10 Things to Do in Massachusetts

Experience the Highbrow Hometowns of New England

    Massachusetts is one of America's Atlantic coast states with a proud heritage that’s easy to explore. The region has 4 definitive seasons: the dewy spring buds, the 4th-of-July heatwave, the flaming colors of fall, and the winter “Nor'easters” storms.  

    The US state is blessed with long coastlines and calm waves. It earned its nickname, the Bay State, from its shoreline that curves into a hook. More importantly, this state is widely known as the home of over 100 colleges and many generations of the nation's top scholars, scientists and socialites. So, when you’re in the Bay State, make sure you don't miss out on these things to do in Massachusetts.

    1

    Try some clam chowder at the Haymarket

    Bay State's historic outdoor market

    Boston Haymarket has been serving as the city's outdoor market since the 1840s. The surrounding area is lined with Irish pubs, upscale restaurants and boutiques. The Union Oyster House serves its famous crab cakes and beer, with a side of history and name-dropping. Try the Sam Adams Colonial ale, brewed exclusively for this restaurant. Side note; Samuel Adams is not just a beer. He was one of the revolutionaries who constantly picked fights with the Brits, and led the state to independence. About 10 minutes’ walk south is the Faneuil Hall, Boston's indoor venue for political meetings and town halls. For $200, you too can make a speech in Faneuil Hall.

    Foodies should head to the bustling Quincy Market. From lobster rolls to cannoli to Boston cream pies, it's an overwhelming selection of Boston's best restaurants crowded into one large food hall. During busy times, you might have to stand and eat.

    Location: The Union Oyster House, 41 Union St, Boston, MA 02108, USA

    Phone: +1 617-227-2750

    • Shoppers
    • History
    • Food

    photo by Shinya Suzuki (CC BY 2.0) modified

    2

    Walk the Ivy League campuses

    The collegiate crowds of Harvard and MIT

    Across the river from Boston is the city of Cambridge, home to Harvard, the nation's oldest university. This place has produced 10 of the first 12 American presidents, as well as famous dropouts like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. Their campus is enormous, with 76 libraries alone, not counting the faculty halls, research labs, and residency.  Stoughton Hall and Massachusetts Hall are the oldest structure, while the banquet hall and the Sanders theatre will remind you of the Hogwarts’ dinner scene.

    About a mile away is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), built in the 1860s. Because of the laboratories, the faculties were originally built with oversized daylight factory windows that allow light and ventilation. These are the guys who invented the fax machine, the Doppler radar, the GPS, voice recognition technology and many other popular innovations.

    Location: Harvard Square, 18 Brattle St #352, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

    Phone: +1 617-491-3434

    • History

    photo by User:Chensiyuan (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    3

    Hobnob with the country clubbers of Cape Cod

    Lobsters and wine in 'the hook'

    The local summer escape, Cape Cod, is the seaside town on the Massachusetts peninsula, with great stretches of sand dunes. This place also has a lot of maritime histories, including the Cape Cod Maritime Museum. At the elbow of ‘the hook’ is the pristine beaches of Chatham where you can bike and hike.

    The Cape Cod Rail Trail is an uninterrupted 22-mile long bike path with the quintessential New England scenery, from lakes and forests to cranberry bogs, lighthouses and beaches. At the very tip of the hook is the colorful Provincetown where the Mayflower first reached this very shore. It’s a great place to end the day’s trip with a few drinks on the artsy Commercial Street and the creative back alleys. The town is LGBT friendly and gets more fun and playful as the night falls with its great bar and music scene.

    • Couples
    • Families
    • Nightlife
    • Adventure
    4

    Come hear the salty stories of Gloucester

    Massachusetts' oldest fishing town

    Though fishing in Gloucester dates back to the early 19th century, the golden age of fishing was in the 1930s when machines replaced the schooners. Back in the days, mariners were one of the top at-risk professions, as there were no weather reports. All the while, the fishing boats are stuck out yonder for 3 months at a time. Learn about the widow's walk, a common architectural feature of the houses in Gloucester and surrounding coastal towns. It’s a flat balcony sitting on the rooftop, built for women to look out to sea for their loved ones to come home.

    Visit the eclectic Sleeper-McCann house, a coastal mansion designed by a well-heeled and well-traveled architect that has a round room, an octagon room, the China trade room, and countless exotic maritime collections.

    • Couples
    • History
    • Photo
    5

    Witch hunting in Salem

    A history of hysteria

    Follow the 1-hour trail that starts from the Salem Witch House, down to town square and the graveyards. The 1692 witch hunt started from 2 girls who fell ill and were acting all possessed and contorted, and were later diagnosed by a local puritan doctor as being cursed. However, it was suspected that someone had told a group of teens a tall tale about witchcraft that led them to act bonkers. 

