18 Top-Rated Weekend Getaways from Boston
With all the attractions in Boston, tourists will always find plenty of things to do. But getting away from the city for a couple of days has its appeal, too, and Boston is perfectly located in the center of New England, within easy reach of the region's best places to visit.
Whether you enjoy outdoor sports, long sand beaches, dinners with an ocean view, island retreats, idyllic small towns, or immersing yourself in nature and mountain scenery, you'll find it within a few hours' drive – or train ride -- from the city.
Plan your next escape with this list of the best weekend getaways from Boston.
1. Portland, Maine
Portland has undergone a renaissance of late, becoming a hot spot for travelers looking for a refreshing weekend getaway from Boston. New restaurants are always opening, and their chefs are winning awards. With that in mind, it's a particularly popular spot for those looking for a foodie destination.
This coastal city goes a lot deeper than its remarkable food scene and, depending on your interests, Portland has a little something for everyone. Outdoor enthusiasts can take advantage of a multitude of water sports. Hiking trails surround the area. Art lovers should head to the Portland Museum of Art, where an impressive number of works from both local and international artists are on display.
Step into another world at the Victoria Mansion, the 1800s home of a prosperous family, with an elaborate and remarkably well-preserved period interior. The historic "Old Port" is a cobbled-street neighborhood on the waterfront, with plenty of shops and restaurants, many housed in repurposed warehouses.
Outside the city center, the beaches at Cape Elizabeth are among Maine's best, or you can take a ferry to see the Casco Bay Islands. My favorite day excursion from Portland is the short ferry ride to Peaks Island, where I rent a bicycle or golf cart to circle the rocky shore on the bike path. A stop at the quirky Umbrella Cover Museum near the ferry landing is always a highlight.
For an overnight stay, good value can be found at the Holiday Inn Portland by the Bay, which offers free Wi-Fi and a pool. Directly on the waterfront is the Portland Harbor Hotel, a boutique property with luxury amenities.
2. Provincetown, Massachusetts
Provincetown (P'town to locals) is a vibrant city located at the tip of Cape Cod's "hook." Full of art galleries, ice-cream stores, eclectic shops, and unique murals, this free-spirited town is a one-of-a-kind destination.
The best months to visit are July and August, when the water is at its warmest and the beaches at their most inviting, and it's the time when the town comes alive with tourists of all ages, shapes, and sizes. This is a popular spot in the summer, and it's best to book early if you're hoping to spend a night or two.
The iconic Pilgrim Monument is a landmark you can spot from pretty much everywhere in town, reminding visitors that Cape Cod was the first landing place of the Pilgrims in 1620. A climb to the top rewards visitors with remarkable vistas.
To play in the waters off P'town, you can rent a kayak or paddleboard.
Provincetown is about two and three-quarters hours from Boston, but in the summer, it could take much longer (sometimes four hours or more) to reach your destination. Travel on a weekday (not including Friday) for a faster drive or, better yet, leave the crowds behind by taking a seasonal ferry. Boston Harbor offers ferries that run to Provincetown in only one hour.
For your weekend stay, the Lands End Inn offers luxurious accommodations with majestic views of the Atlantic Ocean and the region's soft, sandy beaches. Additional Provincetown accommodations can be found at the Cape Colony Inn, which has an above-ground pool among its many amenities.
Read More: Top-Rated Things to Do in Provincetown, MA
3. Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Martha's Vineyard is the perfect getaway to leave the hustle and bustle of Beantown behind. This island has long been a prized vacation spot for Boston's elite and others just wanting to get away, recharge, or enjoy a romantic couples retreat.
While you are here, rent a bicycle so you can explore the island at your leisure. On the southwestern tip of the island is Aquinnah Cliffs, a popular tourist spot, where you can see the impressive clay cliffs. From the top, you can view the Gay Head Light or the Elizabeth Islands.
Animal lovers should head to Island Alpaca, where you can meet one of the friendly Huacaya alpacas and tour the beautiful farm. The main draw to Martha's Vineyard is the beach, so be sure to enjoy the ocean, sand, and sunshine on your trip.
