Politically progressive Boston is not only the capital of the first state to legalize gay marriage, it's within a three-hour drive of countless gay-friendly resorts and vacation destinations, from the soaring mountaintops of Vermont and New Hampshire to the charming coastal hamlets of and Rhode Island - and don't forget other cool getaways elsewhere in Massachusetts, from the Cape to the Berkshires. Here are some great destinations that make a perfect gay-friendly retreat from Boston.
Prior to the American Revolution, the gilded seafaring city of Newport ranked among the five largest metropolises in the New World. Then in the late 19th century, having grown little in 100 years, Newport became a summer destination favored by some of the wealthiest industrialists in American, from Vanderbilts to Astors. This upscale town with a stunning setting on Aquidneck Island is still a favorite getaway of the rich and famous, but Newport's bounty of fine hotels and restaurants appeals to a broader spectrum. And though it's an aesthetically conservative place, it's quite popular with GLBT travelers. Many of the city's massive, venerable mansions are now open for guided tours in this tony sailing enclave. Distance: 75 miles (1.5 hrs)
A center of education, the arts, and progressive politics in central-western Massachusetts, bustling and relatively affordable Northampton anchors the leafy Pioneer Valley, which extends from Connecticut to the state's tri-border with Vermont and New Hampshire and takes in a series of lovely towns (Greenfield, Deerfield, Amherst) and one hardscrabble city with some excellent museums and a bit of gay nightlife, Springfield. Northampton has long enjoyed a reputation as a favorite place for lesbians to live and visit - it's actually quite popular with gay men, too. Smith College is the small city's cultural hub, and the adjacent downtown abounds with quirky coffeehouses, bookstores, and bars and music clubs. Distance: 100 miles (1.5 to 2 hrs)
The tiny seaside village of Ogunquit and Maine's largest city (pop. 65,000), Portland, are two distinct destinations, but they're both exceedingly gay-friendly and easily reached from Boston (and each other). In combination, they make a perfect urban-meets-beach-hideaway vacation. Little Ogunquit is a scaled-down, mellower alternative to Provincetown, with quite a few gay-owned B&Bs, restaurants, and bars, as well as a beautiful beachfront. Just 35 miles north, Portland has a stellar food scene for a city itself, and a charming Old Port district with several notable galleries and boutiques, and the gay-popular historic West End. Portland is also the site of the Southern Maine Gay Pride Festival each June. It's also a good starting point for exploring farther up Maine's scenic coast, toward Rockland and Bar Harbor. Distance: 110 miles (1.5 to 2 hrs)
Although its at the alluringly remote tip of Cape Cod, the world-famous gay resort town of Provincetown is relatively easy to reach from Boston, either by car year-round or via high-speed ferry from spring through fall. This historic fishing village (the Pilgrims stopped here in 1620) developed a Bohemian following as a colony of artists and theater buffs toward the end of the 19th century and has been a favorite destination among lesbians and gays ever since. The beaches of nearby Cape Cod National Seashore are among the least spoiled in the Northeast, and lively Commercial Street abounds with galleries, gay bars, fine restaurants, and gay-owned guest houses. Even in winter, P-Town is quite charming. Distance: 110 miles (2 to 2.5 hrs)
The entire state of Vermont offers countless charms, but from Boston your best bet is to focus on the closer lower half of the state, which takes in such fabled ski areas as Killington (pictured below), Stratton, and Mt. Snow, as well as a seemingly endless supply of inviting country towns and hamlets. Excellent bases - with plenty of charming inns and romantic restaurants - include Manchester and Woodstock. Smaller villages like Arlington and Grafton are highly scenic. This largely rural, environmentally conscious state was the first in the country to pass gay civil union legislation (full gay marriage rights has since followed), and GLBT travelers will encounter warm hospitality throughout the region. Beautiful Burlington, the state's largest city, is only a couple of hours farther north. Distance: 150 miles (2.5 to 3.5 hrs)