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Senior solo first visit to Boston in Mid October...ideas for a day trip during my week stay

I needed to use a flight voucher and chose BOSTON since it has been on my USA TO DO LIST for eons...trying to stay in a budget place with shared kitchen/ close to easy transport. Any ideas for a one day trip to nearby area such as Marthas Vineyard? Salem might be crazy busy in October so open to other suggestions. I prefer going by bus or train not on a tour. Thanks for any info.

Posted by
4267 posts

Plimoth plantation would be beautiful at that time of year. You could also consider Quincy, the homes and church of John Adams and John Quincy Adams. Closer into Boston you could consider Brookline, home of John Kennedy.

EDITED TO ADD: It's been a while so I can't recall exact detail, but Quincy is right on a commuter train line. It was a pretty little town.

Posted by
65 posts

Other places to consider: Ogunquit, Maine, Concord (Minuteman National Park), Portsmouth, NH. All wonderful day trips out of Boston. And I second Plimoth Plantation - very well done.
Enjoy!

Posted by
221 posts

Depends on how much you want to travelfor a day. Maine would be at least a couple of hours each way, and probably no public transportation. For the Vineyard, you'd have a couple of hours, at least, to get to the ferry (again, probably no easy bus) and then an hour or so on it. So that could make a very long day. Plimouth Plantation would be closer, as would historical sights in the western suburbs--Wayside Inn and the other buildings on that site in Sudbury, or Concord, which has a lovely town center. But traveling by bus or train could be a problem. There probably isn't good public transportation to Plymouth (but you should check) or Sudbury; there is a train station in Concord, although not in the center. It might be easier to get to Salem by train, and even though it is busy in October, it would probably be a reasonable choice. There's a new wing at the Peabody Essex Museum and many interesting exhibits, as well as the town itself.

Posted by
4267 posts

Yes, Lois is correct. I had forgotten that the two times I've visited Plimoth Plantation, I rented a car for the day. Things may have changed and it may be worth looking into transportation options. I really enjoyed the day.

There is also much to do in Charlestown, just across the bridge from Boston. There's Bunker Hill and the U.S.S. Constitution and a museum associated with it.

We also found much to do in Cambridge. There is the Longfellow house, MIT museum and just walking around MIT and Harvard and along the river.

Posted by
1694 posts

You could take the ferry from Boston (200 Seaport Blvd.) to Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod. There's a bus that goes down the Cape (not on Sundays, except in the summer). EDITED TO ADD: you can look on baystatecruisecompany.com to make ferry reservations.

Posted by
221 posts

And of course, there's lots to do in Boston itself--besides the Cambridge museums, there's the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardiner museum, the Freedom Trail, and walking around the Public Garden and the Back Bay. There are also a variety of walking tours that Boston By Foot offers, as well as food tours of the North End.

Posted by
370 posts

With a full week, you might consider Rockport and/or Gloucester midweek, as they are likely to be crowded on the weekend. Martha's Vineyard would make for a very long day-- you would spend about 2 hours each way if you drove to Woods Hole and took the ferry from there. The ferry to Provincetown suggested by another poster is also a good idea. But as others say, there is plenty to do in Boston.

[edited when I realized you said you have a week]

Posted by
5484 posts

October is a poor choice for Martha's Vineyard or other beach-tourist season destination. It will be too cold for swimming, and some beaches may even prohibit swimming because there are no lifeguards (?) Provincetown is not a beach destination, and the coastal places suggested are year-round artist work sites, so they're okay. I think mid-October is too late for New England foliage. Do you want to got to an art museum (like Worcester) or a garden (like Garden in the Woods or Tower Hill), or do you want a city? I think the Peabody-Essex Museum (a very important place) makes up for the dumb witch-Chakra-hipppie vibe of Salem, and make that idea worth serious consideration. The other interest is the post-industrial history of the Salem. Consider also Providence or Newport, RI.

Please try to make sure your AirBnb is not a commercial operation that harms apartment market affordability in Boston. I once had an apartment near Boston Common.

