Small New England cities or really big towns

Old Jun 20th, 2011, 05:21 PM
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Small New England cities or really big towns

Most people travel to New England for quaint. I like quaint. But when work takes me from tiny hamlet to teeny village over the course of the summer, I need my city breaks, too, mostly on the weekends
I like Portland Maine a lot. Ditto Portsmouth NH. Burlington VT was OK (the city was just OK, but I loved the Shelburne Museum. I wanted to like Manchester NH but it seemed so dead on the weekend. Brattleboro & Bennington VT were also OK. I expect to return to some places, and explore some new ones
So what other small cities or large towns in Vermont, Maine or New Hampshire should I add to my list? I' m looking for a place with some kind of walkable downtown, and if it's longer than 2 blocks, even better Good inexpensive Asian or Indian restaurants, Museums are great. I only need to spend 48 hours or less at a time so smaller places could work for me

On my short list for the past couple of years are Montpelier VT, Middlebury VT,Concord NH Keene NH. I was in Hanover NH but only to see the Hood Museum. Any votes for or against these places? Anything in Augusta Maine? Williamstown MA and North Adams Ma, might be just a little out of my way this time . Other suggestions would be most welcome!
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Old Jun 21st, 2011, 02:59 AM
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Concord NH has a nice walkable downtown Main Street but don't miss a few great places on side streets like an ice cream cone from Granite State Candy (Warren St). Siam Orchid is on the corner opposite the Holiday Inn but there's an interesting little Chinese restaurant, Sunshine Oriental, up on Loudon Rd in the middle of the strip mall congestion. They have a few tables, lousy parking but dim sum all the time and very friendly owners. NH History Museum is right in downtown. It's small. I've been fascinated in some exhibits, disappointed in others. One of the newest gems on Main St is Red River Theater, an independent. Next to it is Gibson's Book Store with an interior doorway to Bread and Chocolate. Gibson's frequently hosts authors and readings. Across the street the Concord Food Co-op is open to the public if you need some healthy food or local treats. There's an Indian restaurant on Pleasant St. The McAuliffe Planetarium is a short drive but you might be more interested in Canterbury Shaker Village. Get a free copy of the Hippo Press to see what's going on. I usually pick up new weekly issue in front of the US PO on Wed or Thurs evening. Concord can be very quiet but Sat mornings there's a farmers market next to the state house. A few restaurants like the Barley House now have sidewalk tables. There's a lot of outdoor enthusiasts among the residents so they might be off bike riding, hiking or kayaking or watching a ball game in one of the city parks.
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Old Jun 21st, 2011, 03:09 AM
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Augusta, like most government dominated cities, shuts down at 5 and on weekends. Nothing special. Rockland, Maine is much better, as is Brunswick. Both have eclectic shops and restaurants. Bath, Belfast, Ellsworth and Bangor are also nice towns with walkable downtowns and interesting shops and restaurants. Rockland also has the Farnsworth Art Museum, famous for it's Wyeth collection.
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Old Jun 21st, 2011, 03:46 AM
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All your suggestions in your last paragraph are excellent, with Keene, NH, being a real gem. The smaller towns east of Keene (Jaffrey,etc) add up together to be a nice experience with interesting buildings, good places to eat, lots of antiques.

Great Barrington, MA, would make a nice center for touring. It is large enough to have interesting shopping (high end audio, fabulous hardware store off main drag with lots of antique tools) a Mexican restaurant with real Mexican dishes as well as Tex-Mex, and many many historic houses and museums within an hour or so.
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Old Jun 21st, 2011, 06:48 AM
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Will second the idea that Augusta, ME is not much of a tourist destination, unless you're keen to see all the US state capitol buildings. That capitol building is not to my mind one of the more interesting such examples, and last I heard, one has to make a reservation ahead of time to see it. The only other attractions in the town if memory serves are the Governor's Mansion and the Maine State History Museum. The town itself has a nearly empty downtown strip and some modest sized outlying malls.
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Old Jun 21st, 2011, 07:00 AM
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The pretty little village of Manchester, VT--not the outlet area, but the village with the Equinox Inn as it's centerpiece. Its all quite walkable, with some decent dining and shopping opportunities to boot.

