When the temperatures rise, there’s no better time than summer to visit the Northeast — an area packed with wonderful cities, lakes, seashores, leafy mountains and a wealth of historical sites. In fact, the hardest thing in planning a Northeast vacation is making some tough decisions: a fast-paced city or a charming small town? Oceanside relaxation or mountain adventures?
A small, historic waterside town, population about 2,800, near the busier Rehoboth, Lewes (pronounced LOO-iss) is the perfect place for a summer weekend (especially a romantic one), with charming B&Bs, nice hotels such as Hotel Blue and Inn at Canal Square on the waterfront, and delicious restaurants, including the Agave Mexican Grill and Tequila Bar for melt-in-your-mouth fish tacos and margaritas. Relax on the beaches, rent a bike, or stroll the trails of Cape Henlopen State Park. You could take the ferry from Lewes to Cape May, N.J., about an hour and a half each way, for a day trip or just to watch for dolphins and enjoy the ride. A stop (or several) at Hopkins Farm Creamery is a must.
Bar Harbor, Maine
Once a summer getaway for the rich, today Bar Harbor is a bustling town on the edge of the stunning, 47,000-acre Acadia National Park. There are many ways to experience this part of the iconic coastline, including countless options for hiking (you may find delicious wild blueberries along your trail), a ride on a lobster boat or old-school sailboat, a whale watch, or a half-day sea kayak tour on which you’re likely to see the curious (and adorable) harbor seals that populate the area. You’ll want to try Mainers’ favorite place for lobster: Thurston’s Lobster Pound, a no-frills waterside spot where you order your lobster roll and sit down on the dock overlooking the bay. You can find lots of quaint New England B&Bs, such as the Coach Stop Inn, and larger inns, including the Bar Harbor Grand Hotel; many visitors choose to rent a vacation home.
Hyde Park, N.Y.
Hyde Park is Roosevelt central, with the recently restored FDR Presidential Library & Museum, along with Val-Kill, the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site. FDR’s museum — which includes treasures such as his childhood hobbyhorse — his home and the historic Vanderbilt Mansion, a true Gilded Age country manor, are on the same 300-acre site, which also offers leafy trails that run down to the Hudson River. Stop for a meal at one of the restaurants at the Culinary Institute of America, the famous cooking school for generations of American chefs. You might try CIA’s casual Post Road Brewhouse, then work off dinner at the nearby Walkway Over the Hudson, a restored railroad bridge that's the longest raised pedestrian walkway in the world (about three miles round trip), providing incomparable views of the Hudson River and surrounding mountains. There are a few hotels in town, though more options abound 15 minutes south in Poughkeepsie.
North Conway, N.H.
In the heart of the White Mountains, this is a historic, incredibly attractive village that’s packed with skiers in winter and is a great home base for exploring this gorgeous area any time of year — though summer offers ideal weather, with an average high of around 80 degrees F. Cruise along the scenic Kancamangus Highway, stopping to hike or soak up stunning mountain views; grab a picnic lunch and walk the short trail to the rocky cascades known as Diana’s Baths; fish; bike; or drive the twisty auto road to the top of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast (6,288 feet). Stay in one of the many large hotels or a cozy inn, or go with a home rental, and dine at Mary Kay’s Cottage Restaurant & Pub if you’re a fan of chicken pot pie.
This classic New England seaport is just 35 miles north of Boston with a long seafaring history; great restaurants (the stylish Paddle Inn, the Thai hot spot Brown Sugar by the Sea); lots of bars serving fresh oysters; a historic downtown for strolling or shopping; and the chance to commune with nature: Plum Island, just east of town, is one of the premier bird-watching spots in the country, and the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge includes miles of trails for strolling, biking or taking in the sea air. Take a whale-watch tour — the coast is not far from humpback, finback and minke whales’ favorite feeding grounds — or just relax on the wide beaches and watch the piping plovers dash back and forth. You'll find some darling inns, such as the Compass Rose, downtown, and more affordable options just a few miles away.