Northeast National Parks and Canada Experience
The following is a generalized itinerary for a full 14 day experience meant to simply give you an idea of the possibilities, and further customizable based on each guests’ priorities:
Day 1 (Plymouth Rock/Provincetown):
Starting in Boston and heading south, we will begin our Northeast National Parks Experience with a drive all the way to the tip of Cape Cod to Provincetown. On the way, Plymouth Rock makes a nice stop to see where Christopher Columbus landed in the New World, and walk the community/graveyard of one of the oldest parts of the country.
Continuing our Northeast National Parks Experience to Provincetown, this stunning community is filled with higher end tourist shops, seafood shacks, a lighthouse, a giant tower to climb from which you can view the whole Cape, and of course, beaches. Spending the evening/next morning in this area is optional, or we can head directly to Newport.
Day 2 (Provincetown/Newport):
The first time I came to Newport, I was not expecting what I saw. While not technically one of the northeast national parks, the town itself is a quaint little tourist town, reminding me very much of Seaside, Florida. However, we will rent bikes and ride around the island to view some of the most stunning homes in the country.
I remember thinking “Is this where The Great Gatsby was located” and “This must be where wealthy people come to build their dream houses”. First part, no. Second part, yes. We will have the opportunity to tour homes built by the Carnegies, Vanderbilts, Morgans and other robber barons of the late 19th/early 20th Century. After a day on the bikes, it’s hard to beat a seafood tower on a rooftop bar overlooking the ocean. Due to the scope of NYC, I recommend hitting the road and driving south in the evening.
Day 3-4 (New York City):
Let’s be honest: 2 days is simply not long enough to experience New York. Heck, 2 weeks is probably not enough. But you probably wouldn’t have selected this trip if you’d spent a lot (or any) time in this tremendous city. I recommend focusing our time on the “traditional” New York, in Manhattan Central Park to the very south tip in Battery Park.
Just that area includes Central Park, Rockefeller Center (with Top of the Rock), Madison Square Garden, Wall Street (with the Bull and Fearless Girl), views of the Statue of Liberty from Battery Park, and the 9/11 Memorial. From city to nature, this is a perfect addition to the Northeast National Parks experience.
If there are other areas the group would like to explore, either in Manhattan or one of the other four boroughs, that can absolutely be scheduled. We hope that you find things that catch your interest on this trip, and come back for a deeper dive in the future to the areas you liked most after our Northeast National Parks Experience concludes.
Day 4 (Baltimore):
Ok, something you don’t know about me is that I’m a big fan of high-quality television series’, and one of my favorites is The Wire. Admittedly I have a soft spot for this city for that reason, but I really think (along with Cleveland) this city gets a bad rap and has a ton to offer. Less Northeast National Parks and more incredible blue collar city, Baltimore has a ton to offer.
We will spend the first part of the day in the Downtown/Inner Harbor area, stuffing ourselves with crab cakes along the way. Other popular locations include the Baltimore Zoo, Domino’s Sugar Sign, Federal Hill, and Camden Yards.
Day 5-6 (Washington DC):
Much like New York, Washington has more places to visit than you could do in a month. I recommend we plan for specific places of interest: White House/Capitol for political fans, Memorials for history buffs, and Smithsonian Museums for the science nerds. While not the nature-based parks you think of, a significant portion of the city is managed by the National Park Service, making this the perfect addition to our Northeast National Parks Experience.
They’re all incredible and we can tailor the trip for your interests. We can also keep looser plans and wander the core of the city, choosing activities as we like, or if the group has spent time in DC we can move through quickly and spend more time on other portions of the trip.
Day 7 (Shenandoah):
These overlooks show that the northeast national parks are all about, and provide expansive views for hundreds of miles with Virginia to the east and West Virginia to the west. Foggy mornings can be special when you climb high enough to be in a “cloud city”, and once the fog burns off, it’s hard to have a bad sunset. We meet civilization again in Waynesboro, VA, and will head northwest to camp on national forest land on the way to Cuyahoga.
Day 8 (Cuyahoga/Cleveland):
Bucolic fields, rolling greenways, cottages, and old covered bridges. Cuyahoga is another one of the traditional northeast national parks and a peaceful call back to another time. To me, one of the most impressive parts of this park is that it’s maintained between two blue-collar metropolises: Cleveland and Akron. Much like Central Park in New York, you can be in the middle of buildings one minute, then feel like you stepped into a completely different world the next.
As mentioned alongside Baltimore, I really think Cleveland gets a bad rap and has a lot to offer. The downtown area is filled with unique architecture, a walkable entertainment district (Indians/Cavs), and a clear effort by the city to provide an appealing night time image. When we wrap up with Cleveland, we can drive to at least Erie or Buffalo in order to get an early start at Niagara.
Day 9 (Niagara Falls/Toronto):
New York knew what it had, and while Niagara Falls is absolutely as impressive as other northeast national parks, it’s technically a state park. The park consists of two falls, Niagara and Horseshoe falls, with a walkable island separating the two. While Niagara is more powerful, I feel like Horseshoe is wider and actually more impressive. We will be able to hike to the bottom of the falls and take a boat ride, as seasonal openings and construction permit.
