When it comes to New England
cities, most visitors head straight for Boston and consider themselves finished.
To do so would be a shame – New England is full of smaller cities that might
not be the busiest or most happening places in the region, but make up for
their smaller size with lots of personality.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Just an hour away from Boston
and over the New Hampshire border is Portsmouth, a town bursting with local
character. The main streets of Portsmouth are filled with independent
bookstores, award-winning breweries, wacky cafes, estate jewelry shops, and
seafood restaurants that know their way around a lobster roll. It's also one of
the few communities in New Hampshire to have a bit of coastline.
It would be easy to spend all
your time in Portsmouth without going beyond the city limits, but Portsmouth is
also well-situated for exploration: the city is sandwiched between the beach
towns of Rye and Hampton and the outlet shopping haven of Kittery, Maine.
Providence, Rhode Island
The big city in the little
state, Providence is a remarkably friendly and walkable city. Providence also tops
lots of up-and-coming lists, thanks to a host of creative restaurants and a
vibrant arts scene anchored by the Rhode Island School of Design and its museum.
From Roger Williams Park to the Brown University campus, Providence is filled
with architecture, history, and surprising natural beauty.
The best time to visit
Providence of all is during the summer, when crowds spill into the streets in
the evenings and gather on the river for Waterfire, a lauded artistic and
musical celebration culminating with balls of fire shooting out of the river.
It might not be the capital
of the Green Mountain State, but it certainly is the largest city – and
Vermont's cultural center. Church Street and the surrounding blocks are filled
with boutiques, cafes and shops catering to the flower-child population. The
University of Vermont is headquartered here as well, and the large student
population means you can find cheap eats and unpretentious nightlife.
In warmer months, you'll find
families picnicking along the Lake Champlain waterfront and hippies playing
hacky-sack in the park; in the cold, it's a winter paradise, with local ice
skating and coffee shops serving hot chocolate – with Vermont’s famous ski
slopes only a short drive away.
Many of Maine's popular
tourist cities are famous for two things: beaches and mansions. But if you head
into Portland, you'll find a lot more – starting with red brick buildings atop
cobblestone streets in the historic district. Portland is Maine's largest city,
yet it feels like a small town. Being one of the busiest port cities in New
England, though, Portland has become a cultural haven, especially when it comes
to food and nightlife.
While America's other
Portland may be famous for its independent artsy community, you'll find the
same thing in East Coast Portland, with a famous and growing arts scene. On the
first Friday of the month, galleries stay open late and the city joins in an
art walk open to all. Top it off with a glass at one of Portland’s best wine
bars and you'll be tempted to extend your time in this fun and low-key city.
What are your favorite cities in New England?