Monday, September 22, 2008

Travel Tips for Enjoying Fall in New England

Article and photo by Eric H., at

Today is the first day of fall and the beginning of many, traditional happy, harvest season times in New England.

Best known for fall festivals, apple picking, a glass of cider and some spectacular fall foliage, New England might not be the only deal in town for the autumn season, but the uniqueness, history and scenic beauty of the area brings out the fall colors that much more. Rumor has it that Humpty Dumpty once had a great fall to make up for a miserable summer here in New England.

All jokes aside, many people prefer the New England fall to the summer. Much of the oppressive humidity and hazy pollution is gone and the more frequent chill in the air brings a refreshing feel. Life seems to slow down and be more reflective, and the Earth becomes more still, like a perfect painting made for repeated viewing.

In a sense, that's the way New England comes across in the fall with its postcard picture-perfect village greens, historic, old towns and cities looking their best, courtesy of the red, orange, and gold colors and tall white church steeples somehow looking better than any time of the year.

Some of my recommended things to do to fully enjoy the fall season:

Take a refreshing 45-minute walk around famous Walden Pond off Route 126 in Concord, MA, enjoying the changes in color and the serene body of water that Henry David Thoreau once had the pleasure of viewing through his quite modest waterfront property from 1845-1847.

Drive the scenic Kanamagus Scenic Byway in the New Hampshire White Mountains, famous for its spectacular fall foliage colors.

Have a picnic high atop the summit of 2,290-foot Pack Monadnock Mountain at Miller State Park (you can either drive or walk it) on Route 101 E in Peterborough, NH. The panoramic views of the scenic countryside, including the 3,165 feet high Mt. Monadnock Mountain. Hiking opportunities also abound for more fall foliage viewing -- the Wapack Trail, a 21-mile footpath that extends from Mt. Watatic in Ashburnham, MA to North Pack Monadnock in Greenfield, NH.

Enjoy the colorful pumpkin displays and the apple orchard at Phantom Farms in Cumberland, RI (2920 Diamond Hill Rd.,
Tel. 401 333-2240) where some cider, a pumpkin mousse roll and a home-baked pie from the bakery will complement your fall day just fine. Phantom Farms also features some very fun fall festival events. Up is the road is Adams Farm (140 Sumner Brown Road, Tel. 401-333-1845) open for a limited time during the fall season, and offering a relaxing country feeling with pumpkins, gourds, apples, cider, caramel apples, a corn maze, hayrides, a picnic area and petting zoo. It's understated, but the simplicity of the area and things to do always brings us back. It's nice that local growth and development here is limited to plant life!

Pick some apples at the Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton, MA, a very charming quintessential town with country roads leading from the downtown. Set admisdt a hilltop orchard, you can pick McIntosh, Liberty, Gala, limited Gravenstein apples, and Cortland. OK, now what you were wondering: There is a winery here, and an upscale gourmet restaurant, as well as a brewery. For many, it doesn't get much better than this!

Enjoy the rest of the Eastern State Exposition (the Big E) running until 10 p.m. on Sept. 28 in West Springfield, MA. It is the largest fair in the northeast and filled with amusements, food vendors, parades, live entertainment, animal displays and horse competitions and the Avenue of States -- replicas of state house buildings in New England that house regional foods, gifts and crafts. Following the Big E is the Topsfield Fair on Route 1 North in Topsfield, MA, America's oldest agricultural fair, running from Oct. 3-13. Highlights include amusements, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police equestrian team, parades, regional foods including fruits and vegetables, milking demonstrations, pumpkin test, a petting farm, racing pigs, home-baked foods and much more.

Experience great cider and rustic traditional Vermont charm, at the Cold Hollow Cider Mill (3600 Waterbury-Stowe Rd., Route 100, Tel. 800-327-7537) in Waterbury, VT. The cider is made with a rack and press built in the 1820s and is one of the best we've tasted in New England. The cider donuts aren't bad, either! There's also a fudge-making room, a toy shop and a winery that features Vermont-made wines and hard cider. Of course, you can't beat the fall foliage and true Green Mountains views of the Vermont countryside in Waterbury and neighboring Stowe -- home of Mt. Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont at 4393 ft.

Visit the "Quiet Corner" of northeast Connecticut featuring rolling hills and quaint, little villages that haven't changed much in the past 150 years (although this is not the case with Putnam). With the scenic fall foliage drive through the peaceful towns on Route 169, antique shopping in Putnam, nice inns and country restaurants, the "Quiet Corner" is a nice escape for a fall foliage trip. For lodging, we recommend the Inn at Woodstock Hill, a charming inn built in 1816. The Vanilla Bean Cafe (Tel. 860-928-1562), at the Route 44-169 intersection, in beautiful Pomfret offers a casual atmosphere for breakfast, lunch and dinner in a restored 1800s farmhouse. The Vanilla Bean specializes in coffee, great wraps and sandwiches and really great "blackboard specials" for dinner. The desserts are phenomenal, especially the dense, rich chocolate and carrot cakes!

Walk the Freedom Trail in Boston, MA. It's probably the best time of the year to do so -- minus the humidity and summer crowds -- with flourishes of changing leaves and the 2.5 mile red brick walkway with historic meeting houses, museums, churches and other landmarks including the Boston State House, Old Corner Book Store, Park St. Church, Old South Meeting House, site of the Boston Massacre, the Paul Revere House and Faneuil Hall.

Discover classic Vermont downtowns with a small town feeling and that signature postcard, picture perfect look. Some towns that meet this criteria -- and offer wonderful area fall foliage -- include Woodstock, Newfane, Weston, Wilmington, Stowe (it's becoming a bit more commercial, however) and Brandon. Burlington, beautifully situated on Lake Champlain, is more of a city with a small college town feel (Burlington is home to the University of Vermont), and offers great downtown shopping, restaurants and activities along the lake.

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