New England is located within the Northeastern part of the United States. It consists of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. While compared to the rest of the country New England is tiny, trust me when I say there are plenty of bucket list things to do in New England. With the help of some amazing travel bloggers I’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite places to visit in New England and the best things to do. Enjoy, and happy exploring!
Bucket List Things to do in New England
Bucket List Things to do in New England – Connecticut
Explore New Haven
Submitted by Lyndsay from The Purposely Lost
If you’re looking for bucket list things to do in New England, you’ll find many things to do in New Haven, Connecticut. Right in the heart of the city is Yale University. It’s the third-oldest institute of higher education in the country, and part of the Ivy League group of colleges well known for rigorous academics and many notable alumni.
The campus is known for its stately, gothic architecture, and tours are given year-round for those interested in learning about the historic grounds. Additionally, many world-renown museums are also on the University’s campus, like the Peabody Museum and the Yale Center for British Art and help to make New Haven one of the best places to visit in New England.
Make sure to check the Yale football team’s schedule; if you’re in town during a home game, you can watch the Bulldogs play at the Yale Bowl. When it was first built in 1914, it was the largest stadium in the world.
Once you’ve explored the University, head downtown to try New Haven’s famous apizza. Ranked as the best pizza in the United States, apizza is the name given to the city’s pizza style. First brought to the city by Napoletana immigrants at the turn of the 20th Century, today, the thin crust pizza rivals its New York City neighbor. Moderna, Sally’s, and Pepe’s are the major apizza places in downtown New Haven, while BAR provides a modern take on the apizza tradition.
Visit Lavender Pond Farm
Submitted by Jennifer from Vagarious Wanderer
Most people think that in order to get the perfect Insta-worthy lavender field picture they need to go all the way to Southern France, which for most people is an expensive and once in a lifetime type of trip. But, if you’re reading this, then you’re about to learn about a very well kept secret that even most lifelong New-Englanders don’t know about! That secret is in a small town called Killingworth, Connecticut.
Located just 35 minutes outside of New Haven lies a magical place called Lavender Pond Farm where there are lavender flowers as far as the eye can see! Your eyes will be stimulated by the varying shades of purple, and you’re sure to relax with the tranquil smell of lavender.
Lavender Pond Farm was started in 2014 when a husband and wife wanted to create something that would leave the world a more beautiful place while also serving as a place to teach their children how to build something from the ground up. They have definitely succeeded in their goal by creating an aromatherapy oasis with about 10,000 plants across their 25 acre property.
As you stroll through the fields, make sure you stop into the gift shop to try some small batch lavender lemonade and bring home some baking mixes like lemon lavender pound cake mix! While the farm is open from spring through late fall, the best time to visit is in June or August for the best opportunity to catch the flowers in bloom.
Best Places to visit in New England
Flirt with a Beluga Whale a Mystic Aquarium
Mystic Aquarium located in Mystic Connecticut is a must visit if only to go and see the beluga whales. Their 750,000 gallon Beluga whale exhibit lets guests see the whales from above the water during feedings and below the water through special viewing windows scattered throughout the exihibt.
The viewing windows are fabulous because the Belugas come right up to the windows and look you right in the eye. When I went with my Nanny kids a few years back they loved sitting in the porthole viewing windows and watching them.
My favorite thing about this exhibit and the entire aquarium is interacting with the Belugas. During a recent visit I put my hand on the glass and the Beluga put his forehead right up to it. He also swam in circles and looked right at me the whole time – such a flirt! There was also a little girl with a stuffed animal there and he went crazy for it.
In my opinion, the aquarium makes Mystic, Connecticut one of the best places to visit in New England.
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Bucket List Things to do in New England – Maine
Hike Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park
submitted by Nicole the Nomad
Acadia National Park is located in Maine and is the only national park in New England. The 49,000 acres of Acadia National Park offer a uniqueness that is not found anywhere else in the northeast and is known as the crown jewel of the North Atlantic Coast. Although it is among the smallest national parks in the United States, it is one of the most visited because of its dramatic cliffs, rocky shorelines, and mountain views.
