The New England states – Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont are home to loads of historic spots, beautiful scenery, and delicious food. Whether you’re planning a New England road trip itinerary, looking for a day trip in the Northeast, or seeking an outdoor adventure, there’s something perfect for you on this list. Check out some of the most amazing things New England has to offer, and let me know if I’ve left anything off of the list!
- 1 Things to do in Connecticut
- 2 Things to do in Maine
- 3 Things to do in Massachusetts
- 4 Things to do in New Hampshire
- 5 Things to do in Rhode Island
- 6 Things to do in Vermont
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Things to do in Connecticut
Tour the homes of American literary legends
Mark Twain has always been associated with small town Missouri in my mind thanks to his classic novels like Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but he was actually living in Hartford, Connecticut at the time those were written. Twain, aka Samuel Clemens, was actually living in a Hartford mansion while he wrote some of his most iconic works. After the family sold the property, it was repurposed for various uses like a school, apartments, and even a library branch. A non-profit organization saved it from destruction in the 1920s and spent years restoring it and purchasing personal possessions to return to the home. Nowadays, tourists can check out an on-site visitor center before taking a guided tour of the gorgeous mansion. You can even take part in a Clue themed tour in which Twain’s literary characters are portrayed by improve actors in a murder mystery.
Right next door, you’ll find a smaller Victorian home where Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe lived for several years. Though the home is a bit smaller than the neighboring Twain house, you can take tours of it as well. The property has its own visitor’s center, so you’ll have to buy a separate ticket, though if you plan to tour both homes, you can show your first ticket at the second visitor’s center for a small discount.
Flirt with beluga whales at the Mystic Aquarium
The Beluga Whales at the Mystic Aquarium are total flirts. Mystic’s 750,000 gallon Beluga exhibit allows visitors to see the whales from above the water and below.
The underwater viewing areas are fabulous because you can watch as the Belugas swim past you like they’re flying through the water. There are also a few portholes you can climb into to get a glimpse of them too! The best part about the viewing area is the Belugas come right up to the glass and interact with you. They’re such little flirts! During my last visit, I put my hand up to the glass and the Beluga put his forehead up against my hand. They make noises and love stuffed animals! It always puts a smile on my face and guests always leave that area laughing!
No trip to Connecticut is complete without visiting Mystic Aquarium. I’ve been going since I was a kid, so it holds a very special place in my heart. The family I Nanny for takes the kids all the time and it’s a highlight for all ages!
By Retha from Roaming Nanny
Go apple picking at a Connecticut orchard
Various locations in Connecticut
A quintessential part of living in New England is going apple picking in the Fall. All over Connecticut, there are apple orchards galore, and with the arrival of the cooler air and the change of seasons comes a visit to an orchard to pick your own fruit. Most of the orchards in Connecticut have various types of apples for picking and a farm market where they sell pies, jams, dairy, honey, and other local products. In addition to picking apples, there are often corn mazes, pumpkin fields, tractor rides, and hay play areas that attract crowds on weekends. Since the Fall season brings more tourism to the region, orchards also host special events on the weekends where they invite food trucks, bands, and local vendors to participate and enjoy the colorful outdoors. Our family has already visited 2 orchards and cannot wait to explore a few others before the season ends.
See more about apple picking in Connecticut by Margie at DQ Family Travel.
Things to do in Maine
Visit stunning Acadia National Park
Bar Harbor, Maine
There is so much to do in Acadia. The best hikes in Acadia National Park will take you through spruce forests to lookouts over beaches, islands and bays. There are adventurous hikes up cliffs on iron rungs (the Beehive and the Precipice) or easier hikes for those with fear of heights (like me) to the top of Acadia and Gorham Mountains. Take a dip in Echo Lake to cool off afterwards, or a bracing swim at Sand Beach. There is also an extensive network of old carriage ways (courtesy of Rockefeller) to walk or cycle around. Don’t miss the Jordan Pond House for beautiful views while enjoying popovers, a New England pastry specialty. Relax in a lobster shack and eat cheap lobster while watching the catch of the day being hauled in on boats, and enjoy a blueberry ice cream while strolling around Bar Harbor. Acadia is surrounded by water and you can kayak around the bays, catch a local ferry to the nearby Cranberry Isles and take an evening sailing trip around the islands. Be sure to drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain for amazing sunset views of the Porcupine Islands from the Blue Hill Overlook. I love Acadia in summer, but it is also a great spot to see the stunning New England fall foliage. Acadia is an absolute New England must-do!
