Several years ago, B was spending part of her time working out of her company’s in New Jersey office. Serendipitously, I was sent to a work conference in Rhode Island at the same time. Of course the two of us would plan a few days around work and go on an epic Northeast road trip (because why not?). If you and your bestie find yourselves with a few days to spare on the Eastern seaboard, try hitting up a few of these places. You won’t be sorry!
The one downside of our great plan was that it happened to fall during the coldest, snowiest Februarys in many moons. Even B, who grew up in the rural Idaho mountains, was impressed by the amount of snow. The snow banks were up to the roof of our little Ford Focus. Fortunately, the car handled the treacherous conditions well enough to get us around our Northeast road trip.
Northeast Road Trip – Maine
I was very excited to see Portland, Maine, as I work with a company that is based there. I was pleased by the little town; it actually reminded me a bit of Boise. Not so much the geography (hello desert vs. ocean), but the vibe. People seem friendly and not terribly concerned about what their clothes said about them. A pretty good chunk of them were wearing L.L. Bean, as the headquarters for the company is nearby. If you visit Portland, here are some places you should definitely check out.
Being as the headquarters is here, there is also a fine store that offers sale priced L.L. Bean merch. So if you are one of the people who simply *must* have some duck boots, you might be able to pick up your pair here for cheap.
How could we not go to a restaurant that was named Duckfat? It sounds just gross enough to be delicious. Being as we were quite close to Canada, it made sense that poutin was on the menu. B partook. I stuck to the Belgian fries sans gravy and cheese curds. Yummy!
Portland is on the ocean and hence, sailboats abound. What to do with the sails when they are no longer functioning on the boats? Why, make adorable purses and bags from the resilient material. B had researched this company long before we went on our trip and as a bag aficionado, simply needed one for her collection. We went down a quiet wharf street and found the small storefront where they had a shop selling their wares. Most of the building is dedicated to the actual sewing of the bags. You never know exactly what you are going to get as far as design because they are made from repurposed sails. You can bet your bottom dollar they do well in the rain!
As we drove up the coast line towards Acadia National Park, we went right through a little slice of idyllic heaven in the form of Camden. This town is quaint and charming. It is on the coast, so there are sweeping views of the ocean. But then, there are adorable little shops lining the adorable little streets. You could tell that this town is more upscale and touristy, but most things get tourists for a reason. There is definitely a reason Camden is popular.
Maine’s coast is pocketed with lots of little towns (although maybe not as cute) as Camden. You can definitely tell that this whole area gets infested by people in the summertime. Since it was winter, most stores and hotels were shuttered up so it was very quiet and peaceful.
Acadia National Park
I can’t get enough of National Parks. So when we were planning this trip, my number one goal was to get to Acadia. It’s important to make stuff happen when you can. Because this is not an easy part of the U.S. to get to, you really have to want it. Well, I wanted it, even though it was the middle of a fierce winter. Sadly, there was so much snow everywhere we didn’t get to walk around that much. What little we saw was breathtaking, though. The cliffs along the park are dramatic and steep and the white of the snow and the blue of the water was striking.
Northeast Road Trip – New Hampshire
New Hampshire is not known for lots of visitors. However, B and I were both working on our 50 states list and wanted to be able to check it off. Like Maine, New Hampshire seemed to be sleepy and quiet; the difference is I’m not quite sure how busy it becomes when the weather warms. I could be wrong…New Hampshirites, set me straight. Actually, maybe I shouldn’t say anything derogatory about this state. The most striking memory I have of the visit was coming up to a three way traffic light and watching people drive right through the red light when it was clear. They clearly take their motto to ‘Live Free or Die’ to heart. No man (red light) was going to come between them and their freedom!
We stayed in a town that looking back, neither B nor I can remember the name of. It probably is kinder that way, as our experience wasn’t that notable. We showed up at our hotel and found no one there for us. They did leave a note, but the key they had left in the envelope on the counter didn’t open our door. So we had to wait in the dark in sub-zero temperatures until they came to unlock the door. With nothing else to do that night (nothing was open) I read the review of the hotel and sure enough, the last person who stayed there got locked out to.
I will say, I did dig the people in New Hampshire. We visited Vermont next and while we met delightful folks there, I could tell that I would just fit in better in New Hampshire. It is more…unpolished.
Northeast Road Trip – Vermont
Ah, Woodstock. No, not the one you are thinking of, but the one that is infinitely cooler than that other one in New York. This town is a gem. It is small, but has everything you need with shops, restaurants, plenty of covered bridges and antique farmhouses that have been converted into B&Bs. We wandered through town as much as we could but were soon forced indoors by the negative temperatures. I don’t actually recall being anywhere that was that low on the ol’ mercury. In the center of town they have a board (a.k.a. town crier) with the temperature written on it. Newflash: it was cold! Woodstock actually reminded me a lot of the fictional town of Star’s Hollow from Gilmore Girls. Who knows, Lorelai might have been just around the corner.
We decided before we left that we should take advantage of the copious amounts of snow and go skiing while we were on our Northeast road trip. The ski hill closest to Woodstock is called Suicide Six and we had a delightful time skiing the runs on this little resort. There are only three lifts and 24 runs, and I’m pretty sure that in the few hours we were there we did all of them. Since it was so cold, we had no problems going skiing for a few hours and calling it a day. Who says you have to spend all day on the hill? Not me.
The Sugarbush Farm is not far from Woodstock. This little place makes real maple syrup and cheese. It is a small operation and when we visited, we went right into the room where a few women were dipping cheese in wax to prepare it for curing and selling. I hadn’t ever seen cheese being made so it was pretty fascinating to learn how long they had to leave certain cheese before they were ready to go. B tried a cheddar that had been aged 10 years! Sugarbush wasn’t fancy, but it was authentic.
I hadn’t ever stayed in a bed and breakfast, so we thought when better to try it out than in Vermont? By luck of the draw we reserved what must be one of the best little B&Bs in Vermont: the Farmhouse Inn. I’m not sure if we just got lucky in our stay, but it was downright magical. The house is beautiful and since we were the only ones there, we got to peak in all the rooms as we went up to the Maple Room (it had two cute single beds). All the rooms looked homey and inviting, so I don’t think you could go wrong.
Our hosts were lovely and warm and inviting. There was a room with books and a tv, but we spend our time in the music room. They had lots of instruments so I took the piano and B accompanied me on the guitar. I don’t know if the owners appreciated our rendition of ‘Don’t Stop Believin,’ but we had lots of fun, stopping only to work on a puzzle laid out on a table before we went up to bed. We had a delicious breakfast, way bigger than we could eat, with farm fresh items. It really was a wonderful experience.
I can only imagine how lovely it would be in this area during peak leaf season. But it was quite spectacular when frozen. Whatever time of year you get there, you won’t be disappointed if you visit these places on a Northeast road trip.