Explore America: Massachusetts Has History, Music And Baseball

Cape Ann boasts America's oldest seaport and art colony. You can go to the docks and watch fishermen come in with the day's catch.
06/24/2012 10:27 am ET Updated Aug 24, 2012

We love the state of Massachusetts for so many reasons. It's New England, it's got American history, it's got Boston and this beautiful part of the country always has so much to see and do. With so much constantly changing around us, we like that some things stay the same and it's evident all around here that there's a tremendous respect for people and places that have come before. Put on your favorite playlist and take a drive to Massachusetts, explore this state for all it has to offer. Here are our Top 10 Places to Visit in eastern Massachusetts...

Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum
The newest attraction in the area is the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, which reopens June 26 and will be on many tourists' must-do list. This is an eagerly awaited opening, since the museum was struck my lightning and destroyed in 2001 and in 2007 caught fire from sparks at the nearby bridge construction site. Some of the state of the art features in the new museum are wicked cool and will be appreciated by kids and grown up kids alike!

Freedom Trail
Any visit to Boston must include a walk along the famous Freedom Trail. Unlike any other place, this red brick trail is a 2.5-mile walk that intersects many important American history sites. There is such a connection to American Revolutionary history in Boston, just walk back into time on the old Freedom Trail. It will pass Faneuil Hall, which is always fun, and it goes to the North End, renown also for its Italian food and pastries.

If you haven't visited Boston since the Big Dig was completed in 2007, eliminating the elevated Central Artery, it's completely opened up the city, making it possible to walk from Faneuil Hall to the North End and the waterfront on what is public park space called the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway. A mile-long strip of five parks, with public art and fountains, in 2013, a new custom carousel will also open on the Greenway across from Faneuil Hall. It'll replace the rental carousel and should double the revenue to the Greenway Conservancy that supports free public programs.

"The opening of the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum this summer is a continuation of the extraordinary reinvestment in Boston's cultural and historic attractions, not only along the waterfront and Greenway, but also in the Fenway Cultural District where both the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston have undergone major renovations and opened new wings," said Pat Moscaritolo, President & CEO, Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau. "And downtown, where a new National Park Visitor Center and nine retail shops have opened inside historic Faneuil Hall."

"The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum and its unique location on the waterfront reinforces Boston's reputation as a beautiful coastal city and 'the place' to experience some of the most pivotal events in American history," Moscaritolo added. "With the reopening of the museum, new developments and amenities along the HarborWalk, visitors can now experience the excitement of Boston's new waterfront."

Boston Common and Boston Public Garden
Boston Common is the starting point for the Freedom Trail and it's also America's oldest park, founded in 1634. In the winter, people enjoy skating on Frog Pond. The park's history includes the fact that cattle grazed here until 1830, public hangings took place here until 1817 and British troops also camped on this site before the American Revolution.

Right next to Boston Common, across Charles Street is the Public Garden. Established in 1837, it's America's oldest public botanical garden. Locals and tourists often enjoy the famous Swan Boats that go back to the 1870s when Robert Paget was given a boat for hire license by the city. Today the business is still run by his descendants. From here, you can walk to Newbury Street in the Back Bay for shopping, or walk to the nearby historic neighborhood of Beacon Hill, with its Federal-style row houses and cobble stone streets with gaslit lamps.

Lowell National Historical Park
Lowell National Historical Park isn't your typical national park with greenery, wildlife and hiking trails. This park celebrates the town of Lowell's contribution to the Industrial Revolution, with its many water-powered mills where immigrants and women once worked. This is also the place where Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac was born, and Lowell National Historical Park's Visitor Center is the one-stop resource for things to see and do in this city.

Cape Cod and Cape Ann
New Yorkers have the Hamptons, Bostonians have "the Cape." There's so many places and towns to explore on Cape Cod. If you like walking and hiking to take in nature and the area's scenery, the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce has a great page with 100 public walking trails on Cape Cod. The Chamber of Commerce also offers a free app, with the latest events, where to stay and eat, as well as local deals.

For the LGBT community, Provincetown is the place to be. But it's also a must-stop destination for whale watchers and other marine life lovers, since Provincetown is also the closest place to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. This is a great place to whale watch.

