A 45-minute ferry ride, and you're on Martha's Vineyard. Photo by Mommy Poppins
A 45-minute ferry ride, and you're on Martha's Vineyard. Photo by Mommy Poppins

25 Summer Day Trips for Boston Kids and Families

Summer is short, but the days can often feel endless, especially in a year without camps and trips to fill the calendar. A day trip to a cool locale in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or Maine can often be the perfect diversion to break up a long week, with minimal time (and financial) commitment. Here are 25, fun-packed towns Boston families can reach in under two hours from city limits—and return home in the evening to their own beds. 

Have just a morning or afternoon to kill? Here are some quick and easy outings you can do while staycationing around Boston this summer.

Hours and visiting policies vary by state and locale and may shift on short notice as COVID-19 risks evolve. Be sure to read our state-by-state guidelines below and contact attractions before heading out on your day trip. Also, at every one of the locations below, be sure to pack face masks for grown-ups and kids, and wear them indoors as well as outside whenever it's difficult to keep 6 feet of social distance between your group and others.


Bubbles are always a hit at the EcoTarium. Photo courtesy of the museum

1. Worcester, MA

2020 update: At press time, the EcoTarium was open on weekends only. See more information here.
The EcoTarium combines a hands-on children's museum, nature center, and hiking trails, all in one delightful package. Grab dinner after your big day of learning at Boynton's family restaurant.

2. Ipswich, MA

2020 update: Visitors must purchase a timed ticket to access Crane Beach.
Explore miles of wide open shoreline at Crane Beach on the Crane Estate in Ipswich, pick fresh summer produce at Russell Orchards, and hit a clam shack on the way home.


You can split hiking time with beach fun at the Boston Harbor Islands. Photo by Tom Kates/courtesy of Boston Harbor Island Alliance

3. Boston Harbor Islands, MA

2020 update: Some park access has changed due to current health regulations around COVID-19. Spectacle Island is accessible by public ferry through October 12th, 2020. Georges, Peddocks, Lovells, Grape, and Bumpkin Islands are accessible by recreational vessel only. Camping and reservations for the Boston Harbor Islands are suspended for the duration of the 2020 season.
It feels like a world away, right in Boston Harbor, when you take the ferry to Georges and Spectacle Islands. Hike, comb the beaches, fly kites, and more in the wide open expanse of nature on each island.

4. Springfield, MA

2020 update: The Springfield Museums are opening to the general public on July 13, 2020. Advance tickets are suggested. Six Flags was closed at press time. Amusement parks are allowed to reopen in Phase 4 of Massachusetts Reopening Plan, but the date of Phase 4 is still pending.
Already home to stellar museums, a zoo, and the Basketball Hall of Fame, Springfield now boasts the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss. For thrills before or after, Six Flags New England is in nearby Agawam. 


7 Seas Whale Watch is one company offering glimpses of the giant marine mammals throughout the summer. Photo courtesy of the Massachusetts Office of Tourism

5. Gloucester, MA

2020: Check parking status for Gloucester beaches to help time your trip, as capacity restrictions limit access.
Time your visit with low tide at Wingaersheek Beach, and walk way out to the tide pools to see crabs and other critters. Before or after, catch a whale watching cruise from the harbor to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

6. Plimoth, MA

2020 update: Plimoth Plantation is open, but advance reservations are required. 
The historical village and costumed interpreters of Plimoth Plantation bring the stories of the Native Wampanoag people and Colonial English Pilgrims of the 17th-century Plimoth Colony to life.

7. Hull, MA

2020 update: Bathhouses and restrooms are closed at Nantasket. The carousel and creamery are open from noon to 9pm until Labor Day.
Across the street from Nantasket Beach in Hull, ride Paragon Carousel and visit the Paragon Park Museum to relive the amusement park's glory days as a playground for the rich and famous.


