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Travel

18 things to do in New England in 2013

Rose Island Lighthouse in Newport Harbor offers overnight stays — and even stints as a lighthouse keeper for up to a week.

David Lyon

Rose Island Lighthouse in Newport Harbor offers overnight stays — and even stints as a lighthouse keeper for up to a week.

A NIGHT AT THE LIGHT

Rose Island is a mile in distance and a century in time removed from the modern bustle of downtown Newport, R.I. Snowy egrets, American oystercatchers, glossy ibises, gulls, and herons all nest on these 18 acres in Newport Harbor. The Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation offers accommodations in two rooms in the lighthouse museum, which shows how the keepers lived in 1912. The truly ambitious can volunteer as a keeper, perform maintenance chores, and bunk for up to a week in the modern apartment upstairs from the museum. During warm weather, additional rooms are available in the adjacent brick Fog Horn Building and the newly restored 18th-century barracks of Fort Hamilton. Although daytrippers can visit the museum in the summer, the island is otherwise left to overnighters. Rooms $100-$125 off season, $185-$195 in season, keeper’s apartment from $225 per night.  401-847-4242, www.roseis
landlighthouse.org

Boston Children's Museum.

Les Veilleux

Boston Children's Museum.

CHILDREN’S MUSEUM’S 100TH BIRTHDAY

Kids of all ages will be invited to Boston’s biggest birthday party in 2013 as the Boston Children’s Museum turns 100. When it opened in Jamaica Plain in 1913, the museum featured displays of stuffed birds and mammals and shelves of shells and minerals. Today the country’s second-oldest children’s museum is much more hands-on, unleashing the power of play to educate and entertain. To celebrate its centennial, the museum is planning a series of special events. In early April it is cosponsoring an early childhood summit and a parent fair. From April through October it will host biweekly public programs leading up to a three-day celebration Oct. 4-6 that will include a gala dinner, an all-ages dance party, and a festival filled with musical performances, outdoor kids’ activities, and Boston’s largest birthday cake. Plus, the museum will open pop-up locations in parks and neighborhoods throughout Boston in 2013.  www.bostonkids.org

Gondola di Venezia offers romantic tours along the Charles River, and depending on which you choose, can include accordion music and roses.

Mark Hunt

Gondola di Venezia offers romantic tours along the Charles River, and depending on which you choose, can include accordion music and roses.

A GONDOLA GLIDE

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For a romantic moment on the Charles River, nothing rivals relaxing in an authentic Venetian gondola rowed by trained gondoliers sporting striped shirts and white straw hats. Depending upon which Gondola di Venezia tour you choose, you can enhance your ride with live accordion music, roses, a basket of cheese and crackers, fresh strawberries, chocolates, sparkling cider, and a custom framed photo of your cruise. Tours, which begin in May, are $99-$229 for two people.  617-876-2800, www.bostongondolas.com  

Restored coaches, used by the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat, line the tracks at the station.

Steven Frischling for The Boston Globe

Restored coaches, used by the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat, line the tracks at the station.

STEAM TRAIN AND RIVERBOAT RIDES

Ride a vintage train through the marshes of the Connecticut River Valley, then board a Mississippi-style riverboat to cruise the river. The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat is the only combination steam train-riverboat excursion in the country, according to Bob Bell, president of the operation. The 2½-hour journey begins at the 1892 Essex Station, where visitors board vintage rail cars. Moving at about 20 miles per hour, the train passes tidal marshes filled with wild rice, which attracts great blue herons, swans, ducks, and eagles. At Deep River Landing, passengers can take an optional tour aboard the Becky Thatcher, a 70-foot Mississippi-style riverboat. Steam Train & Riverboat Connection adults $26, 2-11 $17, under 2 free. Steam train only adults $17, 2-11 $9, under 2 free. Mid-May through October.  800-377-3987 or 860-767-0103, www.essexsteamtrain.com

Chef's Counter Ocean House Watch Hill, RI

Warren Jagger

Ocean House.

