Best Things to Do in New England in AprilPhoto Credit : Ioann-Mark Kuznietsov Available for hire
Springtime in New England often feels like a prize for surviving the months of gray. One unpredictable, magical day, color begins to speckle flower beds. Smoke unfurls from the rooftops of sugaring shacks, sap flows like water. Windows crack open and we shake out the dust of the colder months, wipe down our bicycles, and make lists for a gardening supply run. Springtime events and festivals coax people out of their hibernation all across the region. The birds return. And with all of this comes celebration: we made it through the winter.
Still, spring can be a bit chilly, especially compared to the hot summer months. April is a great time to wander a quiet stretch of coast, scout out the earliest blossoming flowers, and visit a gardening center. Others may enjoy taking a warmer route by exploring one of New England’s renowned museums.
The short answer is: unpredictable. Spring in New England is often a rollercoaster, bringing both high and low temperatures, freak snowstorms, buckets of rain, and (if you’re lucky) a day or two of bluebird skies and temperatures worthy of breaking out the short sleeves.
Although spring technically has begun in April, the average temperatures remain low and you’ll almost certainly still spot some snow on the ground. It’s a rainy month overall, but can be somewhat of a toss-up as to whether any given week will bring a rain, snow flurries, or a sunny spell. So don’t blame us if your travels land on a rainy week – spring showers come with the territory. If you don’t mind a few clouds, you’ll be just fine.
The following list of ideas includes excerpts from “35 Reasons Why Everyone Should Stick Around This Season” which first appeared in the January/February 2023 issue of Yankee Magazine.
April is an excellent time of year to explore New England. Whether you’re a visitor planning a trip or a longtime resident looking for fresh ideas, be sure to gather some inspiration from our list of the best things to do in April in New England.
Here are some of our favorite things to do in New England in April:
1. Stop and smell the flowers at one of New England’s public gardens or flower festivals
Nothing cheers the winter-weary spirit like the first glimpse of green. Spring blooms, from April daffodils to May lilacs, remind us there’s life beyond that heavy winter coat. And lucky for us, every spring New England abounds with flower festivals and public gardens packed with beautiful blooms.
The Nantucket Daffodil Festival, the Massachusetts island’s annual April celebration of all things daffodil includes art shows, tours, an antique car parade, tailgate picnic, window decorating contest, and the annual Nantucket Daffodil Flower Show. Costumes are encouraged — especially at the Daffy Hat Contest and children’s parade.
Another one of our favorite places to enjoy springtime blossoms is at The Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. Once an abandoned trolley bridge, this 400-foot arch across the Deerfield River has been reclaimed to display a garden that is anything but ordinary. Stroll past spring staples like tulips and daffodils while enjoying bows of wisteria overhead and blue hyacinths suspended over the water.
One of the best places to see blossoms around Boston is in Jamaica Plain, where every May the Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum showcases one of the most impressive collections of lilacs. Another great option is wandering through Boston Public Garden. The springtime display gets under way in March, as they begin planting pansies and other early perennials from the parks department’s 13 greenhouses, and it becomes downright lavish by May, when 30,000 bulbs burst into life—the vast majority of them being tulips in the Public Garden, where they have been planted each year since the 1840s.
Here are a few the best public gardens in New England:
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens | Boothbay, ME
Elizabeth Park | West Hartford, CT
Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve | Seal Harbor, ME
Harkness Memorial State Park | Waterford, CT
Prescott Park | Portsmouth, NH
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park | Woodstock, VT
Other favorite New England flower festivals include:
The Dogwood Festival | Fairfield, CT
Daffodil Days at Blithewold Mansion | Bristol, RI
Celebration of Peonies at Hildene | Manchester, VT
Cherry Blossom Festival | New Haven, CT
2. Visit an aquarium
If you’re looking for a fun and educational aquatic experience, a visit to one of the following New England Aquariums is the perfect activity. Meander through the colorful exhibits and learn more about the creatures that live below the surface of the sea, plus the efforts being done to help protect these unique specimens and their native habitats.
For a list of the many fine aquariums in New England, including key species and attractions at each, please enjoy our Guide to New England Aquariums.
3. Get some well-deserved R&R time in at a spa
Spas dot the New England landscape, but only an elite few are truly transformative destinations that also have all the playful amenities you’d expect from a resort. From the mountains to the sea, the region’s five best spa havens are planted in sublime locations that alone are a balm for the soul. Each has a distinctive approach to pampering guests, but they share a common goal: to transport you to a state of pure bliss, and leave you with a map for finding your way there again on your own. Read on for our list of top New England spa resorts. Reboot your well-being at one of our picks for the five best New England spa resorts.