History is close to home at Old Sturbridge Village. Photo courtesy of the property

8. Sturbridge, MA

2020 update: Old Sturbridge Village is open, but advance registration is required.
A living history museum, Old Sturbridge Village depicts early New England life from 1790 to 1840 with historians in costume, antique buildings, water-powered mills, and a working farm.

9. Provincetown, MA

The lively town on the farthest reaches of the Cape can actually be the quickest to get to—by taking the fast ferry from Boston rather than battling traffic on Route 6. Browse treat shops, build sandcastles at Race Point Beach, and have a lobster dinner before catching the 7:30 ferry back to the seaport.

10. Hingham, MA

2020 update: World's End is open with capacity restrictions, so be sure to reserve a timed entry ticket and parking pass.
Hikers flock to World's End State Park, a trove of wooded and seaside natural beauty. Don't miss a visit to the waterfront, and burgers or lobster rolls at Stars on Hingham Harbor restaurant. Check out our list of other South Shore summer must-dos for more ideas in the area.

11. Royalston, MA

2020 update: Doane's Falls was closed at press time, but Royalston Falls was open and accessible to the public.
Visit the Commonwealth's waterfall country! From Doane's Falls to Royalston Falls, this region has plenty of big and trickling water to explore on short or long hikes. Hit Lee's Hot Dog Stand for dinner and ice cream on the way home.

Photo courtesy of Treetops Adventure Course

12. Canton, MA

2020 update: Treetops is open with special safety policies in place.
Did you know one of the best ropes courses in New England is about 30 minutes from Boston? Climb and zipline through Treetops Adventure Course until little arms are too sore to soar, and then get a pub meal at the next-door Irish Cultural Center.

13. Concord, MA

2020 update: Walden Pond parking lot reaches capacity quickly this summer, so arrive as early as possible for access to the pond.
This quintessential New England town blends literary history and natural wonder. Hike around Walden Pond and then sunbathe and swim at the shoreline.

14. Salem, MA 

2020 update: The Salem Ferry is running with a slightly reduced schedule and hours.
Hop on a ferry and cruise on over to the North Shore for a visit. While Salem is known for it's Halloween festivities, this waterfront town has so much to do in the summer too! Play games and go on kiddies rides at Willows Park, an old school strip of waterfront arcades, treat your little ones to some sweets at America's oldest candy shop, and walk the piers to check out the boats. 

15. Newburyport, MA 

A quick 45 minutes on the commuter rail will bring you to this boating town. Walk the rail trail from the train station straight into town with a stop at Haley's Ice Cream for a cool treat along the way. Stroll the boardwalk and hop on a whale watch or boat tour and let the kids splash in the water fountains at Inn Street. If you decide to drive to Newburyport, hop in the car after visiting town to drive over the bridge to nearby Plum Island. 

16. Martha's Vineyard, MA

2020 update: As of press time, Flying Horses Carousel is still closed. Black Dog Tavern is patio seating only. Check here for updates.
One of the prettiest islands in the east can be reached in a 45-minute morning ferry ride from Woods Hole. Once there, kids love to ride the carousel and get ice cream in Oak Bluffs. Older kids can take bikes across on the ferry and make a three-mile ride to visit Vineyard Haven, where another ferry can take everyone home after dinner at the famous Black Dog Tavern.

17. Westford, MA

Whether your kids appreciate butterflies, fairy gardens, or both, The Butterfly Place is a downright magical place to visit. Along with exotic butterfly species and flowers, there are koi fish and quail birds to observe, as well as cocoons and caterpillars that illustrate the winged beauties' fascinating life cycle. How about some of the state's best ice cream after? Kimball Farm has homemade ice cream as well as mini golf, bumper boats, and a zipline.


Kids' jaws usually drop at the site of the big battleships in Fall River. Photo by Jenn/CC BY 2.0

18. Fall River, MA

2020 update: Battleship Cove is open with social distancing measures in place, but advance ticket purchases are strongly encouraged.
Explore a submarine, battleship, and destroyer at Battleship Cove; see the exhibits at the National PT Boat Museum or the National Destroyermen's Museum. Start your day at Alice's Diner for top-notch diner food, including some of the best gluten-free offerings around.

