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Why Visit New England?
When I first moved to Rhode Island in New England from the west coast, some of my California friends were very confused about New England. New England is a geographic area comprising the states of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. It is in the very northeastern United States and has bustling seaside towns complete with gorgeous lighthouses on its rocky coastline or islands and quaint ski or artist towns nestled in forested mountains.
Native Americans originally occupied New England until colonists settled here around 1600. Colonial history still abounds in places such as Salem, Massachusetts, Plimoth Plantation, and Newport, Rhode Island. New England was a staging ground in the abolition movement, religious freedom in the burgeoning United States, and the industrial revolution.
Its geography is some of the most diverse in the United States. New England has coastal grasslands, many islands, and a gorgeous mountainous coastline. And in just a week or two, you can explore it on a New England road trip.
One of the highlights of New England, and the reason many people know it, is its astounding, vibrant, and multicolored fall foliage, which can be found throughout the region.
Plan a Trip to Visit New England
Rent a car
Due to the distances, you must cover and the relatively rural nature of our northeastern states, really experiencing New England requires a car. Alternatively, you could take a train throughout the area but would have difficulty leaving the cities.
Where to Begin Your New England Road Trip
The largest New England airport is in Boston. You can also fly into any of New York City’s airports and drive about an hour into Connecticut to start your journey.
The New England States
If you click on any state name, it will bring you to a list of all my articles about that state.
There are many shades of Connecticut, from the affluent suburbs of NYC to the rural treed areas of the Eastern state; Connecticut is the inspiration of the Gilmore Girls’ Star’s Hallow.
- Fairfield County– Affluent suburbs of New York City.
- Litchfield County– Rural farmland with cute little villages.
- Hartford– Connecticut’s capital with a hip waterfront and great hiking nearby at Talcott Mountain. Be sure to visit the Mark Twain House.
- West Hartford– One of my favorite restaurants anywhere, Restaurant Bricco, is in this shopper and diner’s paradise.
- Mystic is a Colonial town with an excellent aquarium, a cute downtown, a working drawbridge, and a Colonial Seaport.
- Connecticut’s coastline is perfect for kayaking among its grassy marshland, although they are not the best New England Beaches.
- The Connecticut River winds through most of the state. Take a boat ride down it or explore a few of the towns nestled along its shoreline, like Essex.
- Wethersfield- Wander along the streets of the oldest town in Connecticut, then enjoy a walk by its waterfront.
This state is one of my favorites, maybe because it is where I live, but also because even though it is small- just 37 by 48 miles- it has 384 miles of serpentine, rocky coastline. Here are a few of my favorite places to visit. Check out 47 Fabulous Things to Do in Rhode Island.
- Newport– a historic summer retreat for America’s elite. This coastal town is my favorite, and most of my time is spent exploring this town!
- Providence– Spend an evening dining in our version of Little Italy, Federal Hill, or catching a spectacular public art exhibit, Waterfire, on our capital city’s canals.
- Block Island– an easily accessible New England island perfect for beaches, biking, and boating.
- Westerly- This town has the opulent Ocean House, the casual beaches of Misquamicut, and the stunning natural beauty of the Napa Tree Conservation area.
- Narragansett has the best flat, white-sand beaches in the state.
Most people center their time in Massachusetts in its capital city, Boston, a small bustling city full of US history. But I recommend you head out into its beautiful mountain areas, such as the Berkshires.
- While in Massachusetts, you must visit its capital, Boston, a city of immigrants steeped in colonial history but with a vibrant art, music, and food scene.
- Salem,- the site of the witchcraft trials of the 1600s and the home of Nathaniel Hawthorne, is one of the most unique of the New England towns.
- The Berkshires in Western Massachusetts is a perfect spot for camping or attending an outdoor concert at Tanglewood.
- While in the Berkshires, be sure to see the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne.
- Northampton is one of my favorite Massachusetts towns and is an arty hippy haven.
- Springfield is the home of the Basketball Hall of Fame, Yankee Candle, a butterfly museum, and The Eric Carle Museum.
- Visit Massachusetts’s famous islands, such as Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.
- Cape Cod is a peninsula with great bike rides and hikes, fabulous beaches, and seafood.
New Hampshire has the most chill New England vibe. It has excellent foliage with its Presidential white mountain range and many laid-back, family-friendly ski towns.
- The White Mountains are part of the Appalachian range and are full of waterfalls, lakes, and ski mountains. They are a perfect place to escape for families or couples. The White Mountains are one of the best places to experience a good New England autumn. Here is a list of my favorite New Hampshire hikes.
- If you don’t have much time for your road trip, consider this 4-Day New Hampshire fall road trip.
- Lincoln- one of our yearly haunts, is surrounded by great hiking, skiing, and many family activities.
- North Conway– Full of shopping, North Conway is a perfect family town oozing New England charm and near Santa’s Village and Storyland amusement parks.
- Skiing! Although you can ski in Vermont, New Hampshire, or Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire are where most New Englanders head to ski. We love to ski; even Rhode Island has a tiny ski hill.
One of my favorites, Vermont highlights its artists and locally grown food and is a ski destination. It is the most upscale of the mountainous New England states.
- Vermont is an outdoor lover’s paradise. We often go to tennis camp at Sugarbush, where there is also skiing.
- Ben and Jerry’s Factory– Ice cream is one of my favorite foods, and it is so worth a visit to this factory tour, which includes tastings at the end.
