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Follow the Trade Winds to an Antique Boat Show this Summer

Even as adults, we have to admit it: just like fire trucks and trains, boats are inherently cool. They set the scene for kids’ make-believe games, they dominate cinema screens, they stop us in our tracks and ask us to imagine both the past and the future at once. Humans designed these machines to take on some of nature’s greatest hurdles; they’re a testament to ingenuity, craftsmanship, and perseverance. Some of the world’s finest examples come together at antique boat shows in New England every summer, and we owe it to ourselves to check them out in person. After all, there’s no age limit on fascination.

Connecticut Lighthouse
credit: Connecticut Office of Tourism

WoodenBoat Show — Mystic, CT

This celebration of wooden boats of all shapes and sizes is produced by WoodenBoat Magazine, whose fans take marveling at watercraft to the next level. Their attention to detail means we get a rare treat: historic racing sloops restored to their original glory, hand-built modern speed boats, and elegant, efficient fishing vessels, all docked at America’s leading maritime museum. Admission to the show includes admission to the museum, so there’s plenty to explore for a full day. With activities like Family BoatBuilding, which lets teams work together to build their own canoe or skiff over the weekend, it’s no wonder Yankee Magazine’s Travel Guide ranks the WoodenBoat Show among Connecticut’s Top 20 Events for the Summer. Hotels and Lodging in Mystic, CT

Camden Windjammer Festival — Camden, ME

credit: Maine Office of Tourism (Bob Angell)
credit: Maine Office of Tourism (Bob Angell)

Designed with cutting-edge technology, windjammers were the last great sailing ships to dominate worldwide trade before being replaced by steamers around the turn of the 20th century.  They were fast and efficient and could carry thousands of tons of cargo. These days, windjammers have made a comeback carrying people instead — they’re a classic, low-impact alternative to modern cruises, offering tours and trips up and down the New England coast. These wind-powered cruise fleets get together in Camden, Maine, every year for an up-close look at today’s sailing culture at the Camden Windjammer Festival. You can have dinner on one of the vessels, and the whole town gets involved with fireworks, a Build-A-Boat contest, Chowder Challenge, and more. Where to stay in Camden, ME

Gloucester Schooner Festival — Antique Boat Show in Gloucester, MA

credit: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

Gloucester has worked its way into American fiction, folk music, and culture as a cornerstone of the fishing industry past and present, and it hosts one of the largest fishing boat festivals around. The Gloucester Schooner Festival features antique boats alongside modern-day trawlers, and the highlight here is the Mayor’s Race. The schooners proceed past the Fisherman’s Memorial on Stacy Boulevard in the Parade of Sail and then compete for the Esperanto Cup starting at Eastern Point. Inns and resorts near Gloucester, Massachusetts 



Lake Champlain Maritime Festival Vintage Boat Show — Burlington, VT

The Lake Champlain Maritime Festival antique boat show features vessels from Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, and beyond. It draws thousands to the shore in Burlington with live music and good vibes. This festival is free for spectators, and you can even vote for your favorite boat for the People’s Choice Award. Burlington, VT hotels  Antique boat shows bring generations together — they're the perfect opportunity to merge maritime traditions with family traditions. When you're planning your warm weather trip to the waterfront, consider making classic, independent inns and resorts in New England part of your tradition, too.

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