Robert Frost’s “nothing gold can stay” maxim rings especially true this season as fall’s fleeting gold, orange and red foliage peaks in the poet’s home states of Vermont and neighboring New Hampshire.
But that brief, gloriously Instagrammable fall color can still be captured on a weekend getaway in Brattleboro, Vermont, and Keene, New Hampshire, located 20 minutes apart and roughly a three and a half-hour hour-drive from Long Island.
A tale of two cities, both Brattleboro and Keene were founded in 1753 and named after English nobles, but nowadays they’re a study in contrast with thriving downtowns.
Here’s a guide to turning over a new leaf in your fall foliage travels, shuttling between walkable, pet-and-family friendly twin cities known for nostalgic downtown shopping, waterview dining, leaf-peeping on a hike, bike or kayak and scenic brewery crawls.
COVID restrictions vary per venue; be sure to check what’s in effect before visiting.
Brattleboro, a 19th century mill town and water cure resort, was famously home to 1960s and ‘70s communes, some of whose residents stayed on and continue to influence the zeitgeist, according to local histories.
THINGS TO DO
The counterculture thrives at the Brattleboro Food Co-Op, a community-owned natural foods market and deli founded in the 1970s, where the fare includes a veggie, vegan, meat and gluten-free option buffet. (2 Main St., Brattleboro, 802-257-0236, brattleborofoodcoop.coop) Brattleboro is also a coffee-lovers town, with some half-dozen shops including Mocha Joe’s, where drinks are made with solar-powered roasted beans. (82 Main St., 802-257-7794, mochajoes.com) Across Main Street at Patio Coffee, savor your latte and pastry on a porch with a stunning mountain view. (139 Main St., Brattleboro)
Downtown’s buzziest restaurant is the Whetstone Beer Company, named for adjacent Whetstone Brook. Tables indoors and on the sunny patio both overlook the Connecticut River. (36 Bridge St. Brattleboro, 802-490-2354, whetstonebeer.com) Upstream in West Brattleboro, the Brook flows under the rooster red Creamery Covered Bridge, built in 1879, and nowadays reserved for foot traffic. On Saturdays through October walk over to Brattleboro Area Farmer’s Market for natural soap, bread and even gelato. (570 Western Ave./Rte. 9, Brattleboro, 802-254-8885, brattleboroareafarmersmarket.com)
Downtown shoppers can rummage the aisles of secondhand dealers and mom-and- pop retailers. At the Twice Upon a Time consignment shop, a tartan throw, Frida Kahlo embroidered pillow and four gold-rimmed glasses cost under $100. (63 Main St., Brattleboro, 802-254-2261, twicetime.com) At Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, a 90-year-old family business, friendly salesfolk found the comfy walking shoes this writer had been seeking for years. (74 Main St., Brattleboro, 802-254-2933, samsoutfitters.com)
Rent a kayak or canoe from the Vermont Canoe Touring Center and launch into serenity and enjoy the foliage. Open through Columbus Day, rentals are $20-$30 per hour. (451 Putney Rd., Brattleboro, Vermont, 802-257-5008, vermontcanoetouringcenter.com)
Explore the outdoors (three hiking trails; easy to moderate difficulty) at Fort Dummer State Park (Open through mid-Oct.; 10 a.m. to sunset). The park features 50 tent/trailer sites and 10 lean-to sites offering bathing in a hot shower or a swimming hole. Overnight camping ranges from $28-$50. Park admission is $5 for adults, $2 for children 4 to 13, free 3 and younger. (517 Old Guilford Rd., Guilford, vtstateparks.com)
Don't miss the 15th Annual Domino Toppling Extravaganza on Oct. 16 at 5:30 p.m. at Brattleboro Museum & Art Center. Admission is $5. (10 Vernon St., Brattleboro, 802-257-0124, brattleboromuseum.org)
The sweet smell of hot buttered popcorn from the on-site movie theater pervades the Latchis Hotel, where rooms are pet-friendly ($20 one-time fee), equipped with record player and vintage LPs and a Main Street or mountain view. Room rates start at $140 nightly. (50 Main St., Brattleboro, 802-254-6300, latchishotel.com)
KEENE, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Keene was once hyped as having the world’s widest paved Main Street — and it’s still the pride and joy of a downtown from New England central casting that stood in for the "Jumanji" movies’ fictional Brantford.
THINGS TO DO
Main Street buzzes with restaurant row Mexican at Mi Jalisco (463 West St., Keene, 603-354-3123, mijalisco1nh.com) and brick-oven pizza at the recently reopened Fireworks Restaurant. (22 Main St., 603- 338-0081, fireworkskeene.com) For dessert, amble over for ambrosial mini-cupcakes at Life is Sweet. (32 Central Square, Keene, 603-352-0900, lifeissweetcandystore.com)
Craft brews from stout to juicy are also Main Street mainstays. Can releases keep the scene hopping (and hoppy) at Modestman Brewing (100 Main St., Keene, 603-352-7695, modestmanbrewing.com) Or take a beer flight in the garden at Elm City Brewing Company brewery and restaurant. (222 West St., Keene, 603-355-3335, elmcitybrewing.com)
Throughout autumn, Keene’s brick crosswalks and spiffy storefronts invite a Main Street meander inevitably leading to the Central Square’s gazebo, fountain and Civil War Soldiers Monument. Stop at the Cheshire Children’s Museum for hands-on exhibits (149 Emerald St., Keene, 603-903-1800, cheshirechildrensmuseum.org), and The Colonial Theatre, an ornate 1924 picture palace re-imagined as a performing arts center. (95 Main St., Keene, 603-357-1233, thecolonial.org)
Alas, nothing leafy, orange, red or gold can stay, but in the coming weeks fall hues will be ubiquitous from Monadnock State Park (169 Poole Rd, Jaffrey; $15 parking fee) to the Cheshire Rail Trail (free), which runs through downtown Keene.
Get in the Halloween spirit at 'The Gathering of the Gourds' in downtown Keene with trick-or-treating and pumpkin carving from 2 to 7 p.m. Oct. 22. (facebook.com)
More events to check out while visiting the area are Oktoberfest, featuring German-style food, music and games on Oct. 8 at Stonewall Farm, a nonprofit agricultural education center (242 Chesterfield Rd., Keene, 603-357-7278, stonewallfarm.org) and Keene Pride celebrates National Coming Out Day with staged readings and personal stories at 7 p.m. Oct. 11 at Keene Public Library. (60 Winter St., Keene, 603-352-0157, keenenh.gov)
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Keene Downtown welcomes pets ($40 fee) and recently changed its complimentary breakfast buffet to include burritos, quiche and souffles. Room rates start at $174 nightly. (30 Main St., Keene, 603-357-7070, marriott.com)