Iconic Road Trips: New England’s Coastal Drive

I met up with a childhood best friend of mine a few years ago in Boston. From there we drove to an ocean-side, dog-friendly resort in Maine that we’d decided to vacation at for a few days. Before we began our drive back to Boston, we realized we had all day to kill, so we chose our route back accordingly. Highway 1 isn’t just a West Coast thing – it’s pretty great on the East Coast, too. We took US 1A alongside the Atlantic Ocean down from Maine and through New Hampshire and Massachusetts. At different points in time, 1A connects with US Route 1. The names change along the way – in New Hampshire, it’s technically called NH Route 1A – but the direction is clear: follow the road that runs alongside the ocean at every given opportunity. What would have been an under 3-hour trip for us on the highway from Maine to Boston wound up taking nearly 7 hours on these small roads, but it was all for a good cause: gorgeous scenery.Cliché as it is to say, the journey is what matters, not the destination. Quintessential New England beaches and architecture make this drive worth it. Stop in any number of towns for New England staples like salt water taffy or chowder.

You’ll drive straight through Rye Harbor State Park, Wallis Sands State Park, Odiorne Point State Park, Hampton Salt Marsh Conservation Area, Seabrook Back Dunes, Salisbury Beach State Reservation and Salem, Massachusetts.

Gawker’s Worst 50 States

I’ve been following Gawker’s newest series, The Worst 50 States. I’ve been enjoying following this series. In an effort to pin down not only the best states in the US of A, but, more importantly, the worst states, Gawker compiled a Gawker-invented rating system in order to rank our fair fifty. Granted, this rating system consists solely of the viewpoints of those on staff for Gawker, so the viewpoints are just about as biased as you would deem Gawker (Which might be not at all according to you!), but there’s some interesting stuff in there. Yes, they’re focusing on the bad more than the good, those damn pessimists, but all in all, fact or fiction, the commentary on the 50 states is makes me laugh. And, I’ll just throw this in there, I’ve been to 48 of the 50 states and much of every summary they make rings true to me. They’re not done wrapping up the states yet, but check out their analysis of most of the states here.

If you’re inflamed, saddened, or curling over with laughter after reading what’s so bad about your home state, come back here and tell us in the comments how Gawker made you feel.

Study Ranks States By Individual Freedom

Five steps to a romantic New Hampshire getaway

New Hampshire romantic getaway
Put the stress and pressure of the workday behind you. This is exactly what was on my mind a few weeks ago. I needed to get away from the daily grind for a bit, and the back roads of New England were calling. I wanted something quiet, remote and relaxing. New Hampshire came to mind immediately.

It had been a while since my last trip to New Hampshire – close to 20 years since my last visit to the White Mountains. So, I had to reacquaint myself with the local options. In the process of doing so, I found five crucial steps to planning a great romantic getaway to the Granite State.

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When you’re planning your long weekend (or longer) in New Hampshire (or western Massachusetts, Vermont or Maine), keep the following in mind:

1. Invest some time in picking the right room: for me, this was probably the most important part of planning my getaway. I wanted to find an inn (not a bed and breakfast or a hotel) that had a fireplace and an in-room Jacuzzi. I wouldn’t compromise on these criteria … and I wanted them at less than $200 a night (all in). Since the New England Inns and Resorts Association website allows you to search member properties based on these elements, that’s where I went to do my homework and book, finding the Christmas Farm Inn, in Jackson, NH. It wound up being exactly what I was looking form.

2. Remember the New Hampshire state liquor stores: wine is not expensive! The state liquor stores have a wide selection of wines, and they’re a bit cheaper (in most cases) than they are in nearby Boston and not-so-nearby New York. Pick up a few bottles, depending on the length of your stay, for in-room enjoyment. Think about it: (a) wine by the fireplace, (b) wine in the Jacuzzi, (c) wine on the deck and (d) wine in bed. This really is a no-brainer.

3. Get a sense of the cuisine ahead of time: if you’re visiting northern New Hampshire from a city, be ready for some differences. The restaurants close a lot earlier, especially off season. So, hitting the local restaurant at 10:30 PM just isn’t an option – you’ll starve! Plan to eat earlier dinners, leaving more time for chilled wine in the Jacuzzi back at your room (there’s an upside to everything). While there are some interesting options in the area (such as Wine Thyme in North Conway, NH), upscale alternatives aren’t as common as they are in New York or Boston. Be ready to de-prioritize culinary and focus on the “romantic” part of “romantic getaway.”

4. Fight the urge to stay in your room: the whole point of a romantic getaway is to enjoy the person you’re with … which sometimes leads to longer mornings in bed and the temptation not to wander too far from the room (hint, hint). Keep the spirit without becoming a hermit by packing a lunch and a bottle of wine before heading over to Rocky Gorge in White Mountain National Forest. Sit on the rocks as the river rushes by, and sip on a glass of Pinot Noir if the air is crisp (Gruener if it isn’t). Circle the nearby lake for a bit of privacy; the trail is easy to walk and won’t draw as much traffic as Rocky Gorge.

5. Take in a sunset: for a fantastic sunset, head over to Cathedral Ledge. It isn’t far from the Conway, NH area, so you won’t lose much time to the drive. In summer, the later sunset might leave you scrambling to find dinner afterward, so choose a restaurant that’s nearby to make sure you aren’t scrounging after enjoying a bit of natural beauty.

