For lots of fun, head out to explore New England's wide range of shops — from designer clothing to locally made crafts, as well as antiques and collectibles. Whether you want city sophistication or a traditional country store, an international name or a small boutique — you can find it in the six states of New England. Below are just a few of the favorite shopping hot spots in each state.
Wedged between New York and Boston, Connecticut caters to all shopping tastes. West Hartford, for example, is an enclave of upmarket individual shops: fashions for men and women, toys and jewelers. In Middletown, Wesleyan Potters was founded in 1948 and is still going strong. The gallery is full of tempting crafts: textiles, jewelry — and pottery! And, if you love looking for antiques, Connecticut is a must. Woodbury is the "Antiques Capital of Connecticut," with more than 30 dealers; but the whole of Litchfield County is a great hunting ground. And for something quirky, United House Wrecking in Stamford is a great place for fun memorabilia as well as antiques. Learn more about shopping in Connecticut.
Maine is famous for its highly skilled craftspeople, from potters and painters to jewelers, quilters and woodworkers. To see — and buy — their work, stop at the Maine Crafts Association’s headquarters at the West Gardiner Travel Plaza — and also the galleries at South Portland’s Maine Mall and the Bangor Mall. For boutiques, try Portland’s Old Port district, particularly Fore Street and Exchange Street. All along the coast are charming small communities, such as Ogunquit, Kennebunk/Kennebunkport, Damariscotta and Camden, that have individual shops, from art galleries and bookstores to clothing. In Freeport, north of Portland, there is the famous L. L. Bean flagship store amidst town shops and designer outlets. Known to outdoorsy types around the world, L. L. Bean is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day; and, it celebrated its 100th birthday in 2012! Learn more about shopping in Maine.
Whether you want to window shop or give your credit card a workout, Boston fits the bill. Copley Plaza and the Prudential Center offer famous retail stores. Upmarket Newbury Street and the trendy South End are famous for boutiques and galleries, while bustling Faneuil Hall Marketplace has nationally known stores, plus pushcarts selling one-of-a-kind hats, nightshirts, beads, jewelry, and other must-have paraphernalia. There is great shopping all across the state. On Cape Cod, Route 6A (the Old King’s Highway) winds past antiques and craft shops in great towns such as Sandwich (home to the Sandwich Glass Museum) and Chatham, while out at the tip, Provincetown has long attracted artists. Stroll down this town's bustling Commercial Street, where galleries show the work of local artists and those from around the world. In central Massachusetts, South Deerfield is the home of Yankee Candle Village, offering candles in a choice of 200 different scents! Northampton and Stockbridge are two other quintessential New England towns filled with galleries, boutiques, and antiques stores. Learn more about shopping in Massachusetts.
The first thing to know about shopping in New Hampshire is that it is tax free! For something special, head for the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s galleries. There are eight across the state, selling locally made — and very collectible — crafts and artworks, from affordable souvenirs to the heirlooms of the future. In the harbor city of Portsmouth, you can walk from shop to shop in the historic downtown. Start in Market Square, then check out Congress Street and Market Street, where Fair Skies (clothes in natural fibers) offers something a little different. Chocolate? Head for Walpole, New Hampshire, just over the border off I-91/Vermont, to visit L. A. Burdick Chocolates. Since 1992, this company has been rated among the USA’s best chocolate makers. In New Hampshire's White Mountains, you'll find plenty of shops and outlets to keep you busy in the town of North Conway. In Peterborough, Sharon Arts Center features the work of 100 local juried artists. Learn more about shopping in New Hampshire.
In Rhode Island, Newport has been home to craftsmen since Colonial times. Today, silversmith Jim Breakell and his wife, Joan, continue that tradition in their workshop and store at J. H. Breakell & Co. In Providence, the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has long nurtured talent. The shop, risd|works, is a showcase for fine art and jewelry, toys and clothing — and everything is made by professors and students. Both Newport and Providence offer exceptional shopping. The historic village of East Greenwich, located on the north shore of Narragansett Bay, has boutiques and shops along Main Street and Water Street, many with works by local artisans. Out in the country, Brown & Hopkins is in the village of Chepachet in the Blackstone Valley. Now more than 200 years old, America’s oldest continuously operating country store is full of collectibles, from candles and country wares to furnishings and home-spun fabrics...even old-fashioned candy for a penny! Learn more about boutiques and galleries in Rhode Island. (PDF)
Traditional or contemporary, packable gifts or fine art: Vermont has it all. For works by local artisans, try the Vermont State Frog Hollow Craft Center in Burlington, or the Northeast Kingdom Artisans Guild, in St. Johnsbury. With an international reputation for his glass and pottery, Irish-born Simon Pearce is based in Quechee. Watch bowls and vases being made here and also at the location in Windsor. Stop in to a real Vermont country store for old-fashioned necessities: classic toys, wind-up alarm clocks and a cornucopia of everything you could possibly want to buy. The best known is the Vermont Country Store in Weston, with a branch in Rockingham. These stores are a destination unto themselves! Flannel clothing can be purchased at Vermont Flannel Company located in East Barre, Woodstock and Ferrisburgh. This company has been inducted into the "Made in the USA" Hall of Fame. And fishermen the world over know the name Orvis for rods, flies and outdoor clothing. Their flagship store is in Manchester. Learn more about shopping in Vermont, or view a list of craftsmen/galleries from Vermont Crafts Council.