Best Places to Visit in New England: 10 Cool New England Cities to Visit

by Global Viewpoint
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Are you planning a visit to New England this year? Here are some of the very best places to visit in New England that will ensure a fun, exciting, and even educational vacation that you won’t soon forget.

New England attracts a large number of tourists from all around the world, especially in the summer and fall. The region’s high popularity as a vacation destination is, in my opinion, because New England has something to offer everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re planning an extended stay or a short weekend getaway in New England, if you’re seeking scenic outdoor adventures or cozy relaxation and leisure, all that and more is just waiting to be experienced in the delightful New England places listed below.

To help you make the most of your vacation, I’ve compiled a helpful outline of cool places to visit in New England. From laid-back beach towns to bustling metropolises, these are some of the most beloved and popular tourist destinations in the country. I’ve also included a few hidden gems that not everyone knows about, in case you’re looking to journey off the beaten path. New England. Wherever you choose to visit, you’re in for a good time.

A scenic lighthouse on a small island in New England
There is no shortage of places to visit in New England if you’re looking to experience seaside beauty and local charm.

The Best of New England: 10 Must-See Destinations

All of the locations and attractions listed below are special in their own ways, and each offers its own unique thrills. When you’re putting together your own New England road trip itinerary this year, consider including some of these truly one-of-a-kind destinations. No visit to the region would be complete without stopping by at least one or two of them.

This is one of the few parts of the United States where you truly can do it all: explore nature, experience art and culture, learn about history, meet new people, etc. Just like a New England seafood restaurant, the world is your oyster. So, enjoy the feast!

1. Burlington, Vermont

If you are someone that prefers the outdoors, then make sure to include Vermont on your list. An extremely warm and welcoming town, the people of Burlington are a diverse and friendly bunch.

Downtown Burlington, one of the most diverse and welcoming New England cities to visit
Expect a warm welcome from the diverse and friendly locals of Burlington, Vermont. | Credit: Bill Badzo

The lake here is pretty much the focal point of any and all outdoor activities you could dream of. You can go running or biking along the Burlington Bike Path. Or, enjoy a day of watersports, with ample opportunities for sailing, stand-up paddleboarding, and kayaking. By boarding one of the ferries, you can travel to the other side of the lake and spend an afternoon in New York State. 

Boats docked at the Burlington, Vermont waterfront
With its scenic seaside location, Burlington is one of the best places to visit in New England for boaters. | Credit; Tony Webster

Burlington is also home to several craft breweries that offer mouthwatering culinary delights. The wealth of tasty farm-to-table delicacies makes Burlington one of the best places to visit in New England for foodies. Don’t forget to try the city’s famous specialty: hard cider. The South End tasting room of Citizen Cider is an awesome place to spend a relaxing evening.

2. Portland, Maine

This lovely and somewhat eccentric town is among the most beautiful and unique places to visit in New England. Portland, Maine is positively packed with independent stores and restaurants, giving it a rich local flavor all its own. 

A row of boats docked in Portland, Maine, considered one of New England's best places to visit
The lovely seaside community of Portland, Maine has plenty of charm, beauty, and history to enjoy.

If you love the great outdoors, there are several seasonal sights worth seeing, such as the local lobster boats. During late spring and summer, you can also explore Maine on foot or on a bicycle. Or, go on a sightseeing tour in a vintage fire truck, courtesy of the Portland Fire Engine Co. You can even don an authentic firefighting uniform, which is a wonderful photo opportunity you shouldn’t miss.

Additionally, don’t forget to check out the area’s many notable and magnificent lighthouses. Portland Head Light is particularly worth your time, ranking among the most photographed lighthouses in the world. Alternatively, you can also explore one of the world’s smallest lighthouses: the Portland Breakwater Lighthouse AKA “Bug Light.”

Portland Head Light, a popular attraction in Portland, Maine
Portland Head Light is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world and one of the best places to visit in New England.

Best of all, just like in Burlington, food is a major highlight here. There are several small but incredible breweries and restaurants in the city. In fact, Bon Appetit magazine awarded Portland with the title of 2018’s Restaurant City of the Year.

3. Providence, Rhode Island

The capital of Rhode Island is also the most populous city of the entire state. Providence was originally established in 1636. Today, it is one of the oldest cities in all of the U.S., and also one of the most fun.

No list of cool places in New England would be complete without Providence, one of its most bustling metropolises.

What makes Providence worthy of your time is the marvelous art scene of this city. This artistically vibrant city is bustling with artists, be they writers, painters, musicians, dancers, designers, or architects.

Make sure to explore the several museums that are dedicated to fine arts, along with the many cultural events that are held on a recurring basis, annually. These include the hotly anticipated WaterFire Providence held in May through November, and the Flickers Rhode Island International Film Festival in August.

Providence, Rhode Island is the perfect destination if you want to experience the rich arts and culture of New England.

No matter the time of the year you decide to visit Providence, it is very likely that you will be able to catch a popular Broadway play or concert in any of the numerous performing theaters across the city. If you’re searching for where to visit in New England to get your art fix, look no further.

