Best of Massachusetts | 2019 Editor’s Choice Awards

Cape Cod Chamber Orchestra by Jean Kirby Photography
Cape Cod Chamber Orchestra Debut by Jean Kirby Photography

YANKEE MAGAZINE – Planning a Massachusetts vacation, day trip, or getaway? From dining and lodging to attractions that are well worth the drive, here are 30 editors’ picks for the best of Massachusetts.


Best of Massachusetts 2019 | Agawam Diner

Berkshire Mountain BakeryHousatonic

Richard Bourdon is a bread celeb, and to miss the sourdough-based loaves he and his team handcraft at this old mill shop while you’re in the Berkshires would be folly. Made in the European tradition in which he was trained, these naturally fermented breads are crusty, tangy, and bubbly. And they’re so well priced, you’ll want to try top-selling variations including cherry pecan, which toasts like a dream, and oh-so-decadent Bread & Chocolate (one-third of each boule’s weight is Belgian dark chocolate). 413-274-3412

Theodores’ Booze, Blues & BBQSpringfield

Fans of smoky-satisfying Southern barbecue would keep this place feeling 40 years young even without real-deal musicians onstage and local brews like White Lion’s Galaxy IPA on tap. Dunk spicy-crisp crawfish poppers in honey mustard; slather house-made bourbon barbecue sauce on caveman club–size beef short ribs; try the Super Bad-Ass Sweet Daddy Slap Your Pappy Hot Sauce if you dare. Some folks drive unimaginable miles for brisket, collards, and what may well be the best Key lime pie north of Key West. 413-736-6000

Cushman Market and CaféAmherst

At this resuscitated 1892 general store, Sundays are what Sundays used to be: relaxed and rejuvenating for the soul. This college town’s talent pool is so vast, different jazz artists set the mood each week. And diners from all demographics hobnob over challah French toast, hobo bowls, and two dozen egg-on-a-roll variations. Don’t miss the shrubs—icy beverages made with vinegared fruit and herb concentrates—which are a delicious taste of colonial New England. 413-549-0100

Agawam Diner, Rowley

Known for fruit, cream, and angel pies—and also upside-down chicken pies mountain-topped with mashed potatoes—this stainless steel classic built by the Fodero Dining Car Company in 1954 is kept humming by a family whose diner-owning roots run deep in Massachusetts. Bring cash and your biggest appetite: First-rate fried seafood and all-day breakfast favorites such as the homemade hash omelet would tempt you even if the prices weren’t so reasonable. 978-948-7780

Great Barrington Farmers’ MarketGreat Barrington

Hosted in makeup pioneer Jane Iredale’s manicured parking lot, this weekly Saturday gathering has unmatched radiance. Location is key: The market’s at the nucleus of a walkable downtown (ExtraSpecialTeas and SoCo Creamery are worthy detours) and commingles premier vendors from both sides of the New York–Massachusetts line. Yes, it’s a place to buy meats, cheeses, breads, and fresh-harvested produce, but it feels more like an outdoor brunch party, with tent seating, live music, locally roasted coffee, and Off the Shelf’s cheesy, zesty, onion jam–slathered egg sandwiches, which alone are worth the trip.

Clam Box of Ipswich, Ipswich

Let’s give Mother Nature her due: The best fried clams begin with uncommonly sweet, grit-free, and delicious Ipswich clams, hand-dug from the mud flats along the Essex River. For more than 80 years, this clam box–shaped shack with a perpetual line out the door has worked a bit of extra magic with its local treasure. Fresh-shucked whole bellies are bathed in evaporated milk, lightly floured, and—only when ordered—twice fried in a bubbling-hot blend of vegetable and beef oil to emerge crisp, golden, and flavorful. 978-356-9707

Harvard General StoreHarvard

Like general stores of yore, this community hub in drowsy little Harvard multitasks: It’s a breakfast spot, wine shop, burger joint, farmers’ market, gift emporium, vegetarian restaurant, bike shop, and entertainment venue. When a bold sign above the front windows read “Concord General Store” for a few days last fall, the 1850 building was playing its coolest role yet. Look for it late this year when Little Women, starring Emma Watson and Meryl Streep, hits the big screen. 978-430-0062

