Fun things to do in Massachusetts

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    The Jonathan Corwin House

    by traveldave Updated Dec 30, 2013

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    The Jonathan Corwin House, popularly referred to as the Witch House, is a fine example of seventeenth-century American architecture, and is the only remaining building in Salem with direct ties to the Salem Witch Trials. Historians disagree about when the house was built, but estimates of its construction date range from the 1620s to the 1670s.

    The house was purchased by civic leader Jonathan Corwin in 1675, and he lived in the home for about 40 years. It remained in his family until the mid-nineteenth century. Jonathan Corwin was a local magistrate who was called upon to investigate claims of witch-related activities after a surge of accusations of witchcraft plagued Salem and surrounding communities in 1692. He replaced Judge Nathaniel Saltonstall, who resigned from the Court of Oyer and Terminer after the execution of Bridget Bishop. The Court of Oyer and Terminer ultimately sent 20 people to the gallows as a result of the Salem Witch Trials. Despite its popular name, no interrogations or trials were ever conducted in the Witch House.

    In 1944, the Jonathan Corwin House was slated for demolition as part of a street-widening project. A group of preservationists raised enough money to purchase the house and have it moved 35 feet (11 meters) to its present location to avoid the street construction project. And at that time, the house was restored to look as it would have appeared in the seventeenth century. Saving this building launched a wave of similar preservation and restoration projects throughout Salem.

    Nowadays, the Jonathan Corwin House is a museum operated by the City of Salem. Its exhibits portray seventeenth-century life in Salem and give insights into the furnishings and architecture of the time.

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    The Salem Witch Museum

    by traveldave Updated Dec 30, 2013

    Not to be confused with the Witch History Museum, the Salem Witch Museum is the most popular tourist attraction in Salem. Housed in a historic Romanesque building in downtown Salem, the museum is dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

    With the use of stage sets, life-size props, special lighting, and expert narrations, the museum's exhibits teach visitors about the history and personalities behind the Salem Witch Trials. In 1692, hysteria gripped Salem as young girls accused numerous people of engaging in witchcraft and being witches. As a result of the ensuing trials, over 150 people were imprisoned, 20 were executed, and five died while in jail.

    Other exhibits teach about the evolving perception of witches throughout the ages, stereotypical beliefs about witches, the phenomenon of witch hunts, and aspects of seventeenth-century witchcraft and modern-day Wiccan practices.

    The Salem Witch Museum also has a museum store where visitors can buy books, clothing, videos, and other witch-related souvenirs.

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    The House of the Seven Gables

    by traveldave Updated Dec 30, 2013

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    Built between 1667 and 1668, the House of the Seven Gables is the oldest surviving mansion house in North America. It boasts 17 rooms, its seven famous gables, and 8,000 square feet (743 square meters) of space, including its large cellars. It was made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1851 novel, The House of the Seven Gables, which is now acclaimed as one of the great works of American literature.

    Also called the Turner House or the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, the first section of the House of the Seven Gables was built between 1667 and 1668 by Captain John Turner, and it remained in his family for three generations.

    The original two-story section of the house was constructed in the Colonial style of architecture, and comprised only two rooms. That section now forms the interior structure of the present-day house. Over the years, numerous additions were made to the house, including a kitchen lean-to, a south front extension containing a parlor on the ground floor and a large bed chamber above, a new kitchen ell at the rear of the house, as well as the famous "secret stairway" within the rebuilt main chimney. In 1795 the house was completely remodeled in the Georgian style of architecture and wood paneling and sash windows were added.

    As a result of financial difficulties, the Turner family was forced to sell the house, and it was acquired by the Ingersoll family. They again completely remodeled the house. Some of the original seven gables were removed (but replaced during a renovation in the early 1900s) and Georgian trim was added.

    American author Nathaniel Hawthorne was a cousin of the Ingersolls, and he spent time in the House of the Seven Gables during his childhood. It was those stays in the house that inspired him to write his great novel, The House of the Seven Gables.

    Nowadays, the House of the Seven Gables is a museum administered by the Seven Gables Settlement Association. They acquired the house and restored it to its original condition between 1908 and 1909.

    The House of the Seven Gables has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark.

