For many people, Fall is one of the best times to visit and explore New England. Many people head north to Vermont or New Hampshire for leaf-peeping. If you are looking for something off-the-beaten-path this year, check out these great activities in Central Connecticut!
Looking for more Fall New England activities? Check out this post about a Fall Weekend in New Hampshire, and this one about what to do in Salem, Massachusetts!
Apple and Pumpkin Picking
Apple and pumpkin picking are two can’t-miss activities in central Connecticut. The season for apples begins around the end of August and continues through the beginning of October. Pumpkin season runs from the end of September through October. Check out either of the orchards below for your farm-fresh apple and pumpkin needs.
Many people visit Lyman Orchards every year for its apples and pumpkins, as well as it’s annual corn maze. Many other people visit just to purchase one of their well-known pies. If you have trouble deciding, go for the Hi-Top Apple Pie, which is perfect when served at Thanksgiving dinner.
32 Reeds Gap Road, Middlefield, CT 06455 * https://www.lymanorchards.com/
Growing up in central Connecticut, Dondero Orchards offered a no-frills fall experience for cheap apple and pumpkin picking. Over the years, its popularity has allowed it to grow into one of the most popular farms in the area. Pumpkins are no longer 10 cents per pound, but instead there are craft fairs, a farmers market, farm stand, and farm-to-table dinners offered by the orchard.
529 Woodland Street, South Glastonbury, CT 06073 * https://www.donderoorchards.com/
What do Nutmeggers do after they’ve picked all their apples? We host apple festivals, of course! The two most popular festivals are held annually in Southington and Glastonbury.
Southington Apple Harvest Festival
Grab a fresh apple fritter and listen to the live music provided by the Southington Apple Harvest Festival! Complete with carnival rides, a craft fair, a pie baking contest, fireworks, and a parade this festival embodies central Connecticut in the Fall. You can always expect to see great musical acts: this year’s entertainment was opened by Bowling for Soup! Held the last weekend of September and the first weekend of October, you’ll have to mark this one on your calendar for next year.
75 Main Street, Southington, CT 06489 * 2019 Dates: 9/27-9/29, 10/4-10/6 * http://www.southingtonahf.com/
Glastonbury Apple Festival
The Connecticut River Valley Chamber of Commerce hosts its annual apple festival in Glastonbury every year. As stated on its website, “For the 5th year consecutive year, the Apple Harvest Festival will feature three stages of live music with 30 emerging artists, a full midway of amusement rides, over 100 vendors, 25 food trucks/purveyors, the extremely popular Harvest Pub, the Angry Orchard 5K Road Race and all things fall in New England.” This festival will take place next weekend, so if you want to get the full Fall experience in Connecticut, hop in your car and drive down to Glastonbury for a day!
300 Welles Street, Glastonbury, CT 06033 * 2018 Dates: 10/12-10/14 * https://www.crvchamber.org/events/details/44th-apple-harvest-festival-10-12-2018-5134
If you prefer fairs that have less of a focus on apples and more on animals, add the following agricultural fairs to your calendar. Although they have both ended for 2018, they are worthwhile to make note of for Fall 2019!
The Durham Fair is considered Connecticut’s largest agricultural fair. For just four days, you can visit the fair to see prize-winning animals, enjoy fresh or fried fair food, ride the rides at Midway, and see performing acts like Melissa Etheridge and Scott Mccreery, the two 2018 headliners. If the famous Topsfield Fair in Massachusetts is not an option for you, check out the Durham Fair instead for a comparable experience.
24 Town House Road, Durham, CT 06422 * 2019 dates: 9/26-9/29 * https://www.durhamfair.com
Haddam Neck Fair
For a smaller agricultural fair in central Connecticut, spend your Labor Day Weekend at the Haddam Neck Fair. Started by the Haddam Neck Grange in 1910, the fair now spans three days and welcome tens of thousands of guests. It no longer just shows off animals and vegetables, but instead provides carnival rides, a variety of food, Country Western entertainment, a legendary tractor pull, and a recently-added 5K road race. If you want to experience a typical Connecticut agricultural fair without the crowds attracted to Durham, the Haddam Neck Fair is perfect for you.
