1. Watch the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain in 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 right after the sun rises, spend the day hiking in this incredible US National Park right on the ocean.
2. Watch a lobster man hypnotize a lobster in Maine.
I don’t have a picture, but it is quite a sight to see. And eating lobster in Maine is a big must!
3. Eat some 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 cheese board. 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 site of the Boston Tea Party. One of the best 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 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 historical Mystic Seaport.
The largest maritime museum in the United States, it contains a recreation of a 19th-century seaside village to whisk you back in time to New England’s roots.
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, but I don’t know why because they are from Rhode Island.
10. Go 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 largest collection of WWII naval ships, including the highly decorated USS Massachusetts.
13. Immerse yourself in the Roaring 20s by visiting Newport’s historical mansions.
In the 1920s, the elite of the US built lavish vacation homes atop Rhode Island’s ocean-side cliffs. They are open to the public to tour. After you visit, be sure to walk the Cliff Walk.
14. Celebrate Thanksgiving where it was originally 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.
15. While you are there, visit Plymouth Rock, although it is a bit underwhelming.
I pictured a large boulder that could be seen from far away, but this mere rock is still pretty famous and you can see the Mayflower while you are at it.
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.
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 huge 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 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 few covered bridges, Vermont brags the most, 106, as well as a covered bridge museum.
23. Take a train ride through our mountains.
Dinner trains, foliage journeys, Polar Expresses, the world’s oldest mountain-climbing train (up Mount Washington)- there 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 a main mode of transportation in winter. You can see some stunning views while having some fun.
26. Hike a bit of the Appalachian Trail, a marked hiking trail through the wilderness of the east coast.
The Appalachian Trail starts in Georgia, but enters New England at Connecticut, wanders through the stunning Berkshires in Massachusetts, Vermont’s Green Mountains, 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 out side of Boston, Massachusetts.
28. Check out the Ivys- Yale, Dartmouth, Brown and Harvard.
I can’t promise that a walk 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.
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 of your childhood. Now that mine are a bit older, they like Clarke’s Trading Post best.
32. See an outdoor movie at Rhode Island’s historic Rocky Point Park.
This amusement park, located on the Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, closed in the 1990s, but has recently been reopened as a park to the public.
33. Drink a 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, but grab yourself a steaming hot bowl of New England Clam Chowdah.
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 your own candles and spend time in the Bavarian village.
36. Welcome spring back by doing some flower peeping at Boston’s Public Gardens.
You can view beds of spectacular tulips set among Boston’s famous swan boats in this extension of the Boston Commons. 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, as well as standing in line at Mike’s Pastry for cannoli.
38. Visit any of our numerous lighthouses.
Some can be toured and there are numerous 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.
41. See Steven King’s spiderweb and bat-decorated gate in Bangor, Maine.
Long before I lived in New England, I took a road trip here with my grandparents. A stop here to see the front gate of the king of horror’s home is my strongest memory of the visit.
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 still sits in it original building from 1652. It was built to be a tavern, 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 just can’t get any more New England winter than this.
45. Really experience a US St. Patrick’s Day by attending the parade in Boston, Massachusetts or Newport, Rhode Island.
Due to many pockets of Irish immigrants over the years, we have some of the best St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the United States.
46. See some of the largest mammals on earth, by whale watching off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
You will have the best chance to see whales such as Humpback, Finback, Right, and Minke whales between May and October. 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 Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket 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. The Painted Ladies in Oak Bluffs of Martha’s Vineyard should definitely not be missed. The islands have wonderful 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 directly to your inbox. If you need a hotel room for your visit, find the perfect place here.