Five Cool, Abandoned Destinations to Visit on a Day Trip from Boston
From crumbling forts to desolate biblical theme parks, get out and explore.
This time of the year—and even more so during a pandemic—Boston looks a bit like a ghost town. But if you’re hankering to explore some actual abandoned spots, check out this roundup of ruins. All close drives from the city, each of these make for the perfect day trip of derelict destinations.
Holy Land USA
If you’ve ever wondered what a biblical theme park that weathered the apocalypse might look like, all you have to do is visit Holy Land USA. You can’t miss the mammoth Hollywood-like sign on a hill overlooking Waterbury that brings visitors to the 18-acre site, filled with decaying dioramas of biblical locations like Bethlehem and events like Jesus’s journey to the cross. The park opened in 1955 and has been essentially abandoned since 1986 due to a decline in devotees, but a non-profit is currently trying to resurrect the place and return some of its original glory. Visitors are allowed during daylight—just watch your step as you roam around the miniature Tower of Babel and step over the occasional beer can lying alongside cracked slabs bearing Bible verses. A volunteer-led cleanup is ongoing, but the place is still in a state of purgatory.
60 Slocum St., Waterbury, CT, holylandwaterbury.org.
Becket Land Trust Historic Quarry and Forest
Head to this abandoned quarry with some grout expectations and you won’t be disappointed. At the site of the former Chester-Hudson Quarry, tucked in 300-plus acres of forestland, you can gaze upon piles of grout and other quarry waste materials in jagged mounds that soar to the sky. The mine operated from the 1850s until the 1960s, and by the looks of things—trucks left out to rust along with drills, winches, and other equipment—it seems like the workers clocked out, expecting to return the next day, before abandoning it permanently instead. Adventurers are welcome to take a self-guided tour of the now-quiet quarry during daylight hours.
Quarry Road, Becket, MA, becketlandtrust.org.
North Truro Airforce Base
North Truro, MA
Who knew that a 15-minute drive from Provincetown offers a chance to travel decades back in time? Cape Cod meets the Cold War at this abandoned base that scanned the skies for Soviet bombs from 1950 to 1985. Now known as the Highlands Center, the 110-acre site has been a part of the Cape Cod National Seashore since 1994, but remains largely unchanged since its heyday. Most of the buildings that housed airmen and their families—the mess hall, barracks, family houses, and more—still beckon from beyond the barbed wire fences. A few trails, like the Woods Walk loop, weave over cracked, once-patrolled roads, making for a time capsule that’s slowly surrendering to the coastal landscape. Before you go, double-check for possible closures at the National Parks website, though the grounds are usually open from 6 a.m. to midnight.
Old Dewline Road, Truro, MA, nps.gov.
Though Lovells Island in Boston Harbor is only accessible by recreational vessel at the moment due to COVID-19, the extra effort is worth it to stroll the abandoned Fort Standish. The crumbling walls of the fort—completed in 1900 and decommissioned in 1947—overlook the rugged coastline and surrounding islands, with downtown off in the distance. Tread carefully along crumbing staircases and make sure to check out the gun emplacements. Though the armaments are long gone, the alcoves are a surprisingly serene spot shrouded in trees.
Lovells Island, Boston, MA, bostonharborislands.org/lovells-island.
Rutland Prison Camp Ruins
Follow the aptly named Prison Camp Road to a bit of forgotten history in the Ware River watershed, near the 300-acre Rutland State Park: the ruins of a prison camp built in 1903 and abandoned in 1934. Scattered among the trees and the dirt paths you’ll find old foundations, drainage tunnels, stairways to nowhere, the remains of a tuberculosis hospital and more. But what takes the creepy/depressing cake? The ruins of solitary confinement cells—claustrophobia-summoning structures slashed with graffiti. With all the winding roads, you definitely don’t want to be stuck here after dark.
49 Whitehall Road, Rutland, MA, mass.gov.