Best. Summer. Ever. 27 Ways to Fall in Love with New England All Over Again

Whether you’re a native or a new kid on the block, these are adventures, attractions, and curiosities that you cannot miss.

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Make a splash at Bartlett Falls, in Bristol, Vermont. / Photograph by Little Outdoor Giants

We won’t be modest: It’s pretty much impossible to top summer in New England. We have miles of pristine coastline. Gorgeous mountains. The freshest seafood. Excellent ice cream, too. Arts? Culture? Sports? Yes, yes, and yes, to all of the above. But these pastimes are just a springboard to the region’s many hidden wonders. From next-level adventures and essential eats to quirky, nowhere-but-here experiences, this is your definitive guide to a delightfully offbeat New England summer.

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Edited by Kara Baskin
Photographs by Little Outdoor Giants

new england summer

Photograph by Little Outdoor Giants



Swing from the Treetops at Ramblewild

Set amid more than 1,400 acres of Berkshires wilderness, this “tree-to-tree” aerial park in Lanesborough encourages adults and kids alike to channel their inner Tarzan on eight obstacle courses through the foliage—high wires, zip lines, balancing logs, rope ladders, and more—some as high as 120 feet above solid ground. Ride a suspended kayak across a 140-foot ravine! Skateboard through the canopy! Parking at Good Harbor seems almost tame after this.


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Because nothing says summer like a slice of coal-fired pie from Frank Pepe. / Photograph by Little Outdoor Giants



Hit the Sauce on a New Haven Pizza Crawl

If you’re going to make the pilgrimage to Elm City for those famous crisp, charred pies, you might as well try ’em all. Ahead, our hour-by-hour apizza itinerary.

11 a.m. — Frank Pepe | Start your day on an empty stomach and savor each perfect coal-fired bite of clam and minced garlic. Not breakfast-y enough? Add some of Pepe’s famously smoky bacon on top. 203-865-5762,

1 p.m. — Modern Apizza | After some digestive sightseeing around Wooster Square Park, trek over to Bill Pustari’s temple of New Haven pie. Toppings are king here, as evidenced by Modern’s “Italian Bomb” (sausage, pepperoni, bacon, mushrooms, and garlic). But we recommend a simple anchovy pizza offset by a refreshing Foxon Park white birch soda. 203-776-5306,

4 p.m. — Sally’s Apizza | If the Consiglio family’s tomato pie was good enough for Frank Sinatra, it’ll be good enough for you. Enjoy the same combination that Frank loved: charred dough, herbs, and Sally’s blend of tomatoes. You won’t even miss the mootz (that’s mozzarella to you outsiders). 203-624-5271,

5:30 p.m. — Libby’s Italian Pastry Shop | Time for a sweet interlude. This nearly century-old bakery’s cappuccinos and flaky sfogliatelle are the perfect antidotes to all of that sauce and cheese. 203-772-0380,

7 p.m. — Tony & Lucille’s Little Italy Restaurant | Yeah, we get it. A calzone isn’t a pizza. But Tony Sacco’s burnished half-moons, brimming with ricotta and served with a side of marinara, come shockingly close to challenging the “apizza” at New Haven’s big three. 203-787-1621.

8:45 p.m. — Bar | Just one more pie to go. At this Yalie favorite, the brick oven is gas-powered and mashed potatoes are an essential pizza topping. Angle for a window seat in the Brü Room and people-watch over a house-brewed stout. 203-495-1111,

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Photographs by Little Outdoor Giants



Examine Other People’s Brains

Visit Yale’s Cushing Center to browse an array of medical oddities: Most spectacularly, you’ll find hundreds of human brains, skull specimens, and tumors in paraffin. Just be sure to visit after enjoying your New Haven pizza crawl.



Watch the Boston Pops Fireworks from a Prime Perch

If you’re on a date, you should Swoon at Lederman Park/Charlesbank Playground, for the hush-hush, unobstructed view past the Longfellow Bridge and across from Mass General.

