If you’re going to see two places on the East Coast, New York City and Boston are pretty hard to beat—cultural enrichment, local heritage, and endless entertainment can be found around every corner. The drive from Queens to Downtown Boston is about three-and-a-half hours, but trust us when we say that you won’t be in any rush to get there once you see what kinds of exciting destinations you’ll be passing on the way! This road trip up the East Coast will take you through bustling metropolises, like the Bronx and Hartford, as well as small yet lively small towns like Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Springfield, Massachusetts. Keep reading to see our picks for the best places to stop when driving from Queens to Beantown!
The Bronx is only about 30 minutes north of Queens by car, but, after all, there should never be a rush to get out of New York City. Some of the best-known attractions in this borough of the Big Apple are Yankee Stadium, the New York Botanical Garden, Pelham Bay Park, and the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage. But, if you’re an animal lover, you can’t go through the Bronx and not stop at the iconic Bronx Zoo.
Encompassing 265 acres, the Bronx Zoo is one of the biggest zoos in the country. Having opened in 1899, the Bronx Zoo is the Wildlife Conservation Society’s flagship park, and it’s home to more than 700 species of animals. From the African plains to the Himalayan highlands, the zoo’s inhabitants have origins across the globe, and a few of the animals that you’ll find at the zoo include lions, leopards, gorillas, sea lions, bison, grizzly bears, lemurs, giraffes, tigers, and many, many more. The park is open daily from 10 am to 4:30 pm, and early arrival is recommended, as this is a very popular New York attraction.
Just outside of the Bronx, Yonkers is around 40 minutes north of Queens. Situated between New York City and the Hudson Valley, Yonkers is seated along the Hudson River, and it’s known for its high-end shopping, museums, and restaurants. Among Yonkers’ hotspots are the Hudson River Museum, Ridge Hill, Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site, and Tibbets Brooks Park. That being said, one place that you don’t want to miss in Yonkers is definitely Untermyer Gardens Conservancy, the restored 43-acre estate that once belonged to the distinguished lawyer and civic leader Samuel Untermyer.
Before Untermyer purchased the property in 1899, the land belonged to former New York governor Samuel J. Tilden—who, in turn, had bought the elaborate mansion estate, which was named Greystone, from the wealthy factory owner John Waring in 1879. While the long history of the grounds certainly enhances its character, the true allure of the estate is, of course, its breathtaking gardens, which feature themed collections, display gardens, and walking trails. The gardens open at 7 am and close at sunset, and there is no entry fee. (But, if you want to learn more about the history behind the property, the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy offers docent-led tours from April through October for $10 a person.)
Norwalk, Connecticut, is close to an hour northeast of Queens, and a shoreline city with a welcoming feel, it’s a lovely place to stop on the way to Boston. Some of Norwalk’s highlights include the Maritime Aquarium, Stepping Stones Museum for Children, Veteran’s Memorial Park and Marina, and Calf Pasture Beach. Another one of Norwalk’s leading attractions is the Lock-Mathews Mansion Museum, a National Historic Landmark that’s considered one of the earliest and most prominent Second Empire style estates in the country.
In 1864, railroad tycoon LeGrand Lockwood commenced construction on an elegant mansion that reflected the grandiosity and classicism of the Victorian Era. After Lockwood experienced a financial downturn in 1869 (only a year after his grand country home had been completed) and later died in 1872, the estate was sold to Charles D. Mathews, a New York merchant. Eventually, the city of Norwalk obtained the property in the years following Mathews’s death in 1941. Today, you can tour the mansion Wednesday through Sunday from the months of April to January. If you won’t be in town during the tour season (or you don’t want to pay for the tour), you can always walk around the surrounding Mathews Park and look at the mansion from the outside!
Bridgeport, Connecticut, is a little over an hour northeast of Queens, and a port city bordered by Long Island Sound and the Pequonnock River, it’s a historic town that once served as a major industrial center for the state of Connecticut. Bridgeport’s most-visited attractions include Beardsley Zoo, the Discovery Museum and Planetarium, Seaside Park, and the Housatonic Museum of Art. Perhaps Bridgeport’s biggest claim to fame, however, is its link to P. T. Barnum, the American showman and founder the Barnum & Bailey Circus who not only lived in Bridgeport but also, at one point, presided as its mayor. And you can learn all about Barnum, his time in Bridgeport, and how his cultural impact when you visit the Barnum Museum in Downtown Bridgeport.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Barnum Museum first opened in 1893 and contains more than 60,000 artifacts having to do with Barnum, Bridgeport, and 19th-century America. As bizarre as it is fascinating, the Barnum Museum has everything from photographs and Barnum’s personal items to replicas and biological specimens. Admission to the museum is free, but donations toward its continued success are greatly appreciated.
An ideal halfway stopping point, Hartford is about two hours northeast of Queens and around an hour-and-a-half southwest of Boston. As Connecticut’s capital city, Hartford has plenty to do and see, including the Mark Twain House & Museum, the Connecticut Science Center, Bushnell Park (and its historic carousel!), Connecticut’s Old State House, and the Connecticut State Capitol. While you’re in Hartford, make sure you stop by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, America’s oldest continually-operating art museum.
Founded in 1842, the Wadsworth Atheneum is more than a Hartford attraction—it’s a testament to the study and preservation of art in America. And with a collection that boasts nearly 50,000 pieces of artwork, the museum showcases an array of styles and time periods. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm on weekdays and 10 am to 5 pm on the weekend. Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $5 for students over 18, and free for guests 17 and under. (In addition to its permanent collection, the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions, and you can check the website to see what will be on display while you’re in town!)
Springfield is a little under two hours west of Boston, and if you’ve never visited this riverside city before, then you might be surprised by just how many cool attractions you’ll find here—including the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the Titanic Museum, Forest Park and Zoo, and the Springfield Science Museum. But, if there’s one place in Springfield that you have to see, it’s the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, an institution dedicated to one of the most adored children’s authors of all time, who also happened to be a Springfield native: Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known by his pseudonym, Dr. Seuss.
The Amazing World of Dr. Suess is an immersive, interactive learning center that explores sounds, language, and, of course, the life and legacy of Dr. Seuss. Imagination, creativity, and education are all defining priorities within this beautifully eccentric museum in the Springfield Museums Quadrangle. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and on Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm, but if you plan to visit on the weekend or during school vacation, it’s recommended that you make a reservation to ensure entry, as this is a very popular Springfield attraction. (And while you’re at the Quadrangle, don’t forget to check out the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden!)
Worcester, Massachusetts, is about an hour west of Boston, and it’s the perfect place to make one final stop before heading to Beantown. Some of Worcester’s top attractions include the Worcester Art Museum, Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Cristoforo Colombo Park, and the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts. Another fun spot to go in Worcester is EcoTarium, a science and nature museum that has indoor and outdoor exhibits.
With a mission to ignite passion for nature, the environment, and science in general, EcoTarium is a forward-thinking museum with a history that dates back to 1825 with the founding of the Worcester Lyceum of Natural History. Over the years, this small society grew into a state-of-the-art educational facility that has partnered with esteemed influencers like National Geographic and PBS Kids. With hands-on exhibits revolving around the natural and physical sciences, EcoTarium is an enriching place to have some family fun. But, part of what makes the museum such a can’t-miss attraction is its “living collections,” where you’ll find animals like porcupines, skunks, flying squirrels, otters, foxes, bald eagles, and even mountain lions. EcoTarium is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm and on Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm. Admission is $19 for adults, $15 for seniors, and $14 for college students and children ages 2 to 18.
In addition to being Massachusetts’ capital and the state’s largest city, Boston is also one of America’s oldest cities, having been founded all the way back in 1630—after all, it’s not called “The Cradle of Liberty” for nothing! Unsurprisingly, history lines the street of this delightfully eclectic hub of arts, sports, politics, education, and outdoor recreation. The most popular places to visit in Boston include the Museum of Fine Arts, Fenway Park, Boston Common, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, and the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. Basically, whether you’re a history buff, an art geek, or a foodie, you’ll find something to do during your time in the City on the Hill, and, odds are, you might just learn a thing or two while you’re at it!