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Long Range Trip Planning for New England Fall Foliage Events, Attractions

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Small town center with fall foliage colors (photo by Jeff Folger)
Small town center with fall foliage colors (photo by Jeff Folger)

Planning for  your fall foliage activities

Are you setting your sights on a trip through the fall foliage of New England? Well now is the time to start planning the journey! Many facets of your trip can be left until you arrive but just on the off chance you might want to do something besides driving endlessly for 73 hours straight, what should you plan to do?

What can’t you do? That’s more the question…

Autumn events, attractions guide your plans

First, you know you want to find spectacular fall colors (this is a given) and my website Jeff is a good place to start. There I forecast what I think the fall will look like and if you leave comments with questions, I’ll let you know my thoughts of where to go.

Now, what I said above about events guiding your plans is important. If maritime history is important, along with seeing tall ships, then you don’t want to make reservations in Gorham, N.H. (a mill town with some spectacular views of fall foliage in autumn). Likewise, if you are looking to climb Mount Washington — with an elevation of 6,288 ft. — or one of the other area’s presidential mountains, then you don’t want to plan on being in Mystic, Conn. Common sense, right?

It’s wicked cold and rainy, what do I do?

If you only plan on driving from tree to tree until you go home, then this doesn’t matter too much — just stay in the car. If you plan to check in and then decide what to do, you have made more work for yourself. Head to the lobby and start grabbing travel pamphlets from the bin.

What I suggest…

First, you plan it out ahead of time and have one to three things planned in a day. Only one thing? You say I’m crazy? Well you might be right, (my wife agrees with you) :-), but let’s say you plan for less and make the most of it.

Itinerary based on having fun versus finding foliage

First, I want you to pull out a sheet of paper and mark down the three givens: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also you need to factor in things like are you an early riser or do you jog five miles all before 7 a.m. — or maybe later? Now plug in all the things you want or have scheduled between getting up and going to bed.


Arbortrek Zip Lines at Smugglers' Notch, Jeffersonville, Vt. (photo, courtesy of Arbortrek)
Arbortrek Zip Lines at Smugglers’ Notch, Jeffersonville, Vt. (photo, courtesy of Arbortrek)

Today’s schedule is ziplining and ice cream

Let’s say you plan to do ziplining through the fall foliage canopies of Vermont. So you are up in the Stowe area for canopy adventures ArborTrek Canopy Adventures at Smugglers’ Notch in Jeffersonville.  First you have hopefully made reservations! They do take drop-ins but if you arrive on a given day in early October with no flexibility, then please make reservations a few weeks in advance.

Let’s say you get there for the 10 a.m. tour, you have 35 minutes for the ground school, and then 1.5 to 2.5 hours for the eight ziplines, two repels, and two cable bridges.

Now it’s between 12 noon and 1 p.m. and time for lunch. So you drive into Stowe and eat. Let’s say on 1.5 hours to drive, dine and digest.

Now it’s around 3 p.m. (see what I mean about keeping your expectations on what to do in a day reasonable?), so what do you do?

How about head to Ben and Jerry’s for a free tour at its factory in Waterbury, Vt.? It’s a short drive, 30 minutes. The tour is on a first-come, first-serve tour (no reservations!).

So now it 4 p.m. and you take a drive down route 100 to Moss Glenn Falls (free) in Granville to see the fall colors against the cascading waterfall.

Now, it’s about time to think about dinner and then relaxing at the end of the day with lots of memories to enjoy.

Or… would you rather just drive for hours on end looking for the fall colors? Again, you have to decide what is important for you.

My suggestions for a fall foliage itinerary

Let’s say you arrive in Boston on the red eye at 6 a.m. Then get your rental car and hit the road. Or, if you get in at 5 p.m., I would think about

Out enjoying the New England fall color (photo by Jeff Folger)
Out enjoying the New England fall color (photo by Jeff Folger)

getting a hotel in the near airport vicinity and enjoying dinner nearby in Boston. Then, in the morning get your rental car (save a day on the rental and have it delivered to the hotel) and hit the road toward your first destination.

BOP? What is a BOP?

I’m retired Air Force so I love my acronyms but BOP stands for Base of  Operations. This is your first hotel and what (I think) you should do is stage from this central location. Let’s say it’s Oct. 10. I would plan on finding a hotel in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. You could also find something in south/central Vermont or central Maine — north or northwest of Portland.

The purpose of this idea is to allow you to explore to where the fall colors are showing up. Assuming the hotel you’re staying at is comfortable, you can come back here each night to relax. You might go north the first day to find something to do. Maybe explore the area around Conway, N.H., and drive up Route 16 to Pinkham Notch, N.H.

If the color arrive early this year, maybe you need to take a ride around Lake Winnipesaukee in the Lakes Region. You might stop into Meredith and see if the Mount Washington Steamer is still doing foliage trips on the lake.

Maybe you like trains? You can take a ride on the Hobo Line in Meredith (can be done for under $50 for a family of four) for a short trip down to Alton and back. If you want to see a listing of train services, check Jeff’s tour suggestion webpage to see a few of the trains the run through  New England’s scenic country side, as well as other travel ideas.

These are some of my ideas for exploring from a central location. If the color is late OR early, you have the choice to go north or south to find things to do.

Feel free to contact me or visit my site and leave a question in the comments.

Jeff “Foliage” Folger

Visit my exploring New England fall foliage website

Related article and resources::
Planning your New England fall foliage trip
Book a hotel in Meredith, N.H. (Lake Region)


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