One of the best things to do in New England is to hike Cadillac Mountain for sunrise. At 1,530 feet tall, Cadillac Mountain is the tallest mountain in Acadia National Park and offers some of the most beautiful views in the park. Cadillac Mountain’s summit is one of three places in Maine that sees the sunrise first in the United States from October to March!
Two trails lead to Cadillac Mountain: North Ridge Trail and South Ridge Trail. North Ridge Trail is 4.5 miles long and gradually ascends the mountain next to Cadillac Summit Road. Because of its proximity to the road, it is not may not be a peaceful hike. South Ridge Trail is slightly longer at 7 miles long and offers beautiful scenery along the trail. Often, hikers opt to hike up North Ridge Trail for the sunrise because it is shorter, then descent on South Ridge Trail and take a shutter back to their car. For those who do not want to hike, there is also a 3.5-mile road leading to Cadillac Mountain’s summit.
No matter which way you choose to arrive on Cadillac Mountain’s summit, you will be in awe of the beautiful sunrise views!
Visit the Olson House
submitted by Lori Sorrentino from Travlin Mad
Situated along the rocky coastline of Midcoast Maine in the town of Cushing is an unexpected surprise for lovers of American art and the artistry of painter Andrew Wyeth. The Olson House is certainly a must-see visit and an important site in art history.
The former home of Christina Olson and her brother Alvaro, the two were lifelong friends of Wyeth and his wife, and they, along with the house and surroundings, were important subjects of hundreds of paintings by Wyeth over the course of many decades. Undoubtedly, however, the most important work painted by Andrew Wyeth was Christina’s World (1948), an homage to his friend who’d been completely paralyzed later in life as a result of a childhood illness.
The painting is a tragic and poignant piece, widely regarded as his masterpiece.
Today, the empty house and grounds are open to the public and a docent will guide you from room to room bringing to life the stories of the Olsons and their friendship with Wyeth as you stroll through the rooms. Every view to the outside brings new life to a nearby Wyeth canvas on display and a greater appreciation for the austerity of his work.
Alvaro, Christina, and Andrew Wyeth are all buried in the family plot just down the hill from the house. Look back toward the house and you can almost see Christina lying in the grass, forever immortalized on the canvas.
Explore Maine’s Lighthouses
Submitted by SJ from The Prosperous Blonde
When I think of Maine, one thing comes to mind immediately – light
houses! Did you know Maine is known as the Lighthouse State? There are
more lighthouses in Maine that in any other state in the country. In
fact, there are 65 lighthouses along the coast of Maine today.
Maine lighthouses were originally built to help guide sailors safely
into harbor while navigating Maine’s rocky and sometimes treacherous
coastline. Today, with modern technology, sailors don’t use lighthouses
like they used to, but the lighthouses are still an important part of
Maine’s history and they’re huge tourist attractions.
The lighthouses are grouped by location as follows: County Lighthouses,
Greater Portland, Mid Coast and Down East (also known as the Maine Beaches Region). The Mid Coast and Down East
areas contain the most lighthouses in the state, so for the most bang
for your buck, head there.
The cool thing about all the lighthouses is that they’re all different.
So, if you go to a lighthouse Down East it will be completely different
than a nearby lighthouse, and definitely different than one in the
Greater Portland area. Some lighthouses have been converted to small
inns, giving visitors the opportunity to spend the night and get a feel
for what it would’ve been like for a lighthouse keeper back in the day!
Little River Lighthouse looks especially magical!
Keep in mind that some lighthouses aren’t accessible by land, but you
can do a lighthouse boat tour, which is sure to be a fantastic way to
spend the day! What could be more fun then touring around the Maine
coast enjoying the beauty of the outdoors and the uniqueness of historic
Best Things to do in New England
Visit Deer Island
Submitted by Derek from Robe Trotting
One often overlooked destination in New England is Deer Isle, Maine. The small island in Penobscot Bay is a quaint community and the perfect destination for a laid back Maine getaway. The slow pace of the town makes for a serene escape into nature and the beauty of the region. As soon as you arrive, you will notice the peace and tranquility of Deer Isle.
