Best Family Activities in Massachusetts
For many, Massachusetts needs no introduction as a vacation destination as one of the bright cornerstones of New England. A vibrant place with the historic and exciting capital of Boston, Massachusetts is an American dream of leafy beauty whose trees and quiet country lanes burn with famous color each autumn as the fall season takes center stage. And yet, for all its well-defined appeal, Massachusetts is not always viewed as an obvious escape zone for families. This is an oversight. The seventh-smallest state is easily explored and takes you into rural areas perfect for days of fresh air and activity, or south and east to a coastline which stretches over 192 miles, most notably in the curled finger of the Cape Cod peninsula. Then there is Boston, with its many child-friendly attractions. No matter what you’re seeking, Massachusetts is a fabulous family getaway.
Visitors to Boston quickly come to realise that the city looks backwards as much as into the future. The Massachusetts capital was one of the key players in America’s early history and salutes this heritage via its Freedom Trail, a three-mile walking route which links 16 of the grand buildings, statues and squares that tell the tale of the US’ birth in the 1770s and 1780s. But if this sounds a little dusty for some young travellers, the city is brought up to date by a host of inventive offerings that call to junior minds. Boston Children’s Museum is a dizzy whirl of fun, which offers everything from art studios and climbing spaces to bubble-blowing contraptions. It is complemented by the New England Aquarium, which celebrates marine life in its many forms with residents ranging from sea turtles and penguins to Atlantic Harbour seals and Bonnethead sharks.
The Legoland Discovery Center is a timeless toy-box of plastic bricks, which comes equipped with a 4D cinema, a “building academy” where Lego aficionados can construct amazing models and a racetrack where just-made vehicles can be put to the test. And The Sports Museum pays tribute to the sporting folklore of a city where baseball, basketball and football are religions, via a sweep of memorabilia and exhibits – perfect for kids with a growing interest in the roar of the crowd, especially if you do not have time to catch the Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics or New England Patriots in action yourself.
Adventures also await on the edge of the city. Orchard House, tucked 20 miles northwest of the center in Concord, flies the flag for Louisa May Alcott. The 19th-century author lived in this pretty property when she wrote Little Women. Her story of four sisters moving from childhood to adulthood is set in the house and the much-loved tale still echoes in its rooms.
However, what is perhaps Boston’s most endearing moment is found just off the hallowed plaza of Harvard Square, in Cambridge: the world’s only shop dedicated to Curious George. Here, the inquisitive fictional monkey created by writers Hans and Margret Rey comes to life beyond the illustrated page as DVDs, clothes and endlessly loveable stuffed toys.
Stay: The Lenox Hotel is a chic boutique hideaway in a central location that offers bicycles for rent. Family-sized rooms for $510.
Discover more on Family Vacations to Boston.
Western City Excitement
Some 90 miles west of Boston, Springfield is more than a pitstop on a journey across the torso of Massachusetts. Here is a place steeped in family folklore thanks to its links to two children’s authors. In 1904, it was the birthplace of Theodor Geisel, the genius better known as Dr. Seuss. A century on, the city remembers the man who forged classics like The Cat In The Hat, Green Eggs And Ham and How The Grinch Stole Christmas via the Dr Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, where his most famous characters, including Horton the Elephant and Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose, are recreated in bronze. The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, also newly opened for more fun.
Springfield’s second literary hero waits just north of town in little Amherst at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Here is an institution set up by the author who devised that uber-famous of children’s books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The museum explores the iconic illustrations that underpinned his tales, as well as the work of other picture book artists. Of course, there is more to Massachusetts than the turning of the page. And Springfield also deals in high-speed excitement at Six Flags New England, a theme park where thrilling rides include the mile-long steel rollercoaster Bizarro and the five-loop thrills of Batman: The Dark Knight. Adjacent, a Six Flags waterpark keeps the screams and cheers going during the summer with an array of slides and chutes.
Head for the Hills
Exploring out in the far west is especially gorgeous as autumn takes over, but the area known as The Berkshires proves its worth throughout the year as an oasis of activities. One possibility is a day with Deerfield Valley Canopy Tours, an outdoor adventure company that offers jaunts through Charlemont. Three-hour zip line sessions rushing along 50 ft up in the air are available to visitors aged 10 and up (general price $77). The same company offers kayaking, climbing and rafting trips in this calm part of the state that borders Vermont.
Stay: The Berkshires lend themselves to relaxation and there are plenty of places you can pause to admire the scenery. The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge is a haven for families. Every room has a DVD player, while a front-desk library of over 100 movies promises salvation on rainy days. The Pool House, meanwhile, offers indoor swimming and ping-pong. Family-sized rooms starting at $165.
On the Beach
One of the joys of Massachusetts is that, thanks to its compact size, you can flit from the interior or the city to the sea in minimal time. Cape Cod is its coastal calling card, unfurling into the Atlantic from the state’s east flank. It is a drive of 115 miles from Boston to the peninsula’s engaging capital, Provincetown, at its northern tip – and almost every one of these miles is an opportunity to halt and gaze at the ocean. Cape Cod National Seashore in particular, is a wonderland for children consisting of 68 square miles of protected seafront where historic lighthouses monitor the water and waves crash to land on pristine beaches.
Stay: Pitched at the southeast corner of the peninsula, Chatham Bars Inn has been a Cape Cod hotel favorite since 1914. A four-star spa retreat, it greets families with its nest of swimming pools and tennis courts. There are boats and bicycles for rent and whale-watching cruises to be booked, while its kids’ clubs offer child-specific entertainments. Family-sized rooms start at $302 per night.
Start your adventure in Boston and rent a car to reach some of the more rural and pristine areas.