Wrote this for the summer fun-themed newsletter at work and wanted to share... Hopefully it will inspire you!
With summer underway – whether it feels like it or not – and budgets tight, many people are wondering how to get away and unwind without breaking the bank. While not as restful as a full-blown week on a tropical island or as insightful as two weeks touring Europe, a road trip within New England can provide just the budget respite you are seeking.
There are so many places within two hours of Boston for your summer fun. To get you started, here are a few suggestions, sorted by state.
Nothing is easier than starting near home. Sure, you have been to Boston for dinner or a night out at the club. Maybe you even live there, but have you ever been a tourist there? Many of us never see our home cities as the out-of-towners do. So, lace up your sneakers, pack the camera, put on your Red Sox hat and hit the pavement!
Spend a day in Boston doing the things you make fun of the tourists for. You could burn an entire day exploring the Museum of Science or the Museum of Fine Arts.
Get the broad overview of Boston and learn some interesting tidbits by taking an Old Town Trolley Tour or the ever-so-corny Duck Tour.
Speaking of water fowl, stroll through the Public Garden to the pond for a visit with the famous resident swans, Romeo and Juliet. While you’re there, discover your inner child with a Swan Boat ride. After your cruise, grab a bagel sandwich from Finagle-A-Bagel on Tremont Street and have a picnic lunch in the Boston Common. One of my favorite things to do, try to get a spot sitting on the fountain next to the Park Street MBTA station: great for people watching!
After lunch, walk off those carbs by exploring the transitioning Downtown Crossing or head up Tremont to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market for street shows, the ultimate in tourist shopping and a piece of Boston history.
If you’re into history, look for the gold-dome-topped building atop Beacon Hill. This beautiful building is the Massachusetts State House, where you can schedule a tour in advance for free. If you feel ambitious to take in perhaps Boston’s most well-known historical moment, follow the Freedom Trail, Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride. All sites on the trail can be found on the Web site above, however, you will need a car to reach the end of Revere’s ride.
Those looking for a more exotic Boston experience should explore the North End – home to Boston’s Italian population along with some of the best restaurants, pizza shops, delis and bakeries in the city; Chinatown – the contents of this neighborhood are obvious, but I hear the dim sum is fantastic; or South Boston – the Irish enclave where those looking for a pint of Guinness in a hometown pub should head.
There is so much more to the City of Boston than the daily grind most of us know. So slow down and walk the city, and don’t forget to take pictures!
For those looking for a beach retreat, follow Rt. 3 down to Cape Cod, all the way down to Provincetown. This small town is an eclectic mix of shops, tourists, residents, restaurants and bars. Make sure to check for any special events going on in town and plan your visit accordingly. After a busy day touring the narrow streets of P-Town, kick back on a blanket at the Wellfleet Drive-In for a couple movies and greasy drive-in food.
Other options for charming Massachusetts beach towns include Scituate and Rockport. Both towns feature simple beaches to relax on and quaint towns with shops and restaurants – most with coastal views. In Scituate, make sure you head out to the St. Judith Point Lighthouse for the sunset. While wandering the streets of Rockport, do not miss Helmut’s Strudel for some of the best pastry you have ever had. I highly recommend the apple strudel, heated, of course.
While Water Country and Canobie Lake Park are great options for day trips on pleasant summer days, New Hampshire has much more to offer in the way of nature excursions. If you are heading to Water Country, save some time to explore Portsmouth itself, a harbor town featuring many delightful restaurants as well as the Portsmouth Brewery.
A great day excursion is spelunking the Polar Caves in Plymouth. Ok, so spelunking is not required with wooden walkways and stairways, but for the novice hiker or those with children, the park is a good place to start your cave exploration. The park also features two mining sites, where you can mine your own gems and rocks, and picnic areas.
Another great natural area in the Granite State is the White Mountains. Many flock to this destination for winter skiing, but summertime offers many attractions as well, with less of a crowd. While the historic Mount Washington Hotel and Resort looks impressive against snow-covered mountains, it retains its grandeur when flocked by green mountains – a great time to take advantage of the resort’s golf course! There is also the attraction of Mount Washington, New Hampshire’s highest peak, itself. Those with hiking experience can explore the many hiking trails on the mountain, or those daring enough can drive up the mountain. (Ever seen those “This car climbed Mount Washington” bumper stickers?) If you just want to sit back and enjoy the ride, board the Cog Railway for a harrowing trip up to the summit. Remember a jacket, even if it’s 85 degrees at the base; it gets windy on the mountaintop. When you get down, get ready to go back up again, as the Mount Washington Resort now features a zip line tour!
Back to the beach – it is summer after all. Hampton Beach is right over the border on Rt. 1A, and offers a closer version of New Jersey’s Atlantic City – boardwalk and all!
Heading south, preferably along the Coastal Wine Trail for those oenophiles out there, to the Ocean State – appropriate for the season. The wine trail is the perfect way to transition from Massachusetts to Rhode Island as the tour begins in Truro on Cape Cod, winds down to Newport, RI, and ends in Westerly. Over 100 miles long, this trip will have to be broken down into multiple days – perhaps the perfect long weekend getaway.
Definitely make Newport one of your targeted destinations, however. Another New England beach town, Newport has the quaint feel of Rockport, MA, strolling cobble-stoned Thames Street downtown, and the nighttime excitement of Hampton Beach, NH, at the House of Blues, among other waterfront bars and nightclubs, while offering something completely different: one of the grandiose displays of history New England has to offer.
Nine Newport Mansions are open for touring, portraying a glimpse into turn-of-the-century vacation extravagance. If you only visit one mansion, make it The Breakers, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on the Cliff Walk. The vacation home of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, steamship and New York Railroad tycoon, The Breakers is the most luxurious “cottage” in town. After touring the mansion, wander out into the backyard to the Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile trail along the ocean that can become treacherous in parts.
Bring a pack lunch to either Fort Adams State Park on Newport’s West side, or enjoy Easton’s Beach on the East side, bordering Middletown. If a picnic is not your cup of tea, there are many other options for beach-front dining in Newport. Near the beach, there is Flo’s Clam Shack off Memorial Boulevard or the Atlantic Beach Club across the street – where one can grab lunch while enjoying live music right on the beach.
If you are downtown, stop for lunch at the Red Parrot, featuring American entrees with a twist – the lobster pizza is to die for. Be sure to head south from the restaurant on Thames Street for some great window shopping.
You can either spend the night in Newport, dancing and drinking by the water, or you can drive up to Providence on select Friday and Saturday nights in the summer for Water Fire. This unique art display along the city’s canal also includes live performances, canal boat rides and a general carnival atmosphere. Be sure to make reservations if you are having dinner along the canal on a Water Fire night; restaurants book up more than a week prior.
Our final stop on this New England vacation tour is Block Island. While there are many islands off the coast of Massachusetts and Rhode Island to explore, Block Island, accessed by ferry from Point Judith or Newport, is one of the more untouched places. The entire island can be explored in a day – the best way is by bicycle, which can be brought on your own or rented. That is assuming you wish to explore the entire island in a day. Life on Block Island is laid back and leisurely. So, take your time, shop, walk the beach barefoot, feel the salt air blowing your air while riding a moped and relax. Welcome to your vacation, right here at home.