207 Middle Haddam Road, Middle Haddam, CT 06456 * 2019 dates: 8/30-9/2 * http://haddamneckfair.com
Vineyards and Breweries
Chateau Le Gari
Connecticut has over 35 vineyards and wineries to explore: impressive for a state where little is known about its wine. One of my favorites is Chateau Le Gari. This vineyard was founded last year by the former Vice President of the CT Farm Wine Development Council, Gary Crump. The property is beautiful and the wines are flavorful, with most of the grapes grown right on the property.
One of the best parts about this vineyard is the presence of Gary himself. When you arrive for a tasting you may be greeted by the former-Cajun behind the tasting bar pouring his own wine and telling you stories from his career and life. If you are lucky, you may even get to try some of his local cooking. Every Sunday afternoon, Gary makes and serves pasta with bolognese to his guests! Gary’s knowledge of wine is astounding, so if you can catch him while you’re here for a conversation, be sure to do so.
303 South Main Street, Marlborough, CT 06447 * https://www.chateaulegari.com
Priam Vineyards is located less than five minutes from Chateau Le Gari. In fact, Priam was also founded by Gary Crump! Stop in for a quick tasting, or bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on the back patio with a bottle of local wine.
11 Shailor Hill Road, Colchester, CT 06415 * http://www.priamvineyards.com
Fat Orange Cat Brewery
A few years ago, Mike Klucznik started brewing his own beer for personal consumption, as many Americans do. After winning a number of home brewing competitions, he decided to open his own brewery. Sheila Mullen had ample space on her property in rural Connecticut, so the two built a barn to host the brewing operations and a small bar. The pair still travels with their team to national craft beer competitions, but if you like beer and are in the area, you should travel to the Fat Orange Cat Brewery to try the beer for yourself!
47 Tartia Road, East Hampton, CT 06424 * https://fatorangecatbrewco.com/
If you only do one Fall activity in central Connecticut, you must visit Pumpkintown, U.S.A. In 1990, Sandra Peszynski of Paul’s & Sandy’s Too farm store painted faces on a few pumpkins, added some clothes, and invited the local townspeople to take photos. She had no idea that 28 years later, Pumpkintown would be the top non-scary Halloween attraction in Connecticut! The town now has a Saloon, Bank, Post Office (to mail your Pumpkintown postcards), Firehouse with a firepole to slide down, tires for jumping, a hay bale maze, tractor rides, and so much more! Don’t forget to take pictures!
93 East High Street, East Hampton, CT 06424 * http://www.pumpkintown.com
Old Airline Trail
Fall is the perfect season for hiking! While you won’t find many tall mountains in Connecticut, there are many beautiful trails to walk, run, or bike along. The Old Airline Trail stretches about 25 miles from East Hampton to Thompson. Built in 1873 to connect New York City and Boston, the tracks have long been covered by gravel to provide a recreational area to locals. Ample parking is available every few miles along the trail, and access is free.
Trail head: 69 Smith Street, East Hampton, CT 06424 * https://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2716&q=479336&deepNav_GID=1650
Lady Katherine Cruise
Central Connecticut is often referred to as the Connecticut River Valley due to the Connecticut River running through it. One of the best ways to experience the river is by taking a cruise. The Lady Katherine departs from Middletown and East Haddam, and offers Fall brunch and dinner cruises so you can enjoy the foliage on the water. If you are more of a Halloween person, check out the Halloween Murder Mystery Dinner Cruise!
Multiple Locations * http://ladykatecruises.com
Where to Eat in Central Connecticut
When you’re ready to take a break from all of the activities and grab some food, check out the places below! Central Connecticut has many amazing restaurants, but the three described here are especially fun in the Fall.
