What is Massachusetts Known For? (25 Famous Things, People & Places)
What is Massachusetts known for?
Massachusetts is known for its rich history, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and maritime culture. Massachusetts is also famous for the city of Boston, professional sports teams, New England cuisine, and many fascinating museums.
Massachusetts may be a small state, but it played a huge role in American history. If you visit Boston, historic sites and other attractions will surround you on every side. If you’re eager to learn about America’s early days, legendary sports teams, and uniquely American authors and artists, this is the article for you!
- 25 Things Massachusetts is Known For
- 1. Colonial History
- 2. Old Sturbridge Village
- 3. The Salem Witch Trials
- 4. Cape Cod
- 5. The Boston Tea Party
- 6. The American Revolutionary War
- 7. Adams National Historical Park
- 8. Boston
- 9. Boston Harbor Islands
- 10. Boston Cuisine
- 11. Boston Accent
- 12. The Boston Red Sox
- 13. The Boston Celtics
- 14. The New England Patriots
- 15. The Basketball Hall of Fame
- 16. Chow-dah
- 17. Cranberries
- 18. Famous American Authors
- 19. Harvard University
- 20. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- 21. Clark Art Institute
- 22. Peabody Essex Museum
- 23. The Bay State
- 24. Norman Rockwell
- 25. Being a Commonwealth
- FAQs About Famous Massachusetts Things
25 Things Massachusetts is Known For
1. Colonial History
For anyone interested in America’s early days, Massachusetts is the number one place to be. It is home to Plymouth, one of the first English colonies.
Visitors to Plymouth can get a glimpse of early colonial life at the Plimouth Patuxet Museum. This museum is a replica of the early New England settlement. Museum staff dress in period costumes and play the role of colonists or Natives. One can also visit a replica of the Mayflower, the boat on which the Puritans sailed to the New World.
2. Old Sturbridge Village
Another living history museum showcasing colonial life is the Old Sturbridge Village. This museum jumps forward in time a little, portraying life in the 1830s. The level of technology, to modern eyes, may not seem much more advanced.
By this time in history, though, America was no longer a distant colony, but a self-reliant nation. Life was still hard by modern standards, but vastly improved from the rougher early days.
3. The Salem Witch Trials
One of the darker episodes in the history of colonial America was the Salem Witch Trials. Difficult times and superstition led residents of Salem village to begin a purge of purported witches in their midst. In all, 25 people perished as a result of the paranoia.
Thankfully, this period of inquisition lasted only briefly, about one year. Ministers and authority figures of more sober judgment prevailed upon the people of Salem, putting an end to their agitated state of mind. Today, the Jonathan Corwin House, also known as the Witch House, stands as a museum, preserving the memory of that period.
4. Cape Cod
While Massachusetts’ history at times seems bleak, there’s no denying the natural beauty of this East Coast state. One of the best examples of this is Cape Cod, the curving peninsula in southeastern Massachusetts that protrudes out into the Atlantic Ocean.
Cape Cod is a popular summer destination for many. The island of Martha’s Vineyard to the south of the cape is especially popular among the well-to-do.
The shores of Cape Cod were so beautiful that President John F. Kennedy designated them as the Cape Cod National Seashore. This status ensured that the lands remain accessible for the public to visit and enjoy.
JFK often spent time at Cape Cod, and his summer home in Hyannis was turned into a museum. The John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum is well worth a visit for anyone wishing to learn more about President Kennedy and the place he often retired to, seeking a brief respite from his many, heavy responsibilities.
❓ Trivia Time: Which state has the most lighthouses?
5. The Boston Tea Party
Few events in early colonial history stand out in the nation’s memory as much as the Boston Tea Party. One of the chief complaints of the pro-revolutionary movement was against heavy taxation.
One of the most taxed items was tea. Protesting this perceived injustice, a group of patriots dressed as Native Americans snuck onto the British ships and dumped the tea into Boston Harbor.
6. The American Revolutionary War
Few states played so vital a role in the Revolutionary War as Massachusetts. The first battles of the war occurred in the towns of Lexington and Concord. Today, one can visit the Old North Bridge in Concord. At this place, the battle turned in favor of the Americans.
