The best times to visit Massachusetts – Lonely Planet Travel News

May 14, 20227 min read
It's always a good time to come to Massachusetts © Huntstock / DisabilityImages / Getty Images
The best time to visit Massachusetts for a dose of New England magic
May 14, 20227 min read
Massachusetts is a year-round destination that's worth a visit in any season, but different times of year show off different sides to the Bay State, from historic Boston to the beaches of Cape Cod.
In spring, the state’s parks and gardens burst into bloom as the darkness and chill of winter recede. Summer brings heat and rather oppressive humidity but a fun-filled calendar of events. When autumn arrives, the brilliant fall colors draw busloads of eager leaf peepers. Winter is slower in many parts of the state, but less so in Boston and the winter sports destinations in western and central Massachusetts.
Whether you're here for the American icons or the beaches, here’s our guide to the best times to visit Massachusetts.
May and early June are usually beautiful times of year, with comfortable temperatures and abundant flowers. This is a good time to explore the cities, but as the weather grows increasingly hot and muggy, many people head to Cape Cod, the islands offshore, and higher-elevation spots inland such as the Berkshires.
Hotel rates are highest in July and August when the ocean and lakes have warmed up and school holidays swell visitor numbers. By early September, the crowds have thinned, but water temperatures remain comfortable. Massachusetts is also a great destination for whale-watching, with excursions operating from late April to mid-October from Boston, Gloucester, Plymouth, and other towns along the coast.
As temperatures cool and leaves turn brilliant shades of red, orange and gold, visitors from near and far descend on Massachusetts to experience the state's fall colors. In September and early October, many visitors use the Bay State as a staging post on the way to northern New England, but as the season advances and the peak color moves south, Massachusetts itself takes center stage. Book hotels and rental cars in advance to ensure availability and better rates.
Massachusetts has two shoulder seasons. April sees the arrival of spring flowers, and fall colors are increasingly likely to linger into early November with changes to the climate. These months are well worth considering if you’re hoping to save money while avoiding the bitter cold of winter.
However, don’t expect hotel deals in Boston around Patriots' Day on the third Monday in April – also known as Marathon Monday. The week of the marathon coincides with spring break in Massachusetts, so family-friendly attractions and activities may be busier.
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Winter is a quiet time in many parts of Massachusetts, especially around Cape Cod and the islands, though Boston attracts visitors year-round with its many museums and busy schedule of holiday events.
Further west, ski resorts in the Berkshires and central Massachusetts are typically open by mid-December, if not earlier. Winters in the state are typically quite snowy, though climate change is having an impact.
However, winter can be a good time to experience a different side of Cape Cod, particularly if you’re interested in quiet walks on virtually deserted beaches, rather than battling the summer crowds for space to sunbathe and swim.
Typically the coldest month of the year, January is a good time to explore Massachusetts’ many excellent museums. If you need some outdoor time, bundle up for some ice skating on Boston Common or skiing in the Berkshires.
Key event: Boston Wine & Food Festival
February offers more of the same, weather-wise, but with a slight rise in temperature and noticeably longer days. Boston's busy Chinatown is a lively place to be for the Chinese New Year celebrations (which can also fall in late January).
Key event: Chinese New Year (Boston)
The weather in March is usually a mixed bag, with brighter days and early signs of spring alternating with cold days that serve as a reminder that winter isn’t over yet. Thanks to Massachusetts’ large population of Irish Americans, St Patrick’s Day is a major event in Boston and around the state.
Key events: St Patrick’s Day parades (statewide), Dine Out Boston
By April, it’s usually starting to feel like spring, though the odd spot of late-season snow is not unheard of. On the third Monday in the month, the statewide Patriots' Day holiday commemorates the start of the Revolutionary War, coinciding with the annual Boston Marathon, one of the biggest races in the US and a Boston Red Sox professional baseball game.
Key events: Patriots' Day battle reenactments (statewide), Boston Marathon, Nantucket Daffodil Festival
Massachusetts’ best road trips
May is one of the loveliest months in Massachusetts, with spring flowers in full bloom and warm weather, but without the high humidity of summer.
Key events: Duckling Day (Boston), Lilac Sunday (Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Boston), Boston Calling Music Festival
As temperatures rise, the festival-filled summer season begins statewide, including the start of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer season at Tanglewood, inland from Boston on the way to Albany. There's plenty more on the cultural calendar to keep you busy.
Key events: Boston Pride Week, Nantucket Film Festival, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (The Berkshires), St Peter’s Fiesta (Gloucester), Rockport Music Festivals
July is the hottest month of the year, with humidity levels that can make Massachusetts' cities feel like ovens. Expect crowds in Cape Cod, the islands and other popular seaside destinations. If you’re willing to brave the urban heat, you’ll find many great festivals around the state.
Key events: Boston Pops Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular, Boston Harborfest, New Bedford Folk Festival, Festival Betances (Boston), Lowell Folk Festival, Shakespeare on the Common (Boston)
Best beaches in Massachusetts
August is another month of heat and humidity, but also fun annual events. Beaches remain crowded, with water temperatures at their warmest.
Key events: Falmouth Road Race, Feast of the Blessed Sacrament (New Bedford), Marshfield Fair
After Labor Day, the crowds die down in beach towns as schools reopen and summer visitors head home. However, water temperatures remain warm for those who linger. As the month continues, the first fall colors typically begin to appear on trees.
Key events: The Big E (West Springfield), Franklin County Fair, King Richard’s Faire (Carver)
October is one of the most spectacular months of the year, with fall foliage repainting trees throughout Massachusetts in stunning shades of red, orange and gold. In Boston, the Head of the Charles Regatta weekend in mid-October attracts big crowds, while in Salem, month-long Halloween celebrations draw legions of costumed visitors to the Witch City.
Key events: Salem Haunted Happenings, Topsfield Fair, Head of the Charles Regatta, Wellfleet Oysterfest, King Richard’s Faire (continues)
The approach of winter brings shorter days, but fall colors linger into the early part of the month in some locations in the state. Harvest festivals celebrate the season’s bounty, leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday on the fourth Thursday of the month.
Key events: America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration (Plymouth), Franklin County Cider Days
The dark, cold days of early winter brighten with holiday festivities throughout the month, culminating in Boston’s famous First Night celebrations on New Year’s Eve.
Key events: Holiday Zoolights at Stone Zoo (Stoneham), Nantucket Christmas Stroll, First Night Boston

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Make the most of your time in the USA with Lonely Planet’s range of travel guides. Be the architect of your own trip as you discover the best things to do in the USA through insider tips, suggested itineraries and handy maps.

Make the most of your time in the USA with Lonely Planet’s range of travel guides. Be the architect of your own trip as you discover the best things to do in the USA through insider tips, suggested itineraries and handy maps.
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