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Massachusetts Travel

Tips for Traveling Massachusetts

Massachusetts travel is a matter of choosing which option works best for you based on your criteria: How long will you be staying? Would you like to catch some sights along the way? What is your budget? Figuring out what you want to do can be a breeze once you have all the materials you need to make an informed decision.

massachusetts travel welcome

The state of Massachusetts itself is relatively quite small compared to the larger states out west. It can be driven from it's western-most point along Interstate 90 to Boston in around 2 hours and from Boston to Provincetown in another couple hours. A straight shot north to south along Interstate 91 only takes less than an hour.

Massachusetts is an amazing place to visit and is packed with a variety of attractions and fun things to do along the way. Let's take a more detailed look at Massachusetts travel and help you make an informed decision:




Massachusetts Travel - Flying

Traveling to Massachusetts is first on the list. Depending on where you're coming from, getting to Massachusetts can be quite the journey; it is situated all the way on the northeastern shore of the United States. If you're traveling on a tight schedule, you should consider a flight to one of the two main airports located in and around the state.

Logan International Airport (BOS), located in Boston, Massachusetts is the busiest air travel hub in New England and the region's largest center for transportation. There are more airlines located at Logan Airport and therefore more flights available for you to choose from. Although busier, this is the smarter choice for those traveling to the northeastern, Greater Boston, southeastern, and Cape Cod areas.

Bradley International Airport (BDL) is located just over the line in Windsor Locks, Connecticut and is the better choice for those traveling to western and central Massachusetts. I personally prefer traveling in and out of this airport as it is much smaller than Logan Airport, has a good selection of flights and major airlines, has less security lines and wait times, and is located in more of a rural area preventing traffic build-ups found in the bigger cities.

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Massachusetts Travel - Driving

If you've got a little more time on your hands and would like to do some sightseeing along the way, driving is the way to go.

Massachusetts can be accessed and traversed through many different roads but there's a few main highways and routes that will get you to your destination the quickest.

massachusetts travel highways

I've drawn the above map to help explain some of the Massachusetts travel routes because I've found most other maps were too busy and provided too much information in such a small space.


Interstate 90 - The MassPike

If you're coming to Massachusetts from out west through New York state, driving along Interstate 90 will bring you across the state the quickest.

Stretching all the way to the Pacific coast, Interstate 90 becomes the MassPike once it reaches the Massachusetts state line. It is a toll road but there are many services stops along the way to fill up the gas tank and grab some food. With a speed limit of 65 mph, sightseeing is limited (especially once reaching the Interstate 84 interchange in Sturbridge) as this is the most direct route across the state. If you're looking to take in the amazing fall foliage, traveling along Route 2 or the "Mohawk Trail" is the best alternative.

The drive along the MassPike is quite nice along the western part of Massachusetts as it goes through the Berkshires and provides scenic views of the mountains and valleys below. If ever I am traveling towards the western edge of the state, I like to make a stop at the Lee Prime Outlets to do a little shopping. The outlets are located right off exit 2 along I-90. Going east meets up with some of Springfield's traffic as it passes Interstate 91 but rarely is there any issues, even during morning or evening rush hours.

Some of the major traffic issues I've encountered on I-90 include:

  • West bound at the I84 interchange in Sturbridge (exit 9) on a Sunday evening, especially on a holiday weekend.
  • East bound at I-495 on a sunny summer Friday. Travelers take I-495 to Cape Cod.
  • Rush Hour where I-90 intersects I-95 and I-93.

These are the main times you might come across some traffic. 9 times out of 10, I've driven through these interchanges and never had a problem.


Interstate 91

I-91 is the highway to take if you're traveling North-South along the western part of Massachusetts. A non-toll highway, there's some great places to stop by along the way if you've got some extra time. Skinner State Park is only a short drive from exit 19 and provides beautiful panoramic views atop Mount Holyoke. On a really clear day I was able to see Hartford, Connecticut from one side and then turn around and see all the way to Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire. Needless to say, fall foliage here is out of this world.

Taking a left at exit 19 will bring you to the city of Northampton. With an artistic atmosphere, Northampton is filled with awesome places to eat, quaint places to shop and historic areas to visit. Amherst is a college town right next door. One of my all time favorite places to get a drink is Amherst Brewing Company.

A little farther north right off the highway at exit 24-25 will bring you to South Deerfield's Yankee Candle Flagship Store.

Head south towards Springfield to enjoy the Basketball Hall of Fame and Six Flags New England Theme Park. For two weeks in the fall, we get treated with the Big E fair.

The only traffic I've ever encountered on I-91 is right south of Springfield at rush hour near the Longmeadow curve where 3 lanes merge to 2.


Interstate 495

I-495 runs around the city of Boston, wider than I-93. If your Massachusetts travel takes you to Cape Cod and you're coming from the west, 495S is the route to take. It will eventually take you over the Bourne Bridge and then it's clear sailing to the Cape from route 6.

If you're heading up to New Hampshire or Maine and coming from the west, your best bet is to take 495N to I-95 staying farther away from the congestion of Boston.


