The Best Things to Do in New England

Photo of a river lined with trees with colorful leaves and a small wooden shed

TripSavvy / Violet Smirnova

New England is a great place to visit and it has a lot to offer travelers. Not only can you plan a long vacation in the region, but there are some fun day trips available for locals as well. 

The six states of New England include Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Each has a unique character and many fun attractions that are sure to keep you busy. From historical sites to great food and plenty of time on the coast, let's explore the riches of New England.

01 of 06

The Best of Connecticut

Hammonasset beach State Park
Frank Slack / Getty Images

While it may be tempting to just drive through Connecticut on the way to one of the northern states, you'll find plenty of things to do in this state. It's a hidden gem of New England travel and you won't want to miss it.

Among the best attractions Connecticut has to offer, you'll find the nation's oldest amusement park at Lake Compounce and the Mystic Aquarium as well as the historic Mystic Seaport. The Gillette Castle in East Haddam and the Mashantucket Pequot Museum offer a little New England history while the Connecticut Wine Trail is always bustling. For some fun in the sun, Hammonasset Beach State Park is the place to be.

In the mood for a little gambling? Then you need to stop by the Mohegan Sun Casino or Foxwoods. The latter is the largest in the region and once held the title of the largest in the world.

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02 of 06

The Best of Maine

Portland Head Lighthouse
Kenneth C. Zirkel / Getty Images

Maine is the largest state in New England and it has many fun opportunities throughout the year. You can enjoy the long coastline or travel inland to areas like Height of Land in Rangeley. While summer's filled with places to see, you won't want to miss the autumn colors in places like Bethel for the ultimate leaf-peeping experience.

The coast of Maine offers endless opportunities and driving along Route 1 will provide everything you need. It begins at the New Hampshire border with beautiful and historic Kittery, Ogunquit, and Wells. In Kennebunkport, you can enjoy fine dining at places like the White Barn Inn.

Further up the coast, you'll run into the popular Old Orchard Beach, Maine's "7-mile Sandbox." Portland is the biggest city on the coast and offers arts, entertainment, and many shopping experiences. Just up the road is Freeport, home to L.L. Bean and Reid State Park near Bath is a nice seaside adventure for your new gear.

You can continue all the way to Canada, stopping at spots like Rockland and Camden. Bar Harbor is a great place to catch a whale-watching tour and you can't miss the many lighthouses along the way.

What you do need to do while in Maine is eat lobster and lots of it. It is the state's food of choice and you'll find many ways to enjoy the freshest lobster available. If you like, hop on a lobster boat and see how they're caught as well.

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03 of 06

The Best of Massachusetts

A view of boston public garden with a skyline behind it

Violet Smirnova / TripSavvy 

Massachusetts is a small state with a big personality. There's so much to do here and it's not just centered around Boston and Cape Cod.

Boston has its fair share of activities. Some of the city's hottest attractions include the Boston Public Garden, Fenway Park, and Quincy Market (more properly Faneuil Hall Marketplace). You can also get a dose of history with the Freedom Trail and the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. There's almost always an event going on in Boston and many activities are free or reasonably priced.

Cape Cod and the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard are another top destination in Massachusetts. This is where you'll find the Pilgrim Monument, though the actual Rock and Mayflower replica are up the coast in Plymouth. The Cape also offers dining, shopping, and plenty of opportunities to enjoy the Atlantic Ocean.

Just down the coast is New Bedford, "The City that Lit the World." It has a wonderful history of whaling and whale oil and inspired "Moby Dick."

Massachusetts' North Shore includes the coastal areas north of Boston. There you will find a number of great towns to explore. It is also where you'll come across Salem, the place of the infamous witch trials. While Halloween is the best time to visit, the town is in the spirit year-round, so don't worry if you can only get there in the off-season.

Inland offers great cities and sites as well. Deerfield is a city you have to stop at in the northwest part of the state. This is the home of Yankee Candle Company, the Dr. Seuss National Memorial, and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Flame. If that's not enough, Six Flags New England is down I-91 in Agawam.

