Filled with quaint towns, spectacular scenery, and rich history, New England is an incredible place to take a day trip or two. There's something here for everyone; history lovers should stop by the Old Sturbridge Village or the city of Plymouth, outdoor enthusiasts will be awestruck by the beauty of Acadia National Park, and anyone with a nostalgic streak will fall in love with Old Orchard Beach. If you're more interested in the journey than the destination, the Green Mountain Byway, the Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway, and the Mohawk Trail are wonderful driving routes that draw visitors from all over New England.
Fondly nicknamed the 'City by the Sea', Newport is a quintessential coastal city located on the beautiful Aquidneck Island. The historic Bellevue Avenue is lined with spectacular Gilded Age mansions, including the Vanderbilt's Marble House and an 1895 Renaissance-style mansion known as The Breakers, both of which are now house museums open to the public. If you're content to simply admire the mansions from the outside, you can also stroll along the Newport Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile trail that leads along the shoreline. Other attractions include the International Tennis Hall of Fame, the beautiful Easton's Beach, and the historic Fort Adams State Park.
2.Bar Harbor, ME
Located in Frenchman Bay on Mount Desert Island, the biggest island off the coast of Maine, Bar Harbor has been a popular summer tourist destination since the 19th century. The downtown Main Street is lined with locally owned boutique shops and incredible restaurants, but many of the best reasons to visit Bar Harbor are found outside the town center. Kayaking and whale watching are two favorite activities, and much of the island is protected by Acadia National Park, which invites visitors to stroll along the rocky coast, photograph the spectacular scenery, and climb Cadillac Mountain, the tallest peak on the East Coast.
3.Block Island, RI
Sitting approximately 13 miles off the coast of Rhode Island, Block Island can only be reached by boat or by plane, but it's absolutely worth the effort it takes to get here. The island was first settled in 1661, but almost half of its land has been preserved, and it boasts 28 miles of well-maintained walking paths and 17 miles of beautiful white sand beaches for visitors to enjoy. The water surrounding the island provides plenty of recreational opportunities as well, and some of the most popular activities include swimming, surfing, kayaking, and charter fishing.
If you want to spend the day shopping, the outlet mall of Freeport Crossing is a great place to go. Conveniently located just off Exit 20 on the I-295 on the way to downtown Freeport, it's a great place to visit either on its own or as part of a trip into the city. Several outlet stores can be found here, including specialty stores like OshKosh B’gosh and Carter's. If you get hungry after shopping, you can grab something to eat at Dunkin' Donuts or pick up a few groceries or a pre-made lunch at Shaw's.
200 Lower Main St, Freeport, ME 04032, Phone: 617-232-8900
5.Green Mountain Byway
Part of Vermont's Route 100, the Green Mountain Byway is a scenic driving route that runs between the Worcester Range and the Green Mountains. The drive is enjoyable in and of itself, particularly in the fall when the leaves put on a colorful show, but there are plenty of interesting attractions along the way. Rent a kayak and paddle around the Waterbury Reservoir, go for a hike on Mount Mansfield, or take a tour of the Ben & Jerry's factory. The byway also passes through the towns of Waterbury and Stowe, where you can stop to have lunch or do a bit of shopping.
6.Hammonasset Beach State Park
Established to protect a beautiful two-mile stretch of Connecticut’s sandy shoreline, Hammonasset Beach State Park is the perfect place to spend a summer day at the beach. The water is wonderful for swimming, but if you have the right equipment, it's also well-suited to scuba diving and saltwater fishing. If you'd rather stay on dry land, you can visit the nature center to attend one of the interpretive tours, go for a hike through the park, or simply enjoy a picnic lunch on the shore. Bicycles can be rented during the summer, and lifeguards are on duty Wednesday through Sunday.
