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Boston, Cape Cod, Maine, Vermont and Berkshires

Boston, Cape Cod, Maine, Vermont and Berkshires

Feb 8th, 2019, 07:40 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2009
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Boston, Cape Cod, Maine, Vermont and Berkshires

Hello everyone.
My husband and I are travelling to the US for a big trip at the end of September-early October this year.
Our holiday has been planned to capture the fall colours but is not exclusively about leaf peeping. We love exploring cities (hence the inclusion of Boston), coastal towns and national parks.
In the UK, we are Ramblers, and so we enjoy the outdoors, photography and a sense of history.
We also love to sample local food and have enjoyed foodie walks in Spain and Italy.
We would be grateful if you could please consider our travel plans below and offer and tips on must-sees or must-visits.
We realise there are many fall colours posts and websites and are researching these.

September 24-27: Boston (apartment rented in Beacon Hill). Plans include Freedom Trail, the market and North End for gorgeous Italian food.

September 27-30: Cape Cod (booked in at at at Brewster inn) - we plan to explore Cape Cod but devote a day for a trip to Martha’s Vineyard.

September 30-October 4: Portland, Maine (house rented) - this is our base for exploring a little of the Maine coast.

October 4-8: Grafton, Vermont (house rented) - again a base for exploring some of Vermont.

October 8-10: Stockbridge, The Berkshires - final couple of days before heading back the UK.

Any advice gratefully received.
Lisa and Grant
uklisa is offline  
Feb 8th, 2019, 10:49 AM
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VT 30 from Brattleboro and then VT100 are the roads that goes up the center of Vermont and passes through many of its small picturesque towns.
Michael is online now  
Feb 8th, 2019, 10:54 AM
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Sounds like a great trip. Wondering how you are getting around - will you have a car? If so, you could wait to pick it up until you are leaving Boston as it will be an added expense and not necessary in Boston.

Some random suggestions. Boston: There is a walking food tour of North End (Michelle Topor company) that is excellent. They also have one of Chinatown, which is good, but not as good as the North End tour. We have had several visitors from UK and for some reason I do not understand they all wanted to go to JFK Library. Easily accessible on public transit. If you want to do any museums, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum would be a great choice (I would pick it over Museum of Fine Arts) but I personally love ICA - Institute of Contemporary Art (but I would probably be in a minority opinion on that). For getting around town, Uber works great in Boston. Or public subway/trolley which is called the MBTA. Their website mbta.com will give you routing from Point A to B. Strongly recommend trolley/subway over bus routes.

Cape Cod. Take a drive to the tip of Cape Cod - Provincetown. You will pass the dunes in Truro. Provincetown is a unique town. Especially in the off season it has a large gay identity, but everyone can be comfortable there. Some great seafood. Lots of little unique shops and galleries. Cape Cod National Seashore is consistently ranked one of the most beautiful in the US. There is entrance and parking in Easton. Since your first day on the Cape is a Friday, if you can start your drive before noon you will avoid weekend traffic, which can be annoying even in September.

Portland. Another great choice. Do a little research and visit some of the lighthouses along the coast. I know you have a house rented in Portland, but it is about a 3 hour drive Portland to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park which is beautiful. However, I really agree with and respect that you seem to be choosing to actually see each of your areas rather than racing from city to city. Great plan.

Can't really help with Vermont.

Assuming you are flying out of Boston/Logan after Stockbridge, if you have time you might consider taking Route 2 rather than the Mass Turnpike east. Much more scenic and at that time of year cute little farmstands along part of the route.

I am surprised you have not received more responses to your post - others may be able to give you more specifics.
gail is offline  
Feb 8th, 2019, 12:05 PM
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Brilliant! Thanks for this!
uklisa is offline  
Feb 8th, 2019, 12:07 PM
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Amazing. Thanks so much.
We won’t have a car in Boston but plan to hire one once we leave Cape Cod.

Last edited by uklisa; Feb 8th, 2019 at 12:16 PM.
uklisa is offline  
Feb 8th, 2019, 01:28 PM
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Agreed that the Gardner Museum is excellent and the ICA is well worth a visit — but the Museum of Fine Arts is world class. Would heartily recommend it.

A good three day Boston itinerary:

-Freedom Trail (includes North End)

-Gardner Museum and MFA (they’re not far from each other)

-JFK Presidential Library, followed by a visit to Cambridge (Harvard and Harvard Square are especially good options).

There are also loads of good day trips from Boston, especially Salem, Concord, and Plymouth.

For the Cape, consider towns like Sandwich, Chatham, and Provincetown. And be sure to go to the Cape Cod National Seashore. Martha’s Vineyard makes for a nice day trip via ferry.