19. Providence, RI

2020 update: The Providence Children's Museum was closed at press time, but Roger Williams Park and Zoo were open. Waterfire organizers are hoping for lightings starting in the fall; see updates here. See here for updated restrictions for traveling to Rhode Island from out of the state; at press time, Massachusetts residents did not have self-quarantine upon arrival.
Visit the Providence Children’s MuseumRoger Williams Park, and much, much more. To see Providence's glowing gem, try to time your visit with Waterfire.

20. Warwick, RI

2020 update: Check here for parking status updates for state beaches. See here for updated restrictions for traveling to Rhode Island from out of the state; at press time, Massachusetts residents did not have self-quarantine upon arrival.
The second largest city in Rhode Island is a seaside alternative to Providence, featuring Goddard Memorial State Park for picnicking, golf and Oakland Beach, where sunbathers can get a bowl of chowder and donut holes at Iggy's before leaving town.

21. Portsmouth, NH

2020 update: Water Country is reopening to the public on July 18, 2020. See here for updated restrictions for traveling to New Hampshire from out of the state; at press time, Massachusetts residents did not have self-quarantine upon arrival.
Explore the gardens and see live entertainment in Prescott Park, whoosh and splash at Water Country, or spend the day on a historic adventure in Portsmouth, a seacoast town just on the other side of the New Hampshire border.

22. Salem, NH 

2020 update: Water Country is reopening to the public on July 16, 2020. See here for updated restrictions for traveling to New Hampshire from out of the state; at press time, Massachusetts residents did not have self-quarantine upon arrival.
Tour America's very own Stonehenge, a man-made astronomical calendar dating back over 4,000 years. While you're there, make sure to visit with the six friendly alpacas that call America's Stonehenge home. Before or after this educational visit, pop into Canobie Lake Park, a classic amusement park filled with more than 85 rides, carnival games, and a water park section to cool off in.  

23. Kennebunkport, ME

2020 update: As of press time, Massachusetts residents were still required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to Maine. Until these restrictions lift, Boston-area residents will need to postpone a day trip to Maine. Check for Maine access updates here.
Ninety minutes from Boston, Kennebunkport is just as charming as you imagine with a cute downtown and pretty beaches. Collect some salt water taffy at Candy Man, visit the Seashore Trolley Museum, and pay a visit to Goose Rocks Beach, where kayaks and paddleboards can be rented by the day.

24. Portland, ME

2020 update: As of press time, Massachusetts residents were still required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to Maine. Until these restrictions lift, Boston-area residents will need to postpone a day trip to Maine. Check for Maine access updates here.
Just up the coast and less than two hours from Boston, the foodie city of Portland is one of our favorite places for a daycation or weekend getaway. Portland Head Light is a highlight, especially for lighthouse lovers.

25. York, ME

2020 update: As of press time, Massachusetts residents were still required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to Maine. Until these restrictions lift, Boston-area residents will need to postpone a day trip to Maine. Check for Maine access updates here.
A little over an hour from Boston will bring you just over the border of Maine to York. While the beaches are definitely worth a visit, there's so much else to do too. Take a kid-friendly hike up Mount Agamenticus and visit the learning center or dare to cross the pedestrian Wiggly Bridge while strolling through picturesque Steadman Woods. York Wild Kingdom is a must visit for kids too! This amusement park and zoo combo is filled with rides, wild animals, an interactive butterfly exhibit, and more!


Originally published August 2012 by Audrey Trieschman: updated annually through 2019

Polar Express Train Ride on Cape Cod Central Railroad
Cape Cod Central Railroad Depot - various times Pick
"Go Out Doors" Exhibit
Bruce Freeman Rail Trail - 8:00 AM
Santa in the Park
Pingree Park - 8:00 AM
Holiday Bricktacular at LEGOLAND Discovery Center
LEGOLAND Discovery Center Boston - 10:00 AM
Neighborhood Guides
Activity Guides