Difference between revisions of "New England"
Revision as of 23:55, 12 November 2012
New England is a six-state region in the northeast corner of the United States of America. Although it is one of the oldest settled parts of the US, most of the area (except the coastal areas of eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and southwestern Connecticut) retains a rural charm and low population. Most of the area is well-travelled and has a thriving tourist industry. Although some of the popular attractions may seem corny to some people, there are many hidden gems to be found in New England.
There are many cities in New England; these are some of the major ones.
There's an expression in New England: "If you don't like the weather, wait ten minutes." The expression refers to New England's location on the eastern side of North America's continental climate. New England's coastal location does somewhat modify continental temperature extremes; but storminess is enhanced by New England's relatively rough topography. Northern New England winters can seem especially harsh -- if you plan to visit between December and mid-March, be prepared for freezing temperatures, wicked winds, and chills that take a couple of cups of coffee to dent. "Dress warmly" is an understatement -- in northern New England "prepare for nuclear winter" might be more accurate advice for travellers. The best advice, though is to dress in layers that include an outer layer to block the wind, plus a sweater or jumper to be removed when exerting oneself. Generally, the only areas of New England that are somewhat comfortable in the winter are the southern coastlines of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, which are warmed by nearby unfrozen salt water. For the visitor prepared for cold weather, northern New England's deep snows and crisp air can be exhilarating.
The months of April and May can be New England’s best-kept secret. In southern Vermont you will find off-season rates in many historic inns, but as noted local Robert Frost once so eloquently put it, "Nature's first Green is Gold." The area is bursting with daffodils, tulips & lilacs and the temperatures are mild with cool nights, just perfect.
New England summers can range from mild to uncomfortably humid. They provide a beach season of mid-June to mid-September. Most warm weather tourist destinations have a season from mid-May to mid-October. Areas right along the shoreline are often cooler and more temperate than inland areas.
New England shines during autumn. New England foliage is world-renowned for displays that rival pyrotechnics for their intense colors, rapid appearance, and equally rapid disappearance. Peak season ranges from early September at the farthest north points of Maine to early November for Southern Connecticut. Combine that with local festivals, hay rides, fresh-pressed apple cider, and fruit harvesting, and you have the recipe for a wonderful time.
As in upstate New York and along the Eastern Seaboard, many New England towns grew up around textile mills or other kinds of factories. When those industries relocated and/or shut down during the 1900s, several of those towns fell into a depression, where they remain.
English is, as with the rest of the US, the de facto official language. Some areas with large Hispanic populations might have a majority speaking Spanish, but most have at least basic English skills (and these are off the tourist path). French is also spoken in Vermont and Northern Maine, near the Quebec/New Brunswick borders. There is a rich French-Canadian heritage in Biddeford, Maine, and Manchester, New Hampshire's largest city. Though the demographics are changing, it is still possible to find shops that cater to French speakers and churches that conduct Mass in French. In truth, though, not much is done to accommodate visitors who do not speak English.
Along with Southerners, New Englanders have a reputation for a distinct flavor of English speech. This is an overly broad generalization. The accents of Senators Kennedy and Kerry are rarely heard. The typical "pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd" Boston accent prevails in eastern Massachusetts, but is losing ground even there. There are some distinctive vocabulary words. "Bubbler" refers to a drinking fountain. Carbonated sweet drinks called "pop" in other parts of the United States and Canada are called "tonic" or "soda" in New England. "Wicked", an adjective interchangable with "very", is frequently used by young New Englanders, though the once-common phrase "wicked pissah", meaning "excellent", has faded considerably and is used primarily by either the older generation or misled tourists. A relatively common New England traffic intersection not encountered much elsewhere in the United States would be called a "roundabout" in the United Kingdom, but is called a "rotary" in New England. When given directions on how to exit a "rotary" the driver would be instructed to "bang a right" in Boston. Large clams are called "quahaugs" in southern New England. In Maine an inland vacation home is called a "camp" while one on the coast is called a "cottage." Mainers also add the definite article "the" to the official names of roads, but not streets or avenues; and the tree that others might call an aspen is called a "popple" by Mainers.
New England is served by several airports: Logan International  in Boston, TF Green Airport  Warwick, RI, Bradley International  Windsor Locks (between Hartford, CT, and Springfield, MA), Tweed New Haven  in New Haven, Burlington International  Burlington, VT, Portland , Bangor , and Manchester  Airport, to name a few. Logan is by far the largest. Amongst discount airlines, JetBlue  serves Boston, Nantucket,Hartford/Springfield, Burlington, and Portland; while Southwest Airlines  serves Hartford/Springfield, Providence, and Manchester; and Air Tran Airways  serves Portland and Boston.
