Explore New England: A Four-Day Road Trip & Boston

I don’t do well with leisure travel.  I wish I could be happy lying on a beach for a week, but if I’m honest, I can only do that for a day or two before I start growing restless.  Luckily, I married someone who enjoys that same travel speed and my desire to fill our vacations to the top.  A hotel concierge in Sydney, Australia once lovingly referred to our vacation as “the insanity tour,” and we couldn’t have been prouder.  Ha!

Earlier this year, we turned a three-day holiday weekend into four when a deal on a direct flight to Providence, Rhode Island sounded just right for our four-month-old daughter’s first plane ride.  Because we’d never visited New England, we made the most of our time by taking a short road trip through the surrounding states before spending a day and a half in Boston.  I hope you’ll enjoy reading about our trek through six states in four days!

img_1927Friday Afternoon:  We flew into Providence early on a Friday afternoon.  After grabbing our bags, renting a car, and stopping by a nearby grocery for the essentials (snacks, wine, and diapers), we were off!  We stopped for dinner in nearby Cranston, Rhode Island at B. Good Food with Roots, which had great online reviews and is known for local, farm-to-table cuisine.  My West Side Turkey Burger and sweet potato fries were delicious and paired perfectly with my first Narragansett Lager!  Favoring smaller roads, we initially traveled west on US-6 to RI-101 and stopped to snap a photo of the sun setting over the Scituate Reservoir.  When we entered Connecticut, our back road connected to Hartford Pike and then to I-84, which led us into the “Insurance Capital of the World,” Hartford.  Our time constraints and approaching bedtime kept us from visiting for long, but we made time for a spin to see downtown at night before heading north on I-91 toward Springfield, Massachusetts.  Our final destination for the evening was downtown Springfield’s Holiday Inn Express, where free front-door parking, complimentary breakfast, a nice crib for baby girl, and a full gym made us happy visitors to the newly-renovated hotel.

Saturday:   After a nice breakfast, we hit I-95N toward Brattleboro, Vermont and took in the central Massachusetts beauty along the way.  Brattleboro is lovely!  Located in the Connecticut River Valley, it is surrounded by green mountains and bordered on one side by the River.  Its historic downtown (founded in 1753) was bustling with Saturday morning activity, as visitors and locals walked to the farmer’s market and beer festival.  We took a slow drive through town (noting the New England Center for Circus Arts) before crossing the river into New Hampshire.

We drove east on NH-9 until it intersected with I-89S outside Concord aimg_3678nd then merged into I-93S.  Antsy for time outside the car and a tasty lunch, we stopped at a large roadside development in Hooksett, New Hampshire.  The Common Man Roadside is a collection of restaurants, small shops, and a fancy liquor store.  We enjoyed fresh sandwiches and “clam chowdah,” found the perfect NH souvenir for our travel shelf at home, and snapped a family photo in front of the huge, indoor water wheel.

Re-energized, we continued traveling east through Manchester, New Hampshire after lunch and then transferred to NH-101E and I-95N on our way to Portsmouth.  Traveling across the Piscataqua River, we began to fall in love with southern Maine.  We stopped in Kittery for a bit and couldn’t believe how much it looked like the scenes we’ve seen in movies.  It is full of colorful clapboard homes, hosts the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and has a beautiful waterfront park surrounding historic Fort McClary.  First established in 1715, the Fort was occupied in one form or another until World War II, when civilian defense forces last used it.  It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969, renovated in 1987, and is now a park and museum. During our visit, families were appreciating the Fort’s view of the Piscataqua from its front lawn, having picnics, reading, and walking their dogs.

From Kittery, we hopped on I-95 and headed south.  We stayed on the interstate until Salem, Massachusetts, where we exited to see the town and follow the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway down the Atlantic Coast to Boston.  If you have time, I highly recommend leaving the interstate behind and traveling the Byway.  We saw so much that we would’ve missed on the freeway, and we found the perfect beachfront park for a late afternoon walk in Lynn, Massachusetts.

Tired but full of happy memories, we pulled into the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where we again had free parking and a crib for baby girl, this time with a pink-and-white checked quilt and welcome card. (Thanks to our IHG Rewards Card, our stays in Springfield and Cambridge were free with points.  Win!)  Comfortable pajamas, vegetarian take-out from Clover Food Lab near MIT, and wine created the perfect end to our day.

