Rich wood paneling glows in the reflected firelight while sounds of weighty silverware encounter china plates. The low buzz of conversation ebbs and flows as diners tuck into delicious housemade tavern fare. Scrumptious food steeped in century-old, farm-to-table traditions paired with a perfectly selected glass of wine makes for a memorable meal. New England celebrates its colonial heritage with some of the oldest inns in the country. You will love visiting these six warm and cozy historic taverns across the northeast.
Whether you come for dinner, a stay, or both, you will enjoy discovering these enchanting New England historic treasures. Each tavern offers guests a peek into our colonial past, a table with years of dining history, and a menu that features the region’s finest ingredients. You will soon discover your favorite tavern where antique appointments, paintings of George Washington, and massive stone fireplaces set the mood for a celebration of colonial lore. Selecting only one for each state is a challenge, there are so many wonderful options. They are listed in no particular order.
1. The White Horse Tavern, Newport, Rhode Island
The White Horse Tavern was established in 1673 and lays claim to being America’s oldest tavern. The quintessential New England tavern, with its classic, colonial decor, the White Horse Tavern envelops guests in a rich seafaring history where captains of huge fleets held court while enjoying a sumptuous repast.
In 1954, after years of disrepair, the tavern was restored to the beautiful, historic building you see today. Vintage elegance with a refined rustic appeal. The White Horse Tavern is the spot where locals and visitors sip smokey whiskey while dining on expertly prepared dishes and discuss the day’s activities.
Finely crafted dishes artfully presented are the standard rule at the White Horse Tavern. Its menu includes local gifts from the sea and farm. Every dish is perfect, the beef Wellington is delicate and delicious, as are the pan seared scallops, along with every other entrée on the menu. The wine list is extensive and approachable, offering lovely glasses and bottles in a range of budgets. If you are in for a super splurge, try the 2006 Château Margaux for around $1,200 a bottle.
Pro Tip: Newport is a beautiful spot for a weekend getaway, it is a gathering spot for sailing and yachting enthusiasts alike.
2. Longfellow’s Wayside Inn, Sudbury, Massachusetts
Small, cozy dining nooks warmed by wood-burning fireplaces as candlelight dances on the white cloths set with traditional tableware. Longfellow’s Wayside Inn opened its doors in 1716 and has been welcoming hungry travelers ever since. This historic, colonial restaurant and inn offers guests a country setting close to the Massachusetts Revolutionary War battle sites. Small, intimate dining rooms and a cozy taproom dot the main hallway as you meander past historic artifacts towards the grand dining room.
Offering guests hearty tavern dishes like prime rib au jus, cranberry and cornbread-stuffed chicken breast, or Boston baked scrod take center stage with the classic accompaniments. Be sure to save room for its signature dessert; warm, homemade Indian pudding with vanilla ice cream.
The inn’s guest rooms, with their wide pine board flooring and period furnishings, offer a cozy and immersive experience into colonial times. The Wayside Inn offers a dine-and-stay package for the perfect romantic getaway.
The Wayside Inn is minutes from historic Concord and Lexington where you can visit famous battle sites, interact with costumed docents, and immerse yourself in early American history. History buffs visiting Boston will gladly make the drive west for an afternoon of colonial adventure and delicious cuisine.
Pro Tip: The inn is just minutes down the road from the historic and austere Martha Mary Chapel, a much-loved wedding venue. Around the next turn, the grist mill is definitely worth a visit. The grounds are beautiful and offer the opportunity for stunning photographs across the property. It is a popular, year-round venue for weddings, families, and graduation photos.
3. Griswold Inn, Essex, Connecticut
The Griswold Inn is situated in the charming coastal town of Essex. As you stroll along Main Street, the quaint shops beckon you to stop in and have a look. Essex is a darling spot for a weekend getaway, which should include a stop at the Griswold Inn.
The great room, anchored by an enormous stone fireplace, takes you immediately back to the historic days when our country was formed. The walls are crowded with photos of seafaring images that run partway up the barrel ceiling appearing to hang against gravity’s forces. The bustling taproom and intimate side dining rooms ensure there is plenty of seating and a dining experience suited for your evening out.
The seasonal menu offers small plates to share like the perfectly cooked sea scallops or the crispy potato cakes. Alternatively, spoon up a bowl of clam chowder joined by a sandwich or salad. The Griswold is a fun and relaxing spot to meet up with great friends to enjoy great food and conversation.
Pro Tip: You can often find live music rocking the taproom, creating a jolly, pub-like atmosphere.
4. The Hancock Inn, Hancock, New Hampshire
Since 1789, the Hancock Inn has offered a delicious meal and a cozy bed for travelers on their way between Boston and stops through Vermont. Historically known for large gatherings and parties, the inn has long held the reputation for the place to see and be seen.
The Fox Tavern at the Hancock Inn offers diners a prix fixe menu showcasing its rustic, upscale cuisine. It is a lovely spot for a relaxing dinner and terrific conversation.
Located in the heart of the Monadnock region, it is strategically situated for outdoor enthusiasts. Mt. Monadnock, one of the most climbed mountains in the United States, is silently waiting for you to add her to your list of conquered hikes.
5. Jameson Tavern, Freeport, Maine
The Jameson Tavern in bustling Freeport has been in operation since 1801. Built in 1779, the tavern was originally a family home. Over the years, the tavern has been transformed into a fun gathering spot for locals and visitors. Serving delicious seafood and other specialties, the Jameson Tavern is well known for its amazing Lobster Stew. Of course, there are lobster rolls, lazy man’s lobster, and other seafood delicacies along with perfectly prepared steaks and other landlubber specialties.
Some claim there are ghosts wandering the rooms of the tavern. Folk tales of otherworldly spirits roaming the halls enhance the story of the Jameson Tavern. Whether you believe in the afterworld or not, it makes for entertaining dinner conversation. Who knows what will bump you while you are tending to your plate.
Pro Tip: Freeport is home to the flagship LL Bean store along with its collection of other outdoor and indoor shops. This adorable town is a lovely spot for a weekend getaway filled with shopping, dining, and sightseeing.
6. Dorset Inn, Dorset, Vermont
The Dorset Inn opened its doors in 1796, welcoming travelers en route between Boston and Albany. Set in the picturesque town of Dorset, the inn is a favorite getaway where you can enjoy a romantic weekend out in the country.
Romance is in the air and its storied cuisine enhances the mood. Try the seared and roasted duck breast, crispy quinoa asparagus cakes, or the inspirational daily pasta or seafood specials. Paired with a beautiful wine or a fresh pint and your getaway is off to a fabulously delicious start.
The Dorset Inn takes farm-to-table cuisine seriously. It is a member of the Vermont Fresh Network whose mission is to connect local chefs and farmers. When these bonds are solidified, the diner experiences farm-inspired, chef-driven, seasonal menus that enhance the culinary adventure. The daily specials reflect this symbiotic relationship between farmer and diner where the chef’s vision results in gorgeous food.
Its lovely suites are quintessentially Vermont, with four-poster beds, fireplaces, and roomy living spaces. If you are looking for a charming romantic getaway, Dorset is a lovely option.
Pro Tip: All Trails highlights seven great hiking trails in the Dorset area perfect for enjoying the clean Green Mountain air and stunning views.
New England’s historic attractions and quaint towns are popular with travelers: