From maritime magic to costumed living history, combine learning with the great outdoors at each of our editor-approved picks for the best outdoor museum in every New England state.
Need more outdoor travel ideas? Find these picks, plus more than 120 of the best things to do, places to eat, and places to stay that celebrate the great outdoors in The Best of New England: Outdoor Edition.
America’s preeminent maritime museum preserves not only two million artifacts but also the heartbeat of the golden age of wooden shipbuilding on the Mystic River. Interact with artisans and storytellers as you wander the 19th-century village, and climb aboard vessels like the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaleship afloat.
With names like Upheaval, Horse of Inspiration, and Growing with the Flow, the creations at New England’s largest sculpture park spark wonderment and conversation. Constructed on-site by artists from five continents during 21 annual two-week symposia, 100 large-scale works entwine with nature along 10 miles of trails that climb Big Bear Mountain. Pause to consider each, including a new Old Man of the Mountain, from your own unique perspective.
Maine native Bernard “Blackie” Langlais created over 3,500 “wood paintings,” as he called his sculptures and carved reliefs, before he passed away in 1977 at age 56. Encounter a dozen of these massive works, including a life-size elephant, on the artist’s former homestead, now a Georges River Land Trust property. If they pique your interest, seek out more Langlais pieces in 50-plus other settings along Maine’s Langlais Art Trail.
New England’s largest outdoor living history museum makes the past anything but musty. If you haven’t visited since your schoolkid days (or ever), this 75th-anniversary year is a great time to experience the seasonal rituals of this 1830s farm and village. Engage with costumed historians, observe the care of heritage animal breeds, or perhaps even take a historical craft class and do your part to carry the past forward.
Explore New England’s most storied lake from every angle—even from a hand-built wooden longboat, which your family group can power on a rowing tour. Outdoor exhibits on three acres have been expanded, and you’ll have the rare chance this summer to see Philadelphia II, a replica of Benedict Arnold’s 1776 gunboat, out of the water for maintenance. In a historic development, the museum will be admission-free for the first time this year.
Newly allied with Old Sturbridge Village, this coast-side living history farm takes visitors further back in time than its sister site. It’s the 1790s here, and structures, tools, and tasks demonstrated by costumed interpreters, such as broom making and wool spinning, offer a glimpse of life in New England on the cusp of industrialization.
Did we miss your favorite? Leave your picks for the best outdoor museums in New England in the comments below.