There are many popular museums in the city of Boston, but what you may not know when visiting Massachusetts is that there are many other great museums throughout the state, most within driving distance from Boston. These museums will give you a taste of Massachusetts history and culture, whether you are learning about the Pilgrims or the Salem Witch Trials. Of course, don't miss those located right in the city while you are in town, two of which are included in our top picks for Massachusetts museums.
Museum of Science: Boston
The Museum of Science offers more than 500 exhibits that tie back to STEM education—that is, science, technology, engineering, and math. The exhibits are both long-term and temporary, big and small scale, and you can guarantee that you’ll leave having learned something while being entertained along the way. Examples of exhibits include the science of light and color, the history of transportation and how astronauts travel to the moon. Many visit the Museum of Science just for the Charles Hayden Planetarium, which is where you can see music-themed light shows or other experiences like exploring outer space.
Open year-round from Saturday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission to the admission hall is $29 for adults, $24 for children, and $25 for seniors. It's an extra $8-10 for entry to the Theater and Planetarium.
Boston Children’s Museum: Boston
If you’re visiting Massachusetts with kids, there are many children’s museums throughout the state, but none compare to the Boston Children’s Museum. Located in the city’s newly popular Fort Point neighborhood, this museum has been a Boston staple for more than 100 years. The exhibits are a mix of old and new, focusing on topics that entertain and educate, including science, culture, environmental awareness, health and fitness, and the arts.
Open year-round from Saturday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is $18 for adults and $18 for children ages 1-15. On Fridays, admission is $1 from 5 to 9 p.m.
Old Sturbridge Village: Sturbridge
At Old Sturbridge Village, you’ll go back to rural New England in the early 19th century as you walk through a village built to resemble a town from the 1830s, at the end of the American Revolution. Old Sturbridge Village is an outdoor living history museum with historians dressed for the times, historic homes and trade shops and even a farm with heritage breed animals.
Open year-round with hours varying by season. Admission is $28 for adults, $26 for seniors, $14 for youths ages 4-17, and children 3 and under can visit free.
The Pilgrim Hall Museum: Plymouth
Founded in 1920, the Pilgrim Society’s mission is to preserve the town of Plymouth’s history, which ultimately led to the opening of the Pilgrim Hall Museum in 1824. Here at the country’s oldest continuously operating public museum, you’ll find all sorts of historical artifacts that tell the story of the 17th century Pilgrims, including pieces that came right from the Mayflower.
Open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with the exception of the month of January, Christmas Eve Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve Day. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $10 for students, $8 for children (6-8), and children (5 and under) are free. Family admission (2 adults with children ages 6-18) is $30.
Salem Witch Museum: Salem
The Salem Witch Museum may be the most popular in Massachusetts outside of Boston, as the stories of the Salem witch trials are featured in many books and films. The trials took place in 1692 and 1693 and resulted in 20 people being executed for witchcraft. Here you’ll learn about their story and also experience a live performance. Be sure to visit Salem in October during the annual Halloween and witchcraft festival. There is also a self-guided tour that will take you to various locations in the Essex and Middlesex counties that played a role in the trials.
Open daily, year-round from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $13 for adults, $11.50 for seniors, and $10 for children ages 6-14.
Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA): North Adams
Located in the Berkshires in the town of North Adams, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) has been showcasing a wide variety of contemporary art since it opened in 1999. The galleries and exhibits, which are both indoor and outdoor, range from music, sculpture, and dance, to film, painting, photography ,and more. There are over 40 weekends worth of live performances throughout the year that include events such as music festivals, outdoor silent films and contemporary dance.
Summer Hours (mid-June to mid-October) are daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The remainder of the year, hours are Wednesday to Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Tuesdays, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day). Admission is $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and veterans, $12 for students, and $8 for Children ages 6-16.
The Peabody Essex Museum: Salem
The Peabody Essex Museum, which opened in Salem back in 1799, offers exhibits and programs that aim to broaden perspectives and attitudes, while connecting the past and present via historical and contemporary works of art. The collections date back to members of the East India Marine Society bringing items from their sailing travels from Asia, Africa, Oceania, India and beyond. The Peabody Essex Museum eventually went through a $194 million revamp, which opened in 2003 and is now one of the largest and fastest-growing art museums in the U.S.
Open year-round from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Mondays, except holidays, as well as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day). Admission is $15 for adults, $14 for seniors, $9 for students, and children under 16 and Salem residents can enter for free.
The Berkshire Museum: Pittsfield
The Berkshire Museum’s inspiration came from a combination of three other museums: the American Museum for Natural Science, the Smithsonian and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The goal when it opened in 1903 was to bring the beauty of each of these acclaimed museums to Western Massachusetts, an area not previously known for the arts.
This is where you’ll find a diverse collection of historical artifacts and scientific objects, ranging from an Egyptian mummy to a meteorite. The museum also has items that were significant in American history events, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s writing desk and various items from the first North Pole expedition. You can also find work from influential artists including Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol. If you’re traveling with kids, there’s plenty for them to do here as well.
Open year-round Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $13 for Adults, $6 for children (4-17), and free for children 3 and under.