From the seaside towns of the east to the halcyon hills of the west, Massachusetts is the very embodiment of New England charm. As one of the original 13 colonies, the state history of Massachusetts is rich and alive, and residents and visitors alike have ample opportunities to experience it for themselves.
People have moved to Massachusetts in droves over the last decade, and with good reason. The job market is robust, the scenery is spectacular and there isn’t a state in the union better situated for culture and commerce.
The birthplace of the American Revolution is also home to the New England Revolution, along with the New England Patriots, the Boston Bruins, the Boston Celtics and — everyone’s favorite underdog — the Boston Red Sox.
If you’re considering relocating to the Bay State, here are a few things to know before moving to Massachusetts.
What’s It Like Living in Massachusetts
Thanks to Massachusetts’ diverse terrain, residents can experience the excitement of coastal living, the beauty of inland Massachusetts’ central valleys, and the ruggedness of its mountain terrain. On the eastern shore, there are 1500 miles of coastline to explore in this 190-mile-wide state. Popular destinations include Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and Boston, of course. Moving westward, from Springfield to Amherst to North Adams, residents are treated to the rolling terrain of the Berkshires. There’s geographic splendor everywhere you turn.
The price of all this beauty is, well, the literal price of all this beauty. The cost of living in Massachusetts is one of the highest in the country: the median home value is nearly $400,000 and the average rent is over $1,300, both well above national levels. But the average income in the state is also above average. At $84,385, Bay Staters bring home nearly $20,000 more per year than their counterparts across the country. Want to know what wages you might earn for your job? Check the Massachusetts wage statistics.
The state’s biggest employers are all in the healthcare industry: Brigham & Women’s Hospital, the Dan Farber Cancer Institute, and Massachusetts General Hospital all top the list. But close on their heels are major innovators like Raytheon, in the aviation, space and defense industry, tech giant Dell EMC, Staples and also TIAA. Overall, the job market in Massachusetts is healthy, and the state gained an estimated 151,700 jobs between September 2021 and September 2022. The largest gains were leisure and hospitality, education and health services, and professional, scientific and business services.
Despite the cost and the cold (Massachusetts has harsh winters!), over 437,000 new residents moved to the Bay State in the last ten years.
One of the reasons may be the state’s healthcare system, which was ranked the second-best in the country, according to the Commonwealth Fund study. Only 3% of adults lack health insurance in Massachusetts, compared with over 12% in the U.S. overall. Massachusetts also scores big in healthcare access and affordability. A serious benefit in an otherwise expensive state.
Massachusetts also has enormous state pride in its educational system — and with very good reason. It’s actually the best! Massachusetts has the #1 rated K-12 public schools in the nation, and the state’s colleges and universities are internationally renowned. With Harvard University, MIT, Amherst, Tufts, Boston University, Boston College, Williams, Brandeis, Northeastern and others, the state truly has an outsize number of remarkable institutions of higher education. The high school graduation rate is 91.1%, and the number of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher exceeds 44%.
The climate of this small state has remarkable range, owing to the topographical shifts from the mountainous west to the eastern coast.
Summertime temps are typically mild, averaging 63° F at night to 80° F during the day. Western and central Massachusetts is muggier (and buggier) — the sea air of the coast keeps the eastern part of the Bay State cool in the summer months.
Fall is the prettiest season — the autumn leaf show is the reason alone to move to Massachusetts. The Boston ivy that wends its way up every academic building turns crimson red…it’s really no wonder the nation’s most elite universities are known as the Ivy League.
Winter is long, cold and snowy, and blizzards are frequent. No matter where you live in Massachusetts, you can expect upwards of 40” of snow each year, more if you live inland. Better hone those snowman-building skills!
Spring can be slow to come in Massachusetts (don’t hold your breath until at least May 1) but when it arrives, expect to see grand displays of fragrant lilacs, towering rhododendrons, and cheerful hydrangeas. And, did you know? The mayflower — a native evergreen with a sweet and delicate blossom — is the state flower of Massachusetts. (We knew we liked this place!) Wait, what’s that you say? It’s because the Mayflower docked in Cape Cod in 1620 and not because of us? We’ll admit that’s a possibility.
