Massachusetts offers many attractions that allow visitors to step back in time and experience the past in an immersive way. In fact, Boston-based groups can begin their visit with an outing at the newly reimagined View Boston atop the Prudential Center. An entire floor of View Boston is dedicated to interactive exhibits like Explore Boston, a discovery tool that helps visitors build a personalized itinerary for their Boston city stay.

The Freedom Trail Foundation offers costumed guides who share highlights of the revolutionary history that took place at historic sites right in the heart of Boston, but day trips beyond the capital can also put visitors face to face with history through period interpreters and architecture.

From March through November, Plimoth Patuxet Museums transports visitors back in time to the Pilgrims’ arrival on the storied Mayflower in 1620. “From a recreation of the small farming and maritime community built by the Pilgrims to the Historic Patuxet Homesite where guests learn about the Native peoples who have lived here for over 12,000 years to Mayflower II, Plimoth Patuxet Museums brings the 17th century vividly to life to guests of all ages,” says Janet Young, group sales manager. “This museum has its home in one of the oldest historical and faith destinations in the United States.”

Groups can engage with costumed interpreters at the different homes in the settlement as those actors demonstrate daily tasks, from cooking over an open hearth to farming. Groups are often invited into the story by having a turn at a period game or mustering with the colonial militia. An exhibit on the Indigenous peoples celebrates their culture and history.

“Plimoth Patuxet Museums is a welcoming place where thought-stirring conversations and experiences reveal ways that the 17th century can touch our lives today,” says Christina Coleman, director of public programs and hospitality. Groups often arrange to cap their outing with conversations over a Thanksgiving feast in the Visitors’ Center.

Historic Deerfield provides an immersive window into life a little later in history, with a focus on the late 17th and 18th centuries. It offers meticulously restored historic buildings and furnishings, costumed interpreters, and a vast collection of American decorative arts. The village’s authentic architecture showcases colonial homes, while interpreters in period attire engage with guests. Amidst this rural landscape, the Deerfield Inn offers a wonderful option for group meals to reflect on the visit.

Asa Knight Store, Old Sturbridge Village;
Credit: Old Sturbridge Village

Continuing this march through history, in western Massachusetts, Old Sturbridge Village focuses on the early 19th century. “Group tours are a fantastic way to explore the village and get the most from your visit,” says Emily Hamill, hospitality coordinator. “As the largest living history museum in New England, visitors can step back in time and immerse themselves in the 1830s.”

Groups encounter a bustling rural community through 200 acres of historical buildings, farms, and trade shops. Costumed historians provide insights into the daily lives of early New Englanders and their trades. From blacksmithing and pottery making to period cooking demonstrations, every corner of this living history museum offers a glimpse into the past.

“There’s so much to see and do, [so] a visit can make a great full-day event,” Hamill adds. “We offer plenty of parking, a welcoming staff, an on-site cafe, and we can arrange for customized group experiences, including behind-the-scenes tours, lectures, craft demonstrations, and workshops.”

Whether group members are history buffs or simply curious about the past, these day trips offer a fun way to connect with Massachusetts’ rich history and encourage visitors to think about today by being immersed in the world of yesterday.

By Michael McLaughlin

Main Image: The Mayflower II, Plimoth Patuxet Museums, Plymouth; Credit: Plimoth Patuxet Museums