Goats N Roses
Goats and Roses provides one of the most authentic farm-to-table experiences in New England. As you pull into the parking lot on the farm, you are greeted by a farmhouse, tavern, general store, and goat yard. Grab a table – outdoor seating only – and pick one of your favorite farm dishes to eat. I recommend the Teriyaki Chicken Salad or Figgy Piggy Sandwich. After your meal, you can explore the property where you are likely to encounter some of the resident animals, like the chickens, peacocks, and of course goats!
86 East Hampton Road, Marlborough, CT 06447 * https://www.goatsnroses.com
Rose’s Berry Farm
Rose’s Berry Farm is open for Sunday breakfast from June through October. Despite its short season, it may be the best Sunday breakfast experience you have. Everything served at Rose’s is farm fresh and farm-to-table, right from the farm it overlooks. Sitting high above the rows of berries and apples, you can enjoy waffles, pancakes, and french toast topped with seasonal fruit. Savory dishes are also available, but even if you are usually a fan of savory breakfasts as I am, this is one time to go the sweet route for the berries!
295 Matson Hill Road, South Glastonbury, CT 06073 * https://www.rosesberryfarm.com/breakfast
Where to Stay in Central Connecticut
Most accommodation options in central Connecticut consist of your typical chain hotels: Marriotts, Holiday Inns, Homewood Suites, etc. These are great choices if are only using your hotel as a place to sleep while you explore the area. However, if you want to try something a little more traditional Connecticut, check out the options below.
The Inn at Middletown
This property was built as a private residence in 1810, and subsequently acquired by the State of Connecticut to be used as an armory. In November 2003, the Town of Middletown opened the Inn as “an upscale full service boutique hotel.” If you are looking for charm and location within walking distance to many businesses and restaurants on Middletown’s Main Street, this is the place for you.
70 Main Street, Middletown, CT 06457 * https://www.innatmiddletown.com/ (Click here to book!)
Founded in 1776 during the American Revolution as a tavern and accommodation for shipbuilders who moved to town, the Griswold Inn has been in operation for more than 242 years. Its rich history follows that of America. You can experience what it was like to join fellow revolutionaries in the early years of the country in the tavern, or have a more upscale experience in the full dining room. The Griswold Inn also offers 33 unique bedrooms for rent: some have fireplaces, some provide a view of Main Street, and others overlook the water. If you want to step back in history on your visit to Connecticut, check out the Griswold Inn.
36 Main Street, Essex, CT 06426 * https://griswoldinn.com (Click here to book!)
*Note this page contains affiliate links. This means I may receive compensation for your use of these links, at no additional cost to you.
This past weekend, I celebrated the New England transition from Summer to Fall in New Hampshire. I stayed with some friends in a cabin near the Vermont border. Throughout the weekend we engaged in both Summer and Fall activities, and enjoyed the beautiful, relaxing weekend that New Hampshire offered. You may not think of Northern New England as the most exciting area to go on vacation, but as the leaves begin to change this month, you should reconsider. There are many fun and adventurous things to do in this area!
Looking for other recommendations for New England Fall activities? Check out the Best Fall Activities in Connecticut post!
If you’re heading to New Hampshire this Fall season, definitely stay in a cabin. It gives you a more authentic nature experience in a very tranquil setting. You will also likely be closer to many of the outdoors activities in which you are probably looking to engage. There are cabins of all sizes and prices available on AirBNB (click here for $40 off your first reservation). If you love the cabin my friends and I stayed in this weekend, contact me for details about how to rent it!
View from above of the spacious, cozy interior of our cabin
When my friends and I rent a property with a full kitchen, we often cook all our meals “at home.” There are many local grocery and general stores around New England where you can pick up provisions for your own cabin. If you are in the Western part of the state and looking to eat a meal out, check out The Farmer’s Table Café in Grantham. This restaurant provides both a cozy and upscale feel inside. It is located near ski resorts and hiking mountains like Sunapee. Wood-fired pizzas are its specialty – and they are delicious – but all the local options on the menu are amazing. Service was a little slow when I was there for lunch, but if you’re looking for a laid-back weekend this place will fit right into your schedule.
