1. New Hampshire
And New Hampshire is the Texas of New England. It’s that simple. The state motto is “Live Free or Die,” and they are deeply committed to doing just that. Two things stood out: 1) They are really, REALLY into their guns; and 2) They are really, REALLY into their massive highway rest-stop liquor stores. Take THAT, Illinois Tollway oases! Actually, NH consumes the most alcohol per capita of any state in the entire country, although the numbers are a bit padded due to the number of Massholes (that’s the right word?) crossing the border to take advantage of the cheap, tax-free booze. Also, I mentioned their near-absolute opposition to taxes (no income or sales tax) when I spoke about living free, right? No? Okay, well, it was implied.
I’ll bottom-line this for you: New Hampshire is patently un-touristy but still has all the New England outdoor recreation activities you could want, making it the least pretentious and desperate-for-approval of the New England states. They’ll welcome you, but they don’t need you — their sense of pride and independence runs much deeper than just the state slogan. You’ll sacrifice chef-driven dining for down-home diners where everything is still made from scratch and sourced locally but they don’t make a fuss over it because WHY. Places like the Nepali Café Momo and Montreal-esque Chez Vachon will surprise you.
Also, their beer game is much stronger than Vermont would have you believe, with excellent breweries like Smuttynose and White Birch. It’s a markedly different experience than the rest of New England, and that’s what makes it the best. (After all, not every place can or should be Brooklyn.) You keep doing you, New Hampshire.