Honeymoon Roadtrip Advice!
May 15, 2008 2:22 AM   Subscribe

In order to avoid involvement in the general wedding preparations, I selflessly offered to book our entire honeymoon as a surprise. The plan is to spend 3 weeks in August touring the North-Eastern states. So far, however, I have only managed to book flights from England to New York and back. I now have 2 flights, 3 weeks apart, and a big void between them. After exhaustive research on this site, tripadvisor and others, I am just exhausted. I'm not much closer to finalizing plans, let alone getting anything booked. Perhaps you could help?

This is the long-list of places I am considering visiting. Despite several visits to the US I haven't been to any of these previously. I don't suppose I can fit them all in in just 3 weeks though:

The White Mountains
The Green Mountains
Cape Cod
Rhode Island
Bar Harbor
Portland, ME
Lake George or similar in the Adirondacks
Martha's Vineyard

As a rough driving guide I was thinking of heading up the Hudson into the Adirondacks, then across VT into Maine to Bar Harbor, then back down Route 1 along the coast towards Boston, then off to Cape Cod area, RI, CT and back to NYC.

Our likes:
Easy (for me) to moderate hiking and biking
Great scenery; lakes, mountains, forests, cityscapes etc.
Good food of all varieties, from world-class restaurants to Lobster rolls from roadside shacks.
Shopping, outlet malls etc.
Sunbathing, picnics and lazy adventures
Blagging our way into upmarket parties at yacht clubs, private resorts and the like.

Some problems:

How much of this can I realistically fit into 3 weeks? I don't want to be on the road every other day
If you were going to do this route, what would you cut out? What would be a must-see?
Am I too late to book some of these places in August?
I am hiring a car. We are staring in NYC for the first few days. I have no problem with driving in cities (even on the wrong side of the road) but will I need one in NYC?
posted by HBWonderful to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: will I need one in NYC?
no, and in fact it'll be a pain in the ass (if you have to be there to move it to the correct side of the street for parking, e.g.) or a lot of extra money (if you'll be paying to park it at a hotel, e.g.). Also if you do NYC without the car, you can take the subway/commuter train somewhere... on your way... and pick one up in the outskirts somewhere that will cost you a heck of a lot less than the one you would've rented at the airport.

Do not skip Boston. Maybe reduce your time in the "big cities" of Maine and spend more time toodling around on the coast. Specifically I have to recommend Georgetown and this lobster shack and the next door homemade ice cream (about 2.5 hours north of Boston). And honestly, I think Cape Cod is kind of pffffft. Most of the beaches are private, and the water is fucking freezzzzing.
posted by whatzit at 4:15 AM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm answering your question - honest. Could I recommend you please go easy on yourselves. Three weeks driving up and down the east coast of North America seeing, doing, climbing and eating all the things you possibly can is not what you need to be doing just after a wedding. Your trip sounds amazing, and three weeks is a once-in-a-lifetime gift, but just pick one or two relaxing things you want to do. You've got enough on your plate.

My nuptials are less than a month away and currently I am about to eat my own head with the amount of stuff I have to do. The only thing that's getting me through is the mental image that in just over a month, I'll wake up on holiday, and say to myself: "What do I have to do today? ... Yes, that's right, nothing!"
posted by randomination at 4:29 AM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Assuming you mean Stowe, VT (there's more than one in New England), it's already right in the middle of the Green Mountains, so that cuts your list down a little. Rhode Island is a perfectly nice place, but I'm not sure what you'd be seeing/doing there that's going to be significantly different than some of the other places on your itinerary. The back highways that cut across to Maine from St Johnsbury in VT (Rte 302, in particular) go through wonderful scenery, with lots of pull-offs for swimming holes and trails in some of the parks or at Sebago Lake.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 4:31 AM on May 15, 2008

Best answer: This sounds like a great idea. I'm sure you'll have fun. But I can see how it's been hard to break it down into manageable pieces.

I'd start by looking for events/festivals on the 2 or 3 weekends you'll be here and planning your trip around those dates. For instance, Stowe has an antique car festival every summer, for some people that would be the highlight of the trip, but others would want to stay far away that weekend. Here are some sites with calendars of events.
Lake George
Cape Cod
It might be a little trickier getting rooms for some of the more popular events, but I think you'd be okay booking now.

Once you have that decided, look at the route between the events and you'll be able to narrow things down more.

