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6 cool places in New England you don’t know about

By Julia Hudson

As much as you have to love Boston’s colonial neighbourhoods and the beaches of Cape Cod and Nantucket, there is plenty more to discover in New England. Here are the unsung destinations that you must try and work into your next trip to New England.

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1. Discover beautiful Pioneer Valley

Drive west on I-90 from Boston (or take the slower but infinitely more scenic route down Route 2), and in a few hours you’ll find yourself in the Pioneer Valley, a bucolic region of western Massachusetts that sits along the Connecticut River. There’s a thriving collegiate community here, as a five-school consortium has a long history here. That means that the towns of Amherst and Northampton in particular have fantastic cafes and restaurants, as well as a thriving art scene and a very LGBT-friendly atmosphere. Visit the art museum at Smith College to view pieces from Cézanne, John Singer Sargent and others.

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2. Cheer the PawSox at McCoy Stadium

To enjoy an all-American experience, there’s not much better than a baseball game. It’s easy to understand the appeal of spending a few hours sitting in the sunshine with a hot dog and a beer—but look beyond Fenway Park for a real taste of Americana. McCoy Stadium, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, is only a 40-minute drive south of Boston, and is home to the region’s minor-league team, the Pawtucket Red Sox (or, more affectionately, the PawSox). Watch a game down here to enjoy free parking, tickets as low as $7, much less expensive snacks, and a lot of local flavour as charities, local celebrities, and others run events through the stadium. And as the PawSox often houses major-league players while they are recovering from injury, you might well see current, as well as future, stars play.

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3. Eat your way around Portland

Maine’s largest city has been changing rapidly over the past ten years or so, and it’s all for the better. A small city, Portland punches well above its weight when it comes to creative food and vibrant art (Maine College of Art is right downtown). Plus, you’re never more than a stone’s throw from beautiful seaside. Don’t miss Duckfat, a restaurant where every dish includes the namesake ingredient, or the original Otto, serving unique artisanal pizza. For seafood, try driving just slightly out of Portland into Cape Elizabeth, where the unassuming Lobster Shack at Two Lights invites you to sit at red picnic tables overlooking the Atlantic and chow down on hefty, delicious locally-caught fish and lobster.

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4. Hang with the locals in Fort Point

Most trips to New England involve at least some time spent in Boston, the region’s largest city and unofficial capital. But for such a big place, the tourist trail is surprisingly small and repetitive. Try leaving the heart of downtown and cross the Fort Point Channel into the Fort Point neighbourhood, one of the recently revitalised neighbourhoods on the harbour. Until recently, even walking along the waterfront was a challenge, but new footpaths make it much easier. Former wool warehouses now house artists’ studios, as well as some of the best restaurants in the country — on Congress Street alone there are three different venues by celebrated chef Barbara Lynch. Drop into her underground cocktail bar, Drink, for top-notch bar snacks and a staff that train themselves out of vintage cocktail recipe books.

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5. Escape to Marlboro Music Festival

There are plenty of music festivals in New England to keep you going all summer, though the scene is generally more sedate—the home of Newport Jazz and Lowell Folk isn’t exactly Glasto, nor is it trying to be. But Marlboro Music is really where it’s at for classical music fans, with its tucked-away location in the hills of Vermont and its month-long summer programme that allows for dipping in and out of rehearsals and concerts in between strolls through the verdant surrounds.

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6. Mix with the swells in Newport

For a small state, Rhode Island has its fair share of luxury. Newport, best known for its many historic mansions, is the quintessential posh seaside town, with sailboats dotting the harbour and plenty of gentlemen in boat shoes, whether or not they’re on the water. Cruising on scenic Ocean Drive is a summer must-do when in the area, as well as puttering around the shops on Thames Street.

* Julia Hudson is a writer originally from Boston, Massachusetts, but currently residing in London. She works with Wexas Travel, a tour operator offering luxury and tailor-made holidays to New England.

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