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What Should I Know about Massachusetts?

Massachusetts, steeped in rich history, is the cradle of American liberty. From the cobblestone streets of Boston to the academic havens of Cambridge, it's a tapestry of cultural diversity and innovation. Whether you're exploring the scenic Cape Cod coastline or reliving the witch trials in Salem, there's a story at every corner. Ready to uncover the Bay State's secrets?
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Massachusetts is one of the fifty states that make up the United States of America and one of the six New England states in the northeast section of the country, along with Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. It is bordered to the west by New York, to the north by Vermont and New Hampshire, to the south by Connecticut and Rhode Island, and to the southeast and east by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Maine. Boston is the capital and largest city. Other important cities in Massachusetts are Worcester, Springfield, Lowell, and Cambridge.

Massachusetts is the 45th of the 50 states by size with an area of 7,840.02 square miles (20,305.56 sq km), but ranks 13th in population with 6,349,097 in the 2000 census. It is fourth among states in population density. The correct name for a resident of Massachusetts is a Massachusettsan.

Chocolate chip cookies, the state cookie of Massachusetts.
Chocolate chip cookies, the state cookie of Massachusetts.

The state’s earliest inhabitants were, first, Paleo-Indians, followed by Native Americans of the Algonquian language group. These included the Massachusett community, from which the state takes its name. It is said to mean “at or about the Great Hill,” referring to the Great Blue Hill region where they dwelt.

The Plymouth colony was established by the Pilgrims in what is now Massachusetts in 1621, with the government organized by the famous “Mayflower Compact.” The created ties to the local Wampanoag community, and celebrated the first Thanksgiving with them. More colonies were set up, including the Massachusetts Bay Colony. A strict colonial policy by England brought about defiance, resulting in the Boston Massacre on 5 March 1770, and resulted in acts such as the including the famous Boston Tea Party of 16 December 1773. On 19 April 1775, Paul Revere made his famous ride to warn the colonists, and the battles of Lexington and Concord began, the first battles of the American Revolutionary War.

A Boston terrier, the state dog of Massachusetts.
A Boston terrier, the state dog of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts joined the Union on 6 February 1788, the sixth of the original thirteen states to do so. Elements of its history are recalled in some of its state emblems. For example, the state seal features a Native American from the Algonquin nation, holding a bow and arrow in a gesture indicating peaceful intentions, surmounted by a golden right arm holding a broadsword and with the motto, Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem, which means, “By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.” The state flower is, aptly, the Mayflower. And the state is one of the few to have a “state historical rock” — Plymouth Rock.

Other state emblems of Massachusetts feature items currently associate with the state:

  • State dog: Boston Terrier
  • State doughnut: Boston Crème
  • State Beverage: Cranberry Juice
  • State Muffin: Corn Muffin
  • State Bean: Navy Bean — chosen because of its features role in Boston Baked Beans
  • State Dessert: Boston Crème Pie
  • State Cookie: Chocolate Chip Cookie — the Toll House Restaurant cookie, developed in Whitman, Massachusetts in 1930.
  • Although Massachusetts is one of the oldest states in the country, it has developed a reputation in the past several decades as one of the more progressive states in the union. Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage and generally has a progressive stance on civil rights. For example, getting an emotional support animal letter Massachusetts will recognize is relatively simple. In Massachusetts, individuals with mental disabilities trying to legitimize an emotional support animal need only meet with a mental health care professional and receive a certified confirmation letter.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What are the must-visit historical sites in Massachusetts?

    Massachusetts is steeped in American history, with must-visit sites including the Freedom Trail in Boston, which takes you through 16 historical landmarks such as Paul Revere's House and the Old North Church. Additionally, the town of Plymouth, where the Mayflower Pilgrims settled, and the historic battlefields of Lexington and Concord are essential for history buffs. According to the National Park Service, the Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord receives hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, eager to see the opening battle site of the American Revolution.

    What is the best time of year to visit Massachusetts?

    The best time to visit Massachusetts is during the fall, from September to November, when the foliage transforms into a breathtaking palette of reds, oranges, and yellows. This season offers comfortable temperatures and fewer crowds. According to the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, autumn also features numerous festivals and events celebrating the harvest, arts, and local culture, making it an ideal time for a visit.