Visit the park’s official website here.
By James from Travel Collecting
Stroll along the Marginal Way
Ogunquit, a quintessential beach town on the east coast of Maine, is home to Marginal Way, one of the most scenic coastal walks. Marginal Way, a very slender 1 ¼ mile cliff walk, almost feels like you’re on a tightrope as you take in the views of the Atlantic. When you hit the sandy beaches and dunes you’ve neared the end, but it’s once you hit Perkins Cove, the charming cute village that you have come to the end. As you stroll along Marginal Way, you are sure to work up a hearty appetite which will end at Barnacle Billy’s.
As you meander along Shore Road, strike up a conversation with the locals, enjoy the fresh and locally sourced seafood, and explore the local art scene. There is no shortage of cute Inns or Bed & Breakfasts to choose from, and I highly recommend Beachmere Inn or The Colonial Inn both right on Marginal Walk. Whether you’re looking for a quiet beach vacation or a mini family getaway, Ogunquit, Maine offers something for everyone!
By Tracy from Tracy Say What
Sail away on a Windjammer cruise
Maine is known for great seafood and gorgeous coastline. A great way to see Maine is on a cruise, and for a truly special experience try a Maine Windjammer cruise! The windjammer ships are tall masted schooners, giving guests a real living history during cruises. Crew encourage passengers to join in on daily activities to immerse them in the sailing culture. Since this is an eco-friendly sailing experience heavily relying on the wind, your captain will take advantage of the prevailing winds to see the best locations possible. The result makes each trip special.
One of the highlights of a Windjammer cruise is sure to be the lobster bake. It is an unforgettable all you can eat Maine lobster feast. Speaking of unforgettable, Windjammer also offers a host of themed cruises that will make you want to go again and again.
If you want to really want to sample the best of what Maine has to offer, head out on a Maine Windjammer cruise!
By Cathy from Nothing but New England
Take a Stephen King tour
Last October when I visited Maine, along with appreciating the beauty of the fall foliage, I discovered and took a very unique tour. A Stephen King tour to be exact! Stephen King is from the state of Maine and has lived in Bangor for years. Not only does he set a lot of his books in Maine, but he and his wife are active participants in the Bangor community.
On the tour, you will see Mr. King’s house as well as many filming locations from various films such as It and Pet Cemetery. I found his house to be exactly what one might think Stephen King’s house would look like…quirky and unique. And, he has been known to greet fans outside! I thoroughly enjoyed both the house and the film locations, but what was most impressive was learning about the personal side of Stephen King and how fantastic he is to the people of Bangor and Maine in general.
Know Ahead: SK Tours of Maine offers the 3-hour Stephen King tour 7 days/week year-round and is $45 for adults and free for children 12 and under.
By Heather from Trimm Travels
Things to do in Massachusetts
Walk through Revolutionary history on the Freedom Trail
Boston’s legendary red-brick line takes you on a journey through the American Revolution. The 2.5-mile-long Freedom Trail connects 16 historic sites, from Boston Common in the heart of the city to the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown. If you plan on walking the trail yourself, you can download the app or pick up a map at the Boston Common Visitor Information Center. Tip: Skip the paying maps on display and ask for the free NPS map at the counter.
Alternatively, you can join one of the guided tours, like we did. Costumed guide ‘James Otis’ gave so much more context and details than you can get from any app. The tour only takes you to 11 of the 16 sites and ends at Faneuil Hall, though. The remaining 5 landmarks are further apart and to be explored independently. Walking the Freedom trail is a signature New England bucket list item with good reason, since it highlights such an important part of American history in just one easy walk.
