Please help plan my unambitious northeast getaway
March 25, 2019 7:09 AM   Subscribe

This is one of those boring "please help me figure out where I should vacation" posts. My partner and I have 4-5 days available in the middle of April, and due to a combination of procrastination and not realizing how expensive short flights can be (our original plan was Charleston/Savannah but it just seemed too expensive to justify a 5 day trip where basically 2 of those days would be in transit), we are looking for ideas centered in the Northeast, where we live.

Our current plan is Newport and Providence, but I was wondering if Metafilter might have some alternative ideas.

- We live near NYC, in New Jersey
- We have a car
- Budget is 1,500 or thereabouts
- We like nature (though we're "day hike" kind of people, not big campers) but are worried that bad weather could sink an entirely outdoors-focused trip
- We like history and touring through historically important places, out of the way places included
- We like to eat but aren't foodies, and we like cute, pleasant accommodations but aren't into anything luxury

Any meta-ideas for how you go about planning interesting itineraries would also be welcomed.
posted by loquacious crouton to Travel & Transportation around Northeastern United States, United States (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (Sorry for being US-centric, I just realized I should have mentioned that I specifically mean the northeast US in the title!)
posted by loquacious crouton at 7:11 AM on March 25, 2019

April in the Northeast is mud season and can be cold as well, though if you get lucky you'll have great weather. I think Burlington, VT would check off a lot of your boxes. There's some history on the area (Fort Ticonderoga) and the Shelburne Museum is nearby. There's good food, plenty of hiking or biking in the area. If it's warm enough you could kayak or fish on the lake. Lots of nice hotels and inns so no need to camp.
posted by bondcliff at 7:22 AM on March 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

How about Ithaca, NY, probably less than a 5 hour drive for you. Lots of beautiful hiking trails (hills, forests, gorges, waterfalls, and a big lake) and plenty to see and do if the weather doesn't accommodate day hikes. A multitude of restaurants. Comfortable airbnbs.
posted by mareli at 7:23 AM on March 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Berkshires' region in Massachusetts has lovely hikes of all levels but additionally MASS MOCA, the Clark Museum, Edith Wharton house, Normal Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, charming town of Lenox. Porches in North Adams is a wonderful place to stay for a couple nights then maybe another two nights in Stockbridge. Hiking up to or around Mt. Greylock is wonderful in good weather, but bring good hiking boots, and poles if you use them as New England trails are pretty chunky. Historical Deerfield is an hour away from the Berkshires. This is a chilling account of the Deerfield Massacre in 1704 to read about before you go.
posted by Elsie at 7:27 AM on March 25, 2019 [7 favorites]

In New England & NY state, the weather and the mud can make being outdoors unpleasant, even in mid-April. My impression is that for anything farther north than Connecticut or Rhode Island, you're rolling the dice for outdoor activities at that time of year. Particularly as you move away from the ocean.

That said, I'll second Ithaca & the Finger Lakes region. The Gorge Trail at Robert H. Treman State Park is not to be missed, assuming it's open by then. You're also within striking distance of the Corning Museum of Glass, which is a hidden gem of a museum.

I'll also second the Berkshires, though the caveat about mud season goes double up there in April.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:33 AM on March 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Stay between Bennington, VT and North Adams, MA in scenic Pownal, VT at this Airbnb. Hot tub with mountain sunset view, stained glass library room, huge kitchen, gas fireplace. Delightful.
posted by enfa at 7:33 AM on March 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you do Providence and Newport, you should check out the New Bedford Whaling Museum and their massive Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World, about a half hour drive away.

I don’t know if Newport Lobster Shack will be open for the season by mid-April, but it might be worth checking if you have a nice day and want to get lobster on the pier.
posted by rodlymight at 7:50 AM on March 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

That time of year, I would head south rather than north. In Vermont, there will still be snow on the ground in a lot of places. Not in Burlington probably, but on any hiking trail that goes up a mountain. You might as well go someplace where it really feels like spring. You could drive down to DC and focus on the Smithsonian. It has so many different museums that alone could keep you busy. But you should also be able to find some day hikes within an hour or two of the city.
posted by Redstart at 7:58 AM on March 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Like Redstart said, you might also want to investigate some southern options as well, given how unpredictable April weather can be in New England (and especially if your original plan was Charleston, SC!).

If you're willing to drive down as far as DC, that area has some pretty awesome National and State parks within easy driving distance, especially if you stay somewhere on the outskirts of DC where maybe you could Metro into the city if you wanted but also beat the traffic for day hiking. I've gone on some very nice mushroom forays around that area in the past—if that sounds like something you're into, it might be worth checking to see if the Mycological Association of Washington DC has any outings planned for the time you're there.

