- 1 What makes autumn in New England so extraordinary?
- 2 Tips for Planning a Fall Visit to New England
- 3 Maine
- 4 New Hampshire
- 5 Vermont
- 6 Massachusetts
- 7 Connecticut
- 8 Rhode Island
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Fall is here, and there are plenty of reasons to celebrate. From pumpkin spice lattes to apple orchards, fall has its own unique flavors and traditions. It’s crisp and cool outside, bringing a sense of calm.
It’s the perfect time to explore new places and enjoy the beautiful scenery around you.
But did you know that some charming towns in New England offer visitors a taste of autumnal beauty? Whether you’re looking for a quaint town with a rich history or a picturesque village with a charming downtown, these are the best New England towns in fall to visit for an autumn adventure.
What makes autumn in New England so extraordinary?
The region’s combination of climate, soil, and tree species make it one of the few places in the world that can produce a spectacular array of colors during fall. Leaves on the trees start to turn the last 10 days of September and stay in their autumnal colors throughout October. The further north you go, the earlier the leaves turn–if you need to see a visual representation, here’s a great foliage tracker of New England’s peak foliage timing.
Many towns are located along scenic drive routes with stunning scenery, plus plenty of things to do in the fall in New England. Some of these places even offer fall festivals and other outdoor activities.
Tips for Planning a Fall Visit to New England
- Be prepared to walk – You’ll find many of the best fall foliage views in New England within the many parks, mountains, and hiking trails in the six states. Makes sure you have quality travel essentials, like comfortable walking or hiking shoes, as well as coats, jackets, sweaters, and scarves–really, anything you’d need to be outside in the cool autumn weather.
- Make lodging reservations early – Due to high demand, make reservations early if you intend to travel during the first two weekends of October. During the fall foliage season, hotels frequently request a two-night minimum stay on weekends. While weekends are typically booked months ahead of time, you can probably secure a weekday room closer to your travel dates if you have some flexibility.
- Ask about policies at the time of booking – It’s a good idea to make an advance deposit for your reservation. At the time of booking, be sure to ask about the hotel’s cancellations and refunds policy. No-shows are typically charged full price.
Kennebunkport is a beautiful coastal town in southern Maine, about an hour and a half from Boston and 40 minutes from Portland. The classic New England tiny town has a beautiful main street with local shops and services.
Wear a costume to go enjoy the museum and paint your picked-out pumpkin! Kennebunkport also goes all out for Halloween. The historic mansions created by sea captains of ages gone by line Summer Street and are decorated in their spooky best.
Seafood is popular in the area’s eateries at all times of the year and is always fresh. Stop at the Clam Shack for two New England classics, a hot Maine lobster roll with butter, and a cup of clam chowder. Both of these delicious dishes are on just about every restaurant’s menu, and you can’t go wrong with them.
If you want to learn more about the city and see it in its fall beauty, try taking a 2-hour walking tour. You’ll have an opportunity to learn about the history of how this sleepy fisherman town was once bustling in the shipmaking business.
The Beach House Inn (Booking | Hotels | TripAdvisor) is a lovely inn on the waterfront with beautiful views of the sea and a beautiful beach to wander along. At this quaint spot, you’ll feel perfectly at home, and for a touch of luxury, there’s a great restaurant and spa on-site.
If you love national parks, you’re sure to enjoy Bar Harbor–home to Acadia National Park–in the autumn. Fall is the best time to visit Acadia National Park, located on Mount Desert Island, Maine. In addition to the beautiful scenery, visitors have many activities, including hiking, biking, canoeing, fishing, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing.
Walk the Shore Path, a 1-mile long path along the coastline, or the more challenging 5-mile Jordan Pond path around the lake. Then, grab a bite at Jordan Pond House Restaurant while you’re in the park.
Make sure you leave enough time to drive up Cadillac Mountain for incredible foliage views and watch the waves roll in on both the Sand Beach and the rocky Thunder Hole. If you’d like a guide through Acadia National Park, you can take either a 3-hour private driving tour or purchase a really inexpensive self-guided audio tour.
Back in Bar Harbor, you need to visit Atlantic Brewing Midtown, the downtown location of the popular local Atlantic Brewing Company, for a bite and a beer. You also need to take a 2-hour tall ship cruise, which takes you out on Frenchman Bay for waterfront views of Acadia National Park’s beautiful fall foliage.
If you’re looking for a great place to stay, the Balance Rock Inn (TripAdvisor) offers a luxe experience with breathtaking views right along the coast in a beautifully restored turn-of-the-20th-century mansion. Or, if you want to stay somewhere a little more budget-friendly in the center of town, check out the charming Maples Inn (TripAdvisor).
If you want to experience the beauty of the autumn season, then you should visit Lincoln, New Hampshire. As you drive along the Kancamagus Highway to reach the town, you’ll already be met with panoramic views on one of the prettiest scenic drives.
Since parts of the White Mountains are located within the town, there are many excellent walks and hikes through local mountains to appreciate their peak color in fall. There’s a great paved walking trail running through Franconia Notch State Park to enjoy, or the Flume Gorge has a visitors center and walking path to take you safely through the ravine. You can also drive through the forests in pursuit of moose sightings on a Moose tour.
