A jeweled belt at New England's waist, Massachusetts divides mountainous woodsy north from populous industrial south. From the sands of Cape Cod through the bustle of Boston to the quiet Berkshire Hills, it samples all New England.
Massachusetts begins in Boston, venerable chalice of history, where a busy street may wander a colonial cowpath. The city looks across its harbor toward Cape Cod's tip, but the distance there by car is almost as far as it is across the state to the New York border.
A million tourist tramp Boston's Freedom Trail each year, following a red brick path for four miles to such stops as Faneuil Hall, the Paul Revere House and Old North Church. Boston's literary heritage – and its universities, orchestras, libraries, galleries, and brain-powered industries – have prompted the nickname “Athens of America.”
Many “Athenians” flee summer's heat and crowds in the rolling Berkshires. There they blend with folk from afar to picnic on Tanglewood's lawn and hear the Boston Symphony Orchestra. A feast for eye and spirit awaits at Clark Art Institute; it's a surprise to find such treasures as 30 Renoir originals in a dot-on-the-map like Williamstown.
In Plimoth Plantation and Old Sturbridge Village, Bostonian and “foreigner” step into a past that shaped them both. In Fall River they stir newer memories as they tour a sub, a dstroyer, and the state's namesake battleship, a museum fleet on course for Nostalgia.
Ask a Yankee where he'll spend vacation; chances are he'll say “the Cape.” North Shore residents, whose coast bends north from Boston, will demand, “Which cape?” And rightly so; their Cape Ann has historic shrines, sailing centers, beconing beaches.
For most “the Cape” is Cod, a bent arm embracing Cape Cod Bay. The “upper,” or biceps, half hosts hordes of visitor in summer. Most find what they seek: swimming, boating, fishing, theater, celebrity watching. Ferries glide to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, where you can hike or bike to moors, ponds, and uncrowded beaches.
“Down-Cape” toward its tip, Cape Cod narrows to twin strands of sand. Resort towns fall away, the strands converge and hook around Provincetown Harbor to Long Point. Cape Cod National Seashore preserves these superb beaches and tells their story in visitor centers and self-guiding trails. At Provincetown, Cape Cod ends – but on a beach nearby the Mayflower landed in 1620 and new England began.
(poster text about Massachusetts)