7 best things to do in New England

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  • Post last modified:February 20, 2024
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A fairytale-like region, New England brings a lot to the table. The best things to do in New England feature a variety of small villages, you need to cross covered bridges to get there, dramatic coastline, including the tallest Atlantic mountain in the USA, endearing islands, where it seems like time stands still, and thick forests, hike deep and find cascading waterfalls.

Are you not fully convinced about New England’s grandness yet? You certainly will be after having traveled through this ultimate list of the best things to do in New England.

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1. Marvel at the massive Niagara Falls

New York // There are powerful waterfalls, and then there’s Niagara Falls. Where the state of New York greets Canada, Niagara Falls on its own motivates a New England visit.

It’s one of those destinations everyone should experience at least once.

Framed by sprawling resorts, Niagara Falls is far from a hidden treasure these days. But the fact that the area has been developed absolutely doesn’t make the natural wonder that Niagara Falls is less impressive.

During summer, 6 million cubic feet (168,000 cubic meters) crashes over the crest of Niagara Falls — every minute. This equals to a jaw-dropping one million average sized bathtubs full of water.

Let that sink in for a while.

Marvel at it: Niagara Falls is actually three waterfalls: American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls. The first two are located on the US side, but cross the border to enjoy the best views.

Unthinkable amounts of water crashing over the crest of Niagara Falls
Massive volumes crashing over Niagara’s crest.

2. Conquer towering Cadillac Mountain

Maine // Acadia National Park is New England’s exclusive member in the proud national park club. Here, almost as far east as you get in the USA, mountains brilliantly rise above the sea.

Among them all, Cadillac Mountain is the tallest. Reaching 1,530 feet towards the sky, this is the country’s highest point on the eastern seaboard.

A meandering road takes you to the summit. Up here, sweeping 360-degree views of the surrounding Maine landscape, including the island-dotted Frenchman Bay, await.

Are you an early riser? Cadillac Mountain, one of the first places in America to see the sun rise, is a sunrise spot for the bucket list.

Conquer it: Mount Desert Island encompasses most of Acadia National Park. The gateway town Bar Harbor, full of charm and tasty seafood restaurants, gives you superb Cadillac Mountain access.

Group of people enjoying sunrise watching on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park
Cadillac Mountain sunrises are special.

3. Tour the disobedient Freedom Trail

Massachusetts // A shining example of preservation in a modern city, Boston’s Freedom Trail gives an unmatched history lesson. Winding through the heart of Boston, this is much more fun than those dusty history books.

The Freedom Trail isn’t more than 2.5 miles long; still it connects 16 historic points of national significance. Along the trail — it trumps any traditional history lesson — monuments, museums, churches and much more awaits.

Boston’s famous Tea Party occurred on December 16 in 1773. Then unruly protesters dumped 342 tea chests in the ocean and chanted: “No taxation without representation” — when walking the Freedom Trail you can almost hear it.

Tour it: Start at Boston Common and follow the trail markers implanted in the sidewalk. The one-of-a-kind history lesson ends at Bunker Hill Monument — allow several hours for the tour.

Family standing in front of the Brewer Fountain at Boston Common, where the Freedom Trail begins
Are you ready to tour the Freedom Trail?

4. Feel the Jaws vibe on Martha’s Vineyard

Massachusetts // Stepping onto Martha’s Vineyard, you quickly notice it. White picket fences in front of historic homes, refined gardens with vivid flowers and cute lighthouses — this is a picture-perfect island.

Does Amity Island ring any bells?

Hollywood offered a glimpse of Martha’s Vineyard in the 1970s summer blockbuster Jaws. The iconic movie, about a killer whale putting the fictional Amity Island under stress, was largely filmed here.

When you visit, cross the Jaws Bridge, officially known as the American Legion Memorial Bridge. Then enjoy everything else, from colorful gingerbread cottages to sand-between-your-toes time, this adorable New England colony has to offer.

Feel it: Hop on the ferry in Falmouth, Cape Cod. Only 45 minutes later you arrive on Martha’s Vineyard.

Pathway framed by green lawns in Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard
Step onto picture-perfect Martha’s Vineyard.

5. Admire salty Newport Cliff Walk

Rhode Island // Walking Newport Cliff Walk, you find it hard to know where to rest your eyes: on one side, battering Atlantic waves; on the other, some of the most awe-inspiring mansions ever built.

Halfway through the walk, which totals 3.5 miles (6 km), one structure demands extra attention. Take a pause to admire The Breakers, built in the late 1800s as a summer getaway for Cornelius Vanderbilt II.

Cornelius was one of the richest men in the world at the time, and no expense was spared for his summer getaway. Picture a 50-foot high ceiling and decor of the world’s finest materials, including Baccarat crystal and platinum leaf.

Can you enter this seaside New England palace? Yes, touring The Breakers is the ultimate stop before you continue strolling along the salty Newport Cliff Walk.

Admire it: Newport calls Aquidneck Island its home. Stay at Newport Harbor to be surrounded by restaurants and watering holes, only a few miles from the beautiful New England cliff walk.

Luxurious decorations at The Breakers mansion in Newport, Rhode Island
Enter The Breakers.

6. Wave at Cape Cod National Seashore seals

Massachusetts // Seal-watching often requires either expensive aquarium tickets or a trip to a distant location. But not on Cape Cod: Just make your way over to Cape Cod National Seashore.

This 40 miles long area of sandy beach, marshes and ponds, created by John F. Kennedy in 1961, is home to a large population of seals. In particular, harbor seals and gray seals enjoy the Cape’s waters year round.

Trace the seashore’s Atlantic coastline, and it doesn’t take long before the first curious eyes appear — you watch them, and they watch you.

Wave at them: Seals thrive along the entire stretch of Cape Cod National Seashore, but Coast Guard Beach, which also is a highlight for beach bums, is one of the prime spots.

Grey seal in water off Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Curious seal enjoying the Cape.

7. Scoop ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s Factory

Vermont // Imagine ice cream in masses, an endless array of chunks and swirls, right in front of your eyes. Yes, if you have a sweet tooth, a visit to Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury is outright overwhelming.

But if you can resist, don’t scoop up those delicious flavors just yet.

Instead, for the full experience, take a guided factory tour. It teaches the Ben & Jerry way, takes you around the facilities — and after a seemingly immeasurably long wait — ends with sample tasting.

After the tour, head to the shop for more goodies. Nothing quite wakes your appetite for ice cream like a factory tour at Ben & Jerry’s.

Scoop it: Ben & Jerry’s tours frequently sell out, especially in summer. To avoid disappointment, secure tickets in advance.

Girl standing outside Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory in Waterbury, Vermont
Warning: Brain freezes are likely at Ben & Jerry’s.

Summary of the best things to do in New England

The best things to do in New England are totally mesmerizing. Let’s have another look at those beauties.

  1. Niagara Falls, New York
  2. Cadillac Mountain, Maine
  3. Freedom Trail, Massachusetts
  4. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
  5. Newport Cliff Walk, Rhode Island
  6. Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts
  7. Ben & Jerry’s, Vermont

Look back again soon, this is a growing list!

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