Traveling in 2021? Please check with each state/destination for its current COVID-19 guidelines, as these are constantly changing and the most accurate, up-to-date information may not be reflected here.
Travelers flock to New England each year, especially in the summer and fall, to discover what we already know: New England is a wonderful place for a vacation. There are dozens of fantastic New England vacation spots worth visiting again and again. And there’s definitely something for everyone.
Whether you’re a beach and coast lover seeking lighthouses, lobsters, and leisure, or a mountain fiend in search of hiking, camping, and lakes, there’s something for you to do in New England. The same goes for city-lovers. You’ll find terrific urban escapes in Boston, Portland, Providence, and beyond.
So where are the best places to visit in New England? If you’re planning a trip to this quaint region of the country, where should you go? (And what should you do?)
We’ve narrowed it down to 15 of our top picks. These are not just places that we love but are spots that continue to be popular with travelers throughout the years. These are exceptional spots and make for wonderful New England weekend getaways.
Take a look and see what we’ve included. Which New England destination is your favorite?
PS: Don’t miss our ultimate New England road trip itinerary.
Martha’s Vineyard, MA
This island off the coast of Massachusetts is one of the most beautiful New England spots, especially for a summer trip. Martha’s Vineyard is a fun getaway. While you’re not coming here for the nightlife, you’re coming here for relaxation and luxury.
One of the best things to do on the island is simply to rent a bike and go for a ride. Explore lighthouses as well as the six towns that make up the island. Shopping and art are also things you’ll find on Martha’s Vineyard in abundance.
Nantucket is the other beloved New England island that has a vibrant summer culture. Both destinations have a lot to offer. If you’re not sure which island to visit, this article breaks it down nicely for you.
The Berkshires, MA
Along the western edge of Massachusetts is the region known as the Berkshires. This area is world’s away from Boston, but it’s not very far as the crow flies. If you’re looking for a bit of country living in Mass, this is the region to visit.
This area is a popular destination for travelers, especially in the summer. Culture abounds in the Berkshires, from spots like Mass MoCA and other museums to venue Tanglewood, where you can enjoy concerts from leading symphonies and folk artists like James Taylor to theatre productions put on by the well-known, professional Shakespeare & Company.
In addition to culture, you will find plenty of history, including some of the literary variety. In Lenox, visit the Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum, an 1890s home that’s open for tours. If you have literary interest, you may also wish to stop by The Mount, Edith Wharton’s turn-of-the-century estate.
There are many opportunities for outdoor adventuring in the Berkshires. Plenty of hiking trails snake the region, bike routes, and even some ski resorts.
Some of the best New England vacations start in Boston, and many stay there! You don’t have to leave the city to have a wonderful New England vacay.
Boston has so much to do for locals and visitors alike. Sports fans, history lovers, culture snobs? Whatever your pleasure, Boston has a site, attraction, or event you’ll be psyched about.
You may need several days or weeks to see all that Boston has to offer. No worries! We’ve got some resources to help start you off:
- These are the Top 10 Things to Do in Boston with Kids
- Romantic Things to Do in Boston for Couples
- 7 of the Best Coffee Shops in Boston
- Where to Stay in Boston: The Best Hotels for Your Visit
Rockport is a wonderful place to visit. It’s just an hour or less from Boston to find yourself in an adorable seaside town. There are art galleries galore to soak up, many delicious places to eat (including a spot selling some of the BEST lobster rolls in New England.)
Do you like the outdoors, craft beer, and liberal-minded folk? Burlington is the home for those types of people and you’ll love it, too. In fact, even if you’d prefer to stay indoors, sip wine, and chat about Conservative topics, you’re likely to enjoy Burlington too!
This is a great city, although in many ways it feels nothing like a city. Set on the shores of Lake Champlain, Burlington has a small-town vibe but plenty going on. The greater Burlington area is a must-visit mecca for foodies and craft beer lovers. There are tons of breweries around here and an explosion of farm-to-table cuisine that is well worth the trip. Hard cider is making a strong showing in New England, too, and Citizen Cider is the place to try it in Burlington. Their South End tasting room and restaurant are a great place to be on a summer afternoon.
The lake is the focus of much of the Burlington’s outdoor activities. The Burlington Bike Path skirts the edges for several miles, providing an ideal route for a bike ride or a run.
Getting out on the water is a must, whether you want to try sailing, stand up paddle boarding or kayaking. You can also hop aboard one of the bigger boats, the scenic ferries. These will take you across to the other side (NY state) or around for a scenic cruise of this miniature “Great” lake.
Read Next: The Best Places to Visit in Vermont
Many people looking for a vacation in New England dream of a classic, iconic Vermont location. For them, Stowe, Vermont would be an excellent choice. Not only is this a charming and quaint destination tucked in the heart of Vermont’s Green Mountains, but it’s well-appointed for tourists, too, with dozens of fabulous hotels and restaurants. This is a region ideally set up for tourism.
Stowe is just stunning. The Main Street of the village has a white-steepled church and an old-fashioned general store, with the mountains in the background. In the autumn, the leaves are incredible. Up the Mountain Road you’ll find countless cozy eateries, hotels, and shops, including lots of local breweries that will beckon you. Hiking is plentiful, with trails suitable for all ages and a flat bike path that winds through town as well.
Stowe is a lot of fun, and it provides the perfect balance of outdoor activities with relaxation and ‘indoor stuff.’
Acadia National Park, ME
Maine is home to some of the best vacation spots in New England and Acadia has to be near the top of that list. Acadia National Park is unlike any other part of New England. Here, the mountains and the ocean collide, and visitors can engage in hiking, camping, and exploring, all with spectacular views surrounding them.