One of the best reasons to visit Deer Isle, Maine is the abundance of outdoor activities. Hiking through the nature preserves is a must-do activity for anyone lucky enough to visit Deer Isle. Cell phone reception can be spotty in Deer Isle, so it’s a good idea to bring a map or download a guide to the trails. One of the best destinations is Crockett Cove Woods preserve. It’s almost 100 acres of fog forest, meaning the forest floor is covered in green from the growth of moss and lichen. Hiking in Deer Isle is a truly magical experience.
Another draw is the chance to canoe or kayak through the bay. Conditions around the island are perfect, even for beginners. The cool and calm conditions make boating in Deer Isle easy and enjoyable. On the island you can find several companies providing guides for kayaking and canoeing excursions. You can also rent equipment and lead your own boating trip.
Bucket List Things to do in New England – Massachusetts
Go on a Whale Watch from Cape Ann
submitted by Karen from Outdoor Adventure Sampler
If you are looking for a breathtaking outdoor experience in New England, go on a whale watch. The whale watch boats take off from the historic sea town of Gloucester on Cape Ann north of Boston. While seeing whales, particularly humpback whales, is the highlight of the trip, other sea life and ocean birds will be abundant too.
The trip out to the whales’ feeding grounds starts by cruising through Gloucester harbor with the captain explaining the interesting maritime heritage of the area. An on-board naturalist provides fascinating details about what you are about to see and circulates to let you hold the huge baleen humpback whales have to strain their food from the water. The humpbacks can be identified by the pattern of black and white on their tails so the naturalist can tell you the name and the story of each whale you see.
Once the boat reaches the feeding groups, the hunt for whales begins. It’s possible to witness many kinds of whale behavior from sleeping to waving their flukes to breaching out of the water and slamming down with tons of force. You never know what whale antics you’ll be lucky to observe. But you are guaranteed by the company to see whales or you receive a voucher for a future trip.
There are three whale watch companies in Gloucester. The trips are approximately 4-5 hours long. Discounted tickets are common on Living Social.
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submitted by Poppy Mae Higgins
Salem is a lovely city in Massachusetts, full of history and culture. Most of its cultural identity is due to it being the location of the infamous Salem witch trials of 1692. Nicknamed The City of Witches, Salem is officially designated the birthplace of the National Guard.
One thing you must do in Salem is visit the Salem Witch Museum. As of August 2020, an adult ticket will run you $13. They have life-sized sets, exhibits, and tours detailing the 17th century witch trials, and they even explore modern-day witchcraft!
They have two main presentations, the first focuses on the 1962 witch trials which occurred in Salem, and the impact this had. The second explores what the term ‘witch’ actually means today, as well as witch-hunts and trials that happened over in Europe.
Another great place to go is The Witch House, which is the only building connected to the trials that still stands today, it’s even been featured in the TV show, Ghost Adventures! Salem also offers beautiful parks to walk around, with rivers and lakes. Massachusetts is a beautiful state, if you have time while you’re there you should definitely visit Boston as well!
Read More: Boston 3 Day Itinerary
Hike Mount Greylock, the tallest point in Massachusetts
Submitted by Lily from Imperfect Idealist
Mount Greylock is located in rural Western Massachusetts, in a region called Berkshires, which is best known for its mountains and quaint towns. Standing at nearly 3500 feet, Mount Greylock is the highest peak in the state. There are hiking trails for all skill levels, and sections of the Appalachian Trail even pass through the mountain. If you don’t love hiking, not to worry – you can easily drive to the top.
At the top, you’ll find panoramic views extending as far as Vermont and New Hampshire, on a clear day. There’s also a towering memorial for WWI veterans that you can climb up for even more views. If you’re hungry or tired, the historic Bascom Lodge is also nestled at the peak. There, you can grab a bite to eat, spend the night, or even get married (it’s quite a popular venue!). Pro tip: take a look out the dining area windows of the lodge for another lovely mountain view.
