Monday, March 20, 2017

Reader Question for the Community: Where should first-time visitors to New England go?

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Reader Question for the Community:
We have friends visiting New England this summer, and they have asked where they should go.  They will have a car and a bit of time.  We are hesitant to recommend Nantucket and the Vineyard as they are too contrived on-season these days.  I hoped your readers would have some suggestions to add to our own, which admittedly, are limited.

What are the best summer travel spots in New England?

22 comments:

  1. I am especially interested in recommendations for suggestions of must see places in Maine.

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  2. I'll bite. For variety in Maine, at least along the coast accessible from Rte 1: Reid State Park (beautiful beach), Boothbay Botanical Garden (extensive), Mt. Battie in Camden (for views of Penobscot Bay), Route 235 for farm and lake views inland. All a hundred miles east of Portland.

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  3. Its tough to narrow it down to a few spots, but I'd recommend the Outer Cape (Chatham, Wellfleet, Cape Cod National Seashore etc.), A "Port Town" such as Portsmouth NH or Portland ME, and the Maine coast (particularly Mount Desert Island).

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  4. It really depends on how much time they have, and whether they want to do a "coastal" or "inland" tour. Coastal is easiest, and I would recommend starting in Boston (Freedom Trail), then up the coast, stopping in Cape Ann (Gloucester, Rockport), before proceeding to Portsmouth, NH, and then up to Maine.

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  5. Depends if you are driving up or flying... and "must see" is subjective, but here are my thoughts. South of Portland you are going to get a great deal of weekenders coming up from Massachussets. So Kittery and Ogunquit will be crowded. Kennebunkport and Prout's Neck are beautiful. If you are a foodie, stop in Portland which has excellent restaurants and a fantastic museum. If you are flying in to Portland, I would spend a few days and then head north along Coastal Rt. 1. Freeport (also Kittery) has outlet shopping. They are not the deals, nor the quality, that it used to be, but it is a fun diversion on a road trip. Bath is interesting as an old shipping town and has the Bath Iron Works. It is interesting to see the high tech submarines being built. Wiscasset bills itself as the "Prettiest little town in Maine" which is not far off the mark. Red's Eats has become an iconic place to stop, but honestly, you can find good lobster rolls at every turn. Where ever you happen to land, look for the local lobster pound and you can buy them off the dock. I like Treat's in Wiscasset across the road from Red's with it's communal table. I have met wonderful locals and Hollwood movie stars there. Damariscotta is pretty, and the Damariscotta Grill, Newcastle Grill, or King Eider's are the best eats. Rockland town center for galleries. Rockport is beautiful and has several great restaurants. Camden has shops and is far prettier than central Boothbay Harbor. Depending on your budget you can find rentals and hotels from modest to luxurious along the coast, but a big tip is Saturday is change over day with rentals and the traffic is horrendous. If you can travel on another day during the summer do it. Otherwise suck it up and prepare to be in bumper to bumper particularly mid-July to mid-August. The two peninsulas I am most familiar with are the Boothbay and the Pemequid. North of Camden someone else will have to give their help. Coastal Maine Botanical gardens has already been mentioned. This place is wonderful and was started by a group of people who second mortgaged their homes to get it going. Both the Pemequid and the Boothbay regions have beautiful light houses. I would also drive past Rachel Carson's Salt Water Preserve... particularly wonderful if you have younger kids or grandchildren. Also, Round Pond, which features in Muffy's post is a dot of a place with a beautiful bay and the Granite Hall where I take me kids for ice cream and penny candy all summer long. It is a step back and it is where I truly feel Maine's slogan of "The way life should be" really holds true. I hope this helps and if you have any more specific questions I will try to help.

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  6. All of these suggestions are excellent. But it depends on what your are looking for, coastal or inland. Not often mentioned is Vermont. Vermont is a beautiful, rural state with many scenic drives and charming small towns. Simon Pearce Glassblowing in Quechee/Woodstock area is very nice with a beautiful restaurant overlooking the falls on the river. Woodstock is a charming town with the Marsh-Billings Park. Manchester is also lovely with many outlet stores, but they're nicer and more high-end, I think. The Equinox Inn in Manchester, lovely and also high-end. Hildene in Manchester. Vermont Country Store...more touristy but still a fun place for an afternoon.

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  7. Skipping Nantucket is a mistake, calling it "contrived" is absurd. Leave Main Street and you'll be fine. Edgartown on MV is great as well, just use some common sense, plan ahead, and don't go on a weekend in July.

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  8. Coastal- Travel Boston to Portsmouth, NH up to Portland, ME and farther the route along the coast of Maine. Also, Outer Cape Cod is quite nice.
    Inland- Vermont, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. They could spend the entire time in Vermont and love the visit. And honestly, Northern Connecticut and Western Massachusetts is worth a visit. ( We also liked the area around New London, CT.)
    I don't think there will be a "bad' place in New England to tour.

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  9. Not a bad place to visit in New England. Boston is too busy and we didn't see anything 'special' about Rhode Island, not bad, just would not make a special trip.
    Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont ( loved, I mean loved VT and ME) Massachusetts outside Boston( Cape Cod and the Western part of the state are wonderful)...it is a great place to visit.

