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The Bay State

Welcome to Massachusetts - this makes a great starting point for your road trip adventures. These links will take you to the important location websites in order for you to drill down and find the things that you are most interested in doing. You can find many historical sites and museums with tours. Cities are steeped in rich cultural offerings. Scenic by-ways give you the opportunity for sightseeing and to photograph the natural beauty that abounds in all of the United States of America.

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Welcome to Massachusetts

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photos by dougtone

Trip Ideas for the Bay State by Julie Fitzgerald

Getting to Know Massachusetts
Massachusetts is home to some of the most important sites in US history, relating to the very first European settlements and the Revolutionary War. It is the first place to which the term New England was applied, and this is reflected in the large number of place names that originate from English towns. Much of the state is covered by forest and farmland, even though it is the most populous state in New England and the third most densely populated state in the US. The Appalachian mountain system runs through the Western end of the state, but the most distinctive feature is the beautiful Atlantic coast, with its sweeping bays and numerous islands, and the unmistakable hook of Cape Cod curling around on itself in the ocean. You can cross from Massachusetts into New Hampshire or Vermont to the north, Connecticut or Rhode Island to the south, or go west into New York.
Major Cities
The Greater Boston area is the main urban region in Massachusetts, and it is home to two thirds of the state's population. The city lies at the mouth of the Charles River, which meets the Atlantic at the inmost point of Massachusetts Bay. It is home to numerous sports teams including the Boston Red Sox, some excellent museums, and a number of universities including Harvard and MIT.
Day Trips in Massachusetts
1. Plymouth is known as "America's Hometown" since it was here that the famous voyage of the Mayflower ended, bringing the Pilgrims to the shores where they would establish one of the first settlements in what would become the US. The Plimoth Plantation living museum allows you to step into the lives of these early settlers, providing just the sort of immersive educational experience that can inspire a lifelong love of history. The best way to introduce your children to history, or even to learn more about it yourself, is to link a lesson at school or the reading of a history book with a trip to the place where it all really happened. Planning a trip to a historical site like Plymouth can be a great way to inspire kids to learn more about history since knowing that you will soon be seeing the site in person is a great incentive to find out more about the people who once lived there. The Plymouth Plantation museum is particularly interesting for children since it focuses on the everyday lives of the settlers, rather than on dry political history. Even if your kids are reluctant to engage with history books or museum exhibits, they will find something to awaken their imaginations in a site that shows them what their life might have been like hundreds of years ago. Climbing aboard the Mayflower II replica ship, you can truly appreciate how extraordinary those early settlers must have been to set out across the ocean in such a vessel. After learning more about their lives at sea, you can complete their voyage by visiting the site at which they are said to have disembarked, marked by the Plymouth Rock. You can then experience what their daily life in Plymouth was like in the replica of the 1627 settlement, and kids can try their hand at some of the crafts and skills that they would have needed to learn if they were growing up in the 17th century. Nearby, you can visit a replica of a Wampanoag home site from the same era, and consider what it would have been like to be a guest at the First Thanksgiving, a story that is familiar to all Americans. 
2. Boston has many interesting museums, but the best way to spend a day in the city is to follow the Freedom Trail. You can join a guided tour, but it is just as easy to make your own way around the route since it is marked out in the sidewalk with a line of red bricks. The entire route can be followed in a day, but if you want to stop off at any of the museums along the way, you will need to allow some extra time. The tour passes all of the most important historic sites in the city. Paul Revere's house, which is now a museum, is along the route, as is the church tower from which the lanterns were hung to warn him of the approach of the British. Visiting these sites is a particularly good idea if you're traveling as a family, since the dramatic stories of the Revolutionary War are exciting enough to inspire the historical imaginations of even the most book-shy children. The trail also gives you the chance to see more of the modern city, and to spend some time in the peaceful Boston Common, which is the ideal spot for a picnic on a warm day.
3. Harvard University is situated in Cambridge, just across the river from Boston, and you can spend a day wandering around the campus or sitting on the steps of the magnificent Widener Library watching the students hurry by on their way to class. The statue of John Harvard is a must-see, though it is mostly famous for its three lies: the date on the plaque and the description of Harvard as the founder of the college are both inaccurate, and the statue itself is not really of John Harvard, since no image made in his lifetime was available to the artist. The university runs some good museums, notably the Harvard Art Museums and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, which can easily be visited while you are in the area. 
4. Salem is a pretty New England town that is best known for the terrible events of the 1692 witch trails, which inspired Arthur Miller's famous play The Crucible. Many tourists come here because of this history, and there are plenty of attractions relating to it. The Witch House, which was once the home of Judge Corwin, who investigated the claims of witchcraft, is now a museum dedicated to the history of the witch trials. The House of the Seven Gables museum also features some exhibits about the witch trials, although it is related more to Nathaniel Hawthorne's book of the same name than to the actual events of 1692. Exploring the house, with its secret passage and unique architecture, is interesting in its own right, but the museum also runs a busy educational program that is worth investigating if you are bringing your kids along. It would be odd to come to Salem without visiting some of these witchcraft themed attractions, but the town has more to offer, such as the recently renovated Peabody Essex Museum, which is actually the oldest continually operational museum in the US, and has a particularly good collection of Asian art.
5. Walden Pond is a stunning example of the peaceful forest landscapes found across Massachusetts, although its fame as the site of the cabin that Henry David Thoreau' describes in his book, Walden, can make it rather too popular if you are hoping to experience some of the seclusion that inspired Thoreau. Still, it is worth a visit if you want to see the site where Thoreau's cabin once stood, and take a look inside the nearby replica to try to picture the writer's life here. You can go swimming in the pond itself during the summer, or take a walk through the woods, but if you are hoping to experience the Massachusetts countryside in anything like the way Thoreau did, you might want to head out onto the road to find a less famous, and quieter, area.
Road Trips in Massachusetts
1. The Atlantic coastline is the most scenic route for a road trip. Interstate 95 follows the coastline between Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, but you can also travel by ferry between many of the Boston Harbor islands and some of the towns along the length of Cape Cod, or take a whale-watching trip around one of the bays. Along the way, you are sure to find beautiful sandy beaches, colorful communities like the artistic Provincetown, and popular tourist destinations like Martha's Vineyard.
2. The Connecticut River Byway runs along the Connecticut River, passing through beautiful forests and farmland, with some interesting towns and historic sites along the way. This is perhaps the best route to take if you want to get a sense of New England, away from the influence of the coast.
3. The sections of the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts provide some beautiful routes to hike, with a number of circular routes taking you up into the mountains. You can find quieter versions of Thoreau's forests around Gore Pond and Finerty Pond, or hike along spectacular ravines like Ice Gulch. The excellent bus services between some of the towns along the trail in this state also make it possible to leave your car in one town, hike along the trail, and then catch a bus back to your car.