North America Sightseeing

Exploring New England’s Towns and Cities

From bustling Boston to pretty Providence, New England has more than its fair share of great little towns and cities. If you missed the first part of our roadtrip, you can catch up by reading New England’s Autumn Shades. For the second half of our adventure, we set off around 3 States in search of the region’s coolest towns and cities.

Connecticut

Just North of New York City is the state of Connecticut. Its abundantly clear why the region is so popular amongst the Big City Elites as a getaway place. Picturesque drives led to quaint towns with leafy streets. Homes had white picket fences and an ambience like everything was right in the world. The town of New Haven boasts a prime waterfront location and teems with bright young students who attend the prestigious Yale University. This beautiful Ivy League school is a must-see for its splendid grounds and historic, stately architecture. You can pick up a map and explore alone or book yourself on a campus tour.

Much as we love our roadtrips, the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat is a must-do. Take a relaxing break from driving and appreciate the beautiful New England landscape. The clattering 1926 locomotive will take you on a round trip lasting about 2.5hrs. Further along the Connecticut coast lies the picture perfect harbour town of Mystic. To be honest, we stopped here because we loved the name but it was well worth it. The Mystic Seaport Museum is a fascinating living history museum spread across 17 acres. There are almost 500 vessels, including wooden whaling ships and slave ships, as well as costumed actors demonstrating olden-day crafts and cooking techniques.

Rhode Island

Further East along the coast lies Rhode Island, which is another summer playground for the rich and famous. Newport is best known for its large collection of mansions, many of which are open for tours to the public. Each of these stately homes has its own draw; The Elms is famed for its gorgeous gardens. A Vanderbilt residence known as The Breakers has extravagantly decorated rooms with marble, mosaics, stained glass, crystal and alabaster. Tickets can be bought through the Preservation Society of Newport, but if you prefer just to drive the area, then the street you’re looking for is Bellevue Avenue. For an alternate view, walk the 5.5km Cliff Walk which hugs the Rhode Island Sound.

Providence is home to the Rhode Island State House, whose marble dome is not dissimilar from the Capitol Building in Washington DC. We stayed at the Renaissance Providence Downtown Hotel which was only steps away from Constitution Hill. Our room had a spectacular view of the State House dome, especially pretty when lit up at night. If your trip falls between April and October, head down to Waterplace Park for the evening WaterFire show. If you are interested in seeing another of the region’s Ivy League institutions, then Brown University is nearby.

Massachusetts

Since our trip happened to fall over Halloween, we kicked off this state with a trip to Salem on 31st October. Of course, Salem became famous as the site for trails and executions of 20 ‘witches’ in 1692. Visit the Witch Dungeon Museum to explore that dark part of the city’s history. We loved it, especially considering the timing of our trip! You might be surprised to learn that Salem started as one of America’s greatest seaports, producing the country’s first millionaires. If you’re interested in more of this history, leave a decent chunk of time to explore the Peabody Essex Museum. Fans of Nathanial Hawthorne might also want to pass by The House of the Seven Gables, the real-life inspiration for his 1850s book of the same name.

Just 16 miles down the road is Gloucester, which crept into our itinerary for a whole other reason. Deadliest Catch fans, this is for you. The Gloucester harbour is still very much active, and many of the fishing boats that feature in the TV show are registered there. We researched a bit and found a pub where some of the fishermen sometimes pop in for a drink. We even sat at the table where one of the episodes was filmed. Yes, we’re a bit geeky like that. And by we, I mean me, because Ross doesn’t care about this kind of thing at all!

Keep going and you enter Cape Cod territory. Another summer getaway destination for the city slickers, miles and miles of pristine beaches and secluded spots offer plenty of opportunity for swimming, walking and camping in total peace and quiet. We headed straight for the Cape Cod tourist destination of Provincetown. We shacked up in a beautiful and cosy B&B which was perfectly located for exploring the unique collection of cafes, craft and antique stores. P-town is also a hub for artists; cool galleries are everywhere.

We ended our roadtrip through New England with 3 days in Massachusetts’ biggest city. We wouldn’t dream of trying to compress everything on offer there into a single paragraph, so check out our Guide to Boston.

 

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