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Top 10 New Things to See and Do in New England This Summer

A Guide to New England's Newest Attractions and Events for Summer 2011

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There's so much new to see and do in New England during the summer of 2011. Whether you're more comfortable sleeping on the water or soaring through the trees, an admirer of art or sleek racing yachts, a marathon runner or a birdwatcher, a foodie or a music fan, this is the year you need to visit New England. Here is your guide to 10 new things to see and do in the region this summer.

Also See: What Was New in 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2007

1. View American Masterpieces in the MFA's New Wing

MFA Boston Art of the Americas Wing
© 2011 Kim Knox Beckius

2011 marks the first summer visitors to Boston can wander the 53 galleries within the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston's stunning new Art of the Americas Wing, which debuted in November 2010. From Mesoamerican cultures' ancient creations to Paul Revere's silver Sons of Liberty Bowl to painstakingly crafted Newport furniture to Thomas Sully's monumental, never-before-displayed The Passage of the Delaware to Hudson River School landscapes to key works by 20th century notables, this 51,338-square-foot, $345 million addition is an awe-inspiring, four-story space in which to spend a summer day surrounded by American masterpieces. Through the Looking Glass, an exhibition of works by glass artist Dale Chihuly through August 7, is an added enticement.

2. Find Family Adventure in New Hampshire

Cranmore Mountain Adventure Park
Photo courtesy of Cranmore Mountain.

New Hampshire's newest summer hot spot, the Cranmore Mountain Adventure Park, is set to open in North Conway Memorial Day weekend 2011. The $2 million, family-friendly attraction features a new Aerial Adventure Park with a ropes course, zip lines and air-bridges, as well as the Cranmore Mountain Coaster, which opened in November 2010. Purchased in 2010 by the owners of Massachusetts' Jiminy Peak Resort, major investments are transforming Cranmore ski area into a year-round destination for adventure seekers.

3. Witness J Class Yacht Racing's Return to Newport

J Class Yacht Velsheda
Photo of J Class yacht Velsheda © Getty Images/Stephen Munday/ALLSPORT.

J Class yacht racing got its start in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1930, but there hasn't been a J Class regatta in this seaside city--or anywhere in the U.S.--since the America's Cup event of 1937. That is, until this summer, when the Js return to Newport for a five-day regatta June 15-19, 2011. Three sailing yachts--Ranger, Velsheda and Shamrock V--have committed to compete in the event, which is part of a five-match series leading up to the awarding of the Global Challenge Trophy on the Island of Wight in July 2012. Viewing stands will be set up at Fort Adams for race spectators.

4. Sleep on a Houseboat in Boston

Boston Houseboat
Houseboat photo courtesy of SleepAfloat.
For the summer 2011 season, SleepAfloat has added six additional houseboats to its small fleet of charming rentals docked in a protected Boston Harbor marina. Explore New England's largest and most vibrant city by day, then tuck your family in (dogs, too!) and be gently rocked to sleep at night. A houseboat rental is more affordable than you'd imagine, especially when you compare nightly costs to Boston's notoriously high hotel rates. Plus, you'll have all of the comforts of home and can save money on dining out by cooking meals aboard. You'll also have a memorable stay and experience Boston's waterfront in a unique and authentic way.

5. Visit the Connecticut Audubon Society Grassland Bird Conservation Center

The new 5,000-square-foot Connecticut Audubon Society Grassland Bird Conservation Center in Pomfret, Connecticut, is anticipated to open its doors in June 2011. The $2 million facility is home to exhibition and hands-on classroom space and will serve as home base for birdwatchers who visit the 700-acre Bafflin Sanctuary and the 168-acre Trail Wood Sanctuary: home to as many as 90 bird species. Admission to the new building and miles of trails is free. Some fees apply for guided bird walks, which depart from the Center. Check the Center at Pomfret's Web site for upcoming summer events.

6. Marvel at Vermont's Green Scenery as You Zip Through the Trees

Vermont's first world-class zipline canopy tour, ArborTrek Canopy Adventures, opened in December 2010 at Smugglers' Notch Resort. Open year-round both to overnight resort guests and day visitors, the exhilarating three-hour course features a series of zip lines, suspension bridges and rappels. Participants will experience remarkable summer scenery as they soar through mature stands of hemlock, white birch and sugar maple trees along more than 4,000 feet of zip lines.

7. Island Hop by Bike

Maine Bike Tour
Photo courtesy of Summer Feet Cycling.
Portland, Maine-based Summer Feet Cycling introduces a new, three-day cycling tour for summer 2011 that takes bicycle riders on a memorable Maine coast journey. The Island Hopping Tour, scheduled for July 8-10, 2011, features visits to five Maine lighthouses; explorations of Peaks Island, Chebeague Island, Cousin's Island, Falmouth and other coastal locales; opportunities to savor gourmet Maine cuisine and accommodations at The Danforth in Portland's historic West End. Hybrid and road bike rentals are available. A cycling Tour of the Kennebunks near summer's end, September 16-18, is also a new itinerary this year.

8. Hear a Band or Laugh 'Til You Cry at Bridge Street Live

Connecticut's newest entertainment venue, Bridge Street Live, overlooks the wild and scenic Farmington River in the historic village of Collinsville, which hit travelers' radar in 2007 when it was named one of the 10 coolest small towns in America by Budget Travel magazine. This intimate concert hall and comedy club, which opened in late 2010, has a jam-packed schedule of shows slated for its first summer season. Wander out on to the wrap-around, riverview deck, or order snacks and light cabaret dinner fare at your table. Take it from me, the Parmesan, Black Pepper and Truffle Popcorn alone is worth the trip.

9. Be First to Savor a Meal at Muse

In late 2010, Vanderbilt Hall--Newport, Rhode Island's 1909 mansion turned boutique lodging property--was acquired by Grace Hotels and transformed into the Vanderbilt Grace: the first Grace Hotel in the U.S. That's not the big news, though. The big news is: The hotel group is bringing one of New England's most acclaimed chefs, Jonathan Cartwright, from sister property the White Barn Inn in Maine to create Muse by Jonathan Cartwright, Newport's newest and sure to be in demand gourmet dining experience. Opening in summer 2011, Muse's menu will feature a modern take on traditional European cuisine and highlight lobster and other locally sourced New England ingredients.

10. Run or Simply Enjoy the Fun at a Scenic Vermont Marathon

The inaugural Mad Marathon on July 10, 2011, is being billed as the "World's Most Beautiful Marathon," and if you love rural New England scenery, you'll likely agree. The USATF-certified, 26.2-mile course between Waitsfield and Warren, Vermont, offers runners the opportunity to race along dirt roads and through covered bridges in Vermont's picturesque Mad River Valley. Don't have the stamina or desire to run a marathon? There'll be a half-marathon for runners and walkers and relay races, too, and spectators can enjoy food, music, vendors and more at the Mad River Green finish line.

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