If you’re looking for a more intensive spa experience, why not consider a getaway to an inn with more on the menu than just a delicious breakfast and comfy beds? We know that we can all can benefit from a little pampering, so we’ve also chosen a handful of inns for our list of best overnight pampering spots in New England that will have you relaxed and glowing from head to toe.
4. Wander a quiet shoulder-season beach
Months before the sand becomes dotted with neon beach chairs, there is a haunting beauty to the beaches of New England. In winter the beaches stay fairly quiet, save for dog walkers and winter surfers. It’s a refreshing sight for those accustomed to summertime crowds, especially when temperatures warm up enough for a stroll along the coastline or on one of the region’s many beaches. The next time there’s a warm spell in the forecast, take this as a perfect excuse to plan a beach getaway (at off-season rates, no less)!
Some of our favorite New England coastal walks include: the Marginal Way in Qgunquit, Maine; Parker River National Refuge in Plum Island, Massachusetts; Bluff Point State Park in Groton, Connecticut; Napatree Point Conservation Area in Watch Hill, Rhode Island; and Odiorne Point State Park in Rye, New Hampshire.
5. Warm up at a botanical garden
When mud season feels relentless and summertime still feels far away, grab that steamy beach read you can’t wait to crack open and point your getaway vehicle toward one of New England’s pockets of tropical warmth.
It’s 70 degrees at all times inside New England’s largest glass-house garden: the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center in Providence, Rhode Island. Fountains burble, camellias blossom, 40-foot palm trees stretch toward the sun. And you’ll feel the warmth tingling from the top of your head to the tips of your toes as you inhale the heavenly scent of Calamondin oranges.
Tropical sensations are likewise guaranteed inside the Lyman Conservatory at Smith College in Northampton, MA. One of the nation’s oldest plant havens, this 12-greenhouse complex’s jungle-like Palm House is always kept humid and at least 70 degrees for the comfort of its specimens, some of which are a century-plus old. You’ll feel better able to endure winter’s worst after spending time with these survivors and stopping to smell the flowering orchids and rhododendrons.
6. Hit the trail!
There’s nothing like a breath of fresh, springtime air. While you will still need to don your coat on chillier spring days, the return of warmer weather means that it’s the perfect time to tune up your bike, lace up your hiking boots, and start getting back out there. Some of our favorite things to do outdoors during the spring in New England include: taking a bike ride on one of New England’s many beautiful rail trails, exploring one of the region’s many nature preserves, or embarking upon an easy spring hike (be aware that the trails may be extra slippery during this season due to ice or mud).
7. Enjoy spring ingredients by making an in-season meal
April showers bring asparagus. That’s how the saying goes…right? Rhubarb, radishes, fiddleheads, and asparagus are only a handful of the fresh foods to look forward to every spring. Here are some of our favorite easy spring recipes from the Yankee and NewEngland.com archives, which will help you make the most of fleeting, in-season foods:
8. Take a walk downtown (and shop ’til you drop!)
Imagine this: buds are beginning to form in the flower beds next to the sidewalks and a warm breeze is blowing through the streets. More than 100 shops and restaurants beckon you inside—bakeries and cafés and bookstores for lingering. When the sun pops out, there will likely be a musician or two setting up. Some 1.5 million visitors stroll Church Street Marketplace blocks each year, but on this day, it feels as though spring has finally arrived and the world is reopening.
Looking for a similarly great shopping town near you? Check out our list of Favorite New England Holiday Shopping Towns, which are especially full of magic during the holidays but are just as wonderful during the rest of the year.
And if outlet shopping is more your speed, check out our list of the best outlets in New England. From tax-free shopping in New Hampshire to splurging in Connecticut, you can meet all your shopping needs in one stop, while scoring the best bargains out there. Fashion crisis (and financial crisis) averted.
9. Attend a Patriot’s Day reenactment
Where better to commemorate Patriots’ Day, which marks the battles of Lexington and Concord and the start of the American Revolution, than on the very ground where so much history happened? Thousands of people visit Minuteman National Park during the annual Patriots’ Day festivities, one of the best spring events in New England for history buffs. Show up early and you may have an opportunity to tip a pre-fight pint with British and colonial reenactors at Munroe Tavern. Beyond the battlefield, Lexington, Concord, and the surrounding towns serve up a weekend jam-packed with patriotic fun.
