Main Streets Market and Cafe at 42 Main Street in historic town center of Concord, Massachusetts MA, USA.

8 of the Most Unique Towns in Massachusetts

As one of the oldest American colonial states, Massachusetts has had centuries to accrue unique and noteworthy people, places, and events, and it has. Massachusetts has a long history of producing the best and the brightest with many significant historical and influential figures born in this state. From Benjamin Franklin, Emily Dickinson, John Adams, John F. Kennedy, Sylvia Plath, and even the notorious Lizzie Borden, Massachusetts has one of the highest per capita of influential people amongst all the American states. Besides people, Massachusetts also has many unique natural features, including many waterfalls, impressive cave systems, and one fantastic hot spring, and, not to be forgotten, there is also Massachusetts's fascinating role in the Revolutionary War. As a consequence of all these fascinations, it is no wonder that there are so many unique towns in the state. For those looking to visit Massachusetts, we have compiled some of the most unique towns in the state. But remember, these are just the tip of the iceberg of unique Massachusetts towns.


Aerial view of Salem historic city center including Salem Witch Museum and Andrew Safford House in city of Salem, Massachusetts
Aerial view of Salem historic city center including Salem Witch Museum and Andrew Safford House in city of Salem, Massachusetts

Between February 1692 and the summer of 1693, the Massachusetts town of Salem was the site of the infamous Salem witch trials. Over a year and a half, 200 people were accused of ‘doing the devil’s magic,’ with 20 people found guilty of witchcraft and executed. Today, Salem is a popular tourist destination because of both the witch trials and the play The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s fictionalization of the trials as an allegory for McCarthyism. For those wanting to learn about the Salem Witch Trials, there is a range of sites to visit. First, there is the Rebecca Nurse Homestead, the only home of a Salem Witch Trial victim that tourists can explore. Then there is the Danvers Witch Trials Memorial, which marks the names of each victim while also providing them with a burial of sorts, as the victims were not given a proper burial when they were executed. Finally, there is the Witch House, this the home of one of the presiding judges of the witch trials, Judge Jonathan Corwin. 


Streetscape of High Street in downtown Dedham, via quiggyt4 /
Streetscape of High Street in downtown Dedham, via quiggyt4 /

The town of Dedham, Massachusetts, was founded in 1636 and is tied for second, behind Agawam, in terms of being the oldest town in Massachusetts. Because of this long history, there are many historical sites in town, the most noteworthy being the Fairbanks House. The modern practice of dendrochronology has dated the timbers used on the Fairbanks House to somewhere between 1637 and 1641, making it the Oldest remaining timber-frame house in North America. Mostly unchanged since it was first built, the Fairbanks House Historical Foundation cares for this piece of history. Offering public tours from May through October, exploring the Fairbanks House provides a unique window into how colonialists lived in North America during the first half century of English colonization.


Aerial view of the Thompson Memorial Chapel on the campus of Williams College in Williamstown
Aerial view of the Thompson Memorial Chapel on the campus of Williams College in Williamstown

While the United States has a good number of natural hot springs, they are found primarily in the country's center. It is rare to find hot springs in any coastline adjacent state, especially those along the Atlantic coast. However, Williamstown, Massachusetts, is the exception to the rule. In town, you will find Sand Springs Pool & Recreation Center, where you can enjoy swimming in a large pool fed by the local warm spring. Because Sand Springs has an ambient temperature lower than 98°F, it does not qualify as a hot spring, but rather it is a warm spring. For over 250 years, people have been visiting Sand Spring for its healing properties. Today, there is access to the waters from Massachusetts’s only warm spring at the Sand Springs Pool & Recreation Center, 2.5 miles north of Williamstown-proper, in the Mountain Meadow Preserve. For those looking to visit Sand Springs Pool & Recreation Center. If you are wanting to experience these warm springs, make sure to visit Williamstown in the summer, as this site closes during the colder months of the year.


Central Street at Heywood Place, Gardner Massachusetts, via By John Phelan - Own work, CC BY 3.0,
Central Street at Heywood Place, Gardner Massachusetts, via By John Phelan - Own work, CC BY 3.0, File:Central Street at Heywood Place, Gardner MA.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

For those who love horror movies or a good haunted house, a visit to Gardner, Massachusetts, home to one of the state’s most notable haunted houses, is for you. The SK Pierce Haunted Victorian Mansion sits on the corner of West Broadway and Union Street in Gardner. Commissioned by SK Pierce as a family home, it completed construction in 1875. For a short few days, all was well until Susan Pierce, wife of SK Pierce, died of necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease) and died in the Pierce Mansion. A few years later, in 1888, after SK Pierce had remarried, he, too  died in the house. Next to die was SK Pierce’s second wife, Ellen, and then, after a battle over ownership of the house, Edward Pierce, son of SK Pierce, took possession of the house only to have his two-year-old daughter, Rachel Pierce, die in the house as well. The final death in the SK Pierce Mansion was a boarder who, in 1963, burned alive in his bed with no explanation nor damage to the mansion.

