Traveling in 2021? Please check with each state/destination for its current COVID-19 guidelines, as these are constantly changing and the most accurate, up-to-date information may not be reflected here.
Massachusetts is a well-known New England state that attracts as many as 31 million visitors each year. From the big city of Boston to the quaint small towns of the Berkshires, there is no shortage of terrific things to do in Massachusetts.
In this post, we hope to provide a Massachusetts bucket list for you: a list of the essential activities, sites, and places to visit in MA. While this is certainly not a comprehensive list of all the great things to do in MA, it has been designed to cover as much as possible. If you want to dive deeper into a destination or activity, each item has links to lead you to further information.
Ready to get inspired for your next trip? Let’s go!
50 Fun Things to Do in Massachusetts
Walk Boston’s Freedom Trail
Boston is one of the state’s main attractions, for sure. There are tons of things to do in Boston for visitors of all kinds. Whatever your interest, Boston has something to offer. But it may be especially intriguing to history buffs.
Boston is home to a tremendous depth of American History. One of the key activities for a visitor to the city is to walk the Freedom Trail.
The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile path that takes you around Boston on a route passing 16 important historical sites, including the Paul Revere House, Old State House, and Granary Burying Ground.
More on the Freedom Trail here.
Sip some Sam Adams
Craft beer is a major part of New England’s culture and its history. While we recommend making time to tour a variety of breweries, one of the most essential is the Sam Adams. If you can visit the Boston brewery, do so, as it’s a good time. If not, just grab a Sam at a local restaurant or pub. Cheers!
Explore the witchy history of Salem
Salem is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Massachusetts. And there is so much to do there.
We recommend visiting Salem in September or October for the iconic fall/Halloween experience, but Salem is a great destination at any time of year (and is likely to be far less crowded in the other months!)
Salem was home to the infamous Witch Trials of the 1690s. There’s lots of discover about that time during your visit, but Salem has plenty more to explore, including literary legends, maritime history, and more.
Visit the literary legends in Concord
Speaking of literary legends, Massachusetts may have some kind of record for them; so many well-known authors and poets have been born or lived here.
Concord, MA is one of the best destinations for those in search of literary sites. Among the authors who lived here are Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau.
Cheer on the Red Sox
Taking in a Red Sox game at Fenway is a rite of passage for a New Englander. If you’re unable to attend a game, consider taking a guided tour of historic Fenway Park.
See some incredible lighthouses
Massachusetts is home to nearly 50 lighthouses. Those traveling from outside of New England are likely to want to see (and photograph) some of these incredible structures. After all, they are an icon of the region’s coast.
Take a duck tour in Boston
Boston’s Duck Tours are a classic activity for any visit. These amphibious boats bring you on a tour of the city by river and by land; the perfect way to travel!
Stroll down Rockport’s Bearskin Neck
Just an hour or so north of Boston is the quaint town of Rockport. This spot has been known as an artist’s colony for years, and it’s easy to see why. Rockport is picturesque as can be. In fact, the old fishing shack pictured below, Motif #1, has been called the most painted structure in the US, as it is the subject of countless paintings and works of art.
In addition to pretty sites, Rockport offers a lot of fun things to do for visitors. Read more: The Best Things to Do in Rockport MA: Your Ultimate Guide
Eat a fresh lobster roll
In Rockport, Boston, or pretty much anywhere along the coast of MA, you will want to try some lobster during your vacation. If you’re not a fan of a full boiled or steamed lobster, you may like the variation of a cold lobster roll sandwich.
“Summer” on the Cape
Cape Cod is one of America’s summer playgrounds, and you will fall in love with it as have countless before you. Beaches, vineyards, horseback riding, sailing, biking. Don’t miss this top MA destination.
Read Next: 25 Fantastic Things to Do on Cape Cod
Attend New England’s best renaissance festival
I love a Renaissance festival, and Massachusetts has a fantastic one in Carver: King Richard’s Faire. This annual event happens every fall (although sadly cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19) bringing with it live entertaiment, performers and guests in costume, themed weekends, amazing food, music, and even a jousting tournament. This is a great thing to do in Massachusetts in the fall.
