Walking tours are great for connecting with a locale -- and if you do some research, you can cover ground with guides who will give you the juiciest details and off-the-record facts about a place and its history. Here are five in New England that will take you off the beaten path.
1. THE SHOELEATHER HISTORY PROJECT, HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT The group, which looks at "stories from Hartford's grassroots," presents two Radical Walking Tours. The first starts and ends at the Old State House and covers political activist Emma Goldman, suffragist Josephine Bennett, artist Alton Toby and others. The second tour, from Charter Oak to Hyssop avenues, looks at Mark Twain, the struggles of female factory workers, a doctor who created the first weapon of mass destruction and more.
INFO $10 suggested donation; shoeleatherhistoryproject.comWeekend getaways
2. HAUNTED HISTORY WALKING TOURS, PORTSMOUTH, NEW HAMPSHIRE New England Curiosities' Haunted Pubs tour serves up a glass of Portsmouth's tavern and brewery history and ghostly tales. The company's Wicked Haunted Waterfront Tour re-creates the city's rough and gritty seaport of Colonial times.
INFO $15-$20; 800-979-3370, newenglandcuriosities.com
3. BOSTON CHOCOLATE TOURS How's this for a sweet trip? Each Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., visitors can join the Great Boston Cupcake Crawl, a 21/2-hour walking tour of Beantown neighborhoods and landmarks, along with the history of cupcakes and how they're created. You'll also get cupcake samples at each destination.
INFO $55; 617-942-0353, bostonchocolatetours.com
4. THE WICKED WALKING TOURS, PORTLAND, MAINE Guides and performance artists, including stand-up comics and opera singers, turn dark stories of pirates, witches and American Indians dating back to the 1600s into theater on this walking tour.
INFO $18; 888-718-4253, wickedwalkingtours.com
5. HOPE CEMETERY, BARRE, VERMONT This offbeat tourist attraction is not only the final resting place of some 10,000 souls, but it's a quirky sculpture garden of unusual memorials, including a half-size replica of a race car, a giant soccer ball and a couple in pajamas sitting up in bed.
INFO Free; 802-476-6245