The Getaway
30 of the Best Things to do in the Summer in New England

Few regions of the country capture the imagination quite like enchanting New England. This swathe of land in the Northeast often conjures up images of Fall, with its colorful canopy of foliage, crispy leaves underfoot, and abundance of pumpkins and apples. But before the autumnal wand bestows its magic, there's the allure of summer in a place acclaimed for its coastal hamlets. Between May and September, New England hums with renewed energy. Outdoor festivals crop up, tourists come to see the seemingly endless historical sights without having to bundle up, and the skiing enthusiasts make way for the bikers, hikers, paddlers, and bathers.

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01 Visit beaches

Between the Canadian border and Connecticut, there's plenty of shoreline, and it's not all pebbles and rocky beaches—far from it. How about sinking your toes into the soft sand at Reid State Park in Maine, where the beach is ideal for sun-seekers, surfers, and families looking for a little peace and quiet? Build sandcastles and sunbathe at pretty Wallis Sands State Beach in New Hampshire, and spend idyllic days in Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket with fingers sticky from eating popsicles and the lingering scent of your SPF 50 on your skin.

02 Enjoy local seafood

Where can you find the lobster roll voted number one in all of New England? Well, that would be at Red's Eats in Wiscasset, Maine. This family-run lobster shack's been feeding folks for over 85 years, and it's not unusual to find queues of people waiting to order hot dog buns packed with fresh lobster meat. Red's Eats is a cash-only establishment, but there's an ATM next door, so don't stress about finding one. Of course, you can get a solid lobster roll elsewhere, too. The Bush family summers in Kennebunkport, Maine, a place famous for Goose Rocks Beach and The Clam Shack, where the chowder, haddock, curly fries, and freshly squeezed lemonade go down a treat.

03 Explores scenic trails and parks

Wooden walkway and steps along the Flume Gorge in Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire, USA.

New England can make an ambler out of a couch potato—the scenery in these parts is that gorgeous. Put your favorite sneakers on and hit the trails in the region's state parks. Franconia Notch State Park in New Hampshire promises leisurely walks through the renowned Flume Gorge, late summer leaf peeping, and wallpaper-worthy Avalanche Falls. For something a little more challenging, intermediate hikers can bag a peak by tackling Vermont's tallest mountain, Mount Mansfield, over a few hours. For a drive-and-hike option, opt for the Nosedive Trail. In summer, the wildflowers come out to play.

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04 Visit historic sites and museums

The Bunker Hill Monument was erected to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill, which was among the first major battles between British and Patriot forces in the American Revolutionary War.

Get acquainted with New England's rich history through its museums, historic homes, and landmarks. The Freedom Trail in Boston, MA, is a 2.5-mile path passing 17 locations that played a role in U.S. history, including the Bunker Hill Monument. Most sites are free, but the Paul Revere House charges admission. You'll learn about one of America's Founding Fathers and, for example, his Midnight Ride.

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05 Savor local ice cream and treats

Foodies will delight in finding New England's sweet spots and going from one well-deserved sugar rush to another. If you're touring the region's best ice cream stands, Kimball Farm in Westford, MA, does 50 homemade flavors and has been scooping up rich and creamy deliciousness for more than 85 years. The sundaes and floats come with a side of non-stop, family-friendly fun. We're talking zip lines, batting cages, bumper cars, pony rides, an arcade, and a petting zoo. In Kittery, ME, Yummies Candy & Nuts is a local confectionery selling just about every kind of candy that exists, including vintage goodies that will wrap you up in nostalgia.

06 Go on outdoor adventures

Serene Lake Champlain, VT, is a popular paddling destination surrounded by towns with boatloads of history attached to them. You can rent equipment at Fort Ticonderoga, for example, and go canoeing, SUPing, or sea kayaking to spot Adirondack wildlife from the water. The lake also has something of a Loch Ness reputation, with hundreds of purported sightings of a similar-looking freshwater monster since 1819. If you prefer two wheels to two oars, bike along scenic routes like The Shining Sea Bikeway in Falmouth, MA. This Cape Cod rail trail is an easy 10.7-mile-long route that takes about three hours to complete.

07 Experience cultural and family attractions

If you prefer your thrills in the form of wild, exhilarating amusement park attractions, you have to head to the Six Flags New England in Agawam, MA and hop onto Superman the Ride, one of the best steel rollercoasters in the world. Dozens of other rides, including DC Universe-themed ones, ensure a whole day of entertainment for all ages, and Hurricane Harbor, the on-site water park, has epic water slides perfect for hot weather. In Dover, The Children's Museum of New Hampshire is an interactive educational destination for kids up to the age of about 10. Watch as little ones become engrossed in hands-on exhibits about nature, art, and STEM.

08 Discover local markets and food experiences

The tables at Portland Farmers' Market, ME, are laden with colorful fresh produce and have been pretty much since 1768. Take a bite out of the freshest seasonal fruit or slurp oysters at this family-friendly destination where well-trained dogs happily sniff strangers and kids can enjoy a wading pool and public piano. The market takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The Providence Flea is an award-winning Sunday market in Rhode Island featuring vintage items and carefully curated independent makers. You'll find all kinds of special, small-batch treasures here, and when you're done shopping, you can grab grub from a food truck and listen to live music from talented locals.

