With so much history, quaint old towns on the Atlantic coast, forested mountains and magnificent cities such as Boston, there is no lack of things to do on a weekend in New England. Charming towns like Bar Harbor and Martha’s Vineyard provide historic monuments, miles of beaches and great seafood. Small towns like Cambridge and Kennebunkport offer a combination of history, culture and fantastic restaurants. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Cape Cod National Seashore
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The Cape Cod National Seashore is a 43,607-acre protected area on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. It includes 40 miles of Atlantic seashore, wood, ponds, marshes, dunes, and Atlantic coastal pine barrens. The seashore stretches from Chatham to Provincetown and also has historic lighthouses, cultural landscapes, and massive wild cranberry bogs. With so much diversity, people have different reasons for loving to spend time in this wild, untamed space – hiking, swimming, biking, surfing, canoeing, visiting an old whaling captain’s house, searching for wild cranberries, climbing to the top of lighthouses, and much more. One of the most famous beaches within the seashore is Outer Beach, described by Thoreau in the 1800s.
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Located in northern Vermont on the slopes of Mount Mansfield, Stowe is a small town known as the Ski Capital of the East. It is home to the world-class Stowe Mountain Resort, with ski slopes and trails on both Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak. Near the base of the mountain is Smugglers’ Notch State Park, with dense forest and a famous narrow mountain pass. The Stowe Recreation Path runs through the town along the West Branch of the Little River and provides wonderful views of the surrounding mountains. The Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum has a fascinating exhibition of ski gear and related artifacts. Stowe hosts a range of arts and crafts shows, a balloon festival, and other seasonal events. The Stowe Theater Guild, Hyde Park Opera House, and the Waterbury Festival Players offer high-quality theatrical productions every summer.
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A quaint coastal town on Mount Desert Island protected by Maine’s Frenchman Bay, Bar Harbor is a gateway to nearby Acadia National Park. Only a 5-hour drive from Boston, Bar Harbor is a popular tourist destination. The best view of the town and the entire island is from one of the many trails on the majestic Cadillac Mountain, which dominates the park. Surrounded by exceptional natural beauty with sheer cliffs, rocky beaches, glacier lakes, ancient boreal forest, and 400 years of history, Bar Harbor is a nature lovers’ paradise. It is also the island’s cultural center, with unique art galleries, excellent family-run restaurants, cafes, and artisanal shops. The best way of exploring the town, and the surrounding island, is by taking the Shore Path from the town pier and strolling along the bay overlooking the ocean.
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Burlington is a charming, vibrant, small college Vermont town on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, not far from the Canadian border. In the heart of Burlington is the lively pedestrian Church Street Marketplace, with diverse stores, restaurants, cafés, book shops, galleries, and benches for tired visitors. Not far from downtown is the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum and south of the city is large the Shelburne Museum of American folk and decorative art. The nearby Adirondack and Green Mountains are popular destinations for hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter. The lake’s sandy beaches are perfect for soaking up the rays in the summer and is big enough for a range of watersports.
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5.Acadia National Park
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Covering 47,000 acres of land on Isle au Haut, Mount Desert Island, and the Schoodic Peninsula in DownEast Acadia, Maine, Acadia National Park is the only Maine national park. It was established to protect the magnificent nature of the rocky headlands along the Atlantic Ocean coastline, a range of habitats with high biodiversity, clean water and air, and Maine’s rich cultural heritage. The park has seven peaks higher than 1,000 feet, 45 miles of roads, 158 miles of hiking trails, and 16 stone bridges. The park’s dense woodland, rocky beaches, and glacier-formed granite peaks are home to rich wildlife such as bear, moose, whales, foxes, peregrine falcons, salamanders, and many seabirds. The charming coastal town of Bar Harbor is located within the park. Thousands of people visit the park every year, coming to enjoy the magical landscapes and endless recreation opportunities.
