1. Princeton, N.J. This college town is home to more prize-winners than any other community – as in Pulitzers, Nobels and Medals of Honor. The leafy enclave offers miles of bike paths, canals for paddling and festivals for every season. The university’s extraordinary cultural offerings include an art museum best known for its Chinese collection and an impressive theater known to showcase pre-Broadway productions. Take a walking tour, shop in Palmer Square and visit the free Einstein Museum to learn more about another of the town’s bright lights.
Contact: visitprinceton.com; princetontour company.com
2. Annapolis, Md. Work up an appetite for the region’s famous crabs by kayaking, windsurfing or sailing on the Chesapeake Bay. History-rich Annapolis is home to the U.S. Naval Academy and offers charming restaurants, shops, museums, lighthouses and the opportunity to watch seaworthy vessels slip out to the ocean.
Contact: (888) 302-2852; visitannapolis.org
3. Ocracoke, N.C. Revel in the old-world charm of this small coastal village. You can walk in the footsteps of Blackbeard the pirate, an early resident of the area. Amble along cobblestone streets, past clapboard houses, art galleries and colorful eateries before heading out for a kayak tour on the waters where buccaneers once battled.
Feed the local herd of ponies, likely descendants of Spanish mustangs, before spending the day on a pristine 16-mile stretch of protected beach.
Contact: (252) 928-6711; ocracokevillage.com
4. Stowe, Vt. Phish Food or Chunky Monkey? Decide during a taste test at Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory in this scenic New England town. Take a sled dog tour, find out how apple cider is made or stroll the five-mile Stowe Recreation path. The Trapp Family Lodge and Resort offers 2,400 acres of natural wonderland for hiking, rock climbing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Contact: gostowe.com; trappfamily.com
5. Brunswick, Maine Visit this small fishing village where artists and writers have found inspiration for decades. Winslow Homer painted his famous seascapes nearby, and Harriet Beecher Stowe crafted “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in town. Each year, the Brunswick Outdoor Arts Festival stokes the creative vibe with live theater, music and crafts.
Enjoy riverside views from the paved Androscoggin Bicycle and Pedestrian Path en route to the 150-year-old Topsham Fair, where family fun includes animal-pull events, crafts and harness racing.
Contact: (888) 624-6345; visitmaine.com; topshamfair.net