With so much to offer, planning daytrips in New England can be overwhelming. Sometimes it’s best to leave the planning to a professional and take one of the many already-established New England tours.
Whether you’re looking to explore by foot, bicycle, boat, bus, road or train, we’ve picked out some of the best tours that New England has to offer.
New England tours by bicycle
Urban Adventours offers professionally guided, all-inclusive tours of Boston and surrounding areas. Newcomers to Beantown should opt for the “City View Tour,” offering up-close and personal access to the capital city’s highlights, including Boston Common, Copley Square and many of the city’s historic neighborhoods. Baseball fanatics will enjoy the sports-themed “Funway to Fenway” tour, while history buffs can ride the path of Paul Revere on the “Ride to Freedom” tour. Family-friendly, private and night tours are also offered.
Cape Cod Rail Trail
Nickerson State Park, Brewster, Mass. (see website for free parking areas)
Cape Cod has been a popular vacation destination for Bostonians – and many others – since the late 1800s. Back then, they would board trains to leave the busy city behind, traveling out along the peninsula to the respite offered by small towns, sandy beaches and wooded areas. Today, those railways have been transformed into a 22-mile network of paved bike paths connecting the towns of Dennis and Wellfleet, right in the elbow of the hook. Thanks to the Cape’s near-sea-level altitude, the terrain is mostly flat, making the paths perfect for a leisurely afternoon ride through forests, cranberry bogs and state parks.
Minuteman Commuter Bikeway
Runs through Bedford, Lexington, Arlington and Cambridge, Mass.
Also transformed from a former railway, the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway runs through areas that played host to the first moments of the American Revolution. The path offers an easy commuting option to a T station for locals, while offering visitors a look into the history of the four towns, as well as at the scenic landscapes common to the Boston suburbs.
Trails throughout the Northeast
Looking to peddle a little farther into the wilderness? Bike New England’s database includes hundreds of maps of officially established bike paths and more adventurous paths forged by other bikers throughout the greater New England area. Set out on one of the Connecticut Heritage Trails, tour the Rhode Island seashore or tackle the hills of the Massachusetts Berkshires.
Did you know that your AAA membership also includes roadside bicycle service? If your bicycle breaks down during an excursion or you get a flat tire, just call for assistance! Note that bicycle assistance is only available on established roads and streets, and not on all off-road bike paths.
New England tours by boat
Part tour bus, part boat and all fun, “DUCKs” are vehicles inspired by World War II amphibious landing vessels that offer tours of Boston that go off the beaten path – and the paved road. The classic sightseeing tour, narrated by “ConDUCKtors,” hits many Boston attractions while on land, then changes the tour’s perspective when it nosedives into the water for a tour on the Charles River.
Argia Mystic Cruises
The Argia is a 81-foot schooner docked in the historic seafaring village of Mystic, Conn. Daily half-day cruises of the Mystic River and nearby Long Island Sound are offered during the warmer months, when the antique Main Street drawbridge opens to allow the ship’s tall sails to pass through. After being welcomed aboard by the caption, passengers can help hoist the sails or sit back and enjoy the charming scenery and picturesque lighthouses.
Boston Harbor Cruises offers a variety of boat tours, but perhaps the most unique is aboard the Codzilla. The boat’s exterior is painted to resemble a giant, neon and very angry shark, whose bared jaws plow through the harbor at 40 mpg. As the “water coaster” spins and swerves, passengers will get splashed and are encouraged to scream in delight or sing along to the hard-rock soundtrack. It’s not historic or peaceful, but it will sure get your blood pumping!
Finest Kind Cruises
Finest Kind Cruises offers tours of the Ogunquit coastline in southern Maine that bring a sense of palpability to the spirit of “Vacationland.” A breakfast cruise navigates the newly lit, serene morning waters to a harbor seal hotspot, while a lighthouse cruise provides a coastal viewpoint of local homes and a lighthouse. Those itching for the classic Maine experience and photo-op should book the “Lobstering Trip” staffed by real lobstermen harvesting real lobster traps.