See more about Boston’s heritage from Sarah at CosmopoliClan.
Experience a little hocus pocus
A Bewitched and Hocus Pocus fan to the bone, I couldn’t avoid a day trip to Salem Massachusetts when travelling in Boston. The Witch City, as it is known affectionately, is the infamous spot where the tragic Salem Witch Trials were held in 1692. Salem has embraced the morbid side of their past, turning it into a must-see spot in New England for historians, witches at heart, and curious visitors.
- Hocus Pocus filming locations! Are you a fan of the Sanderson sisters? It is my go-to Halloween flick that I seriously play on loop. Check out the exclusive Hocus Pocus tour offered now in the city!
- Bewitched Fan? The 1960’s-1970’s supernatural comedy filmed the Salem Saga on location! Check out the House of Seven Gables (home of the author of the Scarlet Letter), The Hawthorne Hotel where the cast stayed during taping, and of course the newly erected statue of Samantha Stephens at 235 Essex Street.
- Head to the Salem Witch Museum to become educated on the Witch Trials that shaped the
city’s identity. Listen to an interactive presentation detailing the torture and persecution the 20 innocent victims endured after being mistaken as witches. Next, head to the Memorial in the Salem Cemetery to pay your respects.
- Hungry? Enjoy a delightful lunch at the Witch’s Brew! Why not try the famous GREEN signature cocktail!?
- Lastly, stop in to the Ye Old Pepper Companie Candies, the oldest sweet Shoppe in the USA and Oprah’s favorite! Treat yourself to a variety of fudge, truffles, and more. The witch chocolate pops are my favorite!
By Janine from Fill My Passport
If you’re brave enough, you can take a haunted Salem tour at night!
Wade into a cranberry bog
Various locations in Massachusetts
New England in October is red – not only from the fall color on the trees, but also from the bright red cranberry bogs. Cranberries grow on vines that cover the ground of soggy soil (bogs). They can be harvested dry, but the most common way is wet harvesting, which involves flooding the bogs with water and shaking the vines so that the cranberries float to the surface. When the entire surface of the water-filled bog is covered in bright red cranberries, it is incredibly picturesque. Visiting a flooded cranberry bog during harvest season really is an absolute must-do in New England. Many cranberry farms will allow visitors to watch the flooded fields being dragged so that the cranberries are all concentrated in one area and then vacuumed up and into the back of waiting trucks. It is even possible to don waders and join in to experience being a cranberry farmer for a short while at some farms. Finish your visit by buying some cranberry jam or fresh cranberries in time for fall cooking!
By James from Travel Collecting
Explore Harvard’s historic campus
When I visited Boston, I made sure to venture beyond the city into Cambridge and see Harvard University. Harvard, the oldest university in the country, had long been on my bucket list due to its prestigious status and ancient architecture. I spent almost an entire day at Harvard and explored the campus for free as part of the historic guided tour. The sprawling campus and ornate architecture of the university buildings are impressive. Since I was visiting with a friend who was pursuing her MBA at Harvard, I could actually enter the student dormitory, see the Business School classrooms and library, and the underground tunnels that save students the effort of walking through the snow in winter. The campus also has many great museums – Harvard Art Museum, Harvard Science and Culture Museum, and Harvard Museum of Natural History which are well worth a visit. We also walked along the Charles River Bank, which is great for people watching and relaxing. Other great places to visit include the Old Yard and the Harvard Square which is full of cafes, bars, and eateries. The Harvard Square is also home to the world’s only Curious George store – the store is full of Curious George themed books, toys, and games and is a must for fans of the favorite monkey!
By Ketki from Dotted Globe
Get away from it all on Martha’s Vineyard
Dukes County, Massachusetts
You can do as much or as little as you want on Martha’s Vineyard, which is one of the charms of the island. The biggest highlights are the gorgeous beaches and related watersports – fishing, sailing, surfing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding. etc. Bigger kids will like the thrill of
jumping off the so-called “Jaws Bridge” into the water below . It’s called Jaws Bridge because it appeared in a scene in the movie Jaws. For the less adventurous, just go hang out in the Menemsha Beach and wait for the spectacular sunset show to make an appearance. When they are not on the beach or in the water, kids will love to visit Oak Bluff Carousel, which is the oldest working carousel in the USA.