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  10. Jeez, 'contrived' is a bit of a strong word.

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  11. "We have [first-time] friends visiting New England this summer.."

    The commenters above have done an outstandingly generous job making recommendations. Even so, is it possible to know a little more background about these "friends"? Reason is, I'd want their first visit to New England to be more about THEM and THEIR expectations/loves/hates, than about ME and what I consider to be important and/or must see.

    I do wish the author of the query would return and set up a few refinements to the search. I wouldn't want to send someone looking for wide open seaside vistas to Dorset VT. [Send ME to Dorset VT any day of the week, in fact, leave me there for good. And the Simon Pearce/Woodstock rec, SOLID.]

    It should be understood that there are manymanymany people wanting to "see New England in the summer," that many and more have booked passage on the Gray Line and various other mass shuttles, which I'll never forget seeing backed up in just about all points "New England" during my most recent summer visit -- so, might you be able to re-schedule in September?

    Do you like boats? do you like sailing? do you like walking? do you like historic buildings? do you love American history? do you want an urban experience or a pastoral experience? do you want to be able to jump in the water? do you want to see the historic campuses of Yale, Harvard and Brown on your swing-through? do you want to shop? do you want to see paintings in a GREAT American museum? What about historic churches? do you hate the heat of summer, might you like the more temperate temps in leafy CT?

    Would love to know more about YOU!

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  12. If you like walking, boats, sailing and history then Marblehead, MA and Portsmouth, NH should be included on a New England vacation. This is not meant to discount the many wonderful, beautiful and historic places in New England; I am just partial to Marblehead and Portsmouth! LR

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  13. Where I live, Scarborough, Maine, offers the following, all in one town:

    Scarborough Marsh Nature Trail that offers beautiful scenery with plenty of bird watching next to an Audubon Center.

    Pine Point Fisherman's Co-Op, a real working waterfront, where you can eat fresh lobster at the seasonal restaurant while watching lobstermen come and go.

    Prouts Neck where you can do the stunning "cliff walk" next to the Black Point Inn and Winslow Homer's art studio.

    Scarborough, Ferry, Higgins and Pine Point beaches, all of which are sandy and unique.

    Smiling Hill Farm, a dairy farm that still sells milk in glass bottles and offers seasonal tours.

    Those are a few highlights and we're five minutes from Portland.

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  14. As a Brit , I'm enjoying all this info . I'll cut and paste it for future reference :-)

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  15. There are many great places to visit, both inland and on the coast. New England has many great things to do depending on your interests too. However, my particular favorite is crossing the Sagamore bridge and driving along route 6A, stopping along the way for lunch (fried clams), and continuing along all the way to Truro or Provincetown. Rent a house, cottage, or room on Cape Cod bay for a night, either get a few lobsters to cook at the house or have a nice dinner in Wellfleet and then watch the sunset over the bay. After that, you'll still have plenty of time to go your next destination.

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  16. We always enjoy Brunswick and Bath (Maritime Museum) in Maine. Even in July they are pleasant and don't scream tourist location in the way that Bar Harbor does. Salem and Marble Head in Mass. are also lovely.

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  17. What a challenge! First advice for your friends is to travel in very early summer or early fall for less congestion and pleasant weather. If they’re only going to stay a week or so, chose one general area/state and get to know it well, then start saving for a return trip. Are they looking for history or scenery? I'll just relay what I like and they can take it for what it's worth. I go for the small towns and am not that attracted to busier places like Bar Harbor, Boothbay Harbor or Portland. I love the mountains of New Hampshire and the charming villages of Sugar Hill, Hanover and New Castle. I love beautiful Old Lyme, CT, and other small towns such as Lennox, Plymouth, Concord and Osterville, MA. I like Watch Hill and Westerly, RI (and touring those large homes in Newport). My favorite place is Maine, particularly the sparsely populated areas along the coast and, of course, Monhegan Island. If you like beautiful homes, splurge on a few nights in a top notch B&B or inn in Kennebunkport. I also prefer Nantucket to Martha’s Vineyard. Not sure if this is at all helpful, but it certainly was nice to sit back and think about New England! I know your friends will have a lovely vacation if you have anything to do with it! Enjoy!

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  18. Oh for heaven's sake! How can you speak about a visit to New England in the summer without mentioning the opportunity to see a once-in-a-lifetime, world-class, symphony performance under the stars! Tanglewood. Tanglewood, Tanglewood, Tanglewood. You would be remiss not to send your friends there.

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  19. How about Plymouth(Rock) and Concord and Lexington? Two amazingly historical places and two of the most important places in the United States. I get chills just thinking about standing at these places.

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    Replies
    1. Visitors to Plymouth need to know that they won't see Mayflower II there. She is at Mystic Seaport for the next two years undergoing a major preservation and restoration effort.

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  20. Can't miss a trip to Freeport and LL Bean! The trip would not be complete without a night or two at the Harraseeket Inn which is just 3-4 blocks from Bean and a real touch of old world class...

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  21. Agreed on Marblehead :) Also, the 6A side of Cape Cod. All the other suggestions are fabulous, too. How to decide?? As the Hunting House said - we need more user input!

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