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Massachusetts

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Travel Guide North America USA Northeastern United States New England Massachusetts

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Introduction

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Massachusetts is a state in the northeast of the USA, located in the region of New England.

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Brief History

Massachusetts was first colonized by principally English Europeans in the early 17th century, and became the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the 18th century. Prior to English colonization of the area, it was inhabited by a variety of mainly Algonquian-speaking indigenous tribes. The first permanent English settlement was established in 1620.

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Geography

Massachusetts is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. Massachusetts is the 7th least extensive, but the 14th most populous and the 3rd most densely populated of the 50 United States. Massachusetts features two separate metropolitan areas: Greater Boston in the east and the Springfield metropolitan area in the west. Approximately two thirds of Massachusetts's population lives in Greater Boston, most of which is either urban or suburban. Western Massachusetts features one urban area – the Knowledge Corridor along the Connecticut River – and a mix of college towns and rural areas.

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Regions

  • Cape Cod (and the Islands) - The state's premier summer vacation area of beaches, art and antiques.
  • Greater Boston - The metropolitan area inside Interstate 95 also known as Route 128.
  • Southeast Massachusetts (South Shore, SouthCoast, Bristol-Norfolk)
  • Northeast Massachusetts (North Shore, Merrimack Valley)
  • Central Massachusetts (Blackstone Valley, MetroWest, Quabbin, North County, South County)
  • Pioneer Valley (Franklin County, Hampden County, Hampshire County) - The three counties of the Connecticut River Valley, including the interstate Knowledge Corridor
  • Berkshire Hills - A Western Massachusetts area of great beauty.

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Cities

  • Boston is the state's capital and largest city.
  • Cambridge - just across the Charles River from Boston, home to the renowned MIT and Harvard University.
  • Lowell - perhaps most notably the inspiration for/title of Death Cab for Cutie's song
  • Northampton - oft and aptly referred to in literature as "Paradise," home of Smith College and several other wonders of the world.
  • Springfield - claims to fame include the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Dr. Seuss National Memorial
  • Williamstown
  • Worcester - "The Innovative City" Home to eleven colleges and universities.

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Sights and Activities

Western Massachusetts

  • Springfield is home to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
  • Agawam, just south of Springfield, is home to Six Flags New England Theme Park, including rides like Bizzaro (formally known as Superman) that has a 221-foot (67 m) drop, and just over 1-mile (1.6 km) of track. It also includes Hurricane Harbor Water Park within the greater Six Flags park.
  • Holyoke has the Holyoke Mall, an extensive shopping area with many stores.

Ocean Front

  • Cape Cod is home to amazing beaches, NOAA Aquarium, Provincetown, and Whale watch trips that leave from multiple locations.
  • Martha's Vineyard is a small beautiful island known for sailing and upscale communities.
  • Nantucket has unspoiled beaches, lighthouses, the Whaling Museum and much more to explore.

Greater Boston Area

  • Salem is home to the history of the Salem Witch Trials, the Salem Witch Museum is in downtown Salem.
  • Marblehead is known for its coastline and sailing community, with boat races each July.
  • Gloucester is another sea community known for fishing, and was depicted in the movie "The Perfect Storm"
  • Plymouth is most famous for Plymouth Rock.
  • Duxbury is home to fabulous beaches south of the City.

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Weather

Massachusetts has a humid continental climate. Summers last from June to September and are nice and warm, between 25 °C and 30 °C during the day and between 15 °C and 20 °C at night. Summer temperatures are highest in the state's urban centers, due to the heat island effect. Boston's July temperature averages 27.6 °C, and the July temperature in the central Massachusetts city of Worcester averages 26.2 °C. By contrast, the coolest average summer temperatures occur in the Berkshires and on the state's offshore islands. The average temperature in August, the warmest month on Nantucket Island, is 20.4 °C. The average in July in Stockbridge is 20.5 °C. Both daily and seasonal variation in temperature are greatest in the western interior and lowest along the coast. The hottest temperature recorded was 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42.8 degrees Celsius).
Winters last from December to March and are cold, with average January temperatures below freezing nearly throughout the state. The hilly western interior of Massachusetts has the coldest winters. Stockbridge, in the Berkshires, has a January average temperature of -5.8 °C. Winters are more moderate along the eastern coast. Boston has the state's highest maximum January temperature 2 °C, but this temperature is elevated by an urban heat island. The average January temperature in Hingham, also on the coast but 20 kilometres to the southeast is -2.5 °C.
Precipitation is fairly evenly spread throughout the year in Massachusetts. Boston averages 1091 mm of precipitation annually, with a maximum monthly average of 109.2 mm in November and a minimum monthly average of 73.7 mm in July. Interior Massachusetts tends to have a summer precipitation maximum due to convection in air masses heated over the interior, which gives rise to frequent thunderstorms. These occur less frequently over the coast, due to the relative lack of convection over the cooler ocean waters. On the other hand, cold, dry air masses over the interior of the state tend to suppress winter precipitation. All of Massachusetts experiences substantial snowfall in a typical winter. Total annual snowfalls average 110.0 cm in Boston and 175.5 cm in Worcester.

