Leaf-peepers flock to New England each year for nature's display of brightly colored leaves. Here are some suggestions for the best spots around New England to view this glorious show, beginning in late September and continuing through mid-October. One thing to keep in mind as you plan your fall foliage road trip--the leaves follow a pattern as they change moving from north to south and higher elevations to low, so plan accordingly.
Vermont has the highest percentage of maple trees in New England with mountains awash in vibrant oranges and yellows; the autumn colors generally peak the second week of October. Take the Green Mountain Byway, VT 100, from the funky small towns of Stowe through Waterbury, past farms and mountains before taking scenic Route 125, or Middlebury Gap Road, through Green Mountain National Forest.
Stay: Green Mountain Inn is a green-certified hotel in the Stowe Mountains with guided foliage hikes, gondola rides and fall mountain adventures.
Do: Check out the scenery from above on a hot air balloon ride in Stowe. Above Reality Hot Air Balloon Rides offers panoramic views of the region including nearby Lake Champlain. Fuel your ride with a snack from the Ben & Jerry's factory in Waterbury with samples and scoops.
Eat: The Shed (1859 Mountain Road) is a casual spot with tasty burgers and a great selection of microbrews and local craft beers.
Though it may vary from year to year, the fall foliage peaks in the White Mountains in the beginning of October. Take the Kancamagus Highway, Route 112, from Lincoln to Conway to see some of New Hampshire's legendary leaves.
Stay: The White Mountain Hotel in Bretton Woods has 90 luxurious rooms with great mountain and cliff views.
Do: The Kanc, as it's known to locals, runs for 37 miles through the White Mountains, an area known for its covered bridges and mountain fun. Soar through the trees hooked on a zip-line on the Bretton Woods Canopy Tour. When you're back on solid ground, follow Route 16 to Route 302 to Route 3 to Franconia Notch where you can take in the view from the sky during a ride on the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway and stroll through covered bridges and past waterfalls along the hiking trail at the Flume Gorge.
Eat: Ledges Dining Room at the White Mountain Hotel has fine dining in the mountains with a Friday-night seafood buffet stocked with New England specialties like seafood chowder and littleneck clams and an over-the-top Sunday brunch buffet with endless chafing dishes of breakfast favorites.
Follow the Mohawk Trail through the Berkshires and marvel at the brightly colored fall leaves and artsy small towns. Starting in Williamstown, take Route 7 to Route 2, the Mohawk Trail, and continue east past North Adams. Just past Charlemont, take a small detour to Route 8A North to cross the Bissell Covered Bridge, a 160-foot-long picturesque bridge.
Stay: North Adams has a charm all its own, unique from the quintessential New England small town, with its focus on cutting-edge art and hip style. Porches is a fashionable lodging choice that beckons city folk and artists to enjoy the renovated Victorian row homes with 47 comfy and retro rooms.
Do: The artsy town of North Adams alights with fall fever each year during Fall Foliage Festival in early October, a celebration of the leaves with a parade and family fun. Follow the Mohawk Trail, stopping at scenic vantage points for photos, and continue on to historic Greenfield to check out the foliage around the 3-story lookout at Poet's Seat Tower.
Eat: The creation of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, or Mass MoCA, in 1999 put North Adams on the cultural map for cutting-edge exhibits and performing arts. Likewise, the museum's on-site restaurant the Gramercy Bistro tempts the palate with a modern spin on classic cuisine for dinner and Sunday brunch.
Take Route 9 to explore the lower Connecticut River Valley.
Stay: The Bee and Thistle Inn in Old Lyme was built in 1756 but was moved to its current location in the early 20th century. The 9 rooms are stately and elegant with 4-poster beds, luscious linens and private bathrooms.
Do: Ride the rails on the Essex Steam Train, a historic train with an authentic steam location and vintage rail cars, that sets off from Essex for a scenic journey past the area's prettiest leaves. If you prefer sailing the seas, take in similar foliage views aboard the RiverQuest boat with Connecticut River Expeditions.
Eat: Pick up a fancy box lunch with quality cold cuts, creative toppings, like the Rusty Scupper with smoked turkey breast, brie and fresh mango chutney, at Olive Oyl's Carry Out Cuisine in Essex village.