What to do in New England!?
A long, amazing and unforgettable journey through the landscapes, history and some typical flavors.
Maybe it is one of the regions in the USA that I love the most, not only for its magical and unforgettable fall foliage which, I admit, is enough to justify a journey.
This fertile and warm land is literaly the place where USA were born (remember the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers and Thanksgiving?) and so as most of the many historical happenings whose consequences influenced the development of the whole country.
The most prestigious universities of the USA and of the world were born here.
It’s in the old towns and forests of Massachusetts and Connecticut that the greatest American authors and poets created masterpieces like Little Women, Uncle Tom’s cabin, Huckleberry Finn, The Scarlat Letter, The Age of Innocence, etc…
Not to mention also its typical “flavours”, its agricolture and the delicious fish cuisine.
My first journey to Southern New England (after the one in the Northern States) started like this, from the wish to continue and explore and discover another authentic piece of the US, throughout its most unusual and unique features; the result was a valid alternative to conventional itineraries for those like me who are never tired of travelling around the USA and is interested to get to know every single aspect.
Flight, renting a car and acccommodation
I booked my flights with a certain advance and with great savings on the air company’s website (always Lufthansa) and this included arriving in Boston and coming back from New York. This is a really handy solution considering that (as often happens during my journeys to the USA) the idea was to end my on the road with a 5/6-day stay in New York.
The cost of the car rental weighed a little more because getting the car in Boston and returning it in New York, in addition to the price of the car (300$ for 11 days), 70$ were to add for drop off.
About accommodations, because of peak season (the famous Foliage I was talking about previously) it was necessary to book, having preferred to stay in ancient facilities, B&Bs and historical buildings.
You should choose between hotel chains like Best Western or Hamptonn Inn (which are just outside residential areas and most of the times offer breakfast and free parking) and some amazing historical Inns (which I will describe accurately in my posts dedicated to the single locations), most of which are really breathtaking and in the typical old New England style.
Like in other of my USA on the road tours, the idea of this journey in Southern New England (came up) from a hint I got from an article I read regarding the house museum dedicated to one of my favourite authors, Mark Twain, in Connecticut, and moreover, from my wish to cross the most beautiful part of Massachusetts, both for its landscapes and its history, the Greater Merrimack Valley.
Precious advice from Visit USA Italy and personal home research of an itinerary which would include the best of the region made the most of my route; my aim was to avoid as much as possible the freeways, preferring less known roads and little unknown towns.
We are talking about 950km and a slow-paced journey, throughout four states, all to explore.
I had already had the chance to visit this city.
This time I chose to follow a different itinerary, an “historical” one, visiting and telling something about the places related to President John Fitzgerald Kennedy (the Kennedy itinerary) and those of Cambridge, related to the small town and the famous Harvard University (have you ever participated to one of the Historical Hysterical Tours?).
Just about 35km from Boston, this charming little town with its typical wooden houses and historical homes, surrounded by amazing woods, makes you take a wonderful journey into the past.
Here history mixes with tradition, literature and people’s stories, bringing to life a magical little ancient world. Did you know that Little Women was written and set right here? And that you can stay and have lunch in the old Colonial Inn, working since the end of 1700 and famous for being one of America’s most possessed places?!
In the nearby picturesque cemetery of Sleepy Hollow it is possible to pay homage to some of the most famous authors of American literature and poetry: Louisa May Alcott, Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne, whereas, in the nearby and peaceful Walden Pond you can follow Thoreau’s traces, walking around the lake and forest. Thoreau lived here for two years, where he wrote Walden or Life in the Woods (manifesto of the world’s ecologist movement).
It is a small historical center, located in the heart of Massachusetts (in the nearby you can buy delicious maple syrup made by local producers), and famous for its three important university colleges and for the precious house museum of the town’s most reknown citizen, Emily Dickinson (who rests in the old and dusty town cemetery).
It’s a touching walk through time, in the Amherst of 1800, among its ghosts and its tangled happenings.
This idyllic region in the west of Massachusetts, where New York’s high society spends the summer has a magical atmosphere because of the fall foliage’s colors, of winter snow and of the lively colors of spring.
In this region once again you can visit some of the richest and most significative historical buildings, like Herman Melville’s in Lenox, where he wrote Moby Dick, like Edith Whorton’s in The Mount (remember that she wrote The Age of Innocence) and the museum of one of the greatest illustrators of the world, Norman Rockwell.
Hartford and Connecticut River
The capital of Connecticut, it is gently set along the banks of the Connecticut River.
Modern buildings alternate to small red brick constructions which date back to the end of 1800. Hartford is a peaceful and friendle town.
It is impossible not to resist visiting its two most famous historical houses: Mark Twain’s, where he wrote Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (it is a great emotion for those who has read at least one of the two novels) and the one next to it, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s, the author of Uncle Tom’s cabin, which she wrote on the first floor of the building.
From Hartford the slow descent along the Connecticut River allows you to discover unique and original sites, such as the Dinosaur State Park, with the hundreds of footprints dating back 200 million years ago, Gillette Castle, a weird construction owned by famous actor William Gillette (cinema’s first Sherlock Holmes), crossing the Connecticut River by car on an old steamboat (the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry line) and charming Chester, a peaceful town famous for its antiques, its lovely dinners and for the colored wooden houses.
New Haven – Yale
New Haven hosts one of the most prestigious universities of the state, Yale University.
It is possible to take part in guided visits organized by the students themselves and discover the secrets and peculiarities of the third oldest university in the US. Consider a good half a day.
Essex, Old Lyme and New London
When back on the East coast of the Connecticut, at the mouth of the River you will cross Essex and Old Lyme: old wooden houses, cobbled streets, historical inns (among which Griswold Inn, the oldest tavern still on the go) and views on the river and on the sea that will leave you breathless.
If you continue along the coast going East, you will get to New London, a lively fishermen’s town that hosts the house of famous playwright Eugene O’Neill.
Groton and Mystic
Not far away, in Noank near Groton, you can taste Connecticut’s delicious lobster at Ford’s Lobster, sitting on benches and tables placed right on the pier.
Mystic, apart from the beautiful views on Block Island Sound, offers a visit to the Mystic Seaport Museum with its whaler village from 1700, the fishing boats and historical ships. Don’t forget a walk around the center and a taste of the famous Mystic Pizza (do you remember the film?).
Mashantucket – Pequot Museum
The museum is magnificently set inside the Masantucket Pequot Tribal Nation (an independent small state inside Connecticut) and traces the story of the tribes with an incredible reproduction of the original villages. You can’t miss a walk up the observatory tower to get a stunning view over the entire valley.
Newport, Rhode Island
Just about 80km from Connecticut, you get to Rhode Island and crossing over the Newport Bridge, you get to the historical and tourist city of Newport.
It is set right in the center of a promontory and offers a wide range of activities. An unmissable stop is the Cliff Walk, a 4km-walk across the beautiful villas perched over the Ocean, and its charming city center. Also, you must not forget a boat tour to Rose Island, where you can also stay overnight as Lighthouse Keeper.
The final stop. 280Km to get there from Newport, going up the coast up to Norwalk, Stanford and Greenwich.