4. North Conway, New Hampshire

Known for the breathlessly gorgeous White Mountain National Forest, the community of North Conway offers a fascinating array of scenic attractions. People from all around the country and even abroad, are drawn to the enthralling beauty of these mountains, which are the tallest in all of New England. If you are up for a hike, this is one of the most spectacular spots you’ll find anywhere.

Main street of North Conway, New Hampshire, a well-known New England city to visit
Looking for cool places to visit in New England? They don’t come much cooler than North Conway. | Credit: AlexiusHoratius

North Conway is a particularly suitable spot for a New England vacation. Despite being a mountain town, there is nothing that you can’t find here. Want to go shopping? You can surely do that. There are tons of chic boutiques and small businesses with unique wares to browse.

The lovingly preserved train depot in North Conway
With its small-town vibe and beautiful buildings, North Conway is a great spot of a relaxing getaway. | Credit: AlexiusHoratius

Furthermore, the Saco River offers some excellent jumping-off points for you to enjoy tubing or paddling. If you really want to get up close and personal with the natural landscape, however, you can go straight ahead to the nearby town of Bartlett. There, you’ll find the splendidly cascading waterfalls and serene pools of Diana’s Bath. It’s just one of the many cool places in New England for sightseers.

5. Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor and its accompanying vacation spot of Acadia National Park rank high among the most awe-inspiringly beautiful places to visit in New England. Situated in the eastern part of Maine, on Mt. Desert Island, Bar Harbor is a picturesque coastal town filled with pictorial shops, lobster boats, and lovely houses. 

The Eagles Nest, a kitschy waterfront bar in Bar Habor, Maine
The coziness of Bar Harbor makes it one of the most unforgettable places to visit in New England. | Credit: Aaron Zhu

The aforementioned Acadia National Park is located a mere 5-minute drive from central Bar Harbor. The park comprises several attractions such as sea pathways, tidal pools, opportunities for cliff climbing alongside massive boulders, and rides on horse carriages. One jaw-droppingly gorgeous sight you shouldn’t miss is the majestic Cadillac Mountain.

The perfect time to visit Bar Harbor is during the summer or early fall. Because of the relatively moderate temperatures, all the hiking trails are open and passable during this period. Also during this time, the town hosts several festivals, special tours, and outdoor events that visitors can enjoy.  Among other attractions are a number of fun ranger and camping programs, as well as stargazing and sunset watching.

A view of the best of New England's countryside, as seen from Acadia National Park
Some of the most breathtaking views in all of Maine can be found at Acadia National Park.

In terms of food, you can enjoy the delightfully delicious lobster rolls and blueberry ice cream, both of which Bar Harbour is very well known for. And if you choose to take a stroll along one of the oceanside paths, you can even cross the sand bar to Bar Harbor Island during low tide.

6. Boston, Massachusetts

If you’re a true-blue history buff, Boston, Massachusetts is definitely one of the best places to go in New England. Founded all the way back in 1630, the city has a long and storied legacy, even playing a major role in the American Revolutionary War.

Downtown Boston, one of the biggest and busiest New England places today
Blending historic architecture with towering modern skyscrapers, Boston is truly a one-of-a-kind city.

Remnants and monuments paying tribute to Boston’s history can be found all over the city. Most notable is the famous Freedom Trail, a path leading visitors on a walking tour of some of the area’s biggest landmarks. And, if you’re a sports fan, don’t forget to stop by the legendary Fenway Park.

That said, if your appetites are more culinary in nature, you’re in for a treat. The city is home to numerous tasty specialties, most notably New England clam chowder, North End cannoli, and Boston baked beans.

The entrance to Fenway Park, the famous baseball stadium and home of the Red Sox
Fenway Park is one of the most historic, celebrated, and altogether best places to go in New England if you’re a sports fan.

Boston is the biggest city in all of New England, making it an ideal entry point for tourists to discover the breathtaking beauty of the region. Despite its size, Boston is very navigable and accessible. Whether you are exploring the city on foot or are taking public transportation, there’s no shortage of fun to be found here. 

7. Rockport, Massachusetts

More than just one of several cool places to visit in New England, Rockport is also one of its best-kept secrets. If you’re looking to have a good time while avoiding big crowds, Rockport is a perfect vacation destination.

A boat resting on the waters of Rockport, one of the smaller New England cities to visit
With a prime location in Cape Ann, the small town of Rockport is a true diamond in the rough.

Perched at the top of Cape Ann, Rockport is a phenomenally pictorial art settlement that is located by the side of the sea. Encapsulating everything that makes New England special, Rockport brings you the best sightseeing opportunities in the entire region. 

The landscape is picturesque, regardless of where you stop to take the snapshot. Most notably, ‘Motif No. 1′ is a fishing shed that is actually among the most photographed places in the area. You also can explore the numerous art galleries dotted through the city.

Motif No. 1, a famous Massachusetts landmark
More than just another fishing shack, Motif No. 1 is one of the most photographed places to visit in New England.