Sunday:  We were excited to make the most of our only full day in Boston!  After a nice breakfast at our hotel, we set off to downtown.  We parked in the Boston Common garage and began our morning walking all over Boston’s largest public green space.  We visited the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which was covered with thousands of American flags in celebration of Memorial Day, walked around the Frog Pond (or ice rink depending on the season), and photographed the famous “Make Way for Ducklings” statues.

Next, we found the head of the Freedom Trail that would be our tour guide.  The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile route designated by a red line in the sidewalk that leads you past 16 historically-significant sites.  What a wonderful way to encourage tourists to walk the city!  It took us by the Massachusetts State House, Old City Hall, Granary Burying Ground (where Ben Franklin’s parents and Mother Goose are buried), and Faneuil Hall, among other interesting stops.  It was an unseasonably cold day, so we enjoyed a quick stop at Starbucks along the way to warm up and recharge.  I was pleased to see this mural inside.

We stopped for lunch in Quincy Market, which first opened to the public in 1826.  It was full of locals and tourists alike, and the unique collection of local restaurants in its gourmet food hall smelled wonderful!  Being tourists, we overpaid for two “lobstah” rolls and enjoyed every last bite under the main building’s beautifully-adorned ceiling.

After lunch, we stretched our legs with a walk through Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood.  If you like old houses as much as we do, it’s a must-see.  Street after street is filled with historic townhomes, local restaurants, and welcoming boutiques.  With all of that plus overflowing flower boxes, manicured sidewalk gardens, cobblestones, and leaning trees, we couldn’t help smiling for our entire stroll.

I like to seek out public markets in every city I visit.  We took a late afternoon detour from downtown and spent a couple of hours at the SoWa Open Market, which is open every Sunday from May through October from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  It is centered around the Beer Barn in the iconic SoWa Power Station, a cavernous restored brick building with a ceiling full of twinkling lights.  A bar serves a variety of local craft beer, food trucks are aplenty, cornhole and live music provide free entertainment, and dogs and babies are welcome!  There is a large collection of artists’ booths and a farmer’s market outside, and the underground SoWa Vintage Market (open Sundays year-round) is next door.  We easily could have spent an entire day perusing its treasures and tasting local cuisine.

With the day growing short and baby nearing her evening nap, we ended our day with a drive through Harvard’s campus and a pizza from Cambridge Brewing Company.  Its family-friendly atmosphere and welcoming staff were just what we needed, and we had fun trying to name the celebrities in this fantastic mural that covers an entire wall.  Look, it’s Grumpy Cat and Jimmy Fallon!

CBC Mural
Photo from https://www.cambridgebrewingcompany.com/new-cbc-mural/

Monday:  We booked a late-afternoon flight home so we could enjoy another day in the northeast, and I’m so glad we did.  We spent a relaxing morning visiting friends from Kentucky who moved to Brookline, a Boston suburb that has been rated the best in the nation.  Brookline is filled with old homes, parks, and historic sites like JFK’s birthplace and Frederick Law Olmsted’s home.  It’s also home to tons of wild turkeys who roam about at their leisure — seriously.

After a yummy bagel brunch at their home, we took our time driving around the area and making our way back to Providence to catch our flight.  The best part about coming home after every trip is putting new pins in our travel map, and we got to add six!  Okay, reuniting with our dogs is the best part, but the pins are a close second.

My Takeaway:  I hope this post inspires you to explore all the northeast has to offer.  I can’t wait to go back!  We had a wonderful weekend seeing the highlights of New England and Boston at warp speed, and that small taste left me craving more.  I’m so pleased that we saw as much as we did and added six states to our tally, but now I need to spend a week in each one.  Someday!

If You Try This Trip:  Planning the route, hotels, and activities ahead of time is crucial.  There’s no way we could have seen as much if we took up time searching for activities when we arrived.  That said, it’s fun to leave a little to chance so you can enjoy a roadside restaurant, pop into a coffee shop or brewery that looks interesting, or get great takeout and enjoy the luxury of a night in a hotel — whatever feels good at the time.  It really is about the journey, so make that part of your vacation!

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Copyright © 2018 Amelia Adams


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