- Visit the ridiculously charming mountain town of Woodstock, where you can shop and eat and do any number of outdoor activities.
- Learn all about the local arts scene in Quechee. Read about a weekend in Woodstock and Quechee.
- Read more about exploring Vermont in A Family Road Trip from Boston to Montreal.
Maine is an outdoor-lover’s paradise, and Mainers are a rugged breed. Although the coast is relatively populated, there is plenty of untouched wilderness in this state, which covers half of the landmass of New England.
- Maine’s western mountains are a place of supreme peace, not overly populated, and full of glorious wilderness.
- Acadia National Park in Northern Maine is one of the US’ prettiest parks, with wooded forests along Maine’s long coastline. Although it is a long drive to get to, it is a must-see! Please read about my visit to Acadia National Park.
- The coastal town of Portland is close to Boston and has an incredible food scene, lighthouses, and plenty of coastal outdoor activities. Read 47 Fabulous Things to Do in Portland.
When to Visit New England?
There are good reasons to explore New England in any of its distinct seasons.
Summer in New England
If you love the outdoors, summer will allow you to take advantage of all the beaches, lakes, and waterfalls New England offers. Of course, with such perfection can come crowds. If you want to visit our islands, this is an ideal time to visit.
Fall in New England
Although the waters will be too cold to enjoy, there is nowhere in the world with better autumn colors than New England, especially in the northern states. It is the main reason people know about New England and visit. The farther north you travel, the more vibrant the colors are generally. It is tricky to know when the leaves will change, so you may have to change your itinerary to chase the leaves when you come, as they are only in peak for about a week, and the time varies by year.
Spring in New England
This shoulder season has the fewest crowds and the joy of spring flowers and bright green leaves. You won’t be able to lay on the beach, but you can usually still take a bike ride or hike. We may still get snow in spring, and some places won’t be open until after Memorial Day.
Winter in New England
New England feels so much like Christmas; it is an ideal place to feel winter. Our winters are mild enough that although there is enough snow in our mountains, it is warm enough to enjoy skiing or any winter sport. And, of course, enjoy a hot chocolate by the fire in our cute mountain bed and breakfasts.
This area of the US is one of the best. I hope this article inspires you to plan a trip here. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or ideas of places that you think I missed.
Continue your planning with my New England Bucket List.
23 thoughts on “A Local’s Guide to New England”
beautiful post and that Mohegan Bluffs looks amazing. In typical fashion I have been to boston plenty and love it but outside of a wedding in Maine, I have somehow missed the New England Area! I think a 2 week road trip to explore would be fantastic especially late summer and early fall!
Beautiful pics, I don’t like the cold but that Inn in the snow would change my mind
2 weeks would be a perfect amount of time to explore more of New England.
What a fun Road Trip! New England has the best scenery for such beautiful pictures. I would love to visit New Hampshire in the fall, and Ben & Jerry’s anytime!!
Firstly, thank you for calling out the shoulder season concept. Spring in New England is amazing. And because you HAVE TO go to Boston, you get to witness Make Way For Ducklings live and in-person when you visit the Garden. Hopefully we’ll be there this spring, venturing all of the way up to Maine!
Rob, stop by and visit us in Rhode Island!
This is a really useful guide for someone who is not at all familiar with New England. I love the way you have laid it out. From transport to what to expect. Thanks for the tips.
Thank you, Ami. Glad to hear that you found it useful.
Love New England! We have been there in a couple of occasions, including the Fall Colors in Vermont! Mindblowing! Full of history and incredible landscape. Top destination for sure.
Vermont’s colors are amazing. So glad you enjoyed our trip.
Going on a driving trip around New England in Autumn has always been on our bucket list. It looks so amazing! Great blog, very helpful tips on places to visit. Thank you for sharing.
You are welcome, Cindy. Enjoy when you take your drive!
I love this!! It came at the perfect time! We are planning a New England road trip this summer. I will be coming back to this!! Thanks!
Have a great trip, Leah!
Planning a family road trip this October; we have a lot on our agenda with no idea of how long we will visit different places. I’m concerned about hotels/motels as we don’t really want to make advance reservations since we won’t know how far we will travel each day. Is this going to be a problem?
When you get north there may be a problem if the leaves are good. I am doing a similar trip right now in Norway and am using my Hotels.com app on my phone to book at least one night ahead of where I will be staying. Have a great time.
Ditto! Really wondering about this; are we in trouble if we don’t do advance reservations?
You may very well not have a lot of choice in the fall about hotels. I bring my Hotels.com app with me and book on the road at least a little ahead of time.
This is a great breakdown of a part of the country that I really need to explore more of. Since I’m a huge Ben and Jerry’s fan, I’d probably start there and find myself coming back after checking out the White Mountains. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post and I’m happy to have found your site. Great post, Jamie!
Love this!! I grea up in New Hampshire and miss it every day. I’m hoping to make it back next summer for a visit, though I’d love to come back in the fall. New England is one of the best places on earth.
Why did you move? Hope you get back!
This is a great post for first time New England goers! Planning my first visit for the end of March/beginning of April and coming from Halifax. Just wondering how the weather is? It’s a shoulder season between hitting the slopes and bike riding and not sure what kind of activities I should be planning for.
Thanks in advance!
Although we can get a random snowstorm in April unless you are in the mountain the weather should be good. I wouldn’t plan to sun yourself on a beach, but you will be very happy outside or doing a bike ride.
Ok, good to know! Thanks!