My Boston and Cape Cod travel guide has the top tips on where to stay and what to do, to make the most of a holiday in Massachusetts.
With the USA back open for international visitors, now is a great time to plan your next big adventure. I am a big fan of American holidays, and one combination that is still on my wish list is Boston and Cape Cod. With Boston being so steeped in history, I can think of nothing better than a road trip to the coast, after a few days visiting all those museums and monuments in Boston.
I reached out to my fellow travel addict Christine Callinan, who has visited this area on a few occasions. She has given me her expert tips and tricks to get the most out of a Boston and Cape Cod holiday.
Top things to do in Boston
The Freedom Trail
Boston is a fascinating and very accessible city to discover on foot. I recommend starting your visit in Boston Common – Boston’s oldest and largest park, that is packed with monuments, lawns and recreational facilities. The Freedom Trail starts at Boston Common, and ends at USS Constitution and Bunker Hill. A free map can be picked up at the tourist office in the park.
There are 16 historical sites on the 2.5 mile Freedom Trail. Along the walk you will visit historic churches, meeting halls, cemeteries and battlegrounds. I recommend you take a break at the halfway point, and just sit and enjoy your surroundings.
The Freedom Trail might be a little overwhelming for younger kids, so make sure to include a visit the nearby Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum afterwards.
New England Aquarium
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There are many more things to do in Boston with kids. The large New England Aquarium, which boasts an abundance of sea creatures and hands-on exhibits, is one of the highlights, and is located close to the Freedom Trail.
Another popular activity is a high-speed whale watching cruise on board a catamaran. Hopefully you will be treated to visions of humpback and finback whales, and if you are very lucky you could spot endangered right whales during your sail.
Boston Duck Boat Sightseeing Tour
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If you like the idea of seeing Boston from the water, the Boston Duck Boat Sightseeing Tour is a must – it is one of the top things to do in Boston. The Duck is a World War 11 amphibious vehicle that takes in all the major landmarks, and tells you the history of this great city.
This is a great tour to do with children, they will love the novelty of driving into the river.
If you are a sports fan, no visit to Boston would be complete without a visit to Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. Guided tours of the ballpark can be booked and take roughly an hour.
Shop till you drop
Boston is a great city for shopping, with many diverse shopping malls and plazas right in the city centre. You can find upscale city malls at Copley Place and Prudential Center, and they even have a large Primark on Summer Street in the centre of Boston.
Don’t miss Faneuil Hall, also known as Quincy Market. This is a great place to enjoy some local artisan foods and to pick up some souvenirs to bring home.
Where to stay in Boston
5-star Boston hotels
The Langham, Boston is probably on every ‘where to stay in Boston’ list. It is a landmark hotel in the city and offers a luxurious stay in superb surroundings. The Langham was originally the Federal Reserve Bank, and has been newly renovated to combine modern comforts with old-world style perfectly.
The Faneuil Hall Marketplace and the Freedom Trail are close by and there is a choice of dining options including the popular Italian restaurant, Grana, and The Fed, a trendy cocktail bar.
The modern Intercontinental Hotel is beautifully situated on Boston’s waterfront, and just 1km from Boston Common and Faneuil Hall. All rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, and the hotel has a spa, fitness centre and indoor lap pool on site.
Choose Miel, Boston’s Provence-themed restaurant, that serves French cuisine, RumBa, a certified green restaurant, Japanese cuisine in Sushi-Teq, or enjoy waterfront views with a choice of over 60 vodkas in Vodkabar!
4-Star Boston hotels
The Godfrey Hotel is located just 200 metres from the Freedom Trail and just minutes from Boston Common. Its superb location and excellent service has made it one of the best hotels to stay in Boston. It was a Tripadvisor Travellers Choice award winner this year, and is rated as Excellent by previous guests.
Within walking distance of Faneuil Hall, the citizenM Boston North Station hotel offers a modern stay with comfort and tech at the forefront. Bedrooms have a fridge, rain showers, large beds, and smart TVs with free movies, and everything is controlled with your bedside MoodPad tablet. Its stylish outdoor terrace offers beautiful views of the Boston skyline.
The Homewood Suites by Hilton Boston is a great choice for a family holiday in Boston, or if you are looking to stay somewhere close to Boston’s cruise terminal. Its spacious suites have a kitchenette with full size fridge, dishwasher and microwave, and there is a swimming pool and fitness centre on site. A complimentary breakfast is also included.
Top things to do in Cape Cod
I love a good city and beach combo, and Boston and Cape Cod are up there with the best of them. I suggest waiting until you leave Boston to pick up your hire car, as a car is not needed in Boston.
The drive takes just 90 minutes from Boston to Falmouth on the south end of Cape Cod, but it will feel world’s apart from the bright lights of Boston.
