Do you have a New England bucket list? There are so many must see places in New England that is pure Americana. In New England, must see places are part of comon culture, such as the Salem witch trials, Boston during the American Revolution, the Gilded Age excess of Newport and presidential vacations in New England. Here’s our list of what you must see in New England if you want to get a flavor for the most iconic things to see in New England. This New England must see list is a collaboration with some travel blogger friends who have their own take on these bucket list places.
Creating A New England Bucket List
This New England bucket list has been super hard to create primarily because there is so many must see New England places.
The New England region comprises of 6 states, including some of the first colonies that would go on to create the USA.
There’s a misconception that New England is small and easily traversed. After all Rhode Island is the country’s smallest state and New England’s biggest state (Maine) is 39th in size in the USA.
There’s a whole lot of beautiful landscapes and historical landmarks packed into New England.
If you are short on time, though, some of these places like Mystic Connecticut, Portland Maine and Salem, Massachusetts are easily accessible from Boston on a day trip.
Connecticut Bucket List
Connecticut was settled in the 17th century by settlers from Boston. What’s on bucket list Connecticut?
Growing up in New York across the border, we had a lot of girls at our school who lived in Connecticut. It was difficult to see Connecticut as a different state because there really wasn’t much difference between upstate New York and Connecticut.
The Litchfield Hills is simply beautiful countryside in the northwest corner of Connecticut and comprises the lower Berkshires. Plenty of New York city residents have second homes in the Litchfield Hills. These houses run the gamut from farmhouses to castles in Connecticut.
Another favourite area of New Yorkers is the Gold Coast area around ritzy Greenwich. If you want better beaches without the pollution of the Long Island Sound that’s near New York, head over the midcoast beaches though such as the Hammonasset Beach State Park, which lies past New Haven.
Connecticut isn’t all just beautiful countryside and beaches. So if you are going to see a city in Connecticut, our pick would be New Haven. The nearby city of Hartford is the insurance capitol of the USA. Yes, it’s as much a snooze fest as insurance itself except for the Mark Twain House.
Mystic Connecticut is a charming port town with plenty for the whole family to do as told to us by Jamie Italiane at Adventures in New England. In addition to Mystic Aquarium, there is also Music Seaport, one of the best living history museums in the country. And, let’s not forget Mystic Pizza which launched Julia Robert’s career and is still around for a great slice of Connecticut pizza!
One of our favourite romantic weekends in New England involved the Mayflower Inn and Spa in Washington Connecticut and an autumn festival where we saw a tractor pulling contest for the first time.
Much of the Litchfield Hills is in the county of Litchfield, its namesake. It is pure Americana with little towns with white spired churches surrounded by farmland.
It’s an outdoor lover’s paradise with:
- state parks (Mount Tom State Park and Kent Falls State Park),
- rivers (the Housatonic and Farmington), and
- lakes (Lake Waramaug, Lake Bantam and Lake Twin).
There are also lots of antique stores (check out Woodbury CT) and also vineyards (yes!). The Haight-Brown Vineyards, the first of the vineyards in Connecticut, is located in the town of Litchfield.
Colonial New England was dependent on shipbuilding and fishing for its economic success. When visiting New England, it is essential to explore these mariner roots.
One of the best places to do this is in Mystic, Connecticut. This village in southeastern Connecticut sits on the Atlantic Ocean and Mystic River just over the border of Rhode Island. There are plenty of things to do in Mystic, Connecticut.
The highlight of a trip to Mystic is the Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea. You can easily spend a day exploring this historic recreation village which includes the largest maritime museum in the United States. There are also a collection of Captain’s houses and many old ships.
There is also a lot of fun to have in Mystic. Main Street has modern shopping and eateries, set along the beautiful water. A local favorite is Bravo Bravo. There is a working drawbridge that you can watch while eating Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream. Mystic has a world-class aquarium. A few highlights of the aquarium are feeding the stingrays and the friendly beluga whales.
