New England, the northeasternmost region of the United States, brims with history, culture, and natural beauty. Though outsiders often regard New England as a single, homogenous region, each of the six New England states offers something unique.
Within each of the New England states is a distinct subculture and a wide variety of things to see and do. From outdoor recreation to relaxing vacation sites and some of the most storied cities in the entire US, here is how you can save money on some of the most exciting, low-cost activities in each of the New England states.
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Maine, the northeasternmost New England state, is also the largest state of the group by land area. Technically part of Massachusetts until 1820, Maine is also the youngest of the New England states.
The motto “Vacationland” that adorns Maine’s license plates tells you much of what you need to know about the state. Its stunning coastline, lush deciduous forests, and abundant lakes and mountains make for rich scenery and beautiful getaways throughout Maine.
Low-cost Activities in Maine
- Spend some time at one of Maine’s many beautiful lakes. Watersports, swimming, and lakeside relaxation are available throughout the state in the warmer months of the year.
- Eat fresh-caught lobster by the coast. While a high-end lobster dinner can be a classic, many locals favor fast-casual dishes like lobster mac and cheese or an iconic Maine lobster roll.
- Take a cheap ferry from Portland to one of the many beautiful islands along the Atlantic coast. Maine has many islands to explore, hike, and take in the views on a low-cost day trip.
- Visit Acadia National Park, the only national park in New England. While Acadia is stunning year-round, the park and nearby town of Bar Harbor are especially popular during peak foliage season in mid-October.
- Soak in some of Maine’s bustling brewery scene. From national names like Allagash to small local spots, the Portland area has many excellent breweries offering free tours and low-cost brews.
While all of the northern New England states offer areas for a secluded getaway in the woods, none accomplish it quite like Vermont. It is the least populous of the six states and one of the least populous states in the US overall, second only to Wyoming.
Vermont has no billboard advertising and an abundance of quaint wooden bridges, further compounding the feeling of a quiet, mystical land in the forest.
Originally a French colony rather than a British one, Vermont is the only New England state that was not one of the original 13 colonies that would become the United States.
The state is home to Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains. It is also the only state in the region that does not border the Atlantic Ocean.
Low-cost Activities in Vermont
- Take a driving tour of some of the state’s iconic wooden bridges, which connect winding roads that wander through the woods and cross over gorgeous streams and rivers.
- Take the Ben and Jerry’s factory tour and visit their famous flavor graveyard.
- Enjoy a breakfast complete with some delicious maple syrup harvested in Vermont. If you’re feeling bold, sample the local sweet delicacy known as maple candy!
- Visit The Alchemist brewery to see if you can get ahold of their insanely popular Heady Topper beer.
- Head to downtown Burlington to soak in a classic New England town. In particular, check out the area’s Church Street Marketplace, a beautiful open-air mall.
- Spend a day at Lake Champlain to soak in lovely parks, gorgeous water views, and an abundance of American and natural history.
All of New England has a rich history of independent thinking, progressive ideas, and standing up to colonial governments. However, none quite upholds that rebellious nature to this day like New Hampshire, a state that fully embodies its motto, “live free or die.”
Like its northern New England siblings, Vermont and Maine, New Hampshire is also a hub for outdoor recreation, including hiking, skiing, and watersports.
The state is replete with bustling weekend destinations and quiet getaways among its many lakes and mountains.
Low-cost Activities in New Hampshire
- Drive your car up to the summit of iconic Mount Washington, a must-see for anyone passing through the area.
- Drive the Kancamagus Highway. Known locally as “the Kanc,” this highway through the White Mountains is one of the country’s most beautiful and scenic drives. While, like many New England destinations, it is especially popular when draped in fall foliage, the Kancamagus is breathtaking year-round, including under a fresh blanket of winter snow.
- Gawk at the Madison boulder, a humbling 83-foot long, 5,000-ton granite boulder. The area offers beautiful hiking, and the boulder itself truly earns the granite state its name.