Gibson’s Dairy FarmWorcester

Gibson’s Dairy still home-delivers glass bottles of milk, and its big red barn ice cream stand is equally an anomaly. You’ll forget you’re within Worcester city limits as you savor butter pecan scoops loaded with whole pecans while your wide-eyed kids dig into enormous, old-school banana splits. Some 60 dairy-made flavors, perfected over more than 75 years—plus dozens of soft-serve, sherbet, and frozen yogurt options—can be mixed, sprinkled, and sundae-fied to your specs. Amanda Gibson’s puppet-and-creature-filled art studio across the parking lot is a bonus treat. 508-753-1095

Quahog Republic Waterfront EateryOnset

There’s a gargantuan amount of fresh-shelled claw and tail in the Monsta Lobsta roll at this indoor-outdoor eatery, ideally sandwiched between Onset Beach and the town band shell. With a side of truffle fries, it’s a meal for two, so don’t flinch at the price. You’re going to want to snap souvenir photos with this beast before you drizzle on drawn butter and devour every morsel. When this outpost closes for the season, you can still slay the King Kong of lobster rolls at the Quahog Republic Dive Bar in Falmouth. 508-295-9300

Reunion, North Grafton

Order a flight, and settle back to sample four brews from the LOL-funny craft-draft menu. It’s obligatory to try one of three anything-but-routine poutines and a warm-from-the-oven Wicked Twisted pretzel, too. The cofounders and the landlord of North Grafton’s own gourmet pretzel bakery have teamed to bring this all-ages-friendly, rustic-steampunk tavern to life. From here, your meal is off on flights of seasonally inspired comfort-food fancy. Pair innovative favorites such as a maple-brined, whiskey-glazed pork chop with some of New England’s edgiest beers. Generous portion sizing means you can anticipate a reunion with leftovers. 774-293-5501


Best of Massachusetts 2019 | MGM Springfield Hotel

Nobnocket Boutique InnVineyard Haven

In a sequestered, estate-like setting with an up-island feel, yet just a half mile from the ferry dock and Vineyard Haven’s hopping Main Street, Simon and Annabelle Hunton strive year-round to convince guests they’re not staying at a B&B. The innkeepers’ personal guidance unravels the mysteries and diversity of Martha’s Vineyard. Ultra-contemporary, Zen-like interiors create the sense you’ve crashed an elite designer’s secret sanctuary. Spend your day wandering the gardens, borrowing bicycles, and exploring the island. You’ll return to your expansive room unwound, refreshed, wiser. 508-696-0859

Shawme-Crowell State Forest CampgroundSandwich

Sandy shore and tranquil forest—both sides of Cape Cod can be your playground all week for less than you’d pay for a single night at a family resort. So pack up your kids, the dog, and a tent (or reserve a yurt if you’re new to camping) and enjoy evenings by a campfire at your private site after days of hiking this 700-acre preserve or swimming in relatively warm bay waters. It’s a little-advertised perk that campers here enjoy free access to nearby Scusset Beach. And even more obscure that mushroom foragers love these woods. 508-888-0351

Inn on BoltwoodAmherst

The 90-something Lord Jeffery Inn has a new, culturally sensitive name in 2019, completing a makeover that also earned this Amherst College–owned property a level of green certification rare for a historic hotel. Many of this decade’s environmentally attuned updates are invisible to guests: geothermal heating and cooling, energy-recovery ventilation, efficient plumbing. But one is so obviously cool, you’ll wonder why it’s not in use everywhere. When you exit and take your key, all but the outlets you need to charge devices will automatically power down. 413-256-8200

Concord’s Colonial InnConcord

As you climb the main inn’s stairs to your room or sip spiced rum and cider in the dark wood-paneled Village Forge Tavern, your senses will detect the invisible residue of momentous people and events. The oldest of interconnected inn buildings has overlooked Monument Square since 1716, and at the time of the Battle of Concord it was home to Dr. Minot, who tended to wounded minutemen. Rooms have details that have persisted through myriad renovations: You might walk the original wide-plank pine floors or dream beneath a hand-hewn post-and-beam ceiling. The choicest suite was once Henry David Thoreau’s residence. 978-369-9200