Last edited by bachslunch; Feb 8th, 2019 at 01:37 PM.
bachslunch is offline  
Feb 8th, 2019, 01:35 PM
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For Maine, consider exploring towns such as Kennebunkport, Ogunquit, Rockland, Camden, maybe Acadia National Park if you’re willing to drive that far. This last is a long way, though.

Woodstock and Manchester are good towns to check out within reasonable driving distance from Grafton.

Plenty of good places to explore in the Berkshires, such as Stockbridge, Lenox, and Williamstown. You could also visit Pioneer Valley towns to the east such as Northampton and Amherst.

bachslunch is offline  
Feb 8th, 2019, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by uklisa View Post
Amazing. Thanks so much.
We won’t have a car in Boston but plan to hire one once we leave Cape Cod.
You definitely won’t need or want a car in Boston. Public transportation is excellent there.
bachslunch is offline  
Feb 8th, 2019, 02:37 PM
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It sounds like you won't have a car on the Cape? You really need one to explore that area. It is very easy to drive around. Leaving Boston and going to the Cape that time of year will not be bad. Just don't leave during rush hour (wait until 10:00 to leave Boston).

Your trip sounds like fun. You will love New England.
Sberg is offline  
Feb 9th, 2019, 12:30 AM
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Thanks so much everyone. When we leave Boston for Cape Cod, we will have rented a car to explore there and when we travel through Maine, Vermont and The Berkshires. It’s only in Boston that we won’t have a car.
I have heard about the Michelle Torpor North End food tour, so I’ll definitely look into that. The Freedom Trail is also on our must-do list. Invaluable to have your recommendations on museums - what a great choice.
Really helpful to have the info on Cape Cod. I also wondered if we should take the car to Martha’s Vineyard? I imagine we would want it to explore there?
Your suggestions about Maine and Vermont towns to visit will really help to narrow down our day trips from our bases. Thank you.
Is Salem worth a visit? I have read so much about it over the years and I am intrigued.
Thanks again for all your help. It is helping to better direct our research. Hoping the months will fly by now.
uklisa is offline  
Feb 9th, 2019, 02:03 AM
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Great advice so far. Don't take a car to Martha's Vineyard. Once there you can take a van tour. Depending on ferry time it will dock at different places. We liked walking around Oak Bluffs to see all the gingerbread cottages.
Peabody Essex Museum in Salem is very nice - make sure to include the Chinese House.
Mid-coast Maine is our favorite area to explore. Acadia is a gem but would require too many hours on the road. Yankee Magazine has said Camden is the prettiest town for fall foliage. Take the auto road up Mt. Battie for an incredible view. Lobster shacks are usually open weekends only after early September so check ahead and since you usually eat outdoors at picnic tables weather will be a consideration. There's plenty of restaurant choices. I like the Farnsworth art museum in Rockland because it features Maine artists and has a lot of work by the three Wyeths. My husband prefers the antique car museum in nearby Owls Head. Claws take out restaurant on Rt 1 just north of Rockland has a great menu, not a great view of the harbor and covered porch dining. If it's open, go their for lunch.
You have to drive thru NH to get from Portland to Grafton. Google Maps says slightly more than a 3 hour trip. This gives you time to make some stops on the way. Quickest way is to take Rt 101 but it's a boring limited access highway. More scenic route is Rt 4 to Concord and then to Warner NH. But both suggested route west from Concord NH are rural and scenic. You can take local roads from Concord to Warner thru some quaint towns with possible slight detour to Gould Hill Orchard (they make their own hard cider) which has a pleasant view toward the mountains. Warner features a small but interesting Indian Museum. You can drive a good part of the way up little Mt. Kearsarge then hike. The Wilmot side of the mountain also has a toll road which ends with great views looking toward Sunapee (Winslow State Park). You can hike the rest of the way but no need to. Warner is probably your last chance for lunch. If you take the southerly route, Henniker and Hillsboro are you last chance for lunch until you get to Keene which is a college town with a great variety of restaurants. If you just want to stop for coffee and snack, Concord has a nice walkable downtown. Crust and Crumb across from the State House is a wonderful bakery. At the south end of town, Bread and Chocolate is more European style bakery. You might want to visit League of NH Crafts for upscale handcrafts.

Grafton is near one of the Vermont Country Stores which are fun to visit. It is also near Norwich which has King Arthur Flour if you want to pick up some baking ingredients. The farmers market on Saturdays is wonderful with live musics, food samples and a nice variety of things to eat like pastries, etc. The east side of VT is forested while the west side along Lake Champlain is rolling farmland. Just about everywhere is great to explore. You might want to visit St. Gauden's in Plainfield/Cornish NH. This is near a very long covered bridge. If you want to find covered bridges, get a copy of the DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer for VT. There are several small covered bridges in the Warner area but you would have to make a slight detour. There's some famous (although small) stone arch bridges in the Hillsborough NH area. Hillsborough?s Stone Arch Bridges | Living History Event - Historic Hillsborough, NH

The mailboat cruise of Casco Bay from Portland ME is fun but I think the inland rivers one from Portsmouth NH is more scenic where foliage is concerned. Also, the view of Casco Bay from South Portland Fort Williams Park is wonderful. From the north you get a different view from the park on Eastern Promenade.

