What should I explore in New England?
February 15, 2011 6:16 AM   Subscribe

So, I am moving to Philadelphia from Toronto. What are things I absolutely should do while I explore New England over the coming spring, summer and fall?

I have this exciting opportunity to work for the American side of my company's business. As a result I am moving to Philadelphia from Toronto in March.
What are the things beyond the beaten touristy path that I should absolutely experience in New England?
I love music, food and history
I'm up for the adventurous and the weird...
posted by quirksilver to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm confused... Philadelphia isn't even remotely in New England, which is generally Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. You mean you'll road trip there? Or do you mean in the general region of Philadelphia/southwestern Pennsylvania? Could you clarify?
posted by The Michael The at 6:29 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

For starters, make sure don't piss off the natives by implying they are part of New England. I'm fairly certain that Philly naives will not take that as a complement ;)
posted by COD at 6:29 AM on February 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

for the record, philly isn't considered new england. it's mid-atlantic. so it may change your adventure plans a bit, depending on suggestions given here based on a new england- or mid-atlantic-centric itinerary. or it may not if you are interested in venturing north of pennsylvania or if you want to concentrate more on the mid-atlantic.

(that said, you must have a cheesesteak!)
posted by violetk at 6:33 AM on February 15, 2011

I am familiar with Philadelphia only from visiting my mom, but there are a load of great museums -- The Art Institute (largest collection of DuChamp in the world), The Rodin Museum, and the Mutter Museum (for those not squeamish about medical curiosities) come immediately to mind. The Mummer's parade around New Years seems to be a Philadelphia tradition. Eat a cheese steak and have a long lie down while you feel the grease come out of the skin of your nose. New York is very close to Philadelphia, so trips there are kind of a must.

For New England, come in the fall -- there are great colors on the trees. Vermont is supposed to be great for this. RI has a load of old mansions from the early 20th C in Newport, and there are a lot of Colonial-era buildings, if that is your thing. If you are really interested in visiting RI, Memail me, and I will give you suggestions more tailored to your interests.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:43 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's been a while since I spent time in the city, but I remember loving the Mutter Museum (mentioned above), the University of Pennsylvania's Museum of Archaeology and Anthroplogy, Koch's Deli (within walking distance of Penn), the Reading Terminal Market, and the Italian Market (how I miss you, Fante's! Kitchen wares to lust for.). I also have fond memories of Saturday morning pastries from the Restaurant School.

I'm sure someone will be along to explain what the towns along the Main Line have to offer. Make sure you bookmark the cultural/community/arts pages of the various Philadelphia universities--great movies and lectures to be had there. Also take a look at WXPN's Free at Noon concert series, which often features great performers. (Have a listen to the station over its website to get a feel for it--well worth listening to!)

Further afield: I am a big proponent of Lancaster, Pa., which is a few hours by car/train from Philadelphia. Here are a few of my suggestions: one; two; three. As you're looking for offbeat, I'll refrain from suggesting the Amish tours/smorgasboards that are offered in several places across Lancaster County.

In the other direction is Bucks County. Again, it has been a long time...but my memory of Henry Mercer's Fonthill features a gibbet on the third floor. I hope I made that up, but Mercer's collection of Americana is just weird enough that it may be true.

If you get down to Delaware, see Longwood Gardens and eat at Buckley's Tavern. Oh god, how I long for a Buckley's Burger. Dinosaurs in Delaware? Yes, they have those too.

Welcome to Pennsylvania!
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:11 AM on February 15, 2011

I am sorry. I should have clarified. I have spent a lot of time in Philly/Mid Atlantic lately due to work. I would like to explore New England more.
posted by quirksilver at 8:19 AM on February 15, 2011

The Dia: Beacon and Mass MoCA are two museums that would be great centerpieces of weekend excursions from Philly. Both are in interesting and beautiful areas that have many other attractions to offer.
posted by ldthomps at 9:49 AM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just a few things that come to mind for CT (we're back in New England now, thanks Gov. Malloy!)

1. Drive the winding and often empty Scenic Byway 169 from Norwich (geographically and architecturally unusual-looking city with museums and a pretty rose garden) through rolling farmland up to the Quiet Corner/Last Green Valley, where you can do all kinds of outdoorsy stuff or go antiquing (the wacky random kind) in Putnam and get cute-rural-farm-town overload in Pomfret and Woodstock.

2. Visit the vineyards along the CT Wine Trail, buy food at Bishops.

3. Have a picnic with your food and walk the grounds & gardens of Eolia Mansion on the Sound at Harkness Memorial SP in Waterford.

4. Walk along the CT River on the new riverfront in Hartford, while looking at the downtown buildings.

5. Go to the very unique Book Barn and the Boardwalk and generally wander around in downtown Niantic.

5. Go to the strangely (or luckily) overlooked mile-long peninsula of awesome that is Stonington Borough. See the lighthouse.

6. Go upscale-but-not-snobby shopping along the lovely main streets of Madison (R. J. Julia bookstore is cool) and Old Saybrook, which has a an old-school soda fountain. Then go outlet shopping at Clinton Crossing in Clinton, which also has its own adorable downtown, and the nearby Tanger Outlet.

7. OD on historic houses in Wethersfield (It's the oldest town in the state, or...something like that.) It also has a beautiful little hidden-feeling cove.

8. More copious amounts of history, also more funky art galleries than you can shake a stick at, and old-timey Ocean Beach Park, in New London.

9. Climb the tower atop Haystack Mountain in Norfolk, get 360 view of the Berkshires.

10.Then drive down Route 7 for the fancy-schmancy version of the drive in #1, through covered bridges and towns like the Canaans (there are lots of them), and Kent.

There's ass-loads more, but I have to do some work now:-)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 10:13 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

In Pennsylvania, I'd suggest Johnstown, as in the Johnstown Flood: most of the dam is still there, plus a great museum.
posted by easily confused at 10:15 AM on February 15, 2011

Almost forgot: in Connecticut, try the Gillette Castle -- I ADORED that place as a kid!
posted by easily confused at 10:16 AM on February 15, 2011

On your drive down, you'll likely pass pretty close to Storm King Sculpture Park. It's a very large, outdoor sculpture park, and the grounds are beautiful to stroll around if the weather is decent. You'll have a chance to see Andy Goldsworthy's "Wall" which is a unique sculpture to check out.
posted by EvilPRGuy at 10:31 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

There is this amazing lobster shack near Mystic, CT. You must go there. You must get lost on the country roads along the way. You must order a lobster roll. You must eat it on the supplied picnic tables on the water, in the sun. If possible*, you must bring along an awesome New England microbrew to drink with it. Smutty Nose comes to mind.

*I went to this place with my parents when I was seventeen, so I don't remember the BYO or open bottle policy.
posted by Sara C. at 11:03 AM on February 15, 2011

I would recommend places in the Berkshires (western end of Massachusetts) during the summer months. ldthomps mentioned Mass MOCA which is in the northerm part of the Berkshires. If you like art and theater you could also go to next town, Williamstown, for The Clark Art Institute and the Williamstown Theater Festival.

There are many things to do and see in the southern end of the Berkshires, too. Bring a picnic and catch a concert at Tanglewood, or enjoy several other performing arts venues and museums.

A trip to Vermont or New Hampshire would be breathtaking in the fall and fun for skiing in the winter. Come to Boston in the spring!
posted by LilBit at 1:08 PM on February 15, 2011

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