09 Enjoy amusement and theme parks

Six Flags isn't the only amusement park and water park combo in New England. Adrenaline junkies can also bookmark Canobie Lake Park in Salem, NH, which has a century-old legacy and made it onto Time Magazine's list of Top 10 Amusement Parks in America. Untamed is one of the most in-demand rides at the park and drops the daring from 72 feet in the air. If you need to cool down, you can choose to get dropped in water on the Boston Tea Party ride.

10 Camp and glamp

The Bush family summers in Kennebunkport, ME, so why wouldn't there be luxury tents in this slice of coastal paradise? If you're keen on glamping, Sandy Pines Campground is adorable. You can expect clean bathrooms with hot showers and the right water pressure. There's a lively atmosphere at the campground and Goose Rocks Beach is close by.

At Horseneck Beach State Reservation, MA, camp at a beloved cobblestone beach and birdwatch at a premier location. The campsite has flush toilets, hot showers, sports amenities, and a playground.

11 Attend a baseball game

The Boston Red Sox is a globally-known MLB brand, but love for the sport means various towns are obsessed with hometown hopes. Watching a baseball game is a quintessential New England summer experience, and minor league teams like the Hartford Yard Goats, New Hampshire Fisher Cats, and Portland Sea Dogs command quite a following too. Soak up the thrumming atmosphere at a live game and figure out your meatballs from your moon shots.

Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) waits for a pitch against the Baltimore Orioles on September 10, 2022 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com

12 Explore the White Mountains

Franconia Notch State Park is in the White Mountains. Do you know what else is in the White Mountains? Aerial tramways, caves, rock climbing at Crawford Notch, mountain biking at Cranmore Resort, gemstone panning at the stunning Lost River Gorge, and Mount Washington. At the latter's summit, you can see into five states when the weather is good. Whether you go hiking or take a scenic drive, there's no shortage of outdoor activities available in the Granite State.

13 Visit Cape Cod National Seashore

Sunrise view from the Marconi Station Site in the Cape Cod National Seashore in Wellfleet, Massachusetts.

For unspoiled beaches, marshes, and opportunities to see wildlife, Cape Cod National Seashore is a must-visit destination. It comprises sand dunes and several towns, boardwalks, multi-use trails, visitor centers, lighthouses, and tidal pools for refreshing saltwater swims. Savor hours of beachcombing for shells and critters and listen to the seals natter away noisily. Just don't follow them too deep into waters that receive visits from great white sharks.

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14 Sail on a windjammer

Vintage windjammer style ship with full sails on the open sea

Why not sail on a charming windjammer? You'll feel, albeit briefly, like the character in an epic historical novel while the wind tousles your hair and the sea stretches before you. Maine Windjammer Cruises whisks patrons away on a romantic, adventurous sailing experience between Maine's islands. The company offers three and six-night cruises and charters on their fleet of tall-masted schooners. You'll be carried by the tides and winds just like the travelers of yore.

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15 Discover Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard

Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard are two iconic New England destinations that have long attracted a wealthy set. These islands are perfect for a tranquil getaway, with numerous leisure activities on offer, including watching Nantucket's rainbow fleet of brightly-hued catboats parade around Brant Point, a century-old tradition. The town's cobblestone streets date back to 1822. Visit Martha's Vineyard's Edgartown Lighthouse for awesome views of the harbor, Cape Cod, and Chappaquiddick before heading into town to sample the food at some of the most outstanding seafood restaurants in the region.

16 Attend summer festivals

The long, heady days of summer are ideal for special events, including annual festivals that celebrate everything from music to food. At the Newport Folk Festival, RI, internationally recognized artists get the good vibes going, and the latest iteration is set to feature musicians like Orville Peck and Killer Mike. Listen to the strains of traditional instruments while you merrily clap your hands and tap your feet. Then there's the Yarmouth Clam Festival in Maine. This three-day event caters to everybody with a carnival, arts and crafts, sand sculptures, and lots of fried clam consumption.

17 Explore Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park's diverse landscapes, from mountains to coastline, make it a jewel of the Northeast and one of the most visited national parks in the U.S. The park mainly occupies Maine's Mount Desert Island. A mini-break in Bar Harbour, another firm favorite among rich and famous families, is a welcome respite. Be sure to take in the stunning sunset vistas from the top of Cadillac Mountain. Acadia National Park is a hiking and cycling heaven. Try the Beehive trail.

18 Visit Mystic Seaport Museum

Over in Connecticut, Mystic Seaport Museum is the country's leading maritime museum. It immerses visitors in a recreated 19th-century seafaring village and was one of the first living history museums in the nation. You'll see whale ships, slave ships, nautical instruments, an old-timey tavern, and a planetarium, and you might hear a few sea shanties.

Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut, it is the largest maritime museum in United States singh_lens / Shutterstock.com

19 Go whale watching

Bar Harbor is also a fantastic summer spot to go whale-watching. You'll likely encounter different kinds of whales, such as finbacks, pilots, humpbacks and minkes, as well as dolphins, sharks, and the area's cute North Atlantic puffins. The birds are as much a part of the marine ecosystem as the porpoises. You can go whale watching off the coast of Cape Cod, too. Tours last about three hours and often travel to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, a significant feeding ground where there's lots of visible activity in the water.

20 Kayak or canoe

There's something therapeutic about sitting in a one or two-person boat and rhythmically paddling through the water. It's a workout, sure, but you feel like you're one with nature, even in the middle of the city. New England's rivers and lakes are accessible to all skill levels, so whether you're a newbie or an experienced paddler, you can have a great time gliding past memorable landscapes. Check out Charles River Canoe & Kayak in Boston for walk-up rentals and guided tours.

21 Check out some wineries

Vineyards have an appeal all their own, from the neat green rows filled with clusters of grapes to the rustic yet modern amenities and manicured grounds that attract wedding planners like bees to honey. Shelburne Vineyard in Vermont puts smiles on faces regardless of whether they belong to prospective brides or casual walk-ins. You'll relish sitting on the patio while the sun sets, and your visit may even coincide with a concert or stand-up comedy gig.

22 Attend outdoor performances

When the glorious warm weather arrives, it's time to take as many parties as possible outside. Outdoor concerts and theater performances bring communities together and lift the collective mood, especially when they're set against picturesque backdrops. Tanglewood in Lenox, MA, is the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the Tanglewood Music Festival is a magnet for some of the biggest artists around, like Brandi Carlisle, Beck, and Jon Batiste. Come and stake your claim over a patch of the lawn and bless your ears while picnicking.

23 Explore the Green Mountains

Wide angle landscape shots from a mountain hike in North America. Mount Mansfield with an arctic tundra peak, the highest mountain in Vermont, in the spring and summer on a beautiful sunny day.

If the White Mountains weren't enough, Vermont's Green Mountains add to New England's natural splendor. In winter, folks flock here for skiing. But in summer, the area buzzes with outdoorsy types. Climbers ascend Mount Mansfield, and hikers trek through sections of the state-spanning Long Trail. Take the kiddos to Bromley's Mountain Adventure Park or North Meadow Farm, check out the Capitol building, visit the Lincoln family home, or see what Appalachian Trail Adventures has in store for you.

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24 Visit a lighthouse

Skinny or stout, tall or short, red candy stripes or black—we love lighthouses of all shapes, sizes, and colors. These beaming beacons are symbols of hope, and there are 200 of them along the New England coast. Some are closed to the public, and others are climbable or await visitors. Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth is Maine's oldest lighthouse, having opened in 1791. Pop into the museum where the lighthouse keeper once lived and explore Fort Williams Park.

25 Go berry picking

Pick-your-own farms are such a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. And summer is berry season, so there's a delicateness to proceedings as you avoid the poky parts of brambles and try not to squash these soft fruits. Fill containers with inky blackberries and blueberries, magnificently red strawberries and raspberries, and tart currants at Russell Orchards in Ipswich, MA. This family-friendly activity is a sweet addition to any itinerary.

26 Explore coastal villages

Rockport, MA, is full of wooded trails, romantic nooks, and culture. It's an active artsy community, so peruse the galleries in Bearskin Neck and Dock Square or watch a performance at the gorgeous Shalin Liu Center. Hunt for antiques or get up close and personal with underwater creatures while scuba diving at Back Beach. If you're looking to slow down the pace, visit Stonington, CT. This village is as pretty as a picture and will ensure you leave relaxed.

27 Ride a scenic railroad

Journey back in time with a ride on a scenic heritage railroad. The routes offer sensational views of the countryside. You can hop aboard the Essex Steam Train in Connecticut for a wholesome, family-friendly outing that includes a riverboat ride. Purchase tickets online in advance—First Class tickets are worth the splurge if you can swing it.

28 Stroll through botanical gardens

We love a good botanical garden with lovingly tended floral displays, tinkling water features, and birdsong in the background. New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill in Boylston, MA, is a vast highlight that some call the best botanical garden in the country. It features miles of trails, all kinds of plants and sustainable themed gardens, including a universally accessible one that stimulates various senses. Sip on a cold beverage at the cafe terrace when you need a break from walking. Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay is another gem and the largest botanical garden in the region. You'll want to take selfies with the giant troll sculptures here.

29 Go to a drive-in movie

Drive-in movies always bring Grease to mind, a movie that's almost half a century old. The nostalgic and relatively novel experience of watching a movie under the stars is not that hard to come by in the Northeast. Check out the Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre, MA, for some of the newest blockbusters.

30 Explore state or national forests

A view of the Green Mountain National Forests in Vermont

Escape the summer heat by heading into the glades, where the shade of towering trees offers instant relief from the blazing sun. At Green Mountain National Forest, VT, you can wave goodbye to your worries for a few precious hours while you inhale fresh air, cast your eyes upon the emerald surroundings, and see how many different kinds of animals you can find. Practice bear safety en route to the top of the fire tower on Stratton Mountain.

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