Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > United States
Reload this Page >

New England Trip (Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts)

New England Trip (Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts)

Sep 4th, 2007, 06:43 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 8
New England Trip (Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts)

My husband and I are in our early 30’s and are pretty active people (like hiking, bicycling, etc). We are looking forward to our New England area trip to see all of the beautiful fall foliage, but we also want to spend some time on the coast and maybe one day in Boston. Neither of us have ever been to the New England area.

We need some advice on lodging, scenic routes between locations, as well as trying to figure out how long to stay in each area. I’m afraid I may be trying to pack too much into one trip; although we don’t really like to “sit around” too much and would prefer to be on the go – just at a leisurely pace.

Also, if any of the locations are overrated and should be skipped, we would like to know that as well since we are on a limited time schedule. We only take a few small trips a year, so we typically like to splurge and stay in moderate to upscale lodging with a few nice meals – we’ve never stayed at a B&B before, but we are definitely open to the idea. The only thing definitive is our travel dates which are September 27, 2007 – October 2, 2007.

Our tentative itinerary is as follows:
We will be flying into Manchester, NH on Thursday, September 27, 2007 very late so we’ll be staying that first evening near the airport. (Note: I have reservations for our first night, but no reservations have been made for any of the other nights.)
Friday, September 28 - Drive up to Woodstock, VT for a few hours of sightseeing. Not sure if we should then try to go all the way up to Burlington, VT or Stowe, VT or just head straight to the White Mountains?
Saturday, September 29 – Explore the White Mountains – North Conway? Jackson, NH? I want to somehow travel along the Kancamagus Highway. We heard about the 18th Annual Chowderfest at Waterville Valley Resort – not sure if it would be worth the extra time and drive to that location or not?
Sunday, September 30 – Drive to Portland, ME and/or Kennebunkport, ME. Tour area/ relax.
Monday, October 1 – Drive to Boston (stopping in Salem, MA for a few hours). We are big computer geeks so we really want to go on an MIT tour in Cambridge.

Tuesday, October 2 – Boston? - Plane leaves Manchester, NH at 3 pm.

