New England’s Best Small Towns
Because… your great-great-grandparents might have slept here.
In the beginning, Hancock was a pit stop for the stagecoach crowd; today, it’s a favored destination for New England vacationers. Both sets of travelers have been warmly welcomed by the Hancock Inn, a bastion of Yankee hospitality since 1789. (B&B-phobes, take note: Centuries of operation haven’t precluded major renovations.)
Save for a general store, a café, and the inn’s dining room, the town itself has no shops or restaurants, a fact that history buffs applaud—along with the fact that every building on Main Street (where Paul Revere’s Bell #236 still rings on the hour) has earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. —Brittany Jasnoff
Because… it’s like a movie set (with actual movie stars)!
Photo by Keller + Keller
With no downtown to speak of, Sharonites must hit the post office to meet and greet their neighbors—but, oh, what neighbors. Campbell Scott, Michael J. Fox, and Kevin Bacon are among the homeowners in this Litchfield Hills enclave, population 3,000 (Meryl Streep lives a few towns over). Rigorous zoning has helped protect a cache of gorgeous old architecture—Federal, Gothic, Georgian—much of it along Main Street’s narrow town green. South on Main, you can ogle preserved estates amid sloping meadows, while rural Calkinstown Road has everything from 1870s farmhouses to chic modern abodes. You may not have the A-lister’s bankroll needed to swing a manse here, but, at least for a day, you can hang out and pretend. —J. L. Johnson
Because… of this place.
Charm is deeply rooted in Woodstock, and reaches full flower in its namesake inn. Once a mansion owned by Laurance Rockefeller, the Woodstock Inn and Resort looms over the village center, yet not in a megahotel-swallows-rustic-hamlet kind of way. It entertains both locals and guests with live music, and the affiliated Billings Farm puts on festivals throughout the year. Inside, it’s newly luxe: The renovated rooms—deep loveseats, old-school plaids—come with giant TVs and regional art, and the Red Rooster restaurant has a Zen feel and upscale fare. Meanwhile, the seasonal activities (leaf-peeping in Quechee Gorge, toasting marshmallows at the inn’s outdoor fire pit) are utterly timeless. —Donna Garlough
Because… ivory towers make for a storybook escape.
By William Martin
When you get to Hanover, you see students. If you get there on a Dartmouth College football weekend, you see a Friday-night bonfire, hordes of alums, and jam-packed bar stools. Look deeper. Talk to locals who live here simply because they like it, or to folks who have retired here simply because there’s no place like it.
Yes, it’s the quintessential college town, where youthful enthusiasm combines with tradition to create something ageless. But it’s also the cultural heart of the Upper Valley. Try breakfast at Lou’s, lunch at Molly’s, dinner in Murphy’s. See what’s on at the Hopkins Center. Watch the world go by from the porch of the Hanover Inn. By Sunday, you may understand why so many love Hanover, why some never leave, and why you are now yearning to go back.
Weston resident William Martin has written several novels, including Cape Cod, Back Bay, and the new City of Dreams, due out in May.