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Celebrating 70 Years of RVing - The Northeast
The cradle of our nation, New England, exudes history for mile-after-mile throughout the region, inspiring nostalgia. From battlegrounds of the Revolutionary War to the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution (not to mention the birthplace of Lucille Ball!), New England has something for everyone. The roads chosen for you here shun the booming interstates that stretch so broadly across this land. Instead, the smaller roads meander through the region’s rolling landscape. You’ll find a bevy of covered bridges and antique shops in addition to stunning examples of natural New England, from the White Mountains of Vermont to the National Seashore of Cape Cod. So get in, buckle up, slow down, and enjoy the ride.
New York’s US-17 traverses much of the western region of the state, beginning near the Pennsylvania border and Lake Erie, ultimately winding its way east through the Finger Lakes region and Catskills before meeting up with US-6 and into Rockland County north of New York City.
Begin your New York adventure in Jamestown, birthplace of America’s favorite redhead, Lucille Ball. Begin at the Lucy-Desi Museum, a nostalgic institution dedicated to television’s First (and favorite) Couple. Also in town are the “Lucy and Desi” Gift Shop and several murals dedicated to the First Lady of Comedy scattered around town. There’s also the Lucille Ball Little Theater of Jamestown, which hosts a variety of community theatre productions during the summer months. Next door rests a plaque commemorating the very birthplace of the comedienne. Check around town for directions to several of Lucy’s childhood homes. Unfortunately, they’re all still private residences, but still worth a look for the true fan.
Heading east you’ll soon enter the gorgeous Finger Lakes Region, a vacationers paradise. At the town of Corning choose from among several outfitters to provide a favorite pastime of visitors, the hot air balloon ride. The region is tailor-made for this endeavor. While in town, enjoy a leisurely stroll through the Historic Market District and its wonderful collection of 19th-century architecture and more than 100 shops.
In the town of Elmira, you can continue to take in old village sights on foot with the Near Westside Historic District Walking Tour. Part of the National Historic Register, these self-guided tours take you through 22 square blocks of New York state history. Check out the unique and interesting exhibition at the National Soaring Museum. They are celebrating 100 years of non-powered flight through hands-on exhibits of gliders, soarers, and just about anything else you can think of (that doesn’t require a motor, of course). But Elmira’s pride and joy is Quarry Farm. It was here during the 1870s and 1880s, Mark Twain called home and penned his timeless works, Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and several others. Elmira College regularly hosts Twain-oriented events, and a nearby cemetery is the final resting place of the author and his family.
In the industrial town of Binghamton, relive a little of your childhood with a ride on some of the six antique carousels located in and around town. The town is also the birthplace of author/director Rod Serling, whose creative genius haunted generations from his television series “The Twilight Zone.” Binghamton has several points of interest related to Serling and walking tours are available. Learn more about Serling at the Binghamton Visitors Center located downtown.
US-17 then heads southwest towards New York City, but first you have to pass through the winding hills of the Catskills. Many of the towns here have seen better days, but the natural beauty still welcomes visitors with open arms. Besides hiking, biking, and wildlife watching, the region is world-renowned for its trout fishing, with the town of Roscoe (a.k.a, “Trout Town USA) serving as an angler’s epicenter of activity.
We suggest a detour north along scenic Interstate 87. US-17 joins US-87 near Central Valley, which in turn connects with Hwy. 6, and on to US-9. This follows the Hudson River north through Poughkeepsie, Rhinebeck, Albany, Saratoga Springs, Glens Falls and the Adirondacks along Lake Champlain all the way to the Canadian border.
Your final stop along US-17 in New York is the town of Liberty, a local artisan showcase offering lots of delightful artwork to peruse in the many galleries and shops. Also, the area is a good place to slow down for some “stop-and-shop”. People regularly flock to the town for its multitude of antique shops.
Connecticut’s US-6, also known as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway, sneaks in over the New York border at the town of Mill Plain. But your first stop should be at Blue Jay Orchards in the town of Bethel. During the months of October and November, this 160-acre farm can be the consummate New England getaway location where you can pick your own bushel of apples, visit a pumpkin patch, or enjoy a hayride.
Continuing east, you’ll visit the town of Southbury, deep within hot-air balloon country. Take a voyage aboard one of these graceful craft at Gone Ballooning or Steppin’ Up Balloons and drift over the lovely rolling landscape of western Connecticut. Down the road, in the town of Woodbury you’ll find the Glebe House & Gertrude Jekyll Garden. Set in the picturesque Litchfield Hills region, the Glebe House is the birthplace of the Episcopal Church in the New World. This 18th-century home remains intact and showcases a fine collection of period furnishings. Surrounding the house are the stunning gardens by Gertrude Jekyll, one of the finest garden designers in America.