Martha’s Vineyard also has a steady stream of cultural activities during the summer season as well. The Martha’s Vineyard Film Society is the site of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival. You also have regular screenings of movies and documentaries where the director does a talk about the film because so many people from the film industry live/visit the island. The island also has a lot of writers in residence either full-time or part-time. The Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival is an annual event that brings out some very big names for talks. For example, in 2018, Bill Clinton was on the island with co-author, James Patterson to promote their Book, The President is Missing.
By Shobha from Martha’s Vineyard Tourist
Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Boston
Can’t make it to Ireland for a proper St. Patrick’s Day celebration? Then hit up the next best thing Stateside – Boston, Massachusetts. As the U.S. city with the highest concentration of citizens with Irish ancestry, it’s no doubt that Boston knows how to throw a stellar St. Patrick’s Day bash. Every neighborhood enclave seems to have its own celebrations going on all throughout the day, starting with the big parade in Southie, or South Boston. After the parade, head to Downtown Proper to grab lunch at the iconic Quincy Market or Faneuil Hall before bringing the party to the strip of bars in between. If you’re craving a little bit of history for your St. Patrick’s Day celebration, then head to Bell in Hand – the oldest tavern in the United States. Not ready for the celebrations to end? Fenway Park boasts a vibrant nightlife scene with live music and restaurants open late into the night – all decked out in green for the celebration.
By Alex from The Wayward Walrus
Go crabbing on Cape Cod
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Cape Cod and coastal Massachusetts may conjure images of lobster and chowder on the menu to taste when you visit, but did you know that the streams, estuaries and back bays are full of delicious blue crab too? Step off the wide swaths of beach and the charming village towns and endeavor to spend a day scooping your limit of crustaceans.
Cape Cod is home to acres of beautiful wetlands. Head to Bells Neck Conservation Area and with a bit of bait and patience and timing, you’ll be able to catch a few of these swimmers as they move with the tide in and out of the coastal estuary. You’ll need double-ringed dip nets or a long pole net to scoop up catches from a weighted hand line and chicken on the bone for bait. Blue crab season runs from May through December in Massachusetts and any crab you keep must be five inches wide from tip to tip. It’s a fun day out and then a crab feed for dinner!
See more about crabbing on Cape Cod from Erin at Oregon Girl Around the World.
Things to do in New Hampshire
Get lost in a winter wonderland of ice castles
Lincoln, New Hampshire
Each winter, a small area in the town of Lincoln, New Hampshire is transformed into a winter wonderland worthy of everyone’s bucket list. Ice Castles is a fairytale experience straight out of Narnia. The acre-sized attraction is made entirely from ice. Walking into Ice Castles, you’re immediately surrounded by towering structures resembling frozen waterfalls. Overhead, archways of intimidating icicles dangle above you. Lights inside the ice illuminate the castles at night, changing from brilliant shades of blue and purple to vibrant red, pink, and white, all in sync with music. But Ice Castles is more than an Instagrammable attraction, it’s a family-friendly experience with ice slides, frozen thrones, fountains, crawl tunnels, mazes, and slot canyons. On weekends, fire dancers add to the excitement inside Ice Castles, wowing the crowd as they spin, juggle, dance with, and even breathe fire. If you want to visit this breathtaking attraction of ice, you’ll have to plan accordingly. Ice Castles is only open for about 2 months of the year. But during January and February, the coldest months in New Hampshire, this frozen paradise will give you a new reason to fall in love with winter.
See the official event website here.
By Melissa from Parenthood and Passports
Take a scenic drive along the Kancamagus Highway
While New England is blessed with dozens of gorgeous, scenic drives, New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway is often called the prettiest.