10. Soak up some springtime rays on a heated outdoorpatio
The alfresco options that sprouted up all over New England during the pandemic era may be less numerous these days, but some are so inspired that they remain permanent fixtures—and even top tables. Most glamorously, the Gondola Village at Ocean House in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, serves haute après-ski fare in restored vintage ski gondolas that seat up to four. Millwright’s in Simsbury, Connecticut, has a row of elegant greenhouses that function as private dining rooms for two to five patrons, with a view of the restaurant’s signature waterfall. And at Batson River Brewing in Kennebunk, Maine, the wildly popular “fishing shacks” offer a cozy retreat for up to six, complete with party lights, plaid throws, and a menu of poutine, burgers, and house-made beers and spirits.
Looking for outdoor dining in Boston? Carved into a former Somerville storage facility, Bow Market is a collection of 30-plus small businesses—florists, chocolatiers, a brewery—arrayed around a courtyard. In the winter, the space is filled with cozy firepits that serve as heaters and tables. Savor your choice of pork lumpia from Tanám or lobster mac and cheese from Bluefin, and—sheltered from the wind and warmed by the fire—discover how comfortable a springtime outdoor meal can be.
11. Sneak in a few last runs on the slopes
When skiable slopes align with blue skies, bright sunshine, and tee-shirt weather, magic happens. Springtime certainly doesn’t mean it’s time to retire your skis for the season. as evidenced on many of New England’s bigger mountains, which make snow well through the spring months. In the colder areas of New England you can even still find skiable snow on cross country ski trails.
12. Explore Acadia National Park
Of the 4 million visits people made to Acadia National Park in 2021, nearly all were by car. The scene looks vastly different when the snow flies, however, and most of the famed Park Loop Road is closed to auto traffic. For this reason, shoulder season offers a prime opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts to explore this stunning 47,000-acre park at their own pace and under their own steam. Read our guide to Acadia National Park here.
13. Spend some quality time with baby animals
Every April, farms and museums open their doors to the public to showcase some of New England’s newest additions. One of our favorites is the Billings Museum Baby Farm Animal Celebration in charming Woodstock, Vermont, which offers visitors the opportunity to get up close with the farm’s adorable baby animals, plant an heirloom seed, participate in fun craft activities, and more. We also love the springtime Family Farm Fest Weekends at Old Sturbridge Village (in fact, we think springtime is one of the best times to visit Old Sturbridge Village), as well as the baby animals at the Hancock Shaker Village.
14. Splash around at an indoor waterpark
When the weather outside is still too chilly for a beach day, indoor waterparks offer warm temperatures, prime lounging opportunities, and an array of waterslide adventures that seem to test the laws of physics. Mix in a lazy river and a poolside bar, and voilà: Inside, it’s so delightful. Two of our favorites are Jay Peak Pumphouse Water Park in Jay, Vermont, and Water Park of New England in Danvers, Massachusetts.
15. Make the most of maple season
If autumn is New England’s Mardi Gras, maple season is our Oktoberfest, a delicious celebration of regional heritage in liquid form. And as our tasty to-do list shows, syrup lovers from Connecticut to Quebec have plenty of inspired ways to drink it all in. You could visit a maple sugarhouse, pour it on at a pancake house like the iconic Polly’s Pancake Parlor, or simply bring home a bottle and cook up some maple goodies in the kitchen.
Some of our favorite maple syrup recipes for spring include our food editor’s recipe for Maple Gooey Butter Cake, these mouthwatering Maple Barbecue Ribs, a collection of boozy Maple Syrup Cocktail Recipes, and of course, Sugar on Snow. What’s more, there are many alternative maple concoctions that are worthy in their own right. We’ve also rounded up a few favorite New England–made maple products that give new meaning to maple. Fans of savory-sweet combinations will love the maple pepper, maple-smoked cheddar, and maple sriracha, while those with a sweet tooth may prefer to pop open a tub of the aforementioned maple cotton candy. And not everything is meant to be eaten: We found earrings, ceramics, refrigerator magnets, and even art supplies.
Don’t know your rich from your robust? Our guide to the updated maple syrup grades is here to help explain the difference. Just pass the pancakes!
16. Dust off your gardening gloves
Even if the ground is still covered in a layer of snow, March is a great time to start seedlings and gear up for spring. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner wondering where to start, use by stocking up on supplies to get seeds started for the upcoming spring as a great excuse to go wander through the balmy rooms of a greenhouse. Our list of the best New England nurseries and garden centers is a great place to start.
What’s your favorite thing to do in April in New England? Let us know in the comments below!