Acadia is located on Mt. Desert Island, and provides a number of opportunities for outdoor activity for visitors. The town of Bar Harbor is a focal point of the island, too, just a few minutes from the natural park. Bar Harbor is filled with restaurants and shops, as well as home to a beautiful harbor. Many day cruises and trips depart from this harbor, and it is definitely worth heading out for a quick sail on the water. In fact, it’s essential to see the gorgeous cliffs of the coastline from the water. Such epic views.
Check out more things to do in Acadia here.
One of the best New England vacation destinations has to be the coast of Maine. But with hundreds of miles of coastline, where do you start? We recommend Maine’s Midcoast. Generally speaking, this region runs from Brunswick (just north of Portland) up to around Belfast, just south of Mt. Desert Island. This whole area is beautiful and, as you can imagine, very coastal-focused.
In addition to museums, art, history, and food, MidCoast Maine is home to many exciting events and festivals. As Visit Maine says: “Speaking of festivals, catch Weinerfest (that’s all things Dachshund) in Belfast, the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, and Damariscotta’s Pumpkinfest. And let the good times and big cheese roll at the Highland Games & Scottish Festival in Topsham.”
Most of all, you’ll want to get out on the water. Our favorite way is to head out on an overnight, multi-day schooner adventure.
Luxury and glamour are found in Newport, Rhode Island. It’s a great New England destination year-round, but is one that can be extra lovely in spring.
One of the main attractions here is visiting the 11 Newport Mansions, opulent, Gilded Age gems that you can tour and fawn over. Especially recommended are The Breakers and Marble House, two of the loveliest and most ornate mansions.
Aside from the area’s history, you’ll also find plenty of opportunities for dining, shopping, and museum-hopping.
The capital of Rhode Island is a great place for a New England vacation.
As with any city, there is plenty to do along the lines of museums, art, and events. There are so many great spots to explore downtown.
If you can plan your visit to coincide with Waterfire, the famous fire sculpture festival held on the water, that’s a perfect time to come visit.
Read Next: 15 Awesome Things to Do in Providence, RI
North Conway, NH
New Hampshire’s White Mountains are impressive, exciting, and draw thousands of outdoorsy folk each year. These mountains, the tallest in New England, offer spectacular hiking and more.
North Conway is an ideal place for a New England vacation, providing the perfect gateway to the attractions of the White Mountain National Forest.
Conway is a mountain town providing a great mix of shopping, restaurants, and outdoor activities. The Saco River runs nearby, so Conway is a good jumping-off point for tubing or paddling in the river.
Pop up to the towns of Bartlett and Jackson if you want to head even more into the mountains. Both are very nice areas with lots to do and see. Near Bartlett you can stop by Diana’s Baths, a beautiful area of cascading waterfalls and gentle pools. On a hot summer’s day, it’s the perfect place to cool off.
Got extra time in NH? Check out the town of Lincoln, too.
New Hampshire has a very small stretch of coastline and Portsmouth is a small city located here. Portsmouth is very historic, which is great for visitors to New England. Settled in 1623, it is actually the third oldest city in the nation.
To explore some of this history, check out Strawbery Bank, an outdoor history museum with more than 30 restored buildings built between the 17th and 19th centuries. This is a living history museum, too, with actors portraying historic residents of the town and what life may have been like.
In Portsmouth, you can also wander along the waterfront. For shopping and dining (Portsmouth has a very lively food scene) Market Square is the center of things.
The Lakes Region, NH
If you’re looking for a place to spend summer in New England, we can’t recommend enough the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Here you’ll find lakes on lakes on lakes. In the summertime, these alluring bodies of water are refreshing and calm. They are perfect for swimming with family and friends, boating, or even as a backdrop to your barbecue.
The Lakes Region of NH includes the area surrounding Lake Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam Lake, Squam Lake, and Newfound Lake, among other smaller lakes and ponds (there are 273 in total!). Some of the towns not to miss include adorable Meredith (right on Lake Winnipesaukee), fun Laconia, and pretty Center Harbor.
The Litchfield Hills, CT
Looking for a fun day trip from Boston? Consider the enchanting Litchfield Hills. This spot in the northwest corner of Connecticut seems like a hidden gem. Here you’ll find all the classic New England pastimes you know and love. In particular, there is an abundance of outdoor activities (hiking, paddling, fishing) as well as exceptional Antique shops.
The Litchfield Hills make up a fair portion of the region, and include towns such as Torrington, Woodbury, Kent, Cornwall, and Washington (very English sounding names, aren’t they?).
If you’re looking for a lovely place to stay, consider The Mayflower Inn & Spa in Washington. Not only is this a perfectly classic New England hotel, legend has it it was also the inspiration for Lorelei Gilmore’s inn The Dragonfly in the popular tv show Gilmore Girls.
We love Mystic. This is a classic New England seaside destination and the Mystic Seaport and Museum take great advantage of the coast. It’s an excellent spot for sailing, learning about maritime history, checking out historic ships, and much more.
That’s not all there is to do in Mystic either. Must-visit sites include the Mystic Aquarium (see the belugas!), Olde Mystick Village, and shopping along the charming Main Street.
Mystic is also just a hop, skip, and jump from other Connecticut attractions. It’s a very small state, after all!
You might also like:
- 25 Must-Read Books Set in New England
- Boston to Acadia National Park: A New England Coast Roadtrip
- 10+ Best Day Trips from Boston
- 8 Amazing New England Fall Road Trip Ideas (2021)
Pin this post to save for later!
Amy is the founder of New England with love. A proud Vermonter, she hopes to share her love of New England and help you find the best adventures in the region. Amy is also blogger/founder at Two Drifters, where she writes alongside her husband about romantic and couples travel, relationships, honeymoons, and more. When not working on websites, Amy is probably reading, cuddling with her husband and cats, & drinking a maple latte.