Farmer’s Table Cafe
Local New Hampshire Activities
Don’t miss out on these quintessential New England outdoors activities on your next trip to New Hampshire!
New Hampshire has some of the best mountains and trails to hike. If you are an experienced hiker, you can challenge yourself with a 4,000-footer like Mount Tecumseh or Mount Washington. If you want to keep things closer to the ground, there are many trails available that circle lakes and mountains without requiring a strenuous ascent. My friends and I opted for the latter and hiked around Lake Eastham.
While I don’t consider myself to be an expert hiker, I’ve been on many hikes with friends who are experts. My best piece of advice for novice hikers is to look out for the colored paint or symbols along your trail. They will indicate which trail you are following and where your trail leads. You should be able to see the next colored marker from your current location. If you follow this rule, you will never get lost while hiking!
Example of a Marker on our Lake Trail
The swimming season in New England is wrapping up but a few exceptionally warm days in September may provide the last good beach days of the season. The lake waters in New Hampshire are pristine. They provide a refreshing dip that is welcome on a hot day or after an activity like hiking. Next time you are in New Hampshire, grab your towel and pick a lake at which you can relax and cool off.
Many lakes also have a variety of boats for visitors to rent
I really can’t talk about Fall in New Hampshire without mentioning apple picking. This typical New England activity is especially enjoyable in New Hampshire because there are so many orchards to pick from. My friends and I selected the King Blossom Farm. Though we went on a beautiful day in the middle of September, the farm was empty when we arrived! The owners gave us some background about the farm and described the different varieties available, including the heirloom mixes that had developed over many years. We then set off into the orchard to pick all the apples we could want. The trees were abundant with beautiful-looking fruit, and at less than $1/pound we couldn’t resist picking over 10 pounds! Any farm or orchard in New Hampshire would give you a similar experience, but King Blossom Farm is worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Dozens of apples sitting on the trees just waiting to be picked
The farm also had a farm stand with fresh vegetables, homemade fruit butters and local maple syrup
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Use the following itinerary to set your schedule for a day of your vacation in Bermuda: this is especially useful for your one full day on the island if you are visiting via cruise ship!
7:00 AM: Breakfast
To see the entire island in one day you’ll need an early start. Grab breakfast either on board your cruise ship or at your hotel. Don’t forget to take a few extra cereal boxes and fruit for snacks throughout the day!
8:00 AM: Depart for the Beach
Purchase your all-day bus pass first thing: you’ll need it to hop on and off the public buses and ferries throughout the day. Take the bus right to Horseshoe Bay beach, one of the quintessential pink Bermudan beaches! If you want a stunning view of the island on the way you can get off a stop early (if coming from the Royal Navy Dockyard) and walk up to Gibbs Hill Lighthouse.
If you’re not ready for the beach first thing in the morning, you may skip this stop and instead visit Tobacco Bay beach at the end of the day. Note that if you choose this second option your timing for the day will be earlier than listed below, leaving extra beach time at the end of the day.
Pink, sandy beaches of Horseshoe Bay
11:00 AM: City of Hamilton
Arrive in Hamilton just before lunch to see the main city on the island. This is a hot spot for shopping, especially for the famous pink sand jewelry sold in a number of jewelry stores around town. Classic vacation souvenirs are also available here, including apparel that can be found in a Vineyard Vines store dedicated almost entirely to Bermuda. You may choose to enjoy lunch at a restaurant along the water, or wait until your next stop to dine at the Swizzle Inn.
12:30 PM: Hamilton Parish
Disembark from the bus at the stop for the Swizzle Inn. Here you can enjoy the infamous rum swizzle right where it was created! The drinks are delicious, but be warned that they are also strong. You can have a full lunch here, or just eat a few conch fritters to hold you over until dinner and temper the drinks.
