Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the United States of America. Massachusetts is known as "The Bay State" because of its three large bays which dominate and shape the coastline. Massachusetts Bay in the Greater Boston and Cape Ann area and Cape Cod Bay, which shapes Cape Cod against the Atlantic Ocean, are on the eastern shore. Buzzards Bay, on the south coast, is the other large bay.
Massachusetts is an excellent travel destination, noted for many of its historical sites as well as diverse regional flavors. The eastern Massachusetts Bay area of the state from Gloucester to Plymouth is very metropolitan, with Boston at its hub. Here you can find great cooking, fresh seafood, and an intense concentration of colleges and universities.
To the south of Boston is Cape Cod, a tremendously popular vacation spot and home to the Kennedy family, one of America's more influential political families. West of Boston you'll find the Blackstone Valley National Corridor, a vast expanse of rolling hills and small towns, as well as some of the most unique vineyards in the East Coast.
The Knowledge Corridor features New England's second most populous urban area, the 24 mile stretch between Springfield and Hartford, Connecticut. In western Massachusetts, this area is also known as the Pioneer Valley. It features an abundance of colleges, universities, and nature. Its cultural and economic hub is Springfield.
To the far west, you'll find more rural areas, the Berkshire Hills, the Appalachian Trail, and excellent skiing. Massachusetts has a lot to offer the prospective traveller!
Massachusetts is one of the oldest states in America, dating back to the foundation of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1620. The name Massachusetts comes from Algonquian Indian words that mean the great mountain, an apparent reference to the tallest of the Blue Hills, a recreation area south of the town of Milton.
Massachusetts is a state of firsts - the first public school (Boston Latin School), the first public library (Boston Public Library), the first public park (Worcester), the first American university (Harvard), the first National Armory (Springfield), the first gasoline-powered automobile (Springfield), the first birth control pill (Worcester), the first public beach (Revere Beach), the first motorcycle (Springfield), the first modern fire engine (Springfield), the first liquid fuel rocket (Worcester), the birthplace of basketball (Springfield), and the birthplace of Volleyball (Holyoke). It also features the site of the Boston Massacre, the event that set off the American Revolutionary War, with the "shot heard 'round the world" in Concord at the Old North Bridge.
Massachusetts also has its dark side, the Salem Witch Trials being one of the most significant black spots on the state's history. Though far less frequent than in the past, murders related to organized crime and rampant corruption of public officials were once a fact of life for Bostonians.
Massachusetts today is a blend of old and new. In Eastern Massachusetts you can walk the 3.5 mile Freedom Trail in Boston to see more than 20 historical sites, then hop over to Cambridge and see some of the world's most advanced biotechnology, not to mention the legendary Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the gold standard for technical education in the United States. The state as a whole is a blend of rural and urban, from Boston and suburbs in the East, to the gently rolling hills and lovely small villages in the Center, to the culturally, historically, and educationally rich Pioneer Valley and the rolling Berkshire Mountains in the west.
The easiest way to get into Eastern Massachusetts is through Logan International Airport in Boston. The easiest way to get into Western Massachusetts is through Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, which is 12 miles south of Springfield (and equidistant to Hartford, Connecticut.)
Other regional airports include Worcester, Manchester, Providence, Chicopee (Springfield), and Albany.
More information on New England's regional airports can be found at Fly New England .
Boston's South Station is the northern terminus of the Northeast Corridor, the most heavily trafficked rail route in the country, and one of the few routes serviced by Amtrak with a high frequency of service. Trains from New York reach Boston in about 3.5 hours; trains from Washington take about twice as long. The faster Acela trains shave about an hour off those journeys, and although they cost more, they generally present a more enjoyable trip.
Boston's North Station is served by the Downeaster which goes to New Hampshire and Maine.
Springfield is also served by Amtrak with trains entering from the north, south, east, and west. It is accessible by Amtrak's Northeast Regional Service, the Vermonter from the north and south, and the Lake Shore Limited from the east and west. With the renovation of Springfield's Union Station, Springfield will receive an increase in rail traffic in the next several years, so be aware that schedules will change.
Other Western and Central Massachusetts cities are also served by Amtrak, although much less frequently than Boston. Pittsfield, Worcester, and Framingham are served by Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited from the east and west. The college mecca of Amherst is served by the Vermonter, but the stop is scheduled to be re-routed to Northampton with the completion of the Pioneer Valley intercity commuter rail. With all of the current train-building in Western Massachusetts, it's best to check ahead regarding stops.
Though easily accessible by train, if traveling from Pennsylvania or further away, it is frequently cheaper and almost always faster to fly to Massachusetts than take the train (however, traveling on the Lake Shore Limited from Chicago and all points in between is often less than $100).
Massachusetts has several large interstates that serve it, including:
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.
Use SmarTraveler to determine traffic conditions in the Metro Boston area.
Dial 511 on your cell phone to listen to up-to-date traffic conditions for all major highways.
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.
Amtrak goes to many major cities.
Within and around Boston, public transportation is run by the Mass Bay Transit Authority or MBTA and is called the "T", and there are commuter rails (purple on the maps) that go to surrounding suburbs and cities including Framingham and Worcester. The suburbs in the south are served by Boston's South Station, while the suburbs in the north are served by Boston's North Station.
Within and around Springfield, the public transportation system is called the PVTA . It travels as far north as the college towns of Northampton and Amherst.
I-90 (also called the Massachusetts Turnpike, or simply the Mass Pike) is the major East-West route across the state. Rt 2 is a more northern equivalent, though there are sections through town centers with traffic lights.
