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Massachusetts: Everything You Need to Know About Moving There

As the landing place of the Pilgrims, the birth of the American Revolution, and home state to the Kennedy family, Massachusetts is full of culture and national significance.

Read on to learn more about moving to the Bay State. 


 

Quick facts about Massachusetts

  • Massachusetts is a state rich in American history. The Pilgrims first landed at Cape Cod (moving later to Plymouth) in 1620, and the revolution that kickstarted America’s fight for independence from Great Britain started in Boston and at the battles of Lexington and Concord, all cities in Massachusetts.
     
  • More than two-thirds of the population of Massachusetts live in the Boston metro area. Boston is not only one of the most important cities in American history, but was the first American city with a subway system and was home to the first Dunkin Donuts and state-side chocolate factory. 
     
  • Business and industry in Massachusetts is based almost exclusively in the Boston metro area, which is home to 16 Fortune-500 companies. The state also pulls revenue from the fishing industry (if you’ve ever been to the legendary Boston Fish Market, you’ll see proof of it with your own eyes).

What to Know About Massachusetts

Population & History

Until the arrival of European explorers in the early 17th century, the area now known as Massachusetts was inhabited by Wampanoag, Narragansett, Mahican, and Massachusett tribes, among others.

By the time the Pilgrims arrived in present-day Cape Cod in 1620, 90% of Native American tribes in the area had been wiped out by European-brought illnesses like smallpox and influenza.

By the mid-eighteenth century, colonists in Massachusetts and other American colonies became frustrated with harsh regulations from British rule and led the rebellion for American independence that resulted in the American Revolutionary War.

Massachusetts is the home state of John Adams, the second President of the United States, and the Kennedy family, including John F. Kennedy, the 32nd President.

Today, Boston is home to nearly 700,000 residents and its metro area contains a little under 4.5 million residents, making it one of the busiest cities in the country.

Weather in Massachusetts

Massachusetts experiences both hot summers with high temperatures and cold, stormy winters.

During the winter, it gets a lot of snow (47 inches per year on average, to be exact), a lot more than most other states. Average summer temperatures spike around 80℉ in July and drop to between 36℉ and 22℉ in the winter.

While the entire state is subject to nor’easters (violent winter snowstorms) and hurricanes, cities and areas along the coast experience more damage from these weather events than cities further inland. 

The dazzling aftermath of a snow storm in Massachusetts
The dazzling aftermath of a snow storm in Massachusetts

Top Attractions in Massachusetts

This state may be small, but there’s no shortage of things to do. 

Places to Visit

  • Boston: Massachusetts’s capital is the biggest city in the state and in New England, and it’s full of American history and culture.

    Take a few days to visit Boston or visit over the weekend and stay in a historic hotel like the Omni Parker House, frequented by famous figures like Charles Dickens and home to the Parker Restaurant, where JFK proposed to Jackie.

    One of the most famous Boston attractions is the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile-long walking path that spotlights historic landmarks throughout the city, including the site of the Boston Massacre and the Paul Revere House.

    The South End neighborhood is a cultural hotspot in Boston and is the perfect place to walk and peek into art galleries, grab a glass of wine and some local sausage at The Butcher Shop, or attend one of the area’s famous local markets throughout the year. 
     
  • Cape Cod: This famous place to vacation is actually a 77-mile long spit of land that curves into the Atlantic Ocean from the southeastern tip of Massachusetts.

    It contains about fifteen towns that each have their own culture, quirks, and sites to see. It’s only an hour away from Boston and there are places to stay that will fit most budgets.

    Head to hikes along Wellfleet Bay, a sanctuary to New England flora, fauna, and sea life, or to Provincetown for famous seafood restaurants and a gigantic annual Pride celebration put on by the local LGBTQ+ community.
     
  • Nantucket: This island is 36 miles out to sea, and it’s the perfect quaint getaway for a weekend or holiday. 

    You can take a flight or a ferry, both with scenic views of the water, and spend your days on the beach and evenings touring shops and eating fresh seafood (which can get expensive during the busy season). 
The sun sets over a lighthouse on Cape Cod
The sun sets over a lighthouse on Cape Cod

Food Famous in Massachusetts

From casual seafood joints tucked in coves and harbors in towns throughout Cape Cod to upscale restaurants and crowded pizza shops in Boston, Massachusetts is a great place to be if you’re a foodie (or if you like food in general).

