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New England Fall Travel
Questions and answers about New England fall travel

A Recommended Fall Foliage Season Scenic Driving Route

Echo Lake State Park photo, Franconia Notch State Park, White Mountains, N.H.

Echo Lake, Franconia Notch State Park, White Mountains, N.H.

I am interested in traveling to the New England states between October 5th and October 14th.
I am looking for a driving route that will show us the best of the fall color and New England . We are also interested in antiques, museums and historical sites. I also noted whale watching is a possibility. I have found many driving routes for each state but not one that shows a good route for all (or most) - best direction, etc. I can fly into any airport since I have no reservations at this point. Also, is it better to book hotel rooms ahead of time or just where we end up each night?

Any help or suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated. We have never been "leaf peeping" before and look forward to the adventure. Please let me know if you have any suggestions.

Regards,
Marci B.

Hi Marci:
New England overflows with great color during the fall foliage season, so even if you can't cover it all, it will seem like you will even if concentrating on a few areas.

If I had to choose one place to start a New England tour, it would be Stowe, Vt. This charming little village epitomizes New England at its best with a general store, tall white church steeple and beautiful mountain views. It is a bit commercial on Mountain Rd. off the center, but not in an obnoxious way. Stick with the downtown and a wonderful bike trail, and you'll know you're in New England. I also recommend driving through the notch from Mountain Rd., where the incline, and twists and turns takes you through some incredible, remote forested scenery.

I would land by plane in Burlington, Vt., if possible, and take Route 89 to Route 100 to arrive at Stowe. From Stowe, take route 100 north to route 2 to Route 91 to Route 93 south into New Hampshire. Here, you'll arrive in White Mountain National Forest where the scenery is more rugged than gentle Stowe. The foliage is spectacular. I would taking the Kancamagus Highway from Lincoln (off Route 93) to North Conway. The Kancamagus is one of the best know foliage driving routes, a wonderland of colors. North Conway is a pretty place with lots of shopping, dining, lodging and one of the great views of Mt. Washington -- the highest peak in New England at 6,288 ft. I would recommend staying in North Conway and can serve as a great White Mountains foundation to see surrounding towns like Woodstock, Twin Mountain and Jackson -- where river rapids and a covered bridge exude a true New Hampshire feel. The White Mountain region is a couple of hour's drive from Stowe.

You can read more about Stowe and the White Mountains at our "top towns" article at http://www.visitingnewengland.com/toptowns.html.

From North Conway take route 302 east to the Sebago Lake area in Maine -- one of Maine's largest lakes with some great foliage views. Portland is about 45 minutes from Sebago Lake and is a great bay city with lots of old neighborhoods with charming homes, and a revitalized shopping district at the beautiful, brick-dominated Old Port Exchange. Portland almost has a small-town feel even though it is a city. You can read more about Portland at http://www.visitingnewengland.com/portland.html.

From Portland, I would take Route 95 (not scenic) then take Route 62 (a back road) in Massachusetts, all the way to historic Concord, MA. It's about a three hour drive, ending up at a nice suburban town where you'll be able to take great walks through Walden Pond, the Old North Bridge area, a pleasant downtown with, shops, restaurants, a great library, beautiful tree-lined streets and an overall wonderful small-town feel. It is a great place to also go apple picking at nearby places like Stow Orchards in Stow, Bolton Orchards in Bolton and Nashoba Valley Winery, where there is also a first-rate restaurant on the premises (with, yes, good wine options). 

Boston is about a 45-minute drive from Concord and offers some world-renowned museums like the Museum of Fine arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Art Museum, the Museum of Science and the New England Aquarium. You could spend a week in Boston, given its incredible mix of historical preservation and modern attractions. If in Boston a while, I'd recommend stopping at Faneuil Hall Marketplace, with its historical buildings offering more than 100 specialty shops and myriad dining options. We feature an article on ways to save money when visiting Boston-- great for the fall, or any othe time of the year!

About an hour north of Concord --taking route 2 east to Route 95 north to Route 128 -- is Gloucester, MA, where you can whale watch. Call (978)283-1601 for more information.

From Concord, take route 126 south to Route 16 west to Route 169 south into Woodstock, Ct. Here, you will find yourself in the "Quiet Corner" of Connecticut, full of rolling hills, farmland, town centers with town commons and not much else. Nearby Putnam is rough around the edges, but has some of the best antique shopping in New England. I would recommend staying at the Inn at Woodstock Hill, set in the beautiful countryside of Woodstock. We have written a review of the Inn at Woodstock Hill. With nearly 200 pre-1855 homes along with farms, historic churches and classic Connecticut village green centers, Route 169 from Woodstock is one of New England's true hidden gem scenic rides. The gentle rolling hills, historic landmarks and roll-down-the-windows-and-feel-good breeze of this scenic byway make Route 169 one of the most beautiful bucolic drives in New England.

From Woodstock, take scenic Route 44 west to Route 91 North of Hartford, CT, to Bradley International Airport, en route to your return home.

Regarding lodging, I stress that you make reservations early. Fall foliage is big business and as I have found out, rooms at quality places fill up very quickly. I would not recommend taking any chances and reserving rooms along the way. If you decide to make reservations early, you can browse various hotel descriptions and make reservations online at http://www.visitingnewengland.com/hotel-search.html.


If you enjoyed this fall travel article, you might also like reading:
Planning your New England fall foliage trip

The best New England fall foliage destinations

45 fun affordable New England fall travel ideas

Where to see New England fall pictures online

Phantom Farms embodies the classic New England farm stand

Apple cider donuts pair well with fall in New England

A fall walk at Walden Pond in Concord, Mass.

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