Any recommendations on our itinerary would be greatly appreciated. Also, if you have any suggestions on great places to stay and dine - that would be wonderful too!
Hays_Traveler is offline  
Sep 5th, 2007, 01:19 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 24,063
First, make sure you have explicit directions on how to get to the hotel near the airport. Found out the hard way that some are tucked in out of the way side streets very near the airport but I didn't even realize were there. My friend picked the hotel and since I was familiar with the area expected it to be on Brown Ave. When you exit the airport onto Brown Ave you will get to Route 101. If you go east the next exit is South Willow Street where some of the hotels are located. You will also go this way if you want to connect with Rt 93. If you go west you can connect with Rt 393 which originally was the old Rt 93. It simply goes along the west side of the Merrimack River and then connects with Rt 93. Rt 393 is thru the industrial section but I like that route because you can look across the river to the old mill buildings that have been renovated into great restaurants, offices, etc.
To get to Woodstock you will go from Rt 93 to Rt 89. Despite being a limited access interstate, the views are lovely. But you could also opt for a leisurely start to the day and drive into downtown Concord for breakfast, take Pleasant Street west. It turns into Rt 103 which goes thru the lovely towns of Hopkinton, Contoocook, Warner. Stop at Gould Hill Orchards for some fresh apples (they have antique varieties) and the view. There's a popular breakfast place in Warner called the Foothills with rockers on the front porch. Get there early, there's always a line. You can also take a short drive up Kearsarge St in Warner for a short hike up Mt Kearsarge. You can rejoin Rt 89 in Warner. Woodstock is a beautiful town that was prettied up for tourists. On our last visit I just felt overwhelmed by tourists. (Of course, I want to be the only tourist.) You kind of miss the real Vermont. Before we drove into Woodstock we had gone to a very out of the way plant nursery and had driven a backroad thru horse country. Vermont has more open farmland than NH does and a lot of it is over along Lake Champlain. Instead of Stowe which is another tourist destination you might prefer a college town like Middlebury or Norwich. A friend lives in Brandon which is an artsy little town. I like Montpelier which wouldn't be as far as Burlington. For a great outdoor activity if you want to keep driving north is the Great Vermont Corn Maze in Danville VT. It's not far from Littleton NH which is on the north side of NH's White Mountains. See the Maze's website. It's very challenging and well done. Nice view from the top. I would do that instead of spending time going thru boutiques in Woodstock. The only problem with going to the White Mountains from the north is you miss that gradual buildup of scenery that you get when you drive up Rt 93 from the south. I live here and I still get excited as the mountains get bigger and bigger. Polly's Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill NH is fun place for breakfast but if you've headed to Danville VT and stayed in Littleton have breakfast at the Littleton diner. Get the hash! You might consider more time in the White Mountains esp if you'd like to do a little hiking. Foliage ought to be great during your visit. It might be a little early for great color on the coast. I always recommend a boat tour out of Portsmouth. You can take an inland rivers cruise to see foliage. Portsmouth has a funky downtown area. Salem MA is ok. Keep in mind that the drive to Boston from NH will face a lot of traffic during commuting hours. Portland has a wonderful downtown shopping district in the Old Port area plus great restaurants. Haven't been to Kennebunkport for years but I remember it as charming. Chowhound's website for New England is a great place to look for local restaurant recommendations when you have your itinerary set. You really shouldn't miss some great seafood but you might want to go to an upscale place or hit the local family place. If the weather is good you could rent a kayak someplace either a river or sea kayaking. NH's Flume is always a nice hike for a fee. Walk the Marginal Way in Ogunquit ME (near Kennebunk). Hope you have a great trip!
dfrostnh is offline  
Sep 5th, 2007, 02:58 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 5,765
hi hays, why woodstock? just curious. hanover (dartmouth) is just up the street and a really pretty college town. i recall visiting when i was a kid. going to their computer building. and i do mean building. the entire first floor was covered with huge towers. and to think my cell phone can probably do most of/more than? what that thing was capable of...

i would skip burlington (nice town but too far) and go to montpelier as dfrost suggests. driving there you might cut off onto rte.14 from rte 89 at royalton. smaller road so you can see the real vermont not just the interstate.
from montpelier get on rte. 2 and head east through st. johnsbury - a town i enjoyed a lot. drive rte 2 all the way to berlin and then go south on rte.16 (or take rte3 south to rte302 right at the vt/nh border) both end in north conway. while you're in that area drive the kancamagus highway. it will be spectacular with the leaves. you can just drive it both directions or at west end take rte 93 north to rte 3 west and then south on rte 302.

north conway is a shopppers paradise is you wanna do some early xmas shopping. outlets.

about 1/2 hr east is the tiny town of lovell, maine. kezar lake is there. (national geo says one of 10 most beautiful lakes in US) wonderful hiking abounds. if you can, stay at www.centerlovellinn.com
this is the place that was auctioned off by essay on the today show years ago. the lady that runs it is great. nice views of white mtns, they will tell you where to hike, the rooms are not shown on the site but are filled with antiques and have victorian look. very quiet at night for sleeping! they have a really fantastic cook/restaurant!! (try the mushroom app - it's to die for)

omg i just realized you will be in the area at fryeburg fair time. this is THE BEST fair in maine. you have to go. this is one of the most maine experiences you can have.
link: http://www.fryeburgfair.com/

it will, however, make finding lodging more difficult. center lovell inn is prob booked but call to be sure. north conway is a short drive from fryeburg and there should be places there. but do find your lodging for this area asap!!

it's an easy route from fryeburg to boston. on the other hand if you can miss MIT on this trip i'd skip boston altogether. long drive down (4-5 hours) just to head back up to fly home. as an alternative the coast is under 2 hours. there are perfect small coastal towns from portland right down to portsmouth, nh.
or just stay in the mtns and hike. perhaps a night on lake winnipesaukee - someplace like wolfboro, weirs beach or meredith.

are you bringing bikes with you?

virginia is offline  
Sep 5th, 2007, 03:08 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 15,573
If you decide to stay in Vt after going to Woodstock, I would head to north central/northeastern Vt after woodstock. The color will probably not be as good in the Champlain valley (burlington) area in late September.
Once you are in NH and Vt there are foliage hotlines to call to get information about where the color is best so you could use that information to plan your route.
I would recommend driving on secondary roads and visiting smaller towns. Stowe will be crowded and is very touristy.

