Massachusetts

Best of Massachusetts 2020 | Hall of Fame

Yankee editors pick the top dining, lodging, and attractions in Massachusetts in our first-ever Hall of Fame list.

By Yankee Editors

Apr 13 2022

Mass-Opener

Cape Cod National Seashore, Cape Cod

Photo Credit : Mark Fleming

A note from the editors: After Yankee published its summer travel guide, many of the terrific destinations that it showcases have changed their operations in light of COVID-19. But while you may not be able to dine out, book a stay, or go explore shops, museums, and other attractions right now, you can help ensure they are ready to go when the current crisis recedes. Just contact your favorite New England small business or nonprofit attraction, and they’ll be happy to tell you how. 


Cape Cod National Seashore on Cape Cod
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming
For almost half a century, Yankee’s summer travel guide has showcased New England’s must-visit destinations and diversions. This year, our first-ever Hall of Fame salutes 230 past winners that continue to wow us today.

Best of Massachusetts | Hall of Fame

DINING

Armsby Abbey Worcester

Between the artisanal beers (over 20 on tap, including multiple Hill Farmstead selects, and many more bottles and cans) and the refined grub, this tavern is a far cry from the usual. For an eye-opening gastronomic experience, pair your brew with Vietnamese brisket, poutine enriched by pulled duck confit, or some cuts from the deep list of primo farmstead cheeses. 508-795-1012; armsbyabbey.com

Back Door Donuts Oak Bluffs

If you follow a delicious bakery aroma to a long line of people on a warm summer night in Oak Bluffs, you’ll likely find yourself at the back door of, well, Back Door Donuts. The front bakery-café is open regular hours from mid-April to mid-October, but its “back door” opens from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. The pastries are made fresh in classic flavors as well as more adventurous ones (e.g., maple bacon, butternut crunch). And while you’re at it, pick up a few of the perfectly fried, equally sinful apple fritters. 508-693-3688; backdoordonuts.com

The Back Eddy Westport

The coast of Buzzards Bay has a number of places where you can see drop-dead gorgeous sunsets, but none boasts the drop-dead delicious fare served at this eatery overlooking Westport Harbor. It excels at attention-grabbing dishes such as chouriço-stuffed quahogs and wood-grilled tuna steak with house-made kimchi, and an emphasis is placed on local sourcing, from seafood to dairy, pasta, and produce. 508-636-6500; thebackeddy.com

B.T.’s Smokehouse Sturbridge

Hard-core fans of Brian Treitman’s barbecue joint remember when it was just an improvised smoker and a shack with an order counter. But the expanded restaurant digs haven’t affected the authenticity of the pork ribs and beef brisket, slow-cooked over hickory and local applewood. 508-347-3188; btsmokehouse.com

Chatham Pier Fish Market Chatham

Hike down Barcliff Avenue to this busy market on a working pier, and you might think our judgment was swayed by the setting: keening seagulls, bobbing seals, weatherworn fishing boats. But the food is the star, especially the chowder, which is rich with brine and clams, just creamy enough, and never gummy. It’s worthy of a day’s journey from wherever you are. 508-945-3474; chathampierfishmarket.com

Gibbet Hill Grill Groton

Since opening in 2004, this cozy rural steakhouse has inspired a mini empire of suburban eateries—the Bancroft in Burlington, Scarlet Oak Tavern in Hingham, Bancroft & Co. in Peabody—all run by the same family-owned restaurant group. The original endeavor, though, is still our favorite farm-to-fork destination, with produce from Gibbet Hill’s own fields going into chef Brendan Pelley’s creations. 978-448-2900; gibbethillgrill.com

The Clam Box Ipswich

Whimsically shaped like its namesake container, this local institution has been serving deep-fried seafood since the 1930s. Corn flour batter yields a superior crust, and a gentle hand with seasonings lets the clams’ natural sweetness sing out. In short, you won’t find a crispier or more honest-tasting fried clam, so don’t be put off by the long lines. 978-356-9707; clamboxipswich.com

Maison Villatte Falmouth

Boris Villatte trained with the legendary Eric Kayser and Alain Ducasse and plied his trade around the world before opening this bakery-patisserie, where his classical education shines in such treats as pain aux raisins, croissants, and fruit tarts. There’s no better baguette in New England. 774-255-1855

Mezze Williamstown

With its refined wood-beamed interior and white table linens, Mezze is the go-to for Williamstown Theater Festival patrons and fans of dramatically good bistro fare, presented here with Mediterranean flair. Owner Nancy Thomas founded Mezze in 1996 and keeps it in the culinary vanguard with off-season “R&D” menus and creative pop-up events. 413-458-0123; mezzerestaurant.com

Prairie Whale Great Barrington

Wunderkind restaurateur Mark Firth was thriving with farm-to-table restaurants in Brooklyn, but he decided to get much closer to the food sources and moved to the Berkshires. Now he raises Prairie Whale’s sheep and laying hens in nearby Monterey; produce and whole animals are sourced locally, with the latter going into a variety of expertly house-smoked or house-cured dishes. 413-528-5050; Facebook

