Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Opinion On New Bedford, Mass., Chosen As One Of A "Dozen Distinctive Destinations"

Whaling District, New Bedford, Mass. (photo by Eric H.)

Several years back, choosing New Bedford, Mass., as one of a dozen distinctive destinations in the United States would have sounded like a real "whale's tale."

Over the past few years, however, New Bedford has seen a remarkable transformation into a historic city worth visiting. What's equally impressive is that this mid-sized southeastern coastal Massachusetts city has continued to be significantly revitalized even during a down economy. The National Trust for Historic Preservation recognized the turnaround and, thus, honored New Bedford on its 2011 list as one its "Dozen Distinctive Destinations" in the United States. The National Trust cited, most prominently, ambitious city preservation stating, "Thanks to the foresight and determination of the city’s preservationists, visitors can experience life as it was during New Bedford’s whaling heyday.  Its historic downtown, defined by cobblestone streets, period gas lamps and authentic 19th and 20th century buildings set the stage, while its Whaling National Historic Park and associated sites provide the narrative. For those more interested in New Bedford’s contemporary commercial fishing industry, visitors can poke along its working waterfront by taking the “dock walk.”

We couldn't agree more. The Whaling District is beginning to rival similar historic New England neighborhoods that get lots of deserved press like the Port Exchange in Portland, Maine, downtown Newburyport, Mass., and Market Square in Portsmouth, N.H. While not quite up to those neighborhoods yet, the Whaling District and many other beautiful sections of New Bedford are certainly worth a look, particularly as the warmer weather approaches.  In the Whaling District, we love those cobblestone streets, views of the harbor, old homes, churches (particularly the Seaman's Bethel) and commercial buildings, and the Whaling Museum. All over the place, restaurants and shops are opening. It's so great to see, as New Bedford was one of America's most prosperous cities during it whaling days in the 1800s. The city hit hard times after the whaling industry died, and that is apparent in many neighborhoods to this very day -- but like Providence and Portland, the city is quickly coming back to life as a "destination," and more importantly, as a community. We love visiting here!

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Dozen Distinctive Destination program recognizes communities that "offer an authentic visitor experience by combining dynamic downtowns, cultural diversity, attractive architecture, cultural landscapes and a strong commitment to historic preservation, sustainability and revitalization." We strongly recommend checking out its latest Dozen Distinctive Destinations, including New Bedford.

For photos of the city, check out our New Bedford Travel Photo Essay at VisitingNewEngland.com. We also wrote an article on the Whaling Museum. When in New Bedford, be sure not to miss this wonderful museum!

Congratulations, New Bedford! You've worked hard all these years and it's great to see myriad signs of life once again gracing the city in the name of revitalization, tourism and just flat-out perspectives of a classic coastal New England community.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

If We Had To Pick One Maine Restaurant for Valentine's Day, It Would Be...

Article by Eric H.
We've fallen in love with Clay Hill Farm in the southern coastal Maine community of Cape Neddick, and would consider it our top pick if we were dining out for Valentine's Day in this region.

Tucked away on a rural back road just minutes from coastal Ogunquit and York Beach, Maine, Clay Hill Farm resonates with a romantic dining feel. First, the restored, rambling 1780 farmhouse resides on  11-plus acres with rolling lawns, a pond, waterfall brooks, myriad birdhouses, a gazebo and woodlands that lend a feeling that you've escaped from the stresses of modern day life. Second, the attentive, friendly service (host, wait staff and valet) makes you feel like you're at a first-class restaurant. Third, the romantic dining atmosphere is tailor-made for gazing into each other's eyes and holding hands -- the dimly-lit grand dining rooms, antique furnishings, classic refined farmhouse decor, and a professional-grade pianist create a relaxing indoor setting. Fourth, none of this would matter if the food wasn't good. On several visits, we have always commented that the modern cuisine served by Clay Hill Farm just might serve the best food we've experienced anywhere in New England. Additionally, the wine list is extensive.  Our favorites: the amazing lobster bisque, bursting with lobster flavor; the "Classic Caesar with the finest mixed greens you'll find anywhere and accompanied by a just-right Caesar dressing with garlic croutons and fresh Parmesan cheese; real Maine crab cakes that prove that "imitation" is definitely not the best form of flattery; the crispy roast half duckling and the ever-so-tender braised lamb shank. The vegetables are always farm-fresh tasting and it's nice to know that all meats and chicken are all-natural, grass-fed and hormone free. The fish is is either wild or sustainable-farmed, so the concern about high levels of PCBs or other contaminants isn't a concern.