If you’re athletic, you should watch from the water with Paddle Boston, for the opportunity to gaze from your own kayak (or aboard a party canoe for 10).

If you’re craving Instagram followers, you should pose at MIT’s Killian Court, for the area’s most prime skyline backdrops.

If you’re patriotic, you should camp out at Somerville’s Prospect Hill Monument, for the stars and stripes (and fabulous panoramas) at the corner of Munroe and Bigelow streets, where many claim George Washington raised the first U.S. flag.



Score a Growler at Hill Farmstead Brewery

Chances are, you’re not going to find Hill Farmstead at your favorite bottle shop. And unless you stop by Worcester’s Armsby Abbey, you won’t find kegs of Shaun Hill’s Earl stout kicking around. It’s the consequence of producing the best, most-limited-edition beer in the world. So how can you procure these elusive brews? Via a long, sunny journey up through the dirt roads of Greensboro, Vermont. The brewery’s crowd is a veritable U.N. conference, with tourists mingling from as far away as Australia, all hoping for a sip of perfection.


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Photograph by Little Outdoor Giants



Paddle in Thoreau’s Wake

In the summer of 1839, Henry David Thoreau and his brother John dropped a skiff in the Sudbury River and spent the next week navigating the Concord and Merrimack rivers all the way up to Hooksett, New Hampshire. These days, it’s still possible to retrace much of the route that the great transcendentalist forged. For authenticity, start at the corner of Main and Thoreau streets in Concord and find a spot to plunge your canoe or kayak into the Sudbury River. Odds are good you won’t make it all the way to the Granite State, but you’ll still find inspiration aplenty.

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Photograph by Roland Hopkins



Grab the Brass Ring on Oak Bluffs’ Flying Horses Carousel

The brass-ring challenge is banned at most carousels (lunging for that shiny metal disk is considered an insurance risk), but the tradition lives on at the country’s oldest platform carousel. The prize? A free ride, plus bragging rights.




Order a Flo’s Hot Dog, Unscathed

On a dusty stretch of Route 1 between the Kittery outlets and the glitz of Kennebunkport lies Flo’s, a drooping hot-dog shanty in Cape Neddick with lines out the door. Travelers gather from miles around to order these relish-laced, steamed dogs—once served by Florence Stacy and now tended by her sassy daughter-in-law, Gail. Remember Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi? Gail’s a cheerier version. She makes delectable dogs, but there’s a definite protocol you’ll need to follow when ordering.

  1. Shut the screen door. Do not linger with it wide open while standing in line. You’ll let the bugs in, and you’ll get scolded.
  2. Duck! The roof is low. Anyone over 6 feet should wait outside or prepare to stoop.
  3. Dispatch someone to claim a picnic bench. There are only a few, and there’s nowhere to sit otherwise. Hover like a vulture until those lazy tourists get up.
  4. Name a number. Do not tell Gail about your chosen accoutrements unless you enjoy cold stares. She only wants a quantity—four, six, nine. You’ll give further instructions later.
  5. Inch forward a bit and, when prompted for your toppings, request the special. You want your snappy little dog lined with mayo, Flo’s secret tangy brown relish, and a dash of celery salt. That’s it. Do not inquire about varieties of mustard or sides of French fries. They have chips; that’s it.
  6. Wash it all down with a can of Moxie. Sharp and a bit bitter, the official soft drink of Vacationland makes a perfect pairing.
  7. Order a jar of relish for the road. Pour it on eggs, burgers, fries—you name it. In the dead of winter, you’ll be grateful.
  8. Pay in cash. C’mon, are you from out of town?



Ride the Ogunquit Trolleys

Seasoned Maine vacationers (especially those with squirmy kids) never navigate Ogunquit by car. Instead, they avoid gridlock aboard a charming antique trolley run by the Ogunquit Trolley Company—part of the Shoreline Explorer transportation network, which connects the Maine coast from York to Kennebunk. The trolley names are cute—Molly, Lolly, and so on—and the breeze feels amazing after a long, sweaty beach day. And at $2 per ride, it sure beats parking at Perkins Cove.