24 Best Places to Visit in New England: Vacation Spots (2024)

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Discover the best places to visit in New England, a region celebrated for its unique charm and beauty. Drawing on over 20 years of my own experience exploring this region, I’ve curated a list of top New England vacation spots for you. From quaint coastal towns to historic landmarks, this guide reveals the must-see destinations across New England.

Whether you’re planning a New England road trip or a focused visit, you’ll find the perfect spots to add to your itinerary. Let’s explore the hidden gems and popular highlights of New England together!

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Best Places to Visit in New England: Vermont

Burlington, Vermont

an image of an empty shopping street on a sunny day. colorful banners cross over the blue sky and a long bricked walkway leads to a distant church
The most iconic view in Burlington VT on a sunny spring day

One of the best places to visit in New England is Burlington, Vermont, a place I lived for several years!

Do you like the outdoors, craft beer, and progressive-minded folk? You will love the hip city of Burlington and the many fun things to do here. 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 Foam Brewers is a great place to try it in Burlington. They’re located near the Lake Champlain waterfront, making it a great place to be on a summer afternoon.

A placard reading

From cool coffee shops to great places to stay to fun, free things to see and do, Burlington is one of the best places for a New England vacation!

Church Street Marketplace is one of the most popular places to go in Burlington, with great shopping, restaurants, and a whole lotta entertainment, both on the streets and in the businesses surrounding.

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. There’s lots of great hiking nearby, too.

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. Check out some of the best ways to get out on Lake Champlain here!

Read Next: 10 Best Airbnbs in Burlington Vermont

Stowe, Vermont

Aerial view of the mountains with fall leaves and a white church with steeple in the midst of them at a New England vacation destination
Summer, fall, and winter are the most popular times to visit this New England vacation destination.

Stowe, Vermont, renowned as a skiing paradise, is a year-round New England gem. In winter, the town truly shines.

Stowe Mountain Resort beckons with top-tier skiing and snowboarding, while the town, illuminated with holiday lights, offers a warm welcome with its quaint streets. Cozy up in local cafes or glide across the Stowe Ice Rink.

For a unique experience, embrace the Austrian charm of the Trapp Family Lodge, famous for its connections to “The Sound of Music.” I stayed here myself last spring and absolutely adored its classic, rustic vibe.

Autumn in Stowe is equally enchanting. The area boasts some of the most spectacular fall foliage, creating a vivid backdrop for seasonal activities.

A short drive to Waterbury brings you to the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, one of my favorite New England places to visit for its renowned apple cider donuts and a glimpse into traditional cider-making processes.

Stowe has miles of fantastic hiking trails, and in fall, the views are particularly exquisite. Not into hiking? View the colors from above via the Stowe Gondola Skyride, which will carry you to the top of Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak.

A colorful Welcome to Stowe mural on the side of a blue building

Read Next: Where to Go for the Best Breakfast in Stowe VT

Woodstock, Vermont

Another place to visit in New England I recommend is the town of Woodstock, VT. This scenic New England destination is a breath of fresh air and absolutely one of my favorite New England towns to visit.

Its picturesque downtown area, complete with its own historic covered bridge, captures the region’s essence. Explore the unique shops and cozy cafes, all set within historic buildings, and each offering a warm, welcoming atmosphere.

a couple walks towards a classic vermont covered bridge on a summer day

The Billings Farm & Museum is another highlight, showcasing Vermont’s agricultural history in an engaging way. You can meet the cows and see how an actual working farm is run. My little family had a blast here!

For nature enthusiasts, the stunning views at Quechee Gorge – Vermont’s ‘Little Grand Canyon’ – are essential. This spot offers impressive vistas and is perfect for photography and nature exploration.

Annually, thousands visit Woodstock to enjoy its seasonal beauty, from summer’s lush greenery to autumn’s foliage. It’s also known as a fabulous Christmas town, with its Victorian-style Wassail Weekend taking center stage.

Best Places to Visit in New England: New Hampshire

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

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, and one of my favorite places to visit.

To explore some of this history, check out Strawbery Banke, 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.

A body of water with boats and buildings in the distance in New England.
The Seacoast is a fun New England vacation destination.