Posted by
3789 posts

I will confess, as a non-US visitor to Boston, there were some disappointments. I have some understanding of the history of the area, but Freedom Trail, oldest graveyard, Finean Hall, all left me pretty cold. But I love Isabella Gardiner Museum, Salem and the Harvard Natural History Museum. I made a special trip out there many years ago as Marth Stewart's Magazine had just covered the amazing glass botanical specimens for flowers exhibited there. Here's a link: https://hmnh.harvard.edu/glass-flowers (and yes, they are truly made of glass). So, I would second the Cambridge suggestion.

Posted by
847 posts

Boston is great and there's a lot to do there. I don't consider Cambridge a "day trip", it's right there, you can just go back and forth. In fact looking for budget accommodations you might consider staying in Cambridge.

Unfortunately day trips out of Boston without a car are not great. Even though you are right that Salem will be busy in October, I still think it's the most logical day trip by public transportation and it really is a nice town with plenty to see besides the witch stuff. Concord is also a great place to spend a day but I've never done it by public transportation (I live in Mass so usually am driving my own car, I did do Salem by train once). Also Gloucester/Rockport, but again, don't know about the public transportation. But Concord, Gloucester and Rockport are all close enough for day trips where as even if you have a car going all the way to Maine, the Cape or especially the Vineyard would be a lot of time for just one day.

Posted by
122 posts

This forum is invaluable for a first time visitor to ANY where. I only have a week so one day trip will work. I will do Salem not just for Halloween brouhaha but Peabody Essex Museums. Easy, cheap train ride($14) Maybe some one can suggest a budget place for lunch? OTHER IDEAS:
I had not read about the glass flowers so thanks for that tip Maria and others :)
Also, I will read more about Quincy as well as Garden in the Woods. A visit to Brookline seems easy breezey.
Finding budget lodging proved to be quite a challenge. October is a busy time and many Airbnb spots that I can afford were not available. I ended up reserving a bed in a 4 bed coed room at Boston Fenway Inn by Found on Hemenway St. which looks convenient to some attractions and the T. Lots to see/ do in different neighborhoods-
Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard will be on a future spring/summer list.
I hope to do a trip report upon my return to convince other 70+ solo seniors to try a one week city break!
If you think of any other budget tips please share. HAPPY FALL one and all~~~cj

Posted by
5484 posts

I haven't been to the Natural History Museum, but note that the (newly unified, in a glossy star-chitect building) Harvard [Art] Museums are an even more important collection than the Peabody-Essex. I was surprised to learn of their special Mark Rothko collection. (Make sure it is hung if you care about it.) If you belong to a College museum at home, you may even have Reciprocal Admission. I trust you have heard of the unique, historic, and high-powered Gardner Museum (which is right next to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.)

I personally have no limit on the number of art museums I'll go to, but you may have other preferences!

Posted by
381 posts

mid-October is too late for New England foliage.

Whoa! Mid-October (Columbus Day or the week thereafter) is usually peak foliage in Western Mass. The foliage will still be mighty colorful in the Boston area and southern New England at that time.

Posted by
221 posts

The big challenge for getting out of Boston is limited public transportation options. That's why Salem is such a good choice. There is a train line to Gloucester and Rockport (one of my favorite destinations) but the stations aren't that conveniently located to what one might want to see. The train station in Concord would be a short Uber/Lyft ride from the center of town. The Harvard museums are great--the glass flowers are really amazing--but I think a trip could easily include both them and the Peabody Essex. There's a reasonable cafe there for lunch, too. The Garden in the Woods, in Framingham, is completely inaccessible other than by car.

Posted by
2332 posts

I just returned from Boston and elsewhere in New England late last night. Certainly there are many things to visit and do in Boston, Cambridge, Salem and the other spots mentioned.
Another idea: just yesterday I spent some time in Lowell, MA on my way to Logan Airport. Lowell is about a 45 minute train ride from North Station in Boston. Lowell is where the American Industrial Revolution rose and then began to decline. There is an “urban National Park” in Lowell, spread around the downtown area. The major site is a museum on the early phases of the US textile industry, very well done with a large working room with dozens of large mechanized textile looms. I spent 2 hours but wished I had the whole day. In wandering around, I also spotted a Quilt Museum and a separate American Textile Museum. There are also various canals in town and on some days canal tours by boat. You might check out Lowell as a possibility.

