Hi everyone! Today’s post is going to cover all things New England! Being Boston-born & raised, all of New England feels like home to me. From summers swimming along the Maine coast to beach walks in Rhode Island to autumn hikes in New Hampshire to ski days in Vermont to college fun in southern Connecticut, I traverse New England often. Growing up in New England has allowed me to see so much. Each of the states offers unique scenery and activities, and are all within driving distance of one another. If you’ve never been to New England, I highly recommend visiting a few of the states during a road trip! And if you have been, or even live in one of these states, I hope this New England bucket list provides you with some new trip ideas!
New England is the northeastern region of the United States comprising of 6 states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. These states are some of the oldest in the United States and are known for their Colonial past. Also, the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut are known for their Atlantic Ocean coastlines. New Hampshire and Vermont are known for their mountain ranges and colorful autumn foliage. Boston, the capital of Massachusetts, is the largest city in New England and is known for its history!
Disclaimer: This list doesn’t cover all of New England’s sights, just my personal recommendations!
Let’s jump into the New England bucket list!
State #1: Maine
Ahhhh beautiful Maine! Maine is known for its charming coastal towns in the south, Acadia National Park in the north, and a whole lot of lakes everywhere else. Maine is the largest state in New England and borders Canada in several places. I recommend visiting southern Maine and sightseeing the towns and lighthouses along the coast. Oh, and don’t leave without eating a lobster roll!
1. Acadia National Park & Bar Harbor
I actually have never been here, but plan on visiting with my boyfriend this summer! Bar Harbor is located about 4 hours north of Boston and is the “gateway to Acadia”. If camping in the park isn’t your thing, check out the quaint hotels and restaurants located here instead!
My friend Emily recommends watching the sunrise from the top of Cadillac mountain. Acadia gets the first sunrise in US each morning, so don’t miss it!
2. Visit Portland
Old Port waterfront has tons of shops and restaurants to check out. If you’re over the age of 21, spend the day at one of Portland’s several breweries! I also recommend seeing the Portland Head Lighthouse.
3. Ogunquit & Marginal Way
One of my favorite coastal towns in Maine! If you’re looking for an activity to do here, check out Marginal Way, a one-mile coastal walk with several benches along the way for enjoying the scenery!
Another charming coastal town in southern Maine! Check out Dock Square for shopping, dining, art galleries, and more. Also, take a historic trolley ride for some sightseeing and a visit to the Bush family compound.
5. Shop at the Kittery Outlets
Located right across the Maine border from New Hampshire, Kittery is famous for its shopping outlets. Here’s a store directory. Happy shopping!
Also, check out nearby Fort Foster Park for a fun beach day!
6. Old Orchard Beach
One of the tourist “hot-spots” in Maine- my boyfriend’s grandparents have a condo here so I’ve visited and gone camping. Besides the beach, there’s a fun boardwalk and amusement park!
7. Nubble Lighthouse in Cape Neddick
Probably the most well-known lighthouse in Maine. It was put into use in 1879 after Congress funded its build and is still in use today.
You can drive to the lighthouse by plugging this address into your GPS:
Sohier Park Rd, York, ME 03909
Pro-tip: Traveling with young children? Check out nearby York’s Wild Kingdom!
State #2: New Hampshire
New Hampshire really has it all! The Atlantic coastline, charming historical towns, mountains, lakes, ski resorts, and even indoor waterparks. I spend most of my time in mid-New Hampshire, about two hours north of Boston, where most of the lakes and ski resorts are located. Growing up, we had a home near Mount Sunapee in Grantham, New Hampshire, close to Dartmouth College where my dad and grandad went to school. I love hiking in this area and highly recommend visiting the mountains in September or October when the fall foliage is at its peak.
A quaint, historic coastal city in New Hampshire with more restaurant seats than residents! Yup, Portsmouth has more restaurants per square mile than they do people! This city has a booming arts district and also happens to be the future hometown of my parents. Can’t wait to visit ya, Karen & Rick!
2. Lake Winnipisauke & Wolfeboro
Lake Winni is huge. It’s the largest lake in New Hampshire and is located in the Lakes Region of the state in the White Mountains. There are several towns that border the lake, but I recommend visiting Wolfeboro and checking out its charming harbor.
Pro-tip: Lake Winni is best explored by boat. Rent one for the day if you don’t own one!