You might want to check out Jeff Foliage's website. He is based in Salem MA but explores rural New England. Pretty good photographer. Visits VT a lot since his wife is from there so you might get some good tips on scenic places to visit.
dfrostnh is offline  
Feb 9th, 2019, 03:11 AM
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Listen to dfrostnh - although I am not familiar with some of her suggestions, she is always very useful and accurate about this part of the US
gail is offline  
Feb 9th, 2019, 04:46 AM
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Sounds like a great trip. I ran into one problem with my rental and that was the toll pass. The rental car did not have one and they neglected to tell me I needed it. I pulled over and set my GPS to non-toll roads and did great. Vermont is one of my favourite places in the US. Do stop in many of the small towns. Check the weather if the seas are bad the ferry won't go to MV. We loved going to Nantucket and it is easy to walk. There is a ferry that takes you to Provincetown on the cape to avoid all that traffic from Boston. I have been there in Sept, October and July and the traffic was bad getting on and off the cape. I love Beacon Hill. There is a ferry you can take to Salem and the boat ride alone was great. I had relatives involved in the witch trials so went for that but the town is very interesting and worth a visit.
Macross is offline  
Feb 9th, 2019, 04:53 AM
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Sorry, just checked the Boston to PT ferry and it is for foot pax only.

Last edited by Macross; Feb 9th, 2019 at 04:53 AM. Reason: .
Macross is offline  
Feb 9th, 2019, 05:47 AM
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Enroute to Portland, you can stop in Salem and see the national historic port area. Salem Maritime National Historic Site - Salem, MA

I agree with dfrostnh’s suggestion about the Peabody Essex Museum https://www.pem.org/.

Things to do in Salem: https://www.salem.org/10-free-things/

Whale watching season in Massachusetts is from April through October, although you’ll be there near the end of the season.. If you take an excursion, ask if they have a naturalist on board. Bring a jacket– it can be cold on the water.

Links to the various locations for whale watching excursions from Boston, Cape Cod, Cape Anne, etc.

gbelle1 is offline  
Feb 9th, 2019, 06:05 AM
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Good suggestions for Salem so far (Peabody Essex Museum, Salem Maritime National Historic Site). Also consider the House of the Seven Gables, Phillips House, and Salem Witch Museum (avoid any of the other ghost/witch/monster/pirate museums, though). Salem Willows in season is fun to visit as well, open well into the evening with honky took style eateries and arcades.
bachslunch is offline  
Feb 9th, 2019, 06:27 AM
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Thanks so much dfrostnh for your incredibly detailed and generous response.
I look forward to delving into the detail as part of the itinerary planning which will have to sustain me between now and September.

Last edited by uklisa; Feb 9th, 2019 at 06:43 AM.
uklisa is offline  
Feb 9th, 2019, 06:38 AM
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Thanks bachlunch, Macross and gbelle1 for the excellent suggestions. I’m fascinated by Salem and your guidance on what to see and what to avoid is very helpful.
Equally appealing is the potential for whale-watching, although important to recognise we are probably at the end of the season for this.
The variety of the experiences we can look forward to on this long-awaited holiday is incredible and so exciting.
May thanks again for all this advice.
uklisa is offline  
Feb 9th, 2019, 09:05 AM
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Pay attention to what macross says about toll roads. Mass. toll roads are now cashless - no option at all to pay with cash. Your choices are getting an EZ Pass transponder, or utilizing PlatePass, where they take a picture of the license plate and bill the registered owner (= rental car co). Most if not all rental car co's will tag on exorbitant fees if you use the PlatePass - not just the fee for the toll but likely a daily access fee for every day or your rental...

I don't know the best way to deal with this for non US residents - maybe others have good ideas.
Personally, I own an EZ pass transponder issued by my own state, NY, that I keep in the vehicle and it's good for any tolls I ever use in any state, ranging from Chicago to Maine and down to FL.
J62 is offline  
Feb 9th, 2019, 09:07 AM
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If you did not want to make the drive from Boston to Portland ME, you could take the Boston rental car back to Boston and take an Amtrak Downeaster train from Boston North station to Portland and rent a car in Portland Maine. In Freeport Maine, the Amtrak station is within walking distance of the LL Bean flagship store.
tomfuller is offline  

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