What’s on your New England bucket list? This northwest corner of the United States is full of history, unique flavors, colonial towns built along the Atlantic Ocean, and forested wilderness. Read on for 47 things to do in New England, USA, that are sure to make your list, written by a local.
1. Watch the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, Maine.
This mountain in Maine’s Acadia National Park will give you a glimpse of the first rays of light to visit the US east coast. And it’s a great way to start my list of things you should be sure to do if you live in or are visiting New England. But don’t leave after the sun rises; spend the day hiking in this incredible US National Park on the ocean. Read on to see what else Acadia has to offer.
2. Watch a lobsterman hypnotize a lobster in Maine.
It is a bit bizarre, but one of my strongest memories from my first visit to New England when I was a child!
3. Eat free cheese at any Common Man Restaurant.
Most of the restaurants in this New Hampshire chain are in old converted barns. While you wait for a table, you can browse their collection of old advertisements and comic books and snack on the complimentary cheeseboard. They will bring you some yummy white chocolate for dessert too!
4. Walk the entire Freedom Trail in Boston.
This 2.5 miles walk will take you to 16 significant US historical sites, including the location of the Boston Tea Party. One of the unique things about New England is its colonial history.
5. Hike New England’s highest mountain, Mount Washington.
The trails are part of the Appalachian Trail. If you can’t physically climb Mount Washington, you can take the cogwheel railroad up and down or drive your car. The peak of this mountain, the tallest east of the Mississippi River, has seen the highest recorded wind speeds in the world, not in a storm.
6. Take a leaf-peeping drive through New England in the fall.
New England is the best place in the world to see the full complement of fall colors set among the quaint New England towns.
7. Feel the chills while visiting Salem, the Halloween capital of the world, in October.
Although the town can be a little kitschy, there is a lot of history to learn in Salem, Massachusetts, the sight of the witch trials made famous in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. The more than three-hundred-year-old history is still wildly relevant. Aside from all things witchy and spooky, you will find a cute town full of restaurants, art, and Hawthorne. Read more about Salem.
8. Check out the boats at the historic Mystic Seaport.
The largest maritime museum in the United States contains a recreation of a 19th-century seaside village to whisk you back in time to New England’s roots. You can also meet a beluga whale in Mystic at Mystic Aquarium!
9. Eat a wiener all the way in Olneyville, Rhode Island.
These hotdogs covered in meat sauce with onions and celery salt are otherwise known as a New York System wieners. However, I don’t understand why because they are from Rhode Island.
10. Go to meet the Green Monster at Fenway Park for a Red Sox Game.
New Englanders are generally huge sports fans, so Yankees fans may want to stay in New York. I am just kidding; we are much nicer than New Yorkers… Kidding again. The Green Monster is the left-field wall at the stadium.
11. Eat a lobster roll on Cape Cod, Maine, or really any New England spot on the Water.
Mounds of lobster covered in mayonnaise or butter, a lobster roll is one of New England’s signature and best foods! It is pretty much worth coming here just for this.
12. Explore Fall River’s Battleship Cove.
This museum has the world’s most extensive collection of WWII naval ships, including the highly decorated USS Massachusetts.
13. Immerse yourself in the Roaring 20s by visiting Newport’s Historic Mansions.
In the 1920s, the elite of the US built lavish vacation homes atop Rhode Island’s ocean-side cliffs. They are open to public tours. After you visit, be sure to walk the Cliff Walk.
14. Celebrate Thanksgiving, where it was initially celebrated, Plimouth Plantation.
Plan far ahead to score a place at the table of the original pilgrims. You can also spend the day exploring the plantation. While you are there, visit Plymouth Rock, although it is a bit underwhelming.
15. Visit Woodstock, Vermont.
See why Woodstock is called the “prettiest small town in the US” and experience real New England charm. Read A Weekend in Woodstock, Vermont.
16. See what inspired Thoreau to wax poetic about nature by visiting Walden Pond.
Maybe you, too, will become a transcendentalist if you live on the shores of this kettle-hole pond.
If you make it a Concord day trip, you can also explore its historic battlegrounds.
17. Visit the very haunted Hoosac Tunnel, Massachusetts.
Hundreds of men died while building this tunnel in the Berkshires, one questionably. Perhaps you will see a ghost?
18. Visit New England’s largest fair, the Big E.
At this colossal fair, you will find almost every food you can think of eating and all the typical carnival rides. But my favorite part is the Avenue of the States, where you can find replicas of New England’s capitals full of foods and goods from the state.
19. Explore the Norman Rockwell Museum and see what inspired his paintings of Americana.
We have museums in both Vermont and Massachusetts celebrating Rockwell’s illustrations of ordinary life.
20. Ski in the White Mountains.
We have many towns full of little inns on Main Streets at the bases of ski slopes. My favorites are Sugarbush, Vermont, Loon Mountain, New Hampshire, and Sunday River in Maine.
21. See if the vibe really is as freaky as it sounds by staying at Lizzy Borden’s House, which is now an inn and museum.
Are you brave enough to ask Lizzy’s ghost in person if she really killed her parents?
22. See a New England-covered bridge.
Although every New England state has at least a few covered bridges, Vermont brags the most, with 106 and a covered bridge museum.
23. Take a train ride through our mountains.
Dinner trains, foliage journeys, Polar Expresses, and the world’s oldest mountain-climbing train (up Mount Washington) are so many ways to enjoy the rails in New England.
