A 93-Mile Trail and Hobbit Homes: New England’s Latest Reasons to Visit

Ahead of fall foliage season, New England’s got plenty going on this summer and autumn.

Lighthouse beside a red-roofed building by the ocean

A summer trip to New England has become even better with recent developments.

Photo by Joseph Sohm/age fotostock

Against a backdrop of classical northeastern woodlands, seascapes, and mountains, New England’s cities and small towns are cooking up ways to reinvent the region’s amenities. In Boston, select city streets are being seasonally transformed into car-free dining and shopping oases, and Franklin Park is about to get a new stadium that will be the home for a professional women’s soccer team. Providence, Rhode Island, and Portland, Maine, have locked horns for the title of New England’s culinary capital, with innovative homegrown restaurants and bars. And up in the hills and valleys of New Hampshire and Vermont, new trails for hikers and bikers alike have taken root, opening New England’s countryside to a more inclusive range of outdoor explorers.

Summer and fall are the most appealing times to explore New England, whether you’re seeking a town-and-country road trip or a more localized immersion. To be in New England now is to see the region at its most joyously creative—from concerts staged in unlikely venues like beaches and urban forests, to wines that boast the same golden hue of a White Mountain sunset. Here are some of the most tempting new arrivals and changes in New England.

Small wooden cabin on stilts, surrounded by trees

Alpine Garden Camping Village & Winery sits beside the White Mountain National Forest.

Courtesy of Alpine Garden Camping Village & Winery

New hotels to call home base

Cambria Hotel Portland Downtown Old Port

Heading into its second summer, Cambria Hotel Portland Downtown Old Port is fittingly located only a few steps away from both the city waterfront and edible institutions like Shipyard Brewing and Duckfat (which is what the Belgian fries at this joint are cooked in). At six stories, this is one of Portland’s grander hotels, with enviable views of downtown from the airy and thoughtfully decorated rooms and suites. But what really makes the place shine is its open-air courtyard and terrace. There, guests can enjoy a summer lineup of concerts, drag brunches, and other lively events hosted by local bands and solo artists.

Alpine Garden Camping Village & Winery

In the rustling heart of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, near Crawford Notch, visiting adventurers can recuperate at this woodland village of cabins, tree houses, and domed-roof huts called “Hobbit homes.” Family owned and operated, Alpine Garden imbues the glamping experience with inspired touches like complimentary record players and vinyl classics, plus an on-site winery where locally raised grapes and apples are transformed into elixirs worthy of a summer evening.

Hotel Marcel

New Haven’s lauded zero emissions hotel is housed in a huge brutalist building that looms above I-95. The 2022-opened property is a sterling addition to Hilton’s Tapestry Collection and a showcase in what’s possible in a greener future. Locally sourced textiles bring color and character to the 165 rooms, and BDLG, the in-house restaurant, takes a similar approach to its dining program—and its dog treats.

Guy pouring drink into a container

Heading to Portland? Grab a drink at Room for Improvement.

Photo by Nate David

Restaurants worth the drive

For years, Portland dominated New England’s culinary realm, arguably leading the farm-to-table revolution. Each year still yields alluring additions such as Room For Improvement, where acclaimed bartender Arvid Brown curates a mouthwatering menu of cocktails and food in Old Port. But visitors shouldn’t sleep on Providence, whose restaurant circuit has emerged as one of the most inventive in the region. Several new standouts like PVD Noodle Bar, a haven for umami-rich soba and udon noodles, are helmed by culinary grads from nearby Johnson & Wales University.

Plenty of other chefs are bringing their talents and roots to quieter realms of New England. Chris Viaud has paired the flavors of Haiti with the north country ambience of Milford, New Hampshire, whipping up coconut chickpea curry and Creole-style smash burgers at Ansanm. In Burlington, Vermont, Cara Chigazola Tobin has doubled down on her beloved, Mediterranean-influenced cooking at Honey Road by opening the Grey Jay, a softly lit breakfast nook with standouts like falafel Benedict. And at Hartford-based Fire By Forge, visitors can dig into pan-American fare such as chifa-braised cod while supporting job training programs for people who’ve experienced challenges including homelessness or incarceration.

Then there’s the more multifaceted approach to dining modeled by the Lineup, one of Boston’s newest food halls. Located in Downtown Crossing near the Boston Public Gardens and curated by Michelin-starred chef John Fraser (who relocated from New York to Boston to kick-start this project), the Lineup’s menu ping-pongs from classics like fresh maple-glazed doughnuts to fusion fare such as Mediterranean mezze bowls. It’s all reflective of Boston’s edible multitudes.

“I always like to say ‘Let me see your people, and I’ll show you how the restaurant scene is,’” Fraser says. “In Boston, we found the community to be diverse with a big population of both white-collar and blue-collar groups with specific neighborhoods that bring a voice and history of cuisine that expands both high and low.”

Person biking on a flat path surrounded by trees

The Lamoille Valley Rail Trail trail extends connects18 towns, including St. Johnsbury, Cambridge, and Swanton.

Photo by Sara B Johnson/Shutterstock

New England’s recreational and cultural happenings

This spring, Boston’s Seaport district expanded its recreational offerings by opening the first U.S.-based F1 Arcade Bar, where aspiring speed demons can realize their potential with 69 full-motion racing simulators. For visitors who prefer avoiding cars altogether, Boston’s Open Streets program will turn bustling commercial ways in neighborhoods such as Roxbury and Jamaica Plain into pedestrian boulevards with live music, streetside dining, and free pedicab rides.

But you don’t have to stick to the cities to experience the wonders of car-free mobility. Northern Vermont’s recently completed Lamoille Valley Rail Trail offers a gorgeous 93-mile journey from St. Johnsbury to Swanton, with locally crafted bites and libations along the way.

Then there’s the more artistic side of New England, often found in surprising locales. Midcoast Maine–based Bagaduce Music, one of the largest sheet music lending libraries in the USA, is now resurrecting long-lost songs and shanties with its summer concert series, which features unexpectedly scenic venues. (Prior concerts have taken place in coves, on boats, and in lumber yards.) And speaking of coastal concerts, Bridgeport, Connecticut’s Sound on Sound festival has been reborn as the Soundside Music Festival with late September dates and a lineup that includes the Foo Fighters, Boyz II Men, and Norah Jones. Not too far from there, in downtown Providence, the beloved WaterFire festival will celebrate its 30th season by lighting up the local riverway with pyres, torches, and vendors on select Saturday nights through early November.

Fly into . . .

Terminal E at Boston’s Logan Airport, if routes allow. The international terminal was recently expanded with a $640 million ruby red addition that evokes the glory days of aviation like New York’s TWA Hotel does at JFK. The curved and sunlit new space features a bevy of restaurants, shops, and plenty of cushioned seating where travelers can rest and recharge (literally and figuratively.)

Miles Howard has covered New England travel with an eye for the peculiar and sublime—including charting the most beautiful trails of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont—and the best breweries—for his first travel guide, Moon New England Hiking. He’s also written for Boston Magazine, The Boston Globe, Southwest Airlines: The Magazine, and others.
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