New England packs a big punch in a small package. In fact, it could easily be argued that no smaller space in the United States offers more diversity — of activity, history, culture, and geography — than this powerhouse six-state region. Its mystique is larger-than-life. And it actually lives up to it.
The hub of New England (and the capitol of Massachusetts) is Boston. Walk in the footsteps of Paul Revere; park your car in Harvard Yard (well, not literally); find the headstone of patriot Sam Adams; sit in church pews where William Lloyd Garrison offered rousing orations, stroll where Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth walked and talked; stroll Newbury Street where Armani-clad international students have staked their claim. And if possible, time your visit in May with the magnificent magnolia and tulip trees bursting forth in Boston’s Back Bay.
The history of America — at least since the early 1600s — unfolds and ripples forth from New England without peer. The region catalogs a wealth of major, major historic events: from Revolutionary outbursts in Lexington and Concord to the dreadful witch trials of Salem to the first Thanksgiving served at Plymouth Plantation.
The Berkshires offer one-stop shopping for all things cultural in the summertime; in fact, no other New England destination comes close. At the western end of the Mohawk Trail you’ll also find superb contemporary art at MassMOCA and French Impressionism at Williams College. And speaking of colleges, few regions anywhere in the country hold a candle to the five-college area of the Pioneer Valley.
Along the coast, you can plunge into the bracing Atlantic Ocean at the Cape Cod National Seashore; take a whale-watching trip from Cape Ann or Cape Cod; or ferry over to internationally-known specs of land where time stands still (in one sense), the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
Outdoor pursuits reign in New Hampshire. Hike Franconia, Pinkham, and Crawford Notches; camp anywhere along the Kancamagus Highway or at the White Mountain’s fabulous AMC huts. And scale the second most climbed mountain in the world: Mount Monadnock. Weather conditions can be killer (literally) atop Mount Washington in the summer, so be cautious. But it’s a vantage point not to be missed, no matter your choice of ascent. Strap on snowshoes and hit the trails in the White Mountain National Forest. Extensive cross-country trails are groomed in Jackson; Waterville Valley satisfies downhill and X-C skiers.
It’s not all sporting adventure, though: the history and development of New England is inextricably tied to its seaports, gorgeous Portsmouth included.
Live free or die, as they say in New Hampshire, where the first ballots of political campaigns are cast nationwide.
Ah, “Maine, the way life should be” — with its license plate adage that does a region proud. It’s mostly about the rugged coast here. (Although try telling that to the hearty folks of Inland Maine … and the ones who reach the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail at Baxter State Park … and the ones who kayak Moosehead, Rangeley and Sebago lakes.) But we digress — back to the coast lined with lobster pounds and road-trip-worthy peninsulas jutting into the sea and guarded by lighthouses. (There is a particularly noteworthy one Mid-Coast in Pemaquid, but it’s almost fool-hardly to illuminate just one here.)
Mid-Coast has some of the most iconic seaside villages in the state: including Camden; Castine and Blue Hill in East Penobscot Bay; the Boothbays; Deer Isle, Stonington and remote Isle au Haut.
In your haste to cover every two-lane road in this dense district, don’t forget about nautical miles. Consider a harbor tour out of Boothbay; an overnight windjammer excursion out of Camden; or a schooner day sail out of Bar Harbor, the tourism hub of Downeast Maine and gateway to Acadia National Park, much of which was set aside by the benevolent Rockefellers for the enjoyment of future generations. Hiking, kayaking, bike paths, and carriage roads for walking are all popular pursuits… right up there with tea and scones at the Jordan Pond House.
New England’s great little cities will keep urbanites engaged (in a quiet, escapist sort of way) for days — so don’t overlook Portland, a dignified and hip little place on the bay. And we dare you to ignore Freeport, the outlet shopping mecca where L.L. Bean is open 24/7/365.
Fall’s primo (and requisite) activity is leaf peeping, and there are no better places for it than Vermont‘s Route 100 (which runs the length of the state) and her glorious and remote Northeast Kingdom. (Then again, NH’s Kanc Highway, CT’s Litchfield Hills, and western MA’s Berkshires and Mohawk Trail might have something to say about that. But again, we digress.)
Need an excuse to get out of the car? Go in search of covered bridges (Woodstock) and artisanal cheese makers. Search out maple sugar shacks, country stores (the be-all-end-all is in Weston), quintessential town greens graced with white-steepled Congregational churches (particularly in Newfane), and the jewel-like Grafton. Or, simply count cows crowning Vermont hillsides and pastures.