If you're looking for a little day trip or a weekend getaway from Boston, explore "the other Cape," which is just a 30 mile drive north of Boston. Founded by the pilgrims in 1623, this beautiful stretch of rocky coastline along Massachusetts includes four communities -- Gloucester, Essex, Rockport and Manchester-by-the-Sea. Film buffs might recognize the area because the "Perfect Storm" was filmed here.

Cape Ann boasts America's oldest seaport and art colony. You can go to the docks and watch fishermen come in with the day's catch. The Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce is a great resource for local eateries, such as lobster shacks to enjoy freshly caught lobster in a rustic setting. Some of these lobster shops can also overnight shipments anywhere in country, so check them out to support these local businesses. Many people come to this area to do what they call the Light House Route, to see the six light houses here, two of which are on land and accessible to visit - Eastern Point and Annisquam. The Twin Lighthouses are among America's oldest lighthouses and the only surviving multiple lights on a U.S. coastline.

Another road trip destination to take in early American history and waterfront scenery is Plymouth. Nearly 1 million people a year stop at Plymouth Rock at Pilgrim Memorial State Park. A replica of the Mayflower II is also anchored at the park. Just three miles from the Mayflower II, see how the colonists and Indians lived at Plimouth Plantation. For many more ideas of what to do, Destination Plymouth is a good resource.

Hatch Shell Concerts on the Esplanade
Free concerts at the Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade is a uniquely Boston experience. Many come early in the day with a blanket and a picnic basket to save a spot for that evening's concert. Whether it be pop or classical music, it's a fun way to spend a New England summer evening. July 4th is always a special concert, albeit a crowded one, with the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. This year Oscar and Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson will perform. Lowell, Mass. native and actor Michael Chiklis will be the host and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra will be conducted by Keith Lockhart.

Yes, this is where the well-documented Salem Witch Trials of 1692 took place and there's a plethora of things to do and see in and around Salem. There's the Salem Museum, the Salem Witch Museum, Salem Witch Village, the House of Seven Gables, which includes Nathaniel Hawthorne's birthplace, and the Witch House, the home of Salem Witchcraft Trial Judge Jonathan Corwin. There are many tours offered in Salem as well.

For those who want to see other things, there's the New England Pirate Museum and the Peabody Essex Museum, which includes a 200-year-old Chinese house that is an ancestral home, showcasing Chinese architecture and culture. The Ansel Adams "At the Water's Edge" exhibit opened June 9 and is here through Oct. 8.

If you enjoy Downton Abbey and things that chronicle what life was like in a time gone by, the historic Phillips House offers such a glimpse, a slice of life back then. It includes a ladies sitting room, a parlor room, a pantry, a domestic staff bedroom, and shows how these houses functioned when new technology was being introduced back then. In the carriage house, there are the family carriages and cars that span back 100 years like the two Pierce-Arrows and Ford Model.

There's also Pioneer Village, which is a recreated Puritan Village that shows life in 1630 Salem. Salem Maritime National Historic Site is a 9-acre park that tells the story of how this was one of the most important ports in the country, with ships from Salem carrying trade from the Far East.

Fenway Park
Sports fans revere Fenway Park. It's the oldest stadium still in use by a major league baseball team. This year Fenway Park celebrates its 100th anniversary. While many major league teams have torn down 40-year old stadiums to build new ones, Fenway Park and Chicago's Wrigley Field (which celebrates its 100th anniversary in two years) are the only old baseball parks left in America. At Fenway Park, you can still get the experience of sitting here like fans did many years ago in this hallowed space, watching the Red Sox hit homeruns over the famed Green Monster, the famous left field wall.

Club Passim
Boston has an amazing music scene and while baseball fans have Fenway Park, music lovers have Passim. Located in Cambridge's Harvard Square, it's one of the most famous coffeehouses for the folk/singer-songwriter set. This little humble stage in a basement setting has been home to many talented musicians for more than 50 years, and still offers that authentic New England coffeehouse experience. If you appreciate the kind of acoustic music heard on SiriusXM's Coffeehouse channel, this place is for you. When you think of the Boston folk music scene back in the day, Passim is what comes to mind. Joan Baez was a regular in the early days and she introduced Bob Dylan, who played between acts. Others who've played here include Joni Mitchell, Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, Peter Wolf, Patty Larkin and Tom Rush.

Explore America: Eastern Massachusetts for History, Music, Baseball and the Eastern Coast