TRAVEL || NORTH AMERICA > UNITED STATES > New England
New England comprises six small states: Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Dense deciduous forests and hills cover the interior landscape with a long Atlantic coastline with islands, inlets, and estuaries.
Originally, several native Algonquin-speaking tribes, such as the Wampanoag and Massachusett tribes, inhabited this region. During 17th-century colonial England, Puritans arrived, and after learning to cultivate maize (native corn), beans, and squash from the natives, established themselves—and their faith.
Others escaping religious and political persecution flooded the region in the coming decades—although many brought with them their own religious fears and social intolerances. A century and a half later, a revolution began. Independence was declared, a war was won, and the country was born. This area, which helped lead the cause, is abundant in this colonial heritage.
Unfortunately, in the process, little remains of the natives who cared for this land for thousands of years. But the influence of the natives and their ways remain in the traditional Thanksgiving meal and the regional clam bake. Since then, fried clams became New England’s take on English fish and chips; though clam chowder might be a French import, the clear broth version is straight from Rhode Island along with clam cakes.
Next on the menu are lobster rolls—either the chilled Maine version dressed in mayonnaise or the warm Connecticut way with drawn butter. Other specialties owing their roots to the natives who introduced cornmeal to the Pilgrims: johnnycakes are cornmeal pancakes; Indian pudding is a custard of cornmeal and molasses; anadama bread is a yeast bread of cornmeal and dark molasses.
Today, this region preserves its cultural and architectural heritage, prestigious education, stunning natural beauty, and culinary specialties of the land and sea. Each distinct season is on display and enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. Come explore the history and charm of New England!
Hartford (state capital), New Haven (Yale University), Mystic (port), Stamford
♦ Rhode Island
Providence (state capital), Newport (mansions)
Boston (state capital and largest city in New England), Plymouth (1st colonial settlement), Salem (Puritan witchcraft trials), Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, the Berkshires, oysters, clams (clam chowder)
Montpellier, covered bridges, dairy farms, maple syrup
♦ New Hampshire
Concord (state capital), Manchester (largest city), Portsmouth (steepled church colonial town), White Mountains, Lake Winnipesaukee, grapes
Augusta, Portland, lobster, crab, oysters, clams
YALE UNIVERSITY, NEW HAVEN
Photo by Ali Giaudrone
Known for old money and top-tier education, Connecticut holds the country’s highest per-capita income rate. The original colony, which was founded in 1636, became one of the original 13 states. Many of the country’s oldest colonial towns and fur trade settlements remain from the time when lumber and fishing were their primary resources.
The state capital of Hartford, among the oldest of US cities, was established on the Connecticut River that divides the state. The Dutch first explored the river in 1614, began extensive trade with the native Pequot tribe, and set up a fort at what became Hartford in 1633.
Enticed by the River Indians of the Connecticut Valley who battled with the Pequots, the English expanded north from Windsor and Wethersfield, the state’s first Puritan settlements of 1633, establishing Hartford in 1636 to gain leverage over the Dutch. English colonists combined these settlements to create the original Connecticut Colony. Upon defeating the Pequot tribe of the Thames Valley in 1637, the English united with the Saybrook colony (est. 1636) to the east in 1644 and moved into the Pequot land to establish New London at the strategic Thames river mouth in 1646.
Other English Puritans developed a separate, though unchartered, New Haven Colony in 1638, which came to include the towns of Milford, Guilford, and Stamford. Ultimately, New Haven united with Connecticut and incorporated as one of the 13 colonies when they petitioned for and received a royal charter in 1662 from Charles II. For 156 years, this charter was upheld until 1788 when Connecticut ratified the US Constitution.
Today, in the coastal city of New Haven, the prestigious and beautiful Yale University, founded in 1701, is one of nine colonial colleges. Near the early settlement of New London and Stonington (est. 1649) sits the historic shipbuilding and whaling port of Mystic, one of the prettiest towns along the coast. Connecticut is also known for thin-crust pizza and red chowder.
