Massachusetts is chock-full of places to explore this summer, said Ian Aldrich, deputy editor of Yankee Magazine. He should know — he recently oversaw the magazine’s 2018 Editors’ Choice Awards for the Best of Massachusetts, part of its annual Best of New England summer travel guide.
“It’s so diverse,” Aldrich said of the Bay State. “For a state of its size, it’s amazing how much is there and available and ready to be experienced.”
Outside of Boston (for which Yankee released an individual list of top spots), Massachusetts has plenty of areas where visitors can find rich experiences, Aldrich said.
“If you are visiting Massachusetts for a week, I would say pick a region,” he said. “Don’t try to do it all in one [trip]. Really go deep in a region.”
Ahead, Aldrich discusses some of his favorite spots on Yankee‘s Massachusetts list of winners.
The best attractions
Aldrich said that New England drive-ins were once a big part of the fabric of our area, but many have closed throughout the years. However, he said, one continues to thrive: the Mendon Twin Drive-In.
“I would say it’s the best in the country,” Aldrich said.
The Worcester County drive-in, which opened in Mendon in 1954, sits on 16 acres. It offers two first-run movies and a snack bar that Yankee wrote “goes beyond just fresh bags of popcorn” by serving burgers, pizza, and ice cream sundaes. The drive-in has also provided a beer garden since 2014.
“In the beer garden, you can sit by a fire pit with a draft beer or a glass of wine without missing a single big-screen moment,” Yankee wrote.
For a daytime adventure, the Mass Audobon’s Cape Cod Field Schools in South Wellfleet are a chance to “get up close and personal with the flora and fauna” of the Cape Cod National Seashore and Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Yankee wrote.
“There’s so many vacation experiences where you are a passive observer or you’re watching something happening as opposed to being a part of it,” Aldrich said. “These classes push people to become a part of these experiences.”
The best dining
For a great brewpub, head 90 miles west of Boston to Pioneer Valley, Aldrich said. There, you’ll find The People’s Pint in Greenfield, a city he called “easily overlooked as a destination.”
“In today’s beer scene, a lot of breweries are just doing IPAs,” Aldrich said. “But [The People’s Pint is] really known for their stouts and ambers.”
Yankee put it this way: “Don’t expect extreme brews here: The well-balanced session ales, ambers, and stouts are brewed to be perfect for drinking with food or just laid-back sipping.”
Speaking of laid-back, is there anything more so than ordering doughnuts late at night from a bakery’s back door on Martha’s Vineyard? It’s happening at Back Door Doughnuts in Oak Bluffs. The “fresh, cheap” doughnuts, which “might just be the island’s worst-kept secret,” according to Yankee, are served from the back entrance of Martha’s Vineyard Gourmet Café & Bakery in-season between 7 p.m. and 12:58 a.m.
“It’s a genius business plan on their part,” said Aldrich, who has waited in line for the sweet treats. “Literally, you come in through the back door. It’s a fun spot. It’s just a fun scene.”
Favorite flavors, according to Yankee, include maple-bacon and butternut crunch. You can even order a dessert called the “Charlie,” which is a doughnut of your choosing topped with ice cream and chocolate.
The best lodging
If you’re looking for a North Shore spot where you can spend the night, The Hotel Salem has a great vibe, Aldrich said.
“It’s like mid-century-meets-21st-century boutique,” he said.
The 44-room boutique hotel is housed in a former department store on busy Essex Street. And it offers “microrooms,” loft-style suites, and Salem’s only rooftop bar, according to Yankee, which described the decor as such: “Mad Men–era motifs such as the ‘tumbling dice’ trompe l’oeil floor tiles and the gray herringbone grasscloth wall coverings inject a note of playfulness.”
If you’re traveling near the Berkshires and in the mood for some Gilded Age luxury, Aldrich recommended checking out Blantyre in Lenox. The historic five-star resort is set in a 1902 Tudor-style mansion on 110 acres. The resort underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation earlier this year, and “really upped their game with the dining and cuisine” by adding a French bistro and a formal dining room, Aldrich said.
“New England is famous for its grand hotels, and there’s only a few left,” Aldrich said. “Sometimes a little luxury feels nice.”