Road trips in the northeastern US (roughly)
June 26, 2022 10:20 PM   Subscribe

Where to go, and what to do? Party includes two adults.

Planning a road trip for the end of the summer. Where should we go (and when, if your proposed location has a specific timeframe)? (Interests are all over the place; state parks/museums/etc.; really anywhere memorable)

Also I've never personally planned a road trip before (prior experience is in traveling to other countries), so advice is welcome. Anything people wish they knew before setting out?
posted by queen anne's remorse to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Acadia National Park and Portland, Maine, while it's still warm.

Boston, before the college kids return.

Newport, RI.
posted by wenestvedt at 2:57 AM on June 27, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Vermont: Burlington, Shelburne Museum (Americana), Ben and Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:10 AM on June 27, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I love using Atlas Obscura to look up quirky spots to visit and then stringing them along together!
posted by knownassociate at 4:27 AM on June 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is very much worth a visit, and the general surroundings in the North Berkshires are beautiful. You can drive or hike up to the top of nearby Mount Greylock for a nice view.

As far as "how to road trip" goes:
  • Make sure your car is up to date on maintenance. If you've got scheduled service coming due in the next few months, maybe do it early, before you leave for the trip.
  • Stop somewhere every 60–90 minutes to stand & stretch and (if you intend to share the driving) switch drivers. It helps get the blood flowing and keeps you more alert. Also, if you find yourself losing focus and mentally drifting, stop as soon as you can before you fall asleep at the wheel. (I always used to have trouble with getting sleepy right after lunch on road trips, and had to pull over a couple of times to take a nap.)
  • Use audiobooks & podcasts to pass the time. Download them to your device over WiFi before you get on the road; using cellular data for this will blow your data limit pretty quick, and cellular data service is spotty in the mountainous parts of New England anyhow.
  • Similarly, if you use Google Maps, you can download the map data before the trip. Other map apps may have this functionality as well.
  • Many of the non-interstate roads in rural New England are windy two-lane roads with limited passing opportunities. At some point, it is likely that you will either be trapped behind someone going slower than you want to go, or to have someone who wants to go faster than you behind you. Accept this and don't let it stress you out.

posted by Johnny Assay at 5:11 AM on June 27, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Get an EZPass for the tolls, since paying them without one is a draaaaaaag. They are reciprocal in state from Wisconsin to New Hampshire to NJ (or PA?), so very important to have.

Most states will sell them at a DOT office in the interstate, in case you are coming from a state without toll roads. (Maybe online sales, too.)
posted by wenestvedt at 5:14 AM on June 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you're going to the Berkshires, I'd recommend a drive along the Mohawk Trail. It's the section of Route 2 roughly from the New York border to I-91 in central Massachusetts. I am not a huge driving fan, but it's a really wonderful route with some nice twisty bits up and down the hills. There are some good vistas overlooking the Pioneer Valley and several quaint typical New England towns along the way. The whole drive is maybe 2 hours at the most so it could be a good detour if you're heading further east or north.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:49 AM on June 27, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Bring a small cooler in the car for drinks and temperature-sensitive snacks (string cheese, chocolate-covered nuts, etc.), because summer sun can make them hot and gross even when the A/C is on.

Have a blanket to drag over your stuff so it's not quite so obvious to tweakers that your parked car is full of valuables.

Double-check each night's hotel reservations before you take off in the morning, so you don't get a nasty surprise in the evening.

Make music playlists for when they conversation slows. Bring along podcasts, and then discuss them afterwards: it's the passenger's duty to keep the driver awake! (The pax is in "the DJ seat,"and needs to maintain the driver's mood & attention.)