3. Ski the White Mountains
New Hampshire is home to several fantastic ski resorts, including Bretton Woods, Loon, and Cannon- all of which happen to be situated in the White Mountains.
Doable in a day trip from the Boston area, get up early and hit the slopes! Avoid weekends and school breaks if you can, as most New Englanders flood the mountains then.
4. Visit the Ice Castles
Ice Castles are located in Colorado, Utah, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Canada, and New Hampshire. The ones in New Hampshire are located in Woodstock, NH and are open seasonally from January-March each year (weather permitting). Fun to explore for all ages, here’s the website to learn more!
Pro-tip: Reserve tickets online and in advance for this activity! Time slots tend to book up fast.
5. Mount Washington Resort
Located near Bretton Woods and the Mt. Washington Cog Railway, this hotel is a stunning place to stay year-round.
6. Franconia Notch State Park
Some friends and I camped here a few summers ago and had a blast checking out the various trails and waterfalls located within this state park. Also located within the White Mountains, I recommend starting your trip at the Visitor’s Center to collect a trail map and check out Flume Gorge.
7. Drive along the Kancamagus Highway (Route 112)
Known as New England’s best scenic drive, this highway runs laterally through northern New Hampshire and is 56 miles long. Be aware of windy turns at times, but enjoy the beautiful scenery- especially in autumn.
8. North Conway
North Conway is the center of year-round northern New Hampshire activities. Located at the base of the White Mountains, North Conway is the perfect destination for a fall hiking trip or winter ski trip.
9. Swim in Diana’s Baths
Also located in the White Moutains and easily accessible from North Conway, Diana’s Baths is a hot-spot for tourists and New Englanders alike in the summer months. The small waterfalls found here are perfect for swimming, especially for kids.
Pro-tip: Here’s the address to reach the falls:
3725 West Side Rd, Bartlett, NH 03812
State #3: Vermont
I love Vermont. It’s such a nice getaway from the hustle and bustle of Greater Boston. Vermont is also known for its mountains- I recommend hiking and skiing the Green Mountains and spending a fall or winter weekend away in one of the Vermont’s charming towns. I recently visited Woodstock and fell in love with its covered bridges and quaint cafes. Northern Vermont is home to Lake Champlain and Burlington, VT. My cousins both went to UVM, so I’ve been to Burlington a few times and highly recommend it!
1. Quechee Gorge
My boyfriend and I recently took a day trip to VT and I couldn’t recommend a visit here enough. Park at the Visitor’s Center and follow the trail through the woods down the side of the gorge until you reach the bottom. Check out the rocks here- many people swim in the summer months!
2. Visit Woodstock
Woodstock is one of the most charming towns I’ve ever been to. Known for its countless cover bridges, I recommend visiting in the summer or fall. Don’t forget your camera!
3. Burlington & Lake Champlain
Burlington is one of Vermont’s most northern cities (about 4 hours from Boston) and is home to UVM! I recommend pit-stopping in Burlington if you’re road tripping to Canada from the Boston-area. My boyfriend and I did this on our way back from Montreal!
Burlington’s lake front is lovely to bike along in the summer months, and so is a stroll down Church Street- Burlington’s downtown, pedestrian-only area. Here you’ll find tons of shops, restaurants, and Ben & Jerry’s ofcourse!
4. Winter Weekend in Stowe
Also located about 4 hours north of Boston is Stowe, VT! I haven’t been here in years, but Stowe is the perfect place for a winter weekend getaway. I recommend checking out Stowe Mountain Resort if you like to ski and visiting the area in the fall if you like to hike.
5. Ski at Killington
Killington Ski Area is the largest ski mountain in the eastern United States and is known as the “Beast of the East”. If you can’t make it out west of ski season, brave the slopes here!
State #4: Massachusetts
Massachusetts is the hub of New England activity and is the most populated state in the region. Most of Mass is full of suburban neighborhoods, but there is so much to see! Outside of Boston’s sightseeing and sports teams, there’s Cape Cod and the Islands, Cape Ann (Rockport & Gloucester), spooky Salem, and the Berkshires in western Massachusetts.
I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. Maybe I’m just biased, but everyone should visit Boston in their lifetime. We have the history, the sports, the schools, the seasons, the architecture, the harbor…. must I go on?