Benjamin Franklin, one of the most pivotal figures in the revolution, was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. A monument stands at the place of his childhood home; the original building burnt down in 1811.
Visitors to downtown Boston have the opportunity to learn much about Revolutionary history at the Freedom Trail starting at the Boston Common park. The Freedom Trail is the name given to a collection of sites in Boston, each with a deep connection to the American Revolution.
7. Adams National Historical Park
Massachusetts citizens continued to play an important role after the Revolution as well. Among the most important was the Adams family. No, not that Adams family…we meant President John Adams and his family.
The family home of Presidents John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams still stands, preserving the memory of the second and sixth Presidents of the United States.
Boston, in many ways, is the beating heart of Massachusetts. Here one finds an unending array of historical sites and more contemporary attractions as well.
As to historical sites, there’s much more here than places associated with the Revolution. Boston Public Library, for one, is the first library in the United States to lend books, to have a children’s room, and the first large, free city library.
Boston Latin School, founded in 1635, is the oldest public school in America. It served as a premier institution for classical education, as well as a preparatory school for some of the nation’s most prestigious universities. Nearby, one finds one of Boston’s most famous art museums, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
For those interested in marine wildlife, New England Aquarium cannot be beaten. The New England Aquarium houses marine life from around the world, from penguins to piranhas. Classical music aficionados know Boston for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. This orchestra has the honor of being the second oldest in the “Big Five,” the five top orchestras in America.
9. Boston Harbor Islands
The 34 islands in the waters off of Boston are designated as both a state park and a National Recreation Area. One can find scenic hiking trails, abundant wildlife, sandy beaches, and much more.
For those interested in lighthouses, the Boston Light, the oldest lighthouse in the country, stands on Little Brewster Island.
10. Boston Cuisine
Boston has also developed a historic food scene of its own. Boston baked beans add molasses and salt pork (or bacon) to plain beans, creating a unique taste. The candy-coated peanuts of the same name got their name more because of their bean-like appearance than their flavor.
Boston cream pie, in reality a cake, makes for an excellent dessert option. In case you’re wondering, it’s called a pie because it dates to a time when pies and cakes were cooked with the same kind of pan, and so people used the two words interchangeably.
11. Boston Accent
Along with its many historical sites and attractions, one of the most charming things about Boston is the local accent. Rs tend to disappear, or, should we say “dis-appe-ah” in the greater Boston area. Linguists believe that this unique accent traces its origins to regions of England from which the Pilgrims came.
12. The Boston Red Sox
Another boast of Boston is its many famous sports teams. As far as America’s favorite pastime is concerned, the Boston Red Sox is one of the biggest names in the game.
From their home in Fenway Park, the Red Sox have represented Boston and maintained a long-standing rivalry with New York City’s Yankees. Fenway Park has the distinction of being the oldest baseball park in the US. You don’t need to attend a baseball game to see the park; visiting Fenway Park is a part of local Boston tour packages.
13. The Boston Celtics
When it comes to basketball, few teams have the legendary status of the Boston Celtics. At their height, the Celtics’ roster included such greats as Bill Russell and John Havlicek.
The Celtics set (and still hold) the NBA record for championship-winning streaks. They won the championship for 8 consecutive years from 1959-1966! A later generation of Celtics saw Indiana native Larry Bird join the team. Together with Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, he took the team to championship wins in 1981, 1984, and 1986.
❓ Trivia Time: Massachusetts is famous for its shorelines, but which state has the most shoreline?
14. The New England Patriots
Boston also stakes its claim in the NFL with the Patriots. The team saw quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Drew Bledsoe, and Jimmy Garappolo. Other famous Patriots include wide-receiver Randy Moss and tight-end Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots are also known for their coach Bill Belichick.
15. The Basketball Hall of Fame
Of all the sports that make Massachusetts famous, basketball may edge the others out. Why? The town of Springfield in western Massachusetts is home to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Not only that, but out of all the NBA’s many teams, the Celtics have the most players inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Massachusetts is known for its hearty seafood soup, but did you know there are several varieties of chowder in the northeast? The Massachusetts variety, “white chowder” is what most people think of when they think of chowder. Its color comes from the milk or cream used as the base.
