Labor Day has come and gone and with it the summertime. Though you wouldn’t know it mid-day, editing this post from a sandy seat at the beach, the mornings have already grown cool and sunsets slip in before the stores close. Summer is over.
There is plenty to look forward to, as Fall is one of the most beautiful times of year, especially in New England, but I’m not quite ready to let Summer go. Instead, I’d like to luxuriate in it for just a little while longer. Squeeze in one last beach day, delight in the sun on my bare skin before the time comes to bundle up, wear the last of those cute summer outfits before sweaters and coats rule my wardrobe. Enjoy the daylight, waning, before night starts knocking in early afternoon, daring my 3:00 slump to become a full-on nap. Time to eat those foods that whither when the weather turns cold, or the ones that stick around but don’t taste quite the same with a snowy background. Take a long walk, a long drive, admire the green all around me before it sets fire to orange and red and golden hues, and then gives way to stark gray and brown.
This week, as we bid summer adieu, I want to take a few minutes to pay homage to my favorite season, the one that makes home feel like home. Here are the top 10 things about Summer in New England that we are all going to miss.
Top 10 Things about Summer in New England
1. New England Beaches
We may not have the tropical allure of the Caribbean, or the beach bum reputation of California, but New England has plenty of good beaches to offer up. Sandy beaches stretch along our jagged, nonsensical coastlines from Maine to Connecticut provide miles of sand for millions of New Englanders to pack onto. Sure, our water is cold, but we’re New Englanders, born of rapscallion rebel settlers. We endure nearly five full months of frigid, snow-filled winters every year. We are as tough as our accents. A little chill never stopped us.
It is because of this crooked, mish-mash coastline along our states that New England beaches are so unique. They’re small, oddly shaped, tucked into coves between rocky formations. They’re exclusive, and parking is a nightmare. But it is all part of the fun. I can’t claim to have been to every beach in New England, but here are some of my favorites:
Maine: Scarborough Beach State Park
Masschusetts: Visit popular Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester or try its smaller neighbor, Long Beach in Rockport. Crane Beach in Ipswich is beautiful, but be sure to check the calendar before you go. For a couple weeks out of the year the biting green head flies make this place unbearable. Humarock Beach in Marshfield is my favorite South Shore Beach, though admittedly I know fewer beaches down there.
2. Lobstah Rolls
It’s blasphemous around here, but I’m not a huge lobster fan. I’ll do a lobby roll once a year maybe and call it good. But I know other people go bananas over these things and it is the most New England of all the New England Summer things. Whether you’re visiting Portland or Newport or Boston or Mystic, whether you’re a warm butter or cold mayo type, and whether you like dine dining or a food shack on the side of the road, you can be sure to find a dope spot for your ideal lobster roll anywhere in coastal New England.
This isn’t my forte, so I won’t claim to know the best spots, but here is a link from someone who does:
3. New England Road Trips
One of the best things about little New England is that there is so much so close. Where else can you drive through three states in as many hours? Weekend getaways are a traditional part of summer in New England. We go to New Hampshire to the lakes—Squam and Winnipesaukee, or to the White Mountains for hiking adventures and shopping in adorable North Conway. We head to Maine for the beaches, for camping in Acadia National Park, to get weird with the Right Coast’s own Portland. We embrace our inner history buff in Boston, stopping for boozey breaks along the Freedom Trail and taking in salty air along the harbor. In Rhode Island we stroll along the Cliffwalk in Newport, peeping the historic mansions of the old world’s upper class to our right and watching surfers bob in the water tour left. We hike and drink and eat Ben & Jerry’s in Vermont, and we hit the beaches and eat (arguably) some of the best pizza in the region in Connecticut.
It is not a New England Summer without a road trip or two to visit the neighbors!
4. Having an Excuse to drink Dunkin’ Iced coffee all the time
If there is one thing New Englanders love it is a coffee from Dunks. Dunkin may not have the best coffee, but it hits the spot when you are on the go. And with one on virtually every corner, you’re never far from a drive-thru coffee fix. There is a special breed of New Englander that ONLY drinks iced coffee. In the snow, in the rain, in the morning, in the evening. In the dead of winter, bundled in a snow suit, you will catch them outside sipping their iced coffees through the signature orange straw.
The Summer makes these folx make sense. How nice it must feel for them to not have people gawk “You’re drinking iced coffee in this weather?”
Soon we’ll be shifting to hot coffee and all things gingerbread and pumpkin spice, but let us take a moment to appreciate the sensation that is sipping a cold, mediocre Dunkin’ iced coffee on a New England Summer afternoon.
5. Dining al fresco
If you’re from somewhere else—San Diego, Austin, LA—you might not see the big deal about sitting outside to eat. Most of your restaurants have outdoor seating year-round. Your shopping malls don’t even have roofs! But in New England, it is a different story.
For six months out of the year it is too cold to dine outside in New England. Five if we’re being generous. That means, during the summer every opportunity to dine outside feels like a special treat. We opt for restaurants with patios and roof decks and sidewalks converted to dining space. We eat at food trucks and beach shacks and clam huts and ice cream shacks and hot dog stands and frozen lemonade trucks. Come to think of it, we do a lot of eating out of huts, shacks, and trucks.