With all these deaths, thinking this mansion is haunted is understandable, especially when those who have stayed overnight in the house have claimed to have seen a shadowy figure,  heard the pitter-patter of disembodied feet, and seen a dark-haired woman with a creepy smile. Today, you can pay to stay over at the SK Pierce Mansion, but you may be waiting a while, as there are over 3,000 people on the waitlist.


 Route 71 westbound entering Egremont, By John Phelan - Own work, CC BY 3.0,
 Route 71 westbound entering Egremont, By John Phelan - Own work, CC BY 3.0, File:Route 71 westbound entering Egremont MA.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Welcome to Egremont, Massachusetts, the closest incorporated town to Bash Bish Falls, in Bash Bish Falls State Park. These falls are the tallest in all of Massachusetts and have a total elevation change of 80 feet. The first 21 feet of elevation change is comprised of a 200 foot long set of cascades, at which point the Bash Bish Brook splits its stream into two sections before its final drop of 59 feet into a pool below. Access to these falls is by way of a 2.11 mile, out-and-back, trail. The Bash Bish Falls Trailhead, and its two designated parking lots, are located along Falls Road, 11 miles from Egremont. At the end of the day, head back to Egremont, where there are excellent accommodations with small-town charm, The Egremont Village Inn being a popular choice amongst Egremont visitors.

Wellfleet and Yarmouth

Uncle Tim's Bridge, in Wellfleet, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Uncle Tim's Bridge, in Wellfleet, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

As many seafaring communities do, legends of pirates and shipwrecks have been passed on through the generations in Wellfleet, Massachusett. The legend of the sinking of the pirate ship the Whydah Gally, and how much treasure it might hold, has been speculated about for centuries. The location of where the Whydah Gally sat on the seabed of the Atlantic Ocean, had been known for centuries, its sinking in 1717. But it was not until 1984 that this mystery was solved when underwater explorer Barry Clifford found the wreck. Since then, over 200,000 artifacts have been carefully removed from the remains of the Whydah Gally. 

While Wellfleet is the closest town to the wreck site of the Whydah Gally, and it was the town where Barry Clifford departed from when he discovered the ship, the majority of the artifacts from the Whydah Gally are on display at the Pirate Museum in Yarmouth, which is 33 miles southwest of Wellfleet. This museum is the only place in the world with confirmed pirate treasures and artifacts on display, making it a popular tourist destination all year round.


Outside of Atkins Farms Country Market. Selective focus on pavement, via Emma'sPhotos /
Outside of Atkins Farms Country Market. Selective focus on pavement, via Emma'sPhotos /

Before Emily Dickinson was Emily Dickinson, she was a child growing up in Amherst, Massachusetts, both born and eventually dying in the same house. Today, this very house now serves as a museum, known as The Emily Dickinson House. Part museum and part restoration of how it would have looked in Dickinson’s time, the Dickinson House is the perfect place to start your exploration of Emily Dickinson's life. This site’s fall/winter (September to December) hours are 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM Eastern time, with the house being closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and advanced tickets are now required for entrance. After exploring Dickinson’s home, you will want to head over to Amherst College, where you will find the Emily Dickinson Collection, which houses the largest collection of her manuscripts, letters, poetry, and fascicles, in the world.


Main Street in town of Concord, Massachusetts
Main Street in town of Concord, Massachusetts

On April 19, 1775, the Battles of Lexington and Concord officially began the Revolutionary War, which was fought until 1783. Today, Concord commemorates this battle in many ways. First, there is the Concord Museum, which teaches about the lead-up to the Revolutionary War and what happened on the night of April 18 and the day of April 19, 1775, which began this war in earnest, as well as it holds a collection of artifacts from when the American Revolution began. Also worth visiting is the Old North Bridge, the location of the ‘shot heard round the world’, which arguably started the Revolutionary War. On the east bank of Concord River, beside the Old North Bridge, is a statue by Daniel Chester French, known as The Minute Man, marking where the first American militia and British soldiers died during the American Revolutionary War. There is also a gravesite for the first British Soldier who died in the Revolutionary War. If you are looking to visit all these sites, you can easily walk from location to location, but you can also book a tour with a knowledgeable guide, most starting in downtown Concord.

The Take Home

With so many unique towns in Massachusetts, you might have to visit more than once to get the whole experience of this state. From many historical sites, Revolutionary War history, beautiful natural features, and some witches and ghosts to keep you on your toes, visiting Massachusetts guarantees a fascinating vacation. So the next time you start planning a trip, whether that be by yourself, with a friend or partner, or as a family with children, make sure to consider Massachusetts, where there is a unique town for everyone’s interests.

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