Small Towns in New England
Kent. The first dilemma when visiting Kent is whether to look up to the Berkshire Hills or down at the sparkling Housatonic River. Take in both views: Hike a stretch of the Appalachian Trail, which crosses Route 341 about a mile west of downtown. Kent has attracted throngs of artists, resulting in art shows the likes of which only city dwellers enjoy. Here, sophisticated urban emigres and weary AT hikers share cafe tables.
Kent Chamber of Commerce,
Yarmouth. The Yarmouth Clam Festival started 43 years ago as a firemen’s muster and clambake, and has long since become one of Maine’s premier summer events. The third weekend in July, this pretty little village of 8,000 turns itself into a Yankee version of Mardi Gras, with close to 120,000 visitors flooding into town for the carnival, parade, road and bike races, fireworks, arts-and-crafts fair, live entertainment, and dozens of food booths from one end of Main Street to the other. Hundreds of local volunteers put on the festival to raise money for church, civic, and school groups: good fun for good causes. Free admission.
Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce,
Shelburne Falls. Just off the Mohawk Trail, the village of Shelburne Falls, a mecca for artists and craftspeople, is tucked into the foothills of the Berkshires. This little enclave straddles the Deerfield River, standing partly in the town of Shelburne and partly on the other side of the river in Buckland. The town’s offerings are generous: glacial potholes, antiques shops, bistro food, boutiques, and the famous 400-foot Bridge of Flowers. Five hundred varieties of flowers, shrubs, and vines, producing thousands of blossoms — pink, purple, yellow, and orange, some perfumed and others pungent — deck this pedestrian walkway over the water. There’s no better way to imprint Shelburne, a town of glacial wonder, inspired art, and great natural beauty.
Shelburne Falls Village Information Center,
75 Bridge St., Shelburne Falls, MA.
Warner. About 20 miles northwest of Concord, you’ll find this true New England village — one of the last towns incorporated under English provincial rule. The road through town, the Main Street Business District, is lined with picket fences, green lawns, and historic clapboard houses, many of which are now small businesses, including The Foothills restaurant (15 East Main St., 603-456-2140). At the heart of it all is MainStreet BookEnds (16 East Main St., 603-456-2700; mainstreetbookends.com), which serves up not just fiction, history, and more, but original artworks as well. The attached barn hosts more than 300 events a year. Elsewhere in town, charming hand-painted signs at intersections invite you to follow winding roads to discover nearby places such as the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum (Kearsarge Mountain Road, 603-456-2600; indianmuseum.org), covered bridges, Rollins State Park (603-456-3808; nhparks.state.nh.us), and two bison farms.
Route 103. 603-456-2298; warner.nh.us
Little Compton. This wee bit of coastal land, which hugs the Massachusetts border on one side and the Sakonnet River in the Ocean State on the other, is at first glance a sleepy hamlet stuck in time. LC is quiet. Most folks are happy to take in a bit of sailing, fishing, or a long bike ride, but still waters run deep. A closer look unveils a thriving art community, well-tended farmland, including Sakonnet Vineyards, a world-class winery (162 West Main Road; 800-919-4637; sakonnetwine.com), and crazy-good pies — Sakonnet River Pie to be exact (160 Swamp Road; 401-635-0022; sakonnetriverpie.com).
Peacham. When photographers search for a New England village whose images would melt the heart of any urbanite dreaming of a simpler, lovelier life, more often than not they come to this village. The handsome Colonial houses of its 665 inhabitants are framed by rolling hills and the sorts of vistas and atmosphere that Hollywood looks for. You can see parts of Peacham in “Return to Salem’s Lot,” “Ethan Frome,” “Where the Rivers Flow North,” and especially “The Spitfire Grill,” which remade the general store into the title eatery. Not surprisingly, the village has attracted more than its share of artists and craftspeople.
800-639-6379; nekchamber.com, peacham.net