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.
Sleep with a Ghost
Looking for a truly otherworldly getaway? Consider the Omni Mount Washington Resort, in Bretton Woods. Railroad tycoon Joseph Stickney built the regal hotel, and his legacy lives on in the form of his wife, Caroline Foster, who died in 1939 and is rumored to still wander the hallways in Victorian garb. For a close encounter, book Room 314, where some guests have spotted her sitting on the four-poster bed—the very same one she once shared with her husband.
Seek Out a Singular Snack
Jordan Pond House, inside Acadia National Park, is famous for its popovers. A turkey leg from Canterbury Kitchens is a must at Carver’s King Richard’s Faire, which opens before Labor Day. Which is worth the trip?
Anatomy: A salty muffin-shaped roll with a crispy, hollow top.
Historical Bona Fides: Plumping up tourists since 1896.
Portions: A dainty duo with strawberry jam and butter on the side, plus a beverage of your choice.
Ingredients: Eggs, milk, flour, and salt.
Prep: Mixed a day ahead, then poured into muffin tins and baked in a convection oven.
Guilt, in Calories: 150
Anatomy: A thick, meaty monster drumstick, smoked until tender.
Historical Bona Fides: Sustaining wenches since 1982.
Portions: Two husky pounds.
Ingredients: The leg and thigh of a 40-pound adult male turkey.
Prep: Cured in a salt brine and pre-smoked off-site. Baked upon request.
Guilt, in Calories: 1,520.
Spend a Cheesy Day at Hampton Beach
So it’s not Nantucket. That’s part of the charm. Here’s your playbook.
9 a.m. — Tuck into breakfast at Ashworth-by-the-Sea’s Wharfside Café (603-926-6762, ashworthhotel.com). Omelets, eggs Benedict, and corned-beef hash? All under $10. This is good, because you’ll want to save your pennies for some arcade fun.
11 a.m. — Skeeball is a must at the Playland Arcade (603-926-3831). Many regulars love the rush so much that they’ll simply hand you their tickets after winning. Cash them in for stuffed-animal prizes doled out by gawky teens.
12:30 p.m. — Hit the beach! To avoid crowds, consider driving a few miles north toward Rye; Jenness Beach is less frenzied, and there’s usually parking along the side streets or at meters.
4 p.m. — Hampton might get a bad rap as a land of muscle tees and fried dough, but there’s far more to behold: Ocean Boulevard is lined with magnificent estates and miles of gorgeous, rocky coastline.
6 p.m. — Fuel up for an evening of boulevard-cruising at the Galley Hatch (603-926-6152, galleyhatch.com), a very civilized restaurant offering pizza and seafood several blocks from the main drag. Entrées come with your choice of side dishes—a pleasantly throwback touch.
8 p.m. — Time for drinks at Bernie’s Beach Bar (603-926-5050, berniesbeachbar.com): part tiki lounge, part MTV reality show. After a few candy-hued margaritas, you’ll be ready to…
9 p.m. — Hit the strip. Maybe you scored tickets to a show at the storied Casino Ballroom (603-929-4100, casinoballroom.com), host of such legendary acts as Whitesnake and the Monkees. If not, grab dessert at Blink’s Fry Doe (603-926-8933), known for its long, thin, doughy creations.
Be a Lighthouse Keeper
At Narragansett Bay’s Rose Island Lighthouse, near Newport, test your chops at running a lighthouse—raise the flag, track weather patterns, maintain the rainwater-gathering system, and sleep on-site for a cool $2,300 weekly during the high season. The Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation cedes management to caretakers from Sunday to Sunday for an hour per day, or longer if you’re feeling rugged.
Ride the World’s First Mountain-Climbing Train
Acrophobes, you’ve been warned: This is not your average railroad. The Mount Washington Cog Railway, in Bretton Woods, chugs up the Northeast’s highest peak at a roller-coaster-like incline, with an average slope of 25 degrees. A national historical engineering landmark, the 146-year-old railway offers three-hour round-trip tours: Book a vintage coach powered by a steam locomotive, or ride an eco-happy biodiesel engine. Once at the summit, you’ll get an hour to literally chill (the peak withstands negative temperatures for more than 65 days each year) and take in the best view in New England. When skies are clear, you’ll enjoy a panorama of New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont, with a peek toward Canada and the Atlantic.
Dig into the Real Boston Cream Pie
Sure, it’s on every tourist’s list of gimmicky Boston activities, right there next to the duck boats and Quincy Market. But admit it: You’ve never tried the original, either. Get thee to the Omni Parker House, where the oft-imitated, never duplicated Boston cream pie—served at the hotel since 1856, and now Massachusetts’ state dessert—is filled with pastry cream and topped with a swirl of white and semisweet chocolate fondant.
Take a Kid to Story Land
Wanna know a secret? The best amusement park is right in our backyard. Nestled in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, Story Land, in Glen, celebrates classic kids’ tales like Alice in Wonderland and Humpty Dumpty. Toddlers can “drive” farm tractors and antique cars and pose at Cinderella’s castle; older children can plunge into the water aboard Bamboo Chutes or ride the Roar-o-Saurus coaster. No endless lines or strobe lights here, just plenty of G-rated charm.
Tour a Crumbling Religious Eden
Most of us have snuck into beaches after dark. But have you ever tried to slip into an old religious theme park? It’s never too late: Just take exit 22 off Route 84 in Waterbury and look for the imposing 52-foot-tall cross—lit by roughly 4,500 LED lights—leading the way toward Holy Land USA. The 18-acre attraction opened in 1957, boasting biblical replicas of the Garden of Eden and Daniel in the Lion’s Den. In 1984, it closed and fell into a state of creepy disrepair, quickly turning into a hot spot for teens willing to sneak past the front gates. If a little light trespassing isn’t your speed, you can still visit for free with permission from the two nuns who oversee the property (just knock on the nearby convent’s doors first). Efforts to revitalize and reopen the park are now under way, which means a more ticket-friendly entrance to paradise could be coming soon.
Join an Art Rave at Firefly
You don’t need to wait for an engraved invitation from Lord Summerisle to take part in the exuberant art weirdness that is Firefly, New England’s answer to Burning Man. With a little creativity and perseverance (and maybe a little luck), you can stake out your own spot in this counterculture paradise amid the woods of central Vermont.
Find Your Tribe | Make friends with the Boston burner community by attending one of their year-round events, which range from DJ nights to cookie-baking parties. Or take an LED-lighting class at maker-culture temple Artisan’s Asylum, a favorite haunt of Firefly VIPs.
Get Tickets | Roughly 1,000 people converge on Firefly every year—and if you’re going to be one of them, you’ll need to register for the über-competitive ticket lottery. Stuck on the waitlist? One intrepid hacker has coded up a shell script to help you keep tabs on your status.
Join the Caravan | Even though Firefly is held on 90 acres (the exact location is revealed only to ticketholders), parking is limited. Not keen on carpooling with the group hauling pork for the “Bacon, Strippers & Heavy Metal” theme camp? Hop on the bus departing from Boston.
Pack Smart | You’re camping in the forest, so make sure your rucksack is packed with the essentials. Such as: glow-in-the-dark Hula-Hoops, chain-mail bikinis, and, oh yeah, maybe some extra socks and industrial-strength bug repellent.