New England. A small region in the far northeastern section of the United States, the name conjures images of idyllic summers spent at the beach, clambakes, wooden churches with steeples painted white, iconic covered bridges, and leaf-peeping in the fall.
It’s also the birthplace of America. The first settlers, called Pilgrims, landed near Boston in 1620. It is one of the oldest and most culturally rich areas of the country.
Today New England maintains its own unique identity, customs, and a strong maritime culture. It is truly unlike anyplace else in the United States.
There’s an incredible geography packed into this small region, as well. Depending on the season activities might include: surfing the Atlantic Ocean, sailing around Cape Cod and its islands, hiking or skiing in the Berkshires, or kayaking at the National Seashore. There truly is something for everyone in New England.
No matter how you choose to spend your time in New England, there are a few must see attractions. Most of them are decidedly touristy, but also truly worth doing. I believe you’ll gain a greater understanding of the people and culture of this region, and the United States.
Boston, Massachusetts’ Logan Airport is the point of entry for all flights.
There’s also an extensive bus and rail system in the northeast section of the United States connecting the major cities of Boston, New York, Providence. Amtrak.com
Now you’ve arrived in Boston? Where do you begin… 8 Things You Must Do In New England
Follow in the footsteps of Paul Revere
Walk the Freedom Trail -there’s no better way to immerse yourself in the history and culture of New England. There are sixteen official sites on the Freedom Trail, such as Boston Commons and Faneuil Hall, but the cool part is that it’s all just part of the city streets. You can stop or take a break at any point, visit a pub, then start up again.
If you can, take a guided walk with the Freedom Trail guides. Dressed in authentic wardrobe of the period, each person represents an historical figure of importance in the story of the American Revolution.
Experience Life in the New World
Experience what life was like at one of the first English settlements at Plymouth Village.
Costumed actors reenact life down to the finest details. Tours are self guided, but you can interact and ask questions of the actors. There are also modern day docents on hand to help you get the most out of your experience.
Attractions at Plimouth Village include a reproduction of the Mayflower (the name of the ship on which the Pilgrims sailed), a Native American village, and the Plimouth Grist Mill, which today remains a working mill.
Get Transcendental at Walden Pond
Walden Pond was the home of transcendentalist author Henry David Thoreau. He retreated from society for two years and lived here in the woods. It was at Walden Pond that he wrote his novel Walden, a reflection on living a simple life without much human contact.
Today it is a national park and is beautiful any time of year. With over 400 acres of open space and woods, you can fish, hike, ski, swim, and canoe at Walden Pond. In the fall when the leaves on the trees change color, it is particularly beautiful.
I like this review of Thoreau’s book…
“In Walden, Thoreau … opens the inner frontier of self-discovery as no American book had up to this time. As deceptively modest as Thoreau’s ascetic life, it is no less than a guide to living the classical ideal of the good life. Both poetry and philosophy, this long poetic essay challenges the reader to examine his or her life and live it authentically.” – Kathryn VanSpanckeren
Eat fresh seafood. With over 500 miles of coastline, it would be crazy not to! Local specialties include Maine lobster, seafood chowders, fried clams, fresh oysters, and cod.
Other foods unique to New England are baked beans, maple syrup, cranberries, and Cabot cheeses. Be sure to try a lobster roll, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Boston cream pie, and fried clams.
Take an architecture walk in Newport, Rhode Island
Newport, Rhode Island is a treasure trove of architectural history. There’s Newport Historic District, designated a National Historic Landmark. The city’s oldest house is here, along with the largest collection in the U.S. of intact colonial buildings dating from the early 1800s.
Don’t miss the Newport mansions, built during America’s “Gilded Age,” a time of rapid economic growth and prosperity. This is where the ultra rich railroad tycoons and men making their fortunes in the late 1800s built their summer homes along the coast.
These houses reflect a very eclectic blend of architectural styles: Gothic Revival, Shingle Style, Beaux arts, and Colonial; the most impressive of all of the mansions is The Breakers.
The Breakers was built by the Vanderbilt family in 1893. It’s a seventy-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo, inspired by the palaces of Genoa and Turin in northern Italy.
There are eleven houses in all and each has different visiting hours. Be sure to check the website of the Preservation Society of Newport County for hours of operation.
You can really get off the beaten path here if that’s your preference, or just enjoy swimming and biking and walking trails.
There are forty miles of pristine beaches, sand dunes, bogs, marshes,iconic lighthouses, and plant and animal life to explore. It’s one of the largest barrier islands in the world. The six swimming beaches (Coast Guard, Nauset Light, Marconi, Head of the Meadow, Race Point, and Herring Cove), have lifeguards from June through August. Each beach has different facilities and hours, so be sure to check the website before you go.
Visit Nantucket Town on the island of Nantucket
The entire town is a National Historic Landmark. Soak up the charm of this maritime village while strolling or biking the cobblestone streets. There are over 800 buildings built before 1850.
Learn about the whaling industry: this perfectly preserved town was originally a huge whaling port, and the Nantucket Whaling Museum was once a candle factory.
Take a witchy literary walk in Salem
Visit the House of the Seven Gables, immortalized in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book of the same name. In 2007, the House of the Seven Gables and the surrounding area were named a National Historic Landmark.
While in Salem, be sure to visit some of the new age and witchcraft shops. The oldest is Crow Haven Corner. You can buy everything from crystal balls to tarot cards and schedule a psychic reading. Why not? You’re in Salem!
With so much culture, history and scenery to explore, delicious foods to sample, and opportunities for more active vacationers – why not book that New England vacation today?