Don't get a car in NYC. Even if there's something outside the city you want to see, you'll do better to drive to it either coming or going from the longer trip.
posted by saffry at 4:34 AM on May 15, 2008

My family has a summer house on Martha's Vineyard, so I can talk it up all you want, but keep in mind it's an island and that can throw a snag into your plans. It'll be difficult to bring a car on the ferry unless you make a reservation. If you want to get on the island and then leave on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday your chances of getting a reservation are pretty good. If it's a weekend or a Monday/Friday, it's extremely difficult since people start booking those days for the summer in March, I think. See The Steamship Authority for more info.

I agree with the others you may be trying to squeeze in a lot in three weeks. I mean, you could spend three weeks in NYC alone. There are definitely more beaches on Cape Cod & Martha's Vineyard and even Rhode Island, but there's also more hiking opportunities in upper New England (i.e. Maine, Vermont & New Hampshire).

Anyway, do with that information what you will. If you do decide to visit Boston and/or Martha's Vineyard, feel free to MeFi Mail me and I can send you some recommendations.
posted by sutel at 5:36 AM on May 15, 2008

Once you leave NYC, you'll need a car.

The Hudson river valley is pretty wonderful, with some estates worth visiting, good restaurants, shopping, great scenery. Frederick Church's estate, Olana, is pretty snazzy and has the kind of views the Hudson River school was famous for.

This is a very busy time in all the areas you want to visit, so don't wait till the afternoon to reserve a room for the night.
posted by sevenstars at 5:36 AM on May 15, 2008

I meant to add: recommendations for restaurants.
posted by sutel at 5:36 AM on May 15, 2008

Some quick notes on the Green/White Mountains - might not be a bad idea to hit just one in favor of making your itinerary a bit more manageable.

In the greens, at Stowe, they're just opening up a new lodge that supposedly has some really good deals throughout the summer:
It doesn't get much prettier than Stowe in the greens, in my opinion.

In the whites, the Mount Washington Hotel is amazing:

I personally think those 2 places are your best bets for scenery in the greens/whites. Both offer plenty of easy/moderate hiking and are convenient to drive to.

And just want to agree with everyone who says to skip the car in NYC. Rent it on your way out of the city.
posted by rachelv at 5:48 AM on May 15, 2008

This is remarkably similar to our honeymoon, which was fantastic. I think your general outline is nice and can be comfortably be done in three weeks but you will really need to arrange a car to get to these places. If you pick 3-5 anchor points to stay a few days each, you'll just need day drives between them. You are not too late to book a car and there should probably still be accommodations available in many places, but don't delay any longer.

The only things I might add: on your trip upstate from NYC you may consider visiting Montreal since it is relatively close, then loop through any number of a zillion great hiking/camping places (as noted above for a start) in VT, NH & ME. Skip the Cape & Islands unless you want to spend lots of time in traffic (you can appreciate a similar rustic coastal vibe all the way up the Maine coast anyway). In general you might avoid planning driving days on weekends, esp. around NYC and Boston, in order to avoid the mass summer weekend migrations from the cities and back.

posted by quarterframer at 6:51 AM on May 15, 2008

I grew up just south of Lake George. For one thing, you are in luck in that August is "track season" in Saratoga Springs, NY, which is about 20 miles south of Lake George. The track is beautiful and is a wonderful place to spend the day. (Feel free to contact me for more specific questions about anything to do with Lake George, know the are like the back of my hand and have lots of relatives and friends still up there.)

The downside is that accommodations are hard to come by and fairly expensive in the Lake George region, so be prepared to spend money or drive a little.

Also consider Lake Placid, NY, as the weather is sweet in August and you can hike, shop, mt. bike, canoe, skate, bobsled, and do just about anything up there.

I second the comment about Montreal, it is also very nice to visit in the summer.

best of luck to ya!
posted by peteshaw at 9:42 AM on May 15, 2008

Best answer: It definitely sounds like you're setting yourself up for a GO GO GO kinda honeymoon - which may not be what you want. We did that - 3 weeks in Ireland and Scotland - but half a year after our actual wedding. The week after, we spent in a B&B in the lovely White Mnt area doing nothing.

My personal recommendations are to strongly consider consolidating your trip to places you really want to see. Skip Cape Cod, and either the Green or White (both beautiful, but similar), and Rhode Island.

Bar Harbor in Maine is a cute little town - what you really want to see is Acadia National Park. August is busy season, so if you're staying in the area, it's advisable to book in advance. You absolutely need at least four days to even scratch the surface of this magnificent park.

