What could be better than a New England vacation? Each year, millions of visitors flock to the historic towns, sandy beaches and picturesque pine forests that define the northeast. The demand for hotels and attractions is at an all-time high, which can mean hefty price tags on summer getaways. However, if you’re willing to think outside the box, it’s possible to enjoy all the best parts of this region without breaking the bank.
New England destinations are busiest from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend, but by traveling in the “off-season,” you can save money and experience these unique places as the locals do. Here are some tips for planning an awesome vacation:
Travel in the off season. Many New England towns see major summertime population swells as NYC and Boston residents flock to the coast. Lodging rates, museum admissions and even seafood dinners are less expensive during the shoulder season, after Labor Day weekend and before Memorial Day weekend. You can save cash and live like a local, with smaller crowds and cooler temperatures.
Check out vacation rental sites like AirBnB or Vacation Rentals By Owner instead of hotels, which are often similarly priced; rentals offer more space, but sometimes, fewer amenities. If you don’t mind bringing shampoo from home or prefer to cook your own meals in a private kitchen it can be a great way to discover locations that are outside of the well-populated tourist towns.
Get outside. The iconic maritime scenery and fall foliage of New England attract many visitors year-round, and with tons of state parks, beaches and forests throughout the area, it’s easy to take advantage of the gorgeous scenery and get some exercise at the same time.
Consider traveling by bus or train, as many New England destinations are convenient to major transportation hubs in New York and Boston. There are plenty of charming towns where dining, entertainment and relaxation are all within walking distance. Leave the car at home and spend some time enjoying the slower pace.
Ready to get going? Here are some prime northeast destinations to check out during the spring, winter or fall:
Newport, Rhode Island
With coastline to the west, south and east, Newport is one of the finest maritime cities in the east – it’s no surprise that Gilded Age titans and presidents have spent their summers on the shores of Aquidneck Island. The good news is you don’t have to be a Kennedy to live like one here. There’s the free and always-popular Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile National Scenic Trail that winds through the grounds of beautiful mansions and pristine bluffs behind Bellevue Avenue. For those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of town, Brenton Point and Fort Adams State Parks offer panoramic views and beach access. Accommodations are plentiful and considerably less expensive in Narragansett, about 30 minutes west of Newport.
Whether you’re looking for outdoor recreation, shopping or immersing yourself in a museum, you’ll find something you love in this northern college town. Church Street Marketplace is a great pedestrian plaza and the home to the original Ben and Jerry’s as well as the Frog Hollow Craft Center, which showcases local artists. From nearby North Beach, on the shore of Lake Champlain, you can marvel at the nearby Adirondack mountains to the west in New York. The park is open year-round, but parking fees are waived from November to April. Admission to the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum is $10.00 year-round, but if you’re in Burlington during the off-season, admission for adults to the much larger Shelburne Museum is discounted from $24.00 to $10.00.
Hampton Beach, New Hampshire
It’s easy to overlook New Hampshire’s short stretch of Atlantic coastline in favor of Maine to the north, or Cape Cod to the south, but Hampton Beach is a fantastic alternative to these busier destinations. Free parking for the beach is available in the off-season near the Haverhill and Seashell Bathhouses; otherwise it’s $15.00 to park in the South Beach lot. The Casino Ballroom, which dominates the boardwalk, hosts events and concerts year round. The Tuck Museum showcases a schoolhouse, barn, and original meeting house, and admission is free (donations accepted).
This modest bayfront city has it all, from fresh seafood to mountain views within an hour’s drive. Take a self-guided tour along Portland’s Freedom Trail and learn about Maine’s anti-slavery efforts. Spend a day photographing the lighthouses and islands of Casco Bay aboard the ferry or admire the architecture of the Victoria Mansion. Art lovers will love the free museums and free admission to the Portland Museum of Art on Friday nights. The twice-weekly farmers market provides an opportunity to visit with more than 20 local agriculturalists and learn more about the variety of fruits and veggies that grow “Down East.”
Wherever you decide to spend your New England vacation, we know that if you follow these tips, your wallet will thank you!