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Located only about 13 miles off the coast of Rhode Island, Block Island is an attractive mix of magnificent beaches, breathtaking vistas, 250-foot-high cliffs plunging into the ocean, over 32 miles of scenic hiking trails, rich history, and exciting night scene. The island is tiny, only 3 by 7 miles, but has over 50 stores and artisanal shops, numerous art galleries, gourmet restaurants, and charming cafes. Besides hanging out on the beach, visitors can go bike riding, horseback riding, hiking, birdwatching, fishing, snorkeling, kayaking, parasailing, and sailing. The island is known for its iconic 1800s red-brick Southeast Lighthouse, which is perched atop the dramatic cliffs of Mohegan Bluffs. On the island’s northern tip is the 1867 North Lighthouse and Sachem Pond, a birdwatchers’ paradise with flocks of gulls and swallows. The Block Island National Wildlife Refuge protects migratory songbirds that visit the island every year.
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One of the oldest cities in the U.S., founded in 1630, Boston is the capital of Massachusetts and its largest city. Boston played the key role in the American Revolution, and a great way to get a sense of the city’s rich history is by taking the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile walking exploration of the city’s historic sites. You will see 16 major historical Boston sites such as former meeting house Faneuil Hall, now a popular marketplace. You will also pass by the Boston Public Art Museum, tour the State House, climb the Bunker Hill Monument to the first big battle of the American Revolution, ride the swan boats on the Public Garden Lagoon, and much more. Enjoy the city’s beautifully preserved architecture, try the foods at the Faneuil Market, go to the harbor, and watch the historic ships.
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A small Vermont town settled in 1783 for grazing livestock, Cambridge is a perfect gateway to the nearby resorts on Mount Mansfield and Smuggler’s Notch. During the summer, all around Cambridge there are well-maintained trails for hiking, birdwatching, and horseback riding. In the winter, Smuggler’s Notch is a first-class resort with a range of facilities. Cambridge is famous for its three historic covered bridges. Smuggler’s Notch Distillery offers original local maple products and crafts. The city has a lively craft beer scene and a tour of their tap room will give you a chance to meet friendly locals. For a bit of history, visit Longfellow House, a beautiful mansion that was the home of the renowned poet Henry W. Longfellow, and the headquarters for General George Washington in 1775.
9.Green Mountain National Forest
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Located in central and southwestern Vermont, the Green Mountain National Forest is a 400,000-acre magnificent diverse landscape that includes the rugged, wild heights on the Green Mountains, quiet, secluded hollows, and 2,000 historic and archaeological sites. It is a popular destination for visitors who love the great outdoors and it is accessible year round. In the autumn, when the whole mountain is a colorful spectacle of autumn foliage, it is a breathtaking sight. Within the forest are many Native American sites, the ruins of colonial era farmsteads as well as roads and structures built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Lucky hikers can come across stately moose and other wildlife.
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Kennebunkport is a quiet, charming coastal town in southern Maine. In the summer, the main draw for the thousands of tourists are its fantastic beaches, such as sandy, long Goose Rocks Beach and Arundel Beach. When the weather does not encourage hanging out on the beach, the town’s unique boutiques, galleries, and quaint restaurants and cafés are full of visitors. The Seashore Trolley Museum has a large collection of historic streetcars. The 1887 St. Ann’s Episcopal Church is a rustic stone church on grassy grounds with ocean views. The 1833 rustic Goat Island Lighthouse located in the harbor of Cape Porpoise village is worth a visit. Hiking is the best way of exploring Kennebunkport, whether you are checking out the galleries and boutiques or exploring the lighthouses and the sea captains’ historic mansions on Summer street.