New Yorkers add tomatoes, hence the Manhattan “red” chowder. Rhode Island is known for using neither dairy nor tomatoes for its “clear” chowder. Lastly, there’s Long Island chowder, a “hybrid” of New England and New York styles.
Massachusetts is known for its cranberries as well as its chowder. The Bay state ranks second in the nation for the production of these tart red berries, surpassed only by Wisconsin among the Midwestern states.
Nonetheless, we still have Massachusetts to thank for inspiring the traditional cranberry dishes at Thanksgiving. The tale of the Puritans and Native Americans sitting down to the first Thanksgiving may be more of a legend, but it is irrefutable that cranberries were part of the local diet since the earliest times.
18. Famous American Authors
Many of early America’s most famous authors and philosophers came from Massachusetts. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson stand out as some of the most widely known. Poets Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allen Poe (who later moved to Maryland) also hailed from the Bay State.
19. Harvard University
Massachusetts is known as the home of America’s most famous and prestigious university, Harvard. Founded in 1636, it is also the oldest in the country. Harvard University is also home to several museums, such as the Harvard Museum of Natural History and the Harvard Mineralogical Museum.
20. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
While Harvard has a reputation for classical education, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, commonly referred to as MIT, stands as one of the premier STEM institutes in the world.
This university has earned fame for its rigorous devotion to excellence in these fields, contributing invaluable research to many developments within computer science.
21. Clark Art Institute
Also known as “ The Clark,” this art museum in northwestern Massachusetts is one of the premier fine arts museums in the country. It gained fame for sponsoring art research programs, seeking to do much more than simply house fine works of art.
The Clark prides itself on its dedication to the preservation of art and seeking to educate the public on all aspects of art.
22. Peabody Essex Museum
If you’re in Salem but looking for something a bit cheerier than witch trial history, this museum may be just what the doctor ordered. One of its distinctions is its status as one of the oldest continually operating museums in America.
Massachusetts had long been at the crossroads of international trade. Local intelligentsia used this advantageous position to request the retrieval of “curiosities” from the various voyages of merchant and whaling vessels. Today the museum hosts an extensive collection of art from across the world.
23. The Bay State
Cape Cod not only made Massachusetts famous, but it also gave this state its official nickname. The bay referred to in “The Bay State” is none other than Cape Cod Bay, the site of the Pilgrims’ first landing. Although Cape Cod bears the primary influence in this title, it should be noted that another bay also played a role in this title.
To the north of Cape Cod Bay is Massachusetts Bay, with the city of Boston on its shores. Plymouth may have been first, but Boston quickly became the most important port in the new colony. Hence, Massachusetts’ first name “The Massachusetts Bay Colony.”
24. Norman Rockwell
One of America’s most beloved artists lived for many years in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Artist Norman Rockwell gained fame for his cover illustrations for the magazine The Saturday Evening Post. While “serious” art critics dismissed the majority of his work as sentimental and mundane, his works appealed to many ordinary people. The home where he spent the last years of his life now operates as the Norman Rockwell Museum.
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25. Being a Commonwealth
Did you know what states are commonwealths?
Well, Massachusetts is one of them! The state’s Constitution, adopted in 1780, employed the term “Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
Although there isn’t much of a distinction between commonwealth and state these days, it’s an interesting fact about Massachusetts that it is one of only 4 commonwealths in the USA!
FAQs About Famous Massachusetts Things
What are three things Massachusetts is known for?
Massachusetts is known for its prestigious universities, famous sports teams, and the Boston Tea Party.
What are people from Massachusetts known as?
People from Massachusetts are called Massachusettsans or Bay Staters.
Where does the name Massachusetts come from?
Massachusetts’ name comes from an Algonquin word meaning “great-hill-small-place.”
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Now you don’t have to wonder “what is Massachusetts known for” anymore!
As you can see, Massachusetts is famous for many good reasons. Massachusetts and its people played a pivotal role in the founding and development of our nation and its culture. The Bay state influenced American literature, education, sports, and much more. It’s more than worth your time to visit this great state!