With its temperate climate, the Bay State has a wide window of good weather for moving. The best time to move to Massachusetts is from May through October — basically, the six months of the year when you’re least likely to be shoveling snow!
Best Places to Live in Massachusetts
With so many popular towns and regions, it can be difficult to know which part of Massachusetts you should move to. Thankfully, the Bay State is small, so you can drive all the way across it — from Boston to North Adams — in under three and a half hours. (Unless you just can’t get out of traffic in Boston.)
Boston and Cambridge
Boston is Massachusetts’ state capital and biggest city, and this coastal treasure has so much to offer. The population of the city proper is 654,776 (up nearly 40,000 people since 2010), but the Boston-Cambridge-Newton metro area is home to nearly 4.9 million residents. (That’s a lot of Red Sox fans.)
Wrapped around the Charles River and Massachusetts Bay, there are more cultural institutions than we could describe here. But some of the highlights are the Museum of Fine Arts, Faneuil Hall, the Bunker Hill Monument, and Harvard University.
Housing costs in the city are nearly twice the national average, with median home values reaching $581,200. The average rent is also considerably above average at $1,685. If you want to live in Cambridge, expect to pay $843,100; and if Newton is your dream town, a house will easily set you back over $952,000.
Average incomes here are higher, too: Bostonians can expect to make $76,298 on average; Cambridge households earn $107,490; but Newtonians bring home the most — $150,000 annually, on average.
The biggest employers are Massachusetts General Hospital, Beth Israel Lahey Health, the University of Massachusetts, Amazon and TJX, parent company of T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods.
Moving west into central Massachusetts, where the leading industries are healthcare and education, lies Worcester. (That’s pronounced Wooster, mind you.) This city of 205,918 — the second largest in New England —has gained roughly 20,000 people over the past ten years.
The population is more diverse in Worcester than elsewhere in the region, and this thriving metropolis has its own arena, performing arts theatre, renowned museums, and a small airport. The EcoTarium is a popular destination for families. This indoor-outdoor museum of science and nature has live animal habitats, interactive exhibits, scenic trails and Siegfried the beloved Stegosaurus.
Housing costs in Worcester are more in keeping with national averages: the median home value is $241,800 and rents average $1,115. But incomes in Worchester are also lower, hovering just above $50,000.
In Springfield, the “City of Firsts,” the country’s first American-made car was born. It’s also the birthplace of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Dr. Seuss (who put an unforgettable spin on American English), and basketball (learn about that at Springfield’s Basketball Hall of Fame).
The city population has grown by only a thousand people over the last decade, but the 154,789 residents are proud of the growing economy and buoyed by a remarkably affordable cost of living compared to much of the state and the region. The median house value is a modest $162,900 and rents average $908 a month. Consequently, the average household income of $41,571 is less than a third of Newton’s.
The homes and neighborhoods in Springfield are something to write home about — they’ve been highlighted in diverse sources, from This Old House to Forbes. Many large corporations also have bases here: MassMutual Financial Group, Liberty Mutual, Shriners Hospital and the American Hockey League all call Springfield home.
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Things You Can Only See and Do in Massachusetts
Historic Sites in Massachusetts
Because Massachusetts was settled by the British in 1630, you can hardly turn around without bumping into a historic site in the state. But where to go first?
To visit some with say, more intentionality than literal bumping, start with The Freedom Trail. You’ll learn the story of the American Revolution through a series of connected sites around Boston, including Bunker Hill, the Old North Church, the Paul Revere House, the USS Constitution and Faneuil Hall, among others.
There’s also Plymouth Rock, where the Mayflower landed in 1620 and the pilgrims disembarked. But please, don’t take a piece of the rock as many people have before—look with your eyes not your chisels!
Then, of course, there’s Harvard University, founded in Cambridge in 1636. A visit to the stately campus is a must. You can even pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd.
