Things To Do In New Bedford Ma – 15 Fun Things To Do Today!

Finding things to do in New Bedford Ma is easier than one may expect as the city has many hidden gems just waiting for visitors to uncover them.

New Bedford Harbor Popes Island

Tucked away in Bristol County, Massachusetts, United States, New Bedford built its reputation in the 19th century.

Once the greatest whaling port and the wealthiest city per capita in the world, the city’s thrived on the backs of Portuguese and Cape Verdean immigrants who worked on the wharves.

Its rich history has helped it maintain its reputation and the old whaling city is also the largest city in the South Coast region. It is also the sixth-largest city in the state.

From historical sites to hip and artsy, the stunning city has something for everyone.

Filled to the brim with incredible restaurants, shops, and museums, there is lots of things to do in New Bedford Ma. Here are my top fifteen fun things to do in New Bedford Ma:

 1. New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park 

 

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As I already mentioned, New Bedford has a rich history in whaling. In the nineteenth century, the city was the whaling capital of the world.

Discover the intricacies of its deep historical roots by visiting the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park.  

Opened in November 1996, the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park offers visitors a walking tour through the historic district via an app.

The park and its partners aim to protect, preserve and interpret the area’s history that spans thirteen blocks of downtown New Bedford. 

It focuses mainly on the history of the whaling industry in the 19th-20th century and tells the history of global immigration, the Underground Railroad, women’s history, cultural diversity, architecture, art, etc.

2. New Bedford Whaling Museum

Whaling National Historical Park

Within the park is the New Bedford Whaling Museum. According to my research, it is the world’s most comprehensive museum with regards to whales and the whaling industry. 

The museum also boasts the world’s largest ship model called Lagoda and offers visitors a glimpse at five complete whale skeletons from four species and America’s longest painting. 

Visitors can delve into the history of the Southcoast of Massachusetts and learn about multiple topics from cartography to boatbuilding via the many educational programs and lectures.

3. Cuttyhunk Ferry Tour

Things to do in Bedford Ma - Cuttyhunk Ferry Tour

However, while the park and museum do a great job of preserving history on land, to chart the historic waters of the area, visitors should experience the Cuttyhunk Ferry Tour.

The ferry, which can carry up to 149 people, takes visitors to the Cuttyhunk Island, which it is named after.

The island is an iconic part of the city’s history as it was once a prime sportfishing location in Massachusetts.

Along the way, visitors will spot many of the historical landmarks around New Bedford. 

4. New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center

The New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center is next on the list of history-inspired things to do in New Bedford Ma. It aims to preserve the history of the fishing industry in the city. It is open from Thursday to Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.

A must-see at the center is the More than a Job: Work and Community in New Bedford’s Fishing Industry exhibit that showcases a replica ship deck, scallop dredge, bunks, and galley table.

The display also has many historical images, videos, and more than sixty audio clips of fishermen and workers in the industry. 


Recommended Reading – More Things To Do In Massachusetts


5. Seaport Cultural District

After unpacking the history of New Bedford, the next thing to do is explore its culture. Let’s hit the New Bedford Seaport Cultural District, where you will find everything from charming boutique shops to galleries.

However, to truly enjoy Bedford’s cultural district, you should visit during one of the annual events. Don’t worry; Summer is packed with things to do in Bedford. Here is the Cultural Districts Annual Events Calendar:

  • January: Moby Dick Marathon
  • 2nd Thursday of every month from February to December: AHA! Art, History, and Architecture (2nd Thursday of the month)
  • March: New Bedford Half Marathon
  • May: Viva Portugal
  • June: New Bedford Jazz Fest
  • July: Cape Verdean Recognition Week & Parade
  • July: New Bedford Folk Festival
  • July to August: Summer Sound Series (concerts on Pier 3)
  • July: New Bedford Festival Theatre
  • August: Summer Movie Night
  • September: Upper William Street Neighborhood Festival
  • October: WHALE International Wine Festival
  • October: Oktoberfest
  • December: Holiday Happenings
  • December: City Celebrates! New Year’s Eve

6. Seafood Culinary Experience

Grilled New Bedford Sea Scallops served on white plate

Now that we’ve filled our quota of history and culture, it’s time to find things to do in New Bedford Ma that would satisfy any food lover.

In my opinion, it’s impossible to visit the coast and not indulge in seafood.

Especially since New Bedford, Ma’s culinary scene is as bustling and vibrant as the rest of the city.

It is rated the Number One Fishing Port in the USA and is famous for its scallops. 

So it’s a given that there are many delicious seafood restaurants worth visiting in town; however, if you aren’t a fan of seafood, there are many other options.

The city has a host of ethnic cuisine from Portuguese to Cape Verdean and contemporary American cuisine options.