Those who prefer a more rugged outdoor experience can even camp on the mountain; there’s a primitive hike-in campsite (Sperry Road Campground) about 1,000 feet from the peak. Another option is the family-owned campsite at the base of Mount Greylock, which offers more amenities.
The area is particularly beautiful in the fall, with its brilliant foliage. Be sure to check fall foliage reports while planning your trip, however, as peak colors often arrive earlier in the Berkshires than in other parts of New England.
Best Places to visit in New England
Biking on Nantucket
Submitted by Linn Haglund from Brainy Backpackers
One of the best things to do in New England must be to explore Nantucket island by bike. The island is super bike friendly and you can get to amazing white sanded beaches as well as cute villages. Make sure you bike to Siasconset in the east where you find houses as old as the latter part of the 1600s. The beach there is also amazing and if you park the bike you can walk the mesmerizing Sconset Bluff Walk along the cliff above the beach. This ends up at Sankaty Head Lighthouse which is a beautiful spot for sunset. You can also cycle to the lighthouse along the main road. To get back to Downtown after sunset, there is a bus where you can take the bike if you don’t want to cycle in the dark.
Other points of interest are Madaket in the west and Surfside in the south. You can also bike to beautiful hiking trails in direction Madaket, among others the Millbrook or The Gardener Farm Walk. The narrow trails are wrapped in lush green forest and you can hear and see wildlife everywhere. If you’re lucky you might even see a deer jumping across the path in front of you.
You can easily rent a bike on the island or bring your own bike on the ferry. Nantucket is a great weekend getaway from Boston or a day trip from Cape Cod.
Explore a Cranberry Bog
Submitted by James Ian from Travel Collecting
If you are traveling to or around Massachusetts in October, don’t miss visiting a cranberry bog. Although the name ‘bog’ is a bit off-putting, they are actually visually stunning places to visit. Cranberries, which grow on vines, are most often harvested by flooding the fields with water, then shaking the cranberries loose so that they float to the surface. They form a large mass of bright red berries, which makes for incredible photos. The berries are then vacuumed up through a large hose into the back of nearby trucks.
A top pick is Benson’s Pond farm in South Middleboro, just south of Boston. They offer tours of the farm during the harvest, and have a shop where you can buy cranberries and jam. In addition, there is a picnic area where you can sit outside and have a picnic or bogside barbecue while enjoying the views. They even offer the opportunity to go into the water-filled bog and help the farmers push the floating cranberries into the vacuum pipes. To add to the experience, you can order a whole package that includes a farm-to-table dinner.
This is a unique experience that very few people get to do! Be warned, the season is short (basically just October) and this is a popular activity, so book far ahead.
Spend the Weekend on Cape Cod
Submitted by Brittany from She Goes with Purpose
I’m totally biased when I say this, but Cape Cod is the BEST vacation destination in New England. Everyone should spend a summer weekend on the Cape at least once in their lives. I’m a local and a native of the Cape, and love sharing my best tips with visitors. There are 15 towns here – that’s a lot of ground to cover, and public transportation is awful! So, plan to have a set of wheels while you’re here.
To make the most of your weekend, choose a region to explore – Upper, Mid, Lower, or Outer Cape. Don’t waste your precious time driving from one end to the other, and hitting inevitable traffic. Trying to see it all? Stay in a central location like Barnstable (Hyannis) or Yarmouth – right in the bicep of the “arm” of Cape Cod. Lodging is available for all budgets from hostels and campgrounds to quaint bed and breakfasts and national hotel chains.
My favorite is the Outer Cape – the forearm and fist of the Cape. Absolutely must-do activities are walking Commercial Street in Provincetown, seeing a double feature at the Wellfleet Drive-in, tasting some local wine at Truro Vineyards, and lounging on the beaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore.
There are lots of wonderful restaurants to choose from but I love eating a sandwich from the Wellfleet Market. Grab your sandwich and eat on a bench at the Wellfleet Town Pier while watching fishing boats come and go. My final tip for the best weekend on Cape Cod is to head to any bayside beach to catch epic sunsets.