24. Tour the original Ben and Jerry’s Factory.
See where the best ice cream company began at the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Vermont.
25. Snowmobile in Maine, Vermont, or New Hampshire.
In some rural parts of New England, snowmobiles are winter’s primary mode of transportation. You can see some stunning views while having some fun.
26. Hike part of the Appalachian Trail.
The Appalachian Trail starts in Georgia but enters New England in Connecticut and wanders through the stunning Berkshires in Massachusetts, Vermont’s Green Mountains, and New Hampshire’s White Mountains. It then ends in the forests of Maine.
27. Of course, the John F. Kennedy Library is in New England.
JFK was born in Brookline, right outside of Boston, Massachusetts.
28. Check out the Ivys- Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, and Harvard.
I can’t promise that walking through any of these campuses will make you smarter, but they are open to the public and lovely with architecture that will bring you back in time.
29. Experience historic New England at Old Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts.
Speaking of going back in time, Sturbridge will bring you back to a rural New England village in 1790.
30. Visit a sugar shack and see how maple syrup is made.
Late fall or early spring are the best times to visit these sugar shacks to see the process of maple syrup being made. One of the best times to visit is Maple Syrup Sunday in Maine, when many sugar shacks are open with special events. Read more about it here.
31. Go back to your childhood by visiting Santa’s Village, Clark’s Trading Post, or Storyland in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
Honestly, none of these amusement parks has changed much since you were a kid, if you are over 40. Your kids will have a fantastic time if you don’t tell too many stories about your childhood. When mine were a bit older, they liked Clarke’s Trading Post best.
32. See an outdoor movie at Rhode Island’s historic Rocky Point Park.
This amusement park, located on Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, closed in the 1990s. It has recently reopened as a park to the public.
33. Drink Del’s Lemonade on a hot, sunny day at a Rhode Island beach.
Nothing quenches the thirst of Rhode Islanders like this native iced drink with pieces of lemon in it. Just don’t ask for a straw!
34. Every New Englander has an opinion on where the best is, so grab yourself a steaming hot bowl of New England clam chowdah to find yours.
You may have an opinion of whether it should have bacon or dill, but any New Englander knows that clam chowder is white and creamy.
35. Visit the home of Yankee Candle.
When you visit the Yankee Candle Village in Deerfield, Massachusetts, you can make candles and spend time in the Bavarian village.
36. Welcome spring back by doing some flower peeping at Boston’s Public Gardens.
In this extension of the Boston Commons, you can view beds of spectacular tulips set among Boston’s famous swan boats. Beacon Hill is adjacent, so continue your walk through its brownstone-lined, gas-lamped streets.
37. Eat Italian food in Boston’s North End.
With some of the best Italian food in the US, you will enjoy the bustle of Hanover Street. Gangster-inspired Strega is my go-to locale, then standing in line at Mike’s Pastry for cannoli.
38. Visit any of our numerous lighthouses.
Tours are available for some of our lighthouses, with many unique ones to choose from. You could spend a few weeks just exploring them.
39. Celebrate Chinese New Year with Boston’s Dragon Parade in Chinatown.
The holiday is celebrated in February. Be sure to stick around for dim sum.
40. Wander around the quaint towns and gorgeous forests of the Berkshires.
You can come to hike, shop in the adorable towns, do a yoga retreat, or catch an outdoor concert at Tanglewood. James Taylor for the Fourth of July is my favorite. Be sure to visit Shelburne’s Bridge of Flowers while you are here.
41. See Steven King’s spiderweb and bat-decorated gate in Bangor, Maine.
Before I lived in New England, I took a road trip with my grandparents. My strongest memory of the visit is a stop here to see the front gate of the king of horror’s home.
42. Drink your way along Connecticut’s wine trail–by Uber or DD, of course.
Connecticut has 24 vineyards stretching from Litchfield Country to its southeast coast.
43. Grab a pint at the oldest pub in the US, Newport’s White Horse Tavern.
This upscale restaurant and bar are still in their original building from 1652. Built to be a tavern, it then morphed into a boarding house, the Rhode Island State Assembly, and even quartered British soldiers in the Revolutionary War.
44. Take a sleigh ride through the snow.
You can’t get any more New England winter than this.
45. Go clamming for Rhode Island local hard-shelled clams, quahogs, and turn them Into stuffies.
46. See some of the largest mammals on earth by whale watching off Cape Cod, Massachusetts coast.
Between May and October, you will have the best chance to see whales such as Humpback, Finback, Right, and Minke whales. Your boat will likely take you to the feeding grounds at Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
47. Vacation like a president at one of our Islands, such as Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, or Block Island.
The things I love about New England are even more amplified on our islands. The colonial architecture dots the shoreline of cute little towns. You shouldn’t miss the Painted Ladies in Oak Bluffs of Martha’s Vineyard. The islands have lovely beaches, white and sandy, or at the bottom of cliffs.
How many of these items have you already done? Is there anything you would add? Please let me know in the comments.
Have fun enjoying this unique and lovely part of the United States. For more in-depth information, click any of the links in the article or explore my New England posts, including A Local’s Guide to New England. Don’t forget to subscribe to get new posts as they come out and are sent directly to your inbox. If you need a hotel room, find the perfect place here.