Easy Driving Trips From Boston For a Great Family Day Out
When it comes to fascinating cities in the United States, Boston is always near the top of the list. It’s easy to see why, as there are endless interesting historical and cultural places to visit in Boston and the surrounding areas.
In fact, Boston has our vote as offering many of the best day trips in New England, and a majority of them are less than two hours away! New Hampshire, Maine, and Rhode Island are all located conveniently close by, and you can reach all destinations by car or even public transportation.
Whether you’re interested in museums, sandy beaches, whale watching, or a spooky ghost tour, we have the adventure for you in our list of the best day trips from Boston.
8 Best Places to Visit Near Boston on a Day Trip
Distance from Boston: 24.8 miles ~ via I-93 N and I-95 N (~33 minutes)
Salem is home to one of the most infamous events in America’s history – the Salem Witch Trials. And although this New England hamlet is particularly popular around Halloween, it’s one of the best places to visit near Boston year-round.
You can make the easy half-hour commute to Salem from Boston by car, train, or ferry. If you choose to take the commuter rail, Salem Station is on the Newbury/Rockport line. A one-way ticket is $8.00, and the commute takes about 30 minutes.
Have a little extra time? Take the scenic route by ferry from Long Wharf to Salem in the spring or summer. A one-way adult ticket costs just $25.
Salem was once a more important port than Boston and a prosperous hub of the China Trade. History buffs will enjoy experiencing colonial art and culture at the Peabody Essex Museum, one of the largest art museums in the region. We also highly recommend visiting the Witch Dungeon Museum, where visitors take a front-row seat at the Salem witch trials reenactments.
If searching for ghosts is more your style, sign up for the History & Hauntings of Salem Guided Walking Tour. Choose a nighttime tour by lanternlight and visit Burying Point Cemetery, Witch House, and Ropes Mansion garden while a local historian tells tales of Salem’s haunted history.
Top Tip: If you’re planning on visiting Salem in October, be prepared for crowds. We suggest purchasing tickets for tours, museums, and performances online ahead of time.
Distance from Boston: 33.2 miles ~ via I-93 N (35 minutes)
Salem, New Hampshire, might not have the same haunting history as its Massachusetts counterpart, but there is still plenty to see and do in this small New England town.
This Boston day trip is only 35 minutes north of the city, so plan to spend the day shopping, exploring nature, and visiting America’s Stonehenge.
Yes, England isn’t the only place you can go to see mysterious stone structures! America’s Stonehenge is the oldest man-made construction in the United States.
It takes about an hour to walk the half-mile trail through the ruins, so pack a good pair of hiking shoes! If you’re traveling with children, take them to the kids’ gemstone dig on site. They can keep up to three stones and get to use real archaeological tools!
Top Tip: The trail’s terrain can be rough and rocky, so if you’re traveling with a baby, choose a backpack carrier over a stroller.
Continue your outdoor adventure by visiting Canobie Lake Park, a full-sized amusement park the whole family can enjoy. There are rides for every age, including the Yankee Cannonball, the Canobie Corkscrew, and the Untamed. Younger children can enjoy a carousel, the Caterpillar, and several water rides.
If you need some retail therapy, head over to the Mall at Rockingham Park. New Hampshire doesn’t have sales tax, which means you have more to spend at popular name-brand stores like Macy’s, American Eagle, and Michael Kors. You can also take in a movie at Cinemark Century Theatres or grab a bite to eat at one of over 15 food outlets.
Distance from Boston: 29.2 miles ~ via MA-2 W (43 minutes)
If you’re searching for one of the best scenic drives from Boston in the fall, Stow is the place for you. The area offers many brilliant views of autumn foliage, and a 45-minute drive will transport you from bustling city to peaceful countryside.
Honey Pot Hill Orchards is one of Stow’s largest attractions for families, and it’s a great place to spend an afternoon picking apples, snacking on delicious cider donuts from the farm store, and visiting the animals.
You can also visit Carver Hill Orchard, Derby Ridge Farm, and Shelburne Farms. Each one has something different to offer.
You can also visit the American Heritage Museum, which has an extensive collection of antique planes, cars, and World War II tanks. It takes roughly two hours to take in the entire museum experience, so plan your time accordingly. Children will love the immersive exhibits, and you can even see a Revolutionary War Re-enactment during the museum’s Summer Living History Weekends. How exciting!
Before heading home, satisfy your hunger with a plate of mouthwatering authentic Italian fare at Trattoria Amalfi at the Nettle’s Plaza. Both of the restaurant’s owners were born and raised in Italy, and they’ve created a Mediterranean paradise in the heart of Stow.
Distance from Boston: 50.9 miles ~ via I-93 S and I-95 S (54 minutes)
Less than an hour from Boston, Providence is the perfect combination of small-town charm and big-city culture. Whether you’re searching for things to do outside of Boston with family or friends, you won’t be disappointed with everything that Providence has to offer.