Martha's Vineyard is a few hours from Boston, but well worth the drive. If you want to bring your car, make sure to have a ferry reservation booked well in advance (we're talking months, not days). You can also reach it via plane. In all, there are six main ways to get from Boston to Martha's Vineyard.
Centrally located in Edgartown, the Vineyard Square Hotel and Suites is a boutique property with modern décor and seaside charm.
4. Nantucket, Massachusetts
Thirty-six miles out to sea, this island off Cape Cod is committed to preserving its past, while keeping its amenities and tourist facilities fresh and up-to-date. Rose-covered cottages, cobblestone streets, and white picket fences are the norm. Many of the roads are unpaved, and a good portion of the island is devoted to conservation land.
Although Nantucket is known for its beaches, culture and history play a big role in the island's appeal. The remoteness and simple beauty add to the abundance of charm.
For just a weekend visit, leave your car at home and rent a bicycle (available right at the ferry landing) to get around and see the island. Stop by the Brandt Point Lighthouse or one of the many pristine beaches like Ladies or Jetties Beach.
A large selection of restaurants offers many choices, but on summer weekends, make sure to have a reservation. You could also load up on the amazing bounty of seafood or readily prepared sandwiches at Bartlett Farm and have a picnic on the beach.
The easiest way to get to Nantucket is to fly from Boston via Cape Air, or you can drive to Hyannis and take the ferry over. It will take a few hours either way, so this getaway is best made on a long weekend.
Most hotels on Nantucket are in town. The Veranda House along with the historical Jared Coffin House are centrally located and within walking distance to the harbor and a wide selection of restaurants in all price ranges. They're known as part of the Nantucket Resort Collection.
5. Old Orchard Beach, Maine
Old Orchard Beach is all about fun in the sun, with a rosy tint of nostalgia. Seven miles of beautifully maintained sand is backed by low dunes, and every bit of it is publicly accessed. You can walk to the beach from dozens of low-key family-friendly lodgings.
Best, of all, you can arrive right at the beach by Amtrak's Downeaster train from Boston. The station is a few steps from the long traditional pier, which has extended into the water since 1898, still lined with an array of kiosks, ice cream stands, and eating places. Beside the pier is an attraction even more enticing for kids than the miles of sand: Palace Playland.
The amusement park's Ferris wheel rises from the beach for dizzying ocean and coastal views, and the original carousel wheezes out the same tunes on its calliope that have played there for generations of families. One of those families was mine and some of my most treasured childhood memories are of riding that carousel on hot summer days. More than two dozen rides and activities make New England's only remaining oceanside amusement park as much fun for today's kids as it was for me.
The pier, the somewhat honky-tonk holiday-by-the-sea vibe, the Ferris wheel, the calliope music, the squeals of kids on the Tilt-a-Whirl and miles of golden sand all combine to make Old Orchard head the list of the top beaches in Maine.
6. Block Island, Rhode Island
Located just off the coast of mainland Rhode Island and Long Island, New York, this nine-square-mile isle is only accessed by ferry from the mainland. Getting here from Boston is easy. Take the hour-and-a-half drive to Kingston and then hop on the Block Island ferry, which takes approximately 15 minutes from port to port.
Once there, rent a moped or bike and explore the 17-mile perimeter where you'll find some of the most pristine sandy beaches in Rhode Island. Even though Block Island is small, it's filled with dozens of charming specialty shops, art galleries, and more.
Nature enthusiasts will enjoy the Clayhead Nature Trail, Rodman's Hollow, and Settlers Rock. Wear sturdy shoes and pack snacks, and plenty of water and sunblock, as you'll want to hit these trails for hours.
At the Block Island Maritime Institute, you'll likely learn something new about the diverse marine life in this area. If you are looking for a little more adventure, try a fishing excursion with Block Island Fishworks.
National Hotel, within walking distance from the ferry docks, is the epitome of a classic Victorian-style hotel. The large structure has a front porch made for rocking chairs and binoculars. Breakfast is included in your stay.