Consider having a theme to help guide destinations and mid-day stops.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:50 AM on June 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Like backseatpilot's advice, driving north through New Hampshire's White Mountains is very pretty -- and you can do day hikes or longer climbs. The area is very touristy, with accommodations ranging from campgrounds to B&B's, AirB&Bs, and fancy resorts. You can even drive up Mount Washington!
posted by wenestvedt at 6:52 AM on June 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a damn Yankee who lives in the south now and from here, the northeast includes the mid-Atlantic. So I'd go to DC. The Smithsonian museums and National Gallery could fill a month of Sundays and they're all free. The international hostel in Adams Morgan is a well-appointed place to stay and a great way to get a feel for the true diversity of the people coming and going. You can get your outdoors fix hiking in Rock Creek Park and at Great Falls, biking on the C&O Canal Towpath and Capital Crescent Trail, or paddling down the Potomac. A touristy day in Georgetown or on the waterfront is always good, DC has great bookstores and many historic venues, plus you can watch the Nats play.... By car you could visit Alexandria and Annapolis, cross the Bay Bridge to head to Ocean City if you want salt water, Baltimore is nearby up 95 and Monticello is out 66 in wine country.
posted by headnsouth at 6:53 AM on June 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Kind of depends how far North you want to go. Acadia is nice, as others have mentioned. Further North of Acadia is the Schoodic Peninsula, which is also very pretty and a much less crowded. Even further up the Maine coast is the Gold Coast, much quieter and still very pretty. Things do shut down a little sooner than they do in Southern Maine but it's worth driving around. Near Lubec you can go to Quoddy Head lighthouse, the Eastern most point in the U.S. If you have your passport you can head over to Campabello Island and go out to Head Harbor Light Station if the tide is out.

If you're not from the coast then you might want to book a day out on a whale watch. It gets cold out there, so bundle up, but seeing whales out in the ocean is a pretty amazing experience.

There's plenty to see in the rest of New England. The White Mountains in NH are pretty, though they're still somewhat crowded that time of year. Literally every inch of Vermont is beautiful in my opinion.

As far as general road trip advice:

Keep some glass cleaner and paper towels in your car and clean your windshield at least once a day. It'll make driving a bit less fatiguing. Gas stations are hit and miss as far as their squeegees and washer fluid go.

Try to keep a handle on the mess in your car. Have a bag for trash so you don't throw fast food wrappers into the back seat.

Have a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher.

Yes, EZ Pass. Most states no longer even have a cash option so if you're driving without an EZ Pass they'll send you a bill in the mail.

Cooler in the car with water and other drinks.

NH has some very large rest areas with everything you need. Vermont rest stops have free coffee and very often bake sales. MA and Maine also have pretty decent rest stops.

Have fun!
posted by bondcliff at 6:55 AM on June 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Niagara Falls is goofy as hell, but also great fun for a day or two. Not visiting the Canadian side would be a mistake.
posted by eotvos at 8:02 AM on June 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just a small tip: New England small town cops have a boring job most of the time and they pretty much exist to ticket tourists who think they're kidding about that 30mph speed limit in town, 45mph between towns stuff. I live in western mass and my police radio is much busier in summer. Drive no more than 5 over the speed limit almost anywhere but interstates. Let people pass if they don't like it. You'll see them later, pulled over.

Also the deer are out of control this year. I hit one myself a few days ago (first time ever in 40 years of driving, I was fine, car was fine, deer was not, even though I was going 20mph or so). Be super alert for them and assume they want to fuck your shit up.
posted by spitbull at 8:35 AM on June 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: What do you like? In New England, you could do a trip and go to antique shops and never run in to your friend doing hikes.

This site is a treasure trove of stuff to do. I highly recommend the Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range in NH. There are tons of easy hikes, and take a drive along the Kancamangus Hwy. Portsmouth, NH is a nice visit for walking around a seaside town.

Massachusetts has Boston on one end, and beautiful gentle mountains and woods in the middle, museums, including Mass Mus. Contemporary Art (Mass MOCA) on the western end, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Vermont is still quite rural, lots of lovely towns to visit, and has its own hippie, progressive, traditional vibe. Lake Champlain is next to Burlington, both worth your time.

Portland, Maine has amazing restaurants and a plethora of brew pubs often with food trucks outside, and islands you can visit for a walk, a nice meal, a visit to an Umbrella Cover Museum, shopping in the Old Port, walking. Acadia National Park is absolutely worthwhile, nice hikes, natural beauty.

The coast of New England has beaches, All of New England has state parks if you like to camps, tons of pleasant or serious hikes, museums, lakes, quaint towns, shopping, crafts, music. The days get shorter by October, but the weather is drier and gorgeous. The Kancamangus Hwy drive is great all year, stunning in Fall, and correspondingly crowded.

If you have a hobby or special interest, that's an excellent way to visit anyplace and see it from a different viewpoint. Or, follow all the advice above, stop at every welcome center for a map and ideas, hit the road and see what happens.
posted by theora55 at 10:01 AM on June 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

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