THE ULTIMATE DINNER THEATER

Only six diners per evening can claim a setting at the Chef’s Counter at the Ocean House in Watch Hill, R.I. Executive chef John Kolesar consults with diners about their preferences, then fashions a 10-course meal from the bounty of the resort’s gardens, fish from local boats and shellfish grants, and meat from regional farms. With the cooks in gleaming whites just steps away, the perch at the counter has an innate theater. Grilled Long Island tuna, butter-poached lobster, natural grass-fed beef, and diver scallops are likely to figure into the evening’s inventions. Chef’s Counter $140 per person, $200 with wine pairings.  1 Bluff Ave., 401-584-7000, www.oceanhouse
ri.com

The Barn Performing Arts Center.

Roger Williams University

The Barn Performing Arts Center.

A GEM OF A UNIVERSITY THEATER

Rhode Island is a hotbed of theater. One hidden gem has to be Roger Williams University Theatre in Bristol, in a gorgeous old barn hauled to the university from East Greenwich many years ago. They do shows with heft here, staging productions such as “The Laramie Project Ten Years Later: An Epilogue,” revisiting the horrific story of a gay University of Wyoming student, Matthew Shepard, who was tied to a fence, brutally beaten, and later died. They’re also doing “Avenue Q,” which Dorisa S. Boggs, theater professor and former department chairwoman, calls “an adult-rated Sesame Street musical”; and “God of Carnage,” a French play about parents acting badly. The shows are populated by students, professional actors, and locals. Tickets $10, seniors and students $5.  1 Old Ferry Road, 401-254-3626, departments.rwu.edu/theatre 

Burdick's.

Burdick's.

FRENCH FARE AND CHOCOLATE TREATS

L. A. Burdick operates four chocolate shops, but only one restaurant, The Restaurant at Burdick Chocolate, which rubs elbows with its flagship store in Walpole, N.H. Peering through the street-front windows, you want to be one of the lucky people inside — especially on a winter night. A recent dinner featured appetizers of cornmeal-dusted fried calamari ($13) and a wedge of fried bleu cheese ($11), also encrusted in cornmeal and served with lingonberry jam and toast. Entrees of risotto with duck confit, wild mushrooms, truffle, and butternut squash ($18), and filet mignon with potato and green beans ($27) were rib-sticking winter fare; for dessert, a dense, dark chocolate cake, the Harvard Square ($5), and a crème brûlée with fresh berries ($6). Call for reservations.  47 Main St., 603-756-2882, www.burdickchocolate.com

Stand-up paddle.

Natalia Weiner

Stand-up paddle.

LIKE WALKING ON WATER

Done right, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) feels like walking on water. The paddler literally stands on top of a floating board and enjoys far better views than kayakers ever get. Adherents claim it’s so easy that anyone with reasonable strength and balance can master it. The sport is ideal for poking around on a glassy pond, a slow river, and even light ocean surf — all of which abound on Cape Cod. The Cape’s largest and most established SUP outfitter, Adventure Chatham, not only sells and rents boards and paddles but also operates SUP beach trips and tours. Full-day board rentals from $45. Instruction focuses on form. Venture Athletics in Provincetown also rents equipment and gives lessons at P-town Harbor. SUP rental $30 for 4 hours.  Adventure Chatham, 1150 Queen Anne Road, East Harwich. 774-237-7313,www.adventurechatham.com;Venture Athletics, 237 Commercial St., Provincetown. 508-487-9442, www.capeboating.com

Josh Rudy from Braintree is a Freedom Trail tour guide.

John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Josh Rudy from Braintree is a Freedom Trail tour guide.

OLD STATE HOUSE CELEBRATION

Boston almost shipped one of its icons out of town when in 1881 the decrepit Old State House was nearly purchased and moved to Chicago. Luckily, the Bostonian Society was formed to save the structure, and Boston’s oldest surviving public building, once the seat of Colonial government and now a Revolutionary-era museum, will be around to celebrate its 300th birthday in 2013. On the weekend of May 3-4, the Old State House — which opened May 5, 1713 — will host a public festival that will include live period music, kids’ activities, lectures, Revolutionary War reenactors, and cake. In June, the British government’s signed original copy of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the French and Indian War, will be on display. Throughout the year, the Bostonian Society will unveil restorations of the building’s west facade and Royal Council Chamber. In August, the Old State House’s unicorn, a symbol of royal power that was originally torn down when jubilant Bostonians first heard the Declaration of Independence, will again come down from its perch, but this time for restoration work that the public will be able to watch inside the museum galleries.  www.bostonhistory.org

Providence Bruins goalie Mike Hutchinson makes a save during recent game.