    What are some unique culinary experiences I can find in Massachusetts?

    Massachusetts offers a rich culinary scene, famous for its New England seafood. Indulge in fresh lobster, clam chowder, and oysters, particularly on Cape Cod or in Boston. For a unique experience, visit during the Wellfleet OysterFest in October, where you can enjoy local oysters and clams. Additionally, explore the flavors of the North End, Boston's Little Italy, for authentic Italian cuisine. The state is also part of the growing farm-to-table movement, with many restaurants sourcing locally, according to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.

    What outdoor activities are popular in Massachusetts?

    Massachusetts offers a diverse range of outdoor activities. The Berkshires are popular for hiking, especially in the fall, with the Appalachian Trail running through this region. In the winter, skiing and snowboarding are favorites at resorts like Wachusett Mountain. Coastal activities include whale watching off Cape Cod, with the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary being one of the world's premier whale watching destinations, as noted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    How can I navigate public transportation in Massachusetts?

    The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) provides extensive public transportation options in the Greater Boston area, including buses, subways (the 'T'), commuter rails, and ferries. For travel beyond Boston, regional bus services and trains like the Amtrak connect major cities and towns. The MBTA's official website offers schedules, maps, and fare information to help plan your journey. For those exploring the scenic Cape Cod region, the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority offers convenient bus services.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to WiseTour about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

Learn more...
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to WiseTour about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

Drentel

What you should know about Massachusetts is that the residents of the state are big sports fans and many of them are zealots in their support of local teams such as the Boston Celtics basketball team, Boston Red Sox baseball team, New England Patriots football team and Boston Bruins hockey team.

Sporkasia

No conversation about the state of Massachusetts would be complete without mentioning Cape Cod. If you look at a Massachusetts map the cape will be the body of land jutting out from the state and into the Atlantic Ocean. This portion of land is sometimes called the arm of Massachusetts because of its resemblance to a human arm.

The villages of Cape Cod put you mind of European towns. With so much water around, the cape is a major tourist attraction, particularly during the warm months. Because this area is so popular, you should be prepared for a large volume of traffic and slow moving during the summer, but if you can get pass the congestion then you are sure to have a memorable experience.

Animandel

My family and I have visited the Pilgrim settlement in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Much of the colony has not changed. The buildings look as they did in the 1600's, or so we were told; and they do look like pictures I have seen in History books.

The state is filled with interesting historical sites. We contacted one of the agencies that promotes Massachusetts tourism and received information on more places than we will ever have a chance to visit.

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    • Chocolate chip cookies, the state cookie of Massachusetts.
      Chocolate chip cookies, the state cookie of Massachusetts.
    • A Boston terrier, the state dog of Massachusetts.
      A Boston terrier, the state dog of Massachusetts.
    • Cranberry juice is the state beverage of Massachusetts.
      By: Galina Mikhalishina
      Cranberry juice is the state beverage of Massachusetts.
    • Navy beans, the state bean of Massachusetts.
      By: BronxPhotog
      Navy beans, the state bean of Massachusetts.
    • Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachuse, became the first institute of higher learning in the United States in 1636.
      Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachuse, became the first institute of higher learning in the United States in 1636.
    • David Kennison, the last survivor of the Boston Tea Party, lived to 115 years of age.
      By: Seth Anderson
      David Kennison, the last survivor of the Boston Tea Party, lived to 115 years of age.
    • Boston is the capital of Massachusetts.
      By: malachy120
      Boston is the capital of Massachusetts.
    • Lowell, Massachusetts, still has buildings from its days as a textiles producer.
      By: nextrecord
      Lowell, Massachusetts, still has buildings from its days as a textiles producer.
    • As one of the nation's oldest cities, Boston is home to many historic buildings, including the Old State House, which dates back to the early 1700s.
      By: mdbrockmann82
      As one of the nation's oldest cities, Boston is home to many historic buildings, including the Old State House, which dates back to the early 1700s.
    • Massachusetts was the location of several incidents that spurred colonists to fight the British during the Revolutionary War, including the Boston Massacre.
      By: laufer
      Massachusetts was the location of several incidents that spurred colonists to fight the British during the Revolutionary War, including the Boston Massacre.