We have also found that Clay Hill Farm's elegant dining experience never results in snootiness. Everyone here is so friendly and accommodating. We always leave Clay Hill Farm with a wonderful feeling and asking, "When can we get back?"

Clay Hill Farm
220 Clay Hill Rd.
Cape Neddick, Maine
Tel. (207) 361-2272

Editor's note: Clay Hill Farm is offering a Valentine's Special menu. It looks fantastic! We noticed on its web site that the restaurant opens at 5 p.m. on Feb. 14, Valentines Day, and is offering "Proposal Packages," including flowers and champagne. We recommend checking the Clay Hill Farm web site for specific details and to call them to find out whether you can be seated at your desired time.

Looking for lodging in the Ogunquit area for Valentine's Day Weekend? Check out our Ogunquit Hotels Page at VisitingNewEngland.com!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

New England Trip Planning Inquiry for Coastal Maine, New England Patriots, Scenic Drives, Historical Preservation

We recently received another excellent New England travel inquiry, which we will happily answer right here...

Q: Hi!  We are planning a summer vacation.  Myself, my husband and our 14-year-old son want to visit the New England area.  I want to go on the scenic coast and eat Maine lobster, my son and my husband are BIG New England Patriots fans, and must see anything and everything to do with Bill, Tom, and Wes Welker.  We also are interested in the history of New England.  Can you please, please help me????? Last year my husband planned a three week, wonderful European vacation. I want this vacation to be just as breathtaking.  We will be driving from Northwest Indiana, on or around the last week of July, for 10 to 12 days.  Can you give me the most scenic driving directions?  I know I am asking a lot, but I need help!!!!!!!! Any little bit you can help me, would be soooo appreciated.
Thank you so much for your time.

A: You bet, glad to help! You will certainly find no shortage of travel attractions and destinations, in
regards to your planned New England vacation. One coastal region of Maine that we highly recommend is Acadia National Park. The coastal scenery is absolutely spectacular, especially the the 27-mile loop that offers endless ocean and mountain scenery.  For lobster, try the Docksider in the quaint community of Northeast Harbor. It's a classic, Maine lobster shack.

Patriot Place shopping and entertainment complex at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., should please your New England Patriots fan family members. Here, you can visit the Hall at Patriot Place that wonderfully honors the New England Patriots and football in New England through an incredible playbook of entertaining and educational state-of-the-art video and audio mediums, fan-friendly exhibitions and memorabilia. While at Patriot Place, check out the Patriots Pro Shop, the official store of the New England Patriots. For dining at Patriot Place, CBS Scene is lots of fun (although it can get quite noisy). CBS Scene comprises 15,000 sq. ft. of dining space with three levels of lunch and dinner dining, and 135 SONY Plasma, LCD and graphic projector displays (including table side televisions) playing the best of CBS radio and television entertainment, sports and news programming through the years.  Oh, yes, the food is really good here!
Check out our "Historic New England Towns" article for a taste of the great preservation in New England.  Regarding scenic drives, we recommend reading our "Best New England Scenic Drives" article at VisitingNewEngland.com. We cover a lot of ground here, including the unspoiled part of Cape Cod, the Stowe, Vt., area, and the Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts.

Have fun planning your New England vacation, and please contact us if we can be of further help.

Additional resources: 
Find a hotel in  Connecticut,  Maine,  Massachusetts New Hampshire,Rhode Island,  Vermont 

For every hotel reservation made, We donate five percent of our commission to  Brookview House, a homeless shelter for families located in Dorchester, Mass. The Brookview House mission is to assist homeless families in the development of skills necessary to break the cycle of poverty.

