The quiet shores of Deer Island in Massachusetts. Image credit boris zhrchvich via Shutterstock

13 Underrated Destinations In Massachusetts To Avoid Summer Crowds

Looking to dive into the fascinating history and gorgeous natural beauty of Massachusetts, but wondering how to avoid the crowds that flock every summer for the beaches and waterfront vistas? Keep your whole family excited and beat the crowds with trips to historic buildings, museums, castles, and green and blue flowing wilderness perfect for adventures. You may find that you fall in love with these quieter spots in the Bay State. So follow the will-o-the-wisp as it winds through the state for a magical and mysterious journey to underrated summer destinations throughout Massachusetts.

Hammond Castle

Hammond Castle was built in 1926 in Magnolia of Gloucester, Massachusetts
Hammond Castle was built in 1926 in Magnolia of Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Located in lovely Gloucester, this medieval-style castle was built by an enterprising man named Hammond, and legend has it that he bought pieces of medieval castles from Europe and brought them here to build this fascinating structure. The grounds are open to the public without a ticket, so you can enjoy the historic arches, the Look Out Point for a dazzling view, climb the Bell Tower, and explore the Drawbridge without spending a penny.

To explore the inside of the castle museum, tours cost $20 for adults and are available daily from May through October, but due to the number of stairs, it is not handicap accessible. There are Self-Guided Tours and Guided Tours for purchase. Hammond Castle Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Either way, you'll want to spend at least an hour here to discover all the grounds and the Museum have to offer.

Shubie's Marketplace

Scenic view of Marblehead Harbor from Chandler Hovey Park
Scenic view of Marblehead Harbor from Chandler Hovey Park.

Take a walk around Marblehead for out-of-the-way tourist fun, including gorgeous seaside walks, and shopping locally at businesses like the beloved Shubie's Marketplace. This is a family-owned and operated supermarket (though they started as a traditional package store!) with offerings of specialty gourmet foods (like locally made chocolate and the best prosciutto), artisan gifts, imported cheeses, freshly made foods, as well as craft-worthy alcohol selections. Check out this worthy pillar of the community, while investigating the rest of what Marblehead has to offer, including a lighthouse and historic buildings.

Old Sturbridge Village

Fourth of July at Old Sturbridge Village, celebratory musical performance event with old fashioned musical instruments.
Old Sturbridge Village in the summer. Image credit Emma'sPhotos via Shutterstock

While it's not quite as unknown as it used to be, this working historic village is a model of daily life in the 1800s, with fun activities and museum exhibits for the whole family. Located near the city of Sturbridge, Old Sturbridge Village involves over 200 acres and 40 historical buildings, plus costumed historians working on tasks performed in the daily life of the 1800s, but who will speak to you in modern language so you can understand the stories and information they share with you. That means people working as blacksmiths, potters, cabinetmakers, musicians, storytellers, and so much more. People make food and discuss textile creations and gardens, there is even a farm with a horse-drawn ride.

Admission for adults is $30 for the day (the village closes daily at 5 pm). On many weekends over the summer, there are themed events, such as Redcoats and Rebels, where you can view colonial troops and militia camp re-enactments; however, these do tend to draw a larger crowd.

Keyes Memorial Beach

Sandy Neck Lighthouse West Barnstable Cape Cod Massachusetts
Sandy Neck Lighthouse West Barnstable Cape Cod Massachusetts.

This family-friendly spot is a little quieter as it is less easily (or cost-effectively) available, hidden away in the Hyannis neighborhood of Barnstable. It has soft, clean sand paired with calm waves, perfect for swimming (when the lifeguards are on duty), as well as picnic tables, barbecue grills, a snack bar, restrooms, and showers with a handicap-accessible parking lot on Ocean Avenue.

However, the parking costs $15 on a weekday, more on weekends, and even residents need parking stickers. Yet, the lack of crowds and the delightful perspective of the harbor are reasons to put up with the high parking charges. The beach is surrounded by some parkland, but Barnstable also has many hiking trails and other attractions for your exploration.