Briarcliff Motel, Great Barrington

There are so many efficiencies to staying at this mod, clean, hospitable motel. No fumbling for keys: Just punch in your room access code. No Yelping for breakfast: A creative spread including homemade granola and locally roasted coffee is included. The woodsy-chic common area is stocked with borrowable games and DVDs. You don’t even have to go hunting for mountain highs. Sit by the fire pit out front and watch the sun dip behind Monument Mountain. If you’d like to climb this manageable hill, the trailhead is right across the street. 413-528-3000

MGM SpringfieldSpringfield

The name may scream Vegas, but this 250-room hotel’s design celebrates its location in New England’s most literary valley. Whimsical light fixtures pay homage to Springfield native Dr. Seuss. Spruce-green walls are graced with story-prompt prints and propped-open books. Hallway carpets woven with Emily Dickinson stanzas make the Amherst-born poet sound like an ahead-of-her-time online reviewer: “How mighty t’was, to stay / A guest in this stupendous place.” Standard rooms are spacious; suites, including some with private rooftop garden access, are high roller–worthy. And the $960 million resort’s gaming, dining, spa, and entertainment enticements are an elevator ride away. 413-273-5000

Hawthorne Hotel, Salem

Would you really visit Salem without your black cat? Of course not. So it’s crucial to know that pets of all stripes are welcome in this landmark 1925 hotel’s lobby and sixth-floor guest rooms. Noisy toys to bat around await arriving cats. Dogs get extra-special treatment, including snacks baked by Salem’s New England Dog Biscuit Company and a room service menu featuring chef-cooked entrées. You’re steps away, too, from dog-friendly outdoor-seating restaurants like the Lobster Shanty and Gulu-Gulu Café. 978-744-4080

The Groton InnGroton

A 2011 fire left the building unsalvageable and a community bereft of its storied hub: a 1678 hotel whose threshold was crossed by Paul Revere and several presidents. The all-new Groton Inn, which debuted in May 2018, resembles and memorializes its predecessor while exciting travelers with its contemporary, homey rooms; indoor and outdoor social spaces; and high-energy, open-kitchen Forge & Vine restaurant with its eight-foot-long wood grill. Splurge on a Gibbet Hill–view room, and gaze out at serene farmland dotted with Black Angus cows. 978-448-6600

Harbor Light InnMarblehead

If you were spun dizzy and plopped in Marblehead, you might initially think you’d landed in a European village. Then you would start to walk narrow streets—past sherbet-colored shops and galleries, historic homes, seafood restaurants—and wonder why this now-obviously-New-England town seems so uncrowded. The best discovery? You’re staying at a B&B as romantically authentic as these just-outside-the-door delights. There’s a pub, a pool, an expansive breakfast buffet, so stash your car keys—you won’t need them. 781-631-2186

The Lake House Guest Cottages of the BerkshiresLanesborough

At four years old, this collection of cottages still has the cheery smack of newness, and with layouts that sleep six to 14 people, you can rent one or all—including the Lake House Lodge, with its chef’s kitchen and wraparound porch—by the night or week, then invite your expanded circle to join you. Bring your own boat or Jet Ski, or hop aboard the resort’s water shuttle for a mountain-view mini voyage across Pontoosuc Lake to the restaurant at sister property the Proprietor’s Lodge. 413-446-0017


Best of Massachusetts 2019 | Crane Beach
Sarah Rydgren/Trustees of Reservations

Crane BeachIpswich

Once you’re on the ocean side of the textured-green dunes, you won’t see cars or many signs of civilization. The rushing sounds, the foam swirls, the four miles of natural sand … they haven’t changed much in 500 years. With dune trails to hike, Crane Outdoor Adventures programming, and the Crane Estate with its Inn at Castle Hill to explore, unplugged never means bored at this beach. 978-356-4351

Cisco BrewersNantucket

It’s a nonstop party at this dog-and-kid-friendly mini village, where Nantucket’s only craft brewery and its winery and distillery sisters showcase their liquid artistry. Bike the 2.5 miles inland or catch the free seasonal shuttle from downtown, and join locals and tourists who know they’ll find live music and the island’s best food trucks here (mmm … Millie’s tacos). Seats at beer hall–style communal tables under the sun are quickly claimed by fans of Cisco’s unique beers, which include Gripah, a grapefruit IPA that drinks easy as a day at the beach. 508-325-5929