If you can do Bennington, VT in these excursions, I would not rule out Williamstown...just a hop skip jump, and very pretty drive over the border. I grew up in the area and we used to take easy day trips from the center of the Berkshires up to Manchezter for lunch then across the state over to Grafton, another pretty village with an excellent cheese factory, down scenic routes through picturesque Newfane, looping back into the Berkshires and still be home before dark!
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Old Jun 21st, 2011, 04:14 PM
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Thanks for the input. I have a couple weekends to fill in, so I may hit several places mentioned.
I don't thing I'll be close to the MA/VT border so the northern MA towns are probably better for another time . I mentioned Bennington and Brattleboro to give examples of places, but I don't think I'll be in that area, at least not in the next month or so.

I think Keene NH may be a good choice. I heard that a new hotel opened there recently. Any information on that?

I'm also still wondering about Middlebury VT and Montpelier. No, I'm not all that interested in state capitals but they do often qualify as small cities so I thought it would be worth asking.

In Maine I've also been to Bath and to the Bowdoin College museums in Brunswick. Nice!
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Old Jun 21st, 2011, 04:51 PM
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There is a new Courtyard by Marriott in Keene and the historic EF Lane hotel just reopened after some renovtions. I live in Peterborough so I have no reason to go into either one but am sure they are both nice. Of course you could consider an inn or B&B like the Colony House Inn or Carriage Barn B&B.

Not sure what you are looking for in restaurants, there is a new semi-chain Irish themed restaurant that opened in the Best Western called Waxy O'Connors which is pretty good. More upscale are Luca's and Nicola's. Big fan of Pedrazza's Mexican right downtown.

Twenty miles East of Keene is Peterborough (where I live) is a great little town but sounds like it might be quieter than you are looking for. It's a quintessential New England town with about a half dozen really nice restaurants like Pearl, the newly opened Waterhouse Restaurant, Old Theater, and Lee and Mt Fuji. Harlows Pub is a fantastic pub often hosting live music and good food and beer. The downtown is very pedestrian friendly with plenty of shopping and events going on throughout the summer. If a good bookstore is what you want, Toadstool was recently listed as one of the top five bookstores in New England by Yankee Magazine. Downtown does get quiet after 9PM except at Harlows.

Hope this helps.
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Old Jun 21st, 2011, 05:04 PM
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I think the EF Lane is what I heard about. I'll look into it.
I've been to Peterborough and found it charming. I think I had a light lunch at the cafe in the Toadstool. And IIRC there was a cool shop with antique linens nearby? If I end up in Keene I think I need to swing by Peterborough again
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Old Jun 21st, 2011, 08:36 PM
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FWIW, Montpelier is the smallest state capital city.


It seemed walkable with lots of restaurants when I visited, but I just went to the State House (stopped there in the midst of a fall foliage drive).
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Old Jun 24th, 2011, 09:22 AM
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I love Brattleboro. Maybe you need better information on what to see and do there to enjoy it more than just "OK"? I think Keene NH is boooring. I have lived in both places.

Have you been to Northampton, MA?
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Old Jun 24th, 2011, 01:08 PM
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suze, I'm always happy to hear more about things to do in areas I'll be near, Brattleboro included. Tell me more!

When I said it was Ok, I meant just that--enjoyed it, expect to go back. But I also need some ideas a little further north too. I have weekends to fill between other obligations and I look forward to both exploring new places and revisiting old favorites. I especially enjoy seeing historic houses and art museums when I'm traveling

Yup Northampton is another place I've been several times, but probably not this summer, Still ill me in on anything I may have missed in that area too.

Still looking for suggestions for Middlebury VT--anyone?
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Old Jun 24th, 2011, 06:34 PM
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I haven't been to Middlebury, VT in years, but spent two summers there studying at Middlebury College and loved it. The town is quaint and lovely. (The campus is beautiful too.) During the summer, you'll undoubtedly hear students all over town speaking one language or another. There were several nice little shops, with arts and other locally made crafts. As a grad student at the time, I didn't have much money, so can't speak to the local restaurants. For 48 hours, I think it would be worth the time. (Note this may all be nostalgia speaking!)
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Old Aug 13th, 2011, 07:59 AM
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I live near Montpelier, Vt and I think it would be a good weekend trip destination. As noted in another post, there are quite a few good restaurants. There is a good local theater and a very good movie theater showing independent and foreign films as well as a theater showing more commercial movie options. A really good independent book store. Quite a lot of good live music.