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    The Charter Street Cemetery

    by traveldave Updated Dec 30, 2013

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    Founded in 1637, the Charter Street Cemetery (sometimes called the Charter Street Burial Ground) is the oldest cemetery in Salem and the second-oldest cemetery in the United States. Originally called the Olde Burying Point, the cemetery was established when land on a point overlooking the South River was set aside for a burial ground. Although the cemetery was officially established in 1637, the land had been used as a burial plot before then. Many of the first people to be buried at the site were victims of the "great sickness", a small pox epidemic, which plagued Salem between 1628 and 1629. One of those who died at that time was the wife of Governor John Endicott. The original entrance to the cemetery was on Liberty Street, but it was moved to Charter Street when that street was laid out in 1767.

    Many historic figures have been buried in the Charter Street Cemetery, including Richard More, one of the original passengers on the Mayflower; Justice John Hathorn of the Witchcraft Court (the "hanging judge"); Judge Bartholomew Gedney, who also presided over the Salem Witch Trials; Governor Simon Bradstreet (but his body was removed to another cemetery by his family in the 1800s); Salem architect and woodcarver Samual McIntyre; Nathaniel Mather, brother of famous Puritan Cotton Mather; as well as several of those who were hanged as witches during the Salem Witch Trials.

    Nowadays, the Charter Street Cemetery is one of the must-see historic attractions for visitors who come to Salem to see the sites associated with the Salem Witch Trials.

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    Arts and culture

    by Minceta Updated Nov 7, 2012

    I highlz recommend to visit, besides of course the Museum of Fine Art, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which holds a very interesting collection made mostly by Isabella Stewart Gardner. The Museum was established in 1903 by Isabella Stewart Gardner herself, who was an art collector and philantropist. The Museum is situated in front of the Museum of Fine Arts in the beautiful region of Fenway in Boston. The Renaissance Palaces of Venice served as a model for the house of the Museum. Absolutely worth a visit!

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    • Museum Visits

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    Ocean view from Kennedy Memorial

    by Pawtuxet Updated Sep 29, 2012

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    The beach is just below the memorial to President John F. Kennedy. There is a play area for children off to the side. From the memorial you are looking out at the waters Kennedy sailed .... and so dearly loved.

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    • Family Travel
    • Historical Travel

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    The Museum of Science

    by traveldave Updated Aug 16, 2012

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    The Museum of Science is located in Science Park which straddles the Charles River atop an inactive flood-control barrier at the mouth of the river. It was arguably the first museum in the country dedicated solely to science.

    What is now the Museum of Science was established in 1830 as the Boston Society of Natural History. In 1864, the museum purchased and moved into a building in the Back Bay district of Boston and was renamed the New England Museum of Natural History. The museum acquired its current name in 1939.

    The building in which the Museum of Science is presently housed was built between 1948 and 1951. The Charles Hayden Planetarium was completed in 1958. The building also underwent major expansions in the 1970s and 1980s.

    The Museum of Science is oriented toward families with children. More than 1,000 interactive exhibits and daily live shows covering life sciences and the natural world, technology and engineering, earth and space sciences, nanotechnology and nanomedicine, and current science and technology are designed to teach children and adults about scientific principles.

    The museum also boasts the Magar Omni IMAX Theatre (the only domed IMAX screen in New England), the 3-D Digital Cinema, Boston's Computer Museum, and the Charles Hayden Planetarium.

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    The "Make Way for Ducklings" Sculpture

    by traveldave Updated Aug 16, 2012

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    The Make Way for Ducklings sculpture depicts a duck, Mrs. Mallard, and her trailing brood of eight ducklings. It is based on Robert McCloskey's classic children's story of the same name.

    Published in 1941, Make Way for Ducklings tells the story of a family of mallards who made their home in the busy and crowded heart of Boston. Mrs. Mallard led her ducklings from their nest site on an island in the Charles River to meet Mr. Mallard in the Public Garden. Their route took them through downtown Boston across many busy streets where they were in danger of being run over by cars. Michael the policeman stepped in to help the ducks by stopping traffic so they could cross the street, and soon much of the Boston police force was involved in seeing the duck family safely to the park.