Further east, stop in the town of Thomaston and tour the Railroad Museum of New England/Naugatuck Railroad Company. Here you can jump aboard an historic steam train and enjoy a 20-mile trek through the region’s green landscape, through a state forest, and along the Naugatuck River.
In the town of Bristol, stop by the Lake Compounce Theme Park, affectionately known as “New England’s Family Theme Park.” With more than 50 rides and attractions (including a water park!), Lake Compounce provides a full day’s entertainment, and then some. Wooden roller coaster afficionados list the park’s Boulder Dash ride as one of the finest on the planet.
Down the road in Farmington, two rivers converge to create myriad opportunities for outdoor fun. Tubing and boat rides can be had on the Farmington or Housatanic rivers at Farmington River Tubing, Huck Finn Adventures, or Machias Adventures. For some tips on how to hook largemouth bass, carp, sunfish or perch on the Housatanic River, fishermen will want to stop by Housatanic Anglers. Farmington is also a hot-air balloon hotspot and there’s a good selection of outfitters to take you aloft.
In Hartford, take a historic trip to the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, an 1871 Victorian cabin where the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” penned her powerful abolitionists novel. The Old State House is another historic site, noteworthy as the oldest state house in the nation. Built in 1796, this restored house offers a dazzling display of Victorian decorations and showcases a brand new interactive exhibit. Keep on your historic house tour with the Mark Twain House and Museum, where the famed author spent 17 years during much of his later years when he was an international literary celebrity. Noah Webster also called Hartford home for some time. You can learn more about the lexicographer, and namesake for the famed dictionary, at his childhood home, now known as the Noah Webster House and West Hartford Historical Society. Hartford is also home to several interesting small museums such as The Trash Museum, useful for those needing to know about what you throw away and where it goes.
Before departing Connecticut and venturing into Rhode Island a quick stop in Hampton is in order, to see one of the state’s few remaining covered bridges, the Comstock Covered Bridge.
Continue on US-6 as it crosses into the Ocean State, Rhode Island. It may be the Union’s smallest state, but it’s not short on nostalgia. However, your trip back into the past in Rhode Island doesn’t really begin until you take US-6 deep into the state and into the Blackstone Valley. It was here, in 1793 that Samuel Slater opened his first cotton mill in Pawtucket and the Industrial Revolution was underway. The growth of industry would define the region and the state for more than a century to come.
US-6 then rolls into the state capital of Providence. Founded in the mid-1600s, Providence is one of the most charming cities in New England, evident via the many walking tours you can take through this historic town. Along with the prestigious Brown University, much of the city’s culture is centered around another famous school, the Rhode Island School of Design. (Tourists note: the locals call it Rizz-dee.) At the school you’ll find the impressive RISD Museum of Art, where historic silversmith work and cabinetry are on display along with ancient Egyptian and Asian art. As old as the city is, you might expect it to be populated with numerous historic homes, and it is. Some favorites are the General Ambrose Burnside House, the John Brown House, the Old State House, and The Arcade. While in Providence keep your eyes open for a local oddity. First, and most famously, is the giant bug on top of New England Pest Control. This giant termite measures 58 feet long and has to be in contention for World’s Largest Bug. Assuming, that is, they keep records of such things.
Well, we have to say goodbye for now to US-6 in Rhode Island, but there’s still plenty to explore with a couple of side trips off US-6. Head north from Providence on I-95 to reach another historic and bustling Rhode Island town, Pawtucket. Visit the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution at the Slater Mill Historic Site. Here you can learn about the textile industry that defined the region for nearly 150 years.
One charming point of interest in town is the Looff Carousel, an impressive 1895 carousel built by the famous Danish furniture designer who later became the world’s foremost designer of carousels. This ain’t your grandma’s carousel as it boasts a stunning display of Looff’s intricately carved animals.
Also in Pawtucket, be sure to take your picture with Rhode Island’s “official family travel ambassador”, Mr. Potato Head! Yes, you read that right. A few years ago, Hasbro, Mr. Potato Head’s manufacturer, teamed up with the state to turn the funny spud into an attraction. Nearly 40 giant Mr. Potato Head statues were cast and decorated by local artists and distributed around the state. Most have been sold off to private collections, but the original still stands outside the Hasbro headquarters on Spruce Street.