Stand in line for one of the North End’s famous cannolis
The question of where to find the best cannoli in Boston has been the subject of heated debate. You’ll have to answer the question for yourself. But that sounds like a particularly delicious project, doesn’t it?
You could also sample more of Boston’s culinary favorites on a food tour.
Go to a concert at Tanglewood
Tanglewood is a summer music venue in Lenox, MA. It is the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, as well as hosting many contemporary acts in their venues, including open air concerts that can be attended from the lawn. James Taylor is a frequent performer at Tanglewood.
Go whale watching
From April through October, it’s whale watching season of the MA coast. Hop aboard a whale watching tour to go and catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures.
I have personally sailed twice with 7 Seas Whale Watch out of Gloucester, and I have greatly enjoyed my experience both times! Spotting the whales is an exhilarating experience, and you learn a lot about them on the ride out to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, where the whales are seen. 7 Seas is an excellent option for whale watching in Massachusetts.
Catch amazing theatre at Shakespeare & Company
This professional theatre company in the Berkshires presents stellar performances in a lovely setting.
Party in Provincetown
Provincetown, also known as P-Town, has a rich history and a modern vibe. Today, it’s known for its vibrant community that is extremely LGBTQ+ welcoming. The calendar is stocked with constant activities and events.
Read Next: 20 Terrific Things to Do in Provincetown
Discover Revolutionary History in Concord, Lexington, and beyond
Looking for history-heavy Massachusetts attractions? Head to Concord. The first rumblings, protests, and finally the battles of the Revolutionary War were all fought in Massachusetts. You can delve deep into history in this state, and especially in the Concord and Lexington areas. Don’t miss Minute Man National Historical Park, where the opening battle of the Revolution is brought to life.
Read More: Top 13 Historic Sites in Massachusetts
Pick apples in September
In the early autumn, the apple orchards are filled with ripe fruit ready to be picked! Heading with your family to a local farm or orchard is an autumn tradition. Definitely something to add to your itinerary when traveling to MA.
Step back in time at Plimoth Plantation
You’ll be diving into early American history at Plimoth Plantation, located in Plymouth, MA. Yes, this is THAT Plymouth, where the pilgrims landed in the Mayflower.
This living history museum doesn’t just cover the Colonial history, however, but also focuses on the Wampanoag Tribe, the people native to the region. You will learn a lot during your visit here and will likely feel you’ve stepped back in time.
Don’t miss touring the Mayflower II, a full-scale reproduction of the original 1600s ship that sits in the harbor.
Read More: 10 Fun Things to Do in Plymouth, MA
Daffodil festival in Nantucket
Every April in Nantucket, you can find the Nantucket Daffodil Festival, a joyful celebration of this bright yellow beacon of springtime.
Read Next: 10 Essential Things to Do in Nantucket
Tour Harvard’s hallowed halls
This iconic Ivy League campus deserves a visit when you’re traveling in Boston.
Take a hike
It might sound like a basic item to cross off your MA bucket list, but it’s an essential one. Massachusetts is home to some great hikes. Though you won’t find the high peaks of New Hampshire here, there is plenty of diverse terrain and altitude variation to keep things interesting. And of course, there is beautiful scenery all around.
Check out our list of 11 of the Best Hikes in Massachusetts for some inspiration.
Visit some haunted spots
Being as old as it is, the region of New England has grown up with some tall tales, legends, and mysteries surrounding it. Massachusetts is one of the most mythical of the states, boasting lots of potentially haunted spots. Places like the Danvers State Hospital and the Lizzie Borden House are among MA’s most infamous.
You might like: 13 Haunted Places in New England That are Wicked Creepy
Eat clam chowder
New England clam chowder is one of Massachusetts’ most traditional foods, and it was created here. Enjoy a hot, steaming bowl of the creamy good stuff while you’re here.
Wondering where to get the best? This list might help.
