Best Food Cities in Northern NE?
So I am a Brooklynite with a love for road trips up North to escape the hellacious NYC heat every summer. One summer, we spent a couple days in Portland, ME and really fell in love with the food scene there. Are there any similar cities we should consider for a visit? Even better if there are other things to do to entertain a tween who is totally over his parents' perpetual quest for good eats.
Thanks in advance!
Nothing will compare to Portland for the food scene, but for the larger northern New England cities (larger = more restaurant options), what first comes to mind is Portsmouth, NH, Manchester, NH and Burlington, VT.
Can't necessarily speak to best ways to keep an indifferent tweener entertained, but I'd lead toward Portsmouth with its rich maritime history. This boat tour of the harbor out to the Isles of Shoals is actually pretty cool. I think you have to reserve ahead this time of year.
https://islesofshoals.com/cruises (Isles of Shoals & Portsmouth Harbor Tour)
Portsmouth is a great suggestion. The shorter boat trips like the harbor or inland rivers have a lot of narration. There's the science center at Odiorne Point. Maybe allow some time at Hampton Beach or Water Country? After all, you could pack a great picnic to take to Water Country and have a restaurant meal in the evening.
Is your tween too old for the Montshire Museum in Norwich VT? I recently spent a weekend in Norwich. King Arthur Flour is a great place to shop especially if you bake. The Norwich Inn and the restaurant right across the street have very good menus (Norwich Inn has a brew pub). The farmers market on Saturday is great (go there for breakfast). Hanover and Dartmouth are just a mile away. You can also visit Simon Pearce, Quechee gorge and Woodstock. Should be a great swimming hole someplace.
Manchester NH and Burlington VT are also great suggestions. Is tween too old for SEE science center? The lego block reproduction of the old millyards was more fascinating than I expected. Hippo Free Press has a website where you can look up activities and events. (also covers Portsmouth). If you want to consider kayaking there are rental places in the Concord NH area with shuttle service to a great stretch of Merrimack River. You could put together a great picnic from a place like In A Pinch Café or visit Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner etc.
In Burlington there's lots of great food, but there's really great food all around Vermont these days, so that's nice. You have Church Street in Burlington, that perhaps a tween might enjoy just from the difference of perspective. There's a lot of small funky shops in downtown Burlington, and it's a nice place to while away a day wandering. There's also the water front. There are some places with ziplines through the canopy not very far from there. There's a good-sized water park at Jay Peak that I'm pretty sure would appeal to a tween, as well as all the summer activities you find at various ski resorts in the areas. The hikes are magnificent and the views worth the effort. Loads of entertaining options and food options all around Vermont, actually. I even organize a knit camp in August that's knitting and/or other yarn crafts and camping with a group at a state park (with a lovely swimming pond and trails). We have a family from NYC who comes every year. :)
In New Hampshire, there's also Weirs Beach on Lake Winnipesaukee. Last we were there, there was a nice BBQ place right near the beach and the train station. They are the home of Fun Spot, the biggest arcade ever, seriously, that's like their claim to fame. The snack bar food there is snack bar food, but the entertainment value (you get a LOT of tokens for your money and there's coupons online for extra tokens) is great. They also have ziplines right there. There's a tex mex place near the BBQ place that was OK, and they have a "build your own sundae" bar that's pretty awesome, but we've not spent a lot of time looking for great food in the area, so there may not be much that's great for foodies.
Crowds in the summer in Burlington are smaller because the colleges/universities have disgorged most of their students back home but it's still pretty vibrant with a nice arts scene. :)
We went to Portsmouth recently and had some wonderful Mexican food at Vida Cantina (if you head out that way).
Let us know where you end up and what the food is like!