The Freedom Trail
Submitted by Emily from Daltons Destinations
The Freedom Trail is unique to Boston’s rich American history. As you follow the 2.5- mile red brick line, discover 16 historical sites marking the story of the American Revolution! Start at the Massachusetts State House – one of the oldest buildings on Beacon Hill.
“America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee),” was sung at the Park Street Church for the very first time. Granary Burying Ground is where some signers of the Declaration of Independence were buried. The King’s Chapel was founded in 1686. Mary Chilton, the first woman to step off the Mayflower, is buried in the King’s Chapel Burying Ground.
Five signers of the Declaration of Independence attended Boston Latin School: A mosaic now stands in its place. Built as an apothecary shop in 1718, this building was transformed into The Old Corner Bookstore in the 1800s.Old South Meeting House. December 16, 1773, this is where 5,000 rebels decided to protest the tax on tea. The Old State House is where the Declaration of Independence was first read!
The Boston Massacre Site was where an argument between 9 British Redcoats and an angry Bostonian crowd resulted in 5 civilians being killed. Check out Faneuil Hall – One of America’s first public meeting venues; this is now a market place!The only home on the Freedom Trail is Paul Revere’s House. He was living here when he made his famous night ride in 1775! Copp’s Hill Burying Ground is the final resting place of Robert Newman. He hung the lanterns in the Old North Church.
USS Constitution “Old Ironsides” & USS Constitution Museum. Step onboard a warship used in the War of 1812!One of the American Revolution’s major battles was fought at Bunker Hill. This battle was one of the first times the colonists were able to endure the powerful British army.
Bucket List Things to do in New England – New Hampshire
Drive the Kancamagus Highway
Submitted by Nicole the Nomad
A trip to New England is not complete unless it includes a drive on the Kancamagus Highway! The Kancamagus Highway is a 34-mile scenic drive in New Hampshire and is known to be one of the most beautiful fall foliage drives in the world. It weaves through the beautiful White Mountains, offering breathtaking mountain views, beautiful waterfalls, and incredible hikes. The Kancamagus Highway offers the perfect opportunity to get off the grid and be in nature because it does not have hotels, gas stations, restaurants, or any other businesses.
Although the Kancamagus Highway only takes an hour to drive, I highly recommend spending at least 1-2 days in the area to explore all it has to offer. For those who want to spend more than one day, there are six campgrounds located on the Kancamagus Highway that are great options for overnight stays. There are also many hotels in Lincoln and North Conway for those who do not want to camp.
Here are the best things to see and do on the Kancamagus Highway:
- Hancock Overlook
- Pemigewasset Overlook
- CL Graham Wangan Overlook
- Sugar Hill Overlook
- Upper’s Lady Bath
- Lower Falls
- Sabbaday Falls
- Rocky Gorge
- Albany Covered Bridge
- Sawyer Pond Trail
- Moat Mountain Trail
- Boulder Loop Trail
- Hedgehog Mountain via UNH Trail
The best time to drive the Kancamagus Highway is during fall, but the scenic drive offers beautiful views year-round, making it the perfect addition to any New England itinerary!
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Ride the Cog Railway up Mount Washington
If you’re not a hiker you can still go the summit of New Hampshire’s tallest mountain, Mount Washington, by taking a ride on the Cog Railway. I guarantee that this is one of the most classic things to do in New England!
Since 1869 the Mount Washington Cog Railway has been taking visitors to the top of New Hampshire. While the first time Sylvester Marsh, the man behind the cog, approached the New Hampshire State Legislature he was laughed at in the end he got the last laughed and over 150 years later the cog railroad is still running.
Visitors of all ages will not only love the ride up to the summit, but will get to enjoy the views and educational exhibits at the top as well.
During the summer months I recommend making reservations well in advance as the train cars fill up fast!
Bucket List Things to do in New England – Rhode Island
Newport Cliff Walk
Submitted by Taima from Poor on a Private Plane
When visiting Rhode Island one of the best (and free) must do’s is the Cliff Walk located in Newport Rhode Island.
The walk is approximately 3.5 miles and easily accessible from multiple locations. On the weekends you can see visitors from all over enjoying the views overlooking the Newport shoreline.