Be sure to obey all traffic laws in Massachusetts. Massachusetts has some of the toughest traffic enforcement in the nation. Speed limits tend to be enforced at the number with little or no grace. It is not uncommon to get pulled over and to receive a pricey ticket for doing 56 in a 55 MPH zone. Officers are also aggressive in enforcing other violations, such as tailgating, stopping in a no-stopping zone, failure to yield, rolling stops, unsafe lane changes, etc.
Additionally, you should familiarize yourself with your route in advance, and using a GPS navigator is strongly recommended. Massachusetts is one of the hardest states in the nation to find your way around. The roads curve a lot and you can easily lose your sense of direction. Finding yourself 30 miles in the opposite direction you intended to go due to one wrong turn is not unheard of. Police officers in Massachusetts are often of no help when you're lost, and tend to be unsympathetic. It is not uncommon to be ticketed because you accidentally break a traffic law simply because you are lost, such as hesitating in the middle of traffic when you are unsure where to turn or reading a road sign.
A portion of the Appalachian Trail runs through the state.
There are a number of "rail trails" - converted rail road lines - throughout the state that have been paved for pedestrian and bicycle travel. There are also designated "bikeways" along secondary roads. See:
Although it is illegal to hitchhike on the highway itself, I-90 has a very good system of commercial rest stops placed conveniently every few miles. Hitching a ride from these rest stops isn't too hard. Make a sign, stand in the parking lot and put out your thumb for cars on the way out. As these rest stops are quasi-private property, it may be advisable to buy something small, like a pack of gum, so that you are a paying customer.
Mass Wildlife maintains an excellent site showing access points and maps of wildlife areas as well as regulations, permits and fees. Saltwater fishing does not require a license (shellfishing usually does), but there are regulations under the authority of the State Division of Marine Fisheries. Local regulations may also apply in regards to shellfishing or taking of herring.
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.
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. A list is maintained at: .
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'.
Driving - Massachusetts drivers have a reputation for aggressive and careless driving including running red lights and unpredictable changes of lane or direction. Speeds up to 20 mph (30 kph) over posted limits are common on highways and interstates. Pedestrians should not count on getting the right of way just because it is legally theirs. Drinking is a widespread social activity and intoxicated drivers may be encountered evenings after work in working-class neighborhoods, or in college towns on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Winter driving involves snow and ice, December through April.
Deer are abundant and car-deer collisions frequent, especially during fall migrations and breeding seasons which may peak on moonlit nights in November. Collisions can occur in suburbs as well as alongside forests and fields. These animals frequently bound high enough to crash through windshields and endanger occupants with flailing hooves.
Although in 1846 author Thoreau had to leave Walden Pond and travel to Maine to observe moose, these larger relatives of deer are recolonizing Massachusetts as old farms revert to forest. Moose are tall enough to topple through windshields in collisions and adults will weigh about 1/2 ton, potentially a deadly combination for vehicle occupants. Immediately slow down and be prepared to stop if you should see one ahead of you. Count yourself doubly lucky to see such a large animal in a densely populated state, and to have avoided a collision.
Outdoors - Ticks can transmit Lyme Disease unless promptly removed. After walking in woods, brush or tall grass remove clothing and look for flattened dark insects 1/8" to 1/4" diameter. If they have already attached themselves touch them with something hot to encourage them to let go. +
Getting lost in thick woods is surprisingly easy, especially in the short days of fall and winter. In unfamiliar areas, plan your route before you set out. Carry map, compass and a whistle or some other way of making noise. Also carry extra clothing and high-calorie snacks in case you are benighted. +
Crime - Statistically, Massachusetts is one of the least violent states. Nevertheless there are cities with declining or vanished industries where economic desperation makes crime a career option. Other cities have tough neighborhoods, usually with telltale signs like trash in the streets, rundown housing, graffiti and barred windows. Try to avoid walking or using public transit in these areas. Also use paid parking lots and while driving keep windows rolled up and locked. Licensed taxicabs will usually be a safe way of getting around these areas. Tough neighborhoods have disproportionate numbers of people with bad attitudes. Try not to "cross" them. Bicycle theft and car break-ins are the most common types of crime. Avoid leaving electronics or other valuables visible in your car. In cities, having a strong bike lock (U-locks are best) is highly recommended as bike thieves do carry bolt cutters. Leaving your bike parked in a high-visibility area (especially if there are few other tempting bikes around at the time) significantly increases the risk of theft compared to finding indoor parking.
Massachusetts, home of Northampton, Provincetown, and the first US state to legalize same-sex marriage, is arguably the most accepting state in all of the USA. Gay villages exist in abundance in Boston, and in smaller cities such as Springfield.
Massachusetts has a sports rivalry with New York, notably between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees (baseball), but also in American football (between the New England Patriots and New York Jets, and, to a lesser extent, the New York Giants). The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers (basketball) also have a fierce rivalry, although there are fewer visible LA fans due to distance. Finally, the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens (hockey) have been rivals for a long time. While wearing merchandise of rival teams will generally only elicit mild comments or playful joking throughout New England, it can sometimes lead to harassment or confrontation, particularly before, during, or after important sports games. This is especially true of Yankees gear. It should also be noted that wearing rivals merchandise in bars or other more casual settings may result in poor service, or harassment from other tables. Many people from outside the US wear Yankees caps or t-shirts after visiting New York, unaware of the connotations in Boston/Massachusetts, and can find themselves getting yelled at for no apparent reason.