We’ve all been to the obligatory cultural spots in New England — the Museum of Fine Arts, the Newport Mansions — but, there are many small, hidden cultural gems spanning the region. If you’re looking for something different, maybe a little bit weird, and definitely a unique experience, these cultural hotspots are for you.
Portsmouth Fairy House Tour
September 21-22, 10 a.m.–3 p.m.
Turns out Portsmouth is home to more than 250 fairy houses hidden in bits of nature like a tree or a hollowed out pumpkin. Built by community members and local creative professionals, the fairy houses are tiny wonderlands created for the magical and whimsical fairies that could potentially live there. The tour and celebration also includes a ballet performance and a reading from Tracy Kane, author of the Fairy Houses Series® of children’s books. All proceeds go back into supporting the community organizations that participate.
Open by appointment through October
Bristol has more to offer than just a spectacular Fourth of July celebration. The town is also home to the bizarre and fascinating Musée Patamécanique, a private experience that blends automaton theater and a cabinet of curiosities. The satirical exhibitions full of Rabelaisian humor cause visitors to question art, science, museum culture, and well, basically everything. It’s a low-brow high-brow intellectual carnival of intentionally bizarre exhibits.
Bread and Puppet Theater
By show schedule; museum open daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m. through November 1
Based on the tenant that theater is as essential the human experience as sustenance (bread) the Bread and Puppet Theater puts on elaborate, large-scale and, often, politically charged puppet shows out of a barn in Glover, Vermont. These are not made-for-children puppet shows we’re used to seeing but a radical reinterpretation of the medium. Parades on August 10 and September 2 represent the height of revelry.
Santarella a.k.a. Tyringham Gingerbread House
By appointment year round
Santarella estate and gardens in Berkshire Country dates back to 1739 when the town of Tyringham was settled. It’s more widely known as the Tyringham Gingerbread House, and it was created by Sir Henry Hudson Kitson. The famed sculptor lived at the property and made the unique building his own, featuring an 80-ton shingled roof, stained glass windows and an old grain silo, which he turned into a studio. It’s a feat of architectural and creative genius. Tour it with an appointment or, if you’re feeling really flush, rent it out as a vacation home.
Plainville Fire Company’s Hot Air Balloon Festival
This is no ordinary balloon festival. Every year, the historic Plainville Fire Company hosts an elaborate shindig featuring a hot air balloon presentation, fireworks, hundreds of local craft vendors, live music and an old car show for good measure. Balloons aren’t just launched into the sky to fly off site; they’re tethered and lit in a series of light shows for the crowd’s entertainment before launch. Then visitors in bussed follow the balloons as they fly across the Connecticut countryside.