If you’re feeling truly revolutionary, visit the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, where you can climb aboard a full-scale replica of the famed and fated ships, and even throw tea into the harbor. Better yet, you can just drink it on site in Abigail’s Tea Room and Terrace.
Massachusetts is home to 18 national parks, trails, and historic sites, including the Saugus Iron Works, New Bedford Whaling, and sites dedicated to John F. Kennedy, Frederick Law Olmstead, and the Boston African American community. Located just outside of Boston, Minute Man National Historic Park marks the opening battle of the American Revolutionary War on April 19, 1775. Patriots’ Day events commemorate this historic moment each spring. You can hike the Battle Road Trail where the Colonial Militia fought the British, and you can also tour the restored Hartwell Tavern.
Outdoor Experiences in Massachusetts
The Cape Cod National Seashore is federally protected land where you can relish the landscape’s natural wonders while learning about the past. You’ll find everything you imagine from a New England beach (and a few things you might not have expected). There are light houses, pristine sandy beaches, ancient artifacts (Cape Cod formed about 18,000 years ago!), hiking and biking trails, ranger-led tours — even on water! — and definitely the occasional great white shark. Don’t make friends with any seals. It can’t last.
Another great spot for swimming is Sandy Point State Reservation, a 77-acre park on the tip of Plum Island. Fishing and hunting are also permitted on the grounds. If you’re looking for water of the falling variety, on the opposite side of the state lies Bash Bish Falls, a state park in Mt. Washington with an 80-foot-tall waterfall — the highest in the state. The trail to access it is not for everyone; the shortest route is the most strenuous and rocky. Bash Bish also connects directly with its New York neighbor, Taconic State Park, so adventuresome hikers can tackle a 12.5-mile, bi-state trek for the ultimate bragging rights.
Of the nearly 2200 miles of the Appalachian Trail, 90 run straight through Massachusetts. Beginning at Mouth Everett in southern Massachusetts and finishing at Mount Greylock, the state’s highest point, the trail is both scenic and historic. There are day hikes that families will enjoy and long-distance treks for the hardcore.
Once the weather gets cold and stays cold, there’s nothing better to do outdoors in Massachusetts than ski. One of the best spots is Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort. It’s the largest of its kind in southern New England, and it’s now 100% electrically powered, so you can enjoy the environment while you’re helping to protect it. Jiminy’s doesn’t go dormant in the summer months, either. The Mountain Adventure Park offers a thrilling alpine coaster with jaw-dropping (and stomach-jumping) views. Another prime spot is Wachusett Mountain in Princeton, which has 27 trails from novice to black diamond. Wachusett Mountain State Reservation is a spectacular spot for cross-country skiing, hiking and just taking in the views. There are special wildflower-viewing walking tours, where you can see evening primrose, fireweed, meadow rue and milkweed.
Favorite Family-friendly Activities in Massachusetts
If you’re with the kids, the Boston Children’s Museum is a pioneer in play — founded in 1913, the museum is the second-oldest of its kind in the world. This STEAM-powered dreamworld has hands-on, all-in exhibits on bubbles, energy, art and even forts.
Do you like green eggs and ham? Would you eat them while you hum? Would you eat them at a museum? Then head straight to the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield! Learn all about Theodore Seuss Geisel, a Massachusetts native, and find your way through the Giant Marble Maze, meet the Grinch in Whoville, and scamper around the sculpture garden.
Established in 1837, the Boston Public Garden was the first public botanical garden in the U.S. The Victorian gardens are lovely, but what everyone will clamor to do is ride the swan boats. These gentle catamarans — helmed by giant swans (which conceal the human captain running the paddlebox) — will take you on a memorable journey around the lagoon.
Tanglewood, in idyllic Lenox, Massachusetts, hosts the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops, drawing up 350,000 visitors to its outdoor summer performances each year. While you’re in the area, the Norman Rockwell Museum is just a short drive south, and in addition to its permanent collection of the artist’s works, it features rotating exhibits by others, including Hilary Knight of Eloise fame (so, getting bored is not allowed!).
