Why Visit New England?
When I first moved to Rhode Island in New England from the West Coast, some of my California friends were very confused about New England. New England is a geographic area comprising the states of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. It is in the northeastern United States and has bustling seaside towns, complete with gorgeous lighthouses on its rocky coastline or islands, and quaint ski or artist towns in forested mountains.
Native Americans originally occupied New England until colonists settled here around 1600. Colonial history still abounds in places such as Salem, Massachusetts, Plimoth Plantation, and Newport, Rhode Island. New England was a staging ground in the abolition movement, religious freedom in the burgeoning United States, and the Industrial Revolution.
Its geography is some of the most diverse in the United States. New England has coastal grasslands, many islands, and a gorgeous mountainous coastline. And in just a week or two, you can explore it on a New England road trip.
One of the highlights of New England, and the reason many people know it, is its astounding, vibrant, and multicolored fall foliage, which can be found throughout the region.
Plan a Trip to Visit New England
Rent a car
Due to the distances you must cover and the relatively rural nature of our northeastern states, really experiencing New England requires a car. Alternatively, you could take a train throughout the area but would have difficulty leaving the cities.
Where to Begin Your New England Road Trip
The largest New England airport is in Boston. You can also fly into any of New York City’s airports and drive about an hour into Connecticut to start your journey.
The New England States
Clicking on any state name will bring you to a list of all my articles about that state.
Connecticut has many shades, from the affluent suburbs of NYC to the rural treed areas of the Eastern state; Connecticut is the inspiration of the Gilmore Girls’ Star’s Hallow.
- Fairfield County– Affluent suburbs of New York City.
- Litchfield County– Rural farmland with cute little villages.
- Hartford– Connecticut’s capital with a hip waterfront and great hiking nearby at Talcott Mountain. Be sure to visit the Mark Twain House.
- West Hartford– One of my favorite restaurants anywhere, Restaurant Bricco, is in this shopper and diner’s paradise.
- Mystic is a Colonial town with an excellent aquarium, a cute downtown, a working drawbridge, and a Colonial Seaport.
- Connecticut’s coastline is perfect for kayaking among its grassy marshland, although they are not the best New England Beaches.
- The Connecticut River winds through most of the state. Take a boat ride down it or explore a few towns nestled along its shoreline, like Essex.
- Wethersfield- Wander along the streets of the oldest town in Connecticut, then enjoy a walk by its riverfront.
This state is one of my favorites, maybe because it is where I live, but also because even though it is small- just 37 by 48 miles- it has 384 miles of serpentine, rocky coastline. Here are a few of my favorite places to visit. Check out 47 Fabulous Things to Do in Rhode Island.
- Newport– a historic summer retreat for America’s elite. This coastal town is my favorite, and most of my time is spent exploring this town!
- Providence– Spend an evening dining in our version of Little Italy, Federal Hill, or catching a spectacular public art exhibit, Waterfire, on our capital city’s canals.
- Block Island– a quickly accessible New England island perfect for beaches, biking, and boating.
- Westerly- This town has the opulent Ocean House, the casual beaches of Misquamicut, and the stunning natural beauty of the Napa Tree Conservation area, one of the best spots to see the sunset in Rhode Island.
- Narragansett has the best flat, white-sand beaches in the state.
Most people center their time in Massachusetts in its capital city, Boston, a small, bustling city full of US history. But I recommend you head out into its beautiful mountain areas, such as the Berkshires.
- While in Massachusetts, you must visit its capital, Boston, a city of immigrants steeped in colonial history but with a vibrant art, music, and food scene.
- Salem was the site of the witchcraft trials of the 1600s and the home of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and it is one of the most unique New England towns.
- The Berkshires in Western Massachusetts is perfect for camping or attending an outdoor concert at Tanglewood.
- While in the Berkshires, see the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne.
- Northampton is one of my favorite Massachusetts towns and is an arty hippy haven.
- Springfield is the home of the Basketball Hall of Fame, Yankee Candle, a butterfly museum, and The Eric Carle Museum.
- Visit Massachusetts’s famous islands, such as Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.
- Cape Cod is a peninsula with great bike rides and hikes, fabulous beaches, and seafood.
New Hampshire has the chillest New England vibe. It has excellent foliage with its Presidential white mountain range and many laid-back, family-friendly ski towns.
- The White Mountains are part of the Appalachian range and are full of waterfalls, lakes, and ski mountains. They are a perfect place to escape for families or couples. The White Mountains are among the best places to experience a good New England autumn. Here is a list of my favorite New Hampshire hikes.
- If you don’t have much time for your road trip, consider this 4-Day New Hampshire fall road trip.
- Lincoln, one of our yearly haunts, is surrounded by great hiking, skiing, and many family activities.
- North Conway– Full of shopping, North Conway is a perfect family town oozing New England charm and near Santa’s Village and Storyland amusement parks.
- Skiing! Although you can ski in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire are where most New Englanders head to ski. We love to ski; even Rhode Island has a tiny ski hill.
One of my favorites, Vermont highlights its artists and locally grown food and is a ski destination. It is the most upscale of the mountainous New England states.
- Vermont is an outdoor lover’s paradise. We often go to tennis camp at Sugarbush, where there is also skiing.
- Ben and Jerry’s Factory– Ice cream is one of my favorite foods, and it is so worth a visit to this factory tour, which includes tastings at the end.
- Visit the ridiculously charming mountain town of Woodstock, where you can shop, eat, and do any outdoor activities.
- Learn all about the local arts scene in Quechee. Read about a weekend in Woodstock and Quechee.
- Read more about exploring Vermont in A Family Road Trip from Boston to Montreal.
Maine is an outdoor lover’s paradise, and Mainers are a rugged breed. Although the coast is relatively populated, there is plenty of untouched wilderness in this state, which covers half of the landmass of New England.
- Maine’s western mountains are a place of supreme peace, not overly populated, and full of glorious wilderness.
- Acadia National Park in Northern Maine is one of the US’ prettiest parks, with wooded forests along Maine’s long coastline. Although it is a long drive to get to, it is a must-see! Please read about my visit to Acadia National Park.
- The coastal town of Portland is close to Boston and has an incredible food scene, lighthouses, and plenty of coastal outdoor activities. Read 47 Fabulous Things to Do in Portland.
- While you are in Portland you can take a day trip to Peak Island and bike around the island.
When to Visit New England?
There are good reasons to explore New England in its distinct seasons.
Summer in New England
If you love the outdoors, summer will allow you to take advantage of all the beaches, lakes, and waterfalls New England offers. Of course, with such perfection can come crowds. If you want to visit our islands, this is an ideal time to visit.
Although the waters will be too cold to enjoy, there is nowhere in the world with better autumn colors than New England, especially in the northern states. It is the main reason people know about New England and visit. The farther north you travel, the more vibrant the colors are generally. It is tricky to know when the leaves will change, so you may have to change your itinerary to chase the leaves when you come, as they are only in peak for about a week, and the time varies by year.
Spring in New England
This shoulder season has the fewest crowds and the joy of spring flowers and bright green leaves. You won’t be able to lay on the beach, but you can usually still take a bike ride or hike. We may still get snow in spring, and some places won’t be open until after Memorial Day.
New England epitomizes Christmas, so it is an ideal place to feel winter. Our winters are mild enough that although there is enough snow in our mountains, it is generally warm enough to enjoy skiing or any winter sport. And, of course, enjoy a hot chocolate by the fire in our cute mountain bed and breakfasts.
This area of the US is one of the best. I hope this article inspires you to plan a trip here. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or ideas of places that you think I missed.
Continue your planning with my New England Bucket List.