Arethusa Falls: A spectacular New Hampshire sight

Arethusa Falls, New Hampshire
For some, the word “hiking” leads to unpleasant thoughts. There are visions of heavy backpacks, ropes and buckets of sweat pouring off your body. For those not in the best of shape, it seems like an unfortunate way to spend a vacation. After all, the purpose of getting away from the daily grind is to recharge, not to wear yourself out.

This sort of thinking can be unfortunate. Not all hiking has to be of the sort chronicled by the so-called “adventure travel” folks. In fact, you can have a great time out in the woods without running yourself ragged. Hiking can be a blast, especially when you choose trails that are easy to navigate, not too hard on your body and still deliver an incredible payoff.

This is exactly what I found at Arethusa Falls.

Arethusa Falls is tucked away in New Hampshire‘s White Mountain region, not too far from Mt Washington, where you’ll find some of the worst weather in the country. Unlike Washington, and nearby intimidating peaks Adams and Jefferson, Arethusa Falls sits at the end of a fairly short trail (not even two miles long). The path can be a bit hilly and rocky, but it’s far from the sort of environment in which equipment is needed – a good pair of hiking boots is fine. You certainly won’t need to toss a heavy burden on your back, as you’ll be out for only a few hours.

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The Falls aren’t that high up; you’ll only climb to an elevation of 1,100 feet. Though hilly at spots, the trail is certainly manageable. Because of the elevation, it isn’t much colder at your destination than it is at the starting point, unlike many of the trails in the area that take you a few thousand feet above sea level.

The jaunt to Arethusa Falls is nothing short of pleasant – especially if you’re sharing the experience with someone interesting or important to you. Though the trail isn’t wide enough to walk side by side, it’s great to feel the presence of someone with you – in front or behind – as you walk toward what you will later see for yourself to be a stunning natural sight.

The sound of water moving is loud enough, so it’s easy to be deceived as you walk toward the falls. After you’ve been walking for a bit, you might want the sound of the nearby stream to be Arethusa Falls. Don’t succumb! It’s easy to say this now, but you’ll know when you’re near the waterfall … it just gets so much louder.

As the sound of rushing water intensifies, you’ll be overcome with the sensation that you’re close. Keep going. If the sound keeps getting louder, you’ll know that you’re close.

When you get to Arethusa Falls, the trail opens into a view of the river, with the falls off to the right. You can walk down to the rocks in the river, which afford better views (definitely bring a camera). Near the banks, you’ll have no trouble scoping out a place that’s sturdy and easy to reach, though the more adventurous will have options farther toward the middle (getting all the way across, realistically, is impossible).

Pack a lunch to enjoy while you sit on the rocks and enjoy the falls; take your time enjoying this incredible experience. But, eat some light fare, because you will have to walk back to the car!

New Hampshire hot dog review: Wildcat Inn

hot dog at the Wildcat Inn in Jackson, New Hampshire
Okay, if you follow my work, you know by now that I need to try a hot dog everywhere I go. Sometimes, it’s far more fun to eschew upscale and go right for the lowest common denominator. On my trip to the White Mountains last weekend, I wasn’t expecting to indulge. After all, the region, in New Hampshire, is only a few hours from where I grew up … how could I find something worth actually writing about?

Needless to say, my perspective changed quickly.

I walked down to the Wildcat Inn and Tavern from my hotel, the Christmas Farm Inn, in Jackson, NH. It was one of the few establishments within walking distance, and after a full day of driving (well, as the passenger) from the New York area, I couldn’t fathom getting back into a car. While the main menu looked good, it was the bar menu that caught my attention … I was in the mood for something simple and filling. In my hunger and haste, I almost missed a menu item that was made for me: the “Ripper”.

%Gallery-123848%At $6.95 ($8.95 for two), it might seem a bit pricey for a hot dog, but keep in mind that it is served with fries. The dog is modeled on one from New Jersey, which created a connection between origin and destination for this trip. It’s described as:

Our tribute to the Rutt’s Hut “Ripper” in Clifton, NJ – the greatest hotdog of all time. Deep fried until it splits wide open, served crispy in a fresh bun with french fries and a side of caramelized onions

So, I couldn’t resist: I ordered the “Ripper,” sipping a glass of the house Cabernet Sauvignon while I waited for the delicacy (of sorts) to arrive. What I saw impressed me immediately. The Wildcat’s Ripper was not small. It stretched passed the bun on both ends but was still thick. It was cooked well, with a blackened exterior to prove that whatever it had been was now ready for consumption.

The first bite was incredible … and not because I had seven hours of road trip in my not-too-distant past. It snapped crisply. The blackened exterior enhanced the flavor within, almost sealing it for an explosive initial chomp. Since it was so large, the dog could be consumed in large bites without leaving you feeling as though the experience was over before it started. Well-prepared and tasty, it was an unexpected delight while on the road.

Sure, the other menu items on the Wildcat Inn’s menu are tasty and enjoyable. It’s certainly worth trying the pizza while you kick back and listen to the local band, the White Mountain Boys. But, you should definitely make room for the hot dog – it’s one you won’t want to miss.

[photos by Laurie DePrete]