Six Depot West Stockbridge

The brainchild of husband-and-wife team Flavio Lichtenthal and Lisa Landry, this local favorite is where community and coffee come together. Housed in a retired station building, the shop is a little bit of everything: coffee roaster, café, art gallery, event space. Come for the sweet treats, sandwiches, and salads; stay for the local artwork and maybe a performance. 413-232-0205; sixdepot.com

LODGING

Blantyre Lenox

A Berkshires country estate turned five-star hotel, Blantyre has seen its historic glamour polished to a new gloss. A multimillion-dollar renovation early in 2019 refreshed the decor and expanded the spa; dining options include a formal dining room called the Conservatory and a cozy bar with more casual fare. One thing that remains the same: guests being pampered like Gilded Age grandees. 413-637-3556; blantyre.com

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 Berkshires-made Bola granola and local coffee is included. The woodsy-chic common area is stocked with games and DVDs. You don’t even have to go hunting for mountain highs: Sit by the fire pit and watch the sun dip behind Monument Mountain. 413-528-3000; thebriarcliffmotel.com

The Charlotte Inn Edgartown

No detail is overlooked in this enclave of Edwardian stateliness. Framed with gardens, fountains, and sculpture, the inn is pure English country fantasy. Understated luxury pervades everything from the library’s leather club chairs and pastoral oil paintings to the suites’ Frette linens and impeccable period furniture. 508-627-4751; thecharlotteinn.com

Chatham Bars Inn Chatham

The c. 1914 Chatham Bars Inn has changed gracefully with the times and is the Cape’s sole surviving (now year-round) grand beachside resort. Facilities include tennis courts, a spa with its own pool, a quarter-mile beach with private cabanas, and a fleet of sailing, fishing, and tour vessels—plus four restaurants whose menus are invigorated by produce from the resort’s own eight-acre farm. 508-945-0096; chathambarsinn.com

The Inn at Castle Hill Ipswich

While it’s daunting to imagine living in the palatial Great House of the Crane Estate, the shingle-style former guesthouse has precisely the kind of seaside ease we love. Vistas from atop the knoll—marshes and beach and fairy woodlands—suggest command over all that you survey, but each of the 10 rooms is a hushed and private retreat seemingly made just for you. 978-412-2555; thetrustees.org

The Inn at Hastings Park Lexington

One block from the green where the American Revolution began, this boutique luxury inn—the only Relais & Châteaux property in the Boston area—echoes the domestic history of the 18th and 19th centuries. Dining is just steps away at the inn’s Town Meeting Bistro, which puts a creative twist on New England classics. 781-301-6660; innathastingspark.com

Land’s End Inn Provincetown

Commanding panoramic views of Cape Cod Bay and the Atlantic Ocean from its hilltop perch, this shingle-style mansion is close enough to the water that from its many decks and lookouts you can spot whales feeding offshore. The stunning vista is complemented by tasteful art and antiques and modern amenities. 508-487-0706; landsendinn.com

Mansion House Vineyard Haven

Outwardly, this hotel tips its architectural hat to the Victorian past, but inside it hews to a clean Californian sun-drenched look. Modern construction means spacious rooms with central air, soundproofing, and full-size bathrooms. Toss in a full spa, an indoor pool, a well-equipped health club, a steps-from-the-ferry location, and some pet-friendly rooms, and you end up with an unparalleled package for the price. 508-693-2200; mvmansionhouse.com

Old Inn on the Green New Marlborough

It’s unlikely that the stagecoach passengers who bedded down in this 1760s Berkshires inn enjoyed quite the same comforts as today’s guests, who sleep on bigger beds and perform ablutions in their private baths. But the restoration of the inn shows an unforced sense of history that makes a stay feel quite luxurious, even as the decor stays true to colonial-era roots. Lest anything seem too modern, the dining rooms are lit entirely by candles and fireplaces. 413-229-7924; oldinn.com

Red Lion Inn Stockbridge

Dating back to 1773, the Red Lion is known for its authentic historic character (note the working birdcage elevator), period furnishings, and long list of high-profile guests, including five U.S. presidents. But the wicker-strewn front porch is inarguably its biggest claim to fame: To sit in a rocking chair here is to understand precisely how longtime Stockbridge resident Norman Rockwell saw his town. 413-298-5545; redlioninn.com

The Wauwinet Nantucket

Let’s face it, this place ain’t cheap. Three other things are also certain: the unparalleled location (straddling a narrow spit of land between bay and ocean), impeccable service, and scads of amenities. And did we mention the food? Topper’s Restaurant was recently honored as a AAA Five Diamond award winner. Even better, the entire hotel has been left newly gleaming by a 2019 multimillion-dollar update. 508-228-0145;wauwinet.com

ATTRACTIONS

Art’s Dune Tours Provincetown

The windblown heaps of sand beside Route 6 as you approach town seem almost like a little piece of the Sahara come to New England. Art’s has been driving folks into the sand dunes on Provincetown’s Cape Cod National Seashore since 1946, and nowhere else can you get such a colorful, historical, and ecologically sensitive experience of this fragile ecosystem. 508-487-1950; artsdunetours.com