If you drive north toward the Montpelier area you could do this by driving west from Woodstock on Rte 4 to Killington, then north on 100. this will take you through some pretty scenery including the Mad River Valley. After Montpelier I would go east on Rte 2 toward St. Johnsbury. You could see the corn maze in Danville mentioned in the last post this way.
Vttraveler is offline  
Sep 5th, 2007, 04:27 AM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 1,598
I would stay two days in Jackson N.H. in the center of the White mountains.Then go to Bar HARBOR Maine(visit Acadia-whale watching-lobster eating...)-then to Boston for two days.The Bar Harbor manor is great to stay.In Boston we stayed at the Chandler hotel.Paul
tovarich is offline  
Sep 5th, 2007, 08:48 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,623
How much time do you want to spend in the car? If you want to see a lot of area, and don't mind being in the car most of the time, then your itinerary, or some of the ones suggested, are ok. But while New England States may look small to some of you people from "big" states, but trust me, it wil take a while to cover the amount of ground you are talking about.

You really only have 4 days (the last day you'll need to leave Boston by noon). While there are subtle differences between Vermont and NH, they aren't so different to be worth almost a whole day just to go to Vermont. If you are starting in NH on Friday morning, just go north to the white mountains for the day. Anywhere north of Manchester is quite pretty. On Saturday go to the Maine coast - but while Bar Harbour is fabulous, it's not worth the drive with your limited time. The area around Camden is great, and everything south of that. You'd need weeks to explore it all. Just pick a few stops. Overnight Saturday night somewhere on the Maine coast (southern area). Sunday drive to Boston, maybe stopping on the Mass. north shore (Glouster/Rockport). This gives you all day Monday, and Tuesday morning in Boston. If you don't want a day and a half in Boston then stretch it out, but I wouldn't add in any more areas.

Instead of staying IN Boston, think about Cambridge, since you say you want to see MIT. I think Cambridge may be less expensive than Boston itself (I don't know any Boston hotels so others could advise on where to stay better thab I). But Cambridge will have easy access to I-93 to get back up to Manchester to the airport, and I do know that driving in Boston is not fun.
isabel is online now  
Sep 5th, 2007, 02:21 PM
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 215
It would be helpful to know what you are trying to experience. From your itinerary it seems like you are spending way to much time driving place to place. I would suggest you find one base place to stay and then do day trips or spend your time in the White Mountains (taking day trips elsewhere) and then heading to Boston to end.
hlsam is offline  
Sep 5th, 2007, 07:18 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 8
Wow...lots of great information already!

dfrostnh - very detailed post and great information. The Corn maze sounds like a lot of fun; I'm going to have to check that out.

virginia - A friend of mine had been to Woodstock, VT and RAVED about it; but after reading these posts we may be better off heading up to Montpelier. We won't be bringing our bikes with us since it would be too difficult to travel with them. Great tip on the shopping; hopefully I can twist my husbands arm for a few hours of outlet malls.

vttraveler - Thanks for the information on directions and foliage tip.

tovarich - how far would the drive to Bar Harbor take? I looked at it on a map and it looked like quite a distance out of the "loop". I definitely want to see it at some time, but I may have to plan a second trip just for Acadia.

isabel - We don't mind driving; but we are trying to limit our actual driving time for a day to less than 5 hours. Thanks for the advice on timing as we don't want to be too exhausted when we return home from vacation.

hlsam - Good question. We are trying to get a good overall New England experience with a focus on seeing the foliage and getting some great lobster (or lobstah as I've read in other posts) on the coast of Maine. My husband is a HUGE seafood fan as grew up on the other coast. We don't mind going from hotel to hotel if it makes sense and saves some driving time (e.g. retracing routes).

