With the number of airline passengers expected to break records this summer and the average round trip domestic airline ticket costing $454, you might be mulling over a road trip instead. So over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing ideas for quick U.S. road trips in different parts of the country. Last week I suggested an America’s Best Barbecue itinerary from Georgia to Missouri. This week I’m focusing on the northeast, with a picturesque itinerary through the quintessential Massachusetts countryside that inspired America’s early writers and philosophers. You could do this itinerary in as little as two nights, or you could spread it over a week and find plenty more to explore en route.
Start where the Revolutionary War started: Concord, Massachusetts (30 minutes west of Boston). Visit The Old Manse, the 1770 clapboard house where both Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson lived and spawned a revolution in American philosophy. Tour Louisa May Alcott’s home, Orchard House, where Little Women was written and set. Visit Walden Pond and try to spot the 11 shades of green that Henry David Thoreau counted. And don’t leave town before visiting the graves of all four—Alcott, Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau—in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. For creaky charm, overnight at Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in nearby Sudbury. It’s the country’s oldest operating inn, built in 1716, and was the gathering place for the characters in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Tales of a Wayside Inn.
Next morning, wheel yourself west along Route 2 to Harvard, Massachusetts. Atop Prospect Hill you’ll find spectacular views at Fruitlands Museum, where philosopher Bronson Alcott (Louisa May’s dad) helped found a utopian community. You’ll also find 210 acres of woodlands and meadows and five hiking trails for working off breakfast before getting back into the car and heading south to Bolton. Atop Wattaquadock Hill, at the Nashoba Valley Winery, have a picnic lunch amid more panoramic views. Then head west to Amherst and visit the Emily Dickinson Museum; the upstairs bedroom is where Emily hid from the world, writing most of her nearly 1,800 poems. Overnight (or at least grab dinner) at Robert Frost’s old haunt, the Lord Jeffery Inn.
Lap the miles and lick the valleys up as you continue west into the Berkshires. Consider visiting Arrowhead, where Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick, but definitely end up in Lenox at Edith Wharton’s magnificent home, The Mount.
Need to get back to Boston? Drive south to Lee and meander east through the southern Berkshires along the Jacob’s Ladder Trail Scenic Byway, a 35-mile stretch of Route 20, till it meets the Mass Pike (I-90), and from there you can high-tail it back to Beantown in less than two hours.