New England is served by several interstate highways. I-95 enters from the New York City area and links five of the six states together. I-90 and I-84 both come in from the west out of Albany and southern New York, respectively. I-91 links New Haven with Hartford, Springfield and eastern Vermont. I-89 connects Burlington, VT with Concord, NH. I-93 runs through New Hampshire, connecting St. Johnsbury, VT with Boston.
Amtrak  operates several routes into New England, most notably the Northeast Corridor, which connects New York City to Boston via New Haven and Providence. As well, the Vermonter goes from New York City and Washington, D.C. to Connecticut, western Massachusetts and Vermont. New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority's MetroNorth  trains run between Grand Central Station in midtown Manhattan and New Haven, stopping in many Connecticut towns en route.
The Amtrack DownEaster  offers fares from Boston up through southern Maine.
The Chinatown Bus  goes from New York to Boston for about $30 round trip. Greyhound  also offers slightly more expensive bus service to and from other areas of the country, as does Peter Pan . From Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City buses serve western New England. Vermont Transit  offers service from Montréal. Boston's South Station is a hub for bus travel to and from New York and to and from all other areas of New England.
It is possible to visit New England without an automobile. Doing so requires the visitor to study schedules very carefully, purchase tickets in advance when possible, limit visits to one or two destinations, and keep in mind that local public transportation operates infrequently, if at all, at night, on weekends, and during the middle of the day. The visitor may also sign up for a group tour by bus or cruise ship. Bus tours and cruise ships visit all the major tourist destinations, if only to drive by with expert commentary by tour guides. Group tours do have the advantage of eliminating all worries about destinations, lodging, and meals, although they have inflexible schedules, offer virtually no opportunity to meet local people, and perhaps too much acquaintance with one's fellow passengers.
Amtrak covers urban New England pretty extensively with the Northeast Corridor (Boston-Rhode Island-Connecticut), the Vermonter (Connecticut to Vermont), and the Downeaster (Boston to Portland). The Acela Express is a high-speed train that follows roughly the same route as the Northeast Corridor. Note that Boston has two train major stations, South Station and North Station. Trains from South Station serve areas to the south and west of the city, and North Station trains serve areas north of the city. All Amtrak trains to and from Boston, except the train to Portland are available at South Station, but not North Station. The train to Portland is available only at North Station. There is no direct connection between the two stations. Those wishing to connect between the two stations must either take a taxi, or take two subway lines, or walk about 2 km/ 1.2 miles through busy city streets. Information and train schedules are available from Amtrak's  web site.
Commuter rail and bus lines radiate out from New York City and Boston for a distance of about 50 km/30 miles. The MBTA  covers the greater Boston area with its commuter rail network, including Providence, Lowell, and Worcester. The MTA Metro North  provides very frequent and affordable service between New York City and New Haven; at New Haven there are numerous connections to points north and east. Remember, though, that commuter service is infrequent outside of weekday morning and evening rush hours.
Greyhound  has several routes in New England. New Hampshire and Maine are served by Concord Coach Lines . The primary intercity bus service in southern New England is Peter Pan Bus . Their web site allows the user to determine the schedule of all buses serving two destinations in southern New England.
New England has many offshore islands that are attractive destinations reachable only by ferry. Typically, these islands are compact enough that the visitor does not require a car to visit them. Relatively flat coastal terrain and light traffic makes it easy to get around them by walking or bicycling. Taking a car on the ferry is expensive and usually requires reservations long in advance. In any case, many ferries are for passengers and bicycles only.
Much of rural New England is under-served by bus/train, and driving is required to visit much of Vermont, New Hampshire, western Massachusetts, and Maine.
There are many historical sights in New England, including many colleges, universities, monuments and architecture. Yale University in New Haven and Harvard University and MIT in Cambridge, MA are destinations, offering a variety of interesting museums, as well as nonstop cultural activities. Throughout the region there are small college towns, such as: Kingston Rhode Island; Storrs, Hamden, and Middletown Connecticut; Amherst, Northampton, and Williamstown Massachusetts; Burlington and Middlebury Vermont; and Brunswick, Waterville, and Orono Maine; that offer cultural diversions.
The history of New England is re-enacted at several collections of historical buildings: Mashantucket Pequot Museum in Ledyard, Connecticut for Native American history; Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts for early European settlement; Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut for maritime history; Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts for early 19th century history; Shelburne Museum just south of Burlington, Vermont; and Historic Deerfield in Deerfield Massachusetts as well as many other locations. New Hampshire offers colonial-era re-enactments and revitalized buildings at Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth and the Fort at No. 4 in Charlestown.
Stop in some of the historical mill towns like Lowell, Massachusetts and Manchester, New Hampshire that have been revitalized.