Camp Meeting Grounds Oak Bluffs

In the quiet world of whimsy officially known as the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association Campground, 19th-century homes outlined in painted filigree trim are set within a few feet from one another, looking for all the world like a dollhouse village. Most of the 300-plus “gingerbread” cottages are shuttered during winter, but in warm weather this enchanting community springs to life with walking tours, concerts, visiting speakers, family movie nights, and the famous Grand Illumination lantern festival. mvcma.org

Cape Cod National Seashore Cape Cod

Created on August 7, 1961, with JFK’s presidential pen stroke, this 43,600-acre national park gave everyone access to one of the most treasured stretches of coastline in the East; today it draws more than 5 million annual visitors annually with its endless opportunities for biking, hiking, swimming, and birding. 508-255-3421;nps.gov/caco

Crane Beach Ipswich

For sheer scenic beauty, no strand in New England can top Crane Beach’s four miles of soft white sand set against a backdrop of undulating dunes, part of a 2,100-acre historic estate overseen by the Trustees of Reservations. It’s a popular destination, but if you walk a bit, you often can find a private spot even in high summer. Shallows and tidepools call to the kids, while five-plus miles of trails traverse the sand dunes and salt marsh, opening up even more vistas. 978-356-4354; thetrustees.org

Mass MoCA North Adams

More than 100 large-scale wall drawings designed by Connecticut native Sol LeWitt are a must-see extravaganza of pattern and color at this bold museum that transformed old brick mill buildings into a center for contemporary art. Leave time to explore the entire complex, where gigantic gallery spaces let artists unleash their creativity through fascinating installations. 413-662-2111; massmoca.org

Minute Man National Historical Park Concord & Lexington

The history of the American Revolution comes alive on the five-mile Battle Road Trail between Concord and Lexington, thanks to educational plaques that spark the imagination. Highlights include the North Bridge, where the famous “shot heard ’round the world” was fired, and the park headquarters at Buttrick House, whose exhibits include the Hancock Cannon, a piece of artillery that the British were looking for when they marched into Concord. 978-369-6993; nps.gov/mima

New Bedford Whaling Museum New Bedford

Founded to preserve the history of the New Bedford whaling industry, this museum is home to the world’s most extensive collection of scrimshaw, the largest library of whaling logbooks and journals, and the biggest model ship (not to mention four complete whale skeletons). And it continues to think big, as it recently unveiled The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ’Round the World, an extensively restored 1,275-foot-long 19th-century painting that clocks in as the longest in North America. 508-997-0046; whalingmuseum.org

Old Sturbridge Village Sturbridge

Dramatic events are not the only stuff of history. This outdoor museum depicts a rural New England village and does a superb job of capturing the details of daily life from 1790 to 1840. See grain being ground into flour and a blacksmith at work, or try milking a cow, husking corn, or spinning. Heirloom gardens feature fruits, vegetables, herbs, and ornamental flowers. It all makes for a fascinating tapestry—just ask Ken Burns, who filmed his first documentary here while still a student at Hampshire College. 800-733-1830; osv.org

Peabody Essex Museum Salem

The oldest continuously operating museum in the U.S. is also one of the most ambitious. Having already expanded eight times in its history, it debuted a jaw-dropping 40,000-square-foot addition in 2019, part of a $16 million museum-wide initiative to give visitors entirely new experiences of virtually all of its collections by 2022. In addition to an array of African and Native American art and three centuries of New England art, the PEM boasts a cache of Asian art and cultural artifacts that includes the only complete Qing dynasty house located outside China. 978-745-9500; pem.org

Plimoth Plantation Plymouth

Thanks to its re-creation of a 17th-century English village and its Wampanoag Homesite (populated not by reenactors but by members of the Wampanoag Nation and other indigenous peoples), Plimoth Plantation provides an immersive, 360-degree view of history. And there’s no better time to experience it than 2020, as the museum celebrates both the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing and the return of the Mayflower II after a landmark multiyear restoration. 508-746-1622; plimoth.org

Tanglewood Lenox

Strolling the verdant 529-acre campus as the breeze carries the notes of musicians warming up, you may realize there’s no better place to spend a summer evening than at Tanglewood, the longtime seasonal home of the world-famous Boston Symphony Orchestra. Here, concertgoers ditch fancy dress for blue jeans, and dinner reservations for picnic baskets, and if the weather’s cooperating, the cheapest seats are also the best in the house: on the grass and under the stars. 413-637-5180; bso.org

Zoar Outdoor Charlemont

Founded in 1989, this adventure outfitter pioneered family-friendly white-water rafting on a 10-mile stretch of the Deerfield River. Today its offerings encompass rafting trips suitable for even the littlest paddlers as well as challenging forays into class III and IV rapids; it has guided kayaking programs and zip-line tours; and it operates a guest lodge and campground right on the river. Note: Zoar also has a second location in Wilmington, Vermont. 413-339-4010; zoaroutdoor.com

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