On the way to the Cape you will pass through Plymouth ,where Plymouth Rock and Colony are located. This is definitely worth visiting, but I recommend travelling straight on to the Cape. Plymouth is only 28 miles to Plymouth so you can return when you have more time to visit, and won’t have to leave luggage in the car – see more on Plymouth below.
There are many wonderful areas to stay in Cape Cod, and all are located within a stones throw of wonderful white sand beaches. Falmouth is a lovely little town with lots of shops, bars and restaurants to suit all tastes, and is a place we love to stay.
The ferry to Martha’s Vineyard goes from Falmouth (Woods Hole). The ferry will take you to the quaint harbour of Oak Bluff. This is home to the oldest operating Carousel, The Flying Horses – it dates back to the 1800’s.
A visit to the beach is a must – Joseph Sylvia State Beach being the best. Finish your day on Martha’s Vineyard with a sunset visit to Aquinnah Cliffs. There is no better way to finish a day than watching the sun go down over the Vineyard Sound and the Atlantic.
No visit to Cape Cod would be complete without a visit to Hyannis, where you can visit the John F Kennedy Memorial and Museum. You can catch the ferry to Hyannis from Falmouth too.
The Kennedy compound is also in Hyannis but is a private residence. While in Hyannis make sure to visit Kalmus Beach – this is walkable from the town.
Right at the very north tip of Cape Cod is Provincetown. It boasts beautiful beaches, welcoming restaurants, art galleries and some delightful boutique hotels. Provincetown is a favourite for the LGBTQ+ community, and celebrates individuality and freedom of expression.
The history of Provincetown can not be overlooked, as this is where the Pilgrims landed in 1620. They were originally heading south to Virginia, but the winds forced them to land in Cape Cod. They eventually set up their colony in Plymouth, and there is a museum in Provincetown to commemorate their epic journey.
A visit to historic Plymouth is also a must while visiting this area. This is where you will find Plymouth Rock and the Plymoth Colony. Plymouth is a pretty oceanfront town with plenty of restaurants and is very welcoming to visitors. Plymouth rock itself sits in a Greek Column style encasement.
Plymouth Colony is a replica of the town from 1620 and is a living history museum. It’s a fascinating look at what life was like for the Founding Fathers, and the native Americans that were there long before the settlers. It is a great day out, and children will love the interaction with the town and the townsfolk.
Other things to do in Cape Cod
Lighthouses are a big deal in Cape Cod with the peninsula hosting 14 in total. It would be a holiday alone just visiting every one. If I had to choose one, I would recommend visiting Nobska Lighthouse in Falmouth – it is easily accessible and very pretty.
If staying near Falmouth I can highly recommend Betsy’s Diner All American breakfast – it will set you up for the day. Liam Maguire’s Irish Pub serves excellent pub grub – the good kind. You may be lucky and have a live music session happening while enjoying your meal, and chances are you’ll be the only real Irish there!
Shopping in Cape Cod is practically a past time – you could easily spend hours browsing the beautiful arts and crafts shops, and stunning interior design shops. While you may pick up a few souvenirs, unfortunately you won’t be able to bring the furniture home with you!
Where to stay in Cape Cod
Accommodation on Cape Cod tends to be the low rise Inn style hotels, with a beach holiday vibe. We stayed in the Beach Breeze Inn, and I can highly recommend it for singles, couples and families.
They have a choice of rooms and suites, some of which can sleep up to five, making it a good choice for a family holiday in Cape Cod. All rooms have kitchen facilities and fresh coffee can be acquired from the main house kitchen all day.
The Beach Breeze Inn is located just two minutes walk from the beach, and a 10 minute walk to the town. The Beach Breeze Inn also boasts a private swimming pool and comfortable seating areas around fire pits, where they will provide all the necessary goodies for smores in the evenings – kids (and adults) will love this. They also supply BBQs if you fancy dining in.
The Chatham Tides Hotel is another beachfront hotel that I can recommend. Located in Chatham, it boasts 27 oceanfront and ocean view rooms with private sundecks.
The Breakwater Hotel Provincetown is located directly across from Provincetown Harbour and has rooms with sea views and a fridge. It is rated as Excellent on Tripadvisor, and the no 1 place to stay in Provincetown.
The Sandwich Inn and Suites is located further from the beach (2.4km), than the others on this list, but its newly refurbished rooms and suites, as well as its complimentary breakfast are a big hit with guests.
There are many more hotels, Inns and holiday rentals available – you can search self catering options here. However, it is important to note that July and August is peak time for visitors, and hotels book out well in advance.
American holidaymakers travel from Boston and New York to avoid the city heat, and it is popular with international visitors during school holidays. I recommend you book as early as possible to get the best hotel deals in Cape Cod, and travel off peak if possible.
I hope you enjoyed my travel guide to Boston and Cape Cod and that it helps you plan a trip there soon.