Where will you spend fall days in New England? The answer can be as individual as each color-splashed autumn leaf. New England may look like one compact, little, homogenous region, but the truth is: it is extraordinarily diverse.
You can have just about any type of experience in New England that you can imagine. Stay near a lake, the sea, the mountains, a valley, a forest. Visit historic sites, amusement parks, natural landmarks, museums, antique shops, farmstands, lighthouses. Eat at diners or gourmet restaurants. Stay in budget motels, cozy B&Bs or spa resorts. You get the picture.
As you consider options for your fall foliage vacation, there’s a general rule of thumb to follow if you hope to see peak color: If you're coming early in the season, go north. If you're coming toward the tail end of normal peak times, stay south.
So, from north to south, here is your guide to 10 of New England’s most popular fall foliage destinations: the places where leaf peepers flock each year not only to see trees afire but to experience all that makes New England in the fall incomparable.
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine
It’s one of New England’s most popular national parks and a rare coastal destination where dense forests turn brilliant colors in the fall. The contrast of leaves against a backdrop of sea and sky makes for stunning visuals, and a horse-drawn carriage ride through the park will allow you to admire the scenery at an ideal pace. While you’re on the Maine coast, you have to eat lobster, of course, so head to Thurston’s Lobster Pound for this area’s ultimate lobster-eating experience.
During fall foliage season, this ski town in western Maine makes an excellent home base for travelers seeking to experience all of the wonders of autumn in northern New England. With its own line-up of fun fall festivals and activities and easy proximity to scenic drives, hikes and attractions in Maine's Western Lakes and Mountains region and New Hampshire’s White Mountains, Bethel can be your launchpad for autumn adventures. The drive north from Bethel to Rangeley, Maine, is stunning in the fall.
Stowe is world-famous for four-season outdoor recreation, and fall’s vibrant colors are an added thrill. Hike, kayak, rock climb, go horseback riding, soar above the foliage on a gondola ride. Then, spend evenings enjoying the village’s diverse dining options and toasting your exploits with a Vermont craft brew. While you’re in northern Vermont, be sure to tour the Ben & Jerry’s factory and visit Cold Hollow Cider for fresh-pressed cider and hot cider doughnuts made by a doughnut robot.
The White Mountains can’t be beat for dramatic fall scenery, and the quintessential New England village of Jackson is convenient to everything including the famed Kancamagus Highway, yet it’s tucked enough away to feel like a romantic retreat. Once you cross Honeymoon Bridge—the red-painted covered bridge at the entrance to the village—you’ll feel in a little world all your own. Jackson’s at its most charming in October, when it is invaded each year by Pumpkin People.
From cute shops to working farms to historic sites like Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, Woodstock is your place to explore Vermont’s agricultural traditions in a surprisingly sophisticated setting. Embark on day trips in all directions, or be perfectly content snuggling in front of a fire as chilly nights bring on the fall color parade. Vermont’s “Grand Canyon”—Quechee Gorge—and New England’s most photographed farm are nearby and at their most photogenic in the fall. Read these fall photography tips before you go.
Located just 140 miles from Boston, 200 miles from New York City, and 125 miles from Hartford, Bennington, Vermont — tucked away in the Green Mountain State's southwest corner — is a perfect and central destination as New England begins to don autumn hues. The final resting place of New England’s best-known poet, Robert Frost, it's also an ideal destination if you'd like to see and photograph covered bridges.
Fall is a particularly good time to visit Salem, Massachusetts, especially if you like spooky spots. This was, after all, the notorious location of the Salem Witch Trials. The month of October is filled with Haunted Happenings, and in addition to all of the witchcraft museums and sites, there are plenty of other interesting attractions in this historic seaside town.
If you’re flying into Boston, consider Concord for the first stop on your New England autumn itinerary. Here, you can step back in time to formative chapters in America’s history. Or better yet—bicycle back in time. Historic Concord, where the opening battle of the American Revolution was fought and writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau sparked the Transcendentalist Movement, is remarkably bike-friendly, especially on glorious fall days.
The Berkshires are a beloved destination for scenery seekers, outdoorsy types, history buffs and arts lovers, and Lenox is in the center of this storied mountain region. With so many fabulous estates nearby—Chesterwood, The Mount, Naumkeag—you can spend fall days strolling dreamy pathways and immersing yourself in beauty. Don’t miss the chance to drive America’s first scenic byway: The Mohawk Trail. And to hike to Bash Bish Falls: a scene that has inspired artists since the 19th century.
Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills—just a two-hour drive from New York City—make a great fall foliage home base for travelers who want to see autumn's glory in western New England. Visit wineries and farms, shop for antiques, dine on farm-fresh fare. You’re within easy driving distance of the Berkshires and New York’s Hudson Valley, too, so book several nights, and enjoy all there is to do in these scenic environs.