Classic New England Winter Scenes

Common St., Walpole Mass. (photo by Eric)
For many New Englanders, the New England winter has been so extreme that frustration and jadedness overwhelms enjoying any priceless, scenic snow scenes. One look, however, at classic, Currier and Ives-like scenes like the ones that you see here and others just feel glad living in New England. The purity of the white snow blanketing the quintessential New England look of Common St. in Walpole, Mass., is something we might just be reflecting on this summer when the temperature hits 95 degrees, coupled with unbearable humidity.   One thing is true: there's no "in between." Either you like this frequency of snow or you don't!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New England Trip Planning Suggestions for a Nine-Day Vacation

Editor's note: We thought it would be a great idea to answer our readers' email inquiries here at the Weekly New England Travel and Vacation Gazette. We hope our perspectives will be helpful to that specific reader and others that are interested in similar New England vacations. Here is the first in a series of many inquiries:

Q.: My wife and I are visiting the US for the first time in August this year. We have nine days to spend exploring New England and want to spend at least three days in Boston. What would you recommend in terms of exploring by car for the rest of the trip? We have been playing with the idea to travel south to New Haven and then back up to Boston via the coast or explore north up the Maine coast. Some advice would be highly appreciated.

A: So many possibilities, so little time!  I do think, however, that nine days of vacation will give you a good sampler of the diversity of New England. Boston to New Haven is a two and a half hour drive, New Haven is particularly impressive around the Yale University area with lots of nice shops and restaurants -- and that incredible, tree-lined campus, Ivy League feel!  When in New Haven, we recommend stopping by Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana at 157 Wooster St. The Italian-style pizza is legendary! On the way back -- along or close to the coast -- we recommend stopping in classic Connecticut towns like Guilford, Mystic, Noank, and Stonington Borough.  Essex, surely one of New England's most beautiful small towns, is a bit north off Route 95 off Route 9.  The town is very Norman Rockwell-like and situated beautifully on the Connecticut River.  Not too far from Essex is a noteworthy New England travel attraction: the Gillette Castle in East Haddam. Here, you'll find a magnificent piece of architecture with 24 rooms, 47 doors (each one different), white oak woodwork and carvings, stone stairways, built-in couches, a movable table on tracks, an inside porch fountain and sweeping views of the Connecticut River.

Crossing into Rhode Island, take some time to visit the beaches in Westerly, the live fishing village of Galilee in Narragansett, and the amazing mansions in Newport. In Newport, you'll find plenty of other attractions, like great seafood restaurants (try the Black Pearl on the waterfront), Easton's Beach, the Cliff Walk and the magnificent Ocean Drive.  From Newport, you might want to hit route 114 to visit Bristol, a charming small town located on the scenic Narragansett and Mt. Hope Bays with a great downtown and plenty of restaurants and shops (and a mile down the  road, the scenic Colt State Park). Going north on Route 114, get on Route 95 and be sure to stop by Providence, a historical city that has experienced a tremendous renaissance. Providence back to Boston is about an hour's drive.

Going north from Boston to the southern Maine coast also is about an hour's drive. You don't have to travel too far up in Maine to get a true taste of the "Down East" lifestyle. Here, you'll find many beaches,  beautiful lighthouses, quaint downtowns, and places to eat lobster (try Fox's Lobster House right near Nubble Lighthouse at Cape Neddick). I would recommend starting your southern Maine itinerary at York Beach, Maine, and working your way through towns like Ogunquit, Wells, Kennebunkport, Kennebunk, Biddeford Pool (part of Biddeford), Old Orchard Beach and ending this part of your trip in Portland.  What a fantastic small city, especially around the Port Exchange neighborhood where you'll stroll the brick and cobblestone while enjoying the many shops and restaurants.  Portland back to Boston is about a two-hour drive.  Oh, and here are some resources for visiting Boston: http://www.visitingnewengland.com/boston-travel-vacations.html . Before you return to Boston, however, we recommend visiting Portsmouth, N.H., a small coastal city with loads of historical charm and plenty of shopping and dining opportunities (some with a water view).

Thanks for writing us! Hope this info helps. Readers, please feel free to post your suggestions here, also. Your feedback will provide additional and valuable trip planning ideas. Thanks and happy travels!

Additional resources: search for hotels at discount rates in more than 300 New England towns and cities



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