Massachusetts history trip and Maine scenic ocean trip, t minus two hour
March 8, 2013 4:35 AM   Subscribe

My friend is visiting me in Rhode island today through Sunday night and has her heart set on historical sights in Boston and going to the coast of Maine (maybe acadia). Given weather, Boston traffic, and driving times, what is the best way to do this?

Our original plan was to drive up to Boston today, park at the medford mbta station, and use the t to do freedom trail and the like, then drive up to Portland, stay overnight there, then continue on to acadia in the morning and use our days of nice weather to be in Maine.

My questions: how bad will driving in Boston be given the snow? I was already not too excited about driving in Boston on a weekday, but will it be exponentially worse in the snow? Also, is medford a good place top park? we just picked it for the price and figured it would be better to park on the north side so as to make an
easier escape in the evening.

-is there anywhere further south we could check out rather than driving up to acadia that still has super pretty ocean views? she's looking for some gentle hiking
but nothing too hard.

If we skip Boston today and do it Sunday, i might see if she wants to do a historical Massachusetts tou on our way up the coast. Where should we stop?
posted by geegollygosh to Travel & Transportation around Massachusetts (23 answers total)
I would skip Boston today. There's still heavy snow coming down and the roads probably won't start improving until noon. I have no idea what conditions are like down in Plymouth, but it might be a good substitute with plenty of history and a nice downtown to walk through.

As for places to park, the Alewife Red Line station offers easy access to the subway and provides highway access along Route 2 to I-95. You might also try Wellington on the Orange Line which isn't too far off I-93.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:49 AM on March 8, 2013

I am sitting at my desk in downtown Boston, watching the snow pour down. The roads are already a cluster of madness here without snow. I would definitely not advise coming here today.

Check out T parking options here.

As far as random historical stop-overs, I recommend Concord. There is the Orchard House and the Concord Museum.

Into Maine, I think you could get the same oceanview experience in the Boothsbay Harbor area.

For today, why not go check out the mansions and museum in Newport, or eat fantastic food and check out galleries in Providence? There's plenty for an out-of-towner to enjoy in Rhodey.
posted by keasby at 4:55 AM on March 8, 2013

Driving to Acadia isn't worth it for a single day. It's further than you think.

York has lovely ocean views, and Nubble Light is a popular spot to watch nice crashing surf. It's about five hours closer to you than Acadia. There's a nice mild hike at Wolfe's Neck in Freeport with views of Casco Bay, but I don't know what the condition of the trails will be like, since it's pretty much mud season.
posted by mneekadon at 4:58 AM on March 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

It's been years since I've lived in the northeast so my information might be wrong but whenever I went into Boston I'd park at the Riverside T station in Newton. It's pretty much right off the exit on I-95/128.

Going all the way to Acadia is a pretty long trip and probably not worth if it you're only going to have a few hours to spend once you get there. If I were pressed for time I'd stick around the Boothbay Harbor or Casco Bay area.
posted by Gev at 5:01 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Take it easy on driving today though. It's snowing as far north as Biddeford.
posted by mneekadon at 5:02 AM on March 8, 2013

Thanks for the answers guys. I will try to talk her out of Boston today. I know there's lots of stuff to do much closer and I've tried to guide our conversations in that way but she seems super set on Maine so It looks like Maine it is :) I'm just trying to find a nice spot in southern Maine...
posted by geegollygosh at 5:03 AM on March 8, 2013

But to clarify, we would be in acadia or whatever our Maine destination is for most of Saturday and the morning on Sunday.
posted by geegollygosh at 5:05 AM on March 8, 2013

The snow is just about over in Portland now and should be done in Boston by noontime. Maine might be the best bet today, since they'll have more of a chance to clean up before you get there. If you do decide on Boston, you might want to take the commuter rail from Providence to save on the driving. Instead of walking the Freedom Trail you could see if they're running any Trolly Tours. That way you would get the benefit of seeing the sights without having to trudge through the slush.

Probably just as snowy, but Portsmouth, NH is on the water, has a historic feel and is (usually) nice to walk around.
posted by FreezBoy at 5:13 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Acadia isn't really fully open in the winter. You can get to the area, definitely, but there will be no hiking unless you're a big fan of winter hiking, which sounds more strenuous than your friend wants. There will be cross-country skiing and sled dogs and snowmobiles. Many roads don't get plowed during the winter -- they wait for the snow to melt -- and from news from family in the area, I'd say they still have snow cover. (They didn't get this storm we're getting in Boston right now, but they had a solid four days of snow last week.) More info on Acadia in winter here.

Roads be passable (although not great) this afternoon, esp. if you are comfortable driving in the winter and leave before the afternoon rush hour (plan to be heading out so you get through or around Boston no later than 2:30 PM). Maybe you could leave around noon today (depending on how this shapes up) and head to Maine today, and then hit Boston Sunday on your way back? Portland has a great historic downtown, pretty ocean views, etc., and it looks like they're actually getting rain right now.
posted by pie ninja at 5:15 AM on March 8, 2013

Yeah, Boston is a mess right now. It took me almost 3x longer than usual to get to work on the bus. Roads are in awful condition.

However, Boston cleans up fast after storms and I imagine things will be just fine by this evening. As long as you can find something to do until late afternoon you should be fine.
posted by Cygnet at 6:02 AM on March 8, 2013

I would not go to Acadia this time of year!

You can see plenty of cool rocky coast at Two Lights State Park, just south of Portland. There are also walking paths at Portland Head Light, a few miles up from Two Lights (but Two Lights has better rocks). There is also an old fort at Portland Head. With the winds we've been having the past few days, even if it gets into the 40's, I can't imagine wanting to hike that much along the coast this time of year.

