I’m such a sucker for New England, give me some leaves changing color, a coastal fishing town, some big rocky mountains, a drive through a wooded area after a snowstorm, and you’ve got the happiest girl on earth. New England’s a big place though, so let’s take a closer look at Massachusetts, my home state. Here’s a selection of places I have visited, accompanied by my personal experiences, that I believe should be destinations for everyone. Believe me, your life will not be complete until you see them all (insert mild sarcasm here).
I have not been all over the world, no, but out of everywhere I have visited, Boston remains as my favorite city. There is a combination of class, history, and culture that you cannot get anywhere else in the U.S. while still maintaining the fast paced, modern ideology that is not as pronounced in European cities. Along with the destinations that will be listed, I recommend some shopping in the North End or on Newbury Street, a tour of the Harvard campus in Cambridge, and a walk through historic Beacon Hill. Also consider Upper Crust for pizza, Formaggio for gourmet cheese and other food products, and Flour Bakery for some sweet treats.
Shelburne Falls is a historic town that has a great small town New England feel. Try to go in the warmer seasons so you can walk the Bridge of Flowers and check out the Bridge of flowers as well as the glacial potholes. When I was a kid we used to frequent the glacial potholes while staying at a friend’s place in Warwick, MA. We would spend a wonderful summer day swimming in the pools and jumping from one to another. Unfortunately, the potholes have been closed to swimmers, however they are still a neat sight to see.
I have been vacationing near this small Portuguese fishing village turned art community since I was a little girl. Even after 11 years, I have never found myself bored with it. Bike through town in the morning and stop by Wired Puppy for a cup of coffee. Hit Mojo’s for your typical fried seafood lunch, and at night, stop by the Crown and Anchor for drinks and sing along to show tunes and musical numbers. Don’t forget a cone from the best ice cream in town at Lewis Brother’s and take it with you for a walk with the crowd along Commercial Street.
The Cape Cod National Seashore is a hidden recluse for all New Englanders. Not many people know of the bike trails and diverse beaches that are easily accessible with a seasonal pass. Also make a trip to Racepoint or Highland Lighthouse. I spend a week at the cape every summer and it has become tradition to bike from the Head of Meadow beach to Provincetown for a cup of coffee in the morning. My favorite part of the ride is biking along 6A in the residential area surrounding Ptown. It is a blissful 2 hours. To feel the sea breeze is so welcoming and comforting, the amazing scent of flowers from a shrub I regretfully do not know the name of carries in the wind, and all I can imagine is spending every morning for the rest of my life like this, perhaps living in one of the faded grey cottages squeezed together too tightly that I pass along my way.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The Museum of Fine Arts is an incredible building that honestly feels like home to me. My favorite thing to do in any museum is to choose a favorite genre/style of art, start in that gallery, and then wander for the rest of my allotted time. There are also plenty of events hosted at the MFA that may be more entertaining. Also consider the children’s tour if you have little ones.
Museum of Science, Boston
There is so much neat information in this museum, especially because there is a rotation of the exhibits. So plan a day allowing for plenty of time for exploration and learning. Consider seeing a movie at the Omni Theater as well, the film is projected onto a domed screen on the ceiling and it’s a cool experience.
Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge
Although I don’t think of Rockwell as a painter in the same way that I think of Monet as a painter, I do believe Rockwell is a very talented artist who was capable of engaging his audience in a very unique way. His museum in the Berkshires is well worth the visit to get a look at a large body of his work.
Think upscale picnic with quality live entertainment. Recurring guests, such as Diana Krall, Yo-Yo Ma, and James Taylor, grace Tanglewood’s outdoor stage. Grab a few friends and be sure to pack a blanket, a gourmet meal, a bottle of good wine, and some candles.
Symphony Hall, Boston
Visit a historic music hall that hosts world-class musicians and performers. I typically ended up asleep by the end of the performances when I was a kid, but at my age now, this place holds a certain wonder and I remain engaged until the standing ovation.