Peer at The Bulb River
Do you enjoy flowers? What about flowers that look like a cascading river or waterfall? The Bulb River, a carefully cultivated flow of rich purple hyacinths, can be found each year at Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich, Massachusetts.
You’ll have to time your visit well to catch the Bulb River; it generally blooms in early May and lasts for approximately one week. But the gardens offer other beautiful displays throughout the year.
Pay a visit to Boston’s many museums
Boston has dozens of awesome museums. Personally, my favorite is the Boston Science Museum, a thrilling place that kids and adults alike can enjoy for hours on end. Other worthwhile choices include Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Boston Children’s Museum, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, and the Harvard Museum of Natural History.
If you’re planning to visit a few of Boston’s best museums, you will want to consider getting a Boston attractions pass. Read this to help you choose the best one to get: Go Boston Card vs Boston CityPASS: Which is Better?
Wander through old cemeteries
Morbid? Maybe. But cemeteries are a fascinating link between the present day and the past. I think New England’s historic graveyards are beautiful and interesting, and I’ve rarely seen older gravestones anywhere in the US.
Marvel at Bash Bish Falls
Looking for things to do in Western MA? This waterfall, the highest single-drop waterfall in the whole state, is very close to the border with New York. You can hike to the base of the falls in around 2/3 of a mile. More info here.
Read Next: 12 Must-See Waterfalls in Massachusetts
Book a fall foliage getaway in a cozy cabin
Check into an idyllic cabin for the perfect weekend getaway from Boston, NYC, or wherever you’re coming from.
Learn about maritime history at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
A must for the history fan or lover of the sea is the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Here you can further appreciate New England’s rich maritime past and learn all about the art of whaling, which played a massive role in New England’s economic history.
Walk along the Bridge of Flowers
What could be more charming than this 400-foot long bridge that is covered in flowers? You can walk this beautiful garden space found in Shelburne Falls, MA.
Visit Patriot Place
Massachusetts loves its sports. Gillette Stadium in Foxborough is home to the New England Patriots football team. It’s also home to Patriot Place, an attraction in its own right. There is so much to do here! Entertainment, food, shopping, a nature trail/cranberry bog, and more.
Take a walk through the House of the Seven Gables
Visiting Salem is already on this list, but I wanted to point you to this literary attraction in the town: the House of the Seven Gables. This is not only an incredible, historic old home, it’s also famous for its role in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work of the same name.
Tour historic homes
Speaking of historic mansions and houses, New England has them in spades. A few worth visiting in Massachusetts that we haven’t mentioned yet include Naumkeag in Stockbridge, The Mount (Edith Wharton’s home) in Lenox, and Gore Place in Waltham.
Seek out magical small towns
Massachusetts may be known for the big city of Boston, but its essential charm is found in its rural, small towns. Most of these are found in the western and central portions of the state, but really, you can’t travel anywhere in MA without stumbling across some of these charming spots.
Sip the delights of the Nashoba Winery
There are an abundance of wineries producing exceptional wines in Massachusetts and in New England as a whole. One standout is Nashoba Valley Winery in Massachusetts, where you can enjoy a strawberry rhubarb wine.
Go kayaking at Plum Island
In addition to its coastal position, Massachusetts is home to myriad of lakes and rivers. That makes kayaking an excellent outdoor activity, here, wherever you’re visiting in the state. For some fun coastal kayaking, consider Plum Island, a barrier island just off of Newburyport. Plum Island Kayak offers tours and rentals so you can see some of the most beautiful spots in the area.
The Paul Revere House
Remember that guy who cried out “the British are coming”? That was Paul Revere on his famous midnight ride. In Boston, you can see his house and other historic buildings. (This is a stop along the Freedom Trail, if you are following that through the city). You should definitely make it a point to see this historic landmark.
Take the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket
Don’t just stay on the mainland when traveling to Massachusetts; make some time for the islands as well. Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard have so much to offer and they are both laid back and charming, with their own distinctive vibes.