7. Berkshires, Massachusetts
There are few views as beautiful as those from atop the Berkshire Hills. This gorgeous region, one of the most popular getaways from Boston and New York, spans western Massachusetts and parts of Connecticut. It's packed with some of Mother Nature's best creations, a natural wonderland begging to be explored and photographed.
This area offers a lot to those who choose it for a weekend getaway from Boston: visiting quaint towns, eating great food, and hiking lush trails top the list of things to do in the Berkshires. Depending on your mood, you can enjoy relaxing during a class at the world-famous Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, or indulge your inner adventurer by white water rafting or flying high through the trees on a zipline. Alternatively, you may simply choose to relax at one of the beautiful resorts in the Berkshires.
Art lovers and avid gardeners will particularly love this area as it's home to the Norman Rockwell Museum, the home and restored gardens of author Edith Wharton, the Berkshires Botanical Garden, and the studio and gardens of America's foremost public sculptor, Daniel Chester French.
In the heart of the Berkshires, the chic Hotel on North is a loft-style boutique hotel, with modern conveniences, exposed brick, and high ceilings. Located in Lee, Black Swan Inn on the Lake is a lakefront property with balcony rooms overlooking the water.
8. Newport, Rhode Island
A two-hour drive from Boston, Newport is like no other town in America. Long Bellevue Avenue and surrounding streets are lined with mansions that were the summer palaces of New York's ruling families at the turn of the 20th century. Fully restored, these dazzle with gilded and painted salons and ballrooms, and sumptuous living areas.
Top on your list to visit should be The Breakers and The Elms, as well as Marble House when it reopens from renovations. You can see several of these (along with ocean views) from the famous Cliff Walk, or from a stroll down Bellevue Avenue.
Its sparkling waterfront views, seafood restaurants, pedestrian shopping areas, and romantic boat cruises are more reasons to visit Newport. Thames St. is the place to browse for restaurants, and art lovers should stop at my favorite museum in Newport, the National Museum of American Illustration, to see murals by Maxfield Parrish and works by other noted illustrators.
An elegant stay reflecting the Gilded Age can be found steps from the Cliff Walk at The Chanler at Cliff Walk. For a fabulous stay across a small inlet near the harbor, select Gurney's Newport Resort and Marina. The in-house restaurant has some of the best views in town.
9. Mystic, Connecticut
There are few towns as charming as Mystic, a seaside village about two hours southwest of Boston, and one of the most attractive small towns in Connecticut.
Visiting the Mystic Seaport Museum is one of Mystic's top things to do. At the recreated 19th-century seafaring village, visitors can board the world's last wooden whaling ship, the Charles W. Morgan, or sail around the harbor on the working catboat, Breck Marshall. Kids will learn seaworthy skills such as knot-tying in the Children's Museum.
Nearby, you'll find the town's other main tourist draw, the Mystic Aquarium. One of the top attractions in Connecticut, this is a mecca for lovers of marine life. Beluga whales, seals, and penguins call this aquarium home.
Across the street lies the lovely Olde Mistick Village. Save your appetite, as it's filled with great restaurants and shops selling everything from candied nuts to homemade donuts to flavored popcorn and fudge.
The Whaler's Inn is a charming place to rest your head at the end of a busy Mystic day. Centrally located and newly renovated, this historic inn has rooms in five buildings, including family-friendly suites. Taber Inn & Suites is another quaint hotel that's been family run since 1971. It boasts an indoor pool, and the luxury suites come with a fireplace, Jacuzzi tub, and private balcony.
10. Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire
New Hampshire's Lakes Region is the freshwater playground of the northeast, and Lake Winnipesaukee (we locals simply call it "the Big Lake") is its best-known and largest body of water.
The small city of Laconia, known for its annual motorcycle rally, sits at the southern end of the Big Lake, and is a great place to get a taste for what the Lakes Region has to offer.
