WELCH -- Now is the time of the year when I start thinking about trips for next year. There are lots of airline ticket deals during the holidays and planning a trip and then having it to look forward to really helps get me through the winter.

If you also plan your trips in the next few months I have a great destination suggestion, especially if you enjoy visiting historic homes and gardens, like I do.

At least once a year we visit our friends that live on the East Coast. They lived here in Minnesota for many years, which is where we met, They eventually moved back to Massachusetts, a town called Southborough that is not too far from Boston.

If you haven’t been to Boston then I guess stop right here, because everyone should visit Boston at least once. One of the great walking cities, if you have comfortable shoes you can see almost every historical landmark without ever hiring a car.

So see Boston first, and then …

Visiting New England

After visiting our friends in the Boston area for many years they decided to retire to New Hampshire. I really didn’t know what to expect, but found it to be a lovely state with many public gardens and historic landmarks of its own.

One of the things you discover when visiting New England is that you can usually travel from one state to another in a very short amount of time. If you get off the freeways the drive from one place to the next is often as entertaining as the destination.

I’m sure you will find hundreds of places you would like to visit doing research on travel websites, but here are just a few historical homes and gardens that I’ve visited and enjoyed in New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

Tip: A good place to start your trip planning is historicnewengland.org. If you buy a Historic New England membership you have free admission to dozens of historic properties in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Hamilton House

One of the many properties you can visit with the Historic New England membership, the Hamilton House, was built about 1785 by shipbuilder and West Indies merchant Jonathan Hamilton. It was sited on a bluff overlooking the Salmon Falls River in South Berwick, Maine, where Mr. Hamilton could look out the windows and watch his ships come and go.

After Hamilton died his family did not continue to prosper and eventually in 1898 the house was purchased by wealthy Bostonians Emily Tyson and her stepdaughter Elise. They hired architects to restore the house and grounds and create a Colonial Revival-style country estate for their summer social entertaining.

The gardens were an important part of the renovation. Arbors were rebuilt, gardens replanted and a barn was moved from one part of the estate to another nearer the house and gardens. There is also a unique garden cottage just outside of the main gardens.

The heather gardens cover a hillside at The Fells in Maine. Terry Yockey / columnist
The heather gardens cover a hillside at The Fells in Maine. Terry Yockey / columnist

The Fells

The Fells was built in 1892 by John and Clara Hay on a nearly 1,000 acre hillside overlooking scenic Lake Sunapee in Newbury, N.H. John Hay was a private secretary to Abraham Lincoln and also Secretary of State under Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. The Fells 22-room Colonial Revival house and grounds was the family’s summer retreat.

A fountain adorns in the gardens at The Fells in Newbury, Maine. Terry Yockey / columnist
A fountain adorns in the gardens at The Fells in Newbury, Maine. Terry Yockey / columnist

It was the Hay’s son Clarence and his wife, Alice, that installed the expansive formal and informal gardens, stone walls and pathways. The couple traveled extensively and the gardens reflect the gardens they admired when visiting Italy and France. For more information on the gardens, see thefells.org/gardens-at-the-fells.

An old stone well provides a point of interest at the Fuller Gardens in New Hampshire. Terry Yockey / columnist
An old stone well provides a point of interest at the Fuller Gardens in New Hampshire. Terry Yockey / columnist
Fuller Gardens

Our friends live in North Hampton, N.H., and often visit the Fuller Gardens which is only a few miles from their home. Originally the gardens were next to Runnymede-by-the-Sea, the summer home of Alvan T. Fuller built in 1927. Fuller was a successful businessman who created the first auto dealership in Boston and also served as Governor of Massachusetts.

In the 1930s, Fuller hired landscape architects to renovate the gardens and create a new rose garden for his wife Viola. Today you can still enjoy the over 3 acres of formal English perennial beds and rose gardens with over 1,500 rose bushes planted. There is also a Japanese garden, a dahlia display garden and a conservatory full of unusual tropical plants.

Unfortunately, the Runnymede-by-the Sea estate house is no longer there, but for gardeners there is more than enough to see without it. After the gardens, be sure to take a walk by the ocean which is only a stone’s throw away.

And there is so much more to see in New England!