Made up of six unique and distinct states, New England is a region rich in history, culture, art and architecture, outdoor adventure, bustling cities, and quaint coastal towns. Its diverse offerings, all found in close proximity to one another, is what sets it apart. You can catch a ballgame at historic Fenway Park and, just over an hour later, sink your toes into the Atlantic while savoring a lobster roll on Cape Cod. From towering mountains to windswept beaches to acres of undisturbed nature, here are the best places to visit in New England!
1. Manchester, Vermont
Nestled in the captivating Green Mountains of southern Vermont, Manchester made its mark long ago as a prosperous iron-mining town, and hints of its past are still evident in the architectural details found throughout the downtown. Today it is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, offering ample space to walk, hike, bicycle, kayak and, of course, go fly fishing. In fact, here you’ll find the American Museum of Fly Fishing, with tons of rods, reels, flies, and art that tell the story of how this peaceful Vermont pastime worked its way into America’s heart.
Mount Equinox, shining all year but particularly spectacular in the fall, presides over the picturesque town. A trail will get you to the peak, but you can also drive to the top where you won’t be disappointed by the quintessential sprawling Vermont view. For an architectural indulgence, visit Hildene, the ancestral home of Robert Lincoln, the only child of President Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd to survive to maturity. The 412-acre estate is home to a stunning Georgian revival mansion and 14 historic buildings, including the home, a stunning formal garden, and an observatory.
2. Burlington, Vermont
While most associate the Green Mountain State with its exquisite natural beauty, the city of Burlington charms one and all with its pedestrian-friendly downtown peppered full of mom-and-pop shops, eateries, and happenings. Church Street Marketplace, an open-air walkable mall, encompasses four blocks of things to see, do, and taste. Cafés line the streets, and colorful umbrellas shade tables in the summertime. The Unitarian Church at the end of Church Street boasts a beautiful white steeple that reaches far into the sky, making for one of the city’s most popular spots for photos.
At the very bottom of Church Street you’ll find Burlington Waterfront Park, a stunning expanse that stretches along the Lake Champlain shoreline and offers panoramic views, a stunning bike path, and myriad events and festivals. The most populous city in Vermont, Burlington is just south of the US-Canadian border and is a great destination to visit any season of the year.
3. Stowe, Vermont
Dubbed the ski capital of the east, Stowe is best known for the resort that bears its name. Stowe Mountain Resort, surrounded by Spruce Peak and Mount Mansfield, the tallest peak in Vermont, has slopes catering to every skill level. You can climb to Mount Mansfield’s summit via the scenic Auto Toll Road. We assure you that it’s worth the journey. Stowe is the largest town in Vermont by land area, and its success was built on the agriculture and lumber industries that thrived there in the late 17th and early 19th centuries. Today, the town’s 200-year-old commercial center is a historic district with tons of quaint shops, welcoming restaurants, and lodging that ranges from quintessential New England bed and breakfasts to hotels and grand European-style lodges.
Though skiing and snowboarding take center stage in Stowe, the town is equally enchanting outside of winter. In the warmer months, hiking, dipping into swimming holes, and sky-riding or zip-lining over the valleys of flora and fauna are popular activities, and it may just be the best place to visit in New England in the fall. Mountain biking is another favorite activity, especially on the trail network at the 2,500-acre Trapp Family Lodge, founded by the Trapp family of The Sound of Music fame and a nod to their native Austria. Just a little ways north of town is the captivating Moss Glen Falls, the highlight of a three-mile trail where water cascades down a jagged, steep rock face with multiple vantage points for the perfect ’gram pic. If you aren’t up for a walk, fear not: the falls are conveniently close to the trailhead.
4. The Berkshires, Massachusetts
This rural expanse of western Massachusetts is known for being a natural wonder, a celebrity enclave, and a cradle of art and culture. Though Meryl Streep, Yo-Yo Ma, and James Taylor are just some of the glitterati who enjoy homes in the Berkshires, its most notable resident might have been famed American illustrator Norman Rockwell. He lived in the sleepy but charming town of Stockbridge, where today you can find the world’s largest collection of his original works at the Norman Rockwell Museum. Author Herman Melville also wrote Moby Dick in the Berkshires, and women’s right activist Susan B. Anthony was born and raised here.