See the official Connecticut Tourism pages.
Capitol Building, PROVIDENCE
Photo by Ali Giaudrone
Don’t underestimate the smallest US state. Rhode Island is packed with history and a pristine coastline. One of the original 13 states, the original colony was founded in 1636 when Roger Williams, a religious freedom advocate exiled from Massachusetts, established the settlement of Providence, now the state capital.
Others followed as the progressive colony attracted other Puritan separatists and persecuted groups such as Jews and Quakers. Some of the first settlements became the towns of Portsmouth, Newport, Aquidneck Island, Cranston, and Warwick.
After many political and religious disputes, Williams petitioned for the first charter, issued in 1644 to unify the settlements into a fiercely independent Rhode Island Colony, though the permanent charter wasn’t finalized until 1663. Williams also learned the Algonquin language and acted as a peace-maker between Narragansetts and Wampanoags, other tribes, and colonists, including those in Massachusetts who had exiled him.
Natives had stewarded the land for thousands of years. Foreign diseases brought by European contact devastated indigenous populations. Yet Wampanoags lived peacefully for years with the colonists. That is until the culmination of King Philip’s War (aka. Metacom’s War) in 1675 when natives began to stand against broken treaties and increased European expansion into their territories. Trust between these prior allies began to unravel. The ensuing violence completely deteriorated the relationship.
Still, the colony was considered very progressive for its time. By 1652, the Rhode Island colonial government adhered to its separation of church and state, guaranteed freedom of religion for all citizens, and abolished witchcraft trials, imprisonment for debt, most capital punishment, and all slavery of any people (black, white, or brown). Although the colony was a front-runner for independence, severing ties with Britain before the Declaration of Independence, Rhode Island was the last of the original 13 states to ratify the already-in-effect Constitution in 1790—presumably because the union did not demand humane treatment for all.
Today, Providence is home to Brown University, one of the nine colonial colleges. Founded in 1764, Brown was the first college to accept students of any religious affiliation. At the turn of the 20th century, McKim, Mead & White constructed the city’s neoclassical State Capitol.
The coastal port city of Newport boasts luxurious mansions, such as The Breakers, one of the Vanderbilt family estates. Built by the ultra-wealthy during the Gilded Age of the late 19th century as summer “cottages,” today the Preservation Society protects these architectural landmarks.
See the official Rhode Island Tourism pages.
Photo by Ali Giaudrone
Massachusetts is aptly named for its native northeastern Algonquin tribe. These indigenous people were among the first to come into contact with the English Puritan Pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower on the northern tip of Cape Cod and then settled in Plymouth across the bay in 1620.
The capital of Massachusetts, Boston is the largest and most populous city in New England, which was founded in 1630 adjacent to today’s Boston Harbor. As the Massachusetts colony and its wealth grew, Boston became a center of English resistance in the 18th century. Resentment grew as England’s troops worked to keep colonial control. Demonstrations and violence, such as the Boston Tea Party and the Boston Massacre, centered in the city, which led to uprisings, and ultimately, ignited the American Revolution. One of the first thirteen, Massachusetts became a state in 1788.
The islands of Martha’s Vineyard, originally settled in 1642, and Nantucket became important centers for whaling and fishing in the 18th and 19th centuries, but today are popular vacation retreats.
Layers of history remain throughout Massachusetts to provide its richness and character. The state protects and celebrates these living archives as reminders of the fragility of peace and liberty. Top universities such as MIT and Harvard in Cambridge foster a high level of learning, performing, and thinking. Students are encouraged to challenge perceptions and the status quo, delve into issues and make a global difference.
See the official Massachusetts Tourism pages.
Photo by Cameron Venti on Unsplash
With strong French roots, Vermont is named for its Green Mountains, the Appalachian subrange that extends north into Québec. Known for its lively arts and music scene, Montpelier, named for the French city, is the smallest state capital in the US.
