"Don't dwell on reality; it will only keep you from greatness." Rev. Randall R. McBride, Jr.
Beginning in 1983, I, like many other Americans, started watching the comedy series, Cheers about a fictional saloon of the same name. I faithfully watched it for the eleven years it aired (275 episodes!) I was fascinated by the Boston accents, the fictional residents of Boston, and the clever plots pertaining to the city.
In the beginning, I knew very little or nothing about Boston. This show is one of the big reasons I visited Massachusetts. When in Boston, of course, I went to see the Pub that inspired the Cheers TV show. Massachusetts governor (at the time), William Weld, honored the television program by proclaiming an official Cheers Day when the show went off the air. PS (I still watch all the Cheers reruns!)
I find it very remarkable that a TV show made such an impact on me. But, I guess that I am not the only one who is influenced by television because when I went to investigate the Pub in Boston that was the inspiration for Cheers, there were scores of other tourists doing the same thing!
"...There is her [Massachusetts] history; the world knows it by heart...There is Boston, and Concord, and Lexington, and Bunker Hill; and there they will remain forever..." Daniel Webster
On our way to Boston, we spent a brief time in two history-laden towns: Concord and Lexington.
In Concord, we saw the Minuteman National Historic Park. But, I was most interested in all the leading literary figures who were important in Concord. We took quick tours of the homes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Louisa May Alcott. My favorite was Orchard House, Louisa May Alcott's home, and it was the setting for her novel, Little Women.
We also spent a brief time in the serene environment of Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau's favorite place. In nearby Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, we saw the graves of Alcott, Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau.
Fondest memory: In neighboring Lexington, we traced the steps of the Revolution's first skirmish at the Battle Green.
We also visited the Old Belfry that summoned the militia to the green. We also spent some time at the Museum of Our National Heritage where we saw some great exhibits of furniture, toys, and costumes from the Revolutionary period. I only wish that we would have spent more time in these two historic cities.
"In nature, there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are consequences." Robert Greene Ingersoll
Massachusetts has two major regions--The Coastal Lowlands and the New England Upland.
The New England Upland is divided into the Connecticut River Valley and the Berkshires. More than one third of the state is Coastal Lowland. It's made up of low hills, swamps, rivers, lakes, and ponds. Not too much (besides cranberries) grows here. The far end of the lowlands is what gives the state its nickname (The Bay State)--Cape Cod.
The Cape (as it is called) juts out into the ocean for 65 miles. Note: People do not realize that the Bay's offshore waters are among the most treacherous in the Nation!
West of the Coastal Lowlands, you'll find the New England Upland which is a hilly region that stretches from New Jersey to Maine. In Massachusetts, the New England Upland is split in two sections. The first section, The Connecticut River Valley was created by the Connecticut River which ranges between two and twenty miles in width. The land on the two sides of the river is very fertile; thus, the best farmland in the state resides here.
The other section of the New England Upland is located in the far westernmost region in the state and is called the Berkshires, named after the Berkshire range of low mountains. Here, you'll find many dairy farms. All in all, Massachusetts offers diversity in its landscape just as it enjoys diversity in its population.
Fondest memory: My fondest memory of the landscape of Massachusetts is Cape Cod. Our daughter Jill was in grade school when we visited the Cape, and she, too, was impressed by the utterly charming environment...it's so relaxed, laid back, and spontaneous.
Note: Photo from Pamphlet
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." Martin Luther King, Jr., American Civil Rights Leader
It's interesting to note that Massachusetts was the only state to record no slaves when the first U.S. census was taken in 1790. Blacks have lived in Boston since Colonial Times, and there are several landmarks in the greater Boston area commemorating their history. A lesser-known, but just as historic, walking tour is The Black Heritage Trail which starts at the African Meeting House on Beacon Hill. This meetinghouse is part of the Museum of Afro-American History and was built in 1806
The New England Anti-Slavery Society was founded here. The Black Heritage Trail links key sites and private homes (not open to the public) where escaped slaves were given a safe haven. In essence, they were part of the "Underground Railroad" (safe houses between the South and Canada). An interesting spot on this walking tour is Holmes Alley at the end of Smith Court, which was once used by fugitives to flee professional slave catchers.
The Boston Massacre Monument is on the Boston Common and tells of the involvement of American blacks in the American Revolution. Of course, The Boston African-American Park includes fifteen pre-Civil War structures relating to the city's African-American community. I loved the memorial to the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment(See the photo) It was the first regiment of black soldiers in the Civil War. It's located in the African-American Park.