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Located halfway between Rutland and Woodstock, in the heart of the Green Mountains, Killington is a small lively Vermont town established in 1761. Today, it is a popular destination for skiers, with Killington Resort and Pico Resort. Golfers also know about Killington – its Green Mountain National Golf Course has been voted as Vermont’s #1 Public Golf Course" by Golf Digest. Hikers treat Killington as a gateway to the Long Trail, one of the American oldest long distance trails, with a 270-mile-long path that follows the high ridge of the Green Mountains. The Appalachian Trail also passes through Killington, offering one of the most beautiful portions of the trail – Thundering Falls.
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Lake Champlain is a large freshwater lake on the border between the US and the Canadian province of Quebec, in Lake Champlain Valley between the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Adirondack Mountains of New York. The cities of Plattsburgh, New York, and Burlington, Vermont are on the lake's shores. There is so much to do on the lake and around it. There are miles of hiking trails and scenic drives around the lake, while Ausable Chasm is famous for rock climbing. There is always some festival going on, such as the Penfield Apple Folkfest and Adirondack Harvest Festival. For history buffs there is the ruin of the 18th century fort at Crown Point State Historic Site with famous historic reenactments. The CATS trail system includes 40 miles of mostly easy hikes with fantastic views of the lake and Adirondack High Peaks. There is fish in the lake and in the surrounding ponds and streams.
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Martha's Vineyard is a small island in Massachusetts in the Atlantic, just south of Cape Cod. Martha’s Vineyard has been a New England summer colony for centuries, with its charming harbor towns, historic lighthouses, sandy beaches, and scenic farmland. The island can be accessed only by boat or air. The village of Vineyard Haven is a ferry port and the island's commercial hub. Oak Bluffs village is famous for picturesque Carpenter Gothic cottages and a historic carousel. While the beaches are the main tourist draw in the summer, it is the laidback vibe, fresh seafood, and diverse cultural events that bring visitors year round.
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Nantucket is a tiny island about 30 miles by ferry from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The island has been designated a National Historic Landmark District as a perfect example of a late 18th and early 19th century seaport town in New England. The island is a popular summer tourist destination, mostly for its fine sandy beaches backed by massive dunes. The beaches are lined by sun-bleached cedar-shingled houses and surrounded by manicured green fences. The cobblestoned streets of the charming town of Nantucket are lined with all kinds of restaurants and chowder shacks, boutiques, and high-steepled churches. The best place to learn about the town’s history as a whaling center is the Whaling Museum. Take a walk or a bike ride across the island and enjoy the view of the ocean, magnificent old whaling captains' mansions, historic harbors, quaint inns, and seaside cottages. Things to Do in Nantucket
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Narragansett is a beautiful seaside town in Rhode Island, only half an hour’s drive from Newport or Providence and an easy drive from New York City or Boston. Its spectacular sandy beaches attract thousands of visitors each year. Besides lovely beaches and verdant nature, with its long history, Narragansett has lot more to offer. Visit South County Museum on Canonchet Farm, stroll through Fishermen's State Park with its “seaside village” atmosphere, or explore the quaint Galilee Fishing Village with a working fishing fleet. The Point Judith Light was a witness to many shipwrecks, while the Towers is the only remnant of the famous 1880 Narragansett Pier Casino.
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Newport is a modern coastal city on Aquidneck Island, Rhode Island, with a rich and turbulent history. It was one of the most important British Empire colonial seaports until the American Revolution. At its peak during the Gilded Age, the city featured many magnificent mansions on Bellevue Avenue, some of which are now open to the public as museums. The most famous of all is the 1895 mansion Breakers, a copy of a Renaissance palace. Newport is world-famous for its annual sailing regatta: The America’s Cup. The city’s incredibly scenic harbor is always filled with multimillion-dollar yachts and charming small sailboats that can be enjoyed from one of many dockside cafés and restaurants. Because of its magnificent historic architecture, Newport is also a popular wedding venue.