Once, US-6 was the nation’s longest continuous stretch of road. The highway even managed to survive the onslaught of construction as highways changed, were cut up, or turned into interstates. Known as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway, today US-6 is still the second longest highway in America as it travels more than 3,500 miles from California to the tip of Cape Cod. US-6 makes a brief but memorable pass through Massachusetts as it heads through the region south of Boston to Provincetown on the Cape’s tip.
Your tour begins in the ethnically diverse town of New Bedford, located along the waters of Buzzard’s Bay. Get started by introducing yourself to the Massachusetts whaling industry at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, which boasts the world’s largest ship model. The museum houses hundreds of historical artifacts and unique works of art that provide a glimpse into this adventurous and dangerous industry. Not ready to get back into the rig yet? Take a stroll along the water by visiting one of several docks that feature attractions for the entire family. To get ready, stop by the Waterfront Visitors Center on Fisherman’s Pier. Next, visit Tonnessen Park and then amble over to State Pier to tour a retired Coast Guard ship. A New Bedford landmark for you consider seeing is the Milk Bottle Ice Cream Parlor. Be on the lookout for the giant milk bottle, certainly one of the oddest buildings you’ll come across on the road. This building is so famous it was once featured on a PBS documentary about roadside oddities.
If you’re looking for some time away from your RV, consider a trip to the venerable leisure hub of Martha’s Vineyard, a favorite for vacationers and day-trippers alike. Ferries regularly leave from New Bedford. Cars can be rented on the island, but you might choose instead to “go native” and explore the island by renting a bicycle from one of the many rental shops in sight as soon as you get off the ferry.
Heading east you’ll soon find yourself in the nostalgic wonderland known as Cape Cod. Let your foot off the gas here and slow down to enjoy the sights and wonders around ever corner. Start in the town of Sandwich, with a visit to the Thornton W. Burgess Museum and Nature Center. Once home to the author most famous for his “Peter Rabbit and Briar Patch” stories, the museum and gardens are a magical part of Cape Cod serenity where it seems children’s stories actually do live. Revisit more childhood nostalgia at the Yesteryears Doll Museum, which boasts dozens of historic and unusual dolls collected from around the world.
Keep trekking east along US-6 and you’ll reach the furthest part of Cape Cod. At Eastham be sure to visit an authentic 1869 school house. This one-room site is evidence of what life was like on Cape Cod during the late 19th century. Also here are historic artifacts from the whaling, fishing, and farming industries that were so critical to the growth of Cape Cod. While in town, seek out the 1783 Grist Mill, the oldest windmill on the Cape. Nature lovers will relish this part of the world that features the Cape Cod National Seashore. More than 27,000 acres of marshland, woodland and, of course, plenty of pristine beaches, call out for your lengthy exploration.
Much the same can be found at Wellfleet, a charming seaside town. But really, aren’t they all charming around here? More outdoor appreciation can be had at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and its more than 1,000 acres of salt marshes and woodlands.
Your final stop along US-6 will be at the very northern tip of Cape Cod in the village of Provincetown, or “P-Town” as the locals call it. Get aboard a local cruiser and enjoy a whale watching tour, a favorite pastime for visitors to this region. A one-of-a-kind Cape Cod experience can be enjoyed at the Expedition “Whydah” Sea Lab and Learning Center. Here, learn about the Whydah, an actual pirate ship that sank off the Cape Cod coast, its priceless cargo lost. Today, the recovery of the ship’s cargo is designated a National Geographic Society Special Event, which has turned the archaeological search into an interactive museum – the only one of its kind. Afterwards, an appropriate place to end your US-6 journey has to be the place where it all began…almost. In 1620 the Pilgrims landed in Cape Cod, much to their dismay. Eventually, they pressed onward and sailed across Massachusetts Bay until they reached Plymouth. But Provincetown is very proud of this footnote in American history. More about the Pilgrims brief stay in P-Town can be explored at the impressive Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum.
Vermont’s US-7 starts in the state’s southwest corner and winds its way northwards through some of the finest landscape in New England. Rolling hills and bucolic farmland mark the southern reaches as the terrain changes to lush evergreen forests of the Green Mountains and northwards into the White Mountains.