If you’re willing to drive about 45 minutes, you can experience a scenic train ride along The Mount Washington Cog Railway. This steam train takes you up to the highest summit in the Northeast and is the only mountain-climbing cog railway operating in North America.
Fun Fact: In 1869, P.T. Barnum declared the scenic train ride to reach the summit of Mount Washington “The Second Greatest Show on Earth!”
There are also plenty of cozy bed-and-breakfasts where you can stay the night. The Woodstock Inn (Booking) is a Victorian inn with beautiful rooms and an on-site brewery. And just a few doors down, you’ll find the Woodstock Pie and Coffee Company, which serves up fresh-baked bread, pastries, and other tasty treats. You can also enjoy an outdoor movie night at Weirs Beach, the town’s drive-in movie theater.
This New England fall town, Laconia, New Hampshire, hosts a two-day family-friendly event–the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival. This fall festival incorporates a zombie walk, pumpkin bowling, and rides for the kids, while all ages can enjoy the car show and concerts, and the finale–lighting of the 34-foot tower of jack-o-lantern carved pumpkins.
Although the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival is canceled for the 2021 season, the area offers other seasonal activities, too. While Funspot, the world’s largest indoor arcade, provides an inside escape any time of year, you can enjoy the fall views around the lake walking along the Lake Winnisquam Scenic Trail. And if you head just north to Meredith, you can experience a fall foliage ride on the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad.
The Margate Resort (TripAdvisor) is right along the lake with its own private beach area for an accommodation option. They have traditional rooms or suites available, with views of the lake or that open to the beach or gardens. And there’s a spa, gym, and an indoor and outdoor pool on the property for your use.
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If you’re heading up to Danville, Vermont, you have to experience the Great Vermont Corn Maze. The biggest corn maze in New England is a must-see autumn attraction. The labyrinth takes between 15 minutes and two hours to finish, depending on your speed, and is divided into two sections: a big maze and a small maze. The earlier you go in the season, the more challenging it is. Families can easily spend upwards of six hours here exploring all of the games, including a play area, wacky miniature golf, a hay castle, and a kids’ village.
The town also hosts an annual Autumn on the Green on the first Sunday of October. Every year, the craft fair features over 200 local artisans to showcase their works to the thousands of visitors who come to enjoy the fall season.
Up in the northern region of Vermont, you’ll find Stowe. Overlooked by Mount Mansfield, this historic town is well known for the Trapp Family Lodge (Booking | Hotels | TripAdvisor). Originally from Salzburg, Austria, the real-life story of the von Trapp family was immortalized in the Oscar-winning classic movie and Broadway musical The Sound of Music.
But the film stops with the family escaping Austria during World War II. The von Trapps story continued; they settled in Stowe, Vermont, and ran the Trapp Family Lodge after leaving Europe. With its Austrian architecture and luxury accommodation, the resort offers its own Oktoberfest celebration every fall.
Stowe also hosts the annual Pumpkin Chuckin’ Festival. Hosted at the Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa (Booking | Hotels | TripAdvisor) for two days every September, you can enter to participate in one of the five divisions as a solo thrower or in a team of up to eight people. There are several rules regarding the weight and measurement requirements for the trebuchets–the object being thrown–so make sure you check out the rules before entering.
Trebuchet (n.): treb·u·chet – A medieval military engine for hurling heavy missiles (such as rocks).“Trebuchet.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary
Since we’re talking about the best New England towns in fall, no list is complete without Salem, Massachusetts! Immortalized by scary stories of the Salem Witch Trials like The Crucible by Arthur Miller and in Halloween movies like Hocus Pocus, the city is a must-see autumn destination.
In the fall, everything about the city screams for the spooky season. Dine at the Witches Brew Cafe and stop for a treat at Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie, the country’s oldest candy shop. Walk around the Salem Witch Village to learn about the myths of witchcraft before venturing over to The Olde Burying Point Cemetery and the Salem Witch Trials Memorials.
To learn more about the history behind the Salem Witch Trials, visit the Salem Witch Museum, or watch a performance by Cry Innocent Salem. The interactive production takes you from Essex Street to the Town Hall, where you’ll have an opportunity to take your seat on the jury.
You can also catch a scary showing at Gallows Hill or the House of the Seven Gables for more theatrical entertainment. And if you love spooky night walks, take a Voodoo, Vampires, and Ghosts walking tour with Spellbound, the oldest walking tour company in the city.
During the fall season, Boston is filled with beautiful scenery, great food, and fun activities. The city offers a wide variety of things to do in the fall in New England, such as visiting museums, shopping at local boutiques, going to concerts, and enjoying the famous New England autumn foliage.
Take a Boston fall foliage tour to truly appreciate the beauty of the city’s green spaces, like the Boston Commons and the Lagoon in the Public Garden, or a Ghosts and Gravestones Tour to hear about the city’s haunted past.
You can also visit other great attractions such as the Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, and Quincy Market to enjoy some of the city’s Colonial history.
