New England is favorite vacation destination for many travelers. The area offers beautiful beaches for summer fun, gorgeous color changes during the fall, exciting winter sports opportunities, and blooming flowers and festivals during the spring.
But with so many fun things to do, choosing where to go in New England can be challenging. For a fabulous time, visit one of these top 12 places.
1. Rockport, MA
This picturesque fishing village on Cape Ann looks like a movie set. Rockport, MA features art studios, colorful fishing shacks, cute gift shops, boutiques, and restaurants that line the narrow streets. Eateries serve up fresh local lobster and classic New England dishes in addition to modern fare.
Located 40 miles northeast of Boston on the very tip of the Cape Ann peninsula, Rockport is perfect for a day trip, and there is plenty to do if you decide to spend a few days.
2. Essex, MA
Also located on Cape Ann, Essex is a small town full of antique and specialty shops, quality restaurants, and unbeatable scenery. You can dive into history at the old burying ground or the Essex Shipbuilding Museum. Explore nature along the Essex River or in the area’s wildlife refuges.
Formerly known as the shipbuilding capital of the northeast, Essex is now famous for its fried clams invented by Woodman’s of Essex was over 100 years ago.
3. Bar Harbor, ME
The gateway to Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor is an excellent place to explore the woodlands, rocky beaches, and granite peaks of Acadia. This quaint village is also worth a visit on its own. Get your blood pumping with hiking, kayaking, golfing, or other activities, or enjoy some rest and relaxation as you explore fresh seafood, home-grown produce, locally roasted coffee, craft beer, and more from the area’s many delightful restaurants.
4. Portland, Maine
Set on a peninsula in Casco Bay, Portland features a compelling combination of old fishing wharves, warehouses converted into trendy shops and restaurants, and an enchanting mixture of Renaissance Revival and Second Empire architecture. It’s clear to see why this is a top place to visit on your New England vacation.
Lighthouses and museums offer a glimpse into Portland’s past, or you can enjoy the present by staying in a cozy bed and breakfast and dining on local fare at one of the many unique restaurants or a trendy food truck.
Check out Commercial Street and enjoy shopping with the businesses along the water. Get a bird’s eye view of all the fishing boats at the Portland Observatory. Then, explore the cobblestone streets in this charming little town on your own, or book a spot in a Maine Foodie Tour to learn about the best Portland fare.
5. New Bedford, MA
Originally a fishing community, New Bedford developed into a whaling port and shipbuilding center during its 350-year-plus history. The New Bedford Whaling Museum and the Museum of Glass highlight the town’s rich history, while the New Bedford Art Museum showcases the community’s artistic flair.
Many people consider this town to be one of the most artistic places in the entire country, and every year, countless tourists flock to this town to enjoy art and festivals such as the Working Waterfront Festival, AHA! Nights, the Whaling City Festival, and the Seaport Chowder Festival.
6. Cambridge, MA
If you love cobblestone streets, historical sites, and impressive architecture, Cambridge needs to be on your must-see list. Home to Harvard University, Cambridge features a variety of fun neighborhoods with their own quirky charm, including Cambridgeport, Central Square, Harvard Square, Inman Square, and others.
From small vegan shoe shops to large malls full of foreign fare in “Japantown,” curry vindaloo to whitefish platters, and supersized kinetic art sculptures to contemporary paintings, Cambridge offers a little of something for everyone.
7. Kennebunkport, ME
Kennebunkport features gorgeous sandy beaches, scenic lighthouses, boat tours, great shopping opportunities, and some of the tastiest food in New England. Walk along Summer Street to check out the historic sea captain mansions, spot some whales on a boat tour, or browse the boutiques and gift shops in Dock Square.
Travelers come to this town all year long. For extra fun, you may want to schedule your trip during the Kennebunkport Festival focused on the creativity of artists, crafters, chefs, and other creative spirits in the area.
8. Lake Champlain Region
Located in New York, Vermont, and Quebec, Lake Champlain is a natural freshwater lake in the Adirondack Park. When you visit the Lake Champlain region, you can dive into the water during the summer or winter sports such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, or hiking through the icy Ausable Chasm during colder months. When you’re ready to relax, the small towns in this area offer all the amenities you need plus incredible shopping and dining experiences.
9. Martha’s Vineyard, MA
An iconic destination for New England vacations, Martha’s Vineyard draws in most of its visitors during the summer. As the island’s population swells in the warm weather, tourists enjoy beautiful beaches, water sports, sailing, farmer’s markets, and more. However, Martha’s Vineyard is also worth visiting in the winter.
Then, you can tour lighthouses, take snowy hikes, explore the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, or check out other cold-weather friendly destinations. In any season, you can explore the island’s robust nature at the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, which features miles of walking trails through 194 acres of natural beaches, salt marshes, meadowlands, and woodlands full of native birds, plants, and animals.
10. Narragansett, RI
Home to about 15,000 residents during the off-season, Narragansett blossoms to over twice its size in the summer. Learn how to surf or try out your boogie boarding skills at Narragansett Town Beach. If chilling out is more your thing, relax on the quiet beaches at Roger Wheeler State Beach or Salty Brine State Beach. Then, try some tasty fare at the town’s local eateries or take a tour of the Narragansett Beer Brewery, which has been in business since 1890.
11. Ogunquit, ME
Situated along the Atlantic coast of Maine and located near the Ogunquit River, Ogunquit is an old shipbuilding town turned tourist haven. The town features beautiful beaches, charming seaside hotels and bed and breakfasts, as well as many delightful restaurants and shops.
Get a glimpse of the water and enjoy picturesque lighthouses when you walk along Marginal Way. Or head to the city center and take an old-fashioned trolley to museums, art galleries, and the Ogunquit Playhouse, a summer stock theater.
12. Gloucester, MA
Just a short drive from Boston, Gloucester features the country’s oldest seaport and its oldest art colony. At the Essex National Heritage Recreation Area, you can enjoy two beaches, walking trails, playgrounds, and a dog park. Be sure to check out the area’s history at Stage Fort Park, where the Agawam Indians arrived over 10,000 years ago and the location of the Massachusetts Bay Colony founded in the mid-1600s.
If you enjoy walking, hit the 1.2-mile Harbor walk path that winds from Stage Fort Park through the town, giving you some of Gloucester’s best views and most iconic scenery. The town also features excellent shopping and dining experiences, and of course, you should consider taking one of the whale-sighting boat tours.
Start planning your next New England vacation with the must-see destinations! No matter which of these top vacation destinations you set your sights on for your vacation, it will be filled with experiences and fun.