Although there are many places around to stay, It is ideal to stay in the middle of the action, such as The Whaler’s Inn.
by Jamie Italiane at Adventures in New England
New Haven can not be considered a particularly pretty city – so why is it on this Connecticut bucket list? Yale University. Established in 1701, Yale University has a prettier campus than Harvard in our opinion and there are student-lead free tours to take. Yale also great museums in the Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art (the best collection of British art outside of the UK).
And, what can be more American than a hamburger? Louis’ Lunch in New Haven claims to have invented the very first hamburger way back in 1900.
Sadly, the story of slavery is also part of American history. New Haven was where the Africans who were kidnapped by the Amistad ship landed and petitioned for their freedom. The Amistad Memorial, located in front of City Hall, commemorates the winning of the African’s freedom.
Check out nearby Silver Sands State Park for a beautiful beach. We appreciate the really long boardwalk that adults can walk while the kids run along the beach and play in the sand.
Maine Bucket List
What’s on bucket list Maine?
Maine was actually part of Massachusetts until 1820 even though it was settled on the 17th century. Maine got admitted as a state of its own into the union in exchange for letting Missouri come into the union as a slave state in the Missouri Compromise between the Northern and Southern states.
There’s 5500 square miles of seashore in Maine so there are plenty of beaches and water sports. Need more water? Also, check out Moosehead Lake (the largest mountain lake in the Eastern USA) for 400 miles of shoreline.
Maine is super proud of its maritime history. Thanks to the abundance of timber nearby, Maine has a long history of shipbuilding and sea voyaging captains. Check out the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath Maine.
Another must see in New England states is the region’s only national park (and one of the most visited in the country), Acadia National Park. Ale Leon tells us the must see things in Acadia National Park.
Jenny Javitch tells us about Portland with its historic light house and beautiful state parks.
Other places to see in Maine includes Ogunquit with its beautiful cliff walk and castle-looking library. It’s got a great big beach, but let’s face it, that Maine sea water is cold. Nearby the Kittery Outlets offers great shopping and the LL Bean headquarters in Freeport.
Located in Penobscot Bay, Rockland thinks of itself as Maine’s lobster capital.
We actually got engaged to be married in Kennebunk Maine on a romantic weekend in New England. We were staying at the White Barn Inn and Kennebunk is a beautiful, charming town with great seafood, art galleries and shopping.
In winter, Maine has amazing East Coast skiing with ski resorts like Sunday River and Sugar Loaf.
Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park is a stunning display of the beauty of the Maine coast. The park has beautiful ponds, pink coastal sunrises, and miles of hiking trails. Plus, Acadia borders the charming town of Bar Harbor where you’ll find cute shops and restaurants.
There’s much beauty to be found at Acadia, but one of the highlights is watching the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean from Cadillac Mountain. From this vantage point, you’ll see the sun bathe the outlying islands in shades of purple and red, dancing its way through the sky until the granite mountain shines a pretty pink.
After an early start to your day, head into Bar Harbor for a hearty breakfast. Café This Way serves up some of the best, fresh blueberry pancakes in town. You’ll find it by following the yellow steps painted on the ground!
Back in the park, hike the Ocean Path trail from Sand Beach for views of the waves crashing against the rocky shore. Stop at Jordan Pond for a picture-perfect view, and head into the restaurant by the same name and try their famous popovers.
If you’re able to snag a campsite at the park, you’ll be rewarded with starry skies and views of the milky way. But if that’s not your style, Bar Harbor has plenty of cute AirBnB’s for you to choose from.
Getting to the park is a pretty easy, five-hour drive from Boston. Plan to spend at least two days in Acadia, you won’t be disappointed.
by Ale Leon at Sea Salt and Fog
Portland, Maine is a New England town where old meets new and it’s easy to pair your visit there with other destinations throughout the state (Kennebunkport is only 30 miles away) or as part of a longer New England road trip.