Somewhere like Baltimore might also be worth checking out in April. You'd hopefully get some of the same elements as you'd get in Charleston or Savannah: lots of history, thriving seaside city culture, not as expensive (or hopefully as chilly) as somewhere further north like Boston, and almost certainly within driving distance of some awesome parks or forests.
posted by helloimjennsco at 8:09 AM on March 25, 2019

How about Cape May - lots to do and see even if iffy weather. Also wide variety of accommodations. We usually park our can and never move it between biking and walking.

St Michaels, Md is another interesting place - we also bring bikes and ride all over but you may be able to rent them there.

We have been to both places multiple times so if you want recommendations for places let me know.

Two places we haven't gone but are considering soon are Gettysburg, Pa and Frederick, Md. They both look interesting and not that far.

posted by MrsMGH at 8:32 AM on March 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you do Newport, you should spend some time in Jamestown as well - it's a super cute island town where Moonrise Kingdom was filmed. I'd particularly recommend Fort Wetherill and Beavertail.
posted by todolos at 9:15 AM on March 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you're open to going south, what about Annapolis?
posted by kevinbelt at 9:17 AM on March 25, 2019

I would definitely say that if south is an option, consider Washington DC (~3.5hr drive). The Cherry Blossom Festival is ongoing (Mar 20 - Apr 14), though whether you'll see them in full or near-full bloom depends a lot on luck and weather. There's tons of great history stuff to visit (indoor + outdoor), more than you could possibly exhaust in 4-5 days.

On a completely different note, maybe consider parts of Canada? Obviously a longer drive, but Montreal (~7h) and Quebec City (~8.5h) are amazing and have lots to offer indoors and outdoors. Personally I like a long drive on a trip, and I've done both in 5-day trips (including driving days) from MA, but your experience may differ.
posted by tocts at 9:52 AM on March 25, 2019

75 minutes North of Paramus are the Shawangunk Mountains, including these attractions - Mohonk Preserve, Minnewaska State Park Preserve, and the Mohonk Mountain House. Amazing day hikes and views and some mellow touristy stuff in the towns of New Paltz and Gardiner and environs.
posted by Glomar response at 9:56 AM on March 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'd actually rethink Charleston/Savannah. We did it a couple of years ago at this time of year and the weather was perfect. It's not really two days of transit as the flights are less than two hours (we went ex-JFK, but assume same from EWR). We went into Charleston and out of Savannah eliminating the need to double back. Only issue with your plan is one of the flights was JetBlue and not sure they serve EWR on that route. Part of why we went was how cheap the flights were.

If those are out, I'd recommend going to mid-Atlantic to avoid the mud. In addition to DC (expensive though!) and Annapolis I'd say Bucks or Adams County, PA. Advantage of Adams is proximity to recreation on the Potomac for your day hike itch. I loved Harpers Ferry just ~ hour away in W Va
posted by TravellingCari at 10:17 AM on March 25, 2019

The greater Philly area could be a good choice. The city has all the city kind of stuff like museums, historical sites, restaurants, etc. The area around Philly has a surprising number of arboretums and gardens which can make for nice walks that are less muddy than something foresty. Longwood Gardens is the best known.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:06 PM on March 25, 2019

Tip for folks in NJ looking for interesting getaways: Frontier runs super cheap flights out of Trenton-Mercer airport to regional airports in the South and Midwest. They don't fly every day and have the usual discount airline baggage upcharges, but it's not hard to find crazy inexpensive fares. In fact, I just threw in a trip from Trenton to Nashville on 4/6-4/10 and was quoted a roundtrip fare of $34.
posted by apparently at 6:25 PM on March 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

Drive down the Jersey Shore, hang out in Cape May, then take the ferry to Delaware and hang out in Lewes, Rehoboth, and Bethany Beach (where I live). Lewes is the oldest town in Delaware so there's some history there.
posted by jenjenc at 6:28 PM on March 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Shenandoah Valley in Virginia is beautiful if you don't mind a longer drive. I went in April once years ago and it was quite nice. I spent a very enjoyable Presidents' Day weekend in Baltimore this year, so that could work, too. Philly, DC and Cape May are also solid choices.
posted by breakin' the law at 7:25 PM on March 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you want to explore Dukes County it might be rainy but I can give you the nickel tour and buy you a beer or three.
posted by vrakatar at 11:23 PM on March 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

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