Alternatively, if you enjoy being out on the water, you can go on one of the whale-watching trips that are held seasonally at nearby Gloucester. Or you can rent some kayaks and take a ride along the shore to explore the lovely view. There’s no prettier or more peaceful place to visit in New England than Rockport.

8. Stowe, Vermont

Another hidden gem is the small town of Stowe. It offers all the best of New England, a perfect blend of stunning classical architecture and pastoral natural beauty. To call it “postcard perfect” is an understatement. No wonder Airbnbs in Stowe are so popular!

The Stowe Community Church surrounded by colorful trees in autumn
Wondering where to visit in New England to escape the hustle and bustle? Check out Stowe, Vermont. | Credit: Jim Liestman

This picturesque 200-year-old community is nestled right next to the highest peak in Vermont, called Mount Mansfield. A vacation here is like a trip back in time; you almost feel like you’ve been transported to some ancient European ski village. Indeed, winter sports enthusiasts will find Stowe’s slopes the perfect spot for skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snowmobiling, and ice-fishing.

Mount Mansfield, a cool place in New England for visiting hikers
Stowe is located right next to Mount Mansfield, one of the most majestic peaks in the region. | Credit: Famartin

It’s not uncommon for first-time tourists to fall in love with Stowe. If you can’t get enough of the local flavor, consider stopping by the Stowe Historical Society Museum. The only thing more fascinating than the area’s past is how much of it still remains in the present. Stowe really is the best place to visit in New England if you crave a return to simpler, happier times untouched by modern troubles

9. Nantucket, Massachusetts

One of New England’s most cherished destinations, Nantucket is a truly sublime place that everyone should visit at least once. Situated just 30 miles south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, this secluded little island fully embodies the quiet, laid-back, feel-good essence of New England.

A row of waterfront houses in Nantucket, consistently voted one of the best places to visit in New England
The secluded island of Nantucket has earned its reputation as one of Massachusetts’ best vacation destinations.

That said, Nantucket’s popularity has been very profitable for the locals. First-time visitors might find the food and accommodations relatively pricey. However, when it comes to fun activities on the island, everything else is pretty budget-friendly. This is especially true when compared to some of the larger New England cities to visit.

A Nantucket beach flocked by seagulls, with an historic lighthouse standing in the background
The sunny, sandy beaches of Nantucket are among the very best of New England.

Here, you can enjoy a fulfilling getaway riding a rental bike on the cobblestone streets. Or, if you prefer unwinding next to the water, then make sure you pack your swimsuit and your favorite book. Why? Because it is home to some of the sunniest and stunningest beaches you’re likely to find anywhere.

10. Newport, Rhode Island

If you’re on the hunt for a vacation hotspot with a distinct sense of glamor, Newport is one of New England’s best places. In fact, it’s so renowned for its Gilded Age mansions, that, after spending a weekend in Newport, you may have a hard time deciding which one is most lavish and luxurious.

The welcoming sign of Newport, RI, one of New England's best places for tourists
The city of Newport, RI, is as inviting and lovely as it is historic and grand. | Credit: Kenneth C. Zirkel

Some of the most notable of Newport’s stately 18th-century structures include The Long Wharf, the Old Colony House, the Synagogue, and the Trinity Church. The 70-room house known as The Breakers is among the biggest of all the local manors, and the most gorgeous.

On the other hand, The Marble House is even more opulent and outlandish. Reportedly, the original owners, the Vanderbilts, invested a whopping 11 million dollars to have it built back in 1892. It really has to be seen to be believed.

The Marble House, an opulent mansion originally owned the Vanderbilt family
Few places to visit in New England can compete with the grandeur of Newport’s famous Marble House. | Credit: Daderot

Offering a different kind of historical value is Fort Adams, which is considered the single largest coastal fortification in the entire United States. From here, you can enjoy one of the most striking views of the Rhode Island shoreline. With all this and more, Newport truly is one of the best places to visit in New England, especially if you want to come home with photographic souvenirs.

Have Fun Exploring New England’s Best Places

New England is one of my favorite regions of the United States, and some of the biggest reasons for that are the destinations described above. These aren’t the only reasons, however. If you’re wondering where to go in New England during your next vacation, there are plenty of options to choose from.

Check out more of my favorite travel destinations in the blog posts below!

9 Best Weekend Getaways in New England in 2021

Best Places to Visit in Vermont: 12 Exciting New England Adventures in VT

25 Best Hikes in New England: Hiking Trails for All Skill Levels

37 Unique Airbnbs in New England: Cabins + Treehouse Vacation Rentals

Fall in the Berkshires – 8 Reasons to the Visit the Berkshires This Fall

Best Time to Visit New England in 2021

9 Best Massachusetts Lighthouse to Experience Classic New England

13 Best Hidden Gems in New England to Visit in 2021

Best Places to Visit in New Hampshire: 10 Amazing Things to Do in Nh

Best Things to Do in Rhode Island: 12 Essential RI Attractions

Coolest Lake House Rentals in New England

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