Thanks for all the posts so far! We are really excited!
Hays_Traveler is offline  
Sep 6th, 2007, 02:47 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,623
I suggest you go to goole maps or mapquest early in your planning stages to get an idea of how long the distances are. For example from Manchester to Montreal is four and a half hours. And of course that doesn't count finding where you are going once you get there, parking, etc. You say you want to keep it to under 5 hours which that trip does, but just barely, and of course doesn't take into account traffic, which in New England in the fall can be slow. For example, google maps says it's two hours and 7 minutes from my house to Cambridge, last weekend it took three and a half hours (but only two hours on the return trip, which was late at night). And that's highway all the way. My point is, things just take longer than most people expect in New England. I have friends from out west who come here and expect to see 4 or 5 states in a short time - "casue they are so small". Anyway, have fun whatever you do, and you can leaf peep from a car (as thousands of leaf peepers do every year) but you can forget about shopping or hiking if you want to hit all the destinations you've mentioned.
isabel is online now  
Sep 6th, 2007, 04:33 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,421
If your focus is foliage, you really need to look at a map to determine where to gohttp://www.yankeefoliage.com/peakmap/

The colors start in the far north and east and move south and west.

And, it is essential to make reservations forthwith for accomodations. Note that many, but not all, will require 2-3 night minimum stays.

The seacoast is more a summer destination than foliage destination. The leaves turn last near the ocean, and you will not find as many trees or the brilliant colors as in the mountain areas.

On the other hand, you will have an easier time reserving accomodations and get better rates along the coast.

All the states have foliage hotlines, which you can phone once you arrive to determine where to go, if it's not so colorful where you are staying.

The best way to enjoy the foliage is driving all over.

djkbooks is offline  
Sep 6th, 2007, 04:47 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 275
I am from Vermont and we are already seeing the trees beginning to turn so everyone is saying it is going to be an early leaf peeping season. So get ready for some great colors!
bhonoreh is offline  
Sep 7th, 2007, 06:29 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 8
Thanks to all who have responded. I wanted to give everyone an update on the lodgings we have booked.

Thursday evening, 9/27- Courtyard-Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, NH. We are using points so this night is free

Friday and Saturday evenings (9/28-9/29) - The Lodge at Jackson Village in Jackson, NH (Note: We decided to stay 2 nights here after reading some of your feedback on the area).

Sunday evening (9/30) - English Meadows Inn in Kennebunkport, ME

Monday evening (10/1) - We haven't booked anywhere for this night yet. We want to be in/around Boston. Does anyone have a good suggestion? I know that driving in Boston is supposed to be terrible; so as much as I can I want to avoid that.

Hays_Traveler is offline  
Sep 8th, 2007, 05:34 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 15,573
The [email protected] might be a good choice for computer geeks who want to tour MIT. It's on the red line of the T

Boston and Cambridge hotels are expensive
Vttraveler is offline  
Sep 8th, 2007, 06:35 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 8
I just checked out the website for the MIT hotel. It looks fun (especially for us computer geeks) but it a bit expensive. After looking at the accomodations in Boston/Cambridge we decided to go ahead and use our Marriott miles again and booked our last night at the Boston Marriott Cambridge.

How hard/easy is it to get from Cambridge to Boston without driving? (Subway, bus, etc)
Hays_Traveler is offline  
Sep 8th, 2007, 07:06 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 12,076
It's a cinch.
clarkgriswold is offline  
Sep 8th, 2007, 07:09 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,421
The Boston Marriott Cambridge is only steps from the Kendall MBTA station on the Red Line. See www.mbta.com for a subway map.