Another draw for those visiting Newport and the Cliff Walk are the Mansions which were built as vacation homes during the gilded age.
Keep an eye out for The Breakers, which was the summer cottage for The Vanderbilts in the late 1800s. Another mansion or “summer cottage” along the walk to keep an eye out for the Marble House which was also a summer cottage for The Vanderbilts. The Mansions make Newport one of the best places to visit in New England.
If you need a break as you follow the Cliff Walk there is a small beach where you can watch the waves crash and enjoy the sea breeze. This is where most people will spend the most time just enjoying the ocean views.
This is also the least crowded portion of the walk as you will have to navigate through the rocks and a few rock scrambles to get to the other side of the walk where the beach is located.
If this is too strenuous then opt to visit Easton’s Beach either before or after the walk depending on where you start. Easton Beach is located a few minutes from the entrance of the Cliff Walk on Memorial Boulevard and has easy access.
Rhode Island Brewery Passport
Submitted by Jennifer from Vagarious Wanderer
Despite being the smallest state in the country, Rhode Island boasts an impressive craft beer scene with over 25 breweries. The Rhode Island Brewers Guild (RIBG) has created a really unique way to keep track of which breweries you have visited in the form of the Rhode Island Brewery Passport! You can get yourself a physical copy from any of the breweries or you can download the app to have a virtual passport on you at all times.
Keeping track of what breweries you visit is cool, but it’s a lot more fun when you can earn free prizes. As you make your way through the state earning a stamp at every brewery stop, you’ll earn prizes on your way to the ultimate prize: an exclusive End of the Rhode beer, which is a collaboration beer between all the breweries! 25 stamps will get you this coveted beer.
In order to safely and responsibly hit all the breweries, you’ll probably need to spend about a week in Rhode Island. But, if you’re a New Englander, you can take as long as you need to! If you’re going to be using the app, I would recommend trying to get to the 25 breweries within one year because I have found that brewery apps tend to have a one year expiration date on your stamps.
So how do you even begin to plan the best way to attack all of these breweries?! I try to do one city or town per day. For example, there are three breweries in Pawtucket and six breweries in Providence. I would dedicate one day to the Pawtucket breweries and about a day and a half just to the Providence breweries. To make it even easier, you can design your own custom beer trails within the app!
Bucket List Things to do in New England – Vermont
Visit Shelburne Farms
submitted by Jan from Leisurely Drives
After crossing Lake Champlain to Vermont on the ferry (car on board) we discovered Shelburne farm. A non-profit working farm spread across 1,400 acres of pastures, woodlands and gardens. We ventured in and took a ride on a trolley to the main barn. On the way we viewed green pastures dotted with cows and pleasant woods in the distance.
At the barn we saw the hand-crafted process of cheese making, an interesting experience. Shelburne Farm has a big herd of Brown Swiss cows which yield an astounding 28 liters (7 US gallons) of milk a day. It is rich in butterfat and protein, from which Shelburne’s specialty Vermont Cheddar cheese is made. Kids were having a great time playing with various toys and getting close to the farm animals in their Kid’s Barn.
After a bit of cheese tasting we set off on a walk through the pastures and woods to Lake Champlain. It was fall, and the many colors in the woods and the distant mountains provided lovely views and made the walk enjoyable.
For a day out in nature, amid green pastures and colorful woods, with a lake and distant mountains to add to the beauty, Shelburne Farm is unmatched. It is especially great if you have children.
Best Places to visit in New England
Hike the Long Trail
Spanning 273 miles from Massachusetts stretching over the Green Mountains and finally ending at the Canadian border the Long Trail is the older long-distance hiking trail in the United States. This is one of my personal favorite things to do in New England
Hiking the trail in it’s entirety on average takes 3 weeks. You’ll go up and over all the mountains over 4,000 feet in the state, cross rivers, and stay in shelters with other hikers.
Don’t have the time to hike the entire trail? No worries, it can be hiked in sections. There is access to the Long Trail from designated parking lots and side trails.