Although there’s no place like Massachusetts in the fall, the Berkshires are particularly welcoming in the summer. Tanglewood, an open-air amphitheater, has been the outdoor summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1937. Throughout the season, music aficionados spread out picnic blankets and enjoy concerts under the stars. Encompassing part of the Taconic Mountain range, the Berkshires boast countless acres for recreational activities, including snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and hiking, making it the perfect weekend getaway in New England.
5. Nantucket, Massachusetts
One simply cannot highlight the best places to visit in New England without including Nantucket. Situated 30 miles out to sea, the Gray Lady’s charms are irresistible, with century-old cobblestone streets, unforgettable vistas, and cedar-shingle homes that have not changed much since the era in which the island was considered the whaling capital of the world.
Located at the easternmost point of the island, the picturesque Sankaty Head Light, a lighthouse built in 1850, stands majestically above the sea, and its bold red and white stripes can be seen from far and wide. The nearby village of ’Sconset boasts gorgeous ocean views, a windswept beach, and the beloved ’Sconset Bluff Walk. This narrow path weaves through the village and offers front-row views of saltbox cottages covered with blooming beach roses and anchored by countless blue hydrangeas. The area has been called the most beautiful place in Nantucket (and there’s some stiff competition!)
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Downtown doesn’t look much different than it did one hundred years ago, with its extra-wide streetscape, mom-and-pop shops, and familiar monument in the square, a repurposed drinking fountain that’s been there since 1885. While best known for its summer splendor, Nantucket shines brightly throughout the holiday season with decorated trees around every corner and the Christmas Stroll – a festive celebration held the first weekend of December. There’s really no question why Nantucket is one of the most treasured towns in New England.
6. Boston, Massachusetts
The best known New England city, Boston means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. The crossroads of American history, home of enthusiastic sports matchups, a bastion of higher education and cultural treasures, Boston is a robust, forward-thinking city that also celebrates its past. For baseball fans, historic and legendary Fenway Park, built in 1912, is such a landmark. There are tours every day, 12 months a year, rain or shine, and a visit there is one of the most iconic things to do in New England. The city’s beloved 2.5-mile Freedom Trail connects 16 nationally significant historic sites, including the Paul Revere House, the USS Constitution (better known as Old Ironsides), the site of the Boston Massacre, and picture-perfect Boston Common – America’s oldest public park, dating back to 1634 and featuring 44 manicured acres that welcome around three million visitors each year.
Boston is home to 45 colleges and universities accounting for more than 150,000 students scattered throughout the many diverse neighborhoods that make up the city. Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Quincy Market, located in the heart of the city, is where you’ll find the Food Colonnade, home to more than 30 vendors touting myriad cultural flavors – but save your clam chowder sampling for nearby Union Oyster House, Boston’s oldest restaurant. The city’s Seaport District is a thriving, lively neighborhood with restaurants, shops, and the popular Lawn on D, an open air-space dedicated to community events and family fun.
7. Kennebunkport, Maine
When conjuring up the idyllic images of coastal Maine, Kennebunkport should be top of mind for its craggy rocky shoreline, charming downtown, and fresh catch served up across town. Its palpable charm might just make Kennebunkport one of the best vacation spots in New England. Once a shipbuilding center, Kennebunkport has a captivating waterfront that is the heartbeat of the town. The village vibe downtown is centered around Dock Square, which is peppered with plenty of shops and delightful eateries. For a casual bite, the Clam Shack, one of the state’s oldest operating fish markets, is a Kennebunkport icon best known for buttery lobster rolls piled high with savory claw meat.
One of the best ways to see Kennebunkport, an ideal place for a getaway weekend in New England, is by water, and you can do so on a paddleboard tour, sailboat tour, or even a lobster boat tour. If you want to stay on dry ground, take a scenic drive on the aptly named Ocean Avenue out to Walker’s Point, best known as the home of the Bush family compound. You can take a snapshot, but the Secret Service won’t let you linger for long! This is, after all, still a family home, but you can explore the First Families Kennebunkport Museum to learn more about the Bush family history in the area. Nearby Cape Porpoise, an equally quaint and quiet working fishing village on the southern coast, easily captures hearts and is the best vantage point to see the picturesque Goat Island Lighthouse, built in 1834.