So maybe:

NYC for at least 3-4 days (with a good guidebook or mefi help)
take train to Boston, repeat. Get car only when leaving Boston.

Find nice B&B in White Mts to stay at, explore for another 3-4 days.

Drive up to Bar Harbor or somewhere nearby, visit Acadia and surroundings, again at least 3-4 days.

Stop at various points in Adirondacks on the way back to NYC. It's a long drive.

That might be a much saner level of activity, given how much driving you'll be doing otherwise.
posted by canine epigram at 10:32 AM on May 15, 2008

Best answer: (MA native, current NYCer)

Nthing the you're cramming in too much, but this is a wonderful idea.

I'd suggest maybe 3-5 days in NYC (DEFINITELY without a car and not less than 3 days). Then you could take an Amtrak train up to Boston and spend 2-4 days there, and then rent a car and drive up to Vermont or New Hampshire and Maine. Maybe 5-6 days in Maine (Portland is really nice, and has great food), you can spend a day at the outlets in Kittery, and spend some time on the coast. You could go up through New Hampshire and back down through Vermont for some hiking in the Green Mountains. I think you could just do either the Green or the White Mountains instead of both. I don't know NH as well but VT has many really nice b&bs which would be great to stay in for a honeymoon.

I would skip Lake George and the Adirondacks--they are pretty, but I prefer Maine or Vermont. Plus if you cut out Upstate New York, you'll save yourself a lot of driving. I'd also skip Rhode Island (unless you want to make a daytrip of it on your way back to NYC) since there's not much there you won't have already seen. Connecticut is not that interesting--definitely skip that except as a drive-through on your way in/out of NYC. I love the Cape, but if you're just doing one beach section Maine is prettier, as well as less crowded and less traffic. However, depending on your capacity to enjoy cold water, you might not do a lot of swimming! The Atlantic is pretty cold even in August. Swimming is better done in ponds and lakes.

You might like Western Massachusetts, too, the Northampton-Amherst area is very pretty and has some fun stuff to do (2 hours from Boston), and there are the Berkshires at far west end of the state which has great music, dance, and theater in the summer, at Tanglewood, Jacob's Pillow, and Shakespeare & Co.

In my (biased) opinion, New England in the summer is one of the most gorgeous places ever. Starting in NYC is a great idea because it will be hot, sticky, and dirty, and you'll really enjoy the cool, green coasts much more. I don't think you're too late, but you do want to start booking places to stay this month.

Have fun!
posted by min at 10:37 AM on May 15, 2008

I think people are over-estimating the driving issue a bit. Three weeks is a long time, and I've known motorcycle folks to do iron-butt rides in a single 24 hour period that comprises a route almost exactly as you've outlined. If you don't really enjoy driving, then maybe I'm wrong. While August is tourist season for a lot of these places, the boondocks of Vermont, NH, and Maine won't really have any traffic in the real sense of the word.

I'd nth Montreal, as it is simply amazing and August is great there. You can get from NYC to Montreal by train, and you can get from NYC to Boston, and up to Portland, ME too - it's unfortunate you didn't try to fly into Montreal, as you could then train it to NYC, and then east to Boston-Portland from there.

Rhode Island and Cape Code are nice, but as everyone mentions, probably can be skipped based on a "too much like other places we're going" criteria.
posted by mbatch at 10:51 AM on May 15, 2008

Avoid the NYC-Montreal train. Montreal is about a 5 hour drive from Boston, and it can be quite a lovely drive -- there are lots of places to stop along the way (and there are multiple possible routes in/out, so you can take different routes each way). The train is a 13 hour milk run.

Driving up through the small tourist traps on Rte 1 can be fun, though avoid driving on Friday afternoons/evenings-Sat morning (northbound) and Sun aft/eve (southbound) to avoid the massive traffic. You don't want to spend too much time doing that.

I have a soft spot for Salem MA, home of the witch trials -- I recall other nice museums there, too.
posted by jeather at 11:49 AM on May 15, 2008

Best answer: Seconding that you should limit yourself to Mass, Vermont, NH, and Maine, and possibly Montreal. If you go to Bar Harbor you could take the fast car ferry to Nova Scotia and drive up to Halifax, quite the cool small city. Portland is great, also small and manageable. Rte 1 along the Maine coast is a great place for meandering (weekdays, since weekend traffic in summer is annoying).

