The Best Restaurants In New England

Sample some of the best eats New England's Upper Valley has to offer

When you think of New England dining, it's the crab shacks and lobster joints dotting Connecticut, Rhode Island and the Cape that often come to mind first.

But there's equally incredible food—some of the best around, in fact—to be found farther north in the Upper Valley, a region nestled in the Green Mountains of eastern Vermont and western New Hampshire.

Orient your trip to the Upper Valley around Hanover, New Hampshire, the quintessential New England town that's home to Dartmouth College. You'll find more than a few cozy lodgings, like the Hanover Inn and, just across river, the Norwich Inn.

Kick off the weekend with breakfast at Lou's, a 50s-style diner with classic red booths. Get there early—it's a favorite with locals and hungry college students alike—and go for the Big Green (French toast, pancakes, hash browns, eggs and bacon) or the cruller French toast. 

From there, stroll along Main Street, dotted with artisan shops and restaurants, or take a tour of Dartmouth's leafy green campus. If you're lucky, the college will have the bell tower tours running—worth the arduous stair climb for a stunning 360-degree view of the valley. If you're not sure, you can always ask one of the librarians, who may also offer to show you around the expansive library.

For lunch, cross the Connecticut River into Norwich, Vermont, head to King Arthur Flour for its famous almond cloud cookies and be sure to snag the free samples of whatever's coming out of the test kitchen. King Arthur is also home to a baking school that offers classes on pizza making, pastry baking and everything in between.

From there, swing by the Norwich Farmer's Market on Route 5. Local farmers and vendors change from week to week, but you'll often find fresh-baked goods, artisanal crafts and, of course, great veggies. It's open every Saturday from May through October and once a month from November through April.

Walk off all those goodies by getting outside; Upper Valley has a bunch of great hiking trails. Mount Cardigan offers sweeping views of the bucolic landscape, and Camel's Hump and Mount Cube, both nearby, have well-maintained trails and panoramic views you don't want to miss.

For dinner, stay in Norwich and hit up Carpenter & Main, tucked across the street from the Norwich Inn. The warm and inviting atmosphere, combined with a Mediterranean twist on classic New England dishes, makes the restaurant a must-try. Go for the seasonal small plates; stay for the tater tots and hand-cut fries. Likewise, the Canoe Club, in downtown Hanover, serves up classic New England fare like mussels—they're delicious—and has one of the best bars in town.

For dessert, head to Morano Gelato for a scoop or two of real-deal gelato—the owner trained in Italy—made from scratch every morning. Flavors resemble what you'd probably find at a classic gelateria in Rome, from the sweet and squarely dessert-like (think stracciatella, the Italian version of cookies and cream, or hazelnut) to zabaglione (Marsala wine custard) and chocolate/red pepper. Cap the evening by catching a movie at the Nugget, the small, old-fashioned cinema right next door.

The next morning, head to Market Table for a breakfast of avocado toast or savory tarts before hitting the road for a tour of Vermont's back roads.

Your first stop? Route 4 Country Store, a White River Junction joint specializing in mouthwatering Saint Louis- and Texas-style barbecue. From there, detour to the Simon Pearce workshop to watch glassblowing demonstrations and marvel at the brand's vases and tabletop pieces. Continue on to Woodstock, topping at the Woodstock Farmers' Market or Osteria Pane e Salute for a seasonal Italian meal paired with local wines.

From there, it's on to Killington, where you can stop to ski or hike at Killington Mountain. Then, continue on to Worthy Burger in Royalton for a huge selection of craft beers and the best burgers you'll ever have, thanks to the local beef and zany customizable flavor combos. And when the server asks whether you'd like a side of Parmesan-truffle fries, well, we don't need to state the obvious.

In fact, over the course of a weekend, you'll probably find yourself saying yes to a lot of food in the Upper Valley—and that's exactly the right move. After all, there's no better way to explore these winding mountain roads than by sampling all the tasty goods the region has to offer.

Pack your passport—and an appetite—as we hit the world's hottest culinary destinations on and off the grid all month long. Now Boarding: your next trip to paradise.