Help me waste a week in New England
May 17, 2015 9:48 PM   Subscribe

I'm attending a conference in Maine in about a fortnight, which is a real treat since I'm coming all the way from Australia. After it's done I've got about a week of leisure - the only proviso is that I have to fly home out of Boston. I like interesting food, cultural / history stuff, and especially "Weird America". I'm probably gonna try to visit Wilhelm Reich's laboratory in Maine, but what else should I do with my free time? I'll have to rely on public transport to get around. I've already spent quite a bit of time in NYC but I'm certainly not averse to visiting again.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot to Travel & Transportation (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Where in Maine is your conference? There is little public transport outside Portland.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:01 PM on May 17, 2015


If you are reliant on public transportation, consider going down to Boston and taking a ferry to Provincetown, the train to Salem or take a walk on the Freedom Trail.
posted by Toddles at 10:14 PM on May 17, 2015


The International Cryptozoology Museum is pretty weird.
posted by Knappster at 10:43 PM on May 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Response by poster: I'll be able to catch a bus to Portland or Boston after the conference finishes!
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 10:46 PM on May 17, 2015


Providence was the home of HP Lovecraft, creator of the Cthulhu Mythos, as well as the home of Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design, and is easily accessible by rail from Boston.

Fall River was the home of Lizzie Borden; the Borden home is now a bed-and-breakfast, and is supposedly haunted.
posted by mr vino at 11:03 PM on May 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Deer Isle is on my Maine travel list.
posted by rhizome at 11:15 PM on May 17, 2015


Mt. Auburn Cemetery is an immense park-like cemetery up the Charles near Boston full of ornate funerary monuments.

Boston itself is incredibly walkable, and well served by public transit. For mainstream history, there is the Freedom Trail. If you like light-rail, a ride on the Boston College line up Commonwealth Ave. through Allston during off-peak hours can be quite lovely.

Transportation in the Berkshires might be problematic -- although there is bus service from Boston -- but there is nothing more American than the Norman Rockwell Museum that's found there, and, for high-culture, the Tanglewood music festival is nearby.
posted by bertran at 11:34 PM on May 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Don't overthink this - get a bus to New York City!
posted by misterdaniel at 11:39 PM on May 17, 2015


Stay in Maine!

Even if you can't rent a car, start with the Cryptozoology Museum and you'll be able to get a lot of information, as with this site: Strange and Unusual Places in Maine.

Also, if you can, borrow a car for a short time (I don't know the rules for Australians) and visit one of these places:

Weird Maine

Odd Maine Spots

Matthews Museum

Enjoy your visit!
posted by miss tea at 3:00 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you've already done New York, I'd vote for staying in New England - the travel within this area is really easy to do without a car.

Portland is definitely worth a day or two (the Cryptozoology museum is fantastic). You can catch a bus from Portland to Portsmouth, NH, which is also worth a night (on Wednesdays in the summer there's a great concert series - on land with an interesting history (the park used to be the site of the bordellos along the harbor).

From Portsmouth you can get a bus down to Boston - I think they leave hourly, and go to either the airport or South Station. From South Station, you can take commuter rail to Providence to see the sites mr. vino outlined above. And of course there's plenty to do in Boston as well, on either end of your days in Providence.
posted by amelioration at 4:29 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Public transport makes it tricky to see much in Maine but from Boston you can take a ferry to Islands and to Provincetown. It's the tip of Cape Cod.
You can also get to Portland and take a ferry from there to several nearby islands (or just scenic cruises).
Also there is a cruise line from Portland to Nova Scotia.

If you like history you may like Plimoth PLantation - an 1600's living history museum with costumed interpreters. It's a 45 minute bus ride to Plymouth and it's a pretty and old town.
posted by ReluctantViking at 5:26 AM on May 18, 2015


Salem! Salem MA! Home of the legendary witch trials and the incredibly hoky Salem Witch Museum! Lots of kooky occult tourism as a result. There's also a very touching memorial tomthe victims, and it's a lovely old charming New England seaside town, and Nathanial Hawthorne's House of Seven Gables is there too, and the very nice Peabody Essex Museum. On a train line, North of Boston--definitely worth a day trip on your way south.
posted by Sublimity at 5:58 AM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Cape Ann (north of Salem and on the same commuter rail line) is also great. And I believe the bus from Portsmouth to Boston stops in Newburyport, so you could add it on relatively easily. Alternately it's easy to get to from Boston on the commuter rail (Newburyport, Rockport, or Gloucester would probably be the most worth checking out).
posted by mskyle at 6:16 AM on May 18, 2015


The Museum of Bad Art has an... interesting collection. The website says their main gallery in Dedham is closed, but they have a satellite at the Somerville Theater, easily accessible on the MBTA's Red Line.
posted by underthehat at 6:44 AM on May 18, 2015


If you can get to Freeport, ME you should stop in to LL Bean. You could be the first Lumbersexual in Australia!
posted by Gungho at 7:18 AM on May 18, 2015


Salem was the highlight of my trip to Boston last year. It's a charming, very walkable town, with lots to appeal, from quirky to cool. I loved the shop that featured local artisans by the water, and there was some really amazing food available, too.
posted by PearlRose at 7:26 AM on May 18, 2015


FYI, the Wilhelm Reich museum is in Rangeley, which is almost 3 hours from Portland. There is no public transportation to this area, and the route takes you through some very rural and wooded (although beautiful this time of year) land. Their hours are listed as July and August. The Rangeley lakes area is a vacation destination, so if you do get up there try to get up on one of the mountains for a spectacular view (I think Route 17 and Route 4 both have overlooks, driving, not climbing, I mean).