Posted by
4267 posts

I have only been to Boston during mid October and Plimoth and Quincy as well as Boston were lovely, maybe a bit past peak but definitely leaves on the trees. It you plan to go to the Isabel Garner Museum in Back Bay, there is a series on Amazon Prime about lost and stolen art. One of them is about the Isabel Stewart Garner Museum and was very interesting. If you plan to go to Quincy, there was a John Adams history series that was excellent. I believe I saw it on PBS.

I think with a just a week you will have plenty to do without leaving Boston area (in which I include Cambridge, Charlestown and Brookline and even Quincy) I know that just on the outskirts of Boston (I think) there is the JFK Presidential library.

In regards to the Freedom trail, it typically takes me two days to do it. But, I'm a U.S. citizen and a history buff. Many of the places on the trail are museums that are worth a stop and take time (Paul Revere House, Old North Church, Fanuel Hall, etc. etcl)

Posted by
1770 posts

We're about the same age. I've been to Boston twice and went to the JFK museum both times. I would go again because my brain starts to go dead after a couple of hours in a museum and I can never see all I would like to. Just something that hadn't been mentioned here. The Gardiner museum would be my first choice.

EDIT: I now see the JFK was mentioned in the previous post - sorry!

Posted by
3193 posts

i dont know about it accessibility ti public transportation becausr i drove there, but i really enjoyed the John Adams historical homes in Quincy

Posted by
1649 posts

I will do Salem not just for Halloween brouhaha but Peabody Essex Museums. Easy, cheap train ride($14)

You can reach Salem, MA by the "Commuter Rail." It will be packed in October. Here is a link with some ideas. https://www.salem.org/ and https://www.salem.org/events-calendar/list/?tribe_event_display=list&tribe_paged=2

Also, I will read more about Quincy as well as Garden in the Woods.

Quincy is Boston Metro. It is considered part of the "South Shore."

If you are interested in a lot of history, here are some ideas:

https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/massachusetts/articles/10-things-to-do-in-quincy-massachusetts/

https://www.quincyma.gov/visitors/default.htm

A visit to Brookline seems easy breezey.

https://www.brooklinema.gov/

Finding budget lodging proved to be quite a challenge. October is a busy time and many Airbnb spots that I can afford were not available. II ended up reserving a bed in a 4 bed coed room at Boston Fenway Inn by Found on Hemenway St. which looks convenient to some attractions and the T.

I would not have suggested Fenway/Kenmore to stay in. It is home to the Red Sox of course. It can be crazier when they are in town for home games.

Fenway / Kenmore area is also home to a lot of college students, med students, young people getting started into their careers, bars, sports grills, nightclubs.

Hemenway Street is not really picturesque. Just be careful which direction you go from Fenway area. Always head toward Back Bay, Beacon Hill, The Common (daylight), and Downtown Crossing areas.

Depending on what address you are staying at on Hemenway, if you are up to it, you can walk to The Museum of Fine Arts. You can spend a whole day in there. Also, they will often have interesting and unique exhibits. There is a cafeteria although nothing to brag about and expensive.

Lots to see/ do in different neighborhoods-

You may like to visit the Institute of Contemporary Art https://www.icaboston.org/ (Seaport District)

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum -- https://www.gardnermuseum.org/visit

The Financial District (South Station) -- Pub/ food court.

The Theater District (Tremont St.)

Walk along Beacon Hill and The Back Bay -- Historic and lovely

There is Newbury Street to wander up and down. Some boutique-style shops -- eclectic as well as the ordinary. Lots of restaurants. I love "The Back Bay."

If interested, check out The Prudential Center aka "The Pru." Maybe go to the Observatory and take a peek at The Boston Skyline. https://www.prudentialcenter.com/ Shops and restaurants inside.

There is Copley Place. https://www.simon.com/mall/copley-place -- Shops to poke around and restaurants.

Take a fun ride on the Boston Duck Tours. https://bostonducktours.com/

Mass State Tax is 6.25% on most goods; most clothing is exempt. Luxury items will see a higher tax of course -- any individual clothing item that costs more than $175 and above is taxable.

Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard will be on a future spring/summer list.

Good idea. A lot of places -- hotels and restaurants will be closing for the season or limiting their hours. Also, it will be very cold and windy. But some people like to "walk the beach" all bundled up -- refreshing.