Fondest memory: Perhaps the most important structure representing the African-American role in history is the African Meeting House. It was built with materials salvaged from the reconstruction of the Old West Church. It's the oldest black church building in the nation and was the political and religious center of Boston's African American Society. By the way, its basement was the city's first school for black children until the adjacent Abiel Smith School was built.
"Every Child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. Pablo Picasso
Boston has often been called "The Athens of America" because Boston, like Athens, has wonderful theaters, beautiful buildings, graceful statues, & intelligent philosophers.
Bostonians love beauty, & the Boston museums reflect that love. Today, Boston's museums certainly offer a "visual feast" for everyone. The Boston Atheneum is located in a lovely Italian-style building on Beacon Street. It was founded in 1807 & the first museum in Boston to open its doors to the public.
The galleries display fine examples of American & European art. Can you believe that on the 5th floor, they have a collection of rare books that once belonged to George Washington! Boston's Museum of Fine Arts has a portrait of Paul Revere by American artist, John Singleton Copley. I loved the silver pitchers & dishes made by Revere himself that were also on exhibit. In addition, the museum also has a great collection of Egyptian carvings & Japanese brush paintings.
The Isabella Steward Gardner Museum is as well known for a theft as it is for its wonderful collections. "In 1990, thieves disguised as security guards, carried off thirteen prized paintins....Bostonians were outraged. The Gardner Museum holds a special place in the city's heart, & the theft touched thousands of people." The museum is housed in a Renaissance villa that was transported brick by brick from Venice, Italy. This was my favorite museum because it literally overflowed with paintings, sculptures, tapestries, & elegant furniture. But what I enjoyed most was the courtyard garden & its splashing fountain. Isabella Stewart Gardner opened her home as a public art, & her will states that none of the exhibits must ever be changed! But, I enjoyed the city's monuments and buildings (which I consider to be art) as much as the art within the museums.
Fondest memory: I think that two more of my favorite museums were the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum and Harvard University Museums. As a long-time fan of President Kennedy, I just had to visit his library and museum. It's a bittersweet museum because I marveled at the images, the success of the man at such a young age, but I shed tears for a life taken way too early. The video clips were especially compelling. The Harvard University Museums have it all...archeology, European Art, Asian and Near Eastern Art, and natural history. The architecture of one of the museums, Sackler Museumm, is artwork itself. I feel fortunate to have visited many of the excellent Boston museums.
Visit Boston! It's a great city...crazy traffic and drivers, but there's lots to do and see. Another great location is Sturbridge Village just west of Worcester. It's a great place to take the kids, but adults like it too. And for scenic beauty, the western end of the state is wonderful..the Berkshires. I have yet to go to Cape Cod (yeah, I know, weird) but some day we'll get there.
Fondest memory: Sturbridge Village....we visited the Village almost yearly when our boys were growing up, and we all looked forward to it every year. It's a wonderful day trip and there's plenty to see. Sturbridge Village is a working 18th-19th century village, complete with authentic costumes on all staff, no electricity.... You never know what you'll see there, as the 'villagers' have different chores and things to do according to the seasons. You could see them tapping maple trees for syrup, sheep-shearing, quilting, baking pies and cakes in fireplace ovens, it varies every time you visit! They have a working sawmill and cider mill also...everything a village would have had back then. FOR MORE INFORMATION ON STURBRIDGE VILLAGE VISIT THEIR WEBSITE at: http://www.osv.org
Hyannis has traditionally had the reputation of being an artists' community, a central location to hop off to the islands, or visit other close towns on the Cape....as well as, of course...being the home of the Kennedy family. The family's summer compound is on the ocean in Hyannis, the church they attended is here, the memorial that has been created can be found close by, and the Kennedy museum in the middle of town. Many people visit each year because of this appeal. There are a lot of projects going on lately which are aimed at fostering the artists' community as well as upgrading the business district...adding to the tourists' options for cultural opportunities...and improving the waterfront activities.
I have added Osterville because of its close proximity and because you shouldn't miss driving through such a beautifully kept coastal community.
Please review the special page I've made for these two villages.
The Boston Science Fiction Film Festival is a 24 hour movie marathon which has been running in the Boston area for over 30 years. Every Presidents Day weekend, hundreds of Sci-fi nerds gather together for 24 hours of geek paradise. Most are regulars who never miss a year - I've proudly attended now for over 10 years.