Here are some culinary highlights.

Seafood: There’s nowhere better to try lobster and clams than from right where it came from. Massachusetts restaurants are known for their recipes and food pairings for seafood that have no rivals, whether it’s in an upscale seafood bar or from a beachside shack.

Row 34 in South Boston takes the cake as one of the most well-loved seafood joints in the state, probably because of its extensive draft beer and shellfish selections to choose from. Neptune Oyster is another Boston favorite: come ready to slurp oysters and wine or try their lobster roll.

Mac’s Shack is one of the seafood legends of Cape Cod, and the Lobster Pot up in Provincetown has standard seafood fare along with Portuguese-inspired dishes. 

Cider donuts: In a land where fall blankets hills in blazing colors of red and orange, what better food can be found than the sugar-dusted cider donut?

Bakeries and farms alike lay claim to award-winning donut recipes across the state, which give the perfect excuse for an autumn road trip to find your own personal favorite.

The top-rated cider donuts in the state (a very important list) come from places like Cider Hill Farm, Mann Orchards, and Brooksby Farm, where you can hang out with the sheep while eating your donut(s).

Boston baked beans: This dish has a controversial reputation: baked beans sweetened with molasses aren’t everyone’s favorite. It’s also contributed to some less-than-flattering nicknames for Boston and for the state (Beantown is one of them).

Several Boston restaurants, however, have taken this classic and adjusted it for the contemporary taste buds, and the results are more than satisfying. Marliave might take first place with its smoky, garlicky take on the bean dish.

If you really like beans, head to Beantown Pub, which serves the dish–and just about everything else on the menu–in large portions.

Outdoor Experiences in and around Massachusetts

We’ve already covered the beaches at Cape Cod, but there’s plenty of other places to go and get outdoors in Massachusetts.

Head out to Bish Bash Falls, which is the highest waterfall in Massachusetts and one of the most popular state parks in the area, with plenty of beautiful winding trails that lead to and around the spectacular double-waterfall.

The Berkshire Mountains, in the western part of the state, are also a beautiful destination year-round, whether in winter snow or blazing autumn colors.

For a hike along a deep canyon carved for centuries by the Westfield River, check out Westerfield Gorge (a 2-hour drive from Boston).

Autumn colors in the Massachusetts countryside
Autumn colors in the Massachusetts countryside

Living in Massachusetts

Top employers in Massachusetts

The leading industries for the state of Massachusetts are biotechnology, information technology, maritime trade, finance, and higher education.

Many of the biggest companies in these industries are headquartered in Boston and neighboring Cambridge.

The state’s biggest employers include General Electric, TJX Companies, Staples, and Liberty Mutual.

Among the top places to work in the state are HubSpot, UKG, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, Salesforce, and Dell Technologies. 

The best cities for remote work in Massachusetts

As you’ve probably guessed, Boston is the best city in Massachusetts for startup growth and networking. However, cities across the state have a good range of coworking spaces that help foster industry connections, entrepreneurial growth, and a general atmosphere of focus and hard work.

WeWork has nine locations across Boston with flexible pricing options. Inc.ubate is a locally-operated coworking space with several locations throughout the Boston suburbs.

Members have perks, including seasonal Red Sox tickets and aquarium passes.

Outside of Boston, check out C3 in Cambridge or the classy spaces offered by Work Loft in Marblehead.

Downtown Boston
Downtown Boston

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Massachusetts varies depending on where in the state you live. The cost of living in the Boston area is much higher than the national average, which is primarily due to heightened housing costs as well as transportation and utility costs. 

Outside of the Boston area, the cost of living is still slightly above average but is not quite as high. Housing and utility costs are more expensive than most other areas in the U.S., while healthcare costs are lower than the national average. 

Sales tax varies by city, but the state-side minimum sales tax is 6.25% (the city of Boston does not charge any additional tax, so the rate remains the same). The state charges a flat tax of 5% on both earned and unearned income. Property tax rate for the state averages at 1.17%.