Meet the animals at a working farm
This is an especially nice activity if you’re traveling with kids. A working farm, such as Dalby Farm in Scituate, MA, gives visitors an opportunity to have close encounters with the farm animals.
Stay at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast
Have a burning desire to stay in a haunted hotel or inn? Well, you’ve come to the right region. New England is bursting with possibly haunted hotels. One of these rumored to be haunted is a spot with a particularly grisly past: the Lizzie Borden House. Now it’s a B&B where you can stay in the infamous rooms where horrible things happened. You in? Go for it.
Help out at a cranberry bog
Did you know you can help out with the cranberry harvest at a local bog? What a unique thing to do in Massachusetts! Cranberries are grown in a very interesting way, and when the time comes to harvest them, the bogs are flooded to raise up the ripe berries. Check out the bogs you can visit here.
Spend a day at the beach
Massachusetts has many miles of coastline, so don’t neglect enjoying it! There are rocky parts of the coast as well as flat sandy beaches. While the water is a bit chillier than you might find at other beaches farther south, the coast here is so lovely, you will undoubtedly be drawn to it. Many of MA’s best beaches are found on Cape Cod.
Read This: 15 Best Beaches in Massachusetts
Soak into luxury at Blantyre
You deserve to be pampered! Consider Blantyre, located in the Berkshires. This place is the epitome of luxury. Book a stay that will make you feel like royalty. Especially check out the Manor House, which has total Gilded Age vibes.
Get cultured at Mass MoCA in North Adams
Contemporary art afficionados will enjoy Mass MoCA, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. With exhibitions, educational programs, and a full calendar of events (including concerts), there’s a lot going on in this little northwest corner of the state.
Witness the running of the lambs at Old Sturbridge Village
Old Sturbridge Village is a worthwhile Massachusetts attraction. This living history museum recreates daily life in the late 1700s and early 1800s. In spring, the newborn lambs make the village extra special, and at the end of the day you can watch “the running of the lambs” as both lambs and sheep run across the common to be fed at the barn.
Massachusetts Central Rail Trail
If you love biking, you should grab your wheels and take a ride on the longest rail trail in the Northeast. That is the Massachusetts Central Rail Trail, and it will eventually stretch 104 miles from Boston to Northampton. Additional miles are opening up all the time, although currently there are only 51 miles open. Pass through 25 communities on this bike path that is an important part of MA transportation of the past, present, and future.
For details on currently open sections of the trail, check out this guide.
Yankee Candle Village
If you’re like me, you likely have dozens of candles burning around your home at any given time. Many of those incredible scented candles are Yankee Candles, which smell AMAZING. Why not see where they’re made? You can even make some candles yourself at the Yankee Candle Village in Deerfield.
It’s not just candles either; the village has an abundance of family-friendly activities and events throughout the year. There’s lots to see, sample, smell, taste, make, and buy here.
Get lost in a corn maze
One of the quintessential fall activities is the corn maze. In Massachusetts, you can find some terrific options, including the enormous and complex Mike’s Maze. A new, themed maze with activities is created each and every year. Go get lost!
Experience a classic New England Christmas
As the year comes to an end, the magic of the holiday season holds Massachusetts in its grasp. There are countless things to do for the Christmas season in New England, especially if you want to experience a classic Christmas. From cutting down your own Christmas tree to Christmas in Boston, the Normal Rockwell classic Main Street Christmas in Stockbridge, you truly can’t pick a better region in which to celebrate the holidays.
Read these next:
- 101 Things to Do in New England: The Ultimate New England Bucket List
- The Ultimate New England Road Trip Itinerary (Flexible 2-3 Week Itinerary)
- 15 Best Places to Visit in New England: The Top Vacation Spots
Pin this post to save for future travel plans!
Amy is the founder of New England with love. A proud Vermonter, she hopes to share her love of New England and help you find the best adventures in the region. Amy is also blogger/founder at Two Drifters, where she writes alongside her husband about romantic and couples travel, relationships, honeymoons, and more. When not working on websites, Amy is probably reading, cuddling with her husband and cats, & drinking a maple latte.