When planning your next vacation, consider thinking outside the box when it comes to your destination. Sure, Florida is beautiful with its palm trees and pristine beaches, and Atlanta offers an exciting nightlife for those who love the bar scene. But there are so many other hidden gems on the east coast of the United States that limiting yourself to the well-known tourist areas isn’t just limiting—it’s a missed opportunity. Consider instead the following five spots.
Portland, Maine—This bustling city and its surrounding areas are home to one quarter of the total population of Maine. A great walking town, Portland boasts many trails that allow tourists to stroll in and around the city and along the coast. Be sure to check out the Arts District, located primarily on Congress Street, for an opportunity to visit the Children’s Museum of Maine or the Portland Museum of Art. A quick 20-minute ferry ride delivers visitors from the city to Peaks Island, where they can explore one of the many beaches or rent a bike for a ride around the Peaks Island Loop.
Martha’s Vineyard—It would be easy to write an entire dissertation on the many activities, events and sites worth checking out on the Vineyard. Martha’s Vineyard ferry travels to and from multiple destinations on the coasts of Massachusetts and New York, making the island an easily accessible destination for many travelers. History alone is enough to compel large numbers of visitors here; many sites, including the Edgartown and Gay Head Lighthouses, offer guided or self-guided tours throughout the June-September summer season. The Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust was formed to protect and maintain many of the island’s historical properties, such as the Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs and the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown, both of which offer historic value unparalleled in most other areas of the relatively youthful United States.
Niagara Falls—We’re all familiar with the sweeping photos of this mammoth natural phenomenon, but an actual visit to the falls is a completely different experience from looking at pictures in a book. Experience first-hand the sounds of the rushing water, the feel of the spray hitting your face and the unique chill of the damp air at this iconic destination. The famous Maid of the Mist tours offer visitors the opportunity to get up close and personal with the falls. Once you’ve witnessed the natural beauty of the waterfall, consider a visit to Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks or the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory to round out your trip.
Adirondack Park—For the outdoorsy adventurer, a trip to northeast New York State to visit this National Historic Landmark and state-protected area is well worth the time and effort required to get there. Camping outdoors is also relatively affordable, making this an appealing destination for the budget traveler as well. Commune with nature in the park’s 6.1 million acres of picturesque mountains, valleys and streams; perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to spot a black bear, a moose or one of the 51 other species that live within the park area.
Gloucester, Mass.—This town is just a short drive or train ride from the more traditional tourist destination of Boston, but offers far more small town charm. Home to the country’s oldest seaport, Gloucester is an ideal vacation spot for lovers of maritime history. Also on offer are historical lighthouses, beautiful beaches, relaxing spas, restaurants offering deliciously fresh seafood and a happening nightlife to rival those aforementioned bars in Atlanta.
There are so many options available for a trip to the East Coast that it’s a shame to limit your focus to the more standard locales. Ask around among friends and family to find out where those trusted individuals have had positive experiences themselves, and consider adding their recommendations and the above list of destinations to your travel itinerary.