Transportation & Commute

Boston’s train and bus system is called the “T,” and it has several lines that run from downtown into nearby neighborhoods. It’s easy to rely on the train system in Boston, but you’ll want a car if you live in the metro area or further out into the state.

If you commute to work by car, you’ll also need to learn how to drive in the snow if you haven’t already: nor’easters and gentle snowfall alike can make roads treacherous. Amtrak operates 56 trains in Massachusetts for inter-city transportation as well.

Boston and the surrounding cities of Massachusetts are primarily served by Logan International Airport (BOS), which is only an eight-minute drive or a twenty-minute train ride from the center of downtown.

Logan is one of the largest airports in New England and is a major hub for CapeAir, JetBlue, and Delta Airlines. American and United Airlines also offer direct transcontinental flights to most major U.S. cities and international destinations.

Best places to live in Massachusetts

Best neighborhoods for families with kids

  • Lexington: This historic town was central to the beginning of the Revolutionary War and today is considered one of the best suburbs in Massachusetts.

    Lexington is a 26-minute drive northwest of Boston and has some of the best schools in the state, beautifully restored historic homes, and a downtown area full of history. The median home price of $1,097,683 is steep but less expensive than some other nearby Boston suburbs.
     
  • Hopkinton: One of the safest cities in the U.S., Hopkinton is a great place to raise a family.

    With good schools, beautiful old homes, and access to parks and three lakes within the city limits, homes here are worth the median price of $650,413. The only drawback for those with an office in Boston is that the commute is a little longer than it would be from other suburbs: about 40 minutes.
     
  • Boxborough: 45 minutes northwest of Boston is Boxborough. Its distance from the city gives residents access to a slightly more rural lifestyle, with larger houses and lots, local produce stands, and a strong sense of community. The median home price in Boxborough isn’t bad for the area, at only $549,901.

Best neighborhoods for young professionals

  • Somerville: A mere fifteen-minute drive northwest of Boston is Somerville, a high-energy city with old neighborhoods, local restaurants and breweries.

    As the hometown of Tufts University, it also has an energetic college-town vibe. The median home price in Somerville is $958,794, but that’s not bad for a location so close to Boston.
     
  • Cambridge: Want to live at the center of academic history and innovation?

    Cambridge is home to Harvard University. It’s expensive, with a median home price of $859,632, but it’s close to Boston and has its own downtown and places to visit, including a 155-acre nature reservation and the Harvard Art Museums complex.
     
  • Boston: Why not soak in the energy of Boston by calling it home?

    The median home price in the city is only $701,441, and you can choose between energetic, historical neighborhoods like Beacon Hill, South End, and Back Bay for access to both longstanding Boston restaurants and landmarks and up-and-coming shops and bars throughout the city.

 

Higher Education

Massachusetts shines when it comes to higher education.

Harvard University, located in the Massachusetts town of Cambridge, is part of the Ivy League and is one of the most prestigious schools in the nation.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is another top-ranked school in the state.

Other top schools include Tufts University, Boston College, Boston University, and Brandeis University.

You don’t have to drive far to find more top-ranked schools in nearby states: Yale is located in nearby New Haven, Connecticut, and Brown is in Providence, Rhode Island, both just a few hours away by car.

Harvard University
Harvard University

Crime in Massachusetts

As a state, Massachusetts has a very low crime rate and is considered safer than almost 80% of other states.

Most suburbs, residential areas, and small towns are considered family-friendly, but cities including Boston, Springfield, Holyoke, and Brockton have higher crime rates that typically come with highly-populated areas.

Neighborhoods with higher crime rates in Boston include Roxbury (although some parts of the neighborhood are subject to redevelopment), Dorchester, and Hyde Park. 

Are you considering Massachusetts as your next home?

Whether it’s in the busy neighborhoods of Boston or closer to the rolling countryside hills and family farms, Massachusetts is a place for anyone to call home. Under the touching facade of Bostonite culture is a love of hard work and fun that drives the city and state’s stellar restaurants, bar scene, and deep appreciation of history.

Here at Nextburb, we’re committed to providing you with the facts you need to know about any area you’re considering as a future home.

Discover the best places to live in the United States to find out more about neighborhoods to live in, school ratings, crime data, and real estate options.

We’ll provide you with recommendations based on your lifestyle and budget preferences to help you discover where you want to go.

 

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