There is bus service in Portland, and a train that goes to Freeport, home of LL Bean and the giant boot, with limited service (you would have to leave Portland at 2:45 p.m. to get to Freeport and then catch the 6:40 p.m. train back to Portland, unless you stay overnight in Freeport and catch the 7:20 a.m. train the next day, that's how limited the train service is going North). The same train will also take to Boston.

If I had no public transportation or car, I would check out the Old Port in Portland, near the waterfront, too many restaurants to list. Then I'd take the train down to Boston and explore.

Newburyport is a neat town about an hour north of Boston, if you have time, it's worth stopping there via train and checking it out. Lots of shops and restaurants, the Merrimack River, fishing boats, etc. If that's not your thing, I'd head to Boston and do one of the historical walking tours (Salem is also a great suggestion).
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:29 AM on May 18, 2015


Plan on spending some time in Boston on your way out. The standard Boston history is great for Americans, and Europeans find it fascinating to watch us go on and on about antique and historic things from 200 years ago, but that's political history. If you're more interested in social history, I'd recommend Salem; the rest of Cape Ann tends to be a bit sparse for a whirlwind tourist - nature, beautiful views, adorable fishing villages, but not a lot to do (though the Rockport Paper House qualifies as "Weird America" for sure). If you're more interested in social anthropology, spend a day in Cambridge - there's something about the town and its multiple schools and town squares that is just great. I always send/take people to the MIT museum to see the Ganson kinetic sculptures.
posted by aimedwander at 7:34 AM on May 18, 2015


Other stuff to do in Providence and Rhode Island:

The RISD museum -- a nice sized art museum that is good for a couple of hours of wandering around. There are also some historic house museums (John Brown and Lippitt) that are good if you like 18th and 19th C architecture on the East Side that are quite accessible).

Graveyards -- the North Burial Ground and Swan Point Cemetery are quite pleasant for visits. The former is more historic and the later more scenic.

The mansions in Newport -- from 1890-the 20s, Newport was a getaway for the ultra rich, and a lot of their opulent homes are museums now. I wouldn't go see more than one (the Breakers is probably the most grand), but it's an interesting view at how the 1% lived.

The Viking Tower (Newport) -- not built by vikings, but it is a ruined tower (probably a mill). Nearby is the Redwood Library, the oldest publicly accessible library in North America, which does tours that are fun, and the Truro Synagog, the oldest synagog in North America. You can have lunch at the White Horse, which has a claim on being the oldest eatery in North America (although disputed). Newport also has a range of historic houses and churches, too.

The Cliff Walk (Newport) -- if you are tired of history, this walk along the Atlantic is a nice break.

Rhode Island also has some nice places to eat and some breweries, if your tastes run in that direction. People also like the beaches, although I find them crowded.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:34 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'll have to rely on public transport to get around

I highly recommend you rent a car if at all possible. Outside of the immediate Boston area, public transit isn't very good. You'll be limited to Amtrak (meh), the "T" (yuck), and the Commuter Rail (double yuck).

Boston itself is very nice and a very walkable city. Provincetown (on Cape Cod, accessible by ferry boat from Boston) is a quaint little town and very LGBT-friendly.

If you CAN rent a car, take a drive out to the Berkshire Mountains in Western Massachusetts (about 3 hours from Boston), Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine (4-5 hours from Portland?), Mount Washington in New Hampshire, and any number of little towns in Vermont (the Ben and Jerry's factory in Waterbury, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company in (I think) Burlington). Pick up a copy of Road Trip USA: New England and look through it before your trip.
posted by tckma at 10:04 AM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Right, I'mma give my home state a little love because a) no one ever talks about Connecticut, and b) there actually is bus service leading between Providence and two cities therein.

1. In Storrs, CT, you will find the University of Connecticut, home to what is widely regarded as the very best degree program for aspiring puppeteers in the United States (people consider an MFA from there to be a fast track to working with Henson Co.). The campus also opened a little museum about puppetry, which is indeed small, but kinda cool. They sometimes give performances by visiting artists and current MFA students.*

2. In Hartford, CT (which is just under an hour away from Storrs by bus) there is the Wadsworth Atheneum, one of the country's oldest art museums. They have an especially good collection of works from the Hudson River School art movement.



* I was dating a guy in UConn's MFA program last spring; he works at the museum sometimes and really knows his stuff, so if you walk in and there's a guy who looks like he's half luchador and half Muppet and he's giving a lecture, stop and listen.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:15 AM on May 18, 2015


Hey, there is pretty great public bus transportation in New England! People seem to have forgotten all about Peter Pan, which can get you all sorts of places. The problem is really more what can you walk to from there, but there are some interesting options here.

In addition to Salem, I think you'd like the old fishing city of Gloucester. It's still funky and weird but also a great place to spend time, and has beautiful beaches. You can get to Gloucester from Boston North Station on Commuter rail, and once there, there is a trolley you can take through town and to the beaches all summer. You can walk along the docks, take a water taxi to an art colony, visit Cape Pond Ice Factory, have some local beer and seafood.
posted by Miko at 4:31 PM on May 18, 2015


Hey, there is pretty great public bus transportation in New England! People seem to have forgotten all about Peter Pan, which can get you all sorts of places.

The Peter Pan website lists ‘terminals, stations, and stops’ in CT, MA, NH, and RI, but nothing in ME or VT. From the Boston airport up to Maine — Portland, and even on to Augusta and Bangor — Concord Coach works fine. But Marie is right on — you’re not going to have much luck getting anywhere near Rangeley on the bus. And according to their Chamber of Commerce, it’s 230 miles from Boston.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:03 AM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


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