    The bronze sculpture was sculpted by Nancy Schön. Set in cobblestone, the sculpture spans 35 feet (11 meters) from front to back. It was installed in 1987 in the Public Garden where the story happily ended. Since it was installed, the sculpture has not needed professional polishing because children sit on and touch each of the ducks so often that they remain in a polished state.

    In 1991, a replica of the Make Way for Ducklings sculpture was installed in Novodevichy Park in Moscow as a gift from American First Lady Barbara Bush to the Soviet First Lady Raisa Gorbachev.

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    The Public Garden

    by traveldave Updated Aug 16, 2012

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    The 24-acre (ten-hectare) Public Garden is the largest and most popular park in downtown Boston. It was created on land that had been formed when the Charles River mudflats were filled in the 1830s.

    In 1837, Boston philanthropist Horace Gray petitioned the city to offer the land for what would be the first botanical garden in the United States. There was much political opposition to the plan because several city councilmen wanted to sell the land. However, in 1856 after much political wrangling, Gray was finally able to convince the city to agree to offer the land for a public park.

    Construction on the new park began in 1859 and was completed in 1862 when the wrought-iron fence surrounding the park's perimeter was finished. There was a succession of landscape plans submitted before the city finally chose the English-style garden theme designed by George Meacham. His plan included a pond, paths winding through the trees, and a number of fountains and statues. The paths and flower beds were laid out by city engineer James Slade and forester John Galvin.

    Nowadays, the park offers green lawns, landscaped flower beds, native and exotic trees, walking trails, fountains, statues, sculptures, and a pond. Since 1877, the four-acre (two-hectare) pond has been the site of the famous Swan Boats. These boats can be hired by tourists and are ornamented with a huge swan in the rear in which a tour guide sits while pedaling the boat around the pond.

    The Public Garden has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark.

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    James Rego Square

    by traveldave Updated Aug 16, 2012

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    Located in a brick-paved park leading from Hanover Street to the Old North Church, James Rego Square is more popularly called Paul Revere Mall for its equestrian statue of the American patriot. The square was laid out in 1933 in an alleyway between Hanover Street and Unity Street. The focal point of this pleasant tree-lined open area is Cyrus Dallin's equestrian statue of Paul Revere. The statue was originally modeled in 1885, but was not sculpted until 1940.

    Bronze bas-relief plaques set in the bricks of the square's side walls commemorate North End residents who played important roles in the history of Boston.

    The land on which James Rego Square is located was once a pasture owned by Christopher Stanley. Upon his death in 1641, he donated a parcel of land to the City of Boston for a free school, thus becoming the first private benefactor of public education in Boston.

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    Saint Stephen's Church

    by traveldave Updated Aug 16, 2012

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    What is now Saint Stephen's Church was originally called the New North Church. It was constructed between 1802 and 1804 for the New North Religious Society, a Congregationalist group.

    The church was designed by Charles Bulfinch in the Early Republic style of architecture, and is the last remaining church in Boston designed by him. The first church bell ever cast by patriot and metalworker Paul Revere (who made 200 church bells during his career) was hung in the church's belfry.

    The New North Church was initially a Congregationalist church and later became a Unitarian church. In 1862, it was taken over by Boston's expanding Roman Catholic community, and was renamed Saint Stephen's Church.

    In 1890, Rose Fitzgerald, who was later to become Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, and the mother of the President of the United States, was baptized in the church. Her funeral was held there in 1995.

    Saint Stephen's Church has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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    The North End

    by traveldave Updated Aug 16, 2012

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    The North End is where the city of Boston was first settled in 1630, and is the city's oldest residential neighborhood. The neighborhood's architecture spans from the 1630s through the early 1900s, although late nineteenth-century tenement buildings (now restored and gentrified) predominate. Many of Boston's most important historical buildings and monuments are located among the colonial streets of the North End, including the Blackstone Block, the Paul Revere House, Saint Stephen's Church, James Rego Square, and the Old North Church.

    The historic buildings and monuments can be seen by following the Freedom Trail, a set course through the streets of Boston that highlights the city's colonial and revolutionary past. The trail is marked by a line of bricks embedded in the sidewalk along the way. Maps of the Freedom Trail are available which explain the sights.

