The harbor at Kennebunkport, Maine. Editorial credit: Pernelle Voyage /

New England's Best Small Towns For A Weekend Escape

The constant and mind-numbing rhythm of everyday life can only be remedied by the occasional well-planned escape. When the time comes to let loose and unwind, there is so much fun to be found in some of America's oldest states in New England. For a weekend getaway, these nine small towns in the region deliver thrilling activities, seasonal festivals, and vibrant local traditions.

Stowe, Vermont

Aerial view of Stowe, Vermont, in fall.
Aerial view of Stowe, Vermont, in fall.

Vermont's Stowe Mountain Resort attracts winter sports enthusiasts with its top-notch skiing and snowboarding. Year-round, the Trapp Family Lodge, inspired by the von Trapp family from "The Sound of Music," offers a range of activities, including cross-country skiing, hiking, and music events. The Stowe Recreation Path is a favorite for walking and biking along its scenic 5.3-mile stretch. Beer lovers will enjoy The Alchemist Brewery, famous for its Heady Topper IPA, which offers insightful tours and tastings.

For those interested in winter sports history, the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum is a must-visit in Stowe. It showcases a collection of memorabilia. Every summer, the Stowe Jazz Festival brings live music to various venues throughout the town, making it an excellent destination for music lovers, bachelor parties, and romantic getaways.

Mystic, Connecticut

The Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut. Editorial credit: Faina Gurevich /

This town's Mystic Seaport Museum, the largest maritime museum in the United States, provides an immersive experience of America’s seafaring past with historic ships and exhibits. The Mystic Aquarium, home to beluga whales and other marine life, offers interactive exhibits that engage visitors of all ages, making it a great place for families looking to escape the summer heat. Downtown Mystic combines history with modern amenities, featuring charming shops and eateries, including the famous Mystic Pizza.

Mystic is home to the Mystic River Bascule Bridge across the Mystic River, a functioning drawbridge, it is an iconic landmark that fascinates visitors with its mechanical prowess and picturesque views. The Mystic Outdoor Art Festival, held annually, showcases the works of local artists and craftsmen, adding a vibrant touch to this coastal town.

Kennebunkport, Maine

The marina in Kennebunkport, Maine
The marina in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Kennebunkport, Maine, delivers plenty of relaxation and calm vibes. The world's oldest and largest museum of mass transit vehicles, The Seashore Trolley Museum, offers a glimpse into the history of streetcars and trolleys. Walker's Point, the Bush family’s summer home, can be seen from a viewpoint along Ocean Avenue, providing a bit of presidential history. The town’s energies pick up at Dock Square at the center of town. It features a variety of shops, galleries, and restaurants like the Hurricane Restaurant, a scratch-style Fish and Chop House serving only the freshest ingredients.

Seasonal whale-watching tours offer the chance to see these magnificent creatures up close, dazzling the minds of children and adults. The Kennebunkport Conservation Trust maintains several hiking trails that are ideal for outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore the local landscape. During the holiday season, the Christmas Prelude festival lights up the town with events, parades, and decorations, making Kennebunkport a festive destination for winter visitors.

Woodstock, Vermont

The charming scene around Woodstock, Vermont
The charming scene around Woodstock, Vermont.

Each December, Woodstock Wassail Weekend fills the streets with festive parades and holiday events. Billings Farm and Museum offers a glimpse into rural life with its working dairy farm and educational exhibits. Visitors can explore the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, where they find hiking trails and tours of historic estates waiting to be explored.

The Middle Covered Bridge, a classic wooden structure, is a picturesque landmark that adds to Woodstock's quaint charm. Accommodations can be found at The Woodstock Inn and Resort and is a local favorite for luxury accommodations and fine dining, perfect for a relaxing stay. From May to October, the local farmers market showcases regional produce and handmade goods, making it a vibrant spot for fresh, local products.

Newburyport, Massachusetts

Aerial view of Newburyport, Massachusetts.
Aerial view of Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Plum Island, a barrier island near Newburyport, which offers sandy beaches and excellent bird-watching opportunities, is great for summertime escapes. For those who enjoy local brews, the Newburyport Brewing Company offers craft beers and live music, creating a lively atmosphere where visitors are advised to leave worries at the door.

