By Christina Valhouli
In New England, shoppers can pick up serious antiques or quirky bric-a-brac in old mills and converted barns. Or hit funky galleries or annual craft fairs to meet artisans and buy one-of-a-kind products. Your souvenirs will be as memorable as the shopping experience.
Alongside New England’s wealth of early American history is some of the best antique and craft shopping in the country—and often in beautiful settings perfect for browsing. You can explore galleries in converted farmhouses, craft shops clustered around the village green, or a picturesque Main Street (Woodstock, Vermont, or Camden, Maine, are good bets). Drive through historic coastal towns, like Essex, Massachusetts, where finds such as sun-bleached, centuries-old wooden tables or antique compasses evoke the area’s maritime heritage.
Top Shopping Routes and Sights
One of the most effective and fun ways to shop is to hop in the car and drive through sleepy, scenic towns. On several key shopping routes in New England, stretches of road are absolutely packed with shops. Charles Street in Boston and downtown Providence and Portland are ideal, compact urban shopping areas for walking. If you do have wheels, try these routes.
Route 100, Vermont
One of the most picturesque drives in the Green Mountain State, this winding road goes from Wilmington north all the way up to Stowe. You’ll pass craft studios, general stores like the Vermont Country Store in Weston, and plenty of red barns and covered bridges.
Vermont Country Store Review
Route 7, Berkshire County, Massachusetts
Practically the entire route is chock-a-block with antiques stores. The Berkshire County Antiques Dealers Association publishes a handy guide to the various shops. Key Western MassachuÂ¬setts shopping towns include Great Barrington, Sheffield, and Lenox.
Berkshires Travel Guide
Main Street, Putnam, Connecticut
Most of the town has a stuck-in-time quality, so it’s a great place to spend the day the northeastern part of the state. The majority of antique stores are clustered around Main Street and its offshoots. Start your hunt at the massive Antiques Marketplace.
Antiques Marketplace Review
Route 1, Southern Maine
Pick up this Maine coastal route to hit shopping hot spots like Kennebunk, Wells, and Ogunquit. Colonial furniture, architectural antiques, and galleries with quirky specialties are great breaks from summer traffic.
Ogunquit, the Kennebunks, and the Southern Coast Travel Guide
Route 133, Essex, Massachusetts
North of Boston, more than 30 antiques shops line this road. Many shops are in old Colonial and Greek Revival buildings. Research potential shops of the Essex Antiques Dealer Association.
Side Trips from Boston Travel Guide
Route 6A, Cape Cod.
Also known as the Old King’s Highway, this winding route runs through Sandwich, Barnstable, Dennis, and Brewster past plenty of antiques shops. Yarmouth has several art galleries and annual crafts festivals are held in Falmouth, Orleans, and Chatham.
Cape Cod Travel Guide
Top Craft Fairs
Center for Maine Crafts, West Gardiner, Maine
League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair, Newbury, New Hampshire
August (pictured, www.nhcrafts.org)
Ocean State Artisans Holiday Craft Festival, Warwick, Rhode Island
Petersham Craft Center, Petersham, Massachusetts
Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston, Massachusetts
Stonehouse Antique and Crafts Center, Chester, Vermont
Top Antique Shows
Brimfield Antique and Collectible Shows, Brimfield, Massachusetts
May, July and September (www.brimfieldshow.com)
Elephant’s Trunk Country Flea Market, New Milford, Connecticut
Most Sundays except in December and March (www.etflea.com)
Farmington Antiques Weekend, Connecticut
June and September (www.farmingtonantiquesweekend.com)
Maine Antiques Festival, Union, Maine
Photo Credit: parema / iStockphoto