The editors of Yankee magazine recently released a book titled “Yankee’s New England Adventures: Over 400 Essential Things to See and Do’’ (Globe Pequot, April 2018) that is worth checking out — even if you’ve been here all your life.
Being a native New Englander, I wondered what this book could offer someone like me. Having lived, worked, and vacationed here for over four decades, I felt like I knew everything about this six-state region that we call home, where the best beaches are (Ogunquit, of course), best places to get ice cream (Sullivan’s at Castle Island; Kimball Farm in Westford), where to go hiking and biking . . . I knew it all. I’d seen it all.
Or so I thought.
I actually learned a lot from Yankee’s colorful guidebook, and was pleasantly surprised to find it contained many unexpected destinations. The pages are packed with quirky ideas for both short day trips and longer excursions, and the beautiful photography provides plenty of inspiration to get out and do something new. Some places featured in the book I’d never heard of before; others I’d forgotten about, or simply never thought of visiting. The Yankee editors provide everything you need to map your own journey. They cover a wide range of activities and attractions, ranging from the traditional (clambakes) to the obscure (duckpin bowling) to the downright bizarre (a museum that exhibits insect art). So instead of compiling yet another “best of’’ list of things you may already know about, here’s a sampling of the most unusual outings featured in the book.
1. American Museum of Fly Fishing (Manchester, Vt.)
Want to see fishing rods that were once owned by Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Winslow Homer, Ernest Hemingway, Herbert Hoover, and Dwight Eisenhower? Look no further than the American Museum of Fly Fishing (802-362-3300; amff.org), which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. To mark the milestone, visitors receive complimentary admission on Fridays all year long.
2. Puffin watching (Machias Seal Island, Maine)
Puffins look like penguins with a tropical flair. With bright white faces and colorful beaks, some say these “sea parrots’’ look like clowns with wings. They nest on islands off the coast of Maine, and in the summer you can take a tour boat to see them in their natural habitat. The editors at Yankee Magazine say one of the best places to view these exotic-looking birds is Machias Seal Island, and they recommend using Bold Coast Charter Co. out of Cutler, Maine (207-259-4484; boldcoast.com).
3. Bug art (St. Johnsbury, Vt.)
“This very Victorian ‘cabinet of curiosities’ is the oldest science education museum in the country,’’ write the editors at Yankee Magazine. The Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium (802-748-2372; fairbanksmuseum.org) features an array of animal specimens, shells, fossils, and other natural artifacts, as well as Vermont’s only public planetarium. But the strangest exhibit of all has to be the “bug art,’’ a truly peculiar collection of artwork that was created from insect body parts. On display are several pieces by John Hampson, (1836-1923) who carefully arranged thousands of deceased beetles, moths, and butterflies into collage portraits of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and other designs.
4. Dog Chapel (St. Johnsbury, Vt.)
Dog Mountain (802-748-2700; dogmt.com) is said to be home to the world’s only dog chapel. “The petite chapel truly feels like a sacred space, complete with pews and stained glass, and its walls are filled with poignant photo tributes to bygone canine pals,’’ the Yankee editors write. “Perched on a hill amid 150 rolling acres, the chapel is just one part of this property designed for humans and their pups, which also offers hiking trails, a dog agility course, and displays of Stephen Huneck’s colorful dog-oriented art.’’
5. Hog Coliseum (North Conway, N.H.)
If playing football whilst slogging around in knee-deep mud sounds like fun, then add the Hog Coliseum to your bucket list. Mud football teams from all over New England travel here in September to compete for bragging rights in the annual Mount Washington Valley Mud Bowl (603-356-5947; mtwashingtonvalley.org).
6. Dinosaur tracks (Rocky Hill, Conn.)
One August day in 1966, a man doing excavation work for a new state building in Connecticut made an incredible discovery. As he flipped over a slab of gray sandstone with his bulldozer, he noticed some strange markings. Little did he know but at that moment, he’d stumbled upon one of the largest dinosaur track sites in North America. Today the dinosaur footprints can be viewed under a large geodesic dome at Dinosaur State Park (860-529-5816; dinosaurstatepark.org).
7. A landlocked steamboat (Shelburne, Vt.)
The Ticonderoga was built in 1906 and operated on Lake Champlain until the 1950s, when it was moved to the Shelburne Museum (802-985-3346; shelburnemuseum.org). This 220-foot steamboat is just one of many one-of-a-kind attractions here. Visitors can also check out an actual lighthouse, a carousel, a one-room schoolhouse, a jailhouse, as well as collections of duck decoys, circus posters, dollhouses, and several automata, which are creepy-looking mechanical toys designed to mimic the movements of humans.
8. New London Post Office (New London, Conn.)
The editors at Yankee admit that “you might feel that it’s an odd endeavor to peer at art while other folks are standing in line to send off packages,’’ but they promise this post office is well worth the visit. “Bring in a letter if you have to, but don’t let that dissuade you from visiting this cavernous edifice, almost a block long in the heart of downtown,’’ the editors write. “And then look up. Below the crown molding are six panels of a New Deal mural completed at the height of the Great Depression by Thomas La Farge, grandson of the creator of exquisite stained-glass windows in Boston’s Trinity Church.’’ The mural depicts scenes of men working on a whaling ship, and La Farge’s talented hand puts the viewer right on the deck of the boat, in the middle of the action.
9. Nantucket Pharmacy
The Nantucket Pharmacy (45 Main St.; 508-228-0180) is more than just a drugstore where you can get a prescription filled. Grabbing a seat at the lunch counter is like traveling back in time. “The Nantucket Pharmacy, located smack-dab downtown, still features its original 1929 soda fountain counter,’’ the editors write. “This place is like something out of a movie set: long counter, black vinyl-topped stools, and a chalkboard menu chock-full of delightful options like peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and coffee frappes.’’
10. Dogtown (Rockport and Gloucester)
Looking for a unique hiking trip? Seania McCarthy gives walking tours of Dogtown Common (978-546-8122; walkthewords.com), a wooded area that was once the site of a thriving community in the 1600s and 1700s. The village was eventually abandoned in the 19th century, but you can still see the remnants of old cellar holes. Scattered throughout the forest are large boulders inscribed with phrases like “Keep Out of Debt,’’ “Never Try Never Win,’’ and other words of wisdom. They’re known as the “Babson Boulders’’ because Roger Babson, a Gloucester native and founder of Babson College, hired quarry workers to carve the sayings into the rocks during the Great Depression.
11. Green Animals Topiary Garden (Portsmouth, R.I.)
The Green Animals Topiary Garden (401-847-1000; newportmansions.org) is one of the oldest topiary gardens in North America. A giraffe, a teddy bear, a sailing ship, and teacups are among the many pieces of sculpted greenery. Wander around the manicured grounds and take in the sights and smells of the herbs, vegetables, and flowers that grow here. And snap some photos while you’re at it. This lush setting is definitely Instagram-worthy.
12. Duckpin bowling (Pawtucket, R.I.)
There aren’t that many duckpin bowling alleys around anymore. But Breaktime Bowl & Bar (401-427-7006; breaktimebowlandbar.com) is an exception. This retro duckpin bowling alley was built in the 1920s and has been restored to its former glory. “Today, the six remarkably preserved lanes of this unique bowling alley echo once again with the clatter of short, squat pins,’’ the editors write. “In the evenings Breaktime morphs into the ultimate throwback hangout, with pub food and a full bar. Rolling a strike is pure joy, for everyone except the people who have to set up the pins by hand after every round.’’
By Emily Sweeney | Globe Staff