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If you head to the northeastern United States, you’ll find yourself in the region of states referred to as New England. You’ll also find delicious “chowdah,” intense sports fans, and picturesque views of the Atlantic Ocean. But exactly what (and where) is New England?

States of New England

The Portland Head Lighthouse in Maine, USA at sunrise
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The region of New England consists of six northeastern states in the United States:

  • Maine
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
  • Connecticut

Each state in New England is unique, but they all have considerable similarities in terms of culture, geography, and climate. The southern states of New England are busy and populated, while the northernmost states are rather laidback with remote wilderness. While it’s a common misconception, New York is not a part of New England.

History of New England

Autumn foliage in the Bershire Hills region of Massachusetts
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In 1614 before the pilgrims arrived in the New World, a British explorer by the name of John Smith (yes, the one from “Pocahontas”) was in charge of exploring the northeastern regions of newly colonized America. He decided to name the region after his home country and dubbed it, "New England."

When the pilgrims arrived in 1620, they landed at Plymouth Rock in what would later be known as Massachusetts. With the help of local Native Americans, they survived the first harsh winter and began to develop their colony. As the new nation developed, declared its independence, and divided into states, the region never lost the name.

Climate of New England

Scenic New England landscape showing architecture and colorful fall foliage
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New England is quite warm in the summer and very cold in the winter. Summer high temperatures can range between 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit, while winters can easily dip below freezing to an average of about 25 degrees. Spring and fall are typically very pleasant. The best time to visit New England is in the fall. Temperatures are mild and when the leaves start to change, the entire region lights up in color. Every year, millions of people head to the northeast to take in the incredible fall foliage.

The weather in New England is notoriously erratic. Mark Twain is quoted for saying, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.” Annual average precipitation is around 16.24 inches and the temperature is very inconsistent. One day, it can be 75 degrees and sunny, while the next can include a drop into the mid-40s and rainy weather.

Wildlife of New England

Wild black bear walking along stream and moss covered rocks in New England wilderness
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In New England, the wildlife is as diverse as the people who live there. These northeastern states are home to some of the largest mammals in North America such as black bears, deer, and moose. If you look to the skies, you might catch a glimpse of some rare birds of prey. Bald eagles, golden eagles, and several species of hawks and owls all live in the rich wilderness of New England. Loons are often seen and heard on many of the small lakes.

Winding road descending from Mount Washington, NH on a sunny autumn afternoon
Credit: Ultima_Gaina/ iStock

New England is home to a multitude of fun activities, places to see, and rich history. Of course, the fall foliage is a popular attraction, but there are plenty of other things to see and do all year long.

  • Cape Cod, Massachusetts: Where to taste the freshest seafood in the nation.
  • Mount Washington, New Hampshire: The tallest mountain in the northeast.
  • Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium, Massachusetts: The homes of the Red Sox baseball team and the Patriots football team respectively.
  • Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts: Where the pilgrims landed in 1620.
  • Acadia National Park, Maine: Where you can view the first sunrise in the country.
  • Harvard University, Massachusetts: The oldest university in the United States.

In addition to the main tourist attractions, New England is full of natural landscapes to explore. There are plenty of state and national parks, ski resorts, mountains, national forests, lakes, and rivers. The farther north you go, the more beautiful it becomes. New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine are an outdoor adventurer's paradise.