    In fear of being the guilty ones themselves, the girls had to up their ante, and one thing led to another really quickly. Within a year, 20 people were hanged while 13 died in jail. Their burial sites are unknown, but there were reports of ghost sightings in broad daylight in the Gallows Hill area.

    Location: The Salem Witch House, 310 Essex St, Salem, MA 01970, USA

    Phone: +1 978-744-8815

    • Photo
    • Unusual

    photo by chensiyuan (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    6

    The art of seafaring at the Peabody Essex Museum

    America’s early portal to the Far East

    Aside from witches, Salem is known for its thriving port that received shipments from Africa to China. Many of the artifacts were originally collected by the sea captains and merchants during the maritime boom. Learn about the ship routes that transported luxury goods from China in the 16th century.

    Check out the ship figureheads, the scrimshaw etchings, Emperor Qianlong's objects from the Forbidden City, Queen Victoria's embroidered shawl, ivory desks, and hand-painted porcelain. But of all the imported artifacts, nothing comes close to bringing over an entire 200-year-old Chinese house, the Yin Yu Tang that was disassembled, shipped over to the States, and then reassembled to its original state with everything intact.

    Location: Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex St, Salem, MA 01970, USA

    Phone: +1 978-745-9500

    • History

    photo by Cathypem (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    7

    Sail to Martha's Vineyard

    Rubbing elbows in JFK's hometown

    Hyannis Port is a seaside town attached to the mainland where the Kennedys grew up. The Kennedy Compound is where JFK and Jackie Kennedy spent summers here, and later acquired another house known as the Summer White House on Irving Avenue. However, Martha’s Vineyard is an island located 10 miles away from the mainland. This island has 5 whimsical towns to explore, from the gingerbread cottages in Oak Bluffs to the old whaling docks in Edgartown. 

    The area is the summer home to Bostonians, and known for its elite schmoozing grounds, fundraisers, wine tastings and other highbrow mingle. Getting to Martha’s Vineyard requires a ferry ride from Woods Hole to the Vineyard Haven. While there, check out the island favorite Black Dog Tavern, where people from near and far seek out this restaurant to enjoy the food and the view.

    Location: Black Dog Tavern, 20 Beach Street Extension, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568, USA

    Phone: +1 508-693-9223

    • History
    • Photo
    • Food
    • Luxury
    8

    Take the Boston Duck Tour

    Amphibious excursion around Boston

    Based on the heavy duty vehicles used in World War II, the Duck boats offer a land and water voyage in the heart of Boston and along the Charles River. The ride will take visitors to the downtown shopping area, the State House, City Hall, Boston Commons, Faneuil Hall, Government Center, Bunker Hill and then out to Charlestown and into the river, passing the Longfellow Bridge.

    The land tour takes about 1 hour, and the river tour is another 20 minutes. Be prepared for the compulsory “quack quack” holler, along with some inside Bostonian jokes told by the tour guides.

    Location: Boston Duck Tours, 1 Central Wharf, Boston, MA 02110, USA

    Phone: +1 617-267-3825

    • Photo
    • Adventure

    photo by Rob (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    9

    Stroll along Boston Common

    Walk and shop along the ritzy streets of Beantown

    For a picturesque walk, start from the Boston Common and Public Garden, one of the oldest parks in the country. In the spring and summer, you'll see weeping willows hunched over the pond, along with ducks, swan boats, cherry blossoms, and the occasional jazz trios that will perk up your day.

    Walk east along Newbury Street for boutiques, al fresco dining, and the famous Church of the Covenant. Two streets north, parallel to Newbury, is the stunning Commonwealth Avenue where the beautiful brownstone townhomes and trees are lined from end to end.

    • Couples
    • Families
    • Shoppers
    • Budget

    photo by AbhiSuryawanshi (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    10

    Check out original brownstones

    The signature styles of New England

    The well-preserved Victorian brownstones were introduced here since the 1800s. However, brownstone is made of sandstone, and often get confused with the reddish clay bricks, but through centuries of urban development, you’ll find a mix of both materials gracing the streets of Back Bay, Beacon Hill and South End.

    Similar to London, the original cobblestones, gas lamps, old townhomes and horse stables can still be seen throughout the historic part of the city. While in Beacon Hill, be adventurous and explore the nooks and crannies, as these tiny alleys have been photographed and featured on countless Boston postcards. You’ll see the handsome architectural details in the shutters, the lampposts, the window boxes, the doorways, and the acorn finials.

    • Photo
    • Budget
    Joy Sanyapongse | Contributing Writer

    Start planning your trip

    Maps