8. Keene, New Hampshire
While it doesn’t always grab top headlines, Keene is a darling city in southwestern New Hampshire’s Monadnock Region, sleepily perched on the Ashuelot River. While the spoils of outdoor adventures are all around, the city’s heartbeat is its village-like center typically bustling with families, couples, and tons of students since both Keene State College and Antioch University New England are within the city limits. In short, Keene never fails to charm.
The Cheshire Rail Trail is one of the area’s most beloved attractions, and Keene is a perfect break in the trail’s 42 scenic miles. You can walk, run, or ride the trail, which features a stone arch bridge over the Ashuelot River in nearby Gilsum. Families love both Stonewall Farm and its cows, horses, and goats, as well as the Cheshire Children’s Museum, featuring interactive exhibits, themed playrooms, and a designated toddler-friendly area. And while the Hannah Grimes Marketplace looks a bit like an ordinary storefront, on the inside it is a treasure trove full of more than 200 local artisans and vendors selling foodstuffs and cool products.
9. White Mountains, New Hampshire
The White Mountains is a range covering about a quarter of the state of New Hampshire (plus a little bit of western Maine) and encompassing a 750,000-acre national forest. The highlight is stately Mount Washington, the northeast’s highest peak. Take vacationing in New England to new heights as you climb the famed Mount Washington Auto Road, a steep 7.6-mile drive nicknamed the Road to the Sky, which has been an attraction since 1861.
New Hampshire State Parks confirms that on a clear day, views from the mountain’s 6,288-foot summit extend as far as 130 miles and take in Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Maine, Quebec, and even the Atlantic Ocean.
Myriad popular towns dot the White Mountain region, including Laconia, North Conway, Lincoln, and countless more. Each shares a visceral beauty and plenty to do for adventurers, but all of them have their own distinct small-town personality. One of the best ways to take it all in is via the legendary Kancamagus Highway, a 34-mile National Scenic Byway full of jaw-dropping natural wonder and wildlife.
10. Newport, Rhode Island
An absolute must-visit in New England, Newport captures the hearts of visitors with its miles of craggy New England coastline, Gilded Age mansion museums, windswept beaches to stroll any time of year, and the nation’s largest intact collection of colonial era buildings – a favorite of art and architecture lovers from far and wide. Despite all its grandeur, Newport’s most visited place is Cliff Walk, a free, 3.5 mile trail that traces the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and offers views of the manicured landscapes of the famed Newport mansions. There’s no wonder why it’s one of the most popular attractions in New England!
If you prefer to take in Mother Nature’s splendor by car, don’t miss Ocean Drive (or simply “the Drive,” as the locals say). Part of a historic district, this miles-long road runs along the southernmost edge of Aquidneck Island and is home to Brenton Point State Park, which offers 89 idyllic acres to picnic, relax, explore, and fly a kite in the steady ocean breeze.
With its lauded maritime history, a visit to Newport must include a trip through the glistening waters of Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay. Whether on a sailboat or power cruiser, your best vantage point to see Fort Adams, Rose Island Lighthouse, Hammersmith Farm (where John and Jacqueline Kennedy had their wedding reception), and other grand historic homes is aboard a seaworthy vessel.
11. Providence, Rhode Island
The Creative Capital, as Providence is called, is known for its vibrant cultural scene, its prowess as a center for manufacturing and industry during the 1800s, its robust academic community, and an enviable food scene. Home to Johnson & Wales University – one of the top ranked culinary colleges in the world – Providence is rife with hungry culinary talent eager to please and craft creative, memorable dishes, whether casual street eats or refined palate pleasers.
One of the city’s most beloved ongoing events is WaterFire, an installation of more than 100 bonfires that burn bright in caldrons installed above the surface of three rivers that run through the city. The event unfolds multiple times throughout the year at nightfall, and nearly one million people experience it annually. Many attendees are students, as Providence is home to Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence College, and five other institutions of higher learning.
Venture outside the downtown area to the Roger Williams Park Zoo, home to more than 150 animals from around the world in natural settings. Be sure to enjoy special experiences like feeding a giraffe or sea lion!
12. Mystic, Connecticut
Before it was made famous by the wildly popular 1988 film Mystic Pizza, Mystic was famous for its marine trade legacy. A shipbuilding center for centuries and best known for building wooden clipper ships, this waterfront village on scenic Mystic River is one of the most charming and visited places in Connecticut. The Mystic Seaport Museum is an amazing place to start your exploration. It’s the nation’s leading maritime museum and home to hundreds of shipbuilding tools, figureheads, interactive exhibits, and the recreation of a 19th-century seafaring village with trade shops and businesses from the 1800s that were transported to the museum from locations around New England.