7. New Bedford Symphony Orchestra

The New Bedford Symphony Orchestra (NBSO) should be the next stop for those looking to indulge in even more culture. It is one of the oldest regional orchestras in the United States as it was founded in 1915,

Dr. David MacKenzie, who has more than 30-years of experience in symphonic music, opera, and musical theater, leads the professional orchestra. Overall, shows from the orchestra are known to be exciting, moving, and beautiful. 

The concert programs are usually just under two hours long and include a 15-minute intermission. Family concerts are generally only an hour-long but do not have an interval. 

Visitors should arrive early to get refreshments from the concession area. The fully stocked stand is open before performances and during intermission. Visitors are also allowed to take drinks and snacks bought from the bar into the theater.


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8. Buttonwood Park Zoo

Buttonwood Park Zoo Things to do in Bedford Ma

Consider visiting the Buttonwood Park Zoo if you’re looking for family-friendly fun things to do in New Bedford Ma. 

Known as the most visited attraction in Bristol County, the zoo is one of the finest small zoos in the United States. With a wide variety of animals from around the world and the “Berkshires to the Sea” exhibits, it is the perfect place for small children to explore. 

After seeing the black bears, mountain lions, and seals, visitors can cross over into the Buttonwood Farm, where they can see rare breeds of farm animals. 

Remember to buy tickets online before your visit. The zoo is open from 9 am to 5 pm every day except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

9. Palmer’s Island

Palmer Island Light Station in the Acushnet River

Another great place to visit with the family is Palmer’s Island. The six-acre island is in the Acushnet River at the entrance of New Bedford Harbor.

Named after William Palmer who was one of the original settlers in Old Dartmouth, the island had a dark history as an internment camp for Native Americans between 1675 and 1676. This was during King Phillip’s War, then in the Revolutionary War, it was a garrison. 

However, in the 19th century, things took a turn for the better when an amusement park and hotel were built on the island. However, in 1938 a Hurricane washed away all the buildings on the island except for the 24 foot stone lighthouse.

The island was struck by disaster again after the harbor suffered PCB contamination. Nevertheless, Palmer’s Island is the perfect place to enjoy taking long walks and bird watching.

It is prohibited to fish or shellfish on the island due to the contamination of the harbor with PCBs. Hunting is also not permitted.

Visitors should note that the island does have Poison Ivy, Cow Parsnip, ticks, and mosquitoes; thus, it is vital to stick to designated trails and the west beach. 

10. Stephen Hetland Memorial Skating Rink

Located at 310 Hathaway Boulevard, the perfect place to enjoy a fun day out with family is the Stephen Hetland Memorial Skating Rink. The ice rink is well-loved by the entire New Bedford community. 

The home of the New Bedford Whalers, the ice rink is a community favorite. It regularly hosts programs and events for skaters of all ages to enjoy. 

Aside from enjoying a fun day out with friends, the rink is also a great place for beginners to take ice skating lessons. They also offer figure skating ice hockey lessons.

The Stephen Hetland Memorial Skating Rink also offers ice skating clinics and weekly public skating sessions that have become a community event. Those interested in learning more can call 508 999-9051

11. Wonder Bowl

Things to do in Bedford Ma, go bowling with the family

Part of the P&G bowling group,  Wonderbowl is another super exciting thing to do in New Bedford, Ma. P&G bowling was started by Phyllis and Ernie Hoesetery and Norman and Gail Gendron in 1980 when they decided to buy the Bowlers Country Club in Fairhaven, Ma. 

Five years later, they had built a successful business and decided it was time to expand, so in 1985 they bought the East Providence Lanes in Rumford, RI.

With two successful bowling centers, in 1993, they expanded again and opened Holiday Lanes of Westport in Westport and Wonderbowl in New Bedford, Ma.  

Though they later sold the Bowlers Country Club, they have built the other three centers into state-of-the-art bowling alleys.

Wonder Bowl is now one of the best family entertainment centers in southeastern Massachusetts. It boasts top-of-the-line bowling lanes, bowling leagues, Cosmic Bowling, Striker’s Sports Pub, Snack Bar, Pro Shop, video games, and pool tables, making it perfect for groups. 

They also host birthday parties and special events for reasonable prices.


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12. Painting at Splash

On the hunt for more fun things to do in New Bedford, Ma, I stumbled across Painting at Splash. The studio presents the perfect opportunity to unleash creativity, learn new skills, and discover a new hobby. 

Painting at Splash provides step-by-step instruction accompanied by soothing background music and the freedom to create your masterpiece. Visitors do not need any painting experience as professional artists are always around to guide even beginners. 

The studio is wheelchair-friendly and very accessible. Though sessions are usually for people ages 14 and over, the studio hosts a kid’s night. If you liaise with them in advance, they can also make alternative arrangements to accommodate children on other days. 

The studio offers regularly scheduled public classes throughout the week. Visitors should reserve their seats in advance on the website as the classes tend to fill up quickly. Booking online also enables you to check if there are any upcoming special theme nights.