Weirs Beach is Laconia's hot spot, home not only to one of New Hampshire's most popular beaches, but also a wide, boardwalk-style waterside stretch with open-air arcades, shopping, and restaurants. It's also a port for the historic cruise boat, M/S Mount Washington and the mail boat Sophie C., America's oldest floating post office, both excellent ways to get out on the water and enjoy the scenery.
Many regular visitors bring their boat for the summer, but you'll find several marinas that offer rentals. The best part of boating on the Big Lake is pulling up to the dock at a restaurant – both my favorites are on the water in Meredith. Town Docks Restaurant is my spot for an informal bite and Lago the perfect stop for a romantic meal.
For a scenic ride on land, hop aboard the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad right at the dock.
Whether by boat or by car, exploring the small towns along the shores of Winnipesaukee is a great way to spend an afternoon. While Meredith is a bit bougie, towns like Center Harbor and Wolfeboro are more down-to-earth, offering plenty of shops and scenic spots for tourists to enjoy.
Author's Tip: If you're not a fan of motorcycles in droves, avoid the Laconia area during the end of June; Bike Week takes place over nine days, typically ending on Father's Day. If you do visit then, expect restaurants to be packed and hotel rates much higher than average.
11. Rockport, Massachusetts
You'll understand at once why Rockport has long been a haven for artists. The waterfront, with its boats and cluster of fishing shacks simply begs to be sketched, photographed, or painted. Right in the center of every harbor view is the iconic Motif #1, a fishing shack that has been made famous by decades of artists and photographers.
One of the most charming small towns in Massachusetts, this seaside retreat lies an hour northeast of Boston, right on the tip of Cape Ann, where it meets Sandy Bay. Beside the harbor is Bearskin Neck, filled with quirky shops, restaurants, and art galleries.
For ocean views and walks along the shore, follow the somewhat rough coastal path or drive to Halibut Point State Park, a former granite quarry with a lighthouse and ocean views.
Pack a swimsuit and towel, as you may want to spend time on the beaches between browsing in galleries, exploring the waterfront parks and taking a whale-watch cruise from the nearby fishing port of Gloucester.
Head back to The Seafarer Inn if you're hoping for a laid-back waterfront hotel that oozes charm. The Rockport Inn and Suites is another good place to stay if you're in the market for a slightly larger, more upscale, family-friendly spot with extra amenities, like an indoor pool and hot tub.
12. Kennebunkport, Maine
If you're looking for an upscale coastal retreat, you'll be happy you traveled to the little town of Kennebunkport in Maine. A bustling locale in the summer, this popular vacation spot is a two-hour drive north of Boston via Route I-95. Unlike much of Maine's rocky coastline, Kennebunkport has several long sandy beaches and a convenient transport system to get you to the sand without a car.
One of the best ways to see Kennebunkport and learn about its rich history is the Intown Trolley Tour. You'll get a full rundown of the notable attractions, from the Bush compound to the Spouting Rock and a local monastery. Take a cruise to see lighthouses, or drive to York for close-up views of Maine's most beautiful, Nubble Light, on its wave-swept island.
Around Dock Square you will find your fill of unique boutiques, restaurants, and art galleries. The town does a good job of incorporating festivals into the shoulder seasons, making the Kennebunks a good year-round destination. The month of December is especially festive, with sleigh rides and the town Christmas Tree decorated in colorful lobster buoys.
The Nonantum Resort offers plenty of additional activities on their menu, family fun, and an on-site lighthouse. The Rhumb Line Resort offers great value with an in-ground pool and free breakfast and Wi-Fi.
13. Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Portsmouth's elegant beauty and lively maritime air are a winning combination. Add a food scene that garners national attention, and you'll see why this port city is a popular getaway.
Learn more about the area and its history with a visit to the open-air Strawbery Banke Museum. Here, costumed docents help visitors understand what it was like to live and work in the waterfront neighborhood over the past several hundred years.
In addition to the buildings you can tour here, Portsmouth is fortunate to have many more homes from the Colonial and Federal periods that are in original condition and open to visitors. Foremost of these are the Warner House and the Moffatt-Lad House, which also has a restored Colonial garden.