Full blog post on Boston coming soon, but here are the bucket list highlights:
- Red Sox game at Fenway Park (and be sure to order a Fenway Frank)
- Shop in Faneuil Hall & grab a bite to eat in the Quincy Market
- Italian dinner in the North End (don’t forget to grab a treat at Mike’s Pastry afterwards- not Modern, Mike’s- Bostonians feud over this, but I stand by my recommendation)
- Walk the Freedom Trail to learn all about American history
- Stroll through picturesque Beacon Hill (Acorn Street in particular for photos)
- Enjoy the Boston Common & the Public Garden
- Shop on Newbury Street
- Explore the Seaport (perfect for Happy Hour) (or any hour really)
2. Visit Minuteman National Historical Park
Located in Lexington and Concord, Minuteman National Park is the site of America’s Revolutionary War! Reenactments occur here often along with frequent historical tours.
Pro-tip: Looking for something more active? Check out the Minuteman Bikeway, a 10-mile paved path passing through the towns of Bedford, Lexington, Arlington, and Cambridge.
3. Cape Cod & The Islands
A trip down the Cape is a can’t miss bucketlist item. If you’re unfamiliar, the Cape is the “arm” of Massachusetts and consists of well-known vacation towns such as Falmouth, Chatham (where the Great Whites are spotted every summer!), Wellfleet, and Provincetown, or P-Town. P-Town is the very tip of the “arm” and is known for its artists and thriving LGBTQ+ community!
I will probably end up doing a full post on the Cape since there is SO much to do and see, but here are the highlights I recommend:
- Visit the Cape Cod National Seashore beaches (Wellfleet Beachcomber is a favorite)
- Shop in downtown Falmouth Village
- Camp in Nickerson State Park
- Bike along the path from Falmouth to Woods Hole
- Happy Hour at Chatham Bars Inn
The Massachusetts islands are Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. In Martha’s Vineyard you have to explore Oak Bluffs and the famous carousel there. Also, I recommend jumping off the Jaws bridge in Edgartown if you’re feeling adventurous and splashing in the giant waves at Katama/South beach if you’re feeling even more adventurous.
Pro-tip: No car? No problem. My boyfriend and I rented a moped for a day for $100 when we were 17 and had a blast cruising around the island!
I’ve only been to Nantucket a few times. It’s smaller than Martha’s Vineyard, but is equally as luxurious. The town of Nantucket is famous for it wharves, cobblestone streets, and high-end boutiques.
Day trips are doable to both islands from the Cape and ferries run daily!
Rockport is located in northeast Massachusetts in a region known as Cape Ann. This is also where you’ll find the coastal towns of Gloucester, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Essex!
Rockport is one of my favorite places to visit for a day trip. I recommend spending the day exploring the sea rocks at Halibut Point State Park (dog friendly!) and then hitting the downtown for a seafood lunch and some shopping! Check out nearby Good Harbor and Long Beach if you’re interested in a beach day, but be sure to arrive early- the parking lots here fill up fast!
5. Visit Salem in October
Salem is magical year-round, but visiting in October really is an experience. Famous for its 1692 witch trials, in which several locals were publicly executed for believed practice of witchcraft, Salem is fun to explore. Downtown Salem also has several charming shops and restaurants. My favorite is the Ugly Mug Diner for brunch!
6. The Berkshires
The Berkshires is the region in the far west of Massachusetts known for its Bed & Breakfasts, art community, farm-to-table food scene, and outdoor activities. A visit to the Birkshires is best in the fall when the region is the most scenic.
I also recommend visiting the Quabbin Reservoir in western Massachusetts. Not only does it supply most of Mass’s water, but it’s a beautiful place to hike!
Pro-tip: Feeling crafty? Check out Snow Farm, an art school in Williamsburg, MA. My mom and I have taken several art classes here, including painting and pottery!
State #5: Rhode Island
Rhode Island is the smallest state in New England and has a beautiful southern coast, where you will find the Narragansett beaches and Newport. Newport is one of my favorite getaway spots in New England- don’t miss it! Providence, the capital, is full of well-known college campuses and Federal Hill, the charming Italian district. Although small, don’t skip over this state!