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North Conway is a quintessential New England resort village located in New Hampshire, in the heart of Mount Washington Valley in the picturesque White Mountains. Surrounded by spectacular nature with endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, the quaint village of North Conway is known for its unique shops, great restaurants, bakeries, bars, and cafés. With 700,000 acres of magnificent White Mountain National Forest as its background, there are activities in all four seasons, such as superb skiing, snowmobiling, golfing, hiking, fishing, canoeing, camping, and much more. The great way to see much of the area is by riding one of the scenic trains. Story Land is a fantastic kids’ playground, and there is always something going on at the local theatre.
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A charming small town on the southern coast of Maine, Ogunquit is stretched along a long, sandy peninsula between Ogunquit River and the Atlantic, with grassy dunes bordering half a mile of golden beaches. Above the beach is the Marginal Way, a trail on the cliff that offers spectacular views of the ocean and a lighthouse. Ogunquit has a lively cultural life with musicals frequently staged at the Ogunquit Playhouse in the summer. The Ogunquit Museum of American Art features artworks with Maine-related themes and is famous for its waterside sculptures. Take the old-fashioned trolley to explore the town or walk amongst the town’s galleries, restaurants, and cafés.
19.Old Orchard Beach
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Old Orchard Beach is a small coastal town in Maine on the inner side of Saco Bay, on the Atlantic Ocean. A popular tourist destination during the summer, the town’s center is full of quaint clam shacks, t-shirt shops, cafés, souvenir stores, and galleries. The magnificent sandy beach is 7 miles long and is lined with tall condominiums, hotels, and bed & breakfasts. Old Orchard Pier is 500 feet long and is lined with shops, restaurants, bars, and much more. It is a place where locals and tourists come to fish, watch fireworks or sunsets, dance, listen to live music, or look for passing whales. Beachfront Palace Playland Park is a historic amusement park with a classic carousel.
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Plymouth is a small historic town on the coast of Massachusetts, south of Boston. Plymouth is well known as the place where the Pilgrims first settled and founded the town in 1620. The iconic Plymouth Rock is a boulder in Pilgrim Memorial State Park that marks the spot where settlers arguably first stepped on the shore. Whether that is accurate or not, the rock attracts thousands of tourists, who come to see where America was born. A replica of the ship on which Pilgrims sailed from the Old World, the Mayflower II, is anchored at the park when it is not being restored. Plimoth Plantation is a fascinating re-creation of a 17th century Pilgrim village. If you are travelling with kids, stop by Edaville Family Theme Park, with train rides and a vintage carousel.
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Portland is a modern city in Maine located on a peninsula stretching deep into Casco Bay. The Old Port waterfront district is the most popular areas for visitors, with cobblestone streets and brick sidewalks, fishing wharves, and old warehouses converted to shops and restaurants. The Western Promenade is a popular public park perched on a bluff overlooking the river and surrounding mountains. The West End is a quiet residential area full of beautifully restored Victorian-era homes, such as the Victoria Mansion Museum. The Portland Head Light, built in 1791, is the oldest lighthouse still in use in the US. Take a boat cruise and go see whales or hop on a ferry for a visit to the islands in Casco Bay.
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Provincetown is small coastal city located at the tip of Cape Cod, on a stretch of sand surrounded on all sides by water. It is a popular tourist destination, described as a fun blend of New York Greenwich Village and Florida’s Key West. The town’s quirkiness has been attracting artists, authors, and nature lovers since Charles Hawthorne opened the School of Art in 1899, bringing with him names such as Eugene O’Neill and later Ella Fitzgerald, Marlon Brando, and Richard Gere. The heart of the city is Commercial Street, with its diverse restaurants, charming hotels, and boutiques. Provincetown goes live in the summer, with its hip bars and artistic vibe. A city of fun today, Provincetown is anchored in the American history. It was in Provincetown that the Mayflower first threw its anchor.