Sculler’s Jazz Club, Allston
Although this establishment hosts a more specific genre of music, there is no limitation set on the quality of acts performing at Sculler’s. I have repeatedly seen Donal Fox and his ever-changing band here. Fox is a classically trained jazz musician who is capable of blending Bach into his improvisations for an incredibly unique sound. Try to get a ticket to one of his shows when he’s around if you have the chance.
Sweet Basil, Needham
Sweet Basil is on this list purely for its atmosphere. The small dining room amplifies conversations, tables are smushed together, you get peeks into the kitchen revealing chef’s setting their pans ablaze… If I wasn’t a vegetarian I would probably be very happy with the menu at Sweet Basil, unfortunately there were only two vegetarian entrees, they were both ravioli style dishes, and the one I ordered wasn’t exactly a revelation of any kind. However, the owner and chef, Brian Decker was incredibly friendly and gave me a little tour of the kitchen before he was called to some other business.
The Red Lentil, Watertown
Here is a fantastic little vegetarian restaurant located in Watertown. Don’t go expecting any fine dining though; just expect some really tasty food. The last time I went to Red Lentil, I had the restaurant’s Heuvos Rancheros, which included fried cashew fritters and a phenomenal ranchero sauce. I look forward to visiting again, because I do get tired of having to settle for a second thought vegetarian entrée featured at most restaurants.
In case you find yourself in western Mass, perhaps visiting the colleges or Quabbin Reservoir, you must go to Judie’s. Here is a typical American restaurant that serves some really tasty food. Their popovers with apple butter, alone, are worth the trip.
Other New England:
White Mountains, NH
A simple drive through this area, along route 4, is worth the travel. Rolling hills, secluded lakes, and rocky rivers litter the White Mountains. So take a hike! There are trails ranging in difficulty from easy to advanced that all have the promise of a tranquil way up to a phenomenal view. I recently hiked up to the summit of Canon Mountain. It took about six hours and we were exposed to saturated greenery, occasional vertical rock climbing, and a surprise mountain lake. There was one path walled by coniferous trees, lined with moss, where you walked on raised wooden structures. The place had an incredible atmosphere to it, I felt as though I was entering into some kind of fairyland. I did struggle quite a bit on the way up, but the view was well worth the pain!
New England can feel like a frozen wasteland in winter sometimes, but with the right opportunity, you can take full advantage of our unique climate and geography. I recommend making a little ski trip to Stratton Mountain, or big if you have the time and money. I’m pretty sure I have skied almost all of the Ski Mountains in New England, and Stratton is my favorite. The lodging is very nice and most importantly features the heated pools and outdoor Jacuzzis that are essential to the ski trip experience. Stratton also has the most adorable base village that I have ever seen. There’s a bit of shopping available to you, and plenty of dining options.
Apple/Pumpkin/Berry Picking, anywhere!
The most important thing to do in New England in fall, is to go apple picking. I know exactly what apple picking is all about; first time wearing a coat in a long time, chilly fingers, fresh apple scent in the air while on the hay ride to the orchard, first fresh apple of the entire year, an experience so pure, juicy, and unspoiled that nothing can compare… It is essential that you first get some hot cider, pick a bushel, and finish the day with a caramel apple. Be sure to bring home some cider donuts and an apple pie, Dr. Abigail prescribed it all.
Personal favorite: http://www.tougasfarm.com/index.html
Acadia National Park, ME
Acadia is a truly beautiful park located on Mount Desert Island, Maine. I have not spent nearly enough time exploring all that the park has to offer, however, I can offer some suggestions. Spend some time on Sandy Beach. Although it doesn’t have the most creative name, it is tons of fun to explore the rocky barriers surrounding the beach before it opens into the ocean. Also take a drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain at night to get a view of the most brilliant night sky I have ever had the pleasure OF admiring.