Family holidays in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is the south easterly New England state where the Mayflower landed in 1620. Its capital, Boston, is one of the oldest cities in America. Cape Cod’s the summer playground for East Coast elite, and an amazing adventure with kids. Sail to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket for days on the beach, whale watching expeditions and magical bike rides. Or visit in autumn, head to the Berkshires, and just gaze at the awe-inspiring wonder of a New England Fall.


Why go on holiday in Massachusetts

  • Direct flights from UK

    Direct flights all year round from the UK to Boston take just over seven hours.

  • Sunny summers on the coast

    Summer weather on Cape Cod is warm and sunny with average temperatures of 25 – 30˚.

  • Second greenest state in the US

    Only neighbouring Vermont is more eco-conscious than Massachusetts. Don’t be surprised to find hybrid shuttles and filtered local water stations at hotels.

  • The home of Harvard

    The most prestigious university in the US is in Boston, and eleven of its galleries and museums are open to the public.

  • Best autumn foliage displays in US

    Stockbridge Basin MA is officially the loveliest place in the US to see autumn leaves and try New England ‘leaf peeping’.

  • Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket

    New England’s most historic coastline is in Massachusetts. The Mayflower landed here and it’s home to dozens of instantly recognisable holiday towns and islands.

  • The Salem Witch Hunts

    The infamous town of Salem, site of the 17th century Salem Witch Hunts, is less than an hour’s drive from Boston.



Where to go

Boston

Founded in 1630, Boston’s the state capital and one of the oldest cities in the US. With a worldwide reputation for Ivy League universities, gracious Georgian architecture, and stately art institutes, it’s easy to imagine a grand old dame. But here heritage is tucked into a dynamic contemporary city with one of the world’s most exciting waterfronts, a vast collection of stunning 20th and 21st century architecture, and a fresh, original take on everything from politics and baseball to farmers’ markets and festivals.

  • Boston’s one of the America’s safest cities, and locals like to walk everywhere.
  • The city’s main hotel districts are centred around Downtown, Copley Square and Beacon Hill.
  • For colonial Boston at its best visit Beacon Hill, the historic homes are beautifully preserved, and you can’t move for legendary past residents.
  • Bustling Downtown is where to find the Freedom Trail, walk to the waterfront and shop at Downtown Crossing.
  • Pick up a free map and follow the 2.5 mile Freedom Trail round 16 of the most important historical sights in the city centre.
  • Bay Village is an atmospheric, scaled-down Beacon Hill and home to Boston’s theatre district.
  • Boston’s six mile long waterfront is spectacular, good for hotels, and where to find major museums, galleries, restaurants, markets and family events.
  • Don’t miss: Harvard Square; Boston Common; New England Aquarium; Boston Tea Party Ships; Skywalk Observatory; Museum of Fine Art; Paul Revere House; Boston Children’s Museum.

Martha’s Vineyard

In July and August every year, the population of Martha’s Vineyard grows from 15,000 to over 100,000. The island’s known as the ‘summer colony’, and wealth and influence are what most of the temporary residents have in common. Surprisingly, it’s still laid back and unpretentious, historic towns are charming without exception, kids can cycle everywhere, and the beaches are beautiful.

  • Visit for the day, ferries from the mainland take just over an hour.

Cape Cod

Cape Cod is the ‘arm’ around Cape Cod Bay on the state’s southernmost coast. Families from all over New England and New York State, holiday here in summer. It’s the land of the Kennedys, but just as famous for dozens of lighthouses; grand Victorian seaside resorts; historic fishing towns; gorgeous beached; and impressive sailing.

  • Don’t miss: Craigville Beach; Hyannis Harbour; Brewster, the sea captains’ town; Lighthouse Beach; Mashpee July Pow Wow; Mayflower history in Provincetown.