After the theme park, consider going east toward the scenic Shetucket River Valley for a glimpse of storybook New England. If you go west to the New York border, you'll pass right by Bash Bish State Park, the state's highest waterfall.

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04 of 06

The Best of New Hampshire

Fall foliage in New Hampshire

TripSavvy / Lauren Breedlove

New Hampshire offers visitors many scenic drives, a little beach, a good dose of mountains, and a few attractions you won't find anywhere else. It's a fun state and one that is definitely worth some of your time.

The state has just 13 miles of seacoast, but they make the most of it. Hampton Beach is the premier spot and it's been rated one of the best beaches in the U.S. You can hang out on the beach, stroll the boardwalk, and have fun in the old-fashioned arcades or do a little shopping. Be sure to see which act is playing at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, it's an intimate spot to see your favorite musicians.

Driving up the coast on Route 1, you'll come across a few coastal towns and hidden beaches. Rye Harbor has wonderful rocky beaches that are typical ​of New England. Just before you hit Maine, you'll come across Portsmouth, the biggest town on the seacoast. It's fun to stroll through and has a nice mix of boutiques and restaurants and entertainment venues.

Off the coast, you'll get to experience the most scenic highways and byways New England has to offer. Route 112 is the Kancamagus Highway, which runs right through White Mountain National Forest. Leaf-peepers consider it a must in autumn, but it's a great drive year-round.

If you hop over to Route 3, you're bound to see a moose. The stretch from Pittsburg, New Hampshire to Canada is known as "Moose Alley" and this is your best chance to spot one of the giants of the north.

New Hampshire is not a large state and getting from one point to another does not require long drives. Along your travels consider stopping by attractions like Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough, America's Stonehenge in Salem, Santa's Village in Jefferson, or Cathedral of the Pines in Rindge.

Also, in Merrimack, you can stop by and see the famous Budweiser Clydesdales. Try to hit this on Clydesdale Camera Day (first Saturday of the month) when the horses come out for close-ups.

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05 of 06

The Best of Rhode Island

Mansion Viewed from Cliff Walk
Bob Krist / Getty Images

Rhode Island is not only the smallest state in New England, it's the smallest in the U.S. Yet, for its size, it's not hard to spend five days or more seeing the sights.

From Newport to Providence, Rhode Island packs a lot into a little space. You can enjoy Newport's Cliff Walk or spend a day on Misquamicut Beach in Westerly. Take a ferry to Block Island or a gondola ride on the Woonasquatucket River in Providence. The Roger Williams Park Zoo is a popular destination as are Bristol's Blithewold Mansion and Gardens.

Fans of lighthouses definitely want to book a stay at the Rose Island Lighthouse. There are only two bedrooms available, but you can also apply to be "Keeper of the Week." 

If you're around during the holiday season, be sure to check out the opulent Newport mansions decorated for the season

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06 of 06

The Best of Vermont

Fall foliage around a lake in Vermont

TripSavvy / Lauren Breedlove

Vermont is the only New England state with no coastline, but in no way does that detract from its charm. In fact, life in Vermont is unique, laid-back, and filled with things to do.

Fall is the premier season for Vermont travel and the state does get crowded with visitors taking in the beautiful autumn foliage. However, Vermont is just as picturesque year-round. 

Some of the best places to see include Quechee Gorge, the Ben & Jerry's Factory, the Rock of Ages, and the five covered bridges of Bennington County. Within your travels, you'll come across many small towns and villages, each with unique character and nice places to stop and explore.

The countryside is filled with organic farms, wineries, and breweries and many are open to the public. Heady Topper is a beer that Vermont is famous for and you'll definitely want to pick up a pint somewhere before you leave the state.

The Simon Pearce glassblowing workshop in Quechee is another must-see attraction. Not only can you shop for hand-blown glassware, but you can also watch it being made by the skilled artisans. 

Another fun stop is the Vermont Teddy Bear factory in Shelburne. You can take a tour and watch the entire bear-making process and enjoy all their quirky little bear hospitality features.