Begin your tour in the historic town of Bennington. Coming into town you’ll pass the Bennington Battle Monument, a large obelisk reminiscent of the Washington Monument, commemorating the Bennington Battle. This was one of the first and most important Colonial victories over the British in the War for Independence. Poet Robert Frost spent a good portion of his life here and you can tour the Robert Frost Stone House to learn more about the life of this important American figure. And what do you imagine when someone says “Vermont”? Covered bridges of course! Here in town you can visit the Vermont Covered Bridge Museum to learn about haunted bridges and battlegrounds through interactive exhibits, dioramas, and other displays.
Continuing north on US-7 you’ll eventually end up in Arlington where you can experience nostalgia in art form at the Norman Rockwell Exhibition. Fans of the quintessential American artist’s work can view more than 500 of the master’s Saturday Evening Post covers on display.
Up the road a piece you’ll find Manchester Center, the quintessential Vermont village, loaded with quaint shops, great eateries, and wonderful scenery. The village is located near the historic Battenkill River, the capital of trout fishing in the northeast. Try your own hand at fly fishing at the impressive Orvis flagship store. Manchester Center could also be an excellent ”base camp” for you to tour the nearby Green Mountain National Forest, a natural retreat loaded with campgrounds in picturesque New England mountains.
Migrating north on US-7 you’ll enter the state’s highlands, within range of the Northeast’s premier ski resort, Killington. If you end up here during the off-season, don’t freak out. You’re still in mountainous Vermont where there are plenty of opportunities to hike, fish, and just enjoy the beautiful scenery around the resort.
Stay on Hwy. 7 and soon you’ll enter the majestic Lake Champlain Valley. The first town within this region is Rutland where you can find seven covered bridges in the immediate area, each one more picturesque than the next. Rutland, like so many others in the state, is a quaint town with a charming town centre to explore on foot. One favorite stop is the New England Maple Museum where visitors can learn about the history and industry of maple syrup in New England. Also in town is the Norman Rockwell Museum, with even more examples of the master artist’s depictions of early-20th century American life on display.
Like many other Vermont villages, Middlebury offers excellent opportunities to exercise the legs a bit, and the imagination, with a walk through its historic district. Visit the courthouse, the Middlebury Inn, and see the roaring Otter Falls in the midst of the downtown area.
Further north, stop in the town of Shelburne. There you’ll find one of the most impressive little museums in the Northeast at the Shelburne Museum, showcasing fine local folk art as well as works by Degas, Monet, and Rembrandt. Also, be sure to visit the impressive Shelburne Farms, a 3,800-acre property landscaped by the great Frederick Law Olmsted. Today the farm hosts many educational exhibits, plus provides a petting zoo and hay rides for the young ones to enjoy. A family favorite in Shelburne is a tour of the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory. This is where the world- famous custom teddy bears are ”born”, and for many it’s almost like venturing into a cute, cuddly version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
Your final stop along US-7 is going to be in the capital city of Burlington, located along the banks of chilly Lake Champlain. The town now features a wonderful waterfront with shops and art exhibits in a public space. The newest addition to the waterfront area is ECHO at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain. (ECHO stands for ecology, culture, history, and opportunity, FYI.) This is without a doubt, a unique and world-class science center and aquarium with constantly changing exhibits that the whole family can enjoy and learn about the environment. Also in town, visit the Ethan Allen Homestead where the Revolutionary War patriot, the state’s most popular hero, spent the final years of his life. Hwy 7 continues north through St. Albans, along the shores of Lake Champlain to the Canada border.
New Hampshire’s US-3 is accessed at the Massachusetts border and winds its way north following I-93 and the Merrimack River into the highlands of state’s northern stretches.
Our merry travels begin in the scenic Merrimack Valley in the southern edge of the state. The area is home to the state’s first settlements and features many historic towns scattered around the valley. US-3 is a great way to explore the region. Most travelers stay on the speedy I-93 and are too busy to explore this interesting region. Your first stop should be at the town of Nashua, replete with summer activities. In Nashua you’ll find ample examples of local culture, including several theaters and orchestras. Check in at the Nashua Center for the Arts for a complete list of what’s happening during your visit. Enjoy strolling through the downtown area and along Water and Factory streets, where restored brick mill buildings are occupied once again with retail businesses and professional offices.
Next, visit Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest city. First settled in 1650, Manchester was once a booming mill town and still retains its splendid historic village architecture from that bygone era. Visit the Zimmerman House, the only house in the state designed by the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. A dazzling visit is also in store for you at the SEE Science Center, a new interactive science museum with something for everyone to enjoy.
The town’s waterfront area has experienced a wonderful revival of late, and at its heart is the new Fisher Cats Baseball Stadium, home to a new minor league franchise brought to Manchester just a few years ago.