Kayak Centre of Rhode Island
North Kingstown, R.I.
For a New England tour via water that’s hands-on, interactive and great exercise, the Kayak Centre of Rhode Island offers a series of guided kayak tours featuring the Newport and Jamestown coasts, historic Wickford harbor, Ninigret Pond and, for those not frightened by the creepy crawly, a Rhode Island swamp.
Tours of New England by bus
Newport Mansions and Seaside
In its heyday, the historic seaside town of Newport, R.I., was a popular summer respite for America’s elite. Many of their Gilded Age-era mansions remain today, preserved as museums with elaborate gardens and sweeping seaside views. Gray Bus Lines offers tours highlighting Newport’s historic downtown area as well as the elaborate mansions of Bellevue Avenue.
This company provides the typical city tourist “hop-on, hop-off” experience in the most Boston way possible: on a historic trolley. The route includes 19 stops selected for their historical and cultural relevance, where riders can hop off and explore the destination, then hop on and continue the journey at their convenience.
Designed for the very bravest travelers, this bus tour takes sightseers on a spooky-themed journey through Boston’s darkest historical moments. Stops are made at notable graveyards and famously haunted buildings, and a staff of wickedly-clad guides thrill travelers with tales of Boston’s most horrific residents, including the Boston Strangler.
Tour New England by car
Covered bridges are quintessential New England landmarks, and one of the best New England tours highlights some of the 104 covered bridges in Vermont. It includes a visit to the longest wooden bridge in the United States, which spans the Connecticut River connecting Vermont and New Hampshire.
AAA’s TripTik Travel Planner has Drive Trips to Cape Cod and southern New England already planned for you, down to what attractions to visit and where to eat and stay. You can also find TripTiks on the AAA Mobile app.
Tours of New England by foot
This 2 1/2-mile trail allows Boston sightseers to walk in the footsteps of America’s forefathers, emphasizing landmarks that played a significant role during the Revolutionary War period. The Freedom Trail Foundation offers daily tours centered on a variety of themes, from the more general “Walk into History” tour to the “African-American Patriots” and “Revolutionary Women” tours.
Newport Cliff Walk
The famous Cliff Walk offers self-guided passage along a public access path that winds through the stunning mansion grounds, over the rocky shoreline and along sandy beaches. The 3 1/2-mile trail covers a variety of terrains, and visitors should wear proper shoes and use caution – the walk is steep in some places and the rocks can get slippery.
New England tours by train
Essex Steam Train & Riverboat
A journey on the Essex Steam Train departs from a remarkable 1892 train station in Essex, Conn. Once aboard and seated comfortably in the vintage coaches, travelers enjoy picturesque views as the steam locomotive winds through the nature-rich Connecticut River Valley. Upon arrival at Deep River Landing, passengers board a riverboat for a tour of area via water, highlighting historic sites such as Gillette Castle and Goodspeed Opera House. After the boat ride, guests are brought back to Essex Station via train.
Cape Cod Central Railroad
Offering a unique approach to New England tours, the Cape Cod Central Railroad offers coastal excursion trips that take visitors on two-hour expeditions through the area’s changing landscape, winding through marshes, cranberry bogs and sand dunes. The company also features a “Rails and Ales Beer Tasting Train,” offering New England brewery tours aboard the train. Samples from local craft breweries are paired with appetizers for diners to enjoy while enjoying the stunning views.
Conway Scenic Railroad
Departing from North Conway Village’s 1874 train station, the Conway Scenic Railroad allows travelers to experience the New Hampshire countryside by rail. The Valley Train offers a classic, old-fashioned passenger car experience while the Notch Train takes riders through New Hampshire’s mountainous terrain. Each train has a dining car designed to provide a turn-of-the-century train dining experience.
What New England daytrips are you planning this summer? Tell us in the comments!
To learn more about tours or plan a trip, contact a AAA travel counselor.
By Molly Clark