There are many excellent restaurants within walking distance.
djkbooks is offline  
Sep 8th, 2007, 07:25 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 8
Excellent and thanks for the link to the website!
djkbooks - Would you mind providing a few names of those "excellent restaurants"? I'm a big foodie and love great food! (Yes, I am a shameless food network groupie)
Hays_Traveler is offline  
Sep 8th, 2007, 09:10 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,421
There's a very nice restaurant and cocktail lounge, with sidewalk seating in the nice weather, at the Kendall Hotel, a few doors away from the Marriott.

At Kendall Square, a couple of blocks away, is a complex with many restaurants - Irish Pub, etc, with outdoor terraces. One of our favorites is The Blue Room. We especially enjoy the patio when the weather is nice. Oleana is also very nice.

There's also an outpost of the famous Legal Seafood.

But, there is no shortage of excellent restaurants in the neighborhood. And, there are lots of websites for Cambridge dining with links to web pages. See, for example, www.opentable.com (where you can also reserve online).
djkbooks is offline  
Oct 7th, 2007, 12:55 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 8
Hi all,
We are back from our trip so I wanted to give an update and thanks to all who gave me great advice. First of all, we purchased a Garmin GPS navigational system for this trip which was priceless!
Friday, September 28, 2007
We drove from Manchester to Woodstock, VT; nice, easy drive. Stopped on the way in Quechee Village to sample Cabot cheese, Vermont wine, and walked around a bit. Unfortunately the train & toy museum was closed. Then we drove about 10 more minutes into Woodstock, VT which is a cute little town. We ate lunch at Allechante which had a bistro atmosphere; food was average (although a bit pricey) but the dessert was awesome - pot au chocolate! It was raining so we decided to skip the sightseeing in Woodstock and head to Jackson, NH instead of trying to go further north in Vermont (will save that for another trip).
Our GPS system helped us be able to take the "scenic" tour and not worry about getting lost. We drove up 91 North to St. Johnsbury, NH, cut over 93 to 302 East (going through Bethlehem, Twin Mountain) then went up Hwy 3/ Route 115 to Hwy 2 all the way to Gorham. Then we followed Rt. 16 South to The Lodge at Jackson Village. It was gorgeous; leaves were not in peak foliage but it was still absolutely beautiful. Finding the lodge was one of the few times our GPS was incorrect…it took us to a park bench in a rest area on Route 16. After laughing for a while, we eventually found the Lodge about 10 minutes down the road. We had a comfortable room (#19) which had a great view of the mountains and the stream behind the lodge. We ate dinner around 8 pm at Horse Feathers in North Conway; both our entrees were bland (Peppered steak and Scallop casserole) although their clam chowder and butternut squash was pretty good.

Saturday, September 29, 2007
We ate breakfast at a little place called Yesterdays (based on a local’s tip). Again, we were disappointed as the food was very bland (Cinnamon Raisin French toast and omelet were our choices) but we did get some good driving tips from a few of the locals at the restaurant. The people here are VERY nice. Got on the road around noon and drove the Kancamangus Highway from Conway to Lincoln. I have to say that this is probably one of the most beautiful drives we have ever been on! Locals say that it takes only about 45 minutes to do the entire drive, but it took us about 2.5 hours because we stopped several times to get out of the car, get pictures, and just walk out in nature to see all the beauty. (HIGHLY RECOMMEND getting out of the car as that was the best part of it all).
I was surprised to see how much more expensive gas is in Lincoln than in Conway (20 cents a gallon difference). We did not stop in Lincoln but instead drove to the Flume Gorge (93 North) and did that hike (about 2 hours walk if you take your time) which was also a lot of fun. Drove back to Jackson on the Kancamangus Hwy (detouring via Bear Notch Road to miss the Conway traffic). This was about a six hour road trip including all the stops. Weather was GREAT!!! Based upon another local tip, we had made reservations at the 1785 Inn for dinner at 8:30 pm. I won’t go into detail here, but this was one of the worst dining experiences of my life…we finally got to eat our dinner at 10:30 pm and the food was average at best. The restaurant was packed which is surprising considering the awful service and average food. (I promise that I am not that hard to please with food – a little flavor and good service is all that I ask).