After your rum swizzle, forego the Crystal Caves and walk over to the Grotto Bay Beach Resort and Spa for some spelunking and cave swimming. Note that the grounds are technically reserved for guests, so to access them you must act as though you belong. Use the path to the left of the front lobby to walk around the building and go down the path towards the water, spa, and caves. The entrance to the cave is well-marked, just before the spa, on your left. The water is somewhat cold but the swim is well worth it! If you continue walking up past the swimming hole there are more caves to explore: the first few are lit but the cave system looks like it could go for miles and could be explored with a flashlight.
Your final stop in Hamilton Parish is another short walk away at the Blue Hole. Enter Blue Hole Park through a parking lot and walk along the path past some caverns until you get to the swimming hole. There is a platform built over the water to stand on and leave your belongings if you decide to venture in. You can enter the water one of two ways: slowly on the left side of the platform or by jumping from the 10- or 15- foot cliffs up the path on the right side of the platform! The water under the cliffs is at least 20 feet deep, and as of October 2017 there were no underwater obstructions. Use the rocks on the other side of the platform to get out of the water and back to your belongings.
4:00 PM: St. George
Take your final bus ride to the town of St. George on the North side of the island. Have a look around the town center, and then head for Fort Saint Catherine. It’s a bit of a hike up to the fort but you should have plenty of time to get there, look around, and get back to catch the last ferry to the Royal Naval Dockyard. If you chose to skip the beach earlier in the day, stop at Tobacco Bay Beach on your way back from the fort for some music, sand, sun, and swimming.
Tobacco Bay Beach
5:30 PM: Royal Naval Dockyard
End your day back at the dockyard where you can explore the shops or take a short taxi ride to Sea Glass Beach to look at the mounds of sea glass on shore as well as the creations left in cement.
7:00 PM: Dinner
Return to your ship if you are on a cruise, or to your accommodations to get ready for dinner and the rest of your evening!
*Like what you see here? Contact me for your own customized travel itinerary!
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Last October I joined some of my family members for a 7-day, 10-person family and friends cruise! My aunt, uncle, cousin and her family, and three family friends flew out to Boston from Chicago to embark on the Norwegian Cruise Line ship the Norwegian Dawn with me on a cruise to Bermuda. Being an only child, most of my family vacations growing up consisted of traveling with just one or both of my parents, so having such a big group was a much different experience for me, and one that I certainly enjoyed!
Leaving port, wearing our matching Bermuda shirts: key for locating each other on the first day!
This post will focus on adventures and advice on board the ship that can transfer to almost any cruise, especially those on the Norwegian Dawn. In my next post I’ll provide a one-day itinerary of Bermuda and some tips and tricks for the island.
On Board the Ship
Our cruise consisted of three full days at sea, one on the way to Bermuda and two on the way back. On the outbound trip the weather was warm and sunny so we were able to spend most of the day sitting by the pool and enjoying our unlimited drink packages, which are totally worth it! However, the return to Boston was marked by stormy skies and rough seas, thus requiring us to stay inside and partake in many of the on-board activities offered by the entertainment crew. We still made the most of it and had an awesome time on board.
Here are some of my top recommendations for cruising on the Norwegian Dawn.
Food and Drink
If you have options for free packages with your cruise, the all-inclusive drinks and specialty dinners are absolutely worth it. The bar tenders will make any drink you want (don’t like the pre-made margarita mix? Ask for a cocktail made with just tequila, triple sec, lime juice, and simple syrup) and the food in the specialty restaurants is unique and delightful. The best part about the all-inclusive packages is that you can remove the stress of thinking about the prices of these things from your vacation!
For those of you concerned about how to stay healthy with all-inclusive food and drinks, I’ll share a secret with you: one of the keys to eating in an all-inclusive environment is recognizing that it is not “all-you-can-eat” but instead a break from worrying about price. At an a la carte restaurant perhaps ordering two fried appetizers would be cheaper than the grilled salmon and your favorite vegetable, but in an all-inclusive situation you can go for the salmon with no worries. The same goes for the drinks: if you want to try the rum swizzle and then decide it’s not for you after two sips, you can ditch it without thinking about the $14 you may have just paid for it in order to spend your calories on something you will enjoy.