NYC - a few days (more to do here than in Boston, but also more frantic-feeling)
Boston - a few days
Rte 2 west in Mass to Northampton,
then north and wander around inland treed/mountainous/lakey area (western MA, VT, NH) maybe finding a home base there for five days and doing day-trips from there -
including trip up to Montreal for a couple days? -
then out to the coast of Maine (inland Sebago lake is great for swimming) and drive around up and down, seeing Camden hills, Bar Harbor, etc-
then back down to Freeport (shopping) etc and Portland

would be a good starter itinerary, and you would easily be able to park in one b&b for several days and do day trips to other areas. New England is fantastically compact, and has lovely hidden roads, so just meandering around and stopping when you find a good picnic spot is a good way to eat up a whole day.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:26 PM on May 15, 2008

I have taken the train NYC-->Montreal and back, and do not recommend it. It was six hours of beautiful scenery on the way up, followed by several hours of nothing, followed by several hours of being stopped at customs culminating in the nice people who had lent us a pen being refused entry to Canada and driven back across the border. On the way back, it was the reverse, minus the pen, and plus another hour's wait for a freight train to pass us and toilet overflow.

In short: Not romantic.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:57 PM on May 15, 2008

Best answer: For context: I grew up in northern New York state, and have lived in Vermont, New Hampshire, Boston, and NYC. The general rule for driving, I've found, is that going north-to-south is pretty quick, but going east-to-west takes a lot of time, especially in the north. You definitely want to travel by car.

Definitely spend 4-5 days in NYC. You don't need a car. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Take the Staten Island ferry. Wander around the Village.

I don't know the Hudson Valley well enough to recommend anything except the Taconic Parkway for driving. The Adirondacks are a 5-6 hour drive from NYC. I would recommend Blue Mountain Lake as an excellent place to rest up, go on lazy hikes, canoe, sail, etc. August is always cooler there. August isn't usually cool anywhere in the northeast.

I'd also recommend driving up to Lake Champlain and crossing over to Burlington (the hour-long ferry from Port Kent, NY is quite nice, and takes cars). My favorite restaurant there is The Inn at Essex--it is vaguely pub-like, but the chefs are trainees at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America--for reals). The food has been good every time I've gone.

Stowe is also pretty nice. Camel's Hump is one of my favorite mountains evar.

Consider stopping off in Hanover, NH, home to Dartmouth College. It's a pretty town, and there are decent restaurants.

The White Mountains are probably more striking than the Green Mountains, but I find I like Vermont more than New Hampshire. Vermont towns all seem picturesque, while New Hampshire towns often consist of a strip of highway with stores on each side. So I personally wouldn't spend more than a day or two in New Hampshire unless I wanted to do some real hiking.

I've never been to Acadia but I've heard nice things. It is a long drive, but the Maine coast is pretty.

Definitely reserve 2-3 days for Boston. Also for Cape Cod.

Rereading your question, I think you would probably be less into the Adirondacks than New England, so I'd probably cut that part entirely out. I would still recommend Vermont (and Burlington) though. And use the time you save for exploring the Maine coast, and Cape Cod.

I can't recommend too much in either Rhode Island or Connecticut that you won't see elsewhere in New England. One exception: Rein's Deli in Connecticut is worth stopping at for lunch.
posted by A dead Quaker at 8:38 PM on May 15, 2008

Best answer: NH native, current Bostonian... I definitely recommend the Mt. Washington Hotel (on Rt. 302, which is a good way to get from NH to Maine), and Hanover, NH (convenient to highways 89 and 91 which are the main routes in Vermont) as suggested above.

I would say get from NYC to Boston, spend a couple of days, then get a car. Drive up the coast and stay in Maine for a couple, over to the Mt. Washington for a couple, down through Franconia Notch (amazing views/hiking), over to Hanover and into VT for a couple. I think you can skip much of Rhode Island and Connecticut. I'm happy to offer more specific advice on the white mountains if you'd like!
posted by supramarginal at 2:53 PM on May 16, 2008

Best answer: I've been going to Lake George every year in August for the past 27 years and I'd have to second the recommendation to skip it.

It's a wonderful area for a week-long break and a perfect getaway for someone like me living near NYC with only a 3 hour drive to make, but for someone planning the whirlwind tour you're making, I'm afraid it might be one of the lowlights. It's gotten quite commercial and although the area is beautiful and you can easily find the scenery you're looking for, you'd be better served in the other places you and others have mentioned for a retreat to nature.