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    The Blackstone Block

    by traveldave Updated Aug 16, 2012

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    The Blackstone Block is the only remnant of what was once Boston's oldest neighborhood, dating back to the seventeenth century. It used to be close to the waterfront before landfill projects filled in much of Boston Harbor.

    This is the only area in Boston that contains remnants of the city's original street plan, including a seventeenth-century lane that is no more than six feet (two meters) wide. The neighborhood's main streets, Union, Hanover, and North (originally called Ann) streets, are among the first laid out in Boston. Many of the streets have been restored to their original condition and are paved with cobblestones, granite slabs, or bricks. The old alleyways have been converted into pedestrian walkways.

    The oldest building in the Blackstone Block dates from 1714, and has housed the famous Union Oyster House (seen on the left by enlarging the picture) since 1826. The Union Oyster House is renowned for its original mahogany raw oyster bar, and its political clientele, including then-Congressman John F. Kennedy.

    The district's most famous resident was Benjamin Franklin, who grew up near Union and Hanover streets, where his father ran a candleworks.

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    The Quincy Market

    by traveldave Updated Aug 16, 2012

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    The Quincy Market was constructed between 1824 and 1826 as an indoor pavilion to house vendor stalls that had formerly occupied space in the Faneuil Hall produce and meat markets. The market was organized by (and named after) then-mayor Josiah Quincy because demand for commercial space outgrew the capacity of Faneuil Hall.

    The market building was designed by architect Alexander Parris in the Greek Revival style of architecture. Each end of the building features triangular pediments and Doric columns. The exterior is of granite, and the interior walls are of red brick. The building is supported by cast-iron columns and iron tension rods. The two-story market building is 535 feet (163 meters) long and has 27,000 square feet (2,508 square meters) of space.

    The Quincy Market was initially used mainly by produce vendors, but there were also grocers specializing in such goods as eggs, cheese, and bread. There is evidence that butchers may have occupied parts of the building as well.

    However, as modern supermarkets began to appear across Boston, the vendors in the Quincy Market lost a substantial amount of business, and they closed one by one. After the markets were closed, the building fell into disrepair. However, it underwent a major restoration and reopened in 1976 as part of the larger Faneuil Hall Marketplace, a shopping and dining complex that is one of the most popular attractions in downtown Boston. The area is characterized by many expensive boutiques, art galleries, specialty shops, pubs, and restaurants.

    The Quincy Market has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark.

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    The Old State House

    by traveldave Updated Aug 16, 2012

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    The Old State House seems out of place among the towering skyscrapers of Boston's Financial District. The oldest surviving public building in Boston, the Old State House was the seat of the British colonial government from 1713 to 1776, the seat of the Massachusetts state legislature between 1776 and 1798, and served as Boston's city hall from 1830 to 1841.

    The Georgian-style Old State House was constructed between 1712 and 1713 to replace the former Town House which burned in a fire in 1711. Although the architect is unknown, there is some evidence that the building may have been designed by architect Robert Twelves.

    In 1770, the Boston Massacre took place in front of the Old State House. A crowd had gathered to protest unpopular taxes imposed by the British Crown, and after a scuffle, British soldiers shot into the crowd, killing five civilians and injuring six others. This was one of the events that eventually led to the American Revolutionary War. But the most famous event ever to take place at the building occurred in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was read to cheering crowds by Colonel Thomas Crafts from the balcony on the east side of the building.

    After independence, the Massachusetts legislature took possession of the building, which served as the state capitol until 1798 when the legislature moved to the present Massachusetts State House. Between 1830 and 1841, the Old State House served as Boston's city hall and also contained the city's post office and private businesses.

    Between 1841 and 1881, the building was rented out for commercial use, and housed tailors' shops, clothing merchants, insurance agencies, railroad offices, a produce market, a merchants' exchange, and a Masonic hall.

    After 1881, the Old State House was slated to be torn down. However, it was taken over by the Bostonian Society, a preservation group, and saved from demolition. It was completely renovated at that time by preservationist George Clough. Nowadays, the Old State House is run as a history museum by the Bostonian Society.

    The Old State House has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark.

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Massachusetts Things to Do

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