The states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine – collectively known as New England – exemplify America at its most nostalgic: country stores that brim with cider and gourds, snow-dusted hillsides, miles of blazing autumn foliage, clam shacks, cranberry bogs and an unruly ocean that distinguishes and defines it all. Scratch just beneath the surface, and you’ll also uncover fiercely independent locals, innovative chefs, some of the country’s best contemporary art museums and a profound sense of history.
Boston especially is celebrated as the birthplace of American independence – so many seminal events took place here, or nearby at Lexington and Concord. New England was also home to many of the preeminent figures of American literature, from Mark Twain and Henry Thoreau to Emily Dickinson and Jack Kerouac. The Ivy League colleges – Harvard, Yale, Brown, Dartmouth et al – are the oldest in the country and remain hugely influential, continually channelling new life into towns like Cambridge and New Haven and setting a decidedly liberal tone throughout the region.
To the east, the peninsula of Cape Cod flexes off Massachusetts like a well-tanned arm. Here you will find three hundred miles of shoreline, sea roses, tumbling sand dunes and the fantastic isles of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. In the western part of the state, the tranquil Berkshires offer the best in summer festivals as well as fascinating art museums. The sights of Connecticut and Rhode Island tend to be urban, but away from I-95 you’ll find plenty of tranquil pockets, particularly in the way of Newport and Block Island, fifty miles south of Providence. For example, less than fifty miles by sea from Boston lies charming fishing village of Provincetown.
Boston is a vibrant and enchanting city from which to set off north, where the population begins to thin out (and the seafood gets better as you go). The rest of Massachusetts is rich in historical and literary sights, while further inland, the lakes and mountains of New Hampshire and Maine offer rural wildernesses to rival any in the nation. Maine is especially known for its coastline, dotted with lighthouses and wild blueberry bushes. The beloved country roads of Vermont offer pleasant wandering through rural towns and serene forests; during your travels, be sure to pick up some maple syrup, a local delicacy, for your pancakes back home.
The best time to visit New England is in late September and October, when visitors flock to see the magnificent autumn foliage. Particularly vivid in Vermont, it’s an event that’s not to be missed.