If you’re thinking of vacationing in the Northeast, there’s a good chance you have one of just a few places in mind. Maybe you’re planning to see some cities – in that case, you’re like to be headed to New York, Philadelphia, or Boston. Maybe it’s beaches you want, in which case you’re likely going to Cape Cod, Rhode Island, Long Island, or the New Jersey shore. Or maybe you want to go hiking, in which case you’re probably headed to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the New York Adirondacks, or Acadia National Park in Maine. Natural wonders? You’re no doubt headed to Niagara Falls.
Every one of these places is an incredible destination, and each is well worth visiting. But while crowds surge to these places every year, other spots in the Northeast are left with plenty of room – and savvy tourists who head to these places will find affordable accommodations, pleasant people, and stress-free summer fun.
Get to the heart of things
The touristy areas in most Northeastern states are at the borders: those beautiful beaches, for instance, or the busy boroughs of New York City. But head into the center of just about any state in the region and you’ll find towns full of character – and a surprising amount of things to do.
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New Jersey, for instance, is known for its beaches and its built-up areas around New York City. But in central New Jersey, there’s plenty of undeveloped space for a relaxing outdoor vacation – plus a surprising amount to do in central New Jersey cities like Trenton and East Rutherford. Central Jersey is the home of Rutgers University, which plays in the Big Ten – one of the best college football conferences in the nation. And there’s tons of history here, too. Check out their tourism bureau for more information.
The same can be said for Massachusetts. Boston is the undisputed tourist hotspot in Massachusetts, but Central Massachusetts has great vacation options too. Central Massachusetts has cities of its own, plus easy access to great hikes in the Berkshires. The Berkshires make for less challenging hikes than those in nearby New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire, so they’re a better choice for families with young kids or beggining hikers. And Central Massachusetts is full of culture, too: plenty of museums and cultural centers fill the spaces between Central Massachusetts’ idyllic farms and towns. (And yes, they have a tourism bureau as well).
Head for the hills
When residents of the Northeast’s big cities want to get out of town, they head for nearby mountains and beaches. Follow them out, then go just a bit further! While the lower Catskills in New York can get very crowded, a trip a bit further up the Hudson Valley can give you a lot more elbow room. The same goes for the Berkshires of Massachusetts and the Poconos of Pennsylvania. By vacationing just a bit out of reach of the big city weekenders, you can get the same scenery with fewer folks – and a lower price tag.
Depending on what you’re looking for in an outdoor vacation, you may also find that there’s no need to head for big-mountain hotspots in New York, New Hampshire, or Maine. Family hiking is just as fun in the less crowded Berkshires, and Central New York boasts stunning gorges in its Finger Lakes region. Looking to canoe or kayak? Less crowded lakes pepper every northeastern state, and calm waters are available in New York’s Erie Canal, which is open to kayakers in many areas.
Shrink your cities
Yes, the Northeast has some incredible cities: New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston, to name just a few. But beyond the big cities, the Northeast also boasts a ton of fascinating smaller cities. Rhode Island is full of historic and beautiful cities, including some that draw plenty of tourists themselves. Massachusetts has Lowell, where the famous mills are now protected as a National Historic Park and old warehouses are quickly turning into hip lofts and incredible restaurants all over the city. Portland is the largest city in Maine and draws tourists from all over the region, but it remains underappreciated as a vacation destination. New York’s small upstate cities are having a bit of a renaissance, too, and there is plenty of history in upstate New York (including in Cooperstown – one small upstate town that gets more than its share of tourists).
Linking a few smaller cities together with a train or road trip is a great way to experience the full flavor of the Northeast – and to avoid the crowds of the big cities. The most popular tourist destinations in the Northeast are great, but they don’t tell the whole story of this incredible region.