Our Favorite Last-Minute New England Summer Getaways
The summer is flying by. If you’d like to squeeze in one last vacation before back-to-school season but don’t want to venture far, New England has countless locales where your family can enjoy the kind of trip they love.
Whether you’re looking for a camping adventure with s’mores roasted over a crackling fire, a getaway to an artistic enclave, or one last great beach weekend, here are some of our favorite New England summer vacation spots.
1. Williamstown, MA
While the scenery is stunning–with lush forests and the rolling peaks of the Green Mountains–during the summer months, Williamstown, Massachusetts is also a place to experience world-class theater, music, and dance.
Founded in 1954, the Williamstown Theater Festival has served as the summer home of many notable stage and screen stars, with the likes of Matthew Broderick, Audra McDonald, Blythe Danner, and Peter Dinklage appearing in productions over the years. Catch a full-scale production on the main stage, or enjoy a cocktail and spirited musical performance at the WTF Cabaret.
If you enjoy dance, consider a day trip to Jacob’s Pillow in nearby Becket, MA. Jacob’s Pillow has nurtured some of the leading talents in modern dance in its more than 85-year history, and with outdoor performances set in front of stunning natural backdrops, it provides the kind of artistic experience you won’t find anywhere else.
Another short drive away, music lovers may choose to add a performance at Tanglewood, the seasonal home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, to their itinerary. Their summer schedule has something for everyone, from selections from Mozart operas to the film scores of John Williams.
2. Acadia National Park, ME
If your family is searching for a vacation spot that’s a bit more “off the grid,” Acadia National Park in midcoast Maine may be the ideal destination.
With 47,000 acres to explore, Acadia offers outdoor enthusiasts the opportunity to undertake all sorts of activities. Swim along the rocky coastline, cycle or walk through the serene woods, canoe or kayak on the placid ponds, or hike the mountain peaks. There is also fishing, rock climbing, and even horseback riding–no matter what sort of outdoor adventure your family seeks, Acadia can offer it.
If you prefer to camp outside under the stars, you can book a space at one of Acadia’s campgrounds (advanced reservations are required). Or, if you’d rather pamper yourself after a day in the wilderness, you may stay in one of the dozens of inns or hotels in nearby Bar Harbor.
3. Portsmouth, NH
Portsmouth, New Hampshire is one of the oldest cities in New England, and if you’re looking for a last-minute summer getaway spot, it offers the perfect blend of culture, history, and family fun.
The Strawbery Banke Museum is a historic village that allows you to see firsthand the evolution of a local enclave, starting from its time as an early English settlement in the 1600s up to the mid-1900s. The museum invites your family to tour the historic homes, interact with roleplayers who represent residents from different time periods, and see traditional craftspeople at work.
Little ones who are interested in military history might enjoy a visit to Albacore Park, where they can learn about submarines and even tour a Navy research vessel from the 1950s.
If you have a budding marine biologist in the family, you might stop by the Seacoast Science Center. Here, they can learn about the local aquatic ecosystem, and even touch live tide pool inhabitants like sea stars, crabs, and mussels.
After a day of exploring, head downtown to one of the city’s eateries. There’s something to suit every palate, from sophisticated vegetarian Asian fare at Green Elephant to casual comfort food at The Friendly Toast.
4. Woodstock, VT
Many New Englanders spend the winter months zipping down the slopes in Vermont, but the state has idyllic locales perfect for a summertime visit as well.
Woodstock, Vermont ticks all the boxes for a last-minute getaway. A town with quintessential New England charm, there’s ample lodging and plenty of opportunities for recreation, shopping, and dining.
For the golfers in your family, the Woodstock Inn & Resort Golf Club or The Quechee Club both boast 18-hole championship courses. There are also myriad opportunities for hiking, biking, and fishing in the areas in and around Woodstock.
If you prefer to spend time in town, you can stroll down Main Street and enjoy shopping at many locally-owned stores. From a nearly 100-year-old bookstore to local galleries to charming general stores featuring Vermont maple syrup, your entire family will find something to love.
Families with young children might enjoy a trip to one of the local farms. The Billings Farm & Museum offers you the opportunity to tour a working dairy farm, where your little ones can see cows, sheep, goats, horses, and chickens up close. After you’ve visited the animals, enjoy some homemade ice cream and pick up some Billings cheese to bring home with you.
5. Block Island, RI
Booking a spur-of-the-moment trip to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket can be challenging–transportation and lodging often fill up well in advance of the summer months. But if you’re longing for a last-minute island getaway, Block Island is a charming alternative.
Located off the coast of Rhode Island, Block Island is easily accessible by ferry from Pt. Judith (a 30-minute ride) or Newport (an hour). Once you’ve landed, you will likely want to head straight to the beach. And with 17 miles of sand–all open to the public–there is no shortage of options for swimming, sunbathing, and sandcastle building.
Once you’ve wrapped up your day by the ocean, head downtown to enjoy some classic New England summer treats. Stop by The Oar for their lobster club and sample some homemade fudge or chocolate turtles from Chapel Sweets.
Summer is the perfect time for spontaneous travel–with lighter work schedules and the kids out of school, you have the freedom to pick up and go wherever the spirit moves you. And if you’re in New England, you’re fortunate to be surrounded by dozens of beautiful, fascinating, and exciting vacation locales. Happy traveling!