A man with no trousers, leather knee-highs and a feathery Mohawk is burning a log in broad daylight – not what you’d expect to see in modern-day New England, the area comprising the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. A land of white churches and clapboard houses, it is home to four of the US’s eight Ivy League universities.
This eccentric chap is here every day, and he’s not going to get arrested for indecent exposure and arson; he’s demonstrating how Native Americans would hollow out a canoe and what they would be wearing while doing it. And so my whirlwind tour of New England begins…
I’m in Plymouth, the birthplace of the United States of America. This is where English pilgrims arrived in 1620, built simple townships and lived alongside the native Wampanoag tribes. Visitors can stroll through the Plimoth Plantation, where they’ll be transported back in time, or close enough. Here the staff play Native Americans and villagers from 400 years ago.
In a full-sized mock 17th-century English village (thatched houses and all), actors dress in traditional clothes, plough fields, stitch dresses, sing hymns, tend to roaming chickens, cows and horses, and are not allowed to come out of character, no matter what ridiculous questions you ask them.
“Do you like Britney Spears?” one school kid asks a man who’s dressed in farm gear and calls himself ‘the governor’. “We don’t have a Britney here in the village,” deflects the governor in a weird mockney, Chaucer-esque accent. Hours of amusement.
Feeling hungry after all the excitement, we go in search of food. Keeping to the Ye Olde theme, the on-site café serves 17th-century cheesecake and stuffed quahog – a regional recipe for stuffed clams.
Where to stay
A short drive south of Plymouth, in Sandwich, is the Cape Codder Resort & Spa (from Dh900 a night) near Cape Cod Bay. This hotel thankfully has a present-day theme and decor is cosy, with hand-carved beds and homely fireplaces. www.capecodderresort.com
Historically and scenically, Massachusetts has a lot to be proud of. Sadly, in recent months the area has been most notable for the tragic bombings that took place at the Boston Marathon on April 15.
Understandably, the locals are still shaken by the event and their tourism industry has suffered somewhat. However, this predominantly sleepy region, which is renowned for its quaint sweet shops, endless green forests, Gatsby-esque playboy homes and buckets of clam chowder, is luring visitors back this autumn. The wealthy area has consistently been a hub for creatives and revolutionaries. Publisher and politician Michael Bloomberg and novelists F Scott Fitzgerald and Jack Kerouac were inspired by these surroundings. So too was the region’s proudest export: President John F Kennedy, who grew up in Brookline, just outside Boston.
In Boston there’s a 4,370-square-metre library dedicated to JFK’s work, achievements, glamorous lifestyle and involvement in space missions. It’s easy to spend a day in here getting caught up in the buzz of one of the closest elections in history, reading more about Kennedy’s celebrity friends (like Marilyn Monroe) and watching videos of the moon landings.
However, there is too much waiting in Boston’s city centre to ignore. The city’s historic areas are all walkable – Quincy Market, King’s Chapel, the Old State House and of course Fenway Park (the home of baseball giants the Red Sox) are tourist staples, as is the local seafood. Legal Harbourside, on the newly developed Boston Waterfront, has an old-fashioned, fish market-style, first-floor restaurant serving chunky lobster and tangy oysters.
Where to stay
Right in the centre of town and attached to Copley Place shopping mall, the four-star Sheraton Boston Hotel (from Dh1,220 a night) is ideal for sightseeing and convenience. Runners should bring their gear, the beautiful red-brick neighbourhood lined with blossom trees sits right behind the hotel, as does the Boston River, which has a jogging and walking track all the way along. www.sheratonbostonhotel.com
Believe it or not, one of this area’s biggest attractions is its leaves. Tourists come from all corners of the world to see the bursting red, brown and orange crisp, curling foliage cover the view like a carpet in autumn. The best way to catch a glimpse is by driving north of Boston and through small, white-painted towns that look like they’re straight out of a Stephen King novel (they probably are – King grew up in Maine, and his spooky tales Dreamcatcher, IT and Salem’s Lot are believed to be inspired by this very area).
At an elevation of 870 metres, the snaking 42km Kancamagus Highway enters the dense Franconia Notch State Park and White Mountains – the staggering scenery beneath can be seen for miles. Further on, towards the Artist’s Covered Bridge in Grafton Notch State Park, you’ll find the spectacular (but hidden – park your car to walk to it) Screw Auger Falls. Meanwhile, Umbagog Lake is the spot for speedboat rides and wakeboarding. Keep your eyes peeled at the swampy areas by the roads – moose feed here during dusk and dawn by the herd load.
Where to stay
Jordan Grand Hotel (from Dh400 a night) sits next to Sunday River and has a hot outdoor pool where guests can soak after a day’s hiking and appreciate the beauty around them. Rooms have that ski-lodge feel, complete with fires, checked bedspreads and wooden details. www.sundayriver.com
New England’s most adventurous state is both a magnet for skiers and a golfer’s paradise, depending on what time of year you find yourself here. It sits on the border of Canada and is immersed in the wild.
Outdoor fans can explore the forests and farms via ski, foot or bike, and go canoeing, zip-lining and rafting to add a few extra thrills to the day.
Jay Peak resort in north Vermont turns into a small town during the winter and holds hockey tournaments in its on-site ice rink, concerts in the resort’s numerous venues and tram rides to the top of the peak. This place even has its own water park on site, complete with a double-barrel wave machine for body boarding and surfing. It certainly gives Dubai’s Wild Wadi a run for its money.
Where to stay
For skiing in the winter and golf in the autumn, it has to be Hotel Jay (from Dh580 a night). This is a mega hotel with a boutique feel. Each room has something characteristic from the area, whether it is the wooden log side lamps or the maple taps that double as coat rails, every room is individual.
Although most rooms are self-catering, there are 15 places to eat and drink on site including Sky Haus Deli (at 1,220 metres up the neighbouring mountain) and The Foundry, for salivatingly good locally sourced ingredients like hearth-fired chicken legs and grilled hangar steak. www.jaypeakresort.com