Top 10 Destinations in Massachusetts for Outdoor Recreation

Massachusetts is a U.S. state in New England known for its significant Colonial history. In Boston, its capital, the Freedom Trail is a walking route of sites related to the American Revolution. These include the Bunker Hill Monument, commemorating the war's first major battle in 1775. The city is also home to the Museum of Fine Arts and other notable institutions. The Red Sox pro baseball team plays at Fenway Park.

South of Boston, Plymouth’s Plimoth Plantation re-creates the Pilgrims' first settlement. Salem offers attractions associated with its 17th-century witch trials. Springfield has the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden and museums. The town of Concord is the home of Walden Pond, offering swimming and a replica of philosophical writer Henry David Thoreau’s cabin. Nearby Orchard House is where Louisa May Alcott wrote the novel ‘Little Women.’ Cape Cod and the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket are known for beaches and seafood shacks. The Berkshires, in the west, are famed for mountain scenery and quaint villages.

When to visit

Most visitors come from spring to fall (May–October). The venerable Boston Marathon (April) also draws many participants and spectators from around the world. Summers are hot and humid and feature events such as the Tanglewood Music Festival (June–August in the Berkshires) and the raucous Provincetown Carnival (August). Fall is a popular time for viewing colorful foliage (usually peaking in October) and apple-picking in orchards. Winters are snowy and can be very cold.

The 10 Destinations in Massachusetts for Outdoor Recreation Highlight:

  1. Cape Cod
  2. The Berkshires
  3. Martha's Vineyard
  4. Boston
  5. Nantucket
  6. Gloucester
  7. Oak Bluffs
  8. Charlemont
  9. Provincetown
  10. Plymouth

1. Cape Cod

Top 10 Destinations in Massachusetts for Outdoor Recreation

Cape Cod, a hook-shaped peninsula of the U.S. state of Massachusetts, is a popular summertime destination. It's the site of quaint villages, seafood shacks, lighthouses, ponds and bay and ocean beaches. In the large town of Hyannis, the John F. Kennedy Museum is the first stop on the Kennedy Legacy Trail through downtown, where ferries depart to the resort islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

2. The Berkshires

The Berkshires

The Berkshires is a rural region in the mountains of western Massachusetts dotted with villages and towns. A popular vacation destination, it's known for outdoor activities, fall foliage–viewing, a farm-to-table food scene and thriving arts institutions. Renowned annual festivals include the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s residency at Lenox’s Tanglewood Music Center.

North Adams is home to MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), presenting large-scale exhibits in a 19th-century factory complex. In Stockbridge, the Norman Rockwell Museum exhibits a significant collection by the iconic American painter. Nearby is the Berkshires Botanical Gardens, set on 15 acres. In Williamstown, Williams College's Chapin Library displays rare manuscripts like letters from American presidents. Antiquing is a common pastime all over, with a particularly large concentration of shops in Sheffield. Hiking is also popular, especially on Mount Greylock, Massachusetts' highest peak.

3. Martha's Vineyard

Martha's Vineyard

Martha's Vineyard, a Massachusetts island, sits in the Atlantic just south of Cape Cod. A longtime New England summer colony, it encompasses harbor towns and lighthouses, sandy beaches and farmland. It's accessible only by boat or air. Vineyard Haven, on the eastern end, is a ferry port and the island's commercial center. Oak Bluffs has Carpenter Gothic cottages and an iconic carousel.

4. Boston

Boston is Massachusetts

Boston is Massachusetts’ capital and largest city. Founded in 1630, it’s one of the oldest cities in the U.S. The key role it played in the American Revolution is highlighted on the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile walking route of historic sites that tells the story of the nation’s founding. One stop, former meeting house Faneuil Hall, is a popular marketplace.

