Plymouth (Plymouth, MA): Okay, Plymouth Rock is a fraction of its original size and looks like something you might find in your garden. Nevertheless, it makes a perfect starting point for appreciating just how dangerous the Pilgrims’ voyage was. Then plan to spend at least a few hours at the living history museum Plimoth Plantation to learn how the Pilgrims made a go of it in their new home.
Historic Deerfield (Deerfield, MA): Arguably the best-preserved Colonial village in New England, this town’s historic section has more than 80 houses dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, with none of the clutter of modernity. Ten museum houses on the main avenue can be visited through tours conducted by the organization known as Historic Deerfield.
Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum (Boston, MA): It’s the night of December 16, 1773 every day at this interactive attraction, where costumed actors will get your blood boiling over taxation without representation. Sure, it’s a little hokey, but it’s easy to get caught up in such lively historic fun.
Paul Revere House (Boston, MA): We often study the American Revolution as a political conflict. At this little home in the North End, you’ll learn the very human side of the story. The self-guided tour is particularly thought-provoking. Revere fathered 16 children with two wives, supported them with his thriving silversmith’s trade—and put the whole operation in jeopardy with his role in the events that led to the Revolution.
North Bridge (Concord, MA): In the opening salvos of the American Revolution, British troops headed to Concord after putting down an uprising in Lexington—and suffered their first defeat in the war. The Old North Bridge (a replica) stands as a testament to the Minutemen and their adversaries who fought that bloody day long ago. Daniel Chester French’s iconic “The Minuteman” monument stands near the bridge, a great photo op.
Portsmouth (NH): Portsmouth is a salty coastal city that just happens to boast some of the most impressive historic homes in New England. Start at Strawbery Banke, a historic compound of 42 buildings dating from 1695 to 1820. Then visit the many other grand homes in nearby neighborhoods, such as the house John Paul Jones occupied while building his warship during the Revolution. A self-guided tour of the 27-site Black Heritage Trail tells a long-forgotten side of the city’s story.
College Hill (Providence, RI): Here, on the east side of Providence, Rhode Island College was founded in 1764 (you may know it by its current name, Brown University). College Hill is now a National Historic District and has a “Mile of History” in its collection of 18th- and 19th-century houses, Colonial to Victorian, along Benefit Street.
- Hancock Shaker Village (Pittsfield, MA): By the time “Mother” Ann Lee died in 1784, the austere Protestant sect she founded, known as the Shakers, had fanned out across the country to form communal settlements from Maine to Indiana. Hancock, edging the Massachusetts–New York border, was one of the most important. The village presents restored buildings, farm animals, and a selection of Shaker crafts, including furniture and home accessories, plus a Shaker-inspired farm-to-table restaurant.
- Old Sturbridge Village (Sturbridge, MA): With authentic buildings and costumed staff, this is a re-created rural settlement of the 1830s. Visitors stroll through the village, which is spread across more than 200 acres, to see working versions of a sawmill, a blacksmith shop, a school, and a cooperage. Lazy boat rides are popular, as are historical craft classes. In summertime, a horse-drawn stagecoach traverses the dirt lanes, and, when there’s snow, guests can take horse-drawn sleigh rides.
- Salem (Boston, MA): Everyone knows about Salem’s 17th-century witches, but the city really came into its own as a 19th-century whaling port. That history is very much on view today, from ship captains’ houses to a replica merchant vessel to a museum full of curiosities sailors brought home.
- Nantucket Town (Nantucket, MA): It looks as though the whalers just left, leaving behind their grand Greek Revival houses, cobbled streets, and a gamut of enticing shops. The Whaling Museum here is one of the best places in New England to learn the story of this now-defunct industry, which brought such riches to the Northeastern coast.
- Mystic Seaport Museum (Mystic, CT): It’s the only place in America to climb aboard a still-seaworthy wooden whaling ship and to take a short ride on the oldest coal-fired wooden steamboat, and there’s much more in store at this living history maritime museum.
- Mark Twain House & Harriet Beecher Stowe House (Hartford, CT): Huck Finn and Uncle Tom as neighbors? Yes, it really happened that way, and these two adjacent sites bring to life the late 19th century, when these two famous authors lived next door to each other in an artist’s community in the Connecticut capital.
- Newport (RI): Newport retains abundant recollections of its storied maritime past, with Colonial-era homes and a thriving harbor clogged with tour boats, ferries, yachts, and majestic sloops. Its chief tourist draw, however, is the ostentatious mansions of America’s post–Civil War industrial and financial tycoons, lined up along Bellevue Avenue awaiting visitors.
- Shelburne Museum (Shelburne, VT): Think of this sprawling museum as New England’s attic. Located on the shores of Lake Champlain, the Shelburne Museum features not only exhibits of quilts and early glass, but also whole buildings preserved like specimens in formaldehyde. Look for the lighthouse, the jail, and the stagecoach inn. This is one of northern New England’s “don’t miss” destinations.
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.