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One rewarding way to spend a vacation is to learn a new outdoor skill or add to your knowledge while on holiday. You can find plenty of options in New England, ranging from formal weeklong classes to 1-day workshops.

There are lots of options; here are a few of the best:

  • Learn to fly-fish on New England's fabled rivers. Among the region's most respected schools are those offered by Orvis (tel. 888/235-9763) in Manchester, Vermont; and by L.L.Bean (tel. 800/343-4552) in Freeport, Maine. (L.L.Bean also offers a number of shorter workshops on various outdoor skills through its Outdoor Discovery Program; call tel. 888/552-3261.)
  • Learn about birds and coastal ecosystems in Maine. Budding and experienced naturalists can expand their understanding of marine wildlife while residing on 333-acre Hog Island in Maine's wild and scenic Muscongus Bay through the Maine Audubon Society, 20 Gilsland Farm Rd., Falmouth, ME 04105 (tel. 207/781-2330; www.maineaudubon.org). You're brought by boat, then stay on the island for 3 to 7 nights. Famed birder Roger Tory Peterson once taught birding classes here, and I can personally vouch for Maine Audubon's other outdoors and educational programs, too. Call or visit their lovely headquarters near Portland.
  • Sharpen your outdoor skills. The Appalachian Mountain Club, 5 Joy St., Boston, MA 02108 (tel. 800/372-1758 or 617/523-0636; www.outdoors.org), offers a full roster of outdoor adventure classes, many taught at the club's Pinkham Notch Camp at the base of New Hampshire's Mount Washington. You could learn outdoor photography, wild mushroom identification, or backcountry orienteering. In winter, ice-climbing and telemark-skiing lessons are taught in the White Mountains. Course fees often include accommodations, and most are reasonably priced. Call or write for a catalog.

New England also especially lends itself to outdoorsy adventures that combine fresh air and exercise with Mother Nature as your instructor in a vast, beautiful classroom.

For Those Who Love Historic Homes

Historic New England is a nonprofit foundation that owns and operates 36 historical properties around New England, ranging from places built in the 17th century to the present, including a number of properties profiled in this book. Members get into all of the organization's properties for free and receive a number of other benefits, including a subscription to Historic New England magazine; a guide to the group's properties; and invitations to members-only events and other perks. Memberships cost $45 per year for individuals, $55 for households. For more information on Historic New England and its properties, visit the group's website at www.historicnewengland.org or call the organization's Boston headquarters at tel. 617/227-3957.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.