Places of Interest in the Northeast

Nantucket is both close to Cape Cod and a world away.
Nantucket is both close to Cape Cod and a world away. (Image: hidvalfm/iStock/Getty Images)

Vacation is your chance to hit the pause button on the pressures of ordinary life and head off to places that renew you -- mind, body and soul. For some, the perfect paradise includes sun, sand and seashores. Others prefer to catch up on culture, take imaginative journeys into the past at historical sites, or just kick back with good friends in beautiful settings and watch the world unfold. For sheer range of choices, what the northeastern states offer visitors is hard to beat.

The Berkshires: Beauty and the Beat

In summertime, the Boston Symphony Orchestra leaves the city behind and heads for the Berkshires, where the hills come alive with the sound of music from June through Labor Day. Ever since 1937, Tanglewood near Lenox, Massachusetts, has been the orchestra's warm-weather headquarters. Every season, upward of more than 300,000 people converge on a complex consisting of two main concert halls and several smaller ones to hear performances of classical music, opera, popular music and jazz by some of the world's finest ensembles and soloists. The annual Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, which runs from June through August in Becket, Massachusetts, showcases performances from 50-plus dance companies. But the natural beauty of the mountain ridges, river valleys and lakes within this highland region plays second fiddle to nothing else.

Along the Revolutionary Trail

All American schoolchildren learn about the war that led to the independence of the United States from Britain, but for a more personal perspective on history, nothing compares to standing where key battles were strategized, fought, won or lost. Places of significance along the Revolutionary Trail include Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York, scene of the first military victory over British forces in 1775; General Washington's headquarters in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania; Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was written and signed; and the site of the Boston Tea Party and the route taken by Paul Revere on the night of his famous ride.

Nantucket Named "World's Best Island"

In its 2012 book, "The 10 Best of Everything," National Geographic showered praise on Nantucket, naming it the best island in the world and rating its 80 miles of beaches sixth on the list of the best beaches anywhere. The influence of the Gulf Stream lends Nantucket a more temperate climate -- cooler in summer and warmer in winter -- than mainland Cape Cod 33 miles away. But magnificent seascapes aren't Nantucket's only natural attractions. The island's relative isolation combined with the biodiversity of its landscape provide habitats for rare and endangered plant and animal species. Birders flock there not only for its resident populations of waterbirds, songbirds and raptors, but also for the many nonresident species that drop in and rest awhile on their north and south migrations.

Finger Lakes Wine Country Trails

Long before anybody thought to plant grapes there, the Finger Lakes district of upstate New York was an established summer vacation destination. Today, the tours, tastings and events hosted in wine country are among this region's major attractions. The fertile lands around four of the 11 lakes gouged into the landscape by a receding glacier after the last Ice Age -- Seneca, Cayuga, Keuka and Canandaigua -- are now home to more than 100 wineries. Each lake district has its own wine trail, but the 15-winery Cayuga Lake trail, established in 1983, is the oldest in the U.S. Sampling your favorite vintages while drinking in gorgeous scenery on a sun-drenched patio; signing up for wine and food pairing events and classes; and attending outdoor concerts at vineyards are among the ways that sojourners in wine country while away those lazy days and nights of summer.

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