More Massachusetts residents took a road trip this summer than ever before, according to AAA, which also projects a high volume of drivers this weekend for the Labor Day holiday. That's despite a slight lift in the price of gas, which had been heading for historic lows throughout most of the summer. One gallon of self-serve, regular unleaded averages $2.07, up three cents from last week, but still down 14 percent from this time last year. AAA points to higher crude prices to explain the slight uptick, but the price is still right for millions of motorists across the Northeast who will hit the road for summer's unofficial last gasp.
“You have to go all the way back to 2004 to find prices this low at this point in the summer,” Mary Maguire, director of public and legislative affairs for AAA Northeast, said in a statement. “With gasoline supplies high and oil prices low, pump prices are likely to remain relatively cheap through the remainder of the summer and into the fall.”
Cheap gas may also be behind a rise in traffic fatalities. Car accident deaths have risen dramatically for the second year in a row, according to a new report by the National Safety Council.
But if you're eager to leave Boston for a day-trip over the long weekend, here are some suggestions for last-minute adventures around New England.
New Hampshire's rugged White Mountains are just a quick shot up Interstate 93. If you're up early enough and prepared for it, Mount Washington offers one of the most sought-after hikes in the Northeast. Franconia Notch State Park offers yet more hiking, with waterfalls, craggy gorges and mining caves. Many neighboring towns are pleasant time-warps back to the Granite State's industrial past. Polly's Pancake Parlor in nearby Sugar Hill is a typical diner-style breakfast and brunch joint that'll leave an impression.
The southern coast of Maine offers some very accessible getaways that nonetheless feel worlds away from Boston. Kennebunkport is one such beach resort a mere two hours away from downtown, easily beckoning Bostonians with wild blueberries, fresh lobster and idyllic Atlantic beaches. Take a scenic drive down Ocean Avenue and stop into one of the fine restaurants along the way. Mabel's Lobster Claw is required eating for lobster roll enthusiasts.
Though not as mighty as the mountains to the north, the Berkshires in western Massachusetts offer an easy getaway. The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) in North Adams is one of the premier contemporary art institutions in the region. Go for the art, or plan to catch one of the events in their concert series, which brings reggae artist Everton Blender to one of the museum's riverside venues.
If you don't already have a reservation in Cape Cod, it's best to steer clear of that morass, as traffic and crowds will be at their thickest in late August. You can get much of the charm that draws millions to the Cape—beautiful beaches, quaint seaside shops and quality seafood—without braving too much of Route 6.
The port of New Bedford offers historical sights, from the Whaling Museum to Herman Melville's home. Fort Phoenix and Fort Taber offer some seaside history, doubling as parks and historical destinations, while the town—still known for its seafood processing industry—provides plenty of good options for food. Antonio’s Pizza Restaurant, and the Waterfront Grille among them. Be sure to check out the colorful fishing boats crowded in the harbor. The nearby town of Sandwich is Cape Cod lite, and if you want a closer South Shore getaway, Hingham and Plymouth make excellent day trips.