Sunday, September 30, 2007
We ate a buffet breakfast at the Red Fox restaurant in Jackson, NH which was okay. We then drove up Hwy 16 to the Wildcat Gondola. Took the gondola to the top of the mountain (4,062 feet) and hiked around for about an hour or so before coming back down to ride the Wildcat ZipRider. It is a zip-line cable ride that descends 2,100 feet over the trails, tree-tops traveling at speeds up to 45 miles per hour on a 12% grade. I was very nervous to ride this, but it was a blast! I definitely recommend this to anyone who loves thrill rides.
We left Wildcat Mountain around noon and drove to Kennebunkport, Maine; was supposed to have been a 2 hour drive but traffic delays in Conway, NH (302 East) added an additional 1.5 hours. We took all back roads (no interstate), though, and it was quite lovely. Arrived at our Bed and Breakfast, English Meadows Inn, around 3:30 in the afternoon. This was our first experience with a B&B –we stayed in the Bloomsbury room. We drove around Kennebunkport (beautiful area and the weather was about 58 degrees) and drove the sightseeing tour (Bush mansion included) before stopping at the Arundel Wharf for dinner at sunset. My husband loved his 2.5 pound lobster! I had the clam chowder which was also very good but I don’t recommend the Fried Clams. Since it was still early we decided to eat dessert at a different restaurant in downtown so that we could window-shop. Stopped into Hurricane’s and had fabulous desserts (Chocolate Crème Brulee and Blueberry cobbler) and coffee; I would have loved to have been able to try their food. We walked through downtown and identified some shops to visit the next day when they were open.

Monday, October 1, 2007
Woke early, got packed, and went down for breakfast at 9:15 am. I have to say that the breakfast served at the English Meadows Inn was the best breakfast of the entire trip. Bruce and his wife were excellent hosts and served up a blueberry brundel that was out of this world! They then followed that with a baked peach with granola and yogurt, and a four cheese quiche. I have to say that their hospitality was wonderful and they take a lot of pride in their B&B. After checking out and doing a little shopping in Kennebunkport we headed to Cambridge, MA. We did take the interstate this time (lots of tolls so be sure to have about $6 on hand) and arrived around 1:30 pm to our hotel - Boston Marriott Cambridge. Great location near MIT and MBTA. Our room was on the 22nd floor and had an awesome view of the Charles River Basin. Since we did not have a lot of time in this city we hopped aboard the Old Town Trolley tour and got a good overview of Boston in a short amount of time. There is so much history and wonderful architecture in Boston/Cambridge. I would love to spend 5-6 days just touring this area and will definitely be back!
For dinner the concierge made us reservations at an Italian restaurant in the North End of Boston named Piccolo Nido. We wanted to have an early dinner (6 pm) and the restaurant was empty. The owner greeted us at the door and was a great conversationalist (huge Red Sox fan). It was the best dinner we had in our entire trip (Chicken marsala and Farfalle Del Cardinale)! Restaurant got busier as the evening went on; atmosphere was great and again the people are so nice. We took the MBTA back to our hotel. I was very apprehensive at first to take the subway system, but found that mass transit is great and so much cheaper than a taxi.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007
We woke early and got packed since we had to be on the road by noon but wanted to go to Harvard Square for breakfast and then on to MIT for the campus tour. We ate breakfast at Lee’s Diner in Harvard Square which was simple but good. There was quite a bit of construction going on in Harvard Square, so we didn’t get to spend a lot of time there. Got back on the MBTA to Kendall/MIT stop and went to MIT for a tour of the campus. MIT was founded in 1861 and for us techies, it was great. All in all, both were a lot of fun and again the MBTA made it all so easy. Checked out of the hotel at noon and drove to Manchester, NH to catch our plane. I would not recommend trying to drive around in Boston unless you are used to big city driving; it is stressful. Drive to Manchester is only an hour and it is interstate all the way.

Thanks again to all for your suggestions! We had a very enjoyable trip and will definitely do it again!
Hays_Traveler is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 03:08 PM.