On the cruise, my travel companions and I appreciated having the all-inclusive option because it allowed us to enjoy a welcome cocktail when we first boarded, drink any wine we desired with dinner, and try a variety of mojitos from the mojito bar on the top deck. Keep in mind when ordering wine that the all-inclusive drink package will give you unlimited glasses, but you will be charged for a bottle! Instead of ordering a bottle of wine for dinner, we would each order a glass of the same kind of wine, and it was completely free. We also dined at two specialty restaurants, the Bamboo Asian Restaurant (which has free options) and Cagney’s Steakhouse, both of which I would highly recommend. Be warned that portion sizes in the dining rooms are smaller than on land: don’t make the mistake I did the first day at lunch thinking I could subsist on just a soup and appetizer salad!
Checking out the unfortunately small sushi appetizer and debating eating it with two knives since we were not provided chopsticks
One of the first questions I always ask whenever I go anywhere is “what should I wear?” For the most part on the cruise, typical vacation or warm-weather attire will suit you well. If you plan to dress up, be sure that you wear shoes that can withstand walking on a rocking boat (aka no stilettos). There are no formal nights on Norwegian Cruise Lines, but you will not be out of place if you decide to throw on a cute dress or a collared shirt. In fact, in order to dine in the Venetian Dining Room at dinner time you must be wearing either pants or a dress/skirt: you will be turned away if you are wearing shorts, as our party learned the hard way. There are many other dining options so you will not be out of luck if all you have are shorts, but keep this in mind and pack at least one nice outfit if you want to keep your options open.
Our typical evening attire
The other special attire recommendation is to bring something white for the White Out party, hosted on the top deck the night you leave port. Usually the pool deck is relatively quiet at night, but for the White Out party the ship’s Cruise Director brings out live music and the dancing entertainment crew for a huge black light party! You can still participate if you are wearing colored-clothing, but most people will be wearing white, and it’s fun to get in on the festivities with them.
I’m sure thinking of cruise activities you immediately pictured yourself sitting by the pool all day while at sea, maybe reading a book, listening to music, and occasionally dipping into the water. Almost everyone else reading this also pictured the same thing, so you’ll either have to arrive poolside early to stake your territory or pick different activities to entertain yourself while at sea. Even if you do claim a coveted poolside chair, your space in the water will be limited.
One alternative is to spend some time in the gym or the spa. The gym on the Norwegian Dawn was incredible! They offered classes in their studios (some which cost money), and had a full set of cardio and strength machines as well as free weights. I made a commitment to go to the gym each day we were at sea and do either a HIIT, Cardio Dance, or Cardio Kickboxing workout. Two of the three days I used the studio because it was unoccupied and also had the most incredible views of the sea in its floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows. If you are able to make this type of commitment, as well as commit to taking the stairs instead of the elevator (saving time as well as calories) and practice the stress-free version of all-inclusive food and drink options, you could have an awesome vacation and come back a couple pounds lighter like I did! One thing to keep in mind if you do go to the gym is that the ship will be rocking, so this may not be the best time to practice your static squat.
One of two gorgeous studios in the gym
Another activity option is to check out the daily schedule of activities around the ship and pick a couple that appeal to you. Because my travel group was so large, we were able to attend the activities we wanted, usually with two or three others from our group, and then reconvene for dinner in the evening. I was drawn to some of the travel trivia games, such as “Flags of the World” visual trivia, my aunt attended all of the arts and crafts options, and my niece was excited to help with the towel-folding demonstration.