The most prominent natives were the Algonquin-speaking Abénaki and Mohican tribes, though most were devastated by European diseases and war. Originally claimed by France in 1609, the French didn’t establish their first settlement until 1666. English settlers moved into the area in 1724 at present-day Brattleboro. After the French and Indian War, Vermont declared itself an independent republic for 14 years before becoming a state in 1791.
Today, along with its progressive, environmental perspective, Vermont is known for monumental granite and marble. In fall, the mountain forests produce a spectacular display of warm colors. Drives will uncover waterfalls in the Quechee Gorge, preserved historic covered bridges, iconic steepled churches, dairy farms (particularly those producing Vermont cheddar cheese), craft beer, and maple syrup in sleepy towns such as Woodstock, Grafton, and Stowe.
The city of Manchester preserves three historic districts. Burlington, Vermont’s largest city, and Shelbourne overlook Lake Champlain east of the Adirondack Mountains with its archipelago of islands.
See the official Vermont Tourism pages.
Photo by Ali Giaudrone
Bands of Algonquin tribes such as the Abenaki and Western Pennacook lived here for centuries before Europeans arrived. One of the original 13 colonies, founded in 1623, New Hampshire was the first colony to declare independence from England in 1776, becoming a state in 1788.
Like Vermont, brilliant fall foliage covers the New Hampshire landscape around Lake Winnipesaukee and in the forests of the White Mountains. These abundant trees produce maple syrup and apple cider, where preserved historic covered bridges traverse rivers near dairy farms and grapevines.
The state capital, known for grape jelly, Concord was established on the Merrimack River at the village of Penacook at its northern border. New Hampshire’s largest city, Manchester houses an internationally renowned art museum. Portsmouth is a beautiful 400-year-old seaport town, full of colonial architecture at the mouth of the Piscataqua River bordering Maine.
See the official New Hampshire Tourism pages.
Photo by Ali Giaudrone
First Peoples of the Wabanaki Nation were the original custodians of this land. These peaceful natives held alliances with the early European traders for decades. They tried to remain neutral during war times. But when the English demanded they give up their hunting weapons, rather than letting their families starve, the Wabanaki people were forced to help push the English out of New England. The tribes later aligned with the French in the French and Indian War but were ultimately weakened and overcome by British forces.
This land became absorbed by Massachusetts, first as a colony and then as a district of the state after the American Revolution. Residents desiring religious freedom worked to separate from Massachusetts for decades. Finally, Maine gained statehood in 1820, but only by a narrow margin and as a result of the Missouri Compromise, through which Maine entered the union as a free state, balanced against the newly appointed slave state of Missouri.
Today, known for lighthouses and lobster, the landscape and waterways of Maine beckon nature and culinary enthusiasts alike. Seafood abounds in the Atlantic waters with particular attention shining on its crustaceans and mollusks: lobster, crab, oysters, and clams. Farmer’s markets and fruity pastries benefit from Maine’s apple orchards and wild blueberries. Take in the spectacular scenery with a regional craft beer or a coffee from one of its many cafes.
Fifty-seven active lighthouses protect ships from the state’s jagged, island-filled coastline. Birdwatchers flock to these shores in spring, while summer cyclists spin along the most bike-friendly roads and pathways. Inland forests of Acadia National Park turn a vibrantly warm spectrum of color before the autumn leaves fall and become covered in winter’s deep snow.
The state is at once relaxingly picturesque and buzzing with creative energy. Arts, history, and culture are preserved in galleries and museums throughout the state. The tiny, historic inland capital of Augusta was established in 1628. Portland, Maine’s most populous city, preserves an authentic, laid-back lifestyle. This active fishing harbor on Casco Bay is overlooked by the Portland Observatory of 1807, the nation’s only remaining maritime signal tower.
See the official Maine Tourism pages.