6 charming New England towns

Your guide to some of our favorite getaways in America’s scenic northeast.

by Elana Kreiger-Benson

New England is famous for its charming, historic towns and romantic, rustic villages that will capture your imagination and satisfy your outdoorsy urges year-round, within striking distance of the region’s major cities. Catch world-famous fall foliage, cozy winter wonderlands, lush green springtime getaways and seaside escapes from the heat of summer in six of our favorite New England towns.

Concord, Massachusetts

Concord, MA is a buzzing town packed with history and charm. Originally a seasonal Native American campsite and then one of the first European settlements in Massachusetts, Concord is perhaps most famous as site of the first battle of the Revolutionary War. In the nineteenth century, the town evolved into a literary hub, home to Henry David Thoreau and Louisa May Alcott, among many other American cultural stars. In addition to four centuries of historic sites, today’s visitors to Concord enjoy quaint streets of independent boutiques and galleries, rustic restaurants, refreshing outdoor spaces and nature reserves – and in some cases, like at the deCordova Sculpture Park, a combination. Fuel up for a day of exploring at Haute Coffee, a favorite spot for a brew and a bite.

Getting there: Concord is an easy half-hour drive or train ride from Boston, MA.

Concord, Massachusetts
Bar Harbor, Maine

If it’s quintessential coastal life and outdoor adventure you’re after, scenic Bar Harbor, ME (“Bah Hah-bah” in local parlance) is for you. Known for its dramatic vistas of the Atlantic – think picturesque lobster boats, sunsets over the bluffs and foggy harbor islands – Bar Harbor offers the perfect blend of urban comfort and seaside escape. Enjoy fresh, local seafood all around town (Reading Room or Stewman’s Lobster Pound are favorites) or – a little further afield – popovers with a view of the mountains at Jordan Pond House. Bar Harbor is also a gateway to stunning Acadia National Park, making it a great base for outdoor activities of all kinds. You’ll find ample opportunity for biking, swimming, hiking, boating, wildlife-watching and other adventures within easy reach.  

Getting there: About three hours from Portland, ME, Bar Harbor may require a little extra time and planning, but it’s well worth it.

Bar Harbor, Maine
Stowe, Vermont

While scenic and charming year-round, Stowe, VT is a particular gem in the winter, when it transforms into a snow-covered wonderland of winter sports and rustic comforts. Whether you’re looking to hit the slopes on skiis or a snowboard, plotting a relaxing snow-shoe adventure through the woods, or feeling more inclined to curl up by the fire  in the lodge with a good book (or all three!), Stowe’s the place for you. Rustic lodges and homey B&Bs are the name of the game, and a range of dining options -- from craft breweries to fine dining -- will keep you fueled up with comfort food for your snowy adventures. So pack your Fair Isle knits and coziest slippers, and make for Stowe this winter!

Getting there: A little over three hours from Boston, MA, Stowe likely requires a few days’ commitment.

Stowe, Vermont
Hanover, New Hampshire

Home to Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH is a charming, historic town with a laid-back university vibe. Explore Main Street’s independent galleries, boutiques and restaurants. Brunch in the understated elegance of the Hanover Inn overlooking the green is never a bad way to pass the morning. Take advantage of Dartmouth’s cultural scene, offering up something for everyone. Art-lovers delight at the Hood Museum’s collection of over 65,000 pieces of art and artifacts spanning the ages and the globe. Catch dance, theater and cinema at the Hopkins Center for Performing Arts. Outdoorsy types can make for the hills with ease to enjoy any number of hikes within striking distance, including sections of the famous Appalachian Trail. Water- and snow-sport destinations are also within easy reach – depending on the season.  

Getting there: Around two hours from Boston, MA by car or two and a half by bus.

Hanover, New Hampshire
Rockport, Massachusetts

Home to a quaint, historic downtown area, miles of sandy and pebbly beaches and walking trails across the glades and bluffs, Rockport, MA is an unpretentious seaside gem on Cape Ann. In town, explore New England-style wood-sided buildings – home to boutiques, galleries and museums. Breathe the crisp ocean air as you hike the bluffs or kayak out to Thacher Island to visit the historic lighthouses. Scuba dive or head out whalewatching or puffin-touring in the bay around Cape Ann. Helmut’s Strudel Shop is a terrific little bakery – a perfect place to start the day. And of course, there’s plenty of delicious, fresh seafood on offer in view of the ocean at places like Roy Moore’s Fish Shack and Nate’s at Front Beach.

Getting there: An easy hour-long drive north of Boston, MA or two hour trip south from Portland, ME.

Rockport, Massachusetts
Woodstock, Vermont

Maybe not the Woodstock you’re thinking of, but Woodstock, VT is exciting in its own quaint New England sort of way. This picturesque village, where historic buildings far outnumber modern constructions, exudes quintessential Vermont charm. A land of antique shops and B&Bs complete with central green, white-steepled church and quaint covered bridges, Woodstock makes for a perfect romantic getaway or refreshing retreat. The wider Woodstock area has lots to offer year-round. Breath-taking foliage in the autumn is worth the trip in itself. Skiing and other winter sports are within easy reach, and scenic farm country and ample hikes abound in spring and summer.

Getting there: About two and a half hours from both Boston, MA and Albany, NY.

Woodstock, Vermont
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