Where is it?
Massachusetts is nicknamed the Bay State, referring to the Cape Cod Bay, on the northeastern coast of the United States. Hence, Massachusetts residents are sometimes referred to as Bay Staters. In 2014, the population of Massachusetts consisted of 6,745,408 Bay Staters, in a smallish state of 10,555 square miles, making it the 14th most densely populated state in the country. One of the states that make up New England, Massachusetts is also known as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, though this lofty title doesn’t give it any actual distinction over the other 49 states.
Getting around in Massachusetts
The Bay State provides 31,300 miles of highways and interstates. Some of its major routes include the 120 mile long I-495, to the east, which curves from the uppermost part of the state all the way from Salisbury down to Wareham in the south. Interstate 95 traverses the state from New Hampshire down into Rhode Island. More toward the west, Interstate 91 cuts from New Hampshire right down into Connecticut. The city of Boston has a reputation for being poorly laid out, compared for instance to the grid pattern of New York City, but its convoluted streets were originally laid out to dodge between swampy areas and steep hills that no longer exist. Not that this background makes navigating Beantown, as it’s called, any less frustrating, especially at rush hour. To avoid this, one might be tempted to make use of Boston’s extensive public transportation system of subways and buses, or the commuter rails at North Station and South Station for journeys into or out of the city. Amtrak rails also terminate at North and South Station.
What do local people drive?
In 2011, Japanese cars dominated in Massachusetts, with the Honda CR-V taking first place, followed by the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord, the Toyota Corolla, Toyota’s RAV4, and the Honda Civic. In the same year America made a good showing with light trucks, however, such as the Ford F Series and the Chevrolet Silverado. Due to the state’s frequently harsh winters, residents tend to pay mind to vehicles that might handle well in snowy and icy conditions, such as those with all-wheel drive.
Off-road driving in Massachusetts is only officially permissible, and only in officially designated locations, from May 1st until the last Sunday of November. Off-road enthusiasts can operate on beaches at Nauset Beach and the Cape Cod National Seashore, or at state forests such as the Beartown, Pittsfield, and October Mountain State Forests. Drivers, though, are recommended to first look into the guidelines for operating off-road vehicles that are provided by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Though commuters may curse the coming of winter, which mucks up the streets and highways, there are those hardy outdoors types who actually rejoice. Massachusetts boasts at least 35 MassParks, as they’ve been dubbed (state parks and forests), that invite the use of snowmobiles. These include the Myles Standish State Forest in Carver, Hopkinton State Park in Hopkinton, Wells State Park in Sturbridge, and the Mt. Holyoke Range State Park in Amherst. Snowmobile use comes under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management, Division of Forests and Parks, and their regulations dictate that forest paths must be unplowed and covered in at least four inches of hard-packed snow in order to permit the use of snowmobiles. In addition, a minimum of five inches of solid ice is necessary for operating a snowmobile on a frozen body of water. A wise snowmobiler will determine first if that is the case. A snowmobile must be properly registered for use on Department property, and most importantly, must not operated by anyone under twelve years of age.
Tourism in Massachusetts
There is a lot of history to Massachusetts, going back to when the Pilgrims landed the Mayflower at Plymouth. The seeds of the American Revolution brewed in Massachusetts with the Boston Tea Party, and revolution broke out in earnest in 1775 when the Minute Men engaged British forces. Consequently, there is much for the history buff to enjoy. Plimoth Plantation recreates the 17th century Plymouth Colony settlement, while the USS Constitution, grandly dominating Boston Harbor, is the country’s oldest commissioned naval ship. The old trading port of Salem, infamous for its witch trials, offers author Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of Seven Gables, and October turns that city into the very embodiment of Halloween. Capital city Boston boasts superb museums, and countless excellent restaurants from Chinatown to the Italian North End. Away from city life, to the west are the gorgeous Berkshire Mountains, and the site of Henry David Thoreau’s cabin near Walden Pond is still sought out by tourists seeking a bit of transcendental quietude. Massachusetts is a state for all seasons: in the summer, tourists flock to seaside cities such as Provincetown and Rockport, whereas in the fall beautiful foliage becomes a big draw, and during the winter skiers and snowmobile enthusiasts brave the New England cold.
Do You Know that…
1. Massachusetts derives its name from the Native American tribe the Massachusett, which roughly means “near the great hill,” a reference to the Blue Hills.
2. In 2012, the top selling new car in Massachusetts was the Honda CR-V, a compact SUV.
3. As of 2004, the maximum speed limit in the Bay State has been 65 miles per hour.
4. Wearing a motorcycle helmet is mandatory in Massachusetts.
5. The minimum age at which a citizen of Massachusetts can obtain a driver’s license is 18 years.
6. In 2010, a total of 314 Bay Staters lost their lives due to traffic related accidents.
7. 36% of the traffic deaths in 2010 involved driving under the influence.
8. The maximum blood alcohol level is 0.08%, or 0.02% for a driver under 21 years.
9. In 49.5% of the traffic fatalities recorded in 2010, no seat belts were in use.
10. In Massachusetts, it is required by law for everyone in a car, front and back seats, to wear a seat belt.