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. There are some pretty cool bars and breweries in Portsmouth, too!

Read Next: Where to Go for Breakfast in Portsmouth NH

North Conway, New Hampshire

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 one of my favorite places for a New England vacation, providing the perfect gateway to the attractions of the White Mountain National Forest.

Someone sitting on a rocky ledge looking at a view of water and mountains with fall leaves in New England
Looking for New England vacation ideas with stunning views? Here ya go.

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, with lots of cool places to stay.

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.

Read Next: Your Guide to Mt Washington NH: The Highest Peak in the Northeast!

Plymouth, Massachusetts

Of course, you’ll want to have America’s Hometown on your list of places to visit in New England!

One of the most charming historic towns in the region, Plymouth is full of historical sites like Plymouth Rock and Mayflower II, a scale replica of the historic vessel that carried the Pilgrims across the sea in 1620!

Also in Plymouth are a variety of fantastic restaurants and places to stay, including Mirbeau Inn and Spa. History, culture, and a little spa-cation? Why not?

The Lakes Region, New Hampshire

Green trees on the left with a body of water on the right and puffy white clouds in the sky in New England.

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.

Best Places to Visit in New England: Massachusetts

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

A body of water with a lighthouse and houses in the distance in New England
This is a classic coastal New England vacation destination!

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 (and delicious restaurants, beautiful inns and hotels, and cool vacation rentals!) Oak Bluffs is an especially cool town to explore.

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.

The Berkshires, Massachusetts

In Western Massachusetts is the region known as the Berkshires. This area is worlds away from Boston, but it’s not very far as the crow flies. If you’re looking for a bit of country living in MA, this is the region to visit.

This area is a popular destination for travelers, especially in the warmer months.

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.

A tree with fall leaves next to a yellow two-story house in New England
What a quaint New England vacation destination!

In addition to culture, you will find plenty of history. 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, plus plenty of cool vacation rentals, cute cabins, and great places to eat.

It’s a great place to visit in the winter, too!

Boston, Massachusetts

Aerial view of tall buildings in a vacation destination in New England
Boston is a great place to vacation in New England if you’re looking for big city vibes!

Some of the best New England vacations start in Boston, and many stay there! It’s one of my favorite places for 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, walking tour, attraction, or event you’ll be psyched about.

Walking the Freedom Trail is a Boston bucket list item, whether you’re a history buff or not. This 2.5-mile path takes you past 16 historic sites, each a chapter in the story of America’s fight for independence, and it’s a super easy walk.

As you walk the trail, you’ll encounter iconic colonial sites like Boston Common, the Paul Revere House, Old North Church, and Bunker Hill Monument.

Here are some more resources for your trip to Boston:

Rockport, Massachusetts

A woman stands with her back to the camera, facing the sea in Rockport, Massachusetts
Rockport is one of my favorite New England towns!
A closeup of pink flowers looking toward a body of water with boats docked next to a red brick building at a vacation destination in New England

Rockport is a wonderful place to visit. It’s just an hour or less from Boston to find yourself in an adorable New England 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.)

We love Rockport and have a whole list of things to do there, including where to find the best breakfast. It’s also one of the best New England day trip destinations.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

My son's first trip to New England at 2 months old - Chatham, MA
My little family in Chatham, Cape Cod

We couldn’t choose just one Cape Cod town, so we’ll just give you a gentle nudge in the right direction here so you can explore and discover for yourself what makes the Cape one of the most popular New England vacation spots!

You’ve got peaceful walking trails and scenic views along Cape Cod National Seashore, beautiful beaches, lighthouses, and so much more.

Go whale watching, stroll the darling downtown areas and their art galleries and gift shops, visit the wineries, and fill your belly at the top restaurants on the Cape. Truly, Cape Cod is home to some of the best seafood restaurants in New England, so seafood lovers will rejoice!

You’ll find excellent places to visit and stay all around the Cape, so you won’t go wrong wherever you choose! We especially loved our stay at the charming Captain’s House Inn in Chatham.