J James Joiner

Providence Bruins goalie Mike Hutchinson makes a save during recent game.

HOCKEY WITH THE FARM TEAM

Many fans are shedding tears as the lockout nears killing National Hockey League season, but pro hockey is still banging around in Rhode Island with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League, the big league’s farm system. And at far lower prices, too, with a range of $18-$30 tickets and myriad deals designed to put as many fans into the 11,000-seat Dunkin’ Donuts Center as possible. “You can almost always just go to the box office and get seats,” said Caroline Greene,  manager of public relations and new media for the team. “And we have a variety of flex-ticketing packages.” A huge draw this year: The AHL All-Star game comes to Providence Jan. 27-28, the first time since 1995, with two-pack tickets starting at $55 for the game and skills competition, and a four-pack deal starting at $100, which gets you a seat, entry to skills, a party, and hall of fame induction ceremonies. Nearby parking is $10. 1 LaSalle Square, 401-273-5000, www.providencebruins.com 

Lowell Folk Festival.

Jim Higgins

Lowell Folk Festival.

GLOBAL BLOCK PARTY

Save the last weekend in July to do si do, dance the polka, and join a hootenanny at the Lowell Folk Festival. The music, food, and craft fest is steeped in tradition. Celebrating its 27th year in 2013, the country’s largest free folk festival sponsored by the National Council for the Traditional Arts among others, is a walking, stomping global block party. “If you are a music fan, you will go out of your way to get here,” said Philip Lupsiewicz, media director for Lowell National Historical Park, where the festival is held. On six downtown stages, musicians like blues siren Shemekia Copeland, guitar great Bill Kirchen, and Irish power group Solas have performed. But it’s the lesser-known acts like Quebecois band Le Vent du Nord that steal the show. This year’s lineup has not been announced. See you downtown on July 26-28.  www.lowellfolkfestival.org

At Strip-T's in Watertown, the eggplant banh mi sandwich.

Michele McDonald for The Boston Globe

At Strip-T's in Watertown, the eggplant banh mi sandwich.

FLAVORS OF VIETNAM

The Japanese Eggplant Banh Mi Sandwich ($9) at Strip-T’s in Watertown puts a scrumptious vegetarian spin on this pork-packed Vietnamese classic by the same name. Two toasted baguette hunks arrive moistened with spicy mayo and stuffed with succulent fried eggplant, sizzled tofu, pickled carrot, and daikon radish shreds and fresh cilantro. Available for lunch, this luscious creation comes courtesy of chef and co-owner Tim Maslow, who previously worked at the acclaimed Momofuku Ssäm Bar in New York.   93 School St., 617-923-4330, www .stripts.com

The Windham Hill Inn in West Townshend, Vt., is all about pampering. It offers expansive views of the West River Valley and Green Mountains.

Necee Regis

The Windham Hill Inn in West Townshend, Vt., is all about pampering. It offers expansive views of the West River Valley and Green Mountains.

POOLSIDE IN VERMONT

Sometimes a gal needs to loll. And one of my favorite spots for settling into a Zen-like trance is the pool at the Windham Hill Inn in West Towns-hend, Vt. This Relais and Châteaux inn is all about pampering. The 160-acre property offers views of the West River Valley and the rolling hills of the Green Mountains. Give me a glass of iced tea, a book, and a poolside chaise and I’m in heaven. If you feel the need to get up and move around, there is a clay tennis court, badminton, bocce, and croquet as well as an extensive network of hiking trails. Or get a deep tissue massage in the one-room spa. Rates from $225, with breakfast.  311 Lawrence Drive, 800-944-4080, www.windhamhill.com

Micucci Grocery in Portland, Maine.

Karoline Boehm Goodnick for The Boston Globe

Micucci Grocery in Portland, Maine.