In its small area New England packs a lot of natural beauty. Highlights would include: pastoral villages with white-steepled churches throughout rural New England; sandy beaches and moorlands along the southern coastal area of Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts, including Cape Cod and adjacent islands; the more rugged rocky coast and cliffs of Maine; the nearly alpine scenery of Vermont, northern New Hampshire, and western Maine; and dense forests everywhere.
Skiing and summer mountain activities
Ski or snowboard in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Green Mountains of Vermont and the mountains of western and central Maine. In southern New England, Connecticut and Massachusetts have small local ski areas with vertical slopes of less than 300 meters/1000 feet. There are many ski areas for everyone from beginners to advanced skiers/boarders. Many areas extend their seasons to year round by providing alpine slides and summertime activities. See the state articles for ski area listings.
New England skiing is unlike skiing in the western United States. Instead of open slopes above tree line, New England ski areas have relatively narrow trails carved through thick woodlands. New England's variable weather continues in winter. The skier or boarder may experience mild weather with temperatures above 10 Celsius/50 Fahrenheit or bitter cold with high winds delivering wind chill temperatures of -30 or less. Rain or snow may fall at any time. Rain often coats the snow with ice, and snow is often wet and sticky. The result of these conditions is that skiing and snowboarding in New England require attention to conditions. To deal with mild or dry conditions, all major New England ski areas make snow through the night and groom their slopes in the early morning.
Traditional Summer Activities
Beaches abound along New England's coastline from Connecticut to just south of Portland, Maine. Here vacationers may swim or simply soak up the sun. Swimmers may find the waters north of Cape Cod to be cold, especially in Maine. Inland, swimming is available in New England's thousands of lakes and ponds, and the water is usually warmer. Almost every New England town has at least one "swimming hole". Swimming areas include those operated by the federal National Park Service in Cape Cod National Seashore and Acadia National Park, large state-owned beaches with parking for hundreds of cars, and local city or town beaches. In addition, local inquiries may reveal the locations of unmapped swimming areas, some quite scenic, along local streams or shorelines.
New England also offers plenty of opportunity for boating whether it be in sheltered bays and harbors along 9,900 km/6,100 miles of coastline, or on inland lakes, ponds, and rivers. Local yacht clubs usually conduct sailboat races for many different classes. Offshore cruises are offered from coastal tourist towns. These cruises include "whale watch" boats, other nature cruises to observe shore birds, and sailing on traditional sailboats such as Maine's "windjammers". Those cruising out to sea north of Cape Cod should bring a jacket or sweater no matter how hot it may be on land. Inland, outfitters offer whitewater rafting on Maine's rivers. Kayakers and canoers have plenty of opportunity to put their craft into local lakes, ponds, and rivers at state-owned boat launching areas. Rentals are often available in larger waterfront towns. Be advised that many local areas ban jet skis and have "no wake" areas for motor boats.
Bicycling is popular in New England. The large urban area stretching from Boston to Hartford and into the New York City area are densely populated with lots of automobile traffic, so cyclists often take advantage of the area's "rail-trails", which are paved sections of abandoned railroad track dedicated to bicyclists and pedestrians. Information on rail-trails, such as the East Coast Greenway , is available from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy . In northern New England there is less traffic on the roads, but you'll find more mountainous terrain compared with the rolling hills of southern New England. Many of New England's state parks have trails for mountain biking. These trails follow old dirt roads. Mountain biking on hiking trails is usually prohibited. Both Cape Cod National Seashore and Acadia National Park offer ample opportunity for bicycling along scenic routes free of motor vehicle traffic. Biking opportunities abound on New England's many offshore island destinations where roads are usually flat and cooled by sea breezes. Most major tourist destinations have shops that rent bicycles.
Hiking is popular in New England. There are long distance hiking trails in the region, including the Appalachian Trail, which courses through all of the New England states except Rhode Island to its terminus on Mount Katahdin in Maine, and the Long Trail, which traverses Vermont from Massachusetts to Quebec. Although there are hundreds of miles of hiking trails in the region's state and federal parks, bear in mind that most hiking trails do cross private property, and the owner's rights are to be respected. Most of New England's mountains are thickly forested, but there are extensive areas above the tree line in Vermont and especially New Hampshire and Maine. On these mountains climate conditions are similar to those in Labrador far to the north, and the lack of trees affords wonderful long distance views. The Appalachian Mountain Club  (AMC) has its headquarters in Boston and local chapters throughout the region. AMC operates campgrounds and lodges throughout the region, most of which are reachable only by hiking. New England's trails are generally maintained by volunteers organized by AMC's chapters or other organizations such as the Green Mountain Club  or the Connecticut Forest and Park Association . These organizations offer detailed maps and other hiking information.
