The 10-towns-in-6-days bus tours that clog the highways and byways of the Northeast every fall miss the point: The goal of a savvy traveler to New England is an experience that's deeper than it is wide. But even I'll admit to a fondness for day trips that take me just a bit out of my comfort zone. Each of these excursions is about as long as you'd want a day trip to be -- and can easily work as an overnight journey. Tackle this itinerary before or after a visit to Boston and Cambridge. On the first 3 days, an extra driver will come in handy; on the 4th day, there's no driving at all.
Day 1: Newport
If you don't hit traffic, you can cover the 75 or so miles between Boston and Newport in a little over an hour. The city's top attractions are the "cottages" -- Newport-speak for "mansions" -- that line Bellevue Avenue along the magnificent shore. Don't attempt to tour more than two cottages in a day, partly because they all start to run together, and partly because you'll want to leave time for exploring the picturesque downtown area. Between the glorious scenery and the serendipitous shopping, Newport is a perfect place to while away an afternoon. Linger into the evening for a drink or dinner near the water.
Day 2: The Berkshires
Try to schedule this trip to coincide with a morning rehearsal or afternoon concert by the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood, in Lenox. It's a long ride (at least 2 hr.) from Boston, so you'll want to get an early start, especially if you're attending a rehearsal. Spread out a blanket, picnic on the lawn, and enjoy the scene, one of the hallmarks of summer in New England. After rehearsal or before and after a concert, select one western Massachusetts town to explore, but just one -- crowds and traffic dictate that you not try to get too ambitious. Our choice is Stockbridge, because we're suckers for the Norman Rockwell Museum.
Day 3: Portsmouth & Kittery
A little over an hour from Boston is a gem of historic architecture, maritime sights and sounds, funky shops and cafes, and beautiful scenery. Portsmouth is worth a trip just for Strawbery Banke, where the historic buildings are the displays. Build in some time to explore the cobblestone downtown area, then cross the Piscataqua River for some serious shopping at the Kittery outlets and a bite to eat at Bob's Clam Hut.
Day 4: Provincetown
Ferries (conventional and high-speed) connect Boston to Provincetown every day in the summer and on weekends in the spring and fall. The trip by car is absolutely punishing, especially on a busy weekend, but an ocean voyage is always a good idea. On a day trip, you'll have time for world-class people-watching, strolling along Commercial Street, perusing the novelty shops and art galleries, lunching on seafood, and -- if you're quick -- a trip to one of the famous beaches. However, you'll have to forgo the hopping gay nightlife scene unless you've planned a longer excursion.
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.