“Beantown” is home to Symphony Hall, where the legendary Boston Pops orchestra performs, and Fenway Park, where the beloved Red Sox baseball team plays. Famous cultural institutions include the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Science and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, housing a world-class collection in a space designed like a 15th-century Venetian palazzo. Popular strolling spots include the Public Garden, featuring iconic swan boats; Newbury Street, offering upscale shopping; the Waterfront, dotted with seafood and chowder restaurants; and the North End, abundant with Italian bakeries and cafes.

5. Nantucket


Nantucket, a tiny, isolated island off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is a summer destination with dune-backed beaches. It’s marked by unpainted cedar-shingled buildings, many surrounded by manicured privets. The wharves and cobblestoned streets of the Town of Nantucket are lined with restaurants, high-end boutiques and steepled churches. The town’s Whaling Museum recounts the island’s role as a 19th-century whaling hub.

Children's Beach sits in a protected cove near town, and Jetties Beach has a bar and tennis courts. On the Atlantic-pounded south coast, broad Surfside Beach is popular with sunbathers and kite fliers, while Cisco is surfing-friendly. Bike paths crisscross the island, past the circa-1746 Old Mill and cranberry bogs to the former fishing village of Siasconset, or 'Sconset, known for saltbox cottages covered with climbing roses. At the island's northernmost tip, the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge shelters snowy egrets and ospreys and is home to the replica-19th-century Great Point Lighthouse.

6. Gloucester


Gloucester is a coastal city on Cape Ann, in Massachusetts. Its fishing heritage is reflected in the harbor-side Fisherman’s Memorial, with a statue and names of those lost at sea. Cape Ann Museum has work by 1800s maritime artist Fitz Henry Lane. East, the sands of Good Harbor Beach extend to Salt Island at low tide. Southwest, 1920s medieval-style Hammond Castle Museum was home to inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr.

7. Oak Bluffs

Oak Bluffs

Oak Bluffs is a town located on the island of Martha's Vineyard in Dukes County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 4,527 at the 2010 United States Census. It is one of the island's principal points of arrival for summer tourists, and is noted for its "gingerbread cottages" and other well-preserved mid- to late-nineteenth-century buildings. The town has been an historically important center of African American culture since the eighteenth century.

8. Charlemont


Charlemont is a town in Franklin County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 1,266 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area.

9. Provincetown


Provincetown is at the northern tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The seaside town is on the site of the Mayflower’s landing in 1620, commemorated by the towering Pilgrim Monument and neighboring Provincetown Museum. P-town is known as a longtime haven for artists, lesbians and gay men. Numerous galleries plus restaurants, nightclubs, cabarets and specialty shops are clustered on and around lively Commercial Street.

The Provincetown Art Association and Museum has been exhibiting fine art for more than a century. Whydah Pirate Museum, on nearby MacMillan Pier, contains treasure from an 18th-century shipwreck. Ocean beaches include dune-backed Race Point Beach, overlooked by the 19th-century Race Point Lighthouse. North of town, in the steep dunes of the Cape Cod National Seashore preserve, the Province Lands Trail is one of the area’s most well-known bike paths. Offshore, the Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is a popular whale-watching destination.

10. Plymouth


Plymouth is a coastal town in Massachusetts, south of Boston. It is the site of the first Pilgrim settlement, founded in 1620. Plymouth Rock, a boulder in Pilgrim Memorial State Park, marks the place where settlers are thought to have landed on shore. The Mayflower II, a full-scale replica of the ship that carried the Pilgrims across the Atlantic, is usually anchored at the park.

Inland, Pilgrim Hall Museum, which opened in 1824, displays artifacts documenting the history of the area’s native people and Pilgrim colonists. Nearby, Burial Hill Cemetery is the resting place of many early settlers. Other heritage attractions include Richard Sparrow House, an art gallery in a 17th-century home. Across the Town Brook river is the restored Jabez Howland House, which was owned by original Mayflower passengers. On a hilltop to the north, the National Monument to the Forefathers is a huge statue dedicated to the Pilgrims. Southeast of town, Plimoth Plantation features a reconstructed 17th-century English village.


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