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Salem is a historic city on Massachusetts’ north coast, not far from Boston. Salem has had a very rich and turbulent history and was one of the most important seaports in the Puritan American era. Salem is world famous for its 1692 witch trials, an event marked with the Witch House, the former home of the judge during the trial. While the witch trial gave Salem much of its identity, the city is also home to the famous Peabody Essex Museum, with a spectacular collection of art from all over the world. The Pioneer Village and the Charter Street Historic District preserve much of the city’s architectural past.
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Mystic Village, on the banks of Mystic River, was a major seaport in this part of Connecticut for centuries. The story of Mystic's nautical past is told at Mystic Seaport, the largest maritime museum in the country, with a number of beautifully preserved sailing ships, of which the most famous is the whaler Charles W. Morgan. The beautifully reproduced 19th century Maritime Village at Mystic offers a range of hands-on educational demonstrations such as traditional boat building. You can also learn how to make rope and see a smithy at work on real parts for the ships at the village. While at Mystic, visit 1746 Brant Point Light, the second New England operative lighthouse, or go on a harbor cruise, rent a sailboat, and visit the Mystic Aquarium. Or, you can just simply find the time to just sit in one of the quaint waterfront cafes and watch the boats and people passing by. Things to Do in Mystic CT
25.White Mountain National Forest
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The White Mountains National Forest is an 800,000-acre park in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. The forest is crossed by the Kancamagus Scenic Byway and the White Mountain Trail as well as a portion of the Appalachian Trail. The 1860s Mount Washington Cog Railway climbs all the way to the summit of Mount Washington, the highest mountain peak in the northeastern States. The White Mountain National Forest is particularly popular during the colorful fall foliage season and with skiers in the winter. The park’s ecosystems range from hardwood mountainous forests to massive alpine peaks. The breathtaking scenery includes clear mountain lakes, fast streams, rich wildlife, and diverse recreation opportunities such as biking, mountain climbing, fishing, hiking, hunting, picnicking, skiing, snowmobiling, and much more.
25 Best Weekend Getaways in New England (Small Towns, Beaches)
- Cape Cod National Seashore, Photo: Courtesy of CheriAlguire - Fotolia.com
- Stowe, Photo: Courtesy of SNEHIT - Fotolia.com
- Bar Harbor, Photo: Courtesy of dbvirago - Fotolia.com
- Burlington, Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com
- Acadia National Park, Photo: Courtesy of ericurquhart - Fotolia.com
- Block Island, Photo: Courtesy of Robert - Fotolia.com
- Boston, Photo: Courtesy of jovannig - Fotolia.com
- Cambridge, Photo: Courtesy of Selva - Fotolia.com
- Green Mountain National Forest, Photo: Courtesy of jiawangkun - Fotolia.com
- Kennebunkport, Photo: Courtesy of Enrico Della Pietra - Fotolia.com
- Killington, Photo: Courtesy of Francois - Fotolia.com
- Lake Champlain, Photo: Courtesy of debramillet - Fotolia.com
- Martha's Vineyard, Photo: Courtesy of Brian - Fotolia.com
- Nantucket, Photo: Courtesy of Terrance Walsh - Fotolia.com
- Narragansett, Photo: Courtesy of jiawangkun - Fotolia.com
- Newport, Photo: Courtesy of Adwo - Fotolia.com
- North Conway, Photo: Courtesy of rickmandia - Fotolia.com
- Ogunquit, Photo: Courtesy of spiritofamerica - Fotolia.com
- Old Orchard Beach, Photo: Courtesy of Jorge Moro - Fotolia.com
- Plymouth, Photo: Courtesy of mheston - Fotolia.com
- Portland, Photo: Courtesy of haveseen - Fotolia.com
- Provincetown, Photo: Courtesy of Vadim - Fotolia.com
- Salem, Photo: Courtesy of Pierrette Guertin - Fotolia.com
- Mystic Seaport, Photo: Courtesy of Ernest - Fotolia.com
- White Mountain National Forest, Photo: Courtesy of Xavier Ascanio - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of f11photo - Fotolia.com
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