There are many ways to get into the New England autumn spirit, but, for me, Hollis, N.H., in southern New Hampshire has always been one of the most colorful leafs amongst fall travel destinations.
This small town located just west of Nashua, N.H., offers an instantly appealing rural New England ambiance with its scenic rolling hills, open fields, big old barns, winding country roads, welcoming farm stands, beautiful Silver Lake State Park and an entire quaint village center listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
When the leaves start to change color and that unmistakable crisp autumn air saturates the town, Hollis holds it annual Hollis Town Band Apple Festival the first Sunday of October (this year, Oct. 2, 2016, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m). All that is good about the New England fall takes up full residence at this downtown event with the Hollis Town Band performing marches, symphonic pieces and popular compositions in and around the idyllic town common, homemade apple pies and apple crisp for sale (baked by Hollis Women’s Club members), and arts and crafts activities and vendors. Admission to the event is free.
The New England spirit is in full swing at the Hollis Town Band Apple Festival with hundreds of people enjoying the day and always some locals telling us why they moved to Hollis years ago from the big city and would never leave — usually expressed in direct, no-holds-barred language.
We recommend topping the Festival off with some delicious Doc Davis ice cream (some of the best around, and with its business based in neighboring Pepperell, Mass.). Doc Davis ice cream just makes this fall event even that much sweeter!
Don’t let the Apple Festival be the beginning and end of your Hollis fall travel experience. Brookdale Fruit Farm (41 Broad St., Tel. 603-465-2240) is a fabulous seventh generation farm that has seen its humble beginnings from 166 years ago transform into one of New England’s best, highly developed farm stands. Even with its growth, Brookdale has remained scenic, unspoiled, unrushed and with salt-of-the-earth, unpretentious owners and staff making you feel right at home.
Apple picking reigns as the major activity at Brookdale Fruit Farm with a tremendous variety across the expansive fields, but you’ll also find a outstanding selection of fruits and veggies at the indoor farm stand, as well as grass fed beef, cheeses, eggs and raw honey straight from the farm, and homemade pies, jams and jellies. Brookdale also sells cookware and gift items — the latter often made locally. Like most farm stands, Brookdale offers a budget-friendly experience for the traveler. We never spend much here, but always leave satisfied with a bag of healthy fruits and veggies.
If you didn’t sample ice cream from the Apple Festival, don’t worry. Brookdale has its own ice cream stand offering Annabelle’s Ice Cream. Anabelle’s was once named by Food and Wine Magazine as one of the best ice creams in the United States!
Be sure to also check out Silver Lake State Park (138 Silver Lake Rd.). Best known for its swimming beach in the summer, Silver Lake takes on its own unique personality in the fall with often spectacular fall foliage wonderfully reflecting into the lake. Unlike the crowded summer scenes, the fall version is still and so peaceful — so good for the heart and soul of anyone needing to unwind from the daily urban and suburban grind.
If you are in a shopping mood, the Hollis Flea Market takes place every Sunday from approximately 7 a.m. to 3p.m. at 447 Silver Lake Rd. (Tel. 603-465-7677. It’s quite a lively scene here — the largest, oldest running flea market in New Hampshire — with 400 vendor spaces on 20 acres and pretty much everything sold here except the proverbial kitchen sink. The season runs until November 24th 2013.
Hungry for something other than the aforementioned ice cream and looking to stay in the cheap eats category? The sunny Hollis Country Kitchen (3 Proctor Hill Rd., Tel. 603-465-7040) is open for breakfast and lunch on Sundays (and for dinner Tuesday-Saturday) and features some really impressive home cooked meals, as well as homemade pies and Greek and Italian cuisine. The place is super friendly and the homemade corned beef hash is out of this world!
About 15 minutes down the road heading west, you’ll find Parker’s Maple Barn at 1316 Brookline Rd in Mason (Tel. 603) 878-2308). This rustic restaurant located virtually in the middle of nowhere features hearty breakfasts and maple based foods. We love the Parker’s Special: two eggs, two pancakes (or one french toast), two bacon strip, two sausages and ham or ham hash in place of all
meats, home fries and toast. Try the maple baby back ribs, maple baked beans with ham or the maple frappe — all incredibly yummy! Parker’s goes beyond just being a restaurant, however, as you can walk the charming covered bridge to the Corn Crib Gift Shop with two floors of country store-type gifts. Home furnishings, candles, toys, books, Native American art clothing and jewelry and, of course, maple products, are a few of the items you’ll find here. Parker’s is open for breakfast and lunch.
While Parker’s Maple Barn and the Hollis area, in general, provide a wonderful fall escape, check out Pickity Place (248 Nutting Hill Rd., Tel. 603-878-1151) if you truly want to leave the planet. This peaceful red cottage from 1786 provides some wonderful moments of rural isolation with themed gardens to stroll like the “butterfly, silver, oregano, bird, healing, and moonlight.” Beautifully situated in the southern New Hampshire hills, Pickity Place also sells seasonings and dip mixes, as well as offering five-course gourmet luncheons specializing in locally sourced foods, herbs and edible flowers. No, this is not a budget-type meal, but definitely one to consider if wanting to splurge a little!
When reluctantly exiting the Hollis area, we are always amazed at how quickly the 100 pounds of weight on the shoulders sets in with a return to what we call civilization. Nashua — really a nice little city, overall — provides a complete 180 with its faster pace, shopping and dining frenzy on the overdeveloped Daniel Webster Highway, and city elements ranging from run down tenament structures to an truly impressive bustling downtown scene on Main Street.
Not that there is anything wrong with Nashua, but right away you want to turn the car around and head back to where the air is fresh and clean, the scenery so pleasing and the overall feeling so “New England.” That’s the beauty of New England, however — places like Hollis are easily driveable for Bostonians like us. It will always be there as a dear friend when we choose to visit, and fall is when the relationship really develops in shining colors.