6. Outdoor Events & Festivals
One of the best things to do in the Summer in New England is to attend some type of festival. No, we’re not talking Coachella or EDC, but there are smaller festivals, events and activities that are worth a visit!
See Shakespeare in the Park in Boston Commons. Check out the Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival—one of the largest in the world! (This is not your 6 year-old’s sandcastle. Click here to see some of the impressive sculptures from years past and to find info on attending next year.) There is the Newport Folk Festival, which has been going strong since 1959! In Connecticut, find art festivals in Norwalk, Mystic, and Stamford. In Maine you can check out the annual Antique Festival or Wild Blueberry Festival. Find “Busking, Music and Laughter” at the Festival of Fools in Vermont. Get a little wild at Bike Week in Laconia, NH or check out the Boogie & Blues Festival in Thornton NH.
Beyond this there are farmers markets, craft fairs, antique markets, and food truck events all over the place! There is no shortage of festivals and outdoor events to attend in New England in the summer!
7. Being on the Water
“I’m on a boat!” is something New Englander’s can only say a few months out of the year. With the ocean to the east, several lakes regions, and rivers snaking through our little states, there is no shortage of water activity to enjoy in New England.
Motorboats and jetskis can be used in the good old Atlantic or in lakes like Champlain in Vermont, Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, Candlewood in Connecticut, or Sebago Lake in Maine. Just to name a few!
Want to go less motorized? Grab your kayak, canoe, paddleboard and hit one of the millions of water spots. Or drop a tube in and relax while you (all) float on (okay).
You will never be more than 30 minutes away from some body of water when you’re in New England, and paddle board and kayak rentals are super popular basically everywhere.
Here are some resources for finding water-based activities state-by-state. Favorite this page and use these guides to help you plan your next New England summer vacation.
Boating, Paddleboarding, Kayaking in New England:
Connecticut Connecticut Lakes & Rivers
Massachusetts MA Water Recreation
Rhode Island Paddling and Boat Ramps in Rhode Island
Vermont Water Recreation in Vermont
8. The Bar Scene
Many of you know I’m currently not enjoying alcoholic libations, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a good scene. The New England drinking scene is significantly cooler, more fun, and better in the summer. Rooftop bars in the city, beer gardens galore, and drinking by the water make this time of year perfect for socializing with cocktail or craft brew in hand.
The West Coast gets a lot of love for their beer selection, but don’t count out New England! These states might be smaller, but they pack a big punch when it comes to their burgeoning beer scene. This goes way beyond Sam Adams, the OG craft brewery in Boston. We’ve got Allagash in Maine, Smuttynose in New Hampshire, Long Trail in Vermont, New England Brewing Co. in CT, Buttonwoods Brewery in Rhode Island, and Night Shift Brewing in MA. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface.
Check out some of these resources for craft breweries in New England, state-by-state, so you can plan your boozey New England getaway!
New England Craft Breweries:
9. Taking a Hike
You won’t find any Sierra Nevada or Rocky-eque mountains in New England, but there is plenty of great hiking and we are HERE for it in the summertime! The Appalachian Trail runs through New England, we’ve got Acadia National Park, the White Mountains in New Hampshire, the Green Mountains in Vermont, the Taconic Mountains in Connecticut, The Berkshires in MA. Even in the flatter states (hello, tiny Rhode Island!) there are plenty of lovely hiking trails. To be fair, hiking in New England becomes MORE beautiful with the arrival of fall foliage. But the vibrant colors are short-lived, and winter comes quick in these parts! I’m lucky to be able to hop a flight any time I choose and can go for hikes year-round. But for many New Englanders, the end of summer means hiking season is coming to a close.
Be sure to check for local hiking trails when planning your next visit to New England! You will not be disappointed!
10. BONUS: Packing for Summer
I had to put a flight attendant spin in here somewhere. And for me, and most flight attendants, one of the biggest things we miss about summer is how easy it is to pack. No boots, coats, or scarfs necessary. Flip flops and swimsuits and light summer dresses means not having to sit on your suitcase to zip it or struggle to lift it into the overhead bin. Packing for summertime is the bees’ knees and something I truly appreciate every year. I’ll be relishing the next couple weeks of packing light before the time comes to dust off the old sweaters, jackets, and boots and brush up on my jam-packing skills.
And that concludes the list of the Top 10 Things we’ll miss about summer in New England. If you are a New Englander, I hope this list gives you a kick to really appreciate the last of the summer weather before it slips away into the long abyss of cold. And if you are not, I hope this list inspires you to plan a New England getaway next summer! I am always down to talk New Englandy things with visitors, so please feel free to reach out in the comments, through Instagram, or via email with any questions about planning your trip! New Englanders: What are YOUR favorite summer in New England things?! Tell us wat I missed down in the comments section!
Happy End of Summer y’all. I’ll see you on the other side (with a basic-ass pumpkin spice.)
Hey you. Yes, you! Thanks for stopping by!
I’m Toni and I run the show here at A Wheel in the Sky. I hope you liked reading this post about Summer in New England and that it will inspire you to plan your next New England getaway. Interested in more New England content? Check out some of the posts below for more travel tips and fun things to doon your next trip.
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