Before crossing the border to the Canadian portion of our Northeast National Parks Experience, we’ll make a quick trip north to Whirlpool State Park. While we won’t be getting anywhere close to the whirlpool, no one else will be either. These rapids are considered “Class 6” and are currently off limits to even paddlers. Currents can reach up to 20mph with a depth of 125ft, rendering those caught in it helpless as they are pulled to the middle.
Less than two hours around Lake Ontario our Northeast National Parks Experience continues in Toronto, Canada’s largest city and truly an “International City” on a similar scale of New York or Chicago. The goal will to be to get there in time to watch the sunset from the CN Tower, standing over 1,700ft above the city. From there, we will be able to walk/scooter through Old Toronto, Downtown, the Hockey Hall of Fame, Queens Park, University of Toronto, Arts District, Entertainment District, and Fashion District.
Day 10 (Ottawa):
Most people assume that Toronto is the capital of Canada, but it’s actually Ottawa. Four hours northeast of Toronto, Ottawa has some of the most stunning government buildings in North America, all set along the Ontario River. Additionally, the Rideau Canal is considered a modern engineering marvel and is named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, fitting right in alongside our other northeast national parks. We will be able to get coffee/gelato and walk along the boat locks overlooking the river, or take a longer boat ride along the canal. Additional highlights include Canada’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and a city truly dedicated to public use and open spaces.
Day 11 (Montreal):
“Bonjour! Oui, oui!”. That’s about the extent of my French, and my first time visiting Montreal, I was a little nervous on the drive up. Montreal is technically a French city, and the signage is primary in French. However, the people were beyond friendly, the city was beautiful, and Google was a lifesaver, and by the time I left later that day, Montreal had become my favorite Canadian city and a must-see stop along our Northeast National Parks Experience.
Located on the St. Lawrence River, Montreal has a different feel than other cities on this trip. We will start this leg of the Northeast National Parks Experience with a trip to Mt. Royal Park, overlooking the city. If we can get there before sunrise, the Mr. Royal Observatory overlooks the city with the sun rising behind it. From Mt. Royal, we will drive into the heat of the city and walk/bike/scoot. I am not a big “street art” kind of guy, but I was really impressed with both the volume and quality of art you’ll find around every corner.
The only mandatory stop on the Northeast National Parks Experience is Schwartz’s Deli. Actually, I think this is the only specific food requirement that I’ve made on any of the 8 trips we offer. It’s that good. This is a Montreal institution, old school deli. I’m talking slow cooked meat on homemade bread. I’m from Tennessee, and I’d put Schwartz’s up against any BBQ I’ve ever eaten.
Day 12 (Quebec City):
If you thought Montreal was French, welcome to Quebec. Filled with the stunning architecture of Ottawa combined with the scape of a larger city like Montreal, this is the farthest north we’ll make it on the Northeast National Parks Experience. The day will be spent exploring, from the Plains of Abraham park along the St. Lawrence River to the winding paths along the St. Charles River. Unique food offerings abound, and this is the last chance for quality poutine before we head back to the US.
Day 13 (Acadia):
We will need to make some decisions regarding where we want to spend our time on this day. The drive from Quebec City to Bangor features some unique, desolate wilderness crossing over the Appalachian Trail (and not far from its Northern Terminus). We can drive through this the previous night and spend more time in Bar Harbor/Acadia, or do it during the day and have a briefer trip. Particularly during the fall, Acadia is truly the crown jewel of the northeast national parks.
It’s absolutely reasonable to visit Acadia in a day (or even long afternoon). If the foliage is turning, however, there is likely going to be traffic that slows down the process. We can drive the scenic loop, combining rivers, forest, lakes, ocean waves crashing on rocks, and a mountain overlooking it all.
Cadillac Mountain can be driven or climbed via the Beehive Trail, known for its chain links and exposure for the adventurous. We will grab one more lobster meal and hit the road to wrap up our Northeast National Parks Experience, crossing through New Hampshire and back into Massachusetts, where we will camp north of Salem to position ourselves for a big final day.
Day 14 (Salem/Boston):
Witches, JFK and Founding Fathers. Our day will start in Salem, home of the famous witch trials and the setting for Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” (an analogy for McCarthyism, but that’s another story). The city is stunning, offering walks along the bay on Winter Island, and numerous tour/museum options. Additionally, just across the bay is the stunning Marblehead Historic District. Just make sure not to dance in the woods, cast spells, or participate in any other general witchery and it should be an uneventful stop.
Both our starting and ending location of the Northeast National Parks Experience, Boston itself is an interesting city that I’ve visited numerous times over the years. If you’ve been to Chicago or New York before, don’t expect to be impressed with a towering downtown area. My initial thought was “This is it?”. However, every single subsequent trip it has grown on me. What the city lacks in vertical grandeur, it more than makes up for with its rich history.
Turning almost any corner will have you saying something like “Oh, so that’s where Samuel Adams is buried” or “That’s where John Hancock and Paul Revere met”. We will tour the Downtown, Beacon Hill (with the original Cheers bar), Boylston Street to Fenway Park, Faneuil Hall, and Boston Harbor (pronounced “Haahbah” if you want to fit in). Optional activities include a duck boat (amphibious vehicle) tour and a trip to the JFK Presidential Library in South Boston.
From there we can cap our Northeast National Parks Experience with a nice group dinner in the city, then check into a hotel near the airport, clean up, and rest. At that point, I will wish you the best and leave your group to travel to the airport the next day.