We kick off the day with a Countdown, followed by an Atomic Fireball candy and Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century.
All kind of sci-fi movies are shown; old and new , good and freakin' horrible.
It's a great time and yes, you can leave and re-enter the theather. People do sleep in their chair or in sleeping bags on the floor.
The Marathon was at the Coolidge Corner theater in Brookline for awhile, but the last few years we have moved around a bit. Most recently the Marathon has been in Somerville and Newton.
Fondest memory: The Marathon runs every Presidents Day weekend from Sunday 12:00 -- Monday 12:00.
Go to Cape Cod and test the water on both sides. Because of the ocean currents, the two sides are distinctly different temperatures. The Hyannis side is warm (almost tropical) while the other side is colder.
Fondest memory: everything that I have seen of Massachusetts is absolutely beautiful.
Favorite thing: Newly refurbrished Quicky Market is a prime example of the adaptive use of old structures. Its many restaurants and shops make it an interesting place to visit. Nearby is the waterfront of Boston Harbor, one of the oldest ports in America.
The Old State House, with its distinctive cupola, was once the tallest and most impressive building in Boston.
Built in 1713, this site is where you will find the landmark for the Boston Massacre, which took place March 5, 1770 and where five Patriots were killed. A circle of cobblestone depicts the original site. This was the seat of the British Parliment and later the Colonial Government.
Favorite thing: Massachusetts has a long and varied coastline, from cliffs to beaches to picturesque, quaint harbours. Of course, this being the 'Bay State', it should have some sort of major connection to the water, and likewise the visitor should experience the state's coast. Go sailing in Boston Harbour, check out the famous fishing fleet at Gloucester, see the saltwater marshes of Ipswich, try the beautiful beaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore, and take a ferry to Martha's Vineyard to see the spectacular Gay Head Cliffs. the coastline has defined the land originally called 'Massachusetts Bay Colony' for centuries, and the state is arguably at its most beautiful where it meets the Atlantic. The photo is from atop the cliffs at Truro, on Cape Cod.
Favorite thing: Long a land of beautiful centres of worship before religious tolerance was even enacted in Massachusetts, the churches of this state, from the soaring gothic cathedral in Boston to the old colonial white spired churches of the countryside, continue to impress. Most New England churches were modelled after one: London's St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, by Christopher Wren. This is how they have all, for the most part, attaind thir distinctive long naves and high, piercing spires. Interestingly, under Puritan law spires were not allowed in the state until well into the 17th century. Seeing the steeples of churches rise above a New England town green can be a beautiful sight, and certainly many of the churches are even more beautiful inside. I could not possibly begin to provide a list of such churches to visit (in Boston alone there are too many) yet I encourage the appreciation of every one of them. This fine example is in Concord.
Favorite thing: Maybe I'm a morbid person, but I love cemetaries. Massachusetts is an old state and is therefore chock full of them. Every town seemingly has an 'old burying ground' with tombs dating back to the 18th century, and these can be interesting to explore. Of course, there are the two famous cemetaries in Boston along the overtouristed Freedom Trail; the Granary Burying Ground and Copp's Hill Burying Ground (of the two, I prefer Copp's Hill). These are good introductions to what's in cemetaries across Massachusetts. Just outside the Boston city centre there are two old Victorian cemetaries, Forest Hill and Mount Auburn, which are far less known but no less beautiful in their expansive park-like settings. The real attraction comes in exploring colonial cmtaries still in use, working your way past graves that relatives still plant flags on or place flowers with toward graves from long-forgotten colonial townsfolk, their tombs elaborately carved with a skull and crossbones. The photo depicts such a cemetary in Concord.
Favorite thing: New England, and Massachusetts especially, is known for its institutions of higher education. Not only are these impressiv academic institutions, but many are 200-300 years old and retain many of their historic structures. Others are newer (19th century) and have made up for their historical deficiencies with beautiful campuses. It's easiest to see many of thse institutions when in Boston, where many of them are clustered. Venerable Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University, Boston College, and Boston University are either located in Boston or Cambridge. Of course you also may have heard of Brandeis and Wellesley, in the Boston suburbs. In Western Massachusetts, Amherst College and the University of Massachusetts' main campus thrive in the town in Amherst, while others are locatd near Northampton, somewhat of a 'college outfitting centre' of sorts. Of course, I can't mention every university worth a visit, but know there are over 250 in the New England region, and over 50 are in Boston/Cambridge alone. The photo is of the Harvard Business School.
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