When you plan a getaway in Massachusetts, you can look forward to exploring majestic castles, gardens, and parks that are tucked away just off the beaten path. Climb through a secret passageway in an old, spooky structure; visit a house made of newspaper; or take a look at a lake with a misleading name. Look for Massachusetts vacation rentals near these hidden gems that let you skip notoriously crowded tourist destinations. Check out these awe-inspiring secret spots nestled in Massachusetts.
1. Bancroft Tower, Worcester
What puzzle this miniature feudal castle poses. The Bancroft Tower stands 56 feet tall, and it cost $15,000 to build in 1900. Stephen Salisbury, III built it to honor George Bancroft, a Worcester native who became secretary of the Navy. The son of Bancroft’s childhood friend, Salisbury possibly built the little tower to use up the Bancroft fortune. Whatever the reason the cobblestone tower served initially, it’s a great place for a family picnic or a place to stage an epic re-enactment of your favorite Game of Thrones episode.
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2. Hammond Castle Museum, Gloucester
As a wedding gift, most men can’t outdo the 1929 castle that John Hays Hammond, Jr., built for his bride. The Renaissance-style castle houses an awe-inspiring museum that displays the former owner’s personal collection of historic European artifacts. Your self-guided tour includes the library, kitchens, servants’ quarters, and many other areas, including a secret passageway. Considered the centerpiece of the castle, the Great Hall features an 8,200, eight-story, pipe organ that includes a massive, stained-glass window.
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3. Gunn Brook Falls, Sunderland
The picturesque Gunn Brook Falls bounces over the rocks, softly stepping its way down the side of the hill toward the stream. Nature carved out a stone seat right beside the first tier where visitors sit to get a sip of the pure mountain water. As you descend the falls, notice the cool, beautiful mossy spots, hidden from the sun on the left side of the falls. With your eye for safety, let your kids splash and play in the gentle spray falling about them. Here’s the ideal spot to capture memorable vacation photos far from the din of city noise.
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4. Mytoi Japanese Gardens, Chappaquiddick
During your visit to Chappaquiddick, soak up the zen atmosphere at Mytoi Japanese Gardens. You need a car or a bicycle to reach the gardens. When you get off the ferry, continue straight ahead on the unpaved road. The venue includes water features, bridges, lush vegetation, pavilions, and a rock garden. It’s free, open year-round, and beautifully represents each season. Across the parking lot, there’s a driveway with an arrow that points to the Salt Pond Nature Trail, an easy half-mile hike.
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5. Paper House, Rockport
Read all about it from the inside out when you tour the 1922 house made of newspapers, in Rockport. There’s a locked box for donations for your self-guided tour. Ellis F. Stenman, a mechanical engineer, constructed the frame, roof, and floors of wood, to which he added walls of reverse-engineered wood: newspapers. It took about 100,000 newspapers to create 215 layers that he stuck together using a homemade glue of flour, water, and apple peels for each one-inch-thick wall panel. He also made the clock, desk, chair, and other furniture entirely of newspaper. Still-visible headlines include, “Lindbergh Hops Off for Ocean Flight to Paris.” When Stenman moved out in 1930, the house opened as a museum and upkeep includes occasional new layers of varnish.
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6. Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg, Webster
In the 1950s, Ethel Merman and Ray Bolger released the “Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg” song, which still survives, albeit online. People usually call it Webster Lake, which is quite untrue. Whatever you call it, your Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg vacation rental gives you impressive views of a lush treeline and a crystal blue lake. While you’re enjoying swimming and kayaking the lake, see if you can persuade a willing local to rattle off the name for you.
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7. Borderland State Park Mansion, Easton
A mansion as mysterious and exotic as the founders, 1912 Borderland State Park Mansion, is yours to explore, provided you can find it. About 20 miles outside Boston, wander the paths in Borderland State Park to find the three-story stone mansion built by a botanist and his wife, a feminist and inventor. The interior of the mansion includes dark paneling, tapestries, a massive library, and art studios while the grounds feature paths that meander over almost two acres of ponds, dams, and breathtaking flower gardens.
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8. Becket Land Trust, Becket
Lace up your good hiking shoes to negotiate the awesome trails of the former Hudson-Chester Quarry on the Becket Land Trust site. The quarry lasted from the 1850s into the 1960s, excavating granite and shipping it by railroad to cities in New York for polishing. Upon abandoning the operation, the workers simply walked away, leaving equipment and vehicles behind, including trucks and hoists. Pick up your trail map at the kiosk in the parking lot, year-round, to tour this free site from dusk-to-dawn.
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9. Old Sturbridge Village, Southbridge
Step into the 19th century at Old Sturbridge Village, a living outdoor museum that exists as a working farm. The interpretive staff, dressed in 1830s apparel, perform the activities, jobs, and tasks of homes, a school, country store, bank, water-powered mills, and more. Situated on over 200 acres, the museum features working farms where visitors encounter chickens, sheep, pigs, oxen, and cattle. Two of several dining options, the Village Cafe and the Oliver Wight Tavern, serve soups, sandwiches, salads, with a few period-inspired recipes.
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10. Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, Salem
Spooky old mansions inspire good stories, including the 340-year-old Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, upon which Nathaniel Hawthorne based his 1851 novel, “The House of Seven Gables.” Built in 1668, the mansion features a shadowy interior and a secret passageway with a dark, creepy stairway for the more daring visitors to climb. The tour includes the option to explore Hawthorne’s childhood home next door, which the town moved, along with the mansion, to Union Street overlooking the waterfront. While taking in the other Salem sights, check out the statue of Elizabeth Montgomery, which pays homage to the actress who starred in “Bewitched,” a popular sitcom from 1964 to 1972.
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