"The Northshore" -- Gloucester, Marblehead, Rockport, Newburyport, Nahant, Manchester-By-The-Sea, and Georgetown would be enjoyed in the warmer season. Lots to do and see in those "beach towns."

I grew up in and around Boston; went to school in Boston; lived in and around Boston; work in Boston. It is exciting and crazy! Massachusetts seems to be under a state of "permanent construction." I would advise first-time visitors to either walk it, train it, cab it. There are a lot of one-way streets or pedestrian-only streets. Check out "Charlie card."

Welcome to Boston!

Posted by
82 posts

Salem is probably your best option, it's easy by train. I would avoid weekends if possible...it's likely to be less crazy during the week. For restaurants I love Finz and Sea Level Oyster Bar...both are on the water and have excellent seafood.

Hemenway is a great location, my old college stomping grounds (I went to Northeastern University).

Posted by
4267 posts

Re. Beacon Hill. It's been a few years, but I found walking tours in the guidebooks for Beacon Hill. There are wonderful historic homes and shops with the old metal signs signifying the type of shop (mortar and pestal for pharmacy)

I don't think anyone mentioned the aquarium. It's quite good. It's also easy walking. Take the elevator to the top and its ramped all the way down.

Posted by
1694 posts

Second the Aquarium! It's beautifully designed. The floor level is currently hosting penguin colonies. It's right on the harbor, and has a room with great views thereof. Boston is so very walkable - I was there in July, went to the Aquarium, then walked to the Commons and the public Gardens, with swan boats, lots of musicians, and some folks strolling around in 19th century dress.

Posted by
2917 posts

I don't consider Cambridge a "day trip", it's right there, you can just go back and forth.

I was about to say that. Cambridge is essentially Boston. It's just on the red line, (subway), north. Charlestown is a walk to the Constitution and museum, or bus up the hill to Bunker Hill Monument if you desire.

Before you decide to go to Salem in October, partially for the Peabody Essex Museum, make sure they have an exhibit you want to see, as you might prefer hiding in the museum. With that many people you can't enjoy the old center. Salem in October would not be a first visit day trip for me...too crazy and crowded. I ditto the person who recommended the Harvard Museums after the MFA and Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum and the ICA...if you want that many museums.

The Adams National Historic Park in Quincy is a 15 minute subway ride on the red line, south, from South Station (just for timing purposes for you). The park has trolleys to take you to their homes. I think they don't close until November, but I'd recommend you check that out. Quincy is an easy day or partial day excursion. I'm partial to Quincy's historical sites. If you want a full day trip, I'd do Quincy first and then on the way back get off at the JFK stop. There are shuttle buses to the JFK museum and Teddy Kennedy's Center (the name escapes me at the moment). These are easy, no vehicle places to visit.

The most different (from Boston) day trip is the fast boat to Provincetown, but his is much more expensive than a subway ride to Quincy. It is a lovely and refreshing day trip. It is quaint and yet fun and interesting at the same time, with some good restaurants. IMO. It will be a full day, but again, fun. The fast ferry is out of Long Wharf, not Seaport - that's the slow ferry, unless it changed VERY recently so be sure to know which ferry and where.

You could also take the Downeaster (Amtrak) to Portland, Maine and spend the day. I think it is 2 1/2 hours each way. They have a decent art museum. But as much as I like Portland, I'd not pick this for a first trip to the area. Portland does also have an easy bus service for when you arrive at the train station and want to get to the old part of town or the 'port'. So there is easy public transportation for Portland.

I would want a car for Concord/Lexington as there is too much to see. It is not one spot. IMO And while up there you would want to see the interesting Gropius House. IMO

Posted by
1649 posts

Adding to my other suggestions upthread:

If interested, there is the

Columbus Day Parade -- October 13 -- Boston

Honors Christopher Columbus and his explorations of the Americas, Boston’s military commitments to freedom from Colonial times through today, and the city’s Italian heritage. The parade kicks off at the Boston Public Market near City Hall Plaza and winds through the North End’s narrow streets – Atlantic Ave, Hanover Street, Endicott. Starts at approximately 1:00 pm.


Walden Pond -- Concord MA. You would need a car though.