Poet's Seat Tower

View from the Poet's Seat Tower, Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Poet's Seat Tower, Greenfield, Massachusetts.

Situated in fabulous Rocky Mountain Park in Greenfield, this promontory with an awe-inspiring glimpse of the surrounding natural region can be reached by hiking trails or by vehicle access on Parkway Street, at least during the summer months. Rocky Mountain Park is a conglomeration of five parcels of land that connect and include a variety of hiking trails that make up a unique forested, volcanic ridge (part of a volcano that erupted during the Mesozoic Era) that separates the Connecticut River from the town of Greenfield.

A wooden tower was built at the top of Greenfield's Rocky Mountain in 1873, but the true "Poet's Seat" is the natural seat just below the tower. The wooden tower burned down in 1903 and was replaced with a sandstone tower in 1912.

Lynch Park

A beautifully kept garden is an outstanding feature of Lynch Park in Beverly. The Garden includes a rose garden and is often a venue for weddings.
 Lynch Park in Beverly.

A gem of Beverly, Lynch Park includes two small beaches with a rose garden, a splash pad for children, 16 acres of walking paths, and a superb glimpse of the Beverly Harbor. This is another spot that is lacking crowds due to cost, but well worth the money to escape the other tourists in all this heat. Beverly residents can visit the park for free, but non-residents pay parking fees of $15 on weekdays and more on weekends. There is also a performance space to hear live and local music. While it can be fun for the whole family (except for pets), don't forget to take any trash with you, as this is a carry-in-carry-out park.

Robinson State Park

Colorful fall foliage and along shoreline of Westfield River on a sunny day in Robinson State Park, Massachusetts.
 Shoreline of Westfield River on a sunny day in Robinson State Park, Massachusetts.

Tucked away in Agawam (and touching Westfield), Robinson State Park has a variety of wildlife and scenic visions to offer. There are rare dragonflies and turtles to be spotted, or you could explore the historical Civilian Conservation Corps buildings and hike a leg of the Metacomet-Monadnock trail.

The summertime parking fees are $8 for Massachusetts residents and $30 for tourists. The park also includes a paved hiking road along the Westfield River, accessible restrooms, swimming opportunities, and picnic opportunities, not to mention the ability to mountain bike along over 20 miles of trails.

Boott Cotton Mills Museum

Lowell, Massachusetts, exterior of the Boott Cotton Mills Museum
Lowell, Massachusetts, exterior of the Boott Cotton Mills Museum. Image credit quiggyt4 via Shutterstock

Visit the historic site of Lowell and the mills that made it famous. Boott Cotton Mills Museum allows you to learn about Lowell's industrial history. It includes a variety of exhibits about the workers, engineers, inventors, investors, and more people who were involved in making Lowell the first successfully planned industrial city in the United States, especially as a hub of technological development and socioeconomic change during the American Industrial Revolution.

The Museum opens around the end of May with daily entry prices of $6 for adults. The highlights of the museum include a large weaving room with historic looms that you can watch at work and workers with historical information to share. There are interactive activities to keep people of all ages amused, entertained, and educated.

Lizzie Borden House

View of the Lizzie Border murder house, now a bed and breakfast located in Fall River, Massachusetts.
Lizzie Border murder house, now a bed and breakfast located in Fall River, Massachusetts. Image credit EQRoy via Shutterstock

For those with a funkier or edgier taste for history, legends, and all that Massachusetts has to offer, stop by Fall River for a visit to The Historic Lizzie Borden House. Lizzie Borden was a young woman accused of murdering both her mother and father in the late 1800s. Technically, the murder mystery is considered unsolved, because there is doubt whether Lizzie actually committed the murders or was merely accused of the crime.

