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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