The annual Yankee Homecoming festival is a major event, featuring parades, fireworks, and concerts that bring the community together. Maudslay State Park is a scenic retreat with gardens, walking trails making it a great location for quiet picnics or mourning meditations. Downtown Newburyport is bustling with boutique shops like Pretty Poppy or Wheat Boutique and waterfront dining, offering a mix of shopping and culinary delights.

Bar Harbor, Maine

The boat dock at Bar Harbor, Maine
The boat dock at Bar Harbor, Maine. Image credit: Aude via Wikimedia Commons.

Bar Harbor is home to the Acadia National Park, and also a hub for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and scenic drives. Whale watching and boat tours from the town’s harbor provide opportunities to see marine life up close. The Abbe Museum, dedicated to the history and culture of Maine’s Native people, offers fascinating exhibits. At the Bar Harbor Historical Society Museum, visitors can learn about the town's past through a variety of displays. The Shore Path is a popular coastal walk that offers breathtaking views of Frenchman Bay and the Porcupine Islands. Visitors fall in love with the local seafood restaurants, especially those serving the famous Maine lobster, known for being fresh and delicious catches from the nearby waters.

Brattleboro, Vermont

Edge of Downtown Brattleboro, Vermont above the Whetstone Brook River
Edge of downtown Brattleboro, Vermont, above the Whetstone Brook River.

Brattleboro Farmers' Market, running from May to October, showcases local produce and crafts, drawing visitors with its vibrant selection. The annual Strolling of the Heifers parade celebrates agriculture and local food, offering a charming glimpse into the town's community spirit. Retreat Farm is perfect for families, with activities like a petting zoo that delight children and adults alike.

Art enthusiasts will appreciate the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, which exhibits contemporary works and hosts engaging events. Latchis Theatre, an art deco gem, features films and live performances, enriching the town's cultural scene. For those outdoor lovers, Fort Dummer State Park provides hiking trails and picnic areas, making it a great spot to enjoy nature.

Camden, Maine

The town of Camden, Maine taken from Mt. Batty.
The town of Camden, Maine taken from Mt. Batty. Image credit: Steve Dorsey via

Camden is home to Hills State Park and is a must-visit for its hiking trails that cap off with panoramic views of Penobscot Bay. The Camden Opera House hosts concerts and theater productions, and adds a touch of musical flair to any visit. The town’s maritime heritage gets celebrated at the Camden Windjammer Festival, where locals and tourists alike immerse themselves in the town's nautical history.

A drive up Mount Battie Auto Road offers spectacular scenic views from the summit, perfect for photography enthusiasts and social media perfect moments. Camden Harbor serves as a bustling hub for sailing and boat tours, giving visitors a chance to explore the beautiful coastline before dining at Peter Ott’s on the Water, providing an exquisite dining experience accentuated by stunning views of picturesque Camden Harbor

Hanover, New Hampshire

 Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Editorial credit: Jay Yuan /

New Hampshire Dartmouth College is at the heart of Hanover, offering campus tours and a variety of cultural events that enrich the town's historic atmosphere and dedication to the arts. The Hood Museum of Art, with its diverse international collection, attracts art lovers from all over. Outdoor enthusiasts will find the Appalachian Trail, passing through Hanover, provides ample opportunities for hiking and enjoying nature.

Hopkins Center for the Arts hosts a range of performances and exhibits all year long, adding to the town's vibrant arts scene. The Nugget Theaters, an independent cinema, offers current and classic films in an intimate setting. Each year, Hanover Streetfest brings live music, food vendors, and family-friendly activities to the streets, fostering a lively community spirit.

There is no shortage of relaxing and calming activities scattered throughout the history-filled coastal towns of New England. Be they scheduled along with one of the many festivals or just a random escape for a birthday weekend, these towns will bring just what the doctor ordered and leave visitors recharged to get back to take on everyday life. Take a trip through New England and find out what makes America's Northeast so inviting.

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