As the first region of the United States settled by European immigrants, New England lays claim to a wide swath of American history. Early settlers were primarily farmers, and the towns they founded were agrarian communities. Population centers shifted to large cities with the development of industrialization, but the beautiful New England towns remained as a testament to the past. Various publications point to several examples of the best the region has to offer.
Frommer’s choice for one of the Best Small Towns and Villages in New England, Marblehead bills itself as the Yachting Capital of America. The harbor swells with sailboats in the summer and lends this seaside town a picture-perfect appeal. Located on Cape Ann off the tree-lined Massachusetts Route 114, Marblehead was settled by English fisherman in 1629. The original Old Town survives today as Marblehead’s downtown. From there, Crocker Park offers the best view of the harbor, and the many small boutiques provide the perfect excuse to while away an afternoon.
Grafton is a veritable time capsule for New England life in the early 1800s. The Windham Foundation restored the entire town, which "Yankee Magazine" chose as one of New England’s prettiest, to period accuracy. Travelers can see the pristine results of this effort while seated in a rocking chair on the porch of the Grafton Inn. Formerly known as the Old Tavern, this hotel opened in 1801 and has served such guests as Henry David Thoreau, Rudyard Kipling and Teddy Roosevelt. The Vermont Mountains provide a backdrop to this tiny Greek Revival village, where the Grafton Grocery Store serves as the social hub.
Another of "Yankee Magazine’s" choices for prettiest New England towns, Kingfield's idyllic location in a river valley provides views of the surrounding Longfellow Mountains. Kingfield grew out of the lumber industry in this forested region of western Maine. Named after the state’s first governor, William King, Kingfield charms visitors with an old-fashioned Main Street. Clapboard buildings rise over narrow sidewalks, with the Herbert Grand Hotel at the center. Built in 1918, the hotel prides itself on its colorful Prohibition-era history. For a meal based around local ingredients, try One Stanley Avenue, which the weekly “The Original Irregular” hailed as one of the best restaurants in the region.
Hancock, New Hampshire
“Boston Magazine” chose this popular New England vacation spot as one of New England’s best small towns. The Hancock Inn has welcomed travelers since 1789, when Hancock was little more than a stop along stagecoach routes. Named for patriot John Hancock, the town's revolutionary history extends to include the church tower bell, which was crafted in Paul Revere's foundry. In Hancock, visitors are afforded a rare glimpse into the early years of American history, a fact reflected in the induction of every Main Street building into the National Register of Historic Places.