Looking for something to do with your spare time over the holidays? Do you long to do something special for your significant other during the break that won’t empty your bank account? Well you don’t have to go far to find some fantastic places. Rhode Island, Maine and Vermont have some of the “best kept secrets” in New England, and they are all right under your nose!
If you haven’t been to Providence before plan on taking a jaunt there sometime in the near future because this small city has a lot to offer.
One of your first stops in Providence should be the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. The RISD Museum traces the history of art from antiquity to the present through its collection of more than 85,000 works in all media from all over the world. The Museum is recognized as one of the country’s best museums of its size, and brings its collection to life through special exhibitions, lectures, family-oriented activities, educational programs and other initiatives. Best of all, this museum is the perfect size for a day trip, contrary to the massive MFA, which requires numerous visits to absorb the collection.
“Gallery Night Providence” is a free, fun-filled preamble to Rhode Island’s exciting art scene. From 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm on the third Thursday of every month, ArTrolleys circulate throughout Providence stopping at the city’s best art locations and many galleries. This is a great way to experience the art scene in Providence if you’re unfamiliar with the metro area.
The Roger Williams Park (also known as the “Jewel of Providence”) was cited as one of America’s leading historic urban parks by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Botanical Gardens provide horticultural education and prove to be a beautiful retreat year round. The Gardens appeal on many levels to the environmentally minded, beauty seekers, and avid gardeners.
Block Island, RI
A little further south off the coast of Rhode Island is a less expensive alternative to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. From Boston take a 90-minute ride down to Galilee, RI and catch the Block Island Ferry.
While you’re waiting for the ferry grab a quick bite to eat at nearby Champlin’s, a “no frills” seafood restaurant. The lobster bisque is phenomenal and menu items are reasonably priced. So get ready for some plastic utensils, paper plates, and great food.
When you arrive on Block Island, to ensure that you’ll see the entire island, head over to the nearest scooter rental establishment. This is the best way to explore the island if you’re only visiting for one day. You’ll be glad you decided to rent the scooter when you see others struggling up the many hills of Block Island on their bicycles. Then you can use your obnoxious horn to beep at them as a reminder that they too should have rented scooters.
Some worthwhile stops are the Southeast Lighthouse, the North Light House, the Mohegan Bluffs and the Block Island Historical Society.
Among activities available to visitors are kayak and canoe rentals, horseback riding, sailing, parasailing and much more. Ballard’s Restaurant and the Mohegan Cafe are two great restaurants to have lunch or dinner between activities.
Manchester, Vermont is a lovely town to visit if you want to get away from the hustle-and-bustle of Boston. If you like “antiquing,” Manchester and its surrounding areas are fantastic places to hunt for treasures. It is quiet in the summer, and in the winter it is a perfect base for day-trips to ski resorts such as Stratton, Bromley, Magic Mountain and Okemo. Stay in nearby Londonderry at Dostals resort, a delightful yet inexpensive Austrian retreat located on Magic Mountain, or at one of the other charming local Inns. Visit the nearby village of Weston, which has country stores, a well-known summer theatre, hiking, and many mountain biking trails.
When dining out make sure you reserve some time for a meal at the prime breakfast spot in Vermont, Up For Breakfast, recognized by USA Today, Vermont Gourmet, Yankee and Bon Appetit Magazines. Up For Breakfast is an energetic, artsy cafe featuring hearty, healthy meals. At times the line can be out the door so make sure you get there early.
When you are ready for dinner head over to the Sirloin Saloon to dine in a cozy western-themed setting. Fieldstone fireplaces create a warm ambience making it a pleasant setting to enjoy some of Vermont’s finest food.
Any visit to Portland should start with a walk around historic Old Port. This several-square-block area near the waterfront contains the city’s best commercial architecture, an overabundance of fine restaurants and one of the largest concentrations of bars on the east coast. If you’re planning a night of bar hopping, some of the city’s best drinking spots are Gritty McDuffs, Sebago Brewing Company, RiRa’s, Bull Feeney’s, the Great Lost Bear, and Brian Boru.
Outside the Old Port is the First Parish Church, a lovely granite meeting house with a spartan interior that has changed little since it first opened. A few doors down the block at the head of Exchange Street is Portland’s City Hall, built circa 1909. During business hours feel free to meander around The U.S. Custom House. Venture inside to view the house’s elegant woodwork and marble floors. When you’re through with the history lesson, Freeport is just up the road with every outlet you need for holiday shopping.
Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park, ME
If you have a long weekend, another gem of New England is Bar Harbor. Take the scenic route along the coast for breath-taking views and lots of cashew nuts and blueberries! Bar Harbor itself is a charming town filled with B&B’s. The history and landscape make this an unforgettable stop on any trip around New England. In the fall, go hiking or explore the many roads in Acadia National Park. After you’ve done your sightseeing for the day, sample the lobster strudel at the Blue Sage Bistro, or some delicious fresh blueberry daiquiris at Poor Boys Restaurant.
If you’re looking to do some camping in the area, check out the Seawall or Blackwoods campgrounds. Both of these campsites are conveniently located within Acadia National Park. If you’re willing to be a little further away from Acadia, the Bar Harbor KOA is a decent campground with nice clean facilities. If you’re camping at the KOA make sure you reserve your site far enough in advance or you’ll wind up with a campsite that has a spectacular view of the nearby Exxon station. Now that’s roughing it!
If you’re a lighthouse buff, continue up the coast to the easternmost point in the United States, Eastport, Maine. This is the home of the famous West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, which is by far one of the most impressive lighthouses to visit. For the serious lighthouse lovers Campobello Island is only a short ferry ride away. If you’re not into the beacon thing you might want to skip over this town as Eastport has very little to offer in the way of entertainment. Looking for a place to dine out? Make sure you find one before 7:00 pm because chances are the restaurants in this hopping town will be closed after that.
Baxter State Park, ME
Are you a camping enthusiast and lover of the outdoors? Don’t miss Baxter State Park. The park was founded by Percival P. Baxter, whose wish was that the area remain in its natural wild state. And it certainly has. Camp in Baxter or at one of the nearby campgrounds. Matagamon Wilderness Campground is a great place to stay if you’re planning activities in the northern section of the park. If you’re planning activities toward the southern entrance, camping in that area might be more practical, since it’s a lengthy dirt road drive in between entrances. If you’re feeling brave take a hike up Mt. Katahdin (the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail), the highest mountain in Maine or perhaps one of the smaller less strenuous mountains in th
e park. There are also a number of shorter hikes leading to waterfalls and ponds, which are perfect if you’re planning a number of activities for the day. If you have time be sure to take a canoe trip on one of Baxter’s lakes or ponds.