Then you can have a nice cozy lunch in Portland, Duckfat or Great Lost Bear, check out the Eastern and Western Prom (have her sit on the cannon on the Eastern Prom to take a picture of history). If you want to go further north Rockland is a pretty cool town, and Owl's Head has some good views. But I'd stick around Portland area, plenty to see and do there.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:06 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and regarding Maine - Portland is about as far north as you'd want to go for a day trip, really. If you went to Acadia you'd either have no time at the park (no where NEAR enough time to do it justice) or you'd drive all night.... it's at least a 6 hour drive from Providence, and that's assuming there's no traffic, which isn't a good bet right after a winter storm, even if people do clean up well.

If you have to go a little further north the area south of Brunswick/Bath is breathtaking and amazing and I could go on for years about my undying love for the region, but it will be VERY VERY COLD - no way you're going to have relaxed strolls on any beaches or any casual hiking... It's definitely nothing like Maine in the summer.
posted by Cygnet at 6:07 AM on March 8, 2013

Okay thanks so much everyone! Our revised plan is to hang out in ri this morning, head up through Boston around 1ish, stopping off on Concord and other historical sites on the way to Portland, then enjoying nature closer by to Portland on Saturday and coming back through Boston on Sunday.

Still open to any beautiful spots in southern Maine and any historical stuff between Boston and Portland. Thanks again everyone!
posted by geegollygosh at 6:37 AM on March 8, 2013

You could skip the driving almost entirely and take Amtrak from Providence (or any of Amtrak's local RI stops) to South Station. Then take the MBTA red line to Park Street, green line to North Station and hop on the Downeaster, which can take you to Portland, Freeport, or Brunswick.

Even if you don't drive, it's messy up here today; not really a pleasant snow to be walking around in. It's supposed to warm up today and get rainy.
posted by Currer Belfry at 6:54 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I live in Providence, and work in Foxboro MA, which is about midway between Providence and Boston. I had to turn around midway this morning because 95 was so bad. People are going about 35 mph on it, and it is not plowed in any meaningful way. It's only supposed to get worse. You couldn't pay me enought to drive into Boston today.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 7:32 AM on March 8, 2013

You'll be wanting the Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine. (If it's not covered in snow at present.)
posted by eviemath at 7:33 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Forget Amtrack, just hop on the commuter rail at Providence or Attleboro - $15 round trip per person. Parking is $8/day with ticket stub in PVD, $5/day at Attleboro.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:25 AM on March 8, 2013

I grew up in Acadia. I used to live in Boston (and now live in the Metrowest). In good conditions, Boston to Acadia is a 4 1/2 hour drive. In weather like this, travel time takes around three times longer. Even if the weather improves in Southern Maine and the roads are decent, you're still somewhere around a 2x multiplier. I'd note though, 90, and 495 through mass are still a mess right now. A few co-workers drove in to work on those roads and all had 3x-5x normal commutes. Me? I opted to work from home.

If you do go up to Acadia, once you get up there, you'll be dealing with a pretty shutdown area. If you are comfortable with winter hiking, the carriage trails are probably pretty decent, if you're really careful, there may be a couple of easy mountains that are passably safe, but at least when I was growing up most of Acadia's trails were purposefully concealed by using rock piles and paint stripes on rocks. Once you get out to the areas where the trees were scraped/burned from the mountains, its going to get much trickier. I'd also note, 'decently safe mountains' in the winter are really not safe for folks not comfortable with scrambling at least for a little bit in the snow and ice. Recommendations: Witches hole (~6 mile carriage trail near Bar Harbor), Flying Mountain (~.7 mile mountain hike in SouthWest), Little Notch Bakery (Southwest), Seawall (Southwest, maybe it is passable by car, still you'll be able to get close enough to it to walk the road if it isn't.)

As for Boston, yeah, if you can, commuter rail and call it good, that's probably ideal. Otherwise avoid this nonsense. I'll spell it out to you real simple: Warning: Boston drivers in the Snow. Second Warning: Boston snow plow drivers.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:35 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

With the snow even Concord would be a bust. If you do head to Boston you can do some indoors history along the Freedom trail. Old South Meeting House, Faneuil Hall, and the old State House are all stops on The Freedom Trail within yards of each other. Parking is probably going to be tight, but the huge garages at Haymarket, and Quincy Market may be places to try.
posted by Gungho at 9:44 AM on March 8, 2013

It is sunny and warm (mid 40°s) here in Bar Harbor today, almost no snow on the ground – looks like we're above the storm – but mneekadon and Marie Mon Dieu are exactly right, it is way too far to come all the way up here when all of the roads in the park except one or two are closed, and not much in town is open.

Try us again starting in mid-April or May, before the restless hordes arrive in July and August.
posted by LeLiLo at 10:54 AM on March 8, 2013

Nthing Two Lights as an easy-to-visit spot that gives you the rocky Maine coast feeling. I really like it there. I also really like Fort Williams/Portland Head Light, but more for sitting on the grass in the summer than visiting in March.

In Portland there's some nice history stuff going on, and starting with the Maine Historical Society is a good bet.

Have fun!
posted by that's candlepin at 11:53 AM on March 8, 2013

Try us again starting in mid-April or May, before the restless hordes arrive in July and August.

If anyone is still paying attention here, this advice no longer applies. The government continues to take away the park’s budget, so – for the first time anyone can remember – Acadia will remain closed in mid-April and early May.
posted by LeLiLo at 8:53 AM on March 26, 2013

Boo:-( That's one of the few times that locals can actually enjoy the park.
posted by eviemath at 10:19 AM on March 26, 2013

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