The museum presents as a haunted house open to the public from 10 am to midnight and celebrates the macabre. The house itself operates as an inn with breakfast and an attached museum that features historic house tours, ghost tours, and sometimes even ghost hunts. They also often host special events to delight the senses of any crime, history, or paranormal buff.

Norman Rockwell Museum

Norman Rockwell's Studio with cupola and weather vane at the Norman Rockwell Museum
Norman Rockwell's Studio at the Norman Rockwell Museum. Image credit LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES via Shutterstock

If you truly want to avoid crowds, you could always visit the Norman Rockwell Museum virtually, as well as in person at its Stockbridge Studio location. The team at NRM is dedicated to creating ways for all types of visitors to enjoy the extensive collections of art, historical objects, classroom activities, and education gathered together and provided through the museum, which includes online viewing and participation.

Even when you visit in person, you'll be warmly invited into the home of Norman Rockwell's legacy for American artwork. As with many art museums, there are also special exhibits about other artists that are unique in their own right and not to be missed. Admission is $20 for adults. The Norman Rockwell Museum encompasses his Stockbridge Studio and ten galleries on a 36-acre campus.

Jabberwocky Books

Newburyport, Massachusetts - October 7, 2021: Street scene in the historic seaport city of Newburyport in Massachusetts seen from tourist area of Market Square.
Downtown Newburyport, Massachusetts. Image credit littlenySTOCK via Shutterstock

Stop by the stunning seaport town of Newburyport in northern Massachusetts for gorgeous views of the ocean and a variety of fantastic local shops, like Jabberwocky Books. This store has more than any book lover could wish for in enticing titles of every genre, new, old, and in-between. The staff are gracious, kind, and helpful. Take the time to truly peruse the entire store, which has multiple levels, for the book nerds of the world. There is even a section for used books. This grade-A bookstore is within a building called The Tannery (which it historically was), which now includes a variety of other local businesses, from acting and artist studios to restaurants.

The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum

A group shot of The Horton Court sculpture at the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden
A group shot of The Horton Court sculpture at the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden. Image credit 26ShadesOfGreen via Shutterstock

This fun new museum, established in 2017 in Springfield, celebrates the life and stories of Theodor Geisel, known as Dr. Seuss. The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, admission is $25 for adults and $13 for children, involves interactive and fully bilingual (Spanish and English) exhibits for children and families. You can learn about Geisel's childhood as told by three-dimensional characters and scenes from his own books. It's also a very educational program for visitors of every age, as it allows for experimenting with new sounds and vocabulary, rhyming games, and inventing stories. Meanwhile, the second floor of the museum is a recreation of Geisel's work studio and living room that tell the stories of his adult life through exhibits of art, family photographs, letters, and other intriguing paraphernalia from the man's life.

Deer Island

Boston/Massachusetts, photo from Deer Island in Massachusetts
Looking out from Deer Island in Massachusetts. Image credit boris zhrchvich via Shutterstock

If you absolutely must visit the bustling city of Boston while you're in Massachusetts, you'll more likely avoid crowds by hitting this little-known part of the Boston Harbor Park Islands system with stunning scenic views of the city and ocean. The Deer Island parking lot is small and fills up quickly, but there is no charge for using it.

While the location has a painful history, once serving as an internment camp for Native Americans, the island is now home to Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, which protects natural resources and is home to environmental stewardship using advanced technological methods. Enjoy peaceful trails and bring your dogs along, or you can visit the wastewater treatment plant to learn more about how it functions and learn about the historic pump station at the Visitor Center to see how the modern facility compares to what came before.

Whether you're wandering through the wilderness of a state park, alongside a river, or shopping and exploring historic locations in a smaller town, you'll find fewer crowds in these locations than in the typical cities and beaches for which Massachusetts is famous. Enjoy the waters of your favorite Cape Cod destinations or visit the best Boston restaurants while keeping your main activities to the less-explored regions of this great state. You won't regret succumbing to the educational experiences that Massachusetts is rife with, considering its history dating back to the American Revolution and beyond.


More in Places