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The Best Day Trips from Boston

tourists in Boston
Allianz - tourists in Boston

Here's a novel travel idea: Fly into Logan International Airport, but don't go to Boston. Instead, try a series of day trips from Boston and sample New England's long history, natural beauty and great food.

You'll find fun day trip destinations in four states — New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Many are easily accessible by public transportation, whether bus, train or boat.

Tips for planning day trips from Boston

  • Watch for aggressive drivers. If you're accustomed to the more genteel drivers of the South or the Midwest, you may have a tough time adjusting to Boston roads. The city is home to the nation's second worst drivers, according to Allstate.1 (The very worst drivers are in nearby Worcester.) Expect tailgating and sporadic use of turn signals.
  • Remember everything is seasonal. Attractions may be closed or have shorter hours in the winter. Ferry service to Provincetown and the Harbor Islands runs May through October, and schedules vary depending on the season. (If you plan to visit in the fall, you might also want to check out this guide).

Here are your five best day trip options: 

1. Nosh Your Way Through Providence

Sure, Boston's famous for its clam chowder and, um, baked beans. But true gourmands should plan a day trip to Providence, R.I., named the second-best city for foodies by Travel+Leisure in 2015. The magazine praises the local street food, especially the lobster rolls at the Haven Brothers Diner food cart. Perhaps the best way to taste Providence is with a culinary tour. Visit the city's Italian bakeries, cafes and wine shops with the Savoring Federal Hill tour. Or hop the globe with tapas, Indian and pizza on Holly's Fabulous Providence Foodie Tour. Of course, there's more to do than eat. Explore the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, then stroll the Riverwalk and watch the evening illumination of the WaterFire sculpture. It's easy to get there and back: Take Amtrak from Boston's South Station and you can be in Providence in less than an hour.

2. Cruise the Harbor Islands

One of the best day trips from Boston is a boat trip to see the 34 islands and peninsulas scattered around Boston Harbor. Each of the Harbor Islands has its own unique charms. Georges Island is home to a Civil War-era fort and visitor center. Lovells Island has campsites and a wild beach. Little Brewster has the Boston Light, a working lighthouse built in 1716.

Ferries take visitors to eight islands from May through October; the other islands are reachable by private boat. Do note that although the ferries are accessible to people with disabilities, the islands, for the most part, are not. Georges and Spectacle are the two islands with some accessible trails.

3. See Spirits in Salem

Fourteen miles north of Logan Airport is the small town of Salem. Founded in 1629 by English colonists, the town is famous for the worst part of its history: the 1692 Salem Witch Trials. More than 20 men and women were executed or died in prison because they were accused of witchcraft. Modern Salem capitalizes on this macabre history with kitschy haunted houses, old-time photo studios and ghost tours. History buffs will appreciate Salem's more authentic attractions, such as the House of the Seven Gables (which inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel of that name) and the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. You can even sail around Salem Sound on the Fame, a replica of an 1812 privateer.

4. Stroll and Sunbathe in Provincetown

Located at the very tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown is a great place to watch seals, whales and people. It's a breezy day trip from Boston if you take the fast ferry service offered by Bay State Cruise Company or Boston Harbor Cruises. The first boat from Boston leaves at 8:30 a.m., arriving at 10. The last departure from Provincetown is 8:30 p.m. That gives you plenty of time to explore this vibrant beach town, known for its art scene and its gay and lesbian community. Savor the sea air on Race Point Beach, browse the boutiques on Commercial Street or climb to the top of the Pilgrim Monument.

5. Portsmouth, N.H.

Sixty Miles North of Boston is Portsmouth, N.H., one of America's oldest towns. Portsmouth is small and easy to explore on foot. You'll find quaint architecture, waterfront dining, walking trails and cute shops. One must-see attraction is Strawberry Banke, a recreation of a Colonial village peopled by living history interpreters. End the day with a Jimmy Juice on the deck of the Old Ferry Landing.

Richmond-based travel writer Muriel Barrett has a terrible sense of direction, and has spent many happy hours getting lost in Barcelona, Venice and Jerusalem. Her favorite travel memories all involve wildlife: watching sea turtles nest in Costa Rica, kayaking with seals in Vancouver and meeting a pink tarantula in Martinique.

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