Interstate 93

While I-93 is a non-toll road, it can get pretty congested just about any time of day. Interstate 93 runs right through downtown Boston and is known for some pretty bad traffic backup's especially during the rush hour time periods.

The Big Dig project buried the downtown's sector of 93 through a series of tunnels so if you're planning on using a GPS in this area, make sure to take a look at a detailed map before driving through it. GPS's tend to lose their signal and exit's come up pretty quick through the twist and turns of the tunnels.

Signs are posted along the inside of the tunnels but when traffic builds and you're concentrating on not hitting the guy in front of you, you may miss a turn and end up on one of the busy downtown Boston streets. Whenever I'm unsure of a new area in my Massachusetts travel and don't want to rely on a GPS, I'll take a look at Google Street View to get a first hand look of the area and any landmarks that may stick out.

Click on the Street View picture below to get a walkthrough of I-93S heading into the Boston tunnels:

Like I said before, my Massachusetts travel on I-93 has found traffic mostly during rush hour time periods but it really is hit or miss. The best time to travel on I-93, for me anyway, is a Sunday morning.


Interstate 95 and Route 128

Interstate 95 wraps around Boston like I-495 but it is a little closer to the city. The best thing about it, is that it goes all the way from Maine down to Florida. While wrapping around the city, it runs concurrently with 128 until Peabody, MA to which it meets up with I-495 and north to Maine.

I'd advise staying away from 128 if your Massachusetts travel brings you around Boston as it is mainly a commuter roadway and home to the high-tech region of Boston. Your best bet when traveling to Cape Cod would be to stick to I-495.

Route 128 will eventually bring you to fishing port of Gloucester, MA where you can take an exciting whale watching tour.


Routes 2, 3, 6, 28

Route 2, or the "Mohawk Trail", is simply amazing to drive through in the fall. With a speed limit slower than I-90, it is the best alternative to drive through if you're planning on doing some sightseeing along the way. There's plenty of antique shops, picture spots, and rustic small towns to explore along the way.

Exit 4 off Route 3 brings you to Plimouth Plantation. If your Massachusetts travel includes a trip to see the Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower II replica, Route 3 will bring you there via Route 44.

Route 3 meets up with Route 6 at the Sagamore Bridge and then it's clear sailing to Cape Cod past the cranberry bogs and into the ocean breeze.

Route 28 actually runs north to New Hampshire, through Boston, and down east into the Cape. It is the primary navigation route through the south side of the cape and eventually meets up with Route 6. If you're planning a trip to Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket and need to catch a ferry, Route 28 will get you there.

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Massachusetts Travel - Bus Travel

If you prefer to travel to or across Massachusetts and don't want to drive yourself, traveling by bus is a great alternative. There are some awesome deals and Massachusetts travel by bus can be cheaper than driving or flying anyway.

Some of the major bus lines that service Massachusetts are Greyhound, Peter Pan and Plymouth & Brockton. The Fung Wah Bus is a fan favorite for it's cheap fares of $15 bringing you to and from Boston and New York City.

Greyhound Lines' service is widespread throughout the state of Massachusetts and has stops in the cities of Springfield, Worcester, and Boston.

Peter Pan Bus Lines operate more towards the western part of the state bringing you to places in the Berkshires. It's main hub is located in Springfield, MA.

Plymouth & Brockton Buses connect Boston and Logan Airport with towns along the South Shore and southeastern parts of Massachusetts into Cape Cod.

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Massachusetts Travel - Amtrak Trains

massachusetts travel amtrak

Massachusetts travel can also be done by one of the Amtrak trains. If your time is limited and need to get somewhere rather quickly, taking the train will ensure you're not hung up in traffic you may run into when either taking the bus or driving a car.

Check out the Amtrak Routes and Amtrak Discounts pages to help plan your next train trip. Here's a listing of train stations across the state of Massachusetts:


Some of the other great reasons to take one of the Amtrak trains are the nice discounts they provide, convenience in that you don't have to go through security lines like in an airport, electrical power at every seat & ability to use cell phones, a "Quiet Car" to sleep, and a dining car if you want to grab a snack.

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Massachusetts Travel - MBTA

massachusetts travel mbta

MBTA, or Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, manages all of the Boston public transportation options including the subway, buses, commuter rail and ferry lines.

If you're planning to drive into Boston, keep in mind it can be very challenging to navigate the narrow and winding streets, traffic buildups that occur, and lack of parking options. The better choice is to utilize one of the Boston public transportation options:

massachusetts travel - travel via one of the Boston public transportation options - subway or boston t
Subway ("T")
massachusetts travel - travel via one of the Boston public transportation options - mbta bus
Bus
massachusetts travel - travel via one of the Boston public transportation options - commuter rail
Commuter Rail
massachusetts travel - travel via one of the Boston public transportation options - inner harbor ferry
Ferry
massachusetts travel - travel via one of the Boston public transportation options - boston water taxi
Water Taxi

 

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