The evening entertainment is also plentiful, and you can’t go wrong with whatever you choose. We enjoyed the performances by the entertainment crew, comedy shows by Chicago’s Second City cast, and demonstrations by the resident illusionist. I was particularly excited for the Sunday night entertainment because the week I was on the cruise was the week the American football team the New England Patriots were playing a Super Bowl rematch against the Atlantic Falcons, and because the cruise left out of Boston, the game was being shown in the Atrium on a jumbo screen! A few of the ship entertainers hosted a pre-game tailgate in the Atrium and the Irish pub overlooking the Atrium, then all the Patriots fans on board were able to watch the game and cheer together as we were once again victorious over Atlanta. I even made friends with other young adults from Boston once my Midwestern family became bored with the crushing blow the Patriots were serving the Falcons. My one regret from that night was not realizing that everyone else would be donning their Patriots apparel: I hadn’t even thought to bring it, as I hadn’t realized what a big deal the game would be while on vacation.
My #1 recommendation is to download the NCL app to your smartphone before you even get to the ship. Once you’re on the ship, pay the $10 per person for the on-board communications in the app. It was so much easier communicating plans among the group using the app communications rather than our original plan of writing notes to slide under each others’ doors and hope the other people saw the note. The app will also give you the schedule of activities for each day of your trip, restaurant hours, and any other logistic information you need. If you decide to purchase WiFi, you will do this through the app as well.
My second recommendation is to forego the WiFi and enjoy your disconnected vacation. If you need to purchase WiFi, purchase the cheapest plan, turn it on to quickly check your email, send a text, and post to Facebook, then go back to the website on which you turned it on and turn it off again. This will allow you to conserve your purchase and hopefully stick to the lowest paid plan, which was $25 when I went, for the entire trip.
Another consideration is to try to select on-board activities that are not located in Gatsby’s Champagne Bar. I was disappointed with how the Champagne Bar was connected with the cigar lounge on board. Even though the smoking area was completely enclosed, the smell still eked out after a while. My 10-year-old niece and I enjoyed a few activities in Gatsby’s, like making flower crafts and learning Filipino phrases, but we couldn’t stick around too long because of how awful the smell became.
Finally, my most fun advice: every day when you return from the island, put your bathing suits on, grab a drink, and head right for the hot tubs. There were almost no people there at this time because everyone else was getting ready for dinner, so we had the hot tubs to ourselves to relax and enjoy before beginning our evenings. It was the perfect end to each day, and something not to be missed. Cheers!
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The city of Boston has a ton to offer, but if you want to get away for a day, there are exciting things to do in all directions: North, South, West, and even East!
Some of my favorite day-trip destinations from Boston are the Harbor Islands, the Cape, Patriot Place, Wrentham Outlets, Gloucester, and the Nashoba Valley Winery. If you have time, they are all worth checking out. However, I want to highlight a place I know well that is merely 30 minutes North of Boston: Salem, Mass.
Welcome to Witch City
Bewitched statue in the center of Salem
If you hop on the commuter train at North Station or drive up Route 1 for a half hour you may end up in historic Salem, home to the Salem Witch Trials of the 1600s. Salem embraces its history of witchcraft and has many witch-related stores on pedestrian-only Essex Street. It also offers year-round haunted or historical walking tours and invites visitors to see its Salem Witch Museum at any time of the year. If you really want to experience Salem in full swing, try spending a day or a weekend there in October. Throughout the month, the town brings in street performers and vendors, features carnival rides, hosts a parade on October 1 to kick off festivities, and lights off fireworks on Halloween. Almost all visitors dress up in costume, especially on Halloween, so this is the perfect time to dig out your favorite werewolf, vampire, or even witch costume!
You can even take a self-guided walking tour of locations seen in the 1993 film “Hocus Pocus”: here we are in front of the Ropes Mansion!
If Halloween isn’t your favorite holiday there is still plenty of non-witch-related fun to be had in Salem (though I would strongly recommend going sometime other than October in that case). Also on Essex Street you will find the Peabody Essex Museum, with many fascinating exhibits such as a giant statue of “The Thinker” by Rodin, on loan from Paris’ Museé Rodin. On the third Thursday night of each month the museum sponsors a PEM PM night, complete with a theme (such as Dominican Republican culture or anime and comics), musicians, dancers, food, drink, games and activities, and a chance to explore the museum. Down by the water you can visit the House of Seven Gables, the actual house that inspired the novel of the same name by Nathaniel Hawthorne. If you prefer to just enjoy the food and drink scene in Salem, check out Far From the Tree Cider Tasting Room or the Sea Level Oyster bar with a rooftop deck overlooking the water.
