Many travelers feel about Massachusetts the way I feel about Thanksgiving: It’s all about the sides. In the Bay State’s case, the scenic mountains and picturesque villages of the Berkshires on the far western end of Massachusetts tend to get whatever attention doesn’t go to Boston, Cape Cod, and the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard on the state’s eastern edge.
But that view of things leaves out some meaty stuff in between. The regions of Central Massachusetts and the Pioneer Valley (the less-heralded part of Western Mass. east of the Berkshires) abound in fun and enriching things to do that rival more ballyhooed parts of New England for natural, historical, and cultural attractions. And in many instances, these unsung areas outdo what bookends them—after all, only this region can lay claim to giving the world such wonders as Dr. Seuss, basketball, and the Yankee Candle.
Perhaps best of all, the state’s relatively small size and quantity of rail connections make reaching Central and Western Massachusetts cities such as Worcester and Springfield simple via Amtrak and regional trains from Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and other points in the northeastern U.S.
The things to see and do that follow just might convince you to set the state’s sides aside and make the middle the main course.