But Portsmouth's attractions are not all about its well-preserved past. Highlighting the arts and culture scene is The Music Hall, with a full schedule of live theater, Broadway shows, and top-performer appearances.
Market Street is aptly named, lined with boutiques, galleries, and locally owned shops set in historic brick mercantile buildings. For a look at Portsmouth from the sea and a chance to see its lighthouses, take a harbor cruise or a trip to the Isles of Shoals.
Author's Note: My favorite time to go to Portsmouth is in the late spring when trees and flower gardens are in bloom at the harborside Prescott Park. In the summer the park is a venue for concerts.
Along with its waterfront location, the free breakfast and a pool are added inducements to stay at Hampton Inn & Suites Portsmouth Downtown. Those looking for a New England bed-and-breakfast experience will find the Sailmaker's House a great choice.
14. Lincoln: Gateway to New Hampshire's White Mountains
Just over two hours from Boston on I-93, Lincoln is a convenient gateway to both sides of the White Mountains. Immediately north are the scenic and natural wonders of Franconia Notch, and to the east, the lofty Kancamagus Pass leads to the resorts and attractions of North Conway and the Mt. Washington Valley.
In the heart of the White Mountains region, a base in Lincoln allows you to enjoy some of the state's most beautiful scenery and exciting attractions without an exhausting drive. Lincoln's accessibility and abundance of things to do for all ages and interests make it as perfect for a romantic getaway as for a family weekend romp; outdoor enthusiasts have plenty of options, too.
If you're taking a summer break with grade-school kids, your first stop should be Clark's Bears. This amusement park may be on the smaller side, but its diversions are not the same-old thrill rides. The bear shows — these animals were rescued as orphans by the Clark family and given a loving home here -- show how clever those giant furballs really are.
If the weather is warm, Whale's Tail Water Park is nearby, offering everything from gentle kiddie pools to surfing and bodyboarding lessons. Another big hit is the Hobo Railroad, where an 80-minute train ride departs rain or shine from May through October.
Couples can have a romantic five-course dinner aboard the Café Lafayette Dinner Train on a 20-mile rail adventure in their chrome-adorned 1950s-style dining cars.
The Loon Mountain Gondola and the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway lead to mountaintop vistas that are glorious, especially when painted with autumn foliage.
Author's Tip: Make your first stop the Gateway Visitor Center, conveniently located right at the exit 32 off-ramp. Along with getting information about attractions in the region, you can take a selfie with a real (stuffed) moose.
Read More: Best Things to Do in Lincoln, NH
15. Providence, Rhode Island
Providence lies about an hour's drive from Boston. This small city is busting at the seams with charm and a rich history, making it a wonderful and very romantic spot to spend a weekend getaway from Beantown.
Rising above the downtown area (called DownCity here) is the Rhode Island State House, with the fourth-largest self-supporting marble dome in the world. Below, a river that once flowed beneath the pavement, has been uncovered, crossed by small bridges that give it the feel of a Venetian canal.
Reserve ahead to complete the scene with a ride in an authentic Venetian gondola. Reserve WAY ahead to ride during one of the summer WaterFire evenings, when the river is filled with bonfires.
Above the downtown area, The Hill is crowned by the campus of the Ivy League Brown University. Below it, the streets are a delight to stroll, past the fine old homes and well-kept dooryard gardens. The finest of these line Benefit Street, known as The Mile of History. You can tour the imposing John Brown House.
If you are an art lover, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art has an impressive body of work on display. More than 90,000 pieces of art range from ancient Egyptian and Asian works to cutting-edge contemporary designs. Check the schedule for upcoming shows at the Providence Performing Arts Center.
If you're traveling with your family, take the kids to the Roger Williams Park Zoo, one of the country's finest. Small, but filled with hands-on experiences, the Rhode Island Children's Museum is easy to spot by the big green dragon looking down from the roof.
Providence Marriott Downtown has a resort-type atmosphere and a great outdoor pool. It's also one of the few places in town to offer free parking. In the heart of downtown, The Dean Hotel has been tastefully restored to reflect its past and is convenient to the Convention Center.
