8 fall trips in New England that check every travel style

Vacation recommendations for apple cider doughnuts, historic inns and hiking under radiant Northeast foliage

A hiker stops at Artist’s Bluff in New Hampshire’s Franconia Notch State Park.
A hiker stops at Artist’s Bluff in New Hampshire’s Franconia Notch State Park. (iStock)

The United States is perhaps the greatest country in the world in which to appreciate the magic of fall. Sure, we don’t hold a candle to Europe when it comes to scarves. Other places also have Oktoberfest, harvest festivals and the spectacle of changing leaves.

But take a trip through the Northeast from September through October, and you’ll see why we do it better than the rest. It’s the pumpkin patches, the seasonal treats, the decorations on Main Streets. (And yes, it’s also the foliage.)

“We have something like 10 times as many species [of trees] that change colors as Western Europe,” says Austin Rempel, senior manager of forest restoration for the nonprofit American Forests.

Just one corner of the United States offers everything you want from a dreamy autumnal getaway, and you can enjoy it all over a weekend. But remember: “Book everything and anything in advance if you can,” says Rani Cheema, founder of Cheema’s Travel. “[This year] has been high season even during the low season.”

To figure out exactly where to go, we sorted out recommendations by travel style.

Your guide to planning fall travel, from leaf peeping to cheap flights

1

For foliage: Woodstock, Vt.

Vermont’s native sugar maple, basswood and mountain ash are just some of the trees you’ll see transform to gold, vermilion and amber for the season. According to the 2022 fall foliage prediction map, the state should start seeing the changing colors mid-September and reach its peak by Oct. 10.

Gwen Nicol, a personal travel adviser for the luxury tour operator Scott Dunn, recommends Woodstock, Vt., for leaf appreciation.

To better explore local farms, taverns and nearby mountain towns, Nicol says it’s essential to have a car, “but you can also rent bikes for gentle rides through the bridges surrounded by colorful leaves,” she says.

Nicol recommends Woodstock Inn for its “classic elegance,” rooms with wood-burning fireplaces and enclosed porches.

Cheema suggests looking for a cute bed-and-breakfast or hotel, but if you do go with an Airbnb, she encourages travelers to stick to ones with tons of great reviews or Superhosts. She has had clients experience racism, even at pricey listings in the region.

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2

For hiking: Franconia Notch State Park, N.H.

We’d be remiss to exclude New Hampshire’s White Mountains — particularly for hiking enthusiasts — even if it is one of the region’s best-known destinations for fall trips.

For easy access to hikes in Franconia Notch State Park, Haley Hamblin, a Washington Post photo editor from the region, recommends staying at an Airbnb in the town of Franconia, at the base of the mountains. The park has hikes for different skill levels, including shorter, kid-friendly trails and multiday backpacking routes. Plus, “it’s still very close to the rest of the Presidential Range and easy to hop onto the famous Kancamagus highway,” Hamblin says.

Her other suggestion is Littleton, a town about 20 minutes from hikes with a lovely downtown for dining and shopping. Whichever you pick, “keep in mind, we get our first snow around Halloween most years, so people should be prepared for cold weather,” Hamblin says.

Another option outside of New Hampshire for amazing hikes is New York’s Watkins Glen State Park on the southernmost part of Seneca Lake.

“Going in the fall, it will be very colorful, and you have gorges and cliffs and waterfalls,” says Anthony Berklich, a travel consultant and founder of the travel platform Inspired Citizen.

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3

For food lovers: Camden, Maine

Between its seafood, blueberries and breweries, Maine is a destination for gourmands. If you can only stop to eat in one town — beyond the obvious Portland — go with Camden.

Along the main drag there, you’ll find diners and luncheonettes such as Boynton-Mckay Food Co. and Marriner’s Restaurant. (Get the blueberry pancakes.) Around the bend, you can stop for wine and oysters at Oyster River Winegrowers. Locals love the husband-and-wife-owned Thai restaurant Long Grain.

To get a distinct taste of Maine, go to Wolfpeach, a casual-feeling fine-dining restaurant that showcases the best of the state’s farms, foragers, fishermen, winemakers and brewers. Everything on the menu is local and seasonal, down to the flour that is milled in Skowhegan and used for the restaurant’s pastas and crusty sourdough.

4

For peak cozy: Stowe, Vt.

Stowe, Vt., is a strong contender for America’s most hygge destination.

“Think fresh cider doughnuts and one of the best nationally recognized breweries, Alchemist,” says Benjamin Liong Setiawan, a lifestyle writer based in New York City.

If that doesn’t sound charming enough for you, Stowe is also home to the Trapp Family Lodge, “as in the von Trapp family from ‘Sound of Music,’ ” Setiawan says. “Sam von Trapp runs the brewery and is the grandson of Maria. … He might be the one giving tours of the brewery if you’re lucky.”

5

For spooky stuff: Portsmouth, N.H.

Salem isn’t the only fall destination for travelers interested in witches, ghosts and goblins. For a less-obvious option that also carries a history of witch hysteria, Berklich recommends Portsmouth, N.H.

The town gets into the Halloween spirit every fall, hosting many events in October. Berklich suggests travelers stay in one of the town’s bed-and-breakfasts or Airbnbs.

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6

For a wellness retreat: Westport, Mass.

For outdoor yoga, hiking and Cape Cod-like beaches, Nadine Paulo, director of product for the luxury travel company Travel Edge, sends travelers to Westport, Mass.

Even just about an hour from Boston, “it’s still a hidden gem of a town,” Paulo says.

Stay at Paulo’s pick, the Paquachuck Inn, which was built as a general store in the 1820s. The convenient location on the harbor puts you close to Westport’s beaches and seafood restaurants. About a 15-minute drive up the road, there’s Paulo’s other recommendation, the equally historical Stone House Inn in Little Compton, R.I.

Both Berklich and Alisa Cohen, founder of the Virtuoso travel agency Luxe Traveler Club, vouch for a wellness weekend in Lenox, Mass. The town in the Berkshires is home to not one, but two legendary resorts, Miraval and Canyon Ranch. If you can afford the splurge, they’re both world-class spots for autumnal spa weekends.

7

For a climate-friendly weekend: Burlington, Vt.

For a greener fall getaway, take the Amtrak to Burlington, Vt., on the eastern shoreline of Lake Champlain, where 100 percent of the city’s power comes from renewable sources. There are plenty of low-impact ways to enjoy the cute college town, such as renting bikes and hiking through its parks.

Go off the grid and camp or stay downtown at the LEED-certified Hotel Vermont. Either way, don’t miss a visit to Shelburne Vineyard for concerts, special events and trying winemaker Ethan Joseph’s natural wine label, Iapetus, at the source.

8

For families: Pair a city with the country

For those taking the family for a fall weekender, Cohen recommends pairing a few days in an easy-to-get-to city with a couple of days somewhere more rural or charming, such as Portland and Ogunquit, in Maine, or Boston and the Berkshires, in Western Massachusetts.

Driving between city and country will give you the opportunity to stop at farms with pumpkin patches, petting zoos and other kid-friendly attractions. You can also plot other day-trip spots along the way. In the Berkshires, for example, consider detours to the Hancock Shaker Village former commune, catch concerts or events at Tanglewood, wander through the corn maze at Ioka Valley Farm or shop for handmade toys at the Acorn Toy Shop.

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