New England is peppered with quintessential regional travel experiences, such as the iconic Portland Head Light standing guard against the crashing waves on Maine’s rugged coastline. But the area also boasts characteristic venues to take in the established and diverse local color, from fashionable and professional small-town theater to agritourism and aquatourism. Here are a few options to consider when going after an authentic excursion into Yankee country.
Westport Country Playhouse
During its 80-plus years of operation, the Westport Country Playhouse has grown from its barnyard beginnings — the structure was originally a cow barn and then a tannery — to one of the most esteemed and innovative theater companies in New England. Given Westport’s proximity to New York City, the tony “Gold Coast” town’s theater, and its artistically driven management, has always been an attractive option for marquee performers, including James Earl Jones, Henry Fonda, Jessica Tandy and Neil Patrick Harris, just to name a few, as well as Paul Newman, whose wife, Joanne Woodward, served as artistic director for the theater in the 2000s.
The 578-seat theater and surrounding campus underwent a multimillion-dollar restoration in 2005 and emerged as a stunning year-round event facility, with a number of series and special events planned throughout the year to accompany the five shows each season.
“We do a lot to try to engage the community as much as possible around the productions,” said Nikki Rowell, a marketing manager at the theater.
Matunuck Oyster Farm
South Kingstown, Rhode Island
With two degrees in aquaculture from the University of Rhode Island, Perry Raso was never interested in running a restaurant. But as his Matunuck Oyster Farm on Potter Pond kept growing, Raso purchased a waterside eatery just for the dock space and decided he would test the waters as a restaurateur.
Though Matunuck Oyster Bar may serve some of the freshest oysters around, Raso’s passion remains dedicated to sustainable shellfish cultivation and educating the public about responsible harvesting. As a part of that effort, Raso gives informative tours of his seven-acre oyster farm that begin with an aquaculture presentation at the bar before proceeding out onto the pond.
The tours end back at the restaurant — right around lunchtime — where visitors may have a newfound appreciation for the seafood on their plates. Along with the oyster farm, Raso owns and operates Matunuck Vegetable Farm, which provides the restaurant with fresh, chemical-free greens to go alongside the locally sourced Matunuck Oysters.
“You’re getting farm-to-table as well as pond-to-plate,” said marketing director Karen Woodbine.