Massachusetts is known for its revolutionary war history, distinguished universities, charming towns with old colonial homes, and spectacular coastal beaches.
Located in the northeast of the United States, Massachusetts is known for its rich history, cultural institutions, and excellent universities and colleges. It’s also home to, Boston, one of the oldest cities in the country, and the oldest university, Harvard.
Often referred to as “The Bay State” due to its proximity to Massachusetts Bay, the geography of this state features gorgeous beaches in the east, especially along Cape Cod, and as you travel west, a smattering of quaint villages and towns, featuring 17th and 18th-century colonial architecture.
You’ll know you’ve really gotten a taste for Massachusetts when you’ve learned about the revolutionary war, had a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee, and heard at least one person use a Boston accent.
25 things Massachusetts is known for:
The Bay State is known for many things but these 25 are what the state is famous for.
Revolutionary War History
It’s difficult to visit Massachusetts without learning about the Revolutionary War (1775 – 1783) that ultimately severed the colonial ties of the United States from Great Britain. It’s here where lanterns were placed in the Old North Church to indicate “one if by land, two if by sea” And where Paul Revere undertook his famous ride to Lexington, warning colonialists that British troops were on their way. It’s also home to the Old North Bridge, in Concord, where the “shot hear ’round the world” was fired, initiating the renowned eight-year war.
Popular ways to learn about the Revolutionary War in Massachusetts include visits to:
- The Freedom Trail
- The Old North Church
- Paul Revere’s House
- Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum
- Minute Man National Historical Park
- The Concord Museum
Massachusetts is well known for its largest city and capital, Boston. Founded in 1630, Boston is located in the far east of the state, alongside Massachusetts Bay. It’s one of the oldest cities in the United States and is ranked the 24th most populous city in the United States with a population of nearly 700,000. Boston is also a popular tourist destination due to its pivotal role in the founding of the United States, its world-renowned museums, and its architecturally diverse and walkable neighborhoods.
Massachusetts has one of the highest concentrations of colleges and universities in the nation and Boston is ranked fourth for having the largest number of college students in a metro area. There are 114 colleges and universities in the Bay State. Some of the most well-known are Harvard University, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Tufts, Boston College, Boston University, Babson College, and Northeastern University.
Technology and innovation
Although not quite as well-known as California’s famed Silicon Valley, Massachusetts has a considerable tech sector, largely born out of its highly-esteemed research universities. These institutions are known for their cutting-edge research and also produce highly-educated graduates who go on to work in technological fields. The city of Boston is known for being home to a number of tech companies and start-ups. Other tech sectors within the state include Kenmore Square in Cambridge, Waltham, and Burlington.
Cape Cod and the Islands
Jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean is Cape Cod, a long, narrow, and curved stretch of land that is often compared to a bent arm. To the south of “The Cape”, as it’s colloquially known, are the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. All three are considered to be among the most popular summer vacation destinations in New England with their beautiful beaches, charming towns, rich history, and relatively mild weather compared to inland areas in the state.
Quaint, historic towns
Massachusetts is among the leading states in the nation for preserving its architecture and history. The state is home to a number of historic towns, many of which were founded in the 17th and 18th centuries, featuring well-preserved colonial-era architecture. A few examples of quaint, historic towns in Massachusetts include Concord, Lexington, Salem, Nantucket Town, and Stockbridge.
Salem Witch Trials
One of the darkest chapters in early American history, the Salem Witch Trials, took place in Massachusetts. Between February 1692 and May 1693, a group of young girls in Salem Village began to exhibit unusual behavior, including fits and contortions. These girls accused local women of using witchcraft on them which initiated the women’s arrest and subsequent hearings and trials. Ultimately, twenty women were found guilty and sentenced to death. Today, the town of Salem has a number of museums and tours to educate and inform visitors about the witch trials.
One thing Massachusetts is most known for is the Boston accent. In a nutshell, the Boston accent is distinguished by the dropping of the letter “r” at the end of a syllable. The phrase “pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd” (Park the car in Harvard Yard) is a well-known way to illustrate the accent. Popular movies and TV shows that showcase a Boston accent include Good Will Hunting (1997), The Departed (2006), and Cheers (1982-1993).