1288 Boston Post Rd, Madison, CT 06443, Phone: 203-245-2785
7.Horseneck Beach State Reservation
Occupying approximately 800 acres of a sandy peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, Horseneck Beach State Reservation is known for being one of the most beautiful beach destinations in Massachusetts. The two-mile-long beach mostly attracts visitors who want to swim and relax in the sun, but it's also a great spot for fishing and birdwatching, and a boat ramp is available for both motorized and non-motorized boats. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer, and if you want to spend the night, the campground is open between the beginning of May and mid-October.
5 John Reed Rd, Westport, MA 02790, Phone: 508-636-8816
8.Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area
Spanning parts of both Connecticut and Massachusetts, the Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area was established to protect and promote the history, culture, and land of the valley created by the upper Housatonic River. It boasts more than 50 historically significant sites, including the former home of novelist Herman Melville, the childhood homesite of activist W. E. B. Du Bois, and the Hancock Shaker Village. If you're more interested in the area's natural sights, you can stop at the Cathedral Pines to admire the old growth forest, check out the 43 varieties of fern in Bartholomew’s Cobble, or snap some photos at the picturesque Beckley Bog.
Thanks to its gorgeous dune-lined beaches and its wonderful array of quaint little towns, Cape Cod is one of the most iconic vacation spots in New England. Some visitors choose to pick a spot on the Cape Cod National Seashore and settle in for the day, but if you're interested in seeing what else is on the hook-shaped peninsula, you'll be spoiled for choice. Spend a few hours browsing the art galleries in Provincetown, enjoy a fresh seafood lunch at one of the local restaurants, or rent a bike and cycle along part of the beautiful Cape Cod Rail Trail.
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Lexington started out as a humble farming community, but after the famous “shot heard round the world” was fired here in 1775, it became known as the starting place of the American Revolution. It's now a pleasant rural town that also happens to be an excellent place to learn about the history of the revolutionary war, and the most obvious place to start your visit is at the Lexington Common National Historic Site. After that, you can take a Liberty Ride trolley tour, stop by the historic Buckman Tavern, or visit some of the historic sites along the Battle Road Trail.
11.Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center
Owned and operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center is dedicated to understanding, preserving, and sharing the rich history and culture of American indigenous societies, particularly the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe. The permanent, multi-sensory exhibits cover topics ranging from the Ice Age to life on the reservation during the 1980s, but one of the highlights is a replica 16th-century Pequot village. Traditional arts and crafts can be seen in some of the exhibits as well, and if you'd like to bring home a souvenir, contemporary indigenous handicrafts can be purchased in the gift shop.
110 Pequot Trail, Ledyard, CT 06338, Phone: 800-411-9671
Formerly a significant migratory game path for the area's indigenous peoples, the Mohawk Trail is now a scenic driving route that extends from the Connecticut River to the Massachusetts-New York border. It's especially popular with motorcyclists, but it's a great day trip to do in a car as well, and there are more than 100 interesting sites to stop at along the way. Highlights include the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the Mount Greylock lookout point, and the Natural Bridge State Park, and if you're visiting in the spring, summer, or fall, the spectacular Bridge of Flowers is a great stop as well.
Founded in 1654, Mystic is easily one of the most charming small towns in Connecticut. Many of the town's top attractions have a strong maritime theme; the living museum of Mystic Seaport features a replica 19th-century seaside village and a historic 1841 whaling ship, while the modern Mystic Aquarium offers the opportunity to see marine animals like beluga whales, colorful jellyfish, and dolphins. When you're ready to have lunch or do a bit of shopping, head to Olde Mystick Village to admire the colonial style buildings, browse the gift shops, and enjoy some fresh seafood.
14.Old Orchard Beach
Known for its seven miles of sandy beach and its waterfront boardwalk, Old Orchard Beach is a welcoming tourist town with everything you need for a day of fun in the sun. The sandy beach has plenty of room for visitors to spread out and relax, and the boardwalk is lined with a wonderful selection of locally owned shops and restaurants with fantastic views of the water. If you bring your kids, you can also spend some time at Palace Playland, an exciting amusement park with a Ferris wheel, a carousel, and plenty of other exhilarating rides.