The breeze is refreshing and the leaves are bright and colorful; it’s a great time of year to visit Walden Pond. Walden Pond in Concord is the location where Henry David Thoreau lived for two years, gathering insight and inspiration to write his famed work Walden or Life in the Woods. A National Historical Landmark, Walden Pond is a state reservation that encompasses 335 acres of protected open space. Hike the wooded trails that frame the pond and witness the beauty of the 102-foot deep glacial kettle-hole pond. Enjoy a guided walk, an afternoon of fishing or canoeing and take a tour through the replica of Thoreau’s one-room cabin. There are also various interpretive programs year round, a gift shop and a bookstore.


The Freedom Trail -- Boston

The two and a half mile trek isn’t arduous, especially in the fall when everyone wants to be outside and breathe in the fresh autumn air. The pretty brick-lined route will lead you to sixteen of the most important historic sites around the city and you can do it on your own or with a guide. Each day, hundreds of visitors walk the trail, witnessing the Boston Common, the Old North Church, the Site of the Boston Massacre, the Old State House, the Paul Revere House, the Bunker Hill Monument and a lot more. You can start the tour at any point along the route and it makes for a fun history lesson for children and their parents.


Boston Book Festival (BBF) -- Saturday, October 19

BBF celebrates literature and writing with dozens of author talks, seminars, writing workshops, exhibitors and publishers, live music, and kids’ entertainment in and near Copley Square on Saturday.


You could browse this >> https://www.trolleytours.com/boston#home-section

Posted by
7749 posts

Regarding: Adams National Historic Park, Quincy. This is very worthwhile for a day trip. Take Red Line “T” there. You start at park HQ and then they drive to the sites in a van where the Adams- John and Abigail, John Quincy, etc lived. Quincy is a small city.
This would be easy to combine with JFK Library which is also on the Red Line. Three Presidents in one day trip! The JFK Library is right on the waterfront.
Lunch in Marina Bay Area of Quincy, take an Uber there. Or eat at JFK.
Plymouth and Plymouth Plantation are also interesting but are farther away on south shore.

Posted by
4480 posts

I used to travel to the Boston area for work. My favorite non-car in-town activities were walking the Freedom Trail which will bring you near The North End for some fun Italian restaurants.

I also really enjoyed their Fine Arts Museum on a rainy day - more in the museum than I was expecting.

I saw Wicked there. Check their theatre schedules.

And I enjoyed walking some of the historic brownstone neighborhoods.

Even the goofy Ride the Ducks can be a fun way to get an overall view.

Posted by
100 posts

I go to Boston frequently for work and never realized how many buses are available to Maine or Provincetown (Cape Cod), and other interesting areas, directly from Logan Airport. I was standing at Terminal E last week and was amazed by the available options.
There is quite a bit to see in the Boston area and New England. It isn’t the easiest city to navigate nor the cheapest.

But on the plus side, it’s one of those rare cities that does have something for everyone. History, arts, architecture, etc.
The colleges in the area often have concerts, weekend events, sports, gallery showings, libraries of interest.

Boston is one city that we do use taxis frequently because there is so much going on, so much to see, throughout the city.

Using the buses from the airport, it looks like you could go to Portland Maine, Provincetown MA, or Concord NH. From Concord you could rent a car and drive north into the White Mountains of NH.

Another option is one of my all time favorite NE cities: Portsmouth NH. It is a short trip from Boston, is on the NH/ME border. I assume you might be able to get a bus from South Street Station in Boston to Portsmouth(?).

Ogunquit ME is lovely too, if you have the time. If not, Portland ME is also a charming city.

Maybe there are some tour companies out of Boston to these other areas beyond Boston?
There’s some great books and tourism websites for Boston and surrounding areas. Good luck and let us know how your trip develops!

Posted by
11289 posts

Since you're there a week, the 7 day Charlie Ticket is a bargain - unlimited buses and subways, plus travel on some ferries and commuter trains, for $22.50.

Posted by
7749 posts

And Google why the transit card came to be named a Charlie Card!

Posted by
2023 posts

I scanned over some of the suggestions. A place that is well worth a visit but often overlooked is the Longfellow House. We have extended family in Boston and they have missed it! I saw it featured on This Old House years ago and knew I had to see it.

Posted by
4267 posts

I agree with Susan that the Longfellow house is very interesting and they do a good tour. I did briefly mention it along with a couple other ideas of things to do in Cambridge.