Walk-ins are accommodated occasionally, but it is best to call in advance to check if the session is full. Operating hours are as follows: 

  • Monday:  06:30 pm – 08:30 pm
  • Tuesday: By Appointment
  • Wednesday – Friday:  06:00 pm – 10:00 pm
  • Saturday: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm
  • Sunday: By Appointment

The studio also offers the option of hosting Private Parties such as Children’s Birthday Parties, Team Building, Company Parties, Ladies Night, Date Night, and Bachelorette Parties. Mobile Parties, where artists will facilitate a program at a location of your choice, is another choice. 

13. Carabiner’s Rock Climbing

Going rock climbing with the family

For those eager to find physical and adventurous things to do in New Bedford, Ma, try Carabiner’s Rock Climbing. Founded in 2004 by Steve Caton, Carabiner’s was once the largest indoor climbing facility in the country!

They are currently the fourth-largest in the country and the largest indoor climbing facility in New England! Carabiner’s aims to allow the community to enjoy climbing and fitness in a welcoming and comfortable space making it perfect for even beginners.

Boasting 65′ climbing walls, the 36,600 sq ft building also offers more than 140 top-roping routes, 120+ problems for free climbers, and over 50 options for lead climbers.

These combined with its six auto-belays prove that Carabiner’s is the kind of place made for those looking for an adrenalin rush with their workout. It also has a 65′ climbing rope, rope ladder, and chain ladder (all toprope).

And we haven’t even got to their fitness classes yet. They offer everything from Yoga to Pole Fit and have a members-only full-service gym that boasts a vast selection of equipment.

However, those visiting from out of town can buy daily passes for access to the equipment and do not need to sign up for membership.

Other amenities also include the pro shop, where you can buy climbing equipment, snacks, and clothes. Carabiner’s also has locker rooms with showers, on-site free wifi, and climate control.

14. Mass Escape NB

 

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Mass Escape is the perfect place to find something to do in New Bedford, Ma, this weekend. A hands-on game and mental adventure is the best description of the Escape Rooms. 

Players must solve puzzles using the room’s elements to escape the “locked” room. They must do so within a set time limit to complete their mission. Thus, it is a great team-building experience as the entire group must work together to “escape the room.” 

Mass Escape offers three different room options: Ice Station Zero, 44 Winterwood Lane, and The Exstein Experiment. Prices vary depending on the size of your group.

Their standard group pricing applies from Thur – Sun and starts at $75 for two people and goes up to about $300 for ten people. 

Visitors should note that Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are by appointment only. However, operating hours for the rest of the week are as follows: 

  • Thursday: 4:00pm – 8:30pm
  • Friday: 4:30pm – 9:30pm
  • Saturday: 12:30am – 9:30pm
  • Sunday: 12:30pm – 7:30pm

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15. New Bedford Beaches 

New Bedford Beaches are great if you are looking for things to do in Bedford Ma

How can anyone go to the coast and not spend at least one day at the beach? New Bedford has many stunning beaches worth visiting at least once. 

East Beach

Loved by locals and tourists alike, East Beach is well-known. Boasting a vast, sandy stretch of beach, East Beach is the perfect place to either laze on the sand or go swimming. 

Visitors can also walk along the shore and take in the breathtaking view of ships and sailboats floating through Buzzards Bay. You may even catch a glimpse of Butler Flats Lighthouse.  

Bedford Ma Beach

For those who love fishing, the fishing pier at East Beach is a fisherman’s dream but remember that you may only practice catch-and-release fishing here. The beach also has a bike path that runs to the scenic waterfront and the harbor. 

West Beach

On the opposite end, West Beach is another New Bedford beach worth visiting. The large city beach sits comfortably on Clarks Cove and draws a more local crowd than East Beach. West Beach is the perfect place to enjoy the view of Buzzards Bay and the Elizabeth Islands. 

Its clear, calm water ad summer Lifeguards make it the perfect place for families to enjoy a fun day playing in the water. Plus, it is right across the street from Hazelwood Park, which is the perfect picnic spot and offers stunning views of Clarks Cove and Buzzards Bay.

Families can also enjoy Saulnier Memorial Bike Trail from Clark’s Point to Rodney French Boulevard or ride from West Beach to East Beach and take in the stunning views of Fort Taber Park and the New Bedford Harbor Walk

Regardless of which beach you decide to spend the day on, I promise it will be the perfect way to wrap up a busy week especially if you spent it enjoying the many things to do in New Bedford.

Conclusion

Hope you enjoyed my list of things to do in New Bedford Ma. As you can see you get away for the weekend or stay a little longer and enjoy everything Bedford Ma has to offer.

If you are looking for even more fun-filled getaways within the US or abroad be sure to check out our site Travel Croc for more amazing travel destinations. Thank you for reading.