16. Stowe, VT
While most think of Stowe as a winter destination, an upscale Vermont ski resort, and a haven for skiers and snowboarders, this classic Vermont small town is captivating at all times of the year. During fall, Stowe is at its most photogenic, with vibrant hues of red, orange, and yellow painting the landscape; in summer it abounds with outdoor activities.
For those traveling from Boston, the drive to Stowe takes about three hours. Once there, lucky weekenders can hike mountain trails, enjoy a latte in a cute café, or shop in one of the several galleries showing the works of local artists and craftspeople.
One of the top things to do in Stowe is hike or bike the Stowe Recreation Path, a paved 5.3-mile trail from the center of the village to just below Mt. Mansfield. Open all year, the path is wide enough for walkers, joggers, and cyclists, to enjoy it at the same time; it's groomed in the winter for Nordic skiers.
The Trapp Family Lodge is set within a European-style alpine resort on a sprawling 2,500 acres of incredible landscape. The Lodge at Spruce Peak is another fab spot to rest your weary heads. Also set within a phenomenal mountainous terrain, this lavish spot is the only ski-in, ski-out luxury resort in Stowe.
17. Old Saybrook, Connecticut
The small seaside town of Old Saybrook is about 125 miles southwest of Boston, and one of the best places to visit in Connecticut. Among the state's oldest towns, Old Saybrook bursts with charm, especially in the Fenwick Historic District, where you'll find picture-perfect shingled cottages that date to the 19th and early 20th centuries.
It was once the home of famed actor, Katherine Hepburn, and you can catch a concert, comedy show, or film at The Kate, a cultural arts center named in her honor. Visiting the Florence Griswold Museum is another top thing to do in Old Saybrook. Technically five minutes outside the border, in neighboring Old Lyme, this bright yellow house is impossible to miss.
Harvey's Beach is one of the top beaches in the state, and the reason that Old Saybrook tops the list of Connecticut's best beach towns. Spanning 100 yards of shoreline, this is a highly popular spot for summertime fun with its fine sand and calm water.
The Saybrook Point Resort & Marina is by far the best place to stay in Old Saybrook. Not only does it offer the most stunning panoramic vistas, but the rooms are elegant and there are vacation villas on-site if you're visiting with a larger group. The Lighthouse Suite is a romantic spot set in a lighthouse (obviously) at the end of the pier.
18. Ski Weekend in New Hampshire
Thanks to I-93, it's an almost straight shot from the Boston metro area to many of New Hampshire's best ski mountains. Gunstock Mountain Resort, located right by Lake Winnipesaukee in Gilford, is just under two hours' drive from Boston.
This county-owned ski area is known for reasonable lift prices and several money-saving pass options, offering 55 trails as well as tubing, ziplining, and a Mountain Coaster.
Waterville Valley Resort is about 15 minutes from Exit 28. This full-service resort is its own little community with plenty of things to do if you don't want to ski its 50+ trails, including ice skating, sleigh rides, and lots of other activities.
Deeper in the legendary White Mountains, Loon Mountain is less than 10 minutes from the highway and just over two hours from Boston. With three peaks and great snowmaking power, the resort offers 61 trails with 2,100 feet of vertical drop, plus a good variety of terrain parks, on-slope lodging, and other winter activities that include skating, tubing, and even winter ziplining.
Cannon Mountain is just a few minutes north of Loon, and although this state-park-run hill doesn't have the full resort amenities of its neighbor, it is known for its challenging, steep terrain with 81 trails accessed by 10 lifts.
Author's Tip: If you're looking for a quick and inexpensive ski getaway, head to the smaller Pats Peak in Henniker, just 90 minutes from Boston. You can even get here without a car thanks to the Ski Bus. You'll get a discount on lift tickets when you take the bus, but lifts are surprisingly affordable no matter how you get there. A good mountain for families, Pat's Peak has an excellent rental shop on-site and a full range of runs for all skill levels.
Read More: Top-Rated Ski Resorts in New Hampshire