Massachusetts offers a wide variety of attractions for tourists. The Berkshire Hills provide good skiing and hiking. The Mohawk Trail, originally traveled by Native Americans and connecting the people in the Connecticut River valley with those in the west, today is the popular name for Route 2 as it winds along the Deerfield River and over the Berkshire Mountains between Greenfield and North Adams. On its way it passes through some of the most beautiful sections of northwestern Massachusetts. Deerfield, in the Connecticut River valley, was the site of a Native American raid during Queen Anne's War in the early 18th century.
The main attraction in central Massachusetts is Old Sturbridge Village. A representation of a farming settlement of the early 19th century, the village contains homes and craftsmen's shops. Massachusetts's North Shore presents a panorama of its maritime history in the picturesque old fishing town of Gloucester. Another old port is Salem, where tourists visit a number of historic buildings, including the House of the Seven Gables, built in 1688 and made famous in a novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The country's first ironworks has been restored at Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site.
North of Boston are Lexington and Concord, famous for their role at the outset of the American Revolution. Among the many attractions of Boston is the Freedom Trail, which includes Faneuil Hall, the Old South Meeting House, and the Old North Church, where lanterns were hung to signal the beginning of the ride of Paul Revere. The Bunker Hill Monument and the U.S.S. Constitution are across the Charles River in Charlestown.
Plymouth, on Massachusetts's South Shore, is the site of the Pilgrim's Plymouth Colony. A reconstruction of the original Mayflower can be seen there, as well as Plymouth Rock, where the Pilgrims are supposed to have landed. Also there is Plymoth Plantation, a reconstruction of the early village. All along Cape Cod fine sandy beaches and sheltered coves invite swimming, fishing, and sailing.
At the tip of the cape is Provincetown, long an artist's colony. The resort island of Martha's Vineyard is known for the beautifully colored clay cliffs found at Gay Head. Farther offshore lies Nantucket Island, once a whaling center and now a summer colony and resort of much charm.
The National Park Service maintains 13 sites in Massachusetts, most of which preserve fine structures related to the nation's history. Among them is the Boston African-American National Historic Site in the heart of Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood. The site includes 15 pre-Civil War structures relating to the history of Boston's 19th century black community, including the African Meeting House, the oldest standing black church in the United States.
Boston National Historical Park contains 16 sites connected by the Freedom Trail, which runs through downtown Boston and Charlestown. The trail is marked by a line in the pavement either in red paint or brick.
The John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site, in Brookline, is the birthplace and early boyhood home of the 35th president. The Adams National Historical Site, in Quincy, commemorates the American family that includes two United States presidents, John Adams and John Quincy Adams. Two more parks explore the lives of other noted Massachusetts residents. Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, also in Brookline, commemorates the great conservationist, landscape architect, and founder of city planning. An archival collection of drawings and plans is housed at the site. Likewise, the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow National Historic Site, in Cambridge, celebrates the poet's work created while teaching at Harvard from 1837 to 1882. George Washington used the house at the Longfellow site as his headquarters during the siege of Boston (1775-1776).
The history of America's Industrial Revolution is preserved at Lowell National Historical Park, which includes the Boott Cotton Mills Museum with a weave room with 88 operating looms, "mill girl" boarding houses, the Suffolk Mill turbine, and 19th-century commercial buildings. The Springfield Armory National Historic Site contains a weapons museum in the building that for 175 years was the center of manufacturing for United States military small arms.
Structures preserved at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site date from the era when Salem ships opened trade with ports of East Asia. Buildings of maritime significance include the Custom House where Nathaniel Hawthorne worked, Derby Wharf, the Bonded Warehouse, the West India Goods Store, and the 17th-century Narbonne-Hale house.
The Minute Man National Historical Park, in Lexington and Concord, preserves the scene of the fighting between the colonial militia and British troops on April 19, 1775, the day that launched the American War of Independence. At the North Bridge, the first ordered firing upon British troops resulted in "the shot heard round the world." Along the Battle Road, colonials fired at the retreating British.
Cape Cod National Seashore comprises 43,557 acres of shoreline and upland landscapes. A variety of historic structures are within the boundary of the seashore, including lighthouses and houses in the Cape Cod architectural style. A portion of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail also passes through the state.
State Forests and Parks:
While Massachusetts is often thought of as an urban state, forests in the 1990s covered almost triple the area they did in the early 1800s. The largest area under state control is October Mountain State Forest, near Lee, with more than 16,000 acres.
State regions of particular interest are Mount Greylock, the state's tallest mountain, with panoramic views of the Berkshire Hills; Purgatory Chasm State, with geologic formations that offer rugged rock walls and hiking paths along the floor of the chasm; and Holyoke Heritage State Park, where visitors can learn about the first "planned" industrial city.
The state boasts 97 state parks, including Nickerson State Park, on Cape Cod; Skinner State Park, in Hadley, famous for painter Thomas Cole's 1836 "The Oxbow," which fixed the public's image of New England landscape for decades; and Walden Pond, near Concord, which attracts admirers of writer Henry David Thoreau.
The nation's oldest public park is the 50 acre Boston Common, located in the center of Boston. It was set aside in 1634 as a cow pasture and parade ground.