To begin our long weekend, we flew into the Boston airport (which offers plenty of nonstop flights from around the U.S.) and then drove an easy two hours to Portland. We stayed at the Portland Harbor Hotel in the Old Port District but there are other boutique hotels, Airbnbs and inns nearby for a variety of lodging tastes.
Whether you’re in the mood for some lobster and waterfront dining at Boone’s Fish House & Oyster Room, drinking some local Allagash or Shipyard beer at their breweries, or taking an awesome walking tour from Maine Foodie Tours, there is plenty of tasty cuisine to keep a culinary enthusiast happy.
We loved walking on the cobblestone streets and wharfs amidst all the historic buildings and visiting the famous lighthouse (officially called the Portland Head Light) and museum at Cape Elizabeth. As a final touch, do not miss a sailing experience with the Portland Schooner Company – one of our favorite activities of the trip was our sunset sail on the Maine coast.
by Jenny Javitch of Global Game Plan
Massachusetts Bucket List
Massachusetts has a lot of firsts to its name, and it’s the New England state we know best. We have a summer house on Martha’s Vineyard where we have enjoyed a New England summer vacation for the last dozen years.
A Massachusetts bucket list would cover a lot of areas in the state:
- the state capitol Boston, the largest city in New England;
- historic Salem with its shipbuilding and witchcraft past;
- beautiful Cape Ann, the North Shore towns of Boston
- the southern beaches of Cape Cod and the islands; and
- the western area of Massachusetts with the beautiful Berkshires.
Other areas for your Massachusetts bucket list probably would include Plymouth (the site of the first English settlement in New England).
Did you know that there are a lot of castles in Massachusetts on the North Shore and South Shore of coastal Massachusetts?
There’s also beautiful Old Sturbridge Village, a living museum of early American life, the antiques fairs at Brimfield, and the beautiful towns of Deerfield and Rockport.
There are also so many charming college towns such as Amherst which keeps small town life eclectic, liberal and vibrant.
When you think of the Berkshires you think of beautiful resorts (year round), arts and culture (summer) and leaf peepers (fall).
The Berkshires are a charming mix of small towns and upscale amenities. For example, It’s home to well-known spa resorts like Canyon Ranch and Miraval, which are great for girls-only weekend trips away.
For family vacations, there are plenty of outdoor activities in the Berkshires among its national parks, state parks and state forests, including Natural Bridge State Park and Mt Greylock State Reservation.
In the summer, the former mill towns becomes an Arts lovers paradise with the Tanglewood Musical Centre, the Williamstown Theatre Festival and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
For a full on slice of what defines Americana, check out the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. The town of Stockbridge is where he did his paintings which came to define what American small town life would mean for future generations.
There are other cute small towns such as Lenox, Great Barrington and Williamstown.
Boston has a major part in the history of the United States. This is where the American Revolution erupted after the Boston Tea Party, followed by other events that have shaped the new country. Many of the landmarks still exist after more than 250 years, and they are now connected on the Boston Freedom Trail, which makes it easy to find and explore them.
The Boston Freedom Trail, established in 1951, takes you on a journey to the past, while walking in the lovely and beautiful streets of Boston. It is a red trail, marked on the sidewalks and roads and leads you from site to site, between museum, monuments, important houses, and churches.
The trail starts at the Boston Common – the oldest public park in the US, dates to 1634. It ends at the USS Constitution Museum, where you can see a warship from 1797.
In between, you go through interesting and important landmarks, such as King’s chapel and burial ground, the Old State House, the Old South Meeting House, Paul Revere’s House, Faneuil Hall, and more. Most of those are museums that you can visit.
It’s easy to follow the trail and take all that Boston has to give. Walking tours are also available, and they can give you more context on each of the locations.
However, it does not matter how you choose to do it, walking along the Freedom Trail is a fascinating and interesting experience, and a must do in New England.
by Moshe Huberman at The Top Ten Traveler
Cape Cod and the Islands
Cape Cod and the islands are defined by their proximity to the beach and to water. The Cape Cod National Seashore is the nation’s first national seashore. The small towns and landscapes on Cape Cod itself as well as on the offshore islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket offer the quintessential New England summer vacation.
