date published: July 31, 2006

Seven breaks from Beantown just a short drive away
by Sarah Brickley

It’s a source of pride for Bostonians that everything in our city is conveniently located within walking distance. But after a while, all that closeness can get a bit confining. Fortunately, if you do decide to escape the city for the day, there are points of interest to visit in every direction.

Located in the peaceful, wooded Berkshire Mountains, Lenox is best known to Bostonians as the home of Tanglewood, the scenic al fresco concert venue that hosts the Boston Symphony Orchestra during the summer months. As if the promise of classical music isn’t enough to draw you west, the 4th annual Tanglewood Wine and Food Classic from August 3–5 gives you a chance to indulge more than just your ears. Lenox is also home to The Mount, the expansive estate and gardens of author Edith Wharton, as well as the Frelighuyen Morris House and Studio, a hidden gem of a museum filled with Cubist art by painters including Miró and Picasso.

Although it’s no longer a textile-production hub filled with mill girls, Lowell still draws young people from miles around due to its hip art and music scene. Each weekend, the Lowell Summer Music Series offers outdoor concerts, with upcoming performers including Leon Russell (August 4) and La Bottine Souriante (August 12). In a nod to the city’s textile industry roots, the city hosts the Lowell Quilt Festival (August 3–6, visit for more information). And many are surprised to learn of Lowell’s position as a mini-museum mecca—home to the Boott Cotton Mills Museum, the American Textile Museum and the culturally diverse Revolving Museum.

Martha’s Vineyard
With its vast stretches of beach and charming small-town atmosphere, it’s easy to see why this little island is a favorite summer getaway for countless celebrities, including the Clintons, Bill Gates and Carly Simon. “The Vineyard” is also home to several historic lighthouses, as well as the Flying Horses Carousel, the oldest operating carousel in America. Come dusk, make your way to the Menemsha fishing village—the seaside area where Stephen Spielberg shot most of Jaws—for the best sunset viewing on the island. Meanwhile, from August 10–13, aspiring Spielbergs can enjoy screenings and workshops as the 4th annual African-American Film Festival takes place.

If you go…

Lenox: Approximate driving time: 2.5 hours. Driving directions: Take Mass Pike West to Exit 2, take a right off exit ramp to Rte. 20 West. Other options: Bonanza/Peter Pan bus lines (617-526-1801, departing from South Station). Amtrak (multiple departure points in Boston, 800-USA-RAIL) service to Pittsfield, just 10 minutes from Lenox. On Aug 5, the Tanglewood Wine and Food Classic offers $30 round-trip bus service between Boston’s Symphony Hall (departing at 9:30 a.m.) and Tanglewood. Call 888-266-1200 for more information.

Lowell: Approximate driving time: 40 minutes. Driving directions: Take Mass Pike West to Rte. 495 North to Exit 35C, or Rte.3 North to 30B. Other options: MBTA Commuter Rail trains from Boston’s North Station.

Martha’s Vineyard: Approximate driving time: 1 hour, 40 minutes to ferry. Island Queen ferry service (from Falmouth, 508-548-4800) takes 35 minutes. The Steamship Authority (from Woods Hole, 508-477-8600) takes 45 minutes. Numerous other ferry services are available. Plymouth & Brockton (508-746-0378, departing from Logan Airport and South Station) and Bonanza/Peter Pan bus lines travel from Boston to ferry departure points, as do Amtrak trains.

Newport, RI: Approximate driving time: 1.5 hours. Driving directions: Take Rte. 95 South to Rte. 24 South to Rte. 114 South. Other options: Bonanza/Peter Pan bus lines serve Newport. Amtrak trains go to Kingston, which is 15 miles west of Newport.

Plymouth: Approximate driving time: 50 minutes. Driving directions: Rte. 3 South. Other options: Bus service from Plymouth & Brockton bus lines, MBTA Commuter Rail from South Station.

Southern Maine: Approximate driving time: 1–2 hours. Driving directions: Take Rte. 1 North to 95 North. Other options: Greyhound buses (800-231-2222, departing from South Station) to Portland; Amtrak’s Downeaster, offering rail service from North Station to Portland and beyond (visit for more information).

Provincetown: Approximate driving time: 2.5 hours. Driving directions: Take Rte. 3 South to Rte. 6 East. Other options: Bay State Cruise Company (617-748-1428) runs ferry service between Boston’s World Trade Center and Provincetown, with rides as short as 90 minutes.

Newport, RI
Although it may be the smallest state in the union, Rhode Island is home to some of the most expansive estates you’ll ever see. Many of Newport’s mansions even invite visitors to tour their grounds, including the Italian villa-style Chepstow, the High Victorian Chateau-sur-Mer and Belcourt Castle, which is filled with an impressive collection of art and antiques. When it comes to culture, people who live in mansions don’t fool around. Summer in Newport means two huge music festivals of great renown. From August 4–6, diverse artists from Irish tenor Ronan Tynan to the harmonious duo the Indigo Girls come to town for the Newport Folk Festival. For music lovers of a different stripe, check out the JVC Jazz Festival, which features performances by George Benson, Dave Brubeck, Jane Monheit and more from August 11–13.

From history buffs to beach bums, Plymouth has a little something for everyone. The city is chockfull of historical museums that commemorate the Pilgrims’ 1620 landing on Plymouth’s shores. (And yes, Plymouth Rock is still there to mark the spot.) Don’t miss Plimoth Plantation, where you can immerse yourself in a Pilgrim community from 1627 and explore the Mayflower II, a replica of the ship that brought colonists to America. When you’ve had your fill of history, try soaking up the sun at one of the area’s many beaches, including White Horse Beach, Nelson Beach and Plymouth Beach.

Southern Maine
Once thought of as a distant territory populated chiefly by moose and trees, Maine is now hipper and more accessible than many realize. The waterfront community of Portland is home to the Sea Dogs—the Red Sox’ AA affiliate—as well as a burgeoning nightlife scene and a trendy and artsy shopping district. With more than 120 outlet stores, Kittery is a bargain hunter’s fantasy, especially with back-to-school sales starting in mid-August. And after all that partying and shopping, the gorgeous coastal village of Kennebunkport (where the Bush clan chills in the summer) is the perfect place to unwind, whether you choose the secluded Goose Rocks Beach or the expansive Kennebunk Beach.

Like all Cape Cod locales, Provincetown is home to its share of picturesque coastline, including the Herring Cove Beach and Race Point Beach, both of which are stops on the town’s $1 shuttle service. But what sets P-Town apart from other beach towns is its residents—a diverse mosaic that includes a large gay community. In celebration of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender parents and their families, July 29–August 5 is Family Week. All P-Town visitors tend to flock to Commercial Street—the town’s main drag—which is lined with a myriad of eclectic shops, including the Portuguese Bakery, a mainstay of the neighborhood’s ethnic fishing roots. For a sweet treat that hardly makes a dent in your wallet, try the pasteis de nata (lemon custard) or the fried dough-like malassadas. For more traditional American fare, venture into the town’s quaint West End and pay a visit to Relish, a café complete with breakfast, lunch, and tempting dessert options.

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