Bostonians may live in a city steeped in America’s colonial and revolutionary era history, but just four hours drive away is a place that not only played a very important part in that history, but which also has the most impressive fortress in the entire hemisphere. Fort Ticonderoga was built during the French and Indian Wars, and visitors are welcomed by guides wearing the white linen uniforms of one of the French regiments that built it – the La Marine. Its thick stone bastions and towering walls are lined with big guns, some of which were dragged across the snow to Boston in the winter of 1775 to enable George Washington to chase the British from Boston. The museum inside is packed with artifacts, dioramas and information on life at the fort in war and peace, and there are musket, cannon and mortar demonstrations and performances by a fife and drum corps several times a day. There is more to Ticonderoga than its massive fort – it is also situated on Lake Champlain in the majestic Adirondack Mountains, one of the most stunningly beautiful lakes in the area – especially in the fall, when the leaves turn. Built for war, it is ironically one of the most peaceful places in New England. The fort is open until October 29, and there is a Horse and Heritage equestrian and garden festival there on September 30.
Driving up the coast of Maine to its pristine beaches is something almost every Boston family does at least once or twice in the summer – but in the fall, the trip is easier, cheaper and even more satisfying. While Maine has many lovely towns with quaint antique districts, charming bed and breakfasts and beautiful beaches, one of the best destinations in Maine for all of these is Bar Harbor. This is especially true if the trip includes a night or two stay at the Harborside Hotel. Just under five hours drive from central Boston, the Harborside has first-rate accommodations right at the marina on the water, an excellent restaurant, a luxurious spa and many other amenities. Although reservations are a must, their fall packages are a comparative bargain – made doubly so by the cool, clear fall weather and the lack of summer crowds and traffic.
Lake Winniespesaukee is the largest and longest lake in New Hampshire, and has a well-earned reputation for being both a summer and fall playground. It is a great place for boating, fishing, frolicking by the water’s edge, hiking and picnicking. There is always something special going on, even in the fall, and on days or nights when there are no festivals or live entertainments at the many bars and restaurants in the towns along the lake, there is always Funspot in Laconia – the world’s largest and by almost all accounts best arcade. Since even before video games Funspot was a place where people came to play arcade games like skeeball and skittles, but ever since Atari created Pong 45 years ago Funspot has been the Mecca for arcade and video gamers worldwide. Funspot is just one of the many attractions in Laconia and the other towns located on its 182 miles of shoreline. The closest point to Boston is less than a two-hour drive from the city, making it an easy day trip.
A little more than an hour out of Boston is the old mill town of Fall River. The mills are long closed, but river is home to “America’s Fleet Museum,” which includes a flotilla of historic warships, the queen of which is the battleship USS Massachusetts. Visitors can board the massive warship, tour her engine room, gun turrets, bridge and living quarters and get a feel for what life was like for the thousands of sailors who called this World War II behemoth known as “Big Mamie” home. There are many other ships in the cove that are open to the public, including two PT boats – of the kind that President John F. Kennedy captained during that war, a destroyer named after the late president, submarine and one foreign warship – a former East German missile corvette. The Maritime Museum in the cove boasts an extensive collection of all things nautical, and there are frequent special events (including Boy Scout sleepovers) to be on the lookout for.
Almost directly across the wide expanse of Cape Cod Bay from Boston is Provincetown, where the Pilgrim’s first landed in 1620. This little town of less than 3,000 inhabitants is at the very tip of Cape Cod, and has almost as many shops, bars, nightclubs, cabarets, restaurants, museums, galleries and other places to spend part of a day than it has homes. There are also numerous bed and breakfast spots and hotels in or near the town for those who want a cozy, quaint spot for a getaway. The town is of course surrounded by water on three sides, and there are many beaches to walk and many lighthouses to visit, and it is only two-and-a-half hours by car (or 90 minutes by ferry from the Boston docks).
Related: Travel New England Cruises