Ioka Valley Farm, Hancock

The cuteness factor runs high at this seasonally morphing agri-tainment destination. A working dairy from 1936 to 1996, its prescient owners realized that keeping these mountain-view lands in the family required diversification. Now, the sugarhouse and breakfast Calf-A lure maple lovers each spring. Barnyard animals, a farm-themed playground, racing rubber ducks, wiggle cars, and hands-on activities keep kids giggling gleefully on summer days … until parents drop the news it’s time to leave. 413-738-5915

Boarding with the Bixbys at Old Sturbridge VillageSturbridge

Were you born in the wrong century? Dress in vintage garb, from bonnet to petticoat or tall hat to trousers; forge a keepsake in the blacksmith shop; slop the pigs; knead dough; mull apple cider with a red-hot poker; roast meat over a roaring fire; swap stories; flop down on your rope bed for the night; wake early to milk the cows. By the time you smell green coffee beans roasting in a pan, you’ll have your answer. These 19th-century overnights are available on select dates for up to six participants 10 and up. 800-733-1830

Edaville Family Theme ParkCarver

Small fry around the world are gaga for Thomas the Tank Engine, so don’t be surprised to hear accents and languages from far away when you visit the home of North America’s largest Thomas-themed attraction. What’s hooked generations on this manageably sized amusement park, though, is its blend of rides and outdoorsy activities: everything from fishing to trekking the Dino Land trail to see life-size animatronic dinosaurs. Character visits and holiday events add fresh excitement, as will this summer’s debut of a cooling splash pad. 508-866-8190

Pirate’s CoveSouth Yarmouth

No yo-ho-holiday on Cape Cod is complete without a competitive round of putting for family supremacy at this photo op–filled adventure course. There are two 18-hole options—one with ramps, one with stairs—and each takes you deep into a land of shipwrecks, rapscallions, and sharks. Along the way, you can blast water cannons, duck beneath waterfalls, and brush up on your New England pirate lore. The swashbuckling soundtrack will supercharge your appetite for ice cream at the arcade and gift shop o’ pirate bling. 508-394-6200

Cape Cod Chamber OrchestraHarwich Port

See a need; fill it. That formula has catapulted many 20-something entrepreneurs to greatness. And yet Matthew Scinto’s 2018 startup seems particularly gutsy. A Cape Cod transplant with a newly minted doctoral degree in conducting, he’s assembled a dynamic young cadre of professional musicians and already forged collaborative inroads with local arts organizations. Concerts at acoustically superb Pilgrim Congregational Church feature rousing reinterpretations of classics and fresh works by a composer-in-residence. You can’t listen without feeling moved and awed by this effort to make chamber music a 21st-century living thing. 508-432-1668

Matouk Factory StoreFall River

You may know Matouk’s exquisitely fine, hand-detailed linens from luxury hotel stays or decor magazines. As this third-generation-owned business celebrates 90 years of fashioning dream-quality bedding, towels, robes, and home accessories, gift yourself these status goods without paying luxury prices by going straight to the source. Outside and in, where you can observe whirring looms and artisans at work through glass walls, this solar-powered factory is astonishingly clean and pretty. Savings of 20 to 60 percent off retail and free-with-purchase incentives soften the cost of softening your world. 508-742-1500

Fruitlands MuseumHarvard

Just over a century ago, Clara Endicott Sears began transforming the site of a short-lived Transcendentalist utopia into a museum of eclectic things: Shaker and Native American artifacts, Hudson River School landscapes, middle-class American portraits. You’d have to go to Colonial Williamsburg to see a larger collection of creepy-eyed, folk-art folks. But why would you, when Fruitlands’ buildings are set on 210 trail-looped acres with mesmerizing mountain views right from the cafe? Since inheriting the property in 2016, the Trustees of Reservations has introduced new enticements, from Native American flute-making classes to night hikes. 978-456-3924

Thunderbolt Mountain Coaster at Berkshire EastCharlemont

Don’t let the tranquil motion of the ascent fool you. Once your coaster car’s set loose and gravity is boss, those trees you admired on the 1,580-foot climb will blur in a leafy kaleidoscope. Kids as young as 9 can drive, as young as 3 can ride, and hand brakes do allow you to slow down as you dip, twist, corkscrew, and dive. But hurtling down North America’s longest mountain coaster track at what feels like luge-gone-wild speed is easiest on your backside. 413-339-6617

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