15.Old Sturbridge Village, MA
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Sprawling across a 200-acre property in central Massachusetts, the Old Sturbridge Village is the largest living history museum in all of New England. The highlight of the museum is a replica rural New England town designed to depict life in the 1830s, and costumed historians can be found working, shopping, and cooking throughout the village. These actors are intended to serve as the site's interpreters, and visitors are encouraged to ask as many questions as they like. A handful of working restaurants and gift shops are located on the property as well, and special events are held throughout the year, including a weekly Sunday brunch.
1 Old Sturbridge Village Rd, Sturbridge, MA 01566, Phone: 800-733-1830
Best known as the site of the first Pilgrim settlement in the country, Plymouth, Massachusetts is a must-visit city for anyone interested in American history. The Plymouth Rock is the easily the most iconic sight, but other significant spots include the Plimoth Grist Mill, the Mayflower House Museum, and the Plimoth Plantation, a replica 1627 village. When you've learned enough about history for the day, you can take a scenic ride on the Edaville Railroad, go for a walk in the beautiful Brewster Gardens, or rent a kayak and paddle around on the Billington Sea.
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17.Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway
Stretching for 52 miles through some of the most picturesque scenery in Maine, the Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway is the perfect length for a day trip, particularly if you make a few stops along the way. The magnificent Rangeley Lake is the highlight of the drive, but there are plenty of other wonderful things to see as well, including Angel Falls, Coos Canyon, and the Height of Land scenic overlook. The byway makes for an excellent road trip year-round, but it's particularly spectacular in the fall, when the foliage turns vibrant shades of red, yellow, and orange.
18.Reid State Park
Encompassing almost 800 acres on Georgetown Island in Maine, Reid State Park boasts wide sandy beaches, rugged tidal pools, and a diverse range of wildlife, including a healthy population of endangered birds. The most popular activities include fishing, picnicking, and exploring the tide pools, and although the water can be quite cold, there's a small swimming area suitable for swimmers of all levels. The park is open to visitors year-round, and although it tends to be much more popular in the warmer months, it's an excellent place for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter.
375 Seguinland Rd, Georgetown, ME 04548, Phone: 207-371-2303
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Set on the northern coast of Massachusetts, Salem is best known for the infamous Salem Witch Trials of 1692, but it's a charming town nonetheless. There are plenty of great shops and restaurants downtown, and although walking food tours are a popular activity, the bulk of the attractions center around the city's spooky past. You can learn about the history of the trials at the Jonathan Corwin House or pay a visit to the Witch History Museum, and if you're interested in modern witchcraft, you can get a psychic reading done at the Cauldron Black or meet a practicing witch at the Salem Witch Village.
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20.Sherwood Island State Park
The first state park established in Connecticut, Sherwood Island State Park is a beautiful piece of land on Long Island Sound. The on-site nature center offers interpretive programs during the summer months, and there is a large, shady picnic area with more than 100 tables for visitors to use. When it comes to recreation out on the water, the water is excellent for swimming and scuba diving, and surf and shore fishing are permitted outside of the designated swimming areas. The park is open daily between 8 a.m. and sunset, and lifeguards are on duty Wednesday through Sunday.
Sherwood Island Connector, Westport, CT 06880, Phone: 203-226-6983
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21.Silver Sands State Park
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Consisting primarily of sandy beach and salt marshland, Silver Sands State Park is a lovely seaside destination overlooking Long Island Sound. There are approximately two miles of hiking trails in the park, and there is also a boardwalk that connects it to the neighboring Walnut Beach. Half a mile off the shore is the 14-acre Charles Island, a bird sanctuary that was created to protect herons and egrets. When the tide is out, visitors can also walk out to Charles Island, although the sandbar that leads through the water is closed between May and August so that the area's birds can nest.