For more action, kayak on Burlington‘s Lake Champlain; fly fish in the Battenkill River (in Bennington near Rockwellian Arlington); swim in an old marble quarry near Manchester, the epicenter of Green Mountain region; ski Mount Mansfield and enjoy fine dining and shopping in Stowe.
As for Little Rhody (aka Rhode Island), Providence may been seen as New England’s second sister city, but with Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design, dramatic river bonfires, and its more relaxed pace, it’s eminently enviable. In Newport, the Vanderbilts left gorgeous gilded manses which afford windows onto worlds long gone but are still so woven into the context of today. Block Island is a world unto itself.
Bridging the worlds between New England and neighboring New York, Connecticut boasts world-class art institutions at Yale University. It’s one of four Ivy League institutions in New England and put New Haven on the map – that, and the best pizza in North America. Nearby Mystic Seaport reminds us of how fortunes were made from whaling and trading with East India and the Far East. (Early hints of globalization?) Pastoral Connecticut, not to be overlooked, reigns inland, up along Connecticut River towns and through Litchfield villages.
That adage about the best things in life are free? It’s true in New England too. But you’ll need *some* money to get here, eat, sleep…
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in $US.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person
$ => Rooms less than $150 for a double
$$ => Rooms $150–$300 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $300 for a double
$ => Up to $15 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$ => $16–22 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$$ => $23 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person
Fly the Friendly Skies
Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.
But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.
Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.
That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings.
Have Car, Will Travel
Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping.
There are also name-your-own-price sites, like Priceline, where you tell ‘em what you want to pay and they hook you up with a car rental company who can fit the bill. There are some great deals here, if you are not too picky about the make and model of your rental.
Zipcar is another choice for rentals. Available in many major cities and college towns in the U.S., Zipcar is a great alternative for super-short term rentals. Picture this scenario: you are in a big city with terrific public transportation, so you don’t need a car. But then you hear about an amazing restaurant 20 miles away in the suburbs. You can’t go home without trying it. A taxi would cost a fortune. You’d have to wait a long time to get a return taxi. Open the Zipcar app; search for a nearby Zipcar locale. You need to apply for membership and download the app in advance. Memberships cost about $7 a month; rentals are about $8 to10 per hour; gas and insurance are included. Foreign drivers can apply and you don’t need to pay a monthly fee if you’re an occasional driver (from $25 per year for a membership).
Ride-sharing companies, Uber and Lyft, are also ubiquitous in major cities. Through a smart phone app, you can line up rides all over town. It’s convenient because no money changes hands (payment is made through the app) and it’s usually cheaper than a taxi. Another bonus? After requesting a ride, you can see where the driver is on a map, so you know that they are on their way and how long it will be. Try that with a cab.
Money Saving Tip: Costco, because of its behemoth size and price negotiating power, offers great low prices for most major car rental companies. Yes, you need to purchase an annual Costco membership first, but it more than pays for itself with what you’ll save with a typical week’s car rental (i.e. searches turn up a mid-size car through Costco for $225 and a comparable car through another aggregator for $325.)
Did You Know: Budget Car Rental offers drivers residing at the same address (i.e. unmarried partners or BFFs) complimentary extra driver coverage. Other car rental companies charge upwards of $10/day. By the way, when renting in California, there are no additional driver fees by law.
U.S. dollars come in $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills. They are all the same size and color, so non-Americans have an understandably tricky time telling them apart. The $2 bill is in circulation but rarely seen.
Coins in wide circulation include the penny (one cent), nickel (five cents), dime (ten cents) and quarter (25 cents). The 50-cent and one-dollar coins are seen occasionally.
Smaller businesses may not accept $50 or $100 bills, so have twenties or smaller bills in hand. ATMs usually dispense $20 bills.
If you get money from an ATM machine, you may incur charges (often $2 or $3 per transaction). Check with your bank before you leave home to find out which, if any, U.S. banks will allow you to get cash without an extra charge. Many grocery stores, gas stations and major retail outlets let you get a limited amount of cash back when paying for your goods – this is an easy way to get cash while on the go.
Credit and debit cards are accepted widely throughout the U.S.
Don’t forget to call your debit and/or credit card company before you travel to inform them of your planned itinerary. This goes for U.S. residents traveling out of state. If you don’t do this in advance, you risk having your card denied/declined when you try to use it in a destination far from home. You should also call your company immediately to report loss or theft. The numbers to call are usually on the back of the card – which doesn’t make sense if it is lost or stolen. So make a note of them and store them where you’ll have easy access.
Recently, companies have been issuing cards with embedded chips that prevent counterfeit fraud. Banks and merchants that don’t offer the chip-and-PIN technology are beginning to be held liable for fraud. Check with your bank and credit card company for details on your specific cards.