My favorite place in Rhode Island! Newport is home to the Cliff Walk, a 3-mile coastal walk which passes Newport’s famous Breaker mansions. If you want to explore this area, I recommend parking on Salve Regina’s campus for the walk!
Although summer is the best time to explore Newport’s coast and charming downtown (GREAT shopping!), check out the Breakers around Christmastime! The mansions are decorated beautifully for the holiday season and holiday-themed tours are offered annually.
2. Block Island
It’s easy to access Block Island by ferry from the Narragansett area in southern Rhode Island. The ferry ride is about an hour and will bring you right to the charming downtown. My friend Matt and I explored some of the shops downtown and rented bikes- the preferred method of exploring the island!
We biked all around Block Island, with the highlights being visits to the Southeast Lighthouse and Mohegan Bluffs. Mohegan Bluffs are giant cliffs with a picturesque staircase that descends down to one of Block Island’s most popular beaches. Don’t leave the island without snapping a photo here!
3. Wicked Tulips Flower Farm
I think this is one of the lesser known ideas on this New England bucket list, but I promise you won’t want to miss it.
Located in Exeter, Rhode Island, this tulip farm is open annually each spring and allows visitors to hand-pick tulips to bring home. They provide you with the cutest wicker baskets and allow you to pick 10 flowers to bring home. Not only did my family and I get the best photos here, but the tulips here are STUNNING. Rows after rows of them, just like there are in the Netherlands, right here in Rhode Island. Check it out!
PS. We took my mom here for Mother’s Day and she loved it!
4. Federal Hill in Providence
Providence is the capital of Rhode Island and has a lot to offer. From the WaterFire event each summer to the giant Providence Place Mall to Brown & PC, there’s a lot going on.
My favorite area in Providence is the quaint, Italian district called Federal Hill. My boyfriend went to college right outside of Providence so I came here often when I visited! I recommend Costantino’s for authentic Italian cuisine!
State #6: Connecticut
And finally, this brings us Connecticut! Connecticut’s capital is Hartford, and although it’s not my favorite city, Connecticut has several charming towns that I recommend visiting. The Atlantic coast has towns such as Old Saybrook and Mystic. As you drive along 95 into southern Connecticut, you’ll hit Fairfield county. I’ve spent the past four years of my life living here for college, so it has a special place in my heart. Maybe I’m just biased, but I do think Fairfield county is worth the visit, especially to see towns like Westport and Greenwich, two of the wealthiest places in the US.
1. Old Saybrook
Located in southern Connecticut at the mouth of the Connecticut river, Old Saybrook is a charming coastal town with an eclectic downtown and stunning lighthouse.
Another charming coastal Connecticut town with an historical downtown, several dining options, and an aquarium! This area was once a significant Connecticut seaport and has an interesting boating history.
3. Explore Fairfield County
This bucketlist item is totally biased since I went to Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut for undergrad, but I think Fairfield county really is worth the visit.
Not only does the town of Fairfield have the BEST restaurants I’ve ever been to (full blog post on them linked here), but Fairfield county is also home to the picturesque towns of Greenich, Southport, and Westport, some of the wealthiest towns in the US.
If you watch your fair share of HGTV like I do, you will definitely want to take a drive through some of Greenwich’s neighborhoods and admire the luxurious downtown of Westport, CT.
4. Shops at Yale in New Haven
New Haven is a fun city to hangout in because of its high population of students! There are several universities in the area, with the most well-known probably being Yale. The Shops at Yale are a nice part of the city to hangout in.
Interested in hearing more about New England? I cover all 6 of the states along with other hot-spots in the United States in episode one of The Abroad Pod podcast!
Ep. 9: Happy Wednesday! This episode is all about bucket lists! My favorite things! I walk through my own travel bucket lists, including which countries I plan on visiting before I die, visiting all 7 Wonders of the World, all 50 states, and more. Do you have a bucket list? You’ll want to make one after this episode. Continuing with the Caribbean, this weeks destination segment is all about Aruba. I cover how to get there, where to stay, and what to do. Tune in now!
Aruba Blog Post: https://theabroadblog.com/2020/07/09/aruba-travel-guide/
That’s all for my New England bucket list! I hope you all got some new ideas from this list and check out some of these places soon. Since New England is fairly small, it’s easy to see a lot. Fill up your gas tank, grab a friend, hit the road, and cross a few more sights (and states) off your bucket list.
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