1 Silver Sands Pkwy, Milford, CT 06460, Phone: 203-735-4311
Dating back to 1634, Wethersfield is one of the oldest and most historic towns in Connecticut. The historic Old Wethersfield district is home to a wonderful collection of historic homes, some of which were built in the 17th century, while the Wethersfield Museum and Visitors Center provides a fascinating introduction to the area's history. If you'd like to learn even more, you can visit the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum or the Buttolph-Williams House. When you're ready to do some shopping, you can browse the antique stores in the historic district or head to the Comstock Ferre & Co seed store.
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Nestled in the picture-perfect Green Mountains, the town of Woodstock perfectly captures the essence of life in rural Vermont. The surrounding mountains provide endless opportunities to hike in the summer and ski in the winter, but if you stay in town, you'll be spoiled for choice when it comes to art galleries and boutique shops. Driving around the back roads is a great way to get a feel for the countryside, but if you want to see more, live farming demonstrations are regularly held at the Billings Farm and Museum, a beautiful property that was formerly owned by businessman Laurance Rockefeller.
Widely recognized as one of the most charming towns in New Hampshire, Exeter is best known for its historic downtown core, where there's a fantastic collection of shops, art galleries, cafes, and charming restaurants. It's worth taking a stroll through the residential area of town as well, particularly if you want to take a few photos of the tree-lined streets dotted with gorgeous historic homes. Most of these homes can only be seen from the outside, but the 1721 Ladd-Gilman House has been transformed into the American Independence Museum, and seven of the rooms are open for tours.
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Conveniently located on the I-95, Guilford is one of the most picturesque gems on the Connecticut shoreline. Attractions in town include the Henry Whitfield State Museum and the Elisha Pitkin House, while the nearby Cockaponset State Forest is an excellent hiking destination. If you want to enjoy the beauty of Long Island Sound, you can head to the 25-acre Jacob's Beach, which is located right on Seaside Ave. If it's the right season, you can also visit one of the orchards on the outskirts of town to wind through a corn maze or pick some fruit to take home.
25 Best New England Day Trips
- Newport, Photo: demerzel21/stock.adobe.com
- Bar Harbor, ME, Photo: f11photo/stock.adobe.com
- Block Island, RI, Photo: ArenaCreative/stock.adobe.com
- Freeport Crossing, Photo: Alliance/stock.adobe.com
- Green Mountain Byway, Photo: spiritofamerica/stock.adobe.com
- Hammonasset Beach State Park, Photo: duke2015/stock.adobe.com
- Horseneck Beach State Reservation, Photo: pbaird/stock.adobe.com
- Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area, Photo: sphraner/stock.adobe.com
- Cape Cod, Photo: Vadim/stock.adobe.com
- Lexington, MA, Photo: flysnow/stock.adobe.com
- Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, Photo: AndreasJ/stock.adobe.com
- Mohawk Trail, Photo: Nigar/stock.adobe.com
- Mystic, CT, Photo: AndreasJ/stock.adobe.com
- Old Orchard Beach, Photo: /stock.adobe.comeqroy
- Old Sturbridge Village, MA, Photo: Lori Ellis/stock.adobe.com
- Plymouth, MA, Photo: William/stock.adobe.com
- Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway, Photo: DILIP/stock.adobe.com
- Reid State Park, Photo: Ryan/stock.adobe.com
- Salem, MA, Photo: rockerchick1080/stock.adobe.com
- Sherwood Island State Park, Photo: scoutori/stock.adobe.com
- Silver Sands State Park, Photo: Ritu Jethani/stock.adobe.com
- Wethersfield, Photo: Gary/stock.adobe.com
- Woodstock, VT, Photo: World Travel Photos/stock.adobe.com
- Exeter, NH, Photo: mindstorm/stock.adobe.com
- Guilford, CT, Photo: lspi138/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Rosemarie/stock.adobe.com