Enjoying the slow lane in Massachusetts

I grew up in Massachusetts and, for a very long time, took my home state for granted and thought that I had seen everything worth seeing as I was growing up.  That led to years of missed opportunities to explore all that Massachusetts has to offer, which is a lot more than I could have imagined.  Every region of this great state has so many things to see and do packed into it.  One of the great ways to get a good glimpse of that is to hop off the expressway and enjoy the slower roads across the Commonwealth.  The biggest example of this that comes to mind is the Massachusetts Turnpike, or Interstate 90.  This 138 mile highway is a critical connection that runs across the state and I’m very thankful it’s there and I’ve used it many times to go lots of different places.  However, looking at other options to cross the state if you’re not in a hurry is a great way to see lots of other enjoyable places in Massachusetts.  There is a wonderful network of older roads that show a different side of the Bay State.  Three of the easiest ones to follow that take you all the across the state and are great to start with are the following:

  • Massachusetts Route 2:  This road has earned a reputation for being a
    Connecticut River from the French King Bridge.
    Connecticut River from the French King Bridge.

    miserable road in the eastern third of the state, however it goes near or by lots of great places and is a completely different highway when you get to it’s western sections.  It passes through the historic towns of Lexington and Concord just after it goes by Route 128 heading west and skirts Minuteman National Historic Park.  As it keeps going westward it passes by the town of Fitchburg and becomes the Mohawk Trail shortly thereafter.  It crosses over the Connecticut River at the lovely and historic French King Bridge  As it continues it passes into New York over a lovely mountain pass with switchbacks in the road that equal any in Vermont as it leaves North Adams and ends in Troy, New York after a spring through picturesque farm country in Upstate New York.

  • US Route 20:  This road is often congested in Eastern Massachusetts and is
    Grist Mill at the Wayside Inn of Sudbury.
    Grist Mill at the Wayside Inn of Sudbury. Photo courtesy of Catherine Cox at R & B Photography

    often a miserable ride in rush hour.  Don’t let that keep you from exploring it as it goes through some absolutely lovely sections of the state.  Its eastern sections include trips through the historic and lovely towns of Sudbury, Wayland and Waltham, home of the first watch factory in the United States and a thriving city with an awesome culinary scene.  Right off of Route 20 in Sudbury is the historic Wayside Inn, the oldest inn in the United States that is still operating and hosted a visit by General George Washington (though he likely didn’t sleep there).  As you go further west it passes through Springfield with it’s many museums and other attractions (including the Basketball Hall of Fame and Springfield Armory National Historic Site) and then onto the lovely Berkshire towns of Lenox and Pittsfield before heading into New York.

  • Route 9:  This is another miserable road in Eastern Massachusetts that is a heavily used commuter road and a very popular shopping destination.  As you
    Quabbin Reservoir
    Quabbin Reservoir

    had west it quiets down and goes through several lovely communities on its way west including Were, Amherst and Northampton before ending in the Berkshires in Pittsfield.  In addition to the towns it passes through it also goes by the historic Quabbin Reservoir (the 412 billion gallon reservoir that supplies water to 2.4 million people in the Boston area and is a former valley that was flooded to make the reservoir) and several more parks in Western Massachusetts.

These descriptions don’t do justice to all of the things to do on these roads and the other routes you can take across the state.  However, I hope I’ve gotten you thinking about all the great places to see taking the slow road.  Enjoy the trip!!