- Stop by the University of New Hampshire Observatory for a free look at some of the wonders of the universe.
The geographical, economic, and population center of New England, Massachusetts, is home to Boston and a deep well of early US and colonial history. Boston, the largest metropolitan area in New England, is home to more than a third of its residents.
One of the earliest areas of European colonization, Massachusetts is home to countless landmarks, institutions, and historical sites that predate the United States.
Massachusetts is New England’s primary sports hub, home to most of the region’s pro sports teams in and around Boston.
The state is also one of the education capitals of the world. Many prestigious colleges and universities are in Massachusetts, as well as a large number of top-tier medical and scientific institutions.
Low-cost Activities in Massachusetts
- Walk the Boston Freedom Trail for a free tour of New England’s oldest city and learn about its central role in the American Revolution.
- Visit Faneuil Hall, an open-air marketplace in the heart of Boston. Enjoy the food there, shopping, fascinating architecture, and lively street performances!
- Take a day trip to Cape Cod, Massachusetts’ popular beachfront getaway. Known locally as simply “The Cape,” this area comprises several different towns ranging from energetic tourist hubs to quiet beach bungalow hideaways.
- Get a taste of old academia at one of the many Massachusetts universities. The area between Harvard and MIT in Cambridge is a particularly popular destination to bask in the vibrant energy, intellectual atmosphere, and youthful glow of the region.
- The Arnold Arboretum is a must-see stop for any nature lover. Part public park and part tree museum, the Arboretum is free to all who want to walk around and learn about its beautiful flora.
Connecticut is the only New England state that is also part of the tri-state area, along with New York and New Jersey.
This geography makes it a unique bridge between the two regions. And not just geographically. For instance, a well-trained ear will notice that some local accents in Connecticut blend the iconic New York and Boston accents.
Along with its rich maritime history, Connecticut is a hub for the financial services industry. This presence is likely one of the leading factors as to why Connecticut is one of the wealthiest states in the nation. It boasts the highest median household income in the US among numerous similar financial superlatives.
Low-cost Activities in Connecticut
- Pass through Mystic, a seaport with a rich maritime history. While you’re there, make sure to visit the famous Mystic Pizza shop!
- Visit Yale University and the Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven. Yale is one of the most beautiful of the Ivy League campuses, and New Haven is an excellent, classic old feeling New England town to visit.
- Tour Fort Griswold in Groton, an authentic landmark of the revolutionary war. It’s free to tour the site, monument, and museum at Fort Griswold.
- Visit the submarine library and museum in Groton. Connecticut has a long history of submarine construction that remains active to this day!
Rhode Island is the smallest US state overall, but not for lack of spirit. Tucked between Massachusetts and Connecticut, Rhode Island also shares a small maritime border with New York.
Rhode Island earns its moniker “the ocean state” thanks to over 400 miles of coastline in a relatively small area.
Thanks to the many bays and islands in the state’s southeast region, there are bountiful opportunities to experience coastal sites and take in the beauty of the Atlantic.
Low-cost Activities in Rhode Island
- Take the cliff walk in Newport to see the famed mansions and stunning ocean views.
- Celebrate summer Saturdays at Waterfire in Providence, a free riverfront fire art show.
- Visit one of the many beautiful beaches that make up much of the southern portion of the state.
- Take a tour of the Green Animals Topiary Gardens in Portsmouth.
- Take a free trip to the Roger Williams Park Zoo.
Making the Most of Your New England Trip
To the outside world, New England may appear to be a single region of trees and mountains surrounding Boston. But to locals and anyone who takes the time to explore it as a traveler, each New England state is brimming with unique culture, topography, and historical sites.
Consider some of these fun, low-cost local activities if you’re planning a trip to New England and don’t want to blow the bank on overpriced attractions. And while you’re there, don’t forget to stop and ask a local what you should see next!
This post by Sam Stone of Smarter and Harder originally appeared on Savoteur, and was republished with permission.
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