From the wild seacoast that beckoned Pilgrims in 1620 to the stone walls that sheltered Minutemen in 1775, Massachusetts has been the site of some of the defining moments in U.S. history. It's a land of superlatives (especially firsts and oldests). Not surprisingly, most visitors to the state go looking for things that will fulfill their vision of the nation's colonial and Revolutionary past.

Happily, Massachusetts lives up to such expectations. Its small towns remain repositories of 200-year-old homes; sailing ships continue to bob in the harbors; and fine living-history museums let travelers experience sights, sounds and activities of centuries past.

This isn't to say that Massachusetts is all picture-postcard views and well-preserved communities. It's as contemporary as any state, with a thriving arts scene, bustling nightlife and a well-developed transportation system. Taken as a whole, it's an enjoyable combination of what's now and what came before.

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