You know why we love Martha’s Vineyard, such as the beautiful beaches and lighthouses, the different personalities of the Vineyard towns, the ponds for kayaking, the island’s cycling lanes and the boutique shopping.
Here from Valentina’s Detinations, Valentina Djordjevic tells us why she loves Nantucket.
Nantucket island is one of the most charming New England destinations. You can get to Nantucket by flying in to its small airport, or take the 1 hour ferry from Hyannis Massachusetts (on Cape Cod).
Nantucket is a glamorous destination with plenty of fine dining opportunities and high-end shopping. You’ll find ultra luxury yachts parked near the harbor.
Nantucket is especially beautiful in the summer when flowers are in full bloom. This tiny community is well known for quaint windswept cottages, immaculate landscaping and historic charm. Downtown Nantucket is complete with cobblestone streets, boutique shops and many adorable inns.
Like many other New England destinations, you’ll find no shortage of lighthouses on Nantucket island. Most notably, the Brant Point Lighthouse and Sankaty Head Light.
Other unique attractions on the island include the picturesque Sconeset Village, Steps Beach and the Compass Rose.
Nantucket also has a unique colonial history. You can learn more about it at the Whaling Museum, or visit historic sites like the First House, Old Mill and Hawden House.
Make sure to have a formal dinner at Cru Restaurant & grab dessert at Aunt Leah’s Fudge. The best place to enjoy cocktails is Galley Beach, and the best casual sandwich shop is called Something Natural.
By, Valentina Djordjevic from Valentina’s Destinations
In popular culture, Salem is most famous for its witch trials in 1692. That association has continued from the high brow, such as Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, to the beloved 1993 Halloween movie, Hocus Pocus. And, it’s the name of Sabrina’s cat, of Teenage Witch fame.
In addition to the Salem Witch related tourist attractions, Salem Massachusetts has a lot of other history.
- The Peabody Essex Museum has an extensive collection of New England art and historical artifacts.
- Visit The House of the Seven Gables, the inspiration for Nathanial Hawthorne’s 1851 book of the same name.
- Pickering Wharf is a charming downtown area full of shops and cafes.
- Run by the National Park service, the Salem Maritime National Historic Site was the country’s first historic site, established in 1938. It tells the story of the town’s important maritime history.
- Take a ride on the Salem Ferry, a catamaran which runs between Boston to Salem.
In our opinion, go to Salem for the witches, stay for everything else.
New Hampshire Bucket List
Along with its rugged landscape, New Hampshire is well known for its rugged individualism. After all, New Hampshire declared independence from England, six months before the official Declaration of Independence on July 4th.
Our New Hampshire Bucket List is all outdoors stuff. This state is too pretty to waste on towns and cities.
The White Mountains located on the north of New Hampshire is perfect for winter skiing, summer hiking and fall leaf viewing. The White Mountain National Forest covers 1200 square miles. Mount Washington, located in the White Mountains, is the highest mountain in New England.
South of the White Mountains, you have the lakes region of New Hampshire. We also included Lake Winnipesaukee in our New Hampshire bucket list because tourism started proliferating here as early as the 19th century. Wolfeboro calls itself America’s oldest summer resort because the British governor built his summer house here back in 1770.
Hard to spell but Winnipesaukee is definitely the right term for it. The Native American name for the lake is thought to mean “Smile of the Great Spirit” – something that clearly is obvious. Nature doesn’t get more beautiful than Lake Winnipesaukee.
Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in New Hampshire. The lake is about 72 square miles with about 182 miles of shoreline. Depending on the water level, Lake Winnipesaukee has as many as 258 little islands with about another 100 miles of their own shoreline. Check out different parts of the lake on one of the cruises offered, such as on the Winnipesaukee Belle, a replica of a 19th century paddleboat.