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Getting There

By Plane

Logan International Airport (BOS) is located in east Boston and is one of the busiest airports in the United States with over 27 million passengers a year. It is a major hub for American Airlines, Delta Airlines, US Airways and JetBlue Airways. There are many daily international flights and all major domestic cities have direct service from Boston.
Some of the main destinations served include Dublin, Toronto, Montreal, Paris, London, New York, Seattle, Rome, Aruba, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Amsterdam, Washington, D.C., Orlando, Bermuda, Minneapolis, Detroit, Memphis, Madrid, Reykjavik, Frankfurt, Munich, Lisbon, New Orleans, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Denver, Zürich, Cancun, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Nassau, Santo Domingo, Tampa and Philadelphia.

To/from the airport

  • Bus: The MBTA's Silver Line SL1 bus rapid transit service connects South Station (hub for Amtrak, Subway and bus) in the downtown Boston financial district, with all Logan terminals. Massport's Logan Express bus service also serves the areas of Braintree, Framingham, Peabody, and the Anderson Regional Transportation Center in Woburn
  • Subway: There is also an airport stop on the MBTA's Blue Line subway service, with free shuttle buses from the last stop before the airport to the terminals.
  • Water: The MBTA operates a water shuttle connecting Logan with downtown Boston, Quincy, and Hull. On demand service from the airport to various locations on the downtown waterfront is provided by a fleet of water taxis. A free shuttle bus ferries passengers between the airport dock and the various terminals.
  • Limousines, taxis and rental cars are all widely available at Logan Airport. By car the airport is accessible via Exit 26 on I-90 near the eastern terminus of the Massachusetts Turnpike of which I-90 transitions to Route 1A and on Interstate 93 taking exit 26 to the airport.

By Train

There are a number of trains operated by Amtrak, that travel to and from Massachusetts.

  • The Acela Express between Boston and Washington DC, stopping in New York and Philadelphia as well.
  • The Downeaster between Boston and Portland, Maine.
  • The Lake Shore Limited between Boston and Chicago, via Cleveland.
  • The Northeast Regional between Boston and Newport News, also stopping in New York and Washington DC.

By Car

Massachusetts has several large interstates that serve it, including:

  • I-90, the northernmost east-west interstate highway in the U.S., called the Massachusetts Turnpike from Boston west via Worcester and Springfield to the New York-Massachusetts state line.
  • I-93, which begins just south of Boston, goes under much of downtown (the famed "Big Dig"), then heads north to New Hampshire, crossing the Merrimack River at Andover.
  • I-91 follows Connecticut River south through Greenfield, Northampton and Springfield in Massachusetts, continuing south to New Haven, Connecticut. To the north it passes along the border between Vermont and New Hampshire, then through eastern Vermont to Canada.
  • I-84 has a very short length in Massachusetts. It begins off the Turnpike at Sturbridge, and is the quickest route from much of the state to Hartford and New York City.
  • I-95, the major north-south highway of the East Coast, enters the state at Attleboro and heads toward Boston. It goes around the city itself, linking the western suburbs of Needham, Newton, Waltham and Lexington. It then turns north, through Woburn and Wakefield, before once again turning north and heading towards New Hampshire and Maine. The section of I-95 that forms a sort of belt around Boston is locally known as "Route 128", and its Interstate designation is rarely used by natives.
  • I-290 runs from I-495 in Marlborough through downtown Worcester and ends at the Mass Pike in Auburn.
  • I-395 is essentially the same road as I-290. South of the Mass Pike, I-395 goes from Auburn south to Webster and is the road to Eastern Connecticut, including Mystic, New London and the Connecticut casino resorts.
  • I-190 is a short road that connects Worcester to the northern cities of Fitchburg and Leominster.
  • I-495 forms a sort of "outer belt" around Boston, beginning near the base of Cape Cod and swinging west, through Foxboro, Franklin, Marlborough and the Merrimack Valley before joining I-95 near the New Hampshire border.
  • I-195 connects Providence, Rhode Island with the South Coast, linking Fall River, New Bedford and continuing to the base of Cape Cod.

Other important non-interstate highways in Massachusetts include: U.S. Routes 1, 6, and 20; U.S. Route/State Route 3; and State Routes 2, 9, and 24.

By Bus

A number of bus companies run a Boston-New York route, from the nationally-known Greyhound to Springfield-based Peter Pan, to a variety of small, low-cost "Chinatown bus" carriers:

  • LimoLiner - Luxury bus transportation offering professionals business services between New York City and Boston.
  • Megabus serves Boston, Amherst, Holyoke, and Hyannis from various cities in New England and the Mid-Atlantic.
  • BoltBus serves Boston from New York City, Newark, and Philadelphia.
  • Go Buses runs from Alewife Station in Cambridge and Riverside Station in Newton to New York City.
  • Lucky Star Bus runs between New York City's Chinatown and Boston's South Station.

