We’ve scoured the internet (and New England) to find the best driving-distance destinations for your next weekend getaway. It only takes a little time in the car, or on the train, to leave the stresses of metro life behind. For each locale, we’re offering recommendations for activities to keep you busy (or not!) during your mini vacation. So what are you waiting for? Pack your bag and let’s go!
Sometimes the only way to truly disconnect from the world is to hike out of cell phone range. Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest spans 370,000 acres, giving you countless opportunities to escape into nature. Make camp (literally or figuratively) in Bennington, which is a three-hour drive from Boston.
Bennington has a nice blend of civilization and outdoor recreation. As the famed home of outsider artist Grandma Moses, and the site of Bennington College, it offers cultural institutes, restaurants, and accommodations for post-hike unwinding.
Just four miles from Bennington you can hike Bald Mountain, which provides stunning views of western Vermont, as well as a rigorous workout. Depending on your skill level, hike from the Bennington side, which is four miles up, eight miles round-trip, or from the Woodford side, which is two miles up, four miles round-trip.
Cool off from your hike at Woodford State Park, where you can rent kayaks and canoes to paddle the lake, swim and relax at the park beach, or fish for brook trout in Adams Reservoir. If you want to make it an overnight outing, Woodford offers 76 tent sites and four cabins for rent. Pro tip: Woodford just instituted a pet-friendly cabin so you can bring your furry friend with you.
Toast to a successful getaway at Northshire Brewery, a family-owned operation offering craft beers, tours, and tastings. Whether you paddleboard on the lake on a hot summer day or scout fall foliage along the Green Mountain Byway, Vermont is the perfect place to reconnect with the natural world.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is just an hour away by car or bus and provides visitors with the ocean, as well as a charming downtown. Native Englanders may remember journeying to the historic Strawbery Banke houses on school field trips, but Portsmouth has grown into a thriving hot spot since then.
Because of its proximity to southern Maine, Portsmouth offers easy access to the best beaches of both states. To stay local, visit Wallis Sands State Beach in Rye, 15 minutes from downtown Portsmouth, or check out Great Island Common in New Castle, 10 minutes from Portsmouth. These spots are best for sunning, swimming, and relaxing.
If you’re looking for more of a party, head to Hampton Beach in Hampton, 20 minutes south of Portsmouth. Complete with a hatch shell for musical performances, a boardwalk lined with clam shacks and beach bars, and a calendar full of events, Hampton Beach has transformed into a hot destination. From Sept. 7-9, 2018, experience the 29th annual Seafood Festival at the beach, featuring over 50 local restaurants and fresh samples. Pro tip: Arrive right at 8 am to get a good, metered parking spot; it fills up fast and the lot prices skyrocket on the weekends.
After a long day at the beach, grab a drink at The Wilder, known for its nightlife and New Hampshire Magazine’s 2018 pick for best craft cocktails. Portsmouth also offers a myriad of historic home tours, including the scenic waterfront Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion.
Pick up a souvenir at one of the many local boutiques on Market Street that offer handmade products by New England artisans. Portsmouth provides a lively home base for nightlife and easy access to the best beaches of New Hampshire and southern Maine. Whether you spend the whole trip oceanside with a novel or want to explore the historic downtown, Portsmouth has something for every whim.
Finally, gastro-tourism is a legitimate industry, so if you want to take a vacation just to eat, no judgment here. Portland, Maine, just two hours by car or bus from Boston, offers an exploding food and drink scene.
If you’d like to try your hand at the food-making process, swing by Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, a 30-minute drive from downtown Portland. The 5,000-acre property served as a rehabilitation center for the disabled in the early 20th century; now it’s a working farm and education center. You can tour the farm, milk cows, collect eggs, and see cheese making in action.
For a sweeter cooking experience, visit Black Dinah Chocolatiers in Westbrook for a truffle-making class. You’ll tour the factory, learn what makes Black Dinah truffles special, then make some of your own. If you’d rather just eat the chocolate, tours (with samples) are held two or three times a month for free.
Don’t worry, there are plenty of tasting (no cooking!) options, too. Maine Foodie Tours offers walking tours of different Portland neighborhoods, where you’ll stop to sample a few different restaurants and cuisines while
learning the city’s history. Plus, you’re walking off the food as you go, so it’s basically guilt free.
Prefer to drink your calories? Portland offers a ton of breweries and craft distilleries, including Hardshore Distilling Company, known for gin, and Maine Craft Distilling, where you can adventurously try blueberry moonshine. Pro tip: Request the blueberry moonshine mixed with lemonade for a summer cocktail that won’t leave you debilitated for the rest of the trip.
You could spend a month in Portland and still not eat your way through everything. But with a few carefully selected tours and activities, you can get a great sense of the local food culture in Maine, all amidst the picturesque coastline landscape.
In 1 hour and 45 minutes by car or bus, you can transport yourself to the Gilded Age with a trip to Newport, Rhode Island. This tiny, coastal town is a history geek’s dream, steeped in fascinating stories.
The most famous landmarks in Newport are the mansions: 10 stately, historic vacation spots once home to the raucous parties of America’s wealthiest residents. Tour the mansions individually or stroll down the Cliff Walk along the water and pop into each one as you pass. The photography rules have recently been updated, allowing guests to take personal non-flash photos inside the houses. Pro tip: Splurge on tickets to the Beneath the Breakers tour, one of the only Newport house tours still conducted by a live human rather than an audio guide.
While the mansions tell the stories of Newport’s rich and famous, the Newport Historical Society tells the stories of everyone else. Their downtown walking tours explore the daily workings of the town and those who lived there year round. Special subject tours focus on African American history in Newport, religious diversity in the Colonial period, and Newport’s role in the American Revolution.
Want to feel like a wealthy Victorian yourself? Head to Castle Hill Inn, way out on Newport’s point, for a drink or snack. The now luxury hotel was once the summer home of marine biologist Alexander Agassiz of Harvard University. You can relax on the sprawling oceanfront lawn just as he might have in 1874.
There’s much more to Newport than just elegant vacation homes, but you’ll leave your respite here feeling like a Rockefeller.
Just over two hours from Boston by car is the scenic paradise where the art world goes for the summer. Historically a vacation spot for the wealthy, the Berkshires now boasts a substantial art scene in all disciplines. Base yourself at one of the many charming inns in Lenox or Lee for easy access to surrounding attractions.
Museum lovers can seek whimsy at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, where you can view his former studio featuring his collection of Saturday Evening Post covers. Afterward, drive through Stockbridge to see the Main Street he painted, which remains largely unchanged.
Further out, get lost in the extensive collections and grounds of the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, which boasts heavy American and European visual art offerings.
If you prefer contemporary art, Mass MoCA in North Adams, an hour from Lenox, offers a roster of avant-garde exhibitions in an industrial space.
Performance has legs here too. Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket offers more than 200 free performances, panels, classes, and community events. The 2018 festival runs June 20-Aug. 26. Some performances are ticketed; the free outdoor performances take place every Wednesday-Saturday at 6:15 pm.
Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home in Lenox, hosts outdoor concerts that pair perfectly with alfresco dining. Pack a blanket so all you’ll have to do is scope out a prime spot on the lawn. Pro tip: Gateways Inn in Lenox makes to-go picnics at a lower price point than the Tanglewood meal options. Platters serve 2-3 and you can add a bottle of wine to your order.
Unwind after all that art hunting at one of the area’s many spas, or stroll through the lush gardens at The Mount in Lenox, which was Edith Wharton’s summer home. You can do as little or as much as you want in the Berkshires, but either way you’ll be surrounded by beauty.