Enjoy an authentic Venetian experience, New England-style, by going on a gondola ride along the Providence Riverwalk. Providence’s gondolas are believed to be the first authentic Venetian gondolas ever built on American soil, and they’re a sight to behold.
Are you looking for additional sightseeing opportunities on the water? Then you must check out WaterFire, a series of almost 100 bonfires spread out over Providence’s three rivers.
Many great family activities are available in Providence, like Roger Williams Park Zoo and the Providence Children’s Museum. The zoo is the nation’s third-oldest and home to elephants, red pandas, snow leopards, a Komodo dragon, and many other fascinating creatures.
The children’s museum is Rhode Island’s only hands-on museum for kids, and all of the exhibits encourage active play and exploration.
- You may also want to check out this selection of scenic drives and byways in Rhode Island to extend your trip to Providence
Distance from Boston: 40.5 miles ~ via I-93 S and MA-3 S (54 minutes)
What if we told you that an hour’s drive could transport you back in time to the 17th century? Well, it’s almost true! Plimoth Plantation is one of the best day trips in Massachusetts because you can spend an entire day totally immersed in America’s history.
Visit Historic Patuxet to learn more about Wampanoag communities and their way of life in the 17th century. You can visit a wetu (house), observe staff building a canoe, and more. Modern interpreters guide you through the site and provide fascinating insight, and you can usually experience Patuxet in about an hour.
Experience a typical day in the life of a Plymouth Colonist when you visit the 17th-Century English Village. Explore timber-framed houses, gardens, and spend time chatting with inhabitants of the colony. Learn about 17th-century defense by participating in a muster drill, playing Pilgrim games, and even trying your hand at pounding corn!
Top Tip: Since Plimoth Patuxet and Plimoth Grist Mill are about three miles apart, it’s wise to drive the distance instead of walking. It’s wise to wear comfortable clothes and tennis shoes, as you will be walking a great deal.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Distance from Boston: 61.6 miles ~ via I-95 N (59 minutes)
Portsmouth is located just an hour north of Boston and is one of our favorite Massachusetts day trips. It’s filled to the brim with unique shops, historical locations, and delicious restaurants, making it an excellent option for the whole family.
Portsmouth beaches are a cut above the rest, having been ranked in the top five cleanest beaches in the country. Build sandcastles, stroll along the shore, splash in the waves, or soak up the sun. There are many beautiful beaches and parks to explore.
Take in Portsmouth’s historic culture and contemporary visual arts scene with a professional theater show or a trip to the Museum of New Art. Then, immerse yourself in the town’s history with a visit to the Strawbery Banke Museum, a 10-acre outdoor history museum that’s truly a sight to behold.
Knowledgeable staff in historical clothing are happy to talk with you about Portsmouth’s history and daily life in those early days. We’re positive you’ll be hungry after all that walking, so grab a slice at Flatbread Pizza before continuing on.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Distance from Boston: 70 miles ~ via MA-3 S (1 hr 14 minutes)
If you want a truly memorable day trip from Boston, there’s nothing more “New England” than Cape Cod. Cape Cod has it all, from miles of pristine white shoreline to kid-friendly amusement parks.
There are many opportunities to get out and enjoy nature in and around Cape Cod, like the Cape Cod Trail. Bike, hike, rollerblade, or even horseback ride this picturesque pathway around six towns and marvel at the area’s natural wonders.
Heritage Museums and Gardens is also a fantastic family destination in Cape Cod, where your children can play at Hidden Hollow, one of New England’s top play areas for kids. And don’t forget the Zip Lines and Climbing Fun for both kids and adults!
And, of course, no trip to Cape Cod would be complete without visiting Whydah Pirate Museum in West Yarmouth, home to the only pirate treasure in the world. Kids can climb aboard a replicated galley of the Whydah, see thousands of fascinating pirate artifacts, and search for missing pirate booty.
Top Tip: The best times to drive to Cape Code are Sunday through Thursday. If you’re traveling there on a Friday, try to arrive before 2 p.m. If you’re planning a day trip from Boston on a Saturday, it’s best to arrive before 8 a.m. or after 2 p.m.
Distance from Boston: 99.5 miles ~ via I-95 S (1 hr 37 minutes)
Mystic might be our list’s longest day trip from Boston, but it’s well worth the journey! This picturesque Connecticut seaside village was once a thriving shipbuilding port. Today it’s a popular tourist destination for anyone who wants to get off the beaten path and enjoy some small-town New England charm.
Mystic has many diverse shopping opportunities, so take a stroll downtown and visit Mystic Knotwork, where they hand-tie bracelets, wreaths, and much more. Grab a Mystic t-shirt from Tidal River Clothing Co. as a souvenir and experience many other unique boutiques and eateries in the Mystic Bridge Historic District.
Spend a morning or afternoon at the Mystic Seaport Museum, the nation’s leading maritime museum. Here, you can visit Mystic’s recreated seaside village and meet all types of historical figures, from blacksmiths to shipwrights. You and your kids can even board the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaleship in the world. There’s so much to see and do year-round in Mystic!
© Family Road Trip