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Getting Around

By Train

All of the four trains operated by Amtrak travelling to Boston, Massachusetts, also stop in a several other cities in the state, but the The Lake Shore Limited has by far the most stops within Massachusetts.

By Car

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

Massachusetts has a number of National Scenic Byways which offer a great way to explore the state crossing beautiful landscapes. Mostly, there are lots of national parks, state parks or monuments along the way and it's generally a better alternative than the faster but boring Interstate Highways.

By Bus

Peter Pan and Greyhound runs buses to many towns in Massachusetts.

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Eat

Coastal Massachusetts is blessed with great shellfish including, lobster, clams and oysters. A New England clambake is, in many ways, the equivalent of Hawaii's luau. A hole is dug, (sometimes in beach sand, but more often inland), lined with stones and a fire started in it. Later the coals are covered with wet seaweed to create a steam pit into which packages of lobster, fish, clams, mussels, potatoes, and ears of corn are put. This is then covered with more seaweed and covered with tarps to cook.

The New England boiled dinner is a contribution of the state's many Irish immigrants. It is a simmered pot meal of corned beef, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and sometimes turnips. Horseradish, mustard, and sometimes vinegar are used as condiments.

Massachusetts folks are serious about their clam chowder. Many seacoast towns schedule chowder festivals at which locals compete for bragging rights. Fried clams are an alternative way to serve these delectable shellfish, usually accompanied by French fried potatoes. Haddock and cod are the local fish mainstays and one often sees "schrod" on menus. It is purported to be young cod or haddock, but is assumed by locals to mean generic white fish. Bluefish is worth trying, though some may find it a strong-flavored. The other local gamefish, striped bass, is considerably milder in taste.

Fast food in Massachusetts is also often based on fish and various types of seafood. A number of chains specialize in seafood.

Worcester's ethnically diverse population offers home-style food from all over the world in funky little restaurants hidden in odd corners all over the city. Stylish Shrewsbury Street (near UMass Medical School) offers many trendy new restaurants, as well as a few classic diners.

Massachusetts' best farmland is in the Pioneer Valley, along the Connecticut River. Residents from Springfield to Greenfield benefit from local farmers markets throughout the year. This compliments the diverse and cosmopolitan dining scene in the 15 miles from Northampton-Amherst to Springfield.

Southeastern Massachusetts was once the world's largest producer of cranberries. Large flat sandy bogs of colorful berries are harvested in early October.

Inland areas offer traditional New England country cuisine, especially at rural church suppers and breakfasts. Notable dishes include spaghetti-and-meatballs, roasted chicken, baked beans, baking powder biscuits, fruit pies, and cobblers.

Far eastern and far western Massachusetts's rocky soils produce two outstanding crops: tomatoes and apples. Orchards are still mostly family-owned and many growers offer pick-your-own sales. Cider mills churn out fresh cider to sell alongside bags of apples in roadside farm stands. On a crisp fall day the stands often offer warmed fresh cider mulled with cinnamon, clove and other spices.

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Drink

The alcohol purchase age in the Commonwealth is 21. No one is permitted to serve alcohol to a person under 21 years of age. No one is allowed to possess, drink, transport or purchase alcohol if they are under 21. No open containers of alcohol are allowed in most public areas (e.g. sidewalks and parks), even for people of legal drinking age. Massachusetts, more than any other state in the union, vigorously enforces both "Blue Laws" and the drinking age. Most bars, pubs, and nightclubs in Boston have a city mandated 21+ policy, which is vigorously enforced. Additionally, many establishments in Boston and Cape Cod will not serve to out of state visitors under 25. Get a Liquor ID, a state ID card available to non-residents from the Registry of Motor Vehicles if you'll be in the area for awhile, costs $25 for five years of validity.

A controversial "third party liability" precedent has been set in Massachusetts. For example, a landlord rents an apartment to young adults who have a party and a person drinks and drives and causes an accident. Under this "third party liability," the landlord, those who hosted the party, and the one who drinks and drives can be held responsible. Rule of thumb for anyone drinking is to not drink and drive; second, if you are under 21 and want to drink in Massachusetts, you're out of luck unless you're at a private party.

Traditional New England culture back to Pilgrims and Puritans was far from abstenious. Surprising amounts of beer, wine, hard cider and distilled spirits were consumed. Although "Blue Laws" once prohibited alcohol purchases on Sundays, alcohol remains central to socializing in both urban and rural settings.

Microbreweries and brewpubs are becoming more common in urban areas and college towns. They usually offer sandwiches and other casual fare as well as a selection of brews that can be far superior to the megabreweries.

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Sleep

Hotel and Motel Chains

There are dozens of hotel and motel chains, ranging from budget to top end. Allthough they are not the most charming accommodations, they usually have a very decent midrange service with good rooms and are generally good value. At least you know what to expect and in some cases they are either the only or the best option in the area. Some of them include:

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Contributors

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This is version 43. Last edited at 6:58 on Apr 25, 16 by Utrecht. 38 articles link to this page.

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