New England is home to some of America's oldest LGBT resorts; the most famous are Provincetown and Ogunquit. Gays from large cities like New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. vacation in New England to enjoy the region's largely tolerant, accepting culture. With the recent passage of same-sex marriage laws in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine, the region's scenic beauty makes it a popular wedding destination for straight and gay couples alike. Boston is known for its lively LGBT nightlife; elsewhere options are pretty sparse. Gay-owned guesthouses are, however, fairly common.
New England's cities and tourist areas have a wide variety of excellent restaurants. A few famous items of local cuisine include New Haven's pizza, Vermont's maple syrup, Southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island's Portuguese cuisine, and Maine's lobster and blueberries. Everywhere along New England's coast there are local restaurants offering fresh seafood, fried clams, and clam chowder. It can be kitschy, but there is a certain pleasure in spending a summer afternoon at a New England seaside restaurant eating seafood and watching boats come and go in the local harbor.
A special local treat is to attend a clam or "lobsta" "bake" or "shore dinner" at a coastal location. These venues typically serve only a complete clam or lobster dinner at a fixed time that includes all the ingredients of a traditional New England clam or lobster bake, including, of course, steamed clams or lobster, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, baked beans, and traditional desserts. Sometimes steak or hamburger is offered to those who will not eat lobster or clams. Inquire locally in seaside communities for locations and times.
Some of New England's smaller towns have old restored taverns which in the 18th and 19th centuries provided lodging and food for weary travelers. Most of these restored taverns no longer offer lodging, but offer meals featuring typical "New England fare" such as pot roast and a variety of steaks and poultry. Many of these restaurants also offer seafood.
Boston is known for its drinking establishments known locally as bars or taverns or pubs, including the Cheers bar of TV fame. (See the section in the Boston article.) New Haven is home to hundreds of bars and restaurants, and has a thriving scene including the Playwright, the largest Irish Pub on the East Coast, a huge space holding two thousand people built out of church parts salvaged from Ireland. In addition, several other cities in the region have an active nightlife. Microbreweries and wineries are also located throughout the region, and many can be visited by travellers.
Be aware that New England states have strict laws on driving while under the influence of alcohol. Some New England police departments enforce these laws by stopping traffic near popular bars and interviewing drivers, or by stationing unmarked police cars in or near the parking lots of popular establishments.
Types of stores that sell alcohol for off-premises consumption vary from state to state. Generally, wine and beer may be purchased in groceries and convenience stores but harder liquors may only be available from retail liquor stores known locally as "package stores" or "packies". While former "Blue Laws" prohibited the sale of alcohol on Sundays in Massachusetts and Connecticut, many those laws have since been repealed. However, some cities and towns remain "dry" or do not allow for the sale of alcohol. Other New England states have slowly repealed such alcohol sales bans, but be aware of this odd tradition.
New England is one of the safest regions of the country overall, but it is no stranger to crime. All of the region's towns and cities, regardless of their size, have areas that should be travelled with caution at night. Larger cities are the best-known for crime because of media publicity but most crimes in big cities occur among friends and acquaintances. Random acts of violence can happen anywhere, even in smaller towns. It is also best not to hitchhike.
Furthermore, as with other areas of the country, take care while driving. You are 200 times more likely to be injured or killed in a car accident than in any random act of violence. Particular areas to use caution are small, winding roads away from major interstates where cars can travel erratically and at high speeds. Hikers leaving an automobile at trail heads in remote areas should take care not to leave valuables in the vehicle.
As in the rest of the USA, 911 can be dialled for emergencies, even from pay-phones.
Dangerous animals are hardly a concern in New England. During May and early June hikers may want to avoid thick woodlands in northern New England or risk being plagued by hordes of tiny black flies. The best time for hiking is September and October when cold nights have suppressed insect activity. That said, however, there are many trails with locations exposed to wind and sunshine and minimal contact with biting and stinging insects. There are rare encounters with poisonous snakes in southern and western parts of New England, but hardly any deaths. These snakes are so rare that they are considered endangered and it may be against the law to kill them. The hiker will encounter no poisonous snakes in Maine or northern New Hampshire. The most dangerous animal likely to be encountered by a hiker in New England is the deer tick, a tiny creature no more than about 2 mm in diameter. Deer ticks carry Lyme Disease, which can engender severe medical symptoms in the victim. The best defense against the deer tick is to use insecticides and wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Wild turkeys, bears, and coyotes abound in New England but almost always avoid humans. Moose can be dangerous to motorists speeding along dark roads in northern New England. These animals are large and their massive bodies will go right through the windshield when struck by a smaller automobile. The best defense is to drive slowly through moose crossing areas and watch carefully for moose stepping into the road.
Travellers continuing to Canada may take Interstate 89 North from Burlington, Vermont to Montreal or Maine state highway 9 East from Bangor, Maine to the Atlantic Provinces of Canada. The Cat Ferry  that sailed from Bar Harbor or Portland, Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia ceased operation December 9, 2009.