Family visitors flock to Weirs Beach which has a beach as well as boardwalk with lots of family-friendly attractions, such as amusement arcades and water parks. The arcade, Funspot, is the world’s largest arcade and also offers both regular bowling and the New England version, candlepin bowling.
If your kids are old enough, consider climbing Mt Major which is a half day hiking excursion. From the top, there are fabulous views over Lake Winnipesaukee and the nearby mountains.
The White Mountains are a stunning mountain range located in northern New Hampshire, and a part of the Appalachian Mountains.
The area covers a large area and a wide variety of mountains which makes it well known as a winter ski destination in New England. Some of the best ski mountains include Loon Mountain, Attitash Mountain, and Waterville Valley, among several others.
It is equally beautiful in summer for outdoor activities, and the fall presents the mountains in the most glorious patchwork of fall foliage colours. The Kancamagus Highway is one of the top foliage drives in New England.
Within the White Mountains there are many fantastic sites to visit:
– Mount Washington & the Cog Railway
– Franconia Notch State Park
– White Mountain National Forest
– The Flume
– Cannon Mountain
– North Conway
– Kancamagus Highway
No visit to the White Mountains is complete without a visit to Polly’s Pancake Parlour, in Sugarhill, just north of Franconia Notch. The variety of homemade pancakes on offer is unmatched in the region for deliciousness.
The most famous hotels in the region are the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods. But there are a variety of other wonderful places to stay throughout the region, including Waterville Valley Resort or Mill Falls on Lake Winnepesaukee. There are smaller quaint inns worth staying in including Franconia Inn.
by Jamie Anderson at Travel Addict
Rhode Island Bucket List
Rhode Island was set up by separatists from the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the early colonial times.
What should be on your Rhode Island bucket list?
Definitely historic Newport, the first home of the US Navy and also the summer playground of the rich industrialists of the late 19th century. Newport is connected to the mainland with the Claiborne Pell Bridge, New England’s longest suspension bridge.
We also chose Block Island, another one of the New England islands that is picture perfect. Growing up in New York, Block Island was an easier weekend island destination to reach than the Cape Cod islands.
Only 12 miles off the mainland, a popular New England summer destination, Block Island feels a world away.
It’s a smaller version of the Cape Cod islands with beautiful beaches, lighthouses, stone walls and rolling landscapes.
Block Island has about 1000 full-time residents living on about 10 square miles. In comparison, Martha’s Vineyard has about 16,000 full time residents on about 96 square miles. Both islands also have summer populations that explode with people on vacation.
Just like the Vineyard, there are no traffic lights, chain stores or fast food options. On Block Island, you get a very similar feeling of stepping back in time to a slower and gentler world (but with good food and WiFi).
A little less than half the island is protected from development with 28 miles of walking trails. There are plenty of opportunities for outdoorsy things to do, like kayaking, surfing, snorkelling, fishing and boating.
Newport, Rhode Island is an idyllic location for a US-based getaway. It’s got everything you can imagine, from historic mansions to oceanside cliffs, soft-sand beaches, boutique shopping and drool-worthy restaurants.
Newport is an island located off the coast of the smallest state in the USA, Rhode Island (which, is in fact, not an island itself!).
The beaches in Newport are quintessential New England, with Second Beach boasting the longest stretch of sand in RI! Grab a lobster roll and a Del’s Lemonade (vodka optional) and enjoy an afternoon in the sun if visiting in the summer.
In the winter months, take a tour of one of the historic Newport Mansions or do your holiday shopping along historic Thames Street.
For epic scenery, you can enjoy a stroll down the iconic Cliff Walk or head to Castle Hill for sweeping vistas of the Newport Harbor. Bowen’s Wharf and the surroundings have an abundance of ice cream shops, local boutiques, and art galleries to peruse.
If arriving by plane, you can take a bus or rental car down I-95 to route 4 and cross over the iconic Newport Bridge.
