The Northeast has no shortage of popular, and dare we say iconic, warm-weather vacation destinations. Between miles of pristine beaches, waterfront restaurants and hotels, and more activities than can fit in any itinerary, our coastal region effortlessly attracts visitors during the summer. But that popularity also means crowds and high prices.
That’s why you should consider visiting these favorite summer spots during the offseason. While you may not get to lounge at the beach, many of the same features and qualities that make people flock to these vacation spots come Memorial Day are still there to be enjoyed during the winter. Plus, you’ll be able to stretch your legs a little more freely and, best of all, keep some of your hard-earned money in your pocket thanks to reduced offseason rates.
Here are five Northeast destinations worth traveling to during the offseason.
Who says island getaways are strictly summer destinations? Nantucket may be one of the quintessential warm-weather vacation spots in the Northeast, but visiting during the offseason will make you feel like you have the tiny island all to yourself.
Located off the coast of Cape Cod, Nantucket’s ferry services continue to run throughout the winter, albeit on an abbreviated schedule. Once on shore, you’ll be free to explore the 100-square-mile haven without the crowds. Your itinerary might include a picturesque stroll along the Sconset Bluff Walk, an educational trip to the famous Whaling Museum or icing skating at the indoor Nantucket Ice rink.
Come Memorial Day, people near and far flock to Long Island’s south fork and many don’t stop until they get to the end – and for good reason. With ample amounts of surf, sand and sun, Montauk has summer written all over it.
But much of the fun to be had at this seaside town is still available long after the crowds dissipate. If you’re keen on sightseeing, visit the Montauk Point Lighthouse, the oldest such structure in New York state, or try to get a glimpse of seals from Montauk Point State Park.
Satiate your appetite with a bite from a wide range of eateries such as Joni’s Kitchen, Scarpetta, the Shagwong Tavern, TT’s, and Harvest on Fort Pond. Then wash it all down with an offering from Montauk Brewing Company’s tap room. When it comes time to rest your head, you’ll find a number of upscale hotels rooms available for a fraction of their summer prices.
Cape May, N.J.
The seaside towns lining the Jersey shore are a magnet for summer vacationers, including the historic city of Cape May. Located on the southernmost tip of New Jersey, Cape May is one of the country’s oldest summer resort destinations. But many of its best attractions are still available when the temperature dips.
Cape May is home to a national wildlife refuge, supporting hundreds of bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian species. Visitors can travel along one of four hiking trails to get a closeup view of these incredible animals. More wildlife can be spotted at the Cape May Bird Observatory or Cape May County Park & Zoo. For a different type of sightseeing, simply stroll around the city on foot. Cape May is listed as a National Historic Landmark thanks to the more than 600 Victorian-era structures that line its streets.
If you want to indulge in the finer things in life, you have come to the right place. The area is teeming with restaurants, wineries and breweries, and for when you really want to treat yourself, luxurious spas.
As enjoyable as Newport is during the warmer months, the best time to visit may just be the year’s final month. Throughout December, the coastal city holds its annual “Christmas in Newport” festival. The month is filled with all sorts of holiday events, from a holiday light display at the International Tennis Hall of Fame to a performance of the Nutcracker at the famous Rosecliff Mansion.
Even if you’re not in the holiday spirit, you can still enjoy seasonal activities. Try ice skating at Newport Harbor Island Resort, which turns its lawn into an ice skating rink every year. There are numerous walking and hiking trails if you’d like to take in some fresh air and postcard-worthy sights. When the cold becomes a bit too cold, enjoy a meal inside a pop-up igloo at the waterfront Reef restaurant or the aforementioned Harbor Island Resort.
Connecticut’s coastline may not get as much attention as the Hamptons or Cape Cod, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a waterfront region in the Northeast that more perfectly combines history, charm and eye-catching scenery. And all of these features are still on full display during the offseason.
The Constitution State’s nearly 300 miles of shoreline are dotted with quaint historic towns, including Mystic, Milford, Old Saybrook and Guilford, to name a few. Here, you can step back in time with visits to the Mystic Seaport Museum, General William Hart House and Henry Whitfield State Museum. Art and nature lovers can catch an exhibit at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme or simply explore the site’s garden and grounds.
When it comes time to relax, grab a seat by the fireplace at one of the area’s countless bed-and-breakfasts. For slightly more luxurious accommodations, try the Saybrook Point Resort & Marina. The boutique hotel sits between the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound, and provides private balconies to enjoy the waterfront views.
Need a ride to one of these offseason destinations? AAA members can save up to 20% on Hertz rentals.