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New England itinery advice

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Dear New Englanders, I need your help to decide if I am choosing the correct/best route for my long awaited trip to your beautiful country. I am planning a trip travelling around New England but am not sure about the route. We will arrive in Boston and then wish to visit Cape Cod and MV. If we hire a car from Boston, is it quicker to drive from Cape Cod though Rhode Island and up to Vermont that way or better to drive the 2 hours back to Boston and head up through New Hampshire and across to Vermont? I have been researching towns and have culled my list to stay in Jackson or Meredith, NH and probably Woodstock in Vermont. What we are looking for is beautiful scenery, covered bridges, quaint towns and gorgeous foalage with the ultimate goal of relaxation. My interest is also in antiques, quilt shops and the like. I believe Squam Lake is beautiful but not sure if its on my route without driving out of the way. As we will be new to the roads and driving I would like to not drive more than a few hours in between stops. I would have loved also to get to Niagra Falls however realise this is quite a drive from where we are going. Perhaps I should investigate a tour from New York for this experience? We will be staying in NYC for 7 days after spending about 12 days in New England. Any suggestions or towns along the way which would suit what I am after is well appreciated. I have heard that Stowe is beautiful but again, is it too far to get to? Other reports have read not to bother with Cape Cod...I always thought this was a lovely spot, so now am confused whether to include it in my itinery?
Thank you so much for any help,
Dreams 64

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