Nantucket

Nantucket Island lies south of Martha’s Vineyard. Another 19th century whaling centre, it’s now a popular holiday resort, and good for whale watching cruises, museums, lovely old New England houses, beaches, seafood restaurants, and more lighthouses.

  • There are three ferry routes from Cape Cod to Nantucket, and it’s an easy day out with kids.

What to do

  • Berkshire East Mountain Resort, Charlemont
    Great for a few days family adventuring in the wilds of western Massachusetts. There are dozens of outdoor activities from extreme ziplining to white water rafting, hiking, climbing and sailing. The resort also has three inns and family self-catering.
  • Whydah Pirate Museum, West Yarmouth
    This family museum transforms Cape Cod’s long and inglorious history of piracy into a thrilling interactive experience for kids.
  • Boston Harbour Islands National and State Park, Boston
    The collection of islands and peninsula off the coast of Boston make fun family days out. Eight islands have ferry services from Hingham, just south of the city. Visit for Boston Light; Fort Warren; World’s End Park; and kids’ sea kayaking on Thompson Island.
  • Boston Skywalk Observatory
    At 50 storeys above street level, this is Boston’s best 360˚ view. You can see for up to 100 miles on a clear day. Tickets include entry to The Dreams of Freedom Museum.
  • New Bedford Whaling
    Once called, ‘the city that lit the world’, New Bedford was at the heart of America’s whaling industry. The town’s now a heritage site, preserved as it was almost 200 years ago, and even has tall ships in the harbour.
  • Edaville Family Theme Park, South Carver
    Take a break from history and go for animatronic dinosaurs and fun family rides at Edaville Park instead. Half-an-hour north of Cape Cod and good for under 12s.
  • New England Aquarium, Boston
    Switch Massachusetts’ whaling legends for real live sharks at New England Aquarium. It’s one of the top places to visit with kids on Boston’s waterfront. Don’t miss close encounters with Myrtle the Turtle and Great White 3D.
  • Heritage Museums & Gardens Adventure Park, Sandwich
    This incredible park has history covered with museums, galleries and even a vintage carousel. The adventure side is all about aerial parks, ziplining, climbing, and solving the gardens’ enormous maze. 30 minutes from Falmouth on Cape Cod.
  • The Emerald Necklace, Boston
    This linear chain of parks covers over 1000 acres in the city, and links nine beautiful green spaces back to historic Boston Common. Hire bikes and see them all – or walk, it’s just as much fun.
  • Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, Concord
    Alcott’s family home is also where she wrote, ‘Little Women’. The house and grounds are remarkable, and the society hosts family days year round – lots of summer events organised especially with girls in mind, of course. 30 minutes west of Boston.


Educational value for kids

  • The Mayflower landed at Plymouth, but nearby Provincetown Museum is where to get all the pilgrim facts before visiting the historic site itself.
  • Take a tour of Emily Dickinson’s home in Amherst for a closer look at the reclusive life of America’s most famous 19th century female poet.
  • Boston Children’s Museum has been educating and entertaining kids for over a century. Under 12s love the interactive exhibits, there are family events year round and a summer programme during school holidays.
  • Visit the astonishing Harvard Museum of Natural History in Boston, and you get free entry to the neighbouring Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology.
  • The Boston Harbour Walk runs for 43 miles along the city’s shoreline and takes in all the waterfront neighbourhoods.
  • Salem is just 40 minutes north of Boston, discover the history of its infamous 17th century witch trials, many of the original buildings are still here and local guided tours are eerie and excellent.
  • Dozens of traditional lighthouses dot the south east coast, most still function and some are open to visitors. If you only see one, make it Race Point Light on Cape Cod.

 

Getting around with kids in Massachusetts

Public transport is the way to get around Boston and most other cities. Cycling coastal towns and villages is safe and fun with kids, and island ferry services run all year round. But car hire in Massachusetts is highly recommended. Not only is it the safest US state to drive, the scenery’s breathtakingly pretty, packed with historic sights and many areas can only really be seen by road.

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