Places to Avoid in New England

There's still some summer left and folks from hot climes think about cooling off in New England. Leaving aside the fact that New England humidity is often a rude surprise, the region has lots of charming places to visit: Vermont, Acadia National Park, Newport, Cape Cod, the White Mountains, the Berkshires, the Maine coast from York to Bethel... Those wanting an urban experience will find Boston a cultural and historical gem (and foodie paradise), Providence full of pleasant surprises, and Portland , ME and Burlington, VT the kind of places that spark the question, "Why wasn't I told about this place?"

Lawrence: New England's worst. But it has competition
The key to a good trip is knowing also where not to go. In truth, there simply aren't that many "nice" American cities and New England has the dishonor of sporting some real cesspools. Connecticut, for instance, has some of the poorest cities in the country, even though its per capita income is among the highest. As a public service, here are places you should avoid at all cost:

1. Lawrence, MA: If you wanted to update Dante's Inferno, Lawrence would be the ticket. It's a played out mill town that's become a dumping ground for social problems. Too poor to live in an urban ghetto? Try Lawrence. Last or near the bottom in every negative category imaginable.

2. Bangor, ME: Motorcycle gangs, fast food, and desperate people spending what they don't have in a faux-glitz casino. Bangor, once a lumber town, has always been rough, but the modern city exudes bad vibes.

3. New Haven, CT: Yale is there and it has amazing museums, but do not get lost here. Think gangbangers and crime ranging from petty (breaking into cars) to murder. For the record, New Haven pizza is America's most overrated.

4. Springfield, MA: On a warm day the stench of the Connecticut River's Bondi's Island waste treatment facility will force you to close the car windows. And that's one of the city's better features. The gateway to the postindustrial nightmare of Holyoke, Springfield has very little to recommend it, except the Basketball Hall of Fame. Luckily, that's just off the interstate, though you can see/smell Bondi's from there.

5. Central Falls/Pawtucket, RI: No jobs, decaying factories, dead downtowns... Central Falls was recently voted the worst town in America. That's not true, but not even Rhode Islanders find charm within the joined towns of Central Falls and Pawtucket. McCoy Stadium­, which opened in 1942, is one of minor league baseball's oldest venues. Not much else has been updated in Pawtucket either.

6. Lewiston, ME: A city that has become a dumping ground for refugees–especially Somalians–but this place was a pit long before they got there and they've actually made the town better. It's Holyoke with a colder climate.

7. St. Albans, VT: Here's a handle you don't want: the heroin capital of Vermont. The only other thing for which it's known is a Walmart frequented by bargain-hunting Quebecois. This saint should be desanctified.

8. Worcester, MA: The Detroit of Massachusetts–that is, a blue-collar tomb of crumbling red brick, rotting triple deckers, crime, and truly scary-looking street walkers. There are some nice parts to Worcester, but unless you know the city well and can negotiate traffic through its incomprehensible "squares" (which never have that shape), you'll never find them and neither will your GPS.

9. Brockton, MA & Bridgeport, CT: Even if these cities were not crime-ridden there would no reason to vist them. Does anything at all come to mind when you think of these places? I didn't think so.

10. Manchester, NH: Back in the day, Manchester was the world's largest industrial city. That day was the turn of the 20th century. Buildings of the former Amoskeag textile firm still line the riverbank, but Manchester is the poster child of New England deinstrialization. It has a nice minor league ballpark and enterprising city leaders. Some day it might turn around, but that day's not here yet.


chris ford said...
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Anonymous said...

Huh? For the record, I like the ballpark in Bridgeport, but you're dreaming if you think it's a safe city. 3rd worst crime in CT & you can look it up!