The Kancamagus Highway (also known as Route 112) stretches for 34 miles through northern New Hampshire’s White Mountains. It’s a winding two lane highway that spans from Lincoln (in the east) to Conway (in the west) and reaches up to 3,000 feet in elevation. Along the way, you’ll find stunning views across the White Mountains.
If you’re into waterfalls and streams, there are plenty just off the highway, along with hiking and camping spots. While the Kanc (as locals call it) is open all year, it sometimes closes in the winter due to bad weather and icy road conditions. The best time to visit the Kancamagus Highway is in the fall, when trees in the White Mountains change color to stunning hues of gold, red, and orange.
See more about New Hampshire outdoor activities from Micki at The Barefoot Nomad.
Visit the top of New England’s tallest peak
Sargent’s Purchase, New Hampshire
Mt. Washington, located in New Hampshire’s White Mountains range, is the tallest mountain in New England, and one of the largest east of the Mississippi. Visitors have a few options for getting to the top. The most difficult involves one of the popular hiking trails that lead to the summit. The most commonly used one stretches for 4.1 miles and gains a whopping 4,280 feet in elevation. Less physically active visitors can choose to drive the roadway that winds to the top of the mountain. For an even more relaxing journey, you can also hop the Mt. Washington Cog Railway and sit back and relax while the train takes you to the top. However you choose to arrive, you’ll be treated to beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. Spend some well-deserved time enjoying the scenery and visit the museum and cafeteria before heading back down.
If you’re in better shape than I am, you can take a two-day hiking tour to climb it yourself.
Try a famous New England lobster roll
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Lobster roll is practically synonymous with the region of New England. Every city from Boston, Massachusetts, to Portland, Maine, will tell you they make the best lobster roll in the country (and even the world), but I’d like to point out one place which you might not have expected — Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
This little town on Piscataqua River is a hidden gem of New England. With its port city vibe, streets lined with 17th and 18th century historic houses and a multitude of boutiques and seafood restaurants, Portsmouth makes for a perfect day-trip destination.
When in Portsmouth, you have to try the famous lobster roll at the Old Ferry Landing. The restaurant has been a staple of the city for over 40 years. The building where the restaurant is housed used to serve as a ferry boat terminal when there was no link-up between the coastal areas of New Hampshire and Maine. It was then used as a bottling works for soft drinks, a lobster pound and a gift shop until it was acquired by the Blalock family in 1973 and turned into a restaurant. The lobster roll is served cold and you can enjoy it on the outdoor deck with the view of tugboats on Piscataqua river.
See more about spending a day in Portsmouth from Yulia at That’s What She Had.
Things to do in Rhode Island
Enjoy rugged scenery and Gilded Age opulence on the Cliff Walk
Newport, Rhode Island
If you want to see Rhode Island’s nature at its best, then the Newport Cliff Walk is what you’re looking for. This 3.5-mile-long designated National Recreation Trail consists of both smoothly paved pathways and rocky, coastal pathway. It runs from Memorial Boulevard in the North to Bellevue Avenue in the South and offers various public access points in between. The first part of the trail makes for an easy walk. You’ll reach the 40 steps near the end of this segment. The scenery is spectacular with views of the elegant Gilded Age mansions that dot the cliff on one side and the rugged coastline with breaking waves on the other. Apart from the striking vistas, you can expect long winding pathways, tunnels and an energizing sea breeze. The unpaved, rocky pathway in between The Breakers and Rosecliff Mansion can be a bit rough, so make sure to wear proper shoes. It adds just the right amount of adventure to the Cliff Walk. You’ll be rewarded with even more gorgeous scenery the further you go.
By Sarah from CosmopoliClan
Enjoy the nighttime spectacle of WaterFire
Providence, Rhode Island
Providence, the capital of Rhode Island, is built around the canals of the Providence River. For the last twenty years, an art instillation has occurred on these canals and it is a highlight for a trip to Rhode Island. WaterFire happens on scheduled weekends from spring through fall. Buckets of fragrant woods are set alight by torches from boats gliding through the waters as eclectic music fills the air. Crowds gather to enjoy the water spectacle and the carnival-like atmosphere of food vendors and street performers on the land. If you go, be sure to stroll along the canal-side walkway and under the bridges to see the candelabras. For a splurge, pre-book a gondola or boat ride. For tips on where to catch the best seating and how to experience WaterFire read my Local’s Guide to Providence, Rhode Island.