Entrance to the Peabody Essex Museum
Large Rodin “The Thinker” Statue
PEM/PM Dominican dancers!
House of Seven Gables
Regardless of what you’re looking for, Salem is a great town to visit for a day or two near Boston!
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If you only have one day and want to truly experience everything Boston has to offer (or as much as you can in one day), here is a suggested itinerary.
8:00 AM: Breakfast
Start your day at Tatte (1003 Beacon Street, Brookline, MA: Green Line, C Line, St. Mary’s Street Stop), which is just over the city line in Brookline, MA. This European-style bakery has incredible pastries, lattes, and hot brunch options. In the summer months you can sit outside on the sidewalk to enjoy your breakfast, but thanks to a recent renovation there’s ample seating inside as well.
Latte and Pastry at Tatte
9:00 AM: Tour of Fenway Park
Once you’ve finished your breakfast, walk over to Fenway Park for their 9 AM guided tour of the park. The website recommends arriving 15 minutes early for this one-hour behind the scenes look at America’s oldest ballpark.
10:30 AM: Museum of Fine Arts
Next, walk through the Fens to the Museum of Fine Arts (“MFA”), where you can wander around for a couple of hours viewing either the historical artifacts of Ancient Egypt and Greece, or the more recent artwork from Europe, Asia, and the Americas. If there is a special exhibit, be sure to check it out, they are always worthwhile.
12:30 PM: Lunch Downtown
Take the Green Line, E Line, from the Northeastern T Stop to the Copley T Stop and head to Atlantic Fish on Boylston Street for lunch. Again, if it’s a nice day outside, ask for a table on the sidewalk and watch the busy Bostonians hustle by. If you’re not a fan of seafood, then your destination is Stephanie’s on Newbury, which again has highly-recommended outdoor seating and one of the best brunches in Boston.
2:00 PM: Boston Garden/Freedom Trail
Spend the afternoon after lunch walking the Freedom Trail. I know in another post I recommended starting the trail at the end, at the USS Constitution, and ending at the Boston Garden, but today you’ll start in the Boston Garden, which is only a 15-minute walk away from lunch. Spend time leisurely wandering Boston exploring the first half of the Freedom Trail, from the Boston Common to the North End, where you’ll end for dinner. If you read a guidebook or Google historical sites you can follow a self-guided tour, or you can join an official 90-minute Walk into History tour led by actors in historical costumes. If you choose the 90 minute tour you will also have time for relaxing by the harbor front or finishing the Trail with the Bunker Hill Monument and USS Constitution before dinner.
5:00 PM: Dinner North End
Enjoy a long Italian dinner in the North End, the Italian section of Boston. Pick any restaurant you’d like, you can’t go wrong with anything in the area, especially on the main drag Hanover Street, Salem Street, or any side streets off of these roads. My favorites include Ristorante Fiore, La Famiglia Giorgio’s, and Nico.
8:00 PM: Boston Symphony Orchestra or Boston Pops Show
From the North End you can either hop back on the T, the Green Line, E Line, at the Haymarket Station and take the train all the way to the Symphony stop, or just grab an Uber to Boston Symphony Hall. Depending on who is playing that night you can either watch a performance by the Boston Symphony Orchestra or the Boston Pops. Many world-famous musicians come to play with the BSO such as Yo Yo Ma, and if you are in town during the holiday season, you don’t want to miss the Boston Pops’ Holiday performance!
10:00 PM: Drinks at Top of the Hub
End your night with a couple of cocktails at the Prudential Center’s Top of the Hub restaurant while enjoying the spectacular views of the city. If your day in Boston is a Saturday, you can enjoy the live jazz music while enjoying your drink and the view.
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