We had visitors from Portland, Oregon this past week and they enjoyed the area a lot (I don't think they were just being polite).
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Old Aug 14th, 2011, 03:05 AM
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What a coincidence that this thread popped up and wondering if Janie has been to some of the places asked about yet. Sometimes a quiet place becomes amazing for a day or evening which is what happened last night in Warner NH (NW of Concord NH). It's a quiet little town without any fancy restaurants but it does have a great independent bookstore, active historical society, telephone museum, Kearsarge Indian Museum, and lots going on if you know where to look or come on the right day (i.e. pumpkin carving at a local farm just before Halloween and then all the pumpkins are lined up along the road and field and lit). Last night the historical society had author Edie Clark (also a Yankee Magazine writer) and NH humorist Rebecca Rule at the town hall followed by a very yummy dessert buffet in a beautifully decorated tent on the town hall lawn. Next in their Tory Hill readers series is Tom Wessels, Reading the Forested Landscape, A Natural History of New England on Aug 27. What is extra amazing is that they charge only $7 and since a lot of people don't know about these events, the town hall isn't even packed. On most any other night, it's very quiet in Warner.

So if you ever visit Concord, check into what's happening in surrounding towns. I have my fingers crossed the fiddlers' picnic gets scheduled. That could be combined with a visit to Canterbury Shaker Village.
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Old Aug 14th, 2011, 03:26 AM
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Warner is one of the places we drive by en route to Boston, and we often say we should stop there some time (for the Indian museum)
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Old Aug 14th, 2011, 06:25 AM
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Out of the box: If you're willing to go to far northern VT., why not keep going to Montreal (a little large for your specs) or even (esp) Quebec? Just a left-field idea.
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Old Aug 14th, 2011, 09:53 AM
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VT, Warner seems to attract artists, crafts people and writers. David Carrol, Year of the Turtle author and MacArthur award winner, is a resident. Haven't been to his studio (I think everyone in the family is an artist) but the bookstore displays some of their works. Actually, I haven't been to the Indian Museum and it has been there for years even though that's another place that holds interesting events.
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Old Aug 17th, 2011, 11:51 AM
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I'm just checking in to update those of you who have been kind enough to answer.

I spent a couple of days in the Lexington & Concord area of Massachusetts. Nice small towns for food and walking around, and plenty of stuff to do and see. I went to the DeCordova Museum (after hours, so just the outdoor sculpture), historic houses in Lexington, Minute Man park. I want to get to the Fruitlands museums some day and Gropius House.

I passed through Portland Maine, and probably will stop back again in a couple weeks. Spent some time in the Franconia Notch area and saw one of the Robert Frost farms.

Burlington VT and Portsmouth NH plans got cancelled.

JJ495, about Montreal and Quebec. Yeah Quebec is too far. Montreal is a place I've been to but that doesn't really work with my plans this summer. One recurring issue is the border crossings. A friend traveled up through the Derby Line(?)crossing from I91 and even at less than peak hours, got stuck in a pretty long line, in both directions. One way it was a problem of not enough agents (it's a relatively small crossing so when 1 or 2 out of 3 lanes are closed, it really backs up). Also, it was a Quebec vacation period ("construction holiday") plus the U.S/Canadian currency exchange rate really favors Canadians, so everyone seemed to be headed to the US (and eventually, back home to Canada) to shop and play. The border crossings from I87 in NYS always look bad to me, so while I might try again when I have more time, it doesn't make sense for a weekend.

Warner NH is added to my list of possibilities--thanks!

I will be back in New England again soon, so even more suggestions and discussions welcomed!
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Old Aug 17th, 2011, 02:32 PM
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We often cross the border at smaller crossings near the major highways and seldom spend much time there. You might consider trying some of those if you go into Canada. towns like Magog in the Eastern townships are pleasant, and there are cideries, vineyards, etc to explore nearby.

I do encourage you to visit the Fruitlands museum in MA at some point. It is a beautiful spot with interesting history.
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