It is truly amazing how much history is packed into Boston, Massachusetts, with its Freedom Trail, Tea Party Museum, and Boston Common, sights of some of Colonial America’s most notable events. But the surrounding area is just as incredible! You can spend a lot of time exploring all there is to see. We based ourselves at the Element Lexington (in Lexington) for 5 days to explore the area. Here are my 8 stops for history lovers near Boston, MA:
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Minute Man National Historical Park is a great place to bring alive the beginning of the American Revolution. Learn about the first battles of this significant time in our nation’s history, beginning in the Visitor Center. The movie was excellent- it showed in detail how the two armies went up against each other and how their strategies played out in Lexington, Concord, and Lincoln, Massachusetts.
There were a lot of sights to drive to along the 22 mile area, including the spot were Paul Revere was captured. My teens absolutely loved the history brought alive at this National Park.
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery lies along a main road of Concord, Massachusetts. Within this beautiful cemetery lies some of history’s finest authors. The burial sites here include those of Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. In addition, there are many more interesting and historic graves located here. Click here for a very cool, interactive map!
Although the weather was damp and rainy, I was determined to do some tombstone hunting just a short drive from our stay in Lexington. It was still a little challenging to find our way around. We weren’t sure if we were driving on a road or sidewalks in some areas. Eventually we found Author’s Ridge, exited the car, and immediately began walking in the opposite direction. After meandering our way along the wet walkways, we found our way back to our car, looked upwards, and saw a staircase leading up to our desired destination!
Once at the top, we began seeing familiar last names and found the graves for many famous writers. I was touched by the beauty of witnessing personal letters addressed to the deceased authors, sitting next to tombstones. Along with letters were pencils, coins, and flowers.
Salem, Massachusetts is famous for its history of witchcraft and famous Witch Trials of 1692. Today it is an interesting, bustling city rooted in its dark history. The Salem Witch Museum now requires tickets to be purchased online only, and I wasn’t able to snag them soon enough. However, we decided to still take the trip to Salem from our hotel in Lexington as a day trip. The weather was cold and rainy, kind of appropriate for the mood in Salem! We enjoyed wandering through the streets and shops.
I booked an afternoon walking tour with Salem On Foot Walking Tours. Our guide, Rory, showed up early, and although we were the only ones on his tour during the rainy afternoon, he didn’t cancel! He graciously led the four of us on his 90 minute walking tour, and he was excellent! We learned a ton, and had plenty of opportunities to ask questions. I highly recommend this tour. Click HERE for tour info or click the image below:
Lowell National Historical Park is definitely not like the national parks that we are used to visiting. This Park focuses on the factories, the innovators, and the workers, whose stories of opportunity and perseverance shaped our country. The whole family learned a lot about the Industrial Revolution and the effects it had on America in the 1800’s. I highly recommend checking it out when you are near Boston. (Read my post about Lowell here)
Pilgrim Memorial State Park (Plymouth Rock)
Another day trip from Lexington was spent exploring three sites of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Our first stop was Pilgrim Memorial State Park, site of Plymouth Rock. This nice memorial (pictured left) is surrounding the famous boulder. Here it is, in all its glory! (pictured right). The original rock was much larger, but as people came to visit, they chipped away at it to get a piece of history. The rock was also split in half during a move. Read more about its significance here.
Our second stop in Plymouth was the Mayflower II. This replica of the original Mayflower, stands proudly in the harbor of Plymouth, Massachusetts. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2020, after its restoration. We purchased tickets for Plymouth Patuxet Museums which included admission to the ship. We really enjoyed the exhibits on the harbor leading up to the ship itself. The kids got to raise the flag, read about the Pilgrims, and study navigation maps. Aboard the ship there were employees answering questions and describing the horrific living conditions. It was hard to imagine the hardships the Pilgrims endured to make the voyage!
Plimoth Patuxet Museums (Plymouth Plantation)
A short drive from the Mayflower II brought us to the Plimoth Patuxet Museums. We had purchased admission when touring the Mayflower II, which also included the Plimoth Patuxet Museums, consisting of Historic Patuxet, the 17th Century English Village, and the Plimoth Grist Mill. We explored the Historic Patuxet site and the 17th Century Village, which I remembered from my visit about 25 years earlier! Staff demonstrated carving and cooking methods used by the Wampanoag Natives in the 17th century. We were able to explore inside a Wetu (house) with its fur lined benches and burning fire.
In the Pilgrim village, the town “inhabitants” conversed with us as if we were living right back in the 17th century. They demonstrated food preparation, farming, gardening, and blacksmithing. We climbed to the second floor of the town’s watch tower, complete with cannons. A staff member was present to answer questions and share his extensive knowledge of the history of how this tower was used.
Located in Concord, Massachusetts, the Orchard House was the home of the Alcott Family from 1857-1877. The orchard of 40 apple trees on the property inspired the house name. It was here that Louisa May Alcott wrote her famous novel Little Women. This property was also the setting for her story. Due to the extensive preservation efforts of the home, it still contains 80% of the original furnishings. The grounds are lovely and this is a very popular tourist destination in Concord!
Boston is filled with rich history. There is so much to explore. I hope these 8 stops motivate you to visit for yourself!