If you are staying in Rhode Island’s highly underrated capital city, Providence, there are also direct ferries offered! Check the schedule as it varies depending on the season.
Regardless of your itinerary in Newport, it will make for an unforgettable weekend away and a super-easy place to visit in New England.
by Jade Laurenza at The Migrant Yogi
Vermont Bucket List
Vermont was started by people from New Hampshire so there’s more of that rugged individuality in this state as well. The people of Vermont declared their independence in 1777 (during the American Revolution) so that its neighbouring states were a bit preoccupied.
Vermont gets its name from a corruption of the French words for green mountains so, of course, the Green Mountains (a part of the Appalachian mountain range) are a must see on your Vermont bucket list.
With all this natural beauty, we decided to include Lake Champlain on the Vermont bucket list, too, because it’s a beautiful area with lots of historical interest.
My kids would say that any Vermont bucket list would be incomplete without the Ben & Jerry’s factory tour in Waterbury. The state capital of Montpelier is especially pretty during the fall foliage season. The Northeast Kingdom is known for its great winter skiing, including Stowe, known as the ski capital of the east coast.
The Green Mountains run up and down the state of Vermont from the Massachusetts Border up to Canada. The Green Mountain National Forest covers most of this area. If you are visiting in the fall, make sure to drive State Route 100 which is one of the prettiest routes for leaf peepers.
Most of the things to do in the Green Mountains involves outdoors activity, such as hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter. Explore Woodstock Vermont, regularly voted prettiest town in the USA, and nearby Quechee, home to Vermont’s deepest gorge.
Vermont is associated with Robert Frost, one of the most American poets ever. The Robert Frost Farm in Ripton where he wrote much of his poetry is a national landmark. You an also visit the Robert Frost Stone House Museum near Bennington Vermont where he wrote many of his most famous poems.
Check out Manchester which is easily accessible in the southeast corner of the Green Mountains. It’s the home of Orvis, an outdoors gear specialist, which is the oldest mail-order business in the country. It’s a higher end version of LL Bean for really outdoorsy people (as opposed to the occasionally outdoorsy like us).
Be sure to swing by Hildene in Manchester which is the historic home of Robert Lincoln, the only child of President Lincoln to survive to adulthood.
Charming towns in the Green Mountains include the college towns of Middlebury and Bennington (home of Middlebury College and Bennington College, respectively). The Robert Frost Farm actually abuts onto Middlebury College property.
Nestled between the Green Mountains of Vermont and the rest of the Appalachians in New York, Lake Champlain is a giant inland sea. In fact, there are three bridges, three ferry boats and a train that connect Vermont and New York across Lake Champlain.
Lake Champlain is 120 miles long with an incredible shoreline of 587 miles. It borders New York and Vermont as well as Canada. Most of Lake Champlain is in the USA.
There’s a legend that Lake Champlain has its own lake monster, Champ (like Nessie in Loch Ness in Scotland). Like Nessie, Champ has been rarely spotted sober. Champ is supposed to call Port Henry home.
If you want to check the different bits of Lake Champlain out, take an Ethan Allen cruise ship or schooner tour of the lake.
Lake Champlain is an outdoor lovers paradise. There are also several charming towns dotted around the lake, such as Shelburne. Most of the historic towns though are on the New York state side, such as Ticonderoga and Port Henry.
Burlington has a pretty historic downtown and is a good jumping off point for exploring the Lake Champlain area. If you are a family traveller, be sure to check out the ECHO Leahy Center that is a science and nature museum devoted to Lake Champlain.
15 New England Must See Places Map
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Go Wander Wild says
This New England guide is incredibly helpful. You’ve really thought through everything you need to know before planning a trip. Thank you for this helpful resource. Saving this guide for later!
thanks! Glad it was helpful.
Beverly Diamond says
Incidentally, Cliff Walk is in RhodecIsland, not Ogunquit. You should refer to the Marginal Way in Ogunquit.
Thanks for the correction!
Of course! My mistake.