offers several great opportunities to explore. There are dune tours through independent companies and guided hikes with the National Parks Service. While in town, you can also climb the stairs to the top of the Pilgrim Monument.
For more detailed information, read our article about Provincetown.
2. Cape Cod
Just driving through the towns on Cape Cod, and stopping when you get the urge, is a lovely way to spend the day.
Nobska Point Lighthouse in Falmouth is a beautiful spot to stop and take in the views. On a clear day, you’ll easily see the island of Martha’s Vineyard across Nantucket Sound. During the summer, you can tour the lighthouse tower on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Hyannis Port is, of course, home to the Kennedy compound. You can get close, but you won’t be able to see anything unless you’re on a boat. If you really like your Kennedy family history, try the John F. Kennedy Museum in Hyannis.
The Cape is popular with birders, especially the Chatham area. Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge is known for the migratory birds that stop in the area, like tern. It’s also home to the piping plover, which is considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
For more detailed information, read our article about Cape Cod.
3. Martha’s Vineyard
An idyllic island paradise, the only way to get to the Vineyard is via boat.
The ferry will drop you off in either Vineyard Haven or Oak Bluffs.
In Vineyard Haven, you can walk Main Street and browse the unique shops. The gingerbread cottages are the thing to see in Oak Bluffs. You can also grab lunch and a cocktail on the water at Coop deVille. Edgartown is known for its stately homes built by whaling captains. Take a stroll along Water and Main Streets and eat dinner at Atria is you have time.
If you’re on bike and don’t feel like riding back, there is room for your bike on the front of the buses. Or, if you prefer, you can bring your car with you n the ferry.
For more detailed information, read our article about Martha’s Vineyard.
4. Providence, Rhode Island
The capital of Rhode Island is just an hour down the interstate from Boston.
It’s been home to Rhode Island School of Design, one of the first art and design schools in the country, since 1877. In 1993, it became home to one of the best outdoor works of art in the country; WaterFire includes more than eighty baskets of wood, set on fire, sitting in the middle of Providence’s three rivers.
The convention and visitors’ bureau offers together three self-guided walking tours. Each offer plenty of history, but you can also learn a bit about the history of Providence aboard a Venetian Gondola!
To satisfy your inner foodie, try any one, or all three of the James Beard worthy restaurants: Al Forno, Persimmon, or Birch.
For more detailed information, read our article about Providence.
5. Newport, Rhode Island
A leisurely stroll along the Cliff Walk in Newport allows you to take in the beautiful ocean views and get a good look of the “summer cottages” of the rich and famous of the mid-to late 1800s. If you’re going to tour just one, go to the Breakers – built by Cornelius Vanderbilt.
If the smell of the salty air has you yearning to be on the water, check out Sail Newport. They rent boats to those who know how to sail, but also offer lessons to those who don’t.
Newport was founded as a place to welcome all faiths. It’s home to the oldest synagogue in the country, and St. Mary’s Catholic Church is famous for a young couple who were married there in 1953; John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier.
You can’t leave Newport without having a cocktail in the country’s oldest tavern. Ask the bartender to fill you in on the White Horse Tavern’s more than 340 years of history!
For more detailed information, read our article about Newport.
6. Portland, Maine
Portland is another city known for its cuisine and art scene. The city’s Museum of Art is free every Friday from 4 p.m.-8 p.m. On the first Friday of every month, several thousand-people flock to downtown Portland for the art community’s First Friday Art Walks.
There are a variety of bike tours. These could be a bit long depending on your schedule, but you may even get to enjoy a Maine lobster roll as part of the trip!
If you prefer to sip and sail, you can do that too. Or you can take to the seas with real lobster fishermen, and learn about where Maine’s signature dish comes from.
In case you’re into craft beer, Portland is home to some of the best. Allagash Brewing Company is known throughout the eastern United States for their creations.
For more detailed information, read our article about Portland.
7. Salem, Massachusetts
The city, known for its witch trials, is just a short drive, train or ferry ride from Boston. While it’s not proud of its past, there are a considerable number of sites dedicated to the witch trials.
Salem’s Witch Museum details the trials of the 13 women and 6 men who were wrongfully accused and eventually put to death. There are two memorials to the victims. One is on Charter and Liberty Streets; the other is at Proctor’s Ledge on Pope Street.
Salem is also home to The House of Seven Gables. Author Nathanial Hawthorne’s visits with his cousin, who lived at the home, inspired his novel.
For more detailed information, read our article about Salem.
8. Rockport, Massachusetts
Rockport is just 35 minutes past Salem and it is possible to see the two towns in the same day.
You can dine al fresco while enjoying lobsters freshly caught that day. Once you’re done, walk along Bearskin Neck to check out the old fishing shacks turned art galleries, shops and restaurants. Along the way, you’ll see America’s most painted and photographed building, Motif No. 1. The red fishing shack is recognized around the world.
The Shalin Liu Performance Center is a beautiful place to take in a show on Main Street, overlooking the water.
For more detailed information, read our article about Rockport.
9. Block Island
You’ll need to take a ferry to this little-known island off the coast of Rhode Island. It will take you almost two hours to get to Point Judith, RI from Boston.
Block Island is made up of rolling hills, seaside cliffs, beautiful beaches, and 365 fresh water ponds. Rent a moped or a bicycle to explore the island’s 7000 acres and 32 miles of trails.
Once you’re ready to go, there is a self-guided tour already laid out for you. It’s a 7.5-mile loop with nine stops along the way. If you’re up for more, you can add a beautiful 8.5 miles to the trip. You’ll see the island’s two lighthouses along the way. The North and the Southeast Lighthouses are open to the public, but check the hours, because dates and times vary. If you’re not up for a bicycle ride, you can bring your car over on the ferry or rent one when you get there.
One Block Island attraction that you’ll need a boat or helicopter, to get to is the Block Island Wind Farm. It’s the country’s first offshore wind farm and began operating in December 2016. The five wind turbines are about three miles off the island’s coast.
Despite having only 1,000 year-round residents, the island offers quite a few dining options. Try The National Hotel Tap & Grille or Eli’s Restaurant while you’re there.
If you want to make your trip an overnight, book at room at Spring House Hotel, or The Atlantic Inn.
10. Fall River, Massachusetts
Fall River is an easy hour drive south of Boston and is the birthplace of Chef Emeril Lagasse and the infamous Lizzie Borden. Two names you probably never thought you’d hear in the same sentence!
While the childhood home of Emeril Lagasse is not on display, you can actually sleep in Lizzie Borden’s room! This is the home where her father and stepmother were found brutally murdered in 1892. Lizzie was accused but acquitted of the crime. Today the home is a bed and breakfast, and some believe it’s haunted by the restless spirits of the family. If you don’t want to book a room, tours are offered almost every day of the year for about $20 a person.
Fall River is also home to the largest collection of preserved U.S. Navy ships in the world! Battle Ship Cove and Maritime Museum tells the story of those who served America on the high seas. You’ll be able to explore a battleship, destroyer, submarine, and two PT boats. Whether you served in the military or just love history, this is a must see. Wear comfortable shoes because you’ll be climbing down ladders and through hatches while on the ships.
The city has one of the largest Portuguese populations in the United States and it’s a fantastic opportunity to experience the cuisine. Try Estoril Restaurant or Caldeiras before you leave town.