Massachusetts has a long love affair with the global coffee chain, Dunkin Donuts (now officially called Dunkin’) and many Massachusetts natives won’t get their coffee anywhere else. It’s no wonder since the restaurant franchise was founded in Quincy in 1950. The chain has 11,300 stores in 36 countries and 1,150 of those are in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts has four prominent sports teams that are recognized nationally and internationally. The Boston Red Sox have won nine World Series titles and are one of the most popular baseball teams in the United States. And the New England Patriots football team has won seven Super Bowl titles in the National Football League. Basketball’s Boston Celtics have won a record 17 championships, and the state’s hockey team, the Boston Bruins, have won six Stanley Cups.
Bad drivers and bad roads
Massachusetts, but more specifically Boston, is known to have bad drivers. It’s not uncommon to have a driver cut you off while driving down the Mass Pike or be unwilling to let you turn. It definitely takes an alert and slightly aggressive mindset to drive successfully in Boston. However, although Massachusetts drivers are stereotyped this way, there’s actually no statistical evidence to prove it’s true. In fact, one study found that Massachusetts had the fewest number of traffic deaths per capita in 2019.
Massachusetts is also known for its bad roads, which isn’t uncommon in a state that experiences cold winters. Cold weather can cause the expansion and contraction of asphalt, which can lead to cracks, potholes, and other types of deterioration.
Massachusetts is the leading cranberry-producing state in the United States and is home to Ocean Spray, a cooperative that’s the largest cranberry producer in the country. The bitter red berry has been cultivated in the state since the early 1800s. Cranberry bogs can be found throughout Cape Cod and southern inland parts of the state. Because cranberries are so plentiful in Massachusetts they’re often associated with the state’s culture and cuisine.
Although most of what Massachusetts is known for resides in the eastern part of the state, the Berkshires are a clear exception. Located along the New York border in western Massachusetts, The Berkshires are named after the Berkshire Hills, a range of mountains that runs through it. The region is home to many charming small towns and villages as well as a number of state parks and forests. It’s also known for its vibrant arts and culture scene, numerous well-known museums, including Mass MoCA, and art galleries. The well-regarded Tanglewood music venue is also located in the Berkshires as well as Shakespeare & Company, a professional live theatre company, and Williams College.
See related: Berkshires Travel Guide
Like most states in the Northeast United States and especially New England, Massachusetts is known for its beautiful fall foliage. The state features a variety of deciduous trees including maples, oaks, and beeches that all put on a vibrant colorful display. Leaves in the state start to change color a few weeks later than in more northern states, roughly around the beginning or middle of October. Some popular places to view the fall foliage include the Berkshire Mountains, the Mohawk Trail, and the Mount Greylock State Reservation.
Food Massachusetts is Known For:
Massachusetts is known for a number of different foods, and many popular foods have the state’s largest city, Boston, in their name. Here are some of the most common foods Massachusetts is known for:
- Clam chowder: This cream-based soup is iconic in the state
- Oysters: Bostonians have been cultivating oysters for centuries
- Yankee pot roast: A slow-cooked stew made of beef, vegetables, and potatoes
- Boston Cream Pie: Custard sandwiched in yellow cake and covered in chocolate
- Boston Baked Beans: Slow-baked beans in molasses and spices
- New England clam bake: a steamed medley of seafood, corn, and potatoes
Famous People Massachusetts is Known for:
As one of the oldest states in the nation, it’s not surprising that Massachusetts is known for many famous people. Here are five of the most famous people the state is known for:
- Paul Revere: rode the famous midnight ride to warn of the British’s arrival
- John F. Kennedy: 35th president from 1961-1963; assassinated in Dallas, TX
- John Adams: 2nd president and a Founding Father
- Mark Walhberg: actor, producer, and former rapper from Dorchester
- Tom Brady: New England Patriots quarterback; won seven Superbowls
See related: 73 of the Most Famous People From Massachusetts
About Kerry Flatley
Kerry Flatley has lived in New England for the past 26 years. She has roots in Maine & Massachusetts, family in New Hampshire, and grew up close to the Connecticut border. She loves all that this region has to offer – the ocean, mountains, islands, history, villages, and cities. When she’s not writing about New England, she’s relaxing at home in the Boston suburbs with her two teenage daughters and husband.