Blog Post Kristen Sykes May 20, 2024

8 Hidden Gems in the Northeast

Acadia National Park and the Statue of Liberty may get the most attention, but there are plenty of lesser-known treasures in this region of the U.S. — and they have lots to teach us about our country.

The Northeast encompasses a fascinating variety of national park sites — from historical and cultural sites that tell the story of how the United States began to the National Park System’s only places dedicated to the visual arts, as well as the 235-mile-long New England National Scenic Trail that winds through farmland, villages, forests and urban areas.

Since I began my role as NPCA’s Northeast regional director a year ago, I’ve made it my mission to visit all 51 of these sites to learn more about them and how NPCA can support these parts of the National Park System. Here are eight of my favorite lesser-known parks that might inspire you to explore the unexpected, too.

1. Salem Maritime National Historic Site, Massachusetts

Salem Maritime National Historic Site preserves and interprets over 600 years of New England’s maritime history and global connections. It brings to life the early colonial trade and the time of the American Revolution, when American privateers would dock their ships in this bustling port. The park also tells the stories of slavery and the freedom of people of African descent, which are deeply tied to the site.

Friendship of Salem ship

Friendship of Salem ship docked at Salem Maritime National Historic Site. 

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The park site consists of 12 historic structures along the city of Salem’s waterfront and the half-mile-long Derby Wharf, which hosted hundreds of ships during the height of the East India trade in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Visitors can also see the replica of a 1797 trade ship, the Friendship of Salem, which is currently undergoing renovations and should be seaworthy again in the not-too-distant future!

Established in 1938, Salem Maritime was the first national historic site created in the United States.

2. Weir Farm National Historical Park, Connecticut

Weir Farm National Historical Park is the only national park site devoted to American painting. It preserves the country home of 19th-century impressionist painter J. Alden Weir. Other artists lived at the property, too, including Mahonri Young and Sperry Andrews. The site in Wilton, Connecticut, continues to host artists in residence.

Weir Farm Studio exterior

Exterior of the Weir Studio at Weir Farm National Historical Park. 

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Visitors can explore Weir’s home and the artists’ studios, participate in create-your-own artwork programs and join ranger-led tours. The Park Service maintains numerous hiking trails and historical gardens on the site’s 60 rural acres, making Weir Farm enjoyable for more than just the paintings. Weir described his home as the “Great Good Place” — and with its woods, fields and waterways, visitors might see how nature inspired his famous artwork.

The park recently has established more accessible walkways and building entrances. As Weir liked to paint at night, the park has taken measures to reduce light pollution and help maintain dark skies on the property.

3. Frederick Law Olmsted National Historical Park, Massachusetts

History recognizes Frederick Law Olmsted as the founder of American landscape architecture and the nation’s foremost park maker. Central Park and the U.S. Capitol Grounds are among landmarks on his resume. At the Frederick Law Olmstead National Historic Site in Boston, visitors can explore his Fairsted estate offices and archives, where he opened the world’s first full-scale professional office for the practice of landscape design in 1883.

Prior to the Civil War, Olmsted toured the South as a vocal abolitionist and called on President Lincoln to stop the spread of slavery to the Western territories. The national historic site houses artifacts of his life, his writings and his work.

4. Saratoga National Historic Park, New York

Saratoga National Historic Park in Stillwater, New York, commemorates the 1777 Battles of Saratoga, where the British Army surrendered for the first time in world history.


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It proved to be a tipping point during the Revolutionary War. Among activities, visitors can take a self-guided audio tour of the battlefield, meet reenactors and climb the 188 steps of the stone obelisk built in the late 19th century to commemorate the American victory. Saratoga also is a popular spot for cycling.

To address its maintenance backlog and prepare for America’s 250th anniversary, the park site received $6.6 million from the Great American Outdoors Act Legacy Restoration Fund to enhance its access and safety. Improvements have been made to parking areas, trailheads, walkways, seating, exhibits and viewing areas along the 10-mile-long battlefield tour road.

5. Morristown National Historical Park, New Jersey

About a 30-minute drive from Newark, New Jersey, Morristown National Historical Park preserves the campsite where Gen. George Washington and his Revolutionary War troops survived the harsh winter of 1779-1780, what was then the coldest winter on record. The underfed and undersupplied soldiers lived in drafty wooden huts yet overcame their hardships to emerge as a powerful military force.

Visitors can learn about the men’s struggle, as well as the work of women who helped make their survival possible. Hiking, biking, horseback riding and bird watching are popular activities at Morristown. The park is receiving $677,000 in funding from the Inflation Reduction Act to remove invasive species and help restore native trees, initiatives that will make Morristown’s forests more resilient to climate change and other disturbances.

6. Women’s Rights National Historic Park, New York

Every time women exercise their right to vote, purchase a home or control their own earnings, they owe a debt to the women of the First Women’s Rights Convention of 1848. Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, New York, preserves the historic site where Americans began to shift their conceptions about women’s role in society.

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Visitors can learn the history of leaders and reformers who fought for civil rights, human rights and equality — global issues that continue today — through exhibits, historic homes and the Wesleyan Chapel. Convention Days, a signature event held each July, commemorate the anniversary of the 1848 convention, where 300 women and men joined together in asserting that “all men and women are created equal.”

Learn more about the creation of the park and its first superintendent, Judy Hart, on NPCA’s podcast.

7. Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site, Massachusetts

Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site is the home of celebrated poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who wrote “Paul Revere’s Ride,” among other famous works. The mansion in Cambridge was also Gen. George Washington’s post during early parts of the Revolutionary War and a site of community activism in the 19th century.

The National Park Service maintains the large collection of the Longfellow family’s belongings at the house, as well as an archives that serves researchers from around the world. The park is currently working to expand the historical interpretation of enslaved people who worked at the house and its connection with their descendants. The park also traces three generations of LGBTQ-identifying Longfellows who once resided there.

8. Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park, New Hampshire

Known as the “national park for the arts,” Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park preserves the home and studio of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who lived from 1848 to 1907. Considered one of America’s greatest sculptors, he supported the advancement of public art in the United States and taught a new generation of American artists at his Cornish, New Hampshire, property.

Robert Shaw regiment sculpture by Saint-Gaudens

Sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial, located in Boston. 

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The Cornish Art Colony, as it became known, consisted initially of a modified barn and later expanded to include a series of studios. A versatile artist, Saint-Gaudens created heroic monuments and expressive portraits and even designed intricate gold coins, which changed the look of American money. The sculptor lived here full time for the last seven years of his life. Visitors can see more than 100 of his works in the studios and gardens.

One of Saint-Gaudens’ famous works is the Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial, on the Boston Common facing the Massachusetts Statehouse. The bronze sculpture commemorates one of the country’s first all-Black regiments during the Civil War and is part of the Boston National Historic Park and the Boston African American National Historic Site.

Want to learn more about Northeast parks?

Visit NPCA’s Northeast webpage, where you can find a list of all the parks in the region, learn how NPCA is making a difference and meet our team.

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About the author

  • Kristen Sykes Northeast Regional Director, Northeast

    Kristen is the Northeast Regional Director where she oversees NPCA's work in New Jersey, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Vermont and leads advocacy campaigns to benefit the forty-nine national park sites in the region.