Sports fans are treated to four seasons of fun in Massachusetts…or is it torment? It all depends on the score. In any case, you will find no state with more fervent fans than Massachusetts, who root hard year-round for their beloved New England Patriots, Boston Bruins, Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox and the MLS team, the New England Revolution. Expect stadiums, trains, and bars to be packed with, shall we say, passionate Bay Staters on a good night and disappointed (ahem) “Massholes” on a bad one. Whatever you call them, just don’t call them Massachusettsans. If there’s one thing everyone hates equally in the state, it is that word.
Eat Like Massachusetts Locals
While it may sometimes seem that Massachusetts invented seafood (it’s really that good!), it’s not a claim the state can make, but a number of America’s favorite foods were born here.
First, there’s Boston Cream Pie, the official state dessert that’s actually not a pie, but who can argue when your mouth is full of airy sponge cake, vanilla custard, and chocolate ganache? Boston baked beans, almost a dessert in themselves, are sweeter reinvention of a Puritanical slow-cooked favorite. Then there’s marshmallow fluff, invented in Somerville in 1917, which we would not have the fluffernutter sandwich without. (Would we even be a civilization without fluffernutters? Please discuss.) The one thing that hardly any American could honestly live without that hails from the Bay State is the chocolate chip cookie. We have Ruth Wakefield and her Toll House restaurant in Whitman, Massachusetts — yes, the legendary Toll House — to thank for this quintessential American treat.
But, honestly, what people move to Massachusetts for is clam chowder. And where better to eat that than on Cape Cod. A number of establishments vie for the best chowder here, from heavyweight Wimpy’s (with its famous quahogs) to the Captain Parker’s Pub (which proclaims the “best chowder on earth”) to the upscale Impudent Oyster (where you can order the unforgettable entrée “Oh My Cod”). But you’ll find a triple-crown-winning bowl at Skipper Chowder House (also known for its Wicked Awesome Lobster Roll). Whichever bowl you declare the best, remember that all chowders have one thing in common (besides the clams): that “r” is always silent. You want a bowl of chowdah with your lobstah.
If you are looking for a seafood experience of historic proportions, you’ll find it at the Union Oyster House near Faneuil Hall. Founded in 1826, this cozy, Georgian brick pub is National Historic Landmark and the oldest continually operating oyster bar in America.
Another Massachusetts original, Legal Sea Foods opened its doors in Cambridge in 1968. Wildly popular, the restaurant has spread its mantra of freshness to several neighboring states: “If it isn’t fresh, it isn’t Legal!”
If you need a break from the fruits of the sea, Regina Pizzeria will be happy to welcome you back to shore. This longtime Boston favorite has been satisfying Bostonians’ brick oven-baked desires since 1926. They’ve expanded from their flagship in the North End of Boston to more than a dozen locations.
If your ancestral roots are in the Emerald Isle, you can get all your Irish favorites at Greenhills Bakery in Dorchester. They serve traditional Irish soda breads, sausage rolls and Christmas puddings and cakes, loaded with candied fruit and enrobed in creamy marzipan.
Be forewarned: If you are moving to Boston, you are also moving to The Home of the Cannoli…at least according to Mike’s Pastry. Founder Michael Mercogliano introduced his addictive take on this classic confection to the North End in 1946, and people have been wearing powdered sugar moustaches out of the store ever since. The shop is also competitive about its lobster tails — another New England favorite — in which flaky dough is layered into a delectable crustacean and then filled with cream.
But you don’t want to miss Boston’s hidden gems, either. Drive-By Pies will make you slow down and wonder why you ever consumed anything not in pastry form. Their quiches, fruit pies and pot pies are all wow-worthy, but they also have standout sandwiches like the Green Monster. Just outside the city in North Andover, Harrison’s Roast Beef is a no-frills, budget-friendly fave that will not be outdone in meat on a bun: roast beef, corned beef, pastrami, ham, chicken or fish, with classic toppings, salads and sides.
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