Find the current WaterFire schedule here.
By Jamie from The Daily Adventures of Me
Take a summer getaway to Block Island
New Shoreham, Rhode Island
Block Island is a small island off the coast of Rhode Island. It should be on your bucket list because it is beautiful and there are plenty of things to do. The beaches are pristine and some are ideal for clamming or fishing. If you are serious about fishing, you can charter a fishing boat. There are also plenty of trails for hiking or biking. Stop by one of the two historic lighthouses on the island and take in the stunning views from the cliffs.
Block Island also has many boutique shops where you can find unique gifts. In the evenings, you will have plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from. If you like lobster, you will be in heaven because it is relatively cheap!
Just keep in mind, Block Island is a summer destination and most businesses shut down during the off-season. It’s not the easiest place to get to, but you can take a Block Island ferry or a small plane. The journey is worth it!
By Anisa from Two Traveling Texans
Things to do in Vermont
Go hiking in the mountains that gave Vermont its name
If you’re planning a trip to Vermont, hiking has to be at the top of your list of things to do. Vermont features the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the country, a 272 mile path that runs from the northern to southern border called the Long Trail. The Long Trail is nestled among the Green Mountains and includes part of the Appalachian Trail. In fact, Vermont gets its name from the Green Mountains themselves: “Vert” meaning green in French, and “Mont” meaning mountain. How could you not spend some time in the mountains during your trip when the whole state is named after them? In autumn, Vermont also has some of the most beautiful fall foliage in the country that is perfect for viewing from the peaks. The hikes vary in difficulty with the highest peak, Mt. Mansfield, topping out at almost 4,400 ft. Whether you want to take a few weeks to hike the whole trail or just hike a summit during a few-hour day trip is up to you, but it is certainly worth adding to your bucket list for the beautiful views.
By Danielle from Wanderlust While Working
You can even book guided hikes in the region through Viator!
Indulge your sweet tooth on the Ben & Jerry’s factory tour
Ben & Jerry’s is an iconic ice cream brand. If you are a lover of ice cream, then a visit to their headquarters in Waterbury, Vermont should be on your bucket list. Upon arrival at their factory, you’ll quickly notice its popularity. There are various signs to parking lots, picnic tables and their famous factory tour and ice cream shop. The tour is very reasonable at $4 per person and it includes a free ice cream sample at the end. The tour is a short walking tour where you learn the history of the brand, their standards, ingredients and just what goes into making their ice cream. The tour finishes with a generous sampling of their flavor of the day and a walk through the souvenir shop filled with cow merchandise.
However, just outside of the gift shop is the real treat, an ice cream stand that has over 20 Ben & Jerry’s flavors to choose from. I mean, it doesn’t get any fresher than having Ben & Jerry’s ice cream a few feet from where it is made. If you are anywhere near central Vermont, then a stop at the Ben & Jerry’s factory is a must do on a New England trip.
By Margie from DQ Family Travel
Visit the Teddy Bear Factory
Just outside Burlington, Vermont lies a place where adults can become kids again and where kids can have all their wildest fantasies come true. This place is the Vermont Teddy Bear Company. For only $4 a person, you are welcomed into a virtual teddy bear utopia, where a rainbow-colored silo with a teddy bear on it lets you know that you’re in the right place.
As you enter the factory, you’ll walk through a teddy bear shop, where you can make a new best friend (both literally and figuratively since they have a build your own bear station) that you might even want to take home with you, especially after you realize that all of these guys are still made by hand!
From the shop, one of the designated bear ambassadors will escort you through the factory, show you how the bears are made, and even take you to the designated Bear Hospital where any and all bears go if they need a bit of repair.
It’s a truly fun and fantastical way to explore Vermont and experience the endearing charm of this magical state.
By Kelly from Girl With the Passport