For many fall foliage enthusiasts, leaf peeping is primarily a movable feast. They hop in their car, proceed to a colorful destination, and then meander through it, stopping along the way to enjoy Mother Nature’s annual fall fashion show.
For others, the colors present a spectacular backdrop for other outdoor activities.
But if there’s one thing that both schools can agree upon, it’s that no one does fall as splendiferously as New England. And this year, the first El Niño foliage season in four years, is projected to be another good one — starting sooner and lasting longer.
But before you head north, room availability at any time this month will be limited and you can expect to pay premium "peeper prices," especially on weekends. There is an abundance of accommodations across a range of options in these four destinations: upscale romantic inns, chain hotels, budget-friendly and family-oriented resorts.
Here are all-purpose New England getaways, each in a different state and offering a significantly different take on experiencing the change in colors.
As Green Mountain purists often quip, “well, at least you can see Vermont from Burlington.” To be sure, Vermont’s most populous city (but still only 45,000 people) is not your iconic small, white Congregational church-adorned village nestled in the mountains. But its setting in the expansively picturesque Lake Champlain Valley allows it to offer a wide range of farm-based activities (e.g., pumpkin patches and corn mazes) and for fall to linger longer than it does in the nearby mountains. Moreover, the “Queen City’s” larger size allows for a fuller menu of museums, exhibition centers, dining options and nightlife. And you can easily get to those iconic Vermont villages from there.
- Spirit of Ethan Allen III offers one-hour cruises on Lake Champlain: $34 ages 12 and older, $13.50 ages 3-11, through Oct. 22 (soea.com).
- Shelburne Museum features art and open-air living history; adults $25, $14 ages 13-17, $12 ages 5-12 open through Oct. 22 (shelburnemuseum.org).
- Shelburne Farms includes agricultural displays and activities for visitors; free (donations appreciated), open through Oct. 22 (shelburnefarms.org).
- Located less than an hour away, stylish Stowe is the world’s idea of a picturesque Vermont mountain village.
Six craft breweries call Burlington home, including Switchback (switchbackvt.com), the Vermont Pub and Brewery (vermontbrewery.com), and the Burlington Beer Company (burlingtonbeercompany.com) and all offering food and live music. For wine, there’s the Shelburne Vineyard (shelburnevineyard.com) and for cider, check out Citizen Cider (citizencider.com).
Queen City Ghost Walks with writer Thea Lewis, most evenings through October; $25 ages 10 and up (queencityghostwalk.com).
North Woodstock/Lincoln, New Hampshire
Located in a high-peak fastness in the thickly forested heart of the White Mountains, the conjoined Pemigewasset River Valley tourist towns of North Woodstock and Lincoln are where flatlanders come in droves throughout the summer to explore. By October, most of the kid-centric, human-made attractions have closed and the madding crowds have gone home. But Mother Nature, in all her rugged and towering beauty, is still open for business.
- Drive the scenic 35-mile Kancamagus Highway east from Lincoln and up and over Kancamagus Pass (2,855 feet) to Conway; free
- Clark’s Bears and Hobo Railroad: A White Mountain staple for decades with fall colors only enhancing the 2½-mile train ride; $33; $29 online ages 4-64, through Oct. 9; clarksbears.com
- Hike up the wooden boardwalks and stairways of the dramatic, granite-walled Flume Gorge: $21; $18 online for ages 13 and older, $19; $16 online for ages 6-12, through Oct. 22 (nhstateparks.org).
The Berkshires of western Massachusetts are a concentrated collage of colonial-era villages, complete with sugar maple-accented greens and hundred-year-old general stores. Check out the 19th-century industrial villages, bucolic farmlands and orchards, numerous grand historic homes, studios and galleries, all set amid an abundance of natural beauty. Once industrial Pittsfield, the “metropolis” of the Berkshires with 45,000 people, lies midway between the area’s two marquee fall event stages, the low, rolling southern Berkshires, with their emphasis on culture and gracious living, and the truly mountainous and more working-class northern Berkshires.
- Visit Hancock Shaker Village, a historical working farm, through December: $20 adults, $8 ages 3-17, hancockshakervillage.org
- Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort’s Aerial and Mountain Adventure Parks remain open weekends through mid-October (weather dependent); all park pass ($69, 54 inches and taller, $59, 49-53 inches) (jiminypeak.com).
- Drive or hike up 3,491-foot Mt. Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts, for panoramic 90-mile views; free, accessible through Oct. 29 (mass.gov).
Antimony in Lenox offers craft brews, live music, small and big plates (antimonybrewing.com).
ArtWeek Berkshires (Oct. 14-22) in Pittsfield and four other area cultural districts; free admission (berskshires.org).
The Litchfield Hills, Connecticut
Located in the northwest corner of the state — and less than 100 miles from New York City — the Litchfield Hills are New England writ small: charming 18th and 19th-century villages, linked together by still-working farms and presided over by benevolent, ancient hills. Come October, those hills don a luxuriant mantle of reds, oranges and yellows, and the villages snap back to life with seasonal activities. The Litchfield Hills abound in opportunities for harried city dwellers to both slow down and savor, and indulge themselves at an increasing number of pampering inns.
- Kent Falls State Park: At 250 feet, this is Connecticut’s highest. Parking: $15 weekends, $10 weekdays for out-of-state vehicles; stateparks.com
- If you have the energy, hike up 2,316-foot Bear Mountain, Connecticut’s highest peak for spectacular views (trailhead just north of Salisbury on Route 41) or wander the 1,200 lowland acres of the nearby Sharon Audubon Center, donations (sharon.audubon.org).
- Take your pick of pick-your-owns including March Farm in Bethlehem (marchfram.com), Averill Farm in Washington Depot (averillfarm.com), and Bunnell Farm in Litchfield (bunnellfarm.org)
- Kent Falls Brewing Company (kentfallsbrewing.com) in Kent; Housatonic River Brewing Company (housatonicriverbrewing.com) in New Milford, Hogan’s Cider Mill (hoganscidermill.com) in Harwinton and Hopkins Vineyard (hopkinsvineyard.com) in Warren.
- Black Bear Americana Music Festival features rock, blues, folk and bluegrass music in Goshen Oct. 6-8 ($54 per day) (blackbearmusicfest.com)