Massachusetts has cold winters and warm to sticky hot summers. July and August temperatures can reach the low 30s (Celsius). September and October are typically mild and sunny. November is the start of winter, which lasts through February. January temperatures can go down to the minus figures (about minus six or so) and just above zero. The average snowfall is 106cm (42 inches), with most of it falling in the central and western regions.The coast is milder in winter and cooler in summer. The Berkshires are cooler year-round.
When to fly to Massachusetts
The peak season for flights to Massachusetts is summer, followed by autumn and spring. Boston is very busy April through November with families in summer and foliage followers in autumn. The Berkshires draw crowds, especially for the Tanglewood summer festival and the autumn leaves.
Memorial Day through Labour Day is high season on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. The Cape has high prices, crowds, and traffic. Nantucket and the Vineyard are popular destinations for day trippers and week-long visitors, complete with high prices, crowds, and the possibility of rubbing elbows with celebrities.
Several Boston hotels offer weekend deals January (after First Night) through March. Many visitors prefer the off-season tranquility of Martha’s Vineyard, and off-season prices can be found in the Berkshires.
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Getting around Massachusetts
Massachusetts is well-serviced by public transportation. Trains and buses leave from Boston to the north shore, central and western Massachusetts, and the south shore. There is also bus and ferry service to Cape Cod, ferry service to Nantucket and Cuttyhunk, and Nantucket Airlines offers flights from Hyannis to Nantucket.
Once at your destination, walking is generally the preferred method for seeing the sights. To cover distance quickly in Boston, take the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA or the “T”). The T is second only to taking a cab for getting around Boston and Cambridge and parts of Brookline.
Bicycling is also popular throughout the state, although it can be risky in city traffic. Provincetown has the Province Lands Bike Trail that is difficult but has great scenery. Cambridge is more bicycle friendly with bike lanes on most roads.
Martha’s Vineyard has heavy traffic in the summer and provides shuttles, buses, and bikes to get you around the island.
Driving around the state is always an option. Try to avoid driving in the cities as Massachusetts drivers are as rude as they are reputed to be, and especially try to avoid rush hour.
Massachusetts insider information
- Boston is the capital of Massachusetts; the largest and most populous city in New England and one of the oldest cities in the country. Bostonians are (rightfully) proud of their heritage and much of the attractions for tourists are focused on the history of the town. One of the most popular activities is to walk the Freedom Trail, which winds through the most attractive parts of the city and takes in some of the best sites. The route is marked by red bricks, which you can follow unaccompanied or with a guide, and passes places of interest such as Boston Common, Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, the Old State House and the Paul Revere House.
- The eastern coastal area of Massachusetts is a very popular destination with holidaymakers. The long arm of Cape Cod, Nantucket Island and Martha’s Vineyard all do excellent trade during the short summer period. However, be aware if you arrive off-season (which is generally for nine months of the year) that many of the tourist attractions, restaurants and hotels will be closed.
- Cape Cod is a long peninsula stretching out into the sea. The beaches are beautiful, the sea is warm and the old-fashioned gable-roofed houses are appealing. To see all together visit the town of Sandwich, the oldest town on Cape Cod and one of the oldest in the United States.
- Nearby Nantucket is an island about 30 miles south. The whole of the island has been designated a National Historic District, and the area feels as if it is 50 years behind the rest of the country. Whale watching is possible from the island, or you can visit the Whaling Museum to learn about the region’s whaling history.
- The island of Martha’s Vineyard is only accessible by boat or by air; but this has done nothing to decrease its appeal. Fly from Boston, Providence, New York or Washington DC, or take the ferry from Woods Hole, Falmouth, or New Bedford, among others. It is wise to book ahead as services can get full during the summer months.