THERE IS PERHAPS NO REGION in the country that better hits that sweet spot between utility and style: Here you’ll find everything from antique silver and fishing gear to sexy cocktail numbers. We’ve landed on the best areas to snag all of the above.
Boutiques: Newport, Rhode Island
Be careful strolling around here with a fat wallet. The waterfront setting, Colonial buildings, and pedestrian wharfs may seem innocuous, but hidden in all those nooks and crannies is a tempting bounty of things you never knew you needed. High-end Italian bagsmith Terrida (10 Bowen’s Wharf, 401-845-0022, terrida.com) carries slick, urban totes in a wealth of colors and styles; Bellevue Beauty Walk (One Bannister’s Wharf, 401-845-0800, bellevuebeautywalk.com) houses an armory of jewelry and beauty products from the likes of Bliss and Fresh; and Pan Handler’s (35 Broadway, 401-619-3780, panhandlersnewport.com) stocks high-quality kitchenware and gourmet foodstuffs.
Outlet Shopping: Kittery, Maine
Sure, offbeat, one-of-a-kind treasures are nice. But sometimes you just want a jaw-dropping selection of brand-name bargains. The Kittery Outlets (306 State Rd. [Rte. 1], thekitteryoutlets.com) showcase a corporate but diverse selection of well-known spoils, running the gamut from Ralph Lauren to Barbour to Tumi. To cut through the literally hundreds of options, you’ll need to strategize. A couple of hints: The Kittery Trading Post is a one-stop shop for all your outdoor goods, and in general, hitting up the outlets during postholiday weeks is a sure bet for extreme deals (think: a J.Crew silk dress for as little as $33).
Outdoors: Freeport, Maine
The five senses are all well and good until you’re too cold. Or hot. Or ready to pack it in because your boots are giving you blisters. Fortunately, the L. L. Bean metropolis here (95 Main St., 877-755-2326, llbean.com) covers every conceivable necessity, with 220,000 square feet of gear to make your outdoor experience as comfortable — and fun — as possible. Start at the outlet in the Freeport Village Station for low-cost basics before hitting specialized departments at the headquarters (look for the giant duck boot out front). Across Discovery Park, browse furniture, décor, and kitchen goods at the home branch.
Crafts: Southern Vermont
This region is mountains above the rest when it comes to handcrafted goodness — the state hosts hundreds of craft shows annually, and several shops call it home year-round. Epoch 18 Vermont Artisans (4927 Main St., Manchester Center, 802-768-9711, epochvermont.com) is a true artist co-op, featuring exquisite glassware, hardwood furniture, and handwoven clothing. Meanwhile, Vermont Artisan Designs (106 Main St., Brattleboro, 802-257-7044, buyvermontart.com) stocks turned wooden bowls, clocks, and pottery on the first floor, and houses a fine-art gallery on the second. The Collective in Woodstock (47 Central St., Woodstock, 802-457-1298, collective-theartofcraft.com) is known for its funky felted bags, hand-dyed scarves, and artful lamps.
Antiques: Putnam, Connecticut
The eBay boom of the late ’90s caused many an antiques shop to close, but this town is still going strong as one of the area’s meccas for (gently) used treasure. In large part, that’s thanks to the Antiques Marketplace (109 Main St., 860-928-0442, antiquesmarketplace.com) — a converted 19th-century department store with four floors and some 150 vendors. Among the items intrepid browsers can score are furniture from the mid-18th to 19th centuries, jewelry, glass, and china — and thanks to low rent costs, there’s a good chance you’ll find a bargain while hunting here. Within walking distance, Jeremiah’s Antiques (26 Front St., 860-963-2671) is another gem for china and dinnerware, while Vintage to Vogue (112 Main St., 860-963-7725, vintagetovogueshops.com) is stocked with linens, furniture, and art.