I'll suggest the Rockland/Camden area of Maine. Pound for pound I think it's 2nd only to Portland for the quality of it's dining scene in Northern New England. As a bonus, you'll get to dine at what I think is one of the best restaurants in ALL of America - Primo in Rockland. Chef Kelly is the only two time regional James Beard winner in the history of the award. Plus SO many other great spots like In Good Company, Suzuki Sushi, Cafe Miranda, Home Kitchen Cafe, 3Crow, Contes (a Bourdain favorite), FOG Bar, The Pearl (run by "celebrity" chef and Bobby Flay protege Michele Ragussis) -- all Rockland. Shepherd's Pie, Salt Water Farm Market - Rockport. Francine Bistro, Long Grain, 40Paper - Camden.
And it's summer in Midcoast Maine...there's plenty for families to do.
Thank you everyone for your suggestions! I actually remember going to Portsmouth very briefly for a quick refueling as a pit stop on our way home from Portland a couple years ago--I recall it being a cute town that we wished we had more time to explore--so thanks for that rec.
We also spent a little time in Burlington for dinner while in Vermont on another trip. We went to American Flatbread which we very much enjoyed, but now apparently, there is one in NYC... We also did the Ben & Jerry's "tour in that area;" not much of a tour, really, but fun for us all. In fact, we love tours like that and have gone to the Pez Factory in CT, Jelly Belly in WI, and a small chocolate factory in the Finger Lakes... if there are any others in NE, I'd love to hear about them!
As for Camden / Rockland, that area sounds interesting foodwise for sure and I am going to look into it. Thanks!
Also, like the idea of the going to a big Arcade like the one suggested. My kid loves stuff like that and also bowling, mini golf, batting cages, go karting etc
If we wind up in NE (Canada is also on the table..or maybe we will combine them as we often do) I will report back!
Yeah, Vermont factory tours tend towards the more quaint, small scale. I love them for it, but they're not everyone's cuppa tea. :) I hear that some of the brew tours are fun. There's a friend of mine that's started doing his own spirits, and I think they do regular tastings, maybe tours, of their facility. Just looked up his website: http://www.appalachiangap.com/ Looks like they're not quite ready for tours yet. Still, some of the beer and spirits producers in Vermont do. :)
Also, about Fun Spot, it really is FUN. :) They've got a zip line, there's mini golf in the area (and even a tiny indoor course at Fun Spot), swimming at the beach (along with all the fun of your tween meeting other tweens for summer fun and talking about how boring the parents are ;) ).
I suspect that Jay Peak's water park would also be a blast, but I don't have kids so I can't say for sure.
The food in Montreal is not "better" than the best food you can find in the Burlington area. I would agree with "as good" and possibly "more of the good stuff" but what's good in Montreal is not better than what's good in Burlington. In which case, why drive another 3 hours and have to cross an international border when you can get great food, a lovely, quirky city, and loads of fun activities three hours sooner? Montreal being bigger doesn't make it automatically better.
I should clarify. I prefer Vietnamese over French, New Mexican over Italian, Korean over everything and right now I am daydreaming about an Ethiopian restaurant in D.C. The ethnic restaurants in Burlington are "passable" at best.
I do not find Burlington quirky, a town with four head shops and no toy stores is not quirky.
I don't know much about what makes various ethnic cuisines really good. I know good Mexican, and I know there's not any great Mexican or TexMex in the area. I've heard really good things about various Thai restaurants, but I'm not sure how they'd stack up against those found in urban centers, though. I don't know much about what makes Thai great.
There are nice little Indian, Arabic, and African groceries in the area. There's also some interesting ethnic food to be found at the farmers' market, cooked by immigrants, folks who can't afford store fronts. There's also the Arts Riot Kitchen that hosts a lot of up and coming cooks, many of whom focus on a specific regional cuisine of one sort or another. There are a few places making forays into Korean, but I wouldn't know if it's much like what you'd get in an urban center.
Where Burlington really shines is in locally grown/locally produced foods. There is a lot of fresh, interesting food being prepared that's not necessarily any particular ethnicity, but could probably be called fusion.
Also, there's nothing wrong with a restaurant making really good American food. There are several in the area that do that, and do it very well.