Jun 18

Massachusetts – “The Bay State”

by in A Virtual Tour of America, Massachusetts

Massachusetts Map

 Just the Facts….

bird – chickadee
flower – mayflower
tree – American elm
capital – Boston
union – 6th on February 6, 1788 
population – about 6 1/2 million

The Basics 

Massachusetts is officially known as the “Commonwealth of Massachusetts” (rather than a state) – and some people just refer to it as “the Commonwealth.”  It is named for a Native American tribe that inhabited the land a long time ago and means “a large hill place.”  Most of its residents live within a 60-mile radius of Boston, the largest city in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts has an extensive coastline with a number of bays, the largest being Cape Cod Bay.  It also boasts a number of islands, including Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

The Berkshires and Appalachian Mountains cover the western portion of Massachusetts with rolling hills and forests.  The eastern portion flattens out as it heads to the Atlantic coast.   Massachusetts experiences all four seasons, with hot, humid summers and cold, blustery winters.

Its Claim to Fame

The Pilgrims were the first to settle in the Massachusetts colony in 1620.  They traveled on the Mayflower, a ship that sailed for America from Plymouth, England.  When the Pilgrims landed on what is now Cape Cod, they named their colony New Plymouth!  Eventually the “New” was dropped and Plymouth Rock became famous as marking the site where the Pilgrims landed in the New World.  Plymouth Rock has actually been relocated within the town of Plymouth a number of times and even split into two. It is now understood that the Pilgrims landed closer to Provincetown and not at Plymouth at all.  But that doesn’t matter for purposes of Plymouth Rock – it is still a much-loved part of our heritage!

Harvard University was founded in 1636 as the first institute of higher education (college or university) in America.  At first it was just called “New College.”  But, it was renamed “Harvard College” after John Harvard gave the college his library of over 400 books.  Harvard was modeled after the universities in England – Cambridge University was probably the most influential since many prominent men in the Massachusetts Bay Colony were educated there.

Boston is sometimes called the “cradle of liberty.”  It was a hotbed of rebellion and action during the American Revolution.  Events like the Boston Tea Party and Boston Massacre brought the Colonies closer to declaring independence and the Revolutionary War.  The Colonists held many town meetings in Boston to discuss the way they were being treated by the British.  In addition, the road from Boston to Lexington is where Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride took place, alerting residents “the British are coming.”  Finally, some of the first battles of the Revolution took place in Massachusetts – the Battles of Concord, Lexington, and Bunker Hill.  In fact, the very first shots of the Revolution were fired at Lexington.  The list of ways that Boston influenced the American Revolution goes on and on.

What Makes it Tick

With all those miles of Atlantic coastline, it should come as no surprise that there is a lot of commercial fishing in Massachusetts.  What do you think Cape Cod is named after?  Thats right – Atlantic Cod, which is plentiful off the coast of Massachusetts.  Another very important catch is lobster… mmm… delicious!  Believe it or not, whaling was a big industry in Massachusetts – about 1/2 of the whaling ships that sailed the seas in the 1840s left from New Bedford, Massachusetts.  Before that (when the ships were smaller), Nantucket was the whaling capital of the New World.  Back then, whales were hunted for their blubber – the blubber could be reduced to oil.  Whale oil was used for lamps, candles, soap, and medicines.

Massachusetts grows more cranberries than almost any other state.  Cranberries are a unique fruit – there are very few places that can grow cranberries successfully.  They naturally grow on a vine in bogs and need lots of sand and fresh water.  In the fall at harvest time, the bogs are flooded to help pick all the berries off the vines and float them towards the processing facility.  Cranberries have been grown on Cape Cod since Colonial times – some of the cranberry vines are over 150 years old.  Do you like Craisins? Maybe the cranberries used to make them grew in Massachusetts!

If You Visited

If you visited Massachusetts, you might visit Gloucester, a historic town and one of America’s oldest fishing ports.  Or you might visit one of the historical whaling centers – the New Bedford Whaling Museum or the Island of Nantucket.  Or, you might want to tour some of Massachusetts’ lighthouses – some of them are the oldest lighthouses in the country.  In the evening, you might have a clambake on the beach, complete with Boston baked beans or New England clam chowder and Boston cream pie.   Or a hot dog may be more your style – but don’t be surprised if your bun is split from the top rather than sliced sideways – its a New England thing!

Or you may follow the Freedom Trail in Boston – it is actually a red path painted on the sidewalks of Boston!  There are 16 major Revolutionary War sites along the Freedom Trail.  If you follow the Freedom Trail, you will stand in the Patriots shoes, so to speak.  You will walk the same path taken by those rebels who didn’t like the way they were being treated and wanted to do something about it!  After following the Freedom Trail, you may go the annual re-enactment of Paul Revere’s ride.  It takes place in Lexington at 11:30 pm on Patriot’s Day (which is April 16).

Want to Know More? 

Do you live in Massachusetts? Have you visited Massachusetts recently?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • Where is your favorite thing about your state?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of Massachusetts to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKidsOur tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Massachusetts.  Visit these websites to learn more great things about Massachusetts:






2 Responses to “Massachusetts – “The Bay State””

  1. From Wiley and Zoe Hunt:

    We flew into Boston on Christmas Day 2009 to visit our uncle. We stayed for 5 days and had so much fun. Zoe’s favorite was taking the T to Malden and visiting the “Night Zoo”. Wiley’s favorite was the MIT toy museum and seeing the Harry Potter exhibit at the science museum. What a fun city!

    Posted on June 20, 2012 at 9:09 am #
  2. From Kathleen Swenson:

    Massachusetts is my real home, so I have special affinity for this one! Head to Boston and get a Duck Tour of the city, grab some Italian food in the North End, go out to Lexington for a pancake breakfast on Patriot’s Day. Boston itself is a small walk able city so you can see a lot of it on foot and by “T” !

    Posted on June 20, 2012 at 8:45 am #