That being said, if you do stop by, a nice place to stay would be the Mohican Motel. We've been staying there for at least the past decade and have gotten to know the Stark family quite well. It's situated quite nicely: right off Exit 21, on Rt 9, at the tip of Lake George. Just take a left out of the parking lot and it's a 5 minute drive to the Lake and the town's main street, take a right out of the parking lot and you're headed towards the Great Escape amusement park and all the attractions that lay beyond it.

As for food: avoid the Log Jam at all costs. All the awfulness of a chain restaurant without it actually being a chain (and it's pretty filthy, too). Ignore the crowds: the place is inexplicably packed nightly but so is the Olive Garden (told you it was commercial).

A great alternative is George's Place for Steak & Seafood. It's out of the way but worth the trip (definitely ask for directions. If you're at the Mohican and you catch the right one, your first round of drinks might be on the Starks.) The titular steaks and seafood do not disappoint.

For breakfast, make sure to hit up The Silo. Be sure to get an order of sausage patties with your pancakes. The apple cider donuts made on the premises are also a must.

Roadfood has a bunch of places in the area they rave about, mostly in Glens Falls and Saratoga, although I haven't checked any out yet (plan to this August).

In your travels both Roadfood and the Chowhound boards should prove invaluable for places to eat. They'll have an opinion on pretty much everywhere you're planning on visiting.

Next: Martha's Vineyard.

My wife had a job at the island's hospital for a year back when she traveled and she lived in a house on the island for that time. I visited her frequently and really came to love the place. Wonderful scenery and a really relaxed, really local feel (which they enforce with an iron fist). As sutel mentioned above, it is an island with no way to get a car onto it without taking the ferry (reservations are an absolute must) but once you're there I doubt you'll regret it. Just be sure to gas up before you go. The gas monopoly on the island makes our current gas prices look reasonable.

Unfortunately, I can't recommend a place to stay as our accommodations were taken care of (my wife's coworkers highly recommended The Mansion House and if you don't stay there, be sure to take their elevator to the roof for a great view of Vineyard Haven), but I can recommend a few places to eat.

Le Grenier in Vineyard Haven. A french restaurant that's so rich you might want to scout out a couples' plot before you head out on your honeymoon. Try the sweetbreads and book an angioplasty when you get back.

Slice of Life on Circuit Ave in Oak Bluffs. This recommendation may be way off-base as I only visited off-season and Circuit Ave is basically where all the tourists will be when the cruise ships ferry in, but I've never a bad meal at this place.

Lambert's Cove Inn in West Tisbury. Perhaps this holds a sentimental place in my heart as this restaurant supplied the meal for the surprise proposal to my wife but we had quite a few meals there (including Thanksgiving) and it never disappointed. It's also a bed and breakfast and a popular spot for honeymoons, I understand, so maybe it's worth a look.

The most touristy of tourist traps on the island is surely the Black Dog in Vineyard Haven (you'll find satellite Black Dogs throughout the island as well as shops just dedicated to its merch, it's basically the island's chain) but I won't begrudge the fact they serve a really solid breakfast.

There's a ton of beaches, but I hold a special place in my heart for Katama Beach (aka South Beach). I wouldn't spend a day there, but as you mount the sand dunes blocking your view and the shoreline and ocean opens to you, it makes for a stunning vista. The high waves, crashing against the shore, proved so hypnotic that I barely noticed I was nearly knee deep in the wet sand by the time I was done appreciating it.

Drive around the island. The novelty of being lost in the woods on an island was a nice bonus for me. See the lighthouses, the Aquinnah Cliffs, hike the trails. Grab a lobster roll at the harbor in Menemsha and then stroll over to the beach to watch the sunset. Be sure to bring a bottle of wine (you might want a couple, parts of the island are still dry) and a blanket.
posted by unsupervised at 6:53 PM on May 18, 2008

If you're going to stop in Hanover or other NE college towns in August, double-check when the freshmen arrive on campus, and when school starts (often the last week of August). The towns will be crawling with people during those times. The college websites will list the academic year calendar.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:23 PM on May 18, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all the amazing advice and the time you all have obviously taken.

I have downsized my plans slightly now following the general themes expressed: 4 nights in NYC, 4 in Boston, 4 in either the Green or White Mountains and 5 nights up in Maine. Following this up with a leisurely drive back down the coast over a couple of days and nights, arriving back in NYC the night before we fly home.

The whole itinerary now feels much less stressed and hugely more enjoyable thanks to you kind folks.

Much appreciated.
posted by HBWonderful at 8:22 AM on May 23, 2008

Hey -- how did this go? (Congratulations!)
posted by onlyconnect at 11:00 AM on September 2, 2008

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