SICILIAN SLABS AT MICUCCI GROCERY

Micucci Grocery in Portland, Maine, is stocked with imported olive oils, dried pasta, and other tempting treats, but the not-to-be-missed item is the pizza, served daily at lunchtime. Follow your nose upstairs to where people wait in line for the next batch. The dough is allowed to rise multiple times, creating a light dough with air pockets that steam open to catch the slightly sweet tomato sauce, cheese, and olive oil topping. A paper plate sign, propped on the counter, announces the wait time in five-minute increments. When ready, the slabs are set on the counter and snatched up quickly. Boxes are provided for take out, or if you’re lucky you can snag one of two small tables and enjoy on site. Pizza slab $4.95.  45 India St., 207-775-1854, www.micucci.com

BEAN TO BAR TOUR

Channel your inner Augustus Gloop at Taza Chocolate in Somerville founded by Alex Whitmore and Larry Slotnick in 2006. Each 45-minute tour (Wed-Sun)  begins with that bewitching cocoa aroma and ends with samples of stone-ground, Mexican-style, organic, dark chocolate. In between, your guide will explain how the company roasts, grinds, tempers, and molds its chocolate from bean to bar. Since the factory makes chocolate seven days a week, you are likely to see the machines in action. $5; call to reserve a space.  561 Windsor St., 617-284-2232, www.tazachocolate.com  

Marion's Pie Shop.

Brendan Stearns

Marion's Pie Shop.

THE PIE’S THE THING

Pie. Not just any pie but seafood pie stuffed with lobster, scallops, shrimp, and cod from Marion’s Pie Shop in Chatham. And maybe lemon meringue or Baileyberry — a combination of blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries — for dessert. Marion’s has been making pies since 1949 when Marion Matteson opened a shop in her kitchen. Blake and Cindy Stearns bought the shop in 2003 and knew enough not to mess with a good thing. They still follow Matteson’s recipes (though they’ve added varieties), hand roll every crust, and bake fresh daily. What makes Marion’s pies so good? One thing, says Blake Stearns: the crust. Suffice it to say that after reheating the seafood pie even the bottom crust was still crisp. Other savory offerings are chicken, beefsteak, and clam pies, along with lasagna, stuffed peppers, macaroni and cheese, and soups. Most pies come in small and large: savory $8.25-$32.50, sweet $7.25-$14.50.  2022 Main St. (Route 28), 508-432-9439, www.marionspieshopofchatham.com.  Closed for vacation until mid-February.  

The Nantucket Daffodil Festival is in full bloom April 26-28. It includes a vintage car parade featuring over 100 daffodil-decorated autos.

Michael Galvin

The Nantucket Daffodil Festival is in full bloom April 26-28. It includes a vintage car parade featuring over 100 daffodil-decorated autos.

NANTUCKET BLOOMS

Celebrate spring on Nantucket in all its fragrant, yellow glory by attending the 39th Annual Daffodil Festival April 26-28 when the island’s 3 million daffodils have burst into bloom. Locals and visitors are invited to partake in the festivities, which include the Nantucket Garden Club’s Annual Daffodil Show, both a dog and children’s daffodil parade, a Daffy Hat Pageant, and a vintage car parade featuring over 100 daffodil-decorated autos honking their horns from town to the village of Siasconset, where everyone’s encouraged to create their own tail-gate picnic.  Nantucket Chamber of Commerce, Zero Main St., 508-228-1700, www.nantucketchamber.org  

Charcuterie platter at the newly renovated OAK Long Bar + Kitchen at the Fairmont Copley Plaza.

Necee Regis

Charcuterie platter at the newly renovated OAK Long Bar + Kitchen at the Fairmont Copley Plaza.

NOT YOUR GRANDFATHER’S BAR

When looking for a stylish place in Boston, I head to the Oak Long Bar + Kitchen at the Fairmont Copley Plaza. In its 100-year history, this iconic space has hosted numerous cafes and bars, and this new incarnation combines the best of old and new including vaulted ceilings, the original Baroque plaster, restored copper mullions, and a fireplace. Cozy up to the 83-foot, copper-topped bar and sample handcrafted cocktails and a farm-to-table inspired menu featuring flatbreads, small plates, gilled meats, fish, a perfect burger, salads and — my favorite — the Oak Board platter with speck, sopressata, porchetta, Berkshire Blue, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, house-cured pickles, and olives. If your sweet tooth needs attention, the chocolate Whoopie pie with chocolate ice cream and hot fudge is served with a side of milk. Oak Board $18/$25, desserts $10.  138 St. James Ave., 617-585-7222, www.fairmont.com

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