Heading north you’ll soon enter Concord, the state capital. Concord has so many historic sites scattered in and around town. To get caught up on all the misplaces to see and activities offered, stop by the New Hampshire Antiquarian Society. At the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium, you can explore outer space in this museum dedicated to the memory of the late school teacher/astronaut.
Once you’ve moved on from Concord, consider a side trip north along I-93 a few miles to Canterbury Shaker Village, one of the state’s most impressive locales. Set over 694 acres, the village consists of 24 buildings,s all part of a former working Shaker village that thrived here between 1780 and 1990. Besides Shaker living history, the village is home to several walking trails and one of the finest restaurants in New Hampshire, The Creamery.
Back on US-3, make your way north. The road goes through Laconia and conveniently to Lake Winnipesaukee, an excellent retreat here in central New Hampshire. The largest freshwater lake in the state, it is lake is jammed with vacationers during the summer months.
If a long strip of pizza parlors, arcades, water slides, and mini-golf sounds like good times, then Weirs Beach awaits you. Otherwise, let’s press on to the charming town of Meredith, located along the western edge of the lake. Meredith also has seen a resurrection of sorts in recent years. The old mill houses that line its downtown area have been renovated and are now restaurants, shops, and more in this historic village.
North of Plymouth, US-3 merges with I-93 heading north. But this is no time to get caught up on a speedy interstate. In fact, we recommend just the opposite. Slow down and take some time off because you’re now in the stunning White Mountain National Forest, the state’s most remarkable display of natural beauty. The park encompasses 768,000 acres, more than you’ll ever need for any outdoor excursions. Consider a trip along the Kancamagus National Scenic Byway, which runs west to east beginning at the town of North Woodstock, ending at Conway. After that, why not choose from among the park’s several campgrounds and stay a while, before pondering our next move?
Upon leaving the White Mountain area US-3 continues through Northern New Hampshire through Lancaster, North Stratford, Colebrook, and past the 3 Connecticut Lakes, finally reaching its terminus at the Canadian border.
US-2 snakes its way into Maine from New Hampshire and passes through the dense and remote, west central regions of Maine. As the road winds east, you’ll be swept up by nostalgia visiting towns like Bangor and Newport.
The terrain is consistently pretty in western Maine as you reach the first major town, Bethel. Take your shot at 18 holes at the historic and renowned Bethel Inn and Country Club, drawing duffers from around the region, and the country. Another local favorite in the winter, as well as summer, is the Sunder River Ski Area located just north of town. En route to the ski area, look out for the Artist Covered Bridge, just in case you need more visual clues that you’re deep in New England.
Maintain a steady eastbound heading and when you arrive in Wilton, consider giving your feet a gift at the G. H. Bass Company, maker of those world-famous loafers for more than 100 years. Right next door to the mill is a fine little museum, the Wilton Farm and Home, created to educate visitors about the history of life in this mountainous western region of the state.
Farmington is your next stop along US-2. For those of you who really like to be in-the-know, Farmington happens to be the “Earmuff Capital of the World.” Also home to the University of Maine, the town has a charming downtown area loaded with shops and restaurants, perfect for a casual day on foot. Just south of Farmington, is the Belgrade Lakes Region, a series of seven lakes scattered around the area. The area was a popular resort in the mid-1900s. Quaint hamlets can be found around nearly every corner of each lake and makes for excellent exploration in this unique section of northeast America.
Soon enough the road leads to Bangor, the largest city in northern Maine. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you drive by the 30-foot Paul Bunyan statue as you enter town. Born during the rough-and-tumble heyday of the lumber industry, Bangor is a charming city located along the scenic Penobscot River with plenty to do and see. Fantastic 19th century architecture highlights much of the downtown area, which is also dotted with bookstores, cafes, shops, and great restaurants.
The highway continues north through Island Falls and turns east to exit Maine after Houlton. Continue your journey by jumping on US-3 southeast until you reach two of Maine’s favorite destinations, Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. Bar Harbor is a jumping little village during the summer months and for decades has been a favorite retreat for New Englanders. There are an abundance of shopping and dining venues here, so fill up before heading into the natural wonderland of Acadia National Park. It’s arguably the finest park east of the Mississippi, where the lush greenery of western Maine meets the stunning coastline of the eastern region. You’ll find a profusion of outdoor recreation opportunities around the area and, with a little luck, you can observe some of the darling puffins, a favorite of outdoor enthusiasts spending time in the park.