Downtown Mystic is made up of quaint buildings without a highrise in sight. The Mystic River Bascule Bridge, built in 1922, is open to both foot traffic and vehicles and allows boat traffic to travel through as well. This area is full of antique shops, restaurants and, yes, the original Mystic Pizza, which is worth a try! The Mystic Aquarium is nothing short of impressive and is one of only two aquariums in the country with Steller sea lions; it also has the only beluga whales in New England. Informative and engaging indoor and outdoor exhibits promote education and conservation, but it’s the adorable animals like the African penguins, seals, and sea lions that steal the show.
13. Washington, Connecticut
Also known as Washington Depot, this rural part of Connecticut is just 38 square miles and home to just 4,000 full-time residents – and they are in on something special. With the town being more or less between New York City and Boston, it’s no wonder that people flock here from busy nearby metropolitan areas. Encompassing five villages, Washington is admired for its quiet simplicity, farmers market, farm-to-table restaurants, and beautiful inns, including the Mayflower Inn & Spa. This exquisite country retreat, nestled on 58 acres, was the inspiration for the popular television series Gilmore Girls, and the surrounding town looks just like a Hollywood set of picture-perfect milieus.
Natural beauty surrounds Washington, which was named for George Washington; he traveled through the area several times during wartime before becoming the nation’s first president. Nowhere is that beauty more on display than at Hollister House Garden, where you’ll find an 18th-century home situated on a sloping terraced site with romantic English-inspired manicured country gardens. It is a feast for the eyes! For a more nature-based experience, Kent Falls State Park is a visceral wonderland with a series of waterfalls that are perfect for selfies.
14. Acadia National Park, Maine
One might say Acadia National Park embodies all that Maine is known for, except lobster rolls. Its craggy shoreline, glistening waters, lush acres, enchanting wildlife – Look out for moose! – and rocky headlands are everything people envision when Vacationland, Maine’s moniker, is a topic of conversation. One of the top 10 most visited national parks in the US, this massive expanse of beauty comprises 47,000 captivating acres and is called the crown jewel of the North Atlantic coast.
Thousands of people come to Acadia to camp, hike, fish, and spot animals in their natural habitat, but day-trippers can experience the 27-mile Park Loop Road on Mount Desert Island by car. The drive starts in equally charming Bar Harbor and goes through mountains, lakes, coastline, and forests, leading you to understand why Maine is dubbed the Pine Tree State. Pull off at any of the numerous observation points along the road to soak it all in.
15. Cape Cod, Massachusetts
There’s a reason why the Kennedy family compound is on Cape Cod: its natural beauty and Rockwellian charm are undeniable. In fact, President Kennedy created the Cape Cod National Seashore in 1961, protecting 43,607 acres that not only include the pristine sandy beaches of the Atlantic Ocean but marshes, ponds, and uplands as well. While taking your time to explore the Cape Cod National Seashore on foot is ideal, off-roaders will love the section of the beach that rents off-road vehicles.
Wellfleet, located halfway between the tip and elbow of Cape Cod, is home to a stunning unspoiled beach. But beware! Sharks are prevalent in these waters, particularly at Newcomb Hollow Beach. The town is also world famous for its oysters and is home to more than 100 growers.
Hyannis Port, synonymous with the Kennedy family, is where you’ll find the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum, one of the best places to visit on Cape Cod. The Cape Cod Maritime Museum, also located here, tells the fascinating history of the region and has cool boat-building exhibits on display.
Head up to the northernmost tip of Cape Cod to experience Provincetown, home to 40 miles of beaches, tons of art galleries, eclectic shops, awesome restaurants, and a festive scene in the summer. For almost a century, LGBTQ travelers have made Provincetown a summer destination, and it is a place that will capture your heart. It is also the best place for whale watching on the Cape.
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New England is truly a one-of-a-kind place, which is why these six states welcome travelers from around the world all year round. Though synonymous with fall foliage, New England is extraordinary in every season, and its attractions, festivals and events, cultural and historic landmarks, and natural beauty never fail to provide a palpable feeling of places you can’t wait to visit over and over again.
You’re going to disrespect Portsmouth, NH like that…?!