Some travelers might equate a Canada/New England cruise with crisp autumn months, but the region has so much more to offer than just fall foliage. A cruise to Canada and New England in the summer means countless outdoor festivals, spectacular seasonal cuisine, warmer weather -- and plenty of Shakespeare, seafood and jazz. You might even have a chance to take advantage of the pool onboard your ship. We've rounded up some of the most popular ports on these itineraries to bring you 10 reasons you should consider sailing to Canada/New England in the summertime.
It's Peak Lobster Season in Bar Harbor
Sure, you can get a tasty lobster just about any time in Maine, but for soft shell lobster you'll want to visit Bar Harbor in July or August. When the Gulf of Maine begins to warm, a seasonal molt takes effect meaning lobsters shed their hard shells and also grow in size -- to delicious results. After you're done lunching on lobster, take a hike in Acadia National Park surrounded by lush greenery or ride the Schoodic Ferry (open mid-June to mid-September). If you're still feeling famished, tea and popovers on the lawn at the Jordan Pond House in Acadia is a summer tradition.
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The Gilded Age Elite's Former Summer Homes in Newport
Stroll Newport in the same season as its most extravagant residents. The staggering mansions known throughout Rhode Island -- like Vanderbilt's The Breakers -- were primarily built as summer residences. Many of these grounds are open to the public today, including the spectacular topiary garden known as Green Animals (which closes in October). Annual flower shows, musical festivals (jazz, blues and the renowned Newport Folk Festival), a kite festival -- and plenty of polo -- fill the months of June and July.
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Halifax's Epic Festivals
Halifax has a rich history, accessible year-round through museums, but its history and culture come alive in the summertime through a number of festivals. Learn more about Canada -- and Nova Scotia's -- First Nation culture on National Aboriginal/Indigenous Peoples Day, June 21. If you're not in town on the summer solstice, keep an eye out for the Busker, Fringe, Folk, Beer and Pride festivals -- all held in the summer months. Even better, Halifax has an active food truck scene when the temperature rises.
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Enjoy an Outdoor Beer Garden Next to a Free Circus in Quebec City
Most postcards of the Quebec City skyline show an idyllic cityscape with renowned Chateau Frontenac framed by colorful trees. What you don't see is what a bustling city Quebec can be in the summer -- and with many attractions right at the cruise terminal. La Cour arriere du Festibiere is a beer garden and water park in one -- right along the Saint Lawrence River. After sipping your local brew sitting ankle deep in a wading pool, head to the Crepuscule, a free acrobatic circus held in an outdoor theater at the port -- but only in the summer.
Photo: Brittany Chrusciel/Cruise Critic
No One Does the Fourth of July like Boston
Whale-watching, harbor tours, public gardens in bloom, farmers markets, dragon boats, Shakespeare on the Common, even ziplining the Greenway -- these are just some of the things available to cruisers visiting Boston in the summertime. Topping the list is the chance to check out Beantown the week of July 4; Harborfest is the historic city's Independence Day celebration with hundreds of festivities beginning on June 30 and culminating in a spectacular fireworks display with music from the Boston Pops. If you can't make it to town for The Fourth, try checking out festivals that celebrate everything from pizza to jazz, or grab a summer game at Fenway, the oldest baseball stadium in the country.
Experience a Scottish Festival in Charlottetown
Prince Edward Island carries charm in spades, perhaps best known as the home of "Anne of Green Gables." A musical rendition of the beloved book series is held with a June-through-September run during the Charlottetown Festival. But lesser known is The Highland Games and Scottish Festival, typically held in early August. The festival features step dancing competitions, pipe bands, sheepdog demonstrations and traditional delicacies, providing a taste of Scotland.
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Ghost Stories, Picnics and a Regatta in St. John's
You might expect The Royal St. John's Regatta -- one of North America's oldest sporting events dating back to 1816 -- or the George Street Festival, with music held in downtown bars across St. John's, to be fun activities in August. But you probably wouldn't expect summer in Newfoundland to be the season for ghost stories. On Friday and Saturday evenings in July and August, stop in to Signal Hill's Queen's Battery Barracks to hear a local folklorist tell spooky, historical stories. For something a bit more laid-back, head one hour south to the Ferryland Lighthouse and enjoy a sunny afternoon lunch with treats from local purveyor Lighthouse Picnics.
Celebrate Canada Day in Festival Capital Montreal
Montreal, the largest city in Quebec, hosts so many festivals (roughly 144 major ones annually), that it's become one of the world's leading festival cities. Since Montrealers clearly know how to celebrate, consider a cruise that coincides with Canada Day (July 1). Montreal's Canada Day Parade has been going strong for more than 40 years and it's followed by free cake -- what more could you want? How about free activities all around the city, fireworks and concerts, including overlap with one of Montreal's most famous jubilees, The Montreal Jazz Festival.
Get Something for Free in New York
New York is notorious for weighing heavy on wallets, but summer in the city is a different animal. Depending on when your ship is in port, events like the Museum Mile Festival, usually in June, offer comped admission into the Big Apple's most famous museums like the Guggenheim or the Met. Brooklyn and Central Park also host a variety of free outdoor concerts called SummerStage throughout the season. Can't afford the Metropolitan Opera? Every August, Lincoln Center Plaza hosts 10 alfresco HD screenings of past Met performances like "La Traviata."
Get a Taste of History, Puppetry and Planes in Saguenay
The Saint Lawrence port of Saguenay, a part of Quebec, has much to offer cruisers in the summer. "The Fabulous Story of a Kingdom" is a staged spectacle recounting the history of Saguenay with more than 100 actors embodying 1,600 personas -- plus animals and special effects -- that runs July through August. If that isn't enough of a show, take the family to the International Festival of Puppetry Arts, held in late July. If you crave more of a macho display, the Bagotville International Air Show, held in June, offers adrenaline-pumping air tricks to thousands of visitors -- free of charge.
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