More About Cape Cod:

Nantucket, Massachusetts

Nantucket, an idyllic island off the coast of Massachusetts, stands as one of New England’s premier vacation destinations. Known for its pristine beaches, Nantucket offers a serene escape with its vast stretches of sand and crystal-clear waters, perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and sailing. The island’s rich history is woven into the cobbled streets of Nantucket Town, where visitors can explore unique museums, charming boutiques, and dine in exquisite seafood restaurants.

The iconic Brant Point Lighthouse provides a picturesque backdrop for sunset viewing. Nantucket’s natural beauty extends beyond its beaches to the conservation lands, offering miles of biking and hiking trails. With its blend of natural splendor, historical charm, and a relaxed, upscale atmosphere, Nantucket truly captures the essence of a quintessential New England retreat!

While Nantucket is a lovely New England summer destination, it has its off season charm, too! Consider a winter trip to Nantucket, a unique experience which gives you the opportunity to have one of New England’s most popular islands feel like it’s all yours.

Salem, Massachusetts

A woman stands in front of a Hocus Pocus filming site in Salem, Massachusetts

Salem is one of my all time favorite New England vacation destinations, for many reasons! For one, I’m a child of the 90s and thus, Hocus Pocus was a part of my early Halloween experience. Being able to explore the filming sites and see places in person for Halloween is a BLAST.

Secondly, it’s just a very cool seaside town to visit. There are a ton of excellent restaurants, neat shops, informative tours (including spooky ghost tours!), historical sites, and more.

I recommend everyone add Salem MA to their New England bucket list!

Best Places to Visit in New England: Maine

Acadia National Park, Maine

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.

This breathtaking national park, spanning a vast 47,000 acres and renowned for its extraordinary natural beauty, ranks among the top 10 most visited national parks in the United States. Here, the mountains and the ocean collide, and visitors can engage in hiking, camping, and exploring, all with spectacular views surrounding them.

Speaking of views, one of the most memorable things to do in Acadia is to watch a sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain. Did you know, this is one of the first spots the sun touches on the entire East Coast? So by witnessing a Cadillac Mountain sunrise, you will actually be one of the first people to greet the new day.

An expansive view of fall colors in Acadia National Park, Maine, with the ocean in the background
Fall colors beginning in Acadia National Park

The town of Bar Harbor is also located on Mount Desert Island, just a few minutes from Acadia. Bar Harbor is filled with restaurants, shops, and great places to stay, 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.

Read Next: 15+ Best Hotels in Acadia National Park | 21 Best VRBOs & Airbnbs in Acadia and Bar Harbor

Midcoast Maine

Many boats in a harbor with buildings in the background in a popular New England getaway spot
Coastal Maine is great for a New England getaway!

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; it’s a very unique New England vacation idea!

Read Next: 10 Coastal Towns in Maine That are Hidden Gems

Portland, Maine

amy is wearing a bright orange sweatshirt and holding her toddler son in the air, both are smiling and there is a famous maine lighthouse beyond
My son & I exploring Portland, Maine together

Portland is one of those quintessential New England vacation spots that has something to offer everyone, really!

You’ll find arts and culture, excellent shopping opportunities, a solid craft brewery scene, fantastic restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops and so much more in this classic port town.

The nearby lighthouses, including Portland Head Light on Cape Elizabeth, are some of the most frequently photographed lighthouses in New England! Getting out on the water for one of the popular Portland boat tours is one of the best ways to see these beauties.

Are you a seafood lover? You’ll love the lobster roll selection in Portland!

As far as where to stay in Portland goes, you’ve got excellent options with cool boutique hotels and unique vacation rentals.

This fun New England city is a wonderful place to visit, so be sure Portland is on your New England bucket list!

Read Next: 11 Fun & Free Things to do in Portland Maine | How to Spend the Perfect Weekend in Portland

Best Places to Visit in New England: Rhode Island

Newport, Rhode Island

A grey castle in the distance with brown grass in the foreground in New England
They call Newport the Classic Coast and it’s absolutely a classic New England vacation spot!

Aquidneck Island is the home of Newport, RI, a place known for its luxury and glamour. Newport is a great New England destination year-round, and becomes especially charming at Christmastime!

One of the main attractions here is visiting the opulent Newport Mansions, Gilded Age dwellings that you can tour and fawn over. I especially recommend The Breakers and Marble House, two of the loveliest and most ornate mansions.

A woman stands in front of a coffee shop in Newport, Rhode Island, dressed for winter.

Aside from the area’s history, you’ll also find plenty of opportunities for dining, shopping, beach walking, and museum-hopping. There’s also the beautiful Cliff Walk, the perfect way to enjoy the coastal scenery of Newport!

Read this article for more info on Newport, and this article on romantic things to do in Rhode Island for couples!

Read Next: 15 Best Hotels in Newport RI: Where to Stay in Newport | 12 Stunning Luxury Hotels in Newport RI | 8 Best Airbnbs in Newport RI

Providence, Rhode Island

Providence, Rhode Island’s capital, ranks among the top New England vacation destinations, boasting excellent accommodations. The city pulsates with activities, from the esteemed RISD Museum showcasing art and history to a vibrant downtown offering an array of free experiences. Time your visit with Waterfire, the renowned fire festival along the river, for an unforgettable experience.

Providence is a culinary delight, particularly renowned for its Italian cuisine.

For an optimized weekend itinerary in Providence, explore our expertly curated vacation guide.The capital of Rhode Island is definitely one of the top places for a New England vacation and has some fantastic places to stay.

As with any city, there is plenty to do along the lines of museums, art, and events – it’s home to the prestigious RISD Museum! There are so many great spots to explore downtown and free things to see and do.

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. There are also tons of great restaurant in PVD, especially Italian restaurants! Check out this ready made weekend in Providence itinerary for vacation ideas!

Read Next:  12 Best Breweries in Providence Rhode Island

Block Island, Rhode Island

One of the most gorgeous vacation islands in the region, Block Island should absolutely be on your list of New England vacation spots!

Your journey to Block Island begins by ferry, and once you arrive, you’ll find yourself in one of the most beautiful places in the Northeast.

There are beautiful beaches, excellent restaurants, and some of the most stunning scenery in New England. The views of the Atlantic Ocean are absolutely marvelous!

Best Places to Visit in New England: Connecticut

New Haven, Connecticut

Home to Yale, one of the most prestigious universities in the United States, New Haven is a definite must visit in New England. It’s one of those towns that is small in size but big in attractions!

This Long Island Sound town has plenty of arts, culture, and attractions, with a variety of museums, libraries, coffee shops, parks, theaters, and restaurants to choose from – there’s always something happening in this Connecticut town!

Book a room at The Blake and you’ll get to enjoy their art gallery expos and concert series that they host throughout the year. Live music at one of the trendiest boutique hotels in Connecticut? Heck yes!

Click Here to Check Prices & Book!

The Litchfield Hills, Connecticut

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 and farm to table restaurants.

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.

Mystic, Connecticut

A long walking pier beside the Mystic River in Mystic Connecticut

Next up is Mystic, Connecticut: one of the best vacation spots in New England. This is a classic New England seaside destination, known for its marine trade legacy and shipbuilding. Today it is a charming waterfront village on the Mystic River.

Prior to its fame from the 1988 film “Mystic Pizza,” the Mystic region was renowned for constructing wooden clipper ships. The Mystic Seaport Museum, a top maritime museum in the nation, is the place to go to learn more about this. Here you can discover more about New England’s maritime history, see historic ships, enjoy interactive exhibits, and wander through the recreated 19th-century village and historical trade shops.

Downtown Mystic features quaint buildings and the 1922 Mystic River Bascule Bridge, which raises every hour in the summer months to allow boats to pass beneath. You can visit boutique shops, restaurants, and the original Mystic Pizza shop.

a smiling beluga whale peeks out from behind a stroller where a toddler boy sits smiling
my son befriending a beluga at Mystic Aquarium

That’s not all there is to do in Mystic either. The Mystic Aquarium is a must; it’s the only New England aquarium with beluga whales (my personal favorite) as well as just one of two aquariums in the U.S. featuring Steller sea lions.

Mystic is also just a hop, skip, and jump from other Connecticut attractions. It’s a very small state, after all! Plus, you’ll find plenty of great places to eat and stay in this cool coastal New England vacation destination.

Whether you’re interested in historical tours in vibrant cities or relaxing on sandy beaches in quaint seaside towns, these New England places to visit have all that and more!

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