The 2.5 mile Freedom Trail guides you through 16 historic sites that led to Boston’s nickname “The Cradle of the American Revolution.” Attractions include Paul Revere’s home, the site of the Boston Massacre, and the USS Constitution. Make sure you check out the food stands in Faneuil Hall or Quincy Market for some piping hot clam chowder and other local seafood options.
If you’re a sports fan, autumn is the best time to cheer on your favorite athletes and teams. Similar to how one of the best fall activities in New York City is to cheer on the NYC Marathon runners, supporting the Boston Marathon runners is easily one of the best fall activities in New England.
While the regular Red Sox baseball season has ended, if we’re lucky and made the playoffs, you might be able to grab tickets for a home game! You can also head to the TD Garden in the city’s center for both the Bruins hockey matches or a Celtics basketball game. If you really want to head outside of the city to catch a Patriots football game, you can grab the “Patriot Train,” which departs from North Station before home games.
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New Haven, Connecticut, is one of the best fall towns in New England. Nicknamed the “Elm City” for its Elm trees, the city is filled with beautiful foliage during the fall season.
There are several things to do in New Haven once you arrive. Yale University is a historic Ivy League university located right on the New Haven Green. Start at the Visitor’s Center and take a tour of the school grounds with a student guide or wander around the beautiful campus grounds on your own, enhanced by the autumn colors.
As evening falls, discover all of New Haven’s spookiest haunts on a walking tour. You’ll explore New Haven with a local guide, who will tell you about the city’s scariest sites and, of course, about the most interesting historical and architectural places like the Skull and Bones Society, the New Haven Public Library, and New Haven City Hall.
And, you can’t leave New Haven without getting apizza. Apizza is a type of pizza that originated in New Haven, Connecticut, due to an influx of Neapolitan immigrants at the beginning of the twentieth century. It’s also primarily regarded as the greatest in the country (sorry, New York City, but it’s true!) Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Sally’s Apizza, and Modern Apizza are the top pizzerias in New Haven, while BAR is a great pizzeria and one of the best breweries in Connecticut; you can’t go wrong with any of them.
Middlefield & Durham
Two tiny neighboring towns in Connecticut–Middlefield, and Durham–are excellent fall towns in New England to visit.
Lyman Orchards, located in Middlefield, Connecticut, is one of my favorite places to go apple picking in Connecticut. The farm was established in 1741 when John and Hope Lyman purchased 37 acres of property, which included the current location of the Homestead and Apple Barrel. They extended to more than 1,500 acres of land by the 1890s, covering food, cattle, and hay production. They also built the Apple Barrel, where you can shop for fresh vegetables and delicious sweets. Play a game of golf on the lakefront Lyman Orchards Golf Course, or try your luck in their massive Corn Maze, which is specially designed each year to celebrate a Connecticut hero or event.
Fun Fact: Lyman Orchards is the 12th-oldest family-owned business in the United States, and it is a member of the Connecticut Freedom Trail. In 1986, the Lyman Homestead was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The next town over, Durham, Connecticut, is home to a fun fall festival in Connecticut, the Durham Fair. This massive 4-day event takes place the third weekend of September each year, and the community comes out to celebrate. From the farm museum showcasing antique equipment to events like the tractor pull, the ox pull, and a demolition derby, and opportunities to interact with animals, local artisans, and great food, you’ll leave with an appreciation of the hard work and dedication that goes into the harvest season.
Fall is a great time to visit Providence, Rhode Island, because of the beautiful foliage and cool temperatures. With several colleges in town, there are some stunning campuses to walk through and enjoy the changing leaves every autumn.
The biggest event of the season is the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular in the Roger Williams Park Zoo. More than 5,000 carved pumpkins light up the sky every night on the Zoo’s Wetlands Trail during the Halloween season, with music and special effects to tell each year’s story. It takes about 45 minutes to fully experience Rhode Island’s most giant pumpkin Spectacular.
With Johnson & Wales College’s culinary program within the city’s limits, you’re bound to find some outstanding cuisine in Providence, too. Visit Enoteca Umberto for incredible Italian food, Nick’s on Broadway for casual American fare, or head out of the city to reach Matunuck Oyster Bar for delicious seafood pretty much straight from the sea.
Since this is a college town, you can’t go wrong staying at the Providence Graduate Hotel (Booking | Hotels | TripAdvisor.) Formerly the Providence Biltmore, they have grand locations near many major universities in the United States at reasonable rates.
While winter in Newport is beautiful too, fall is one of the best times to visit Newport, Rhode Island, because the weather is gorgeous, and the scenery is breathtaking. The town known for its Gilded Age mansions has smaller crowds, and the restaurants are a bit less packed. You can also find great deals on hotels and rentals this time of year.
One of my favorite places to stay is the Admiral Fitzroy Inn (Booking | Hotels | TripAdvisor,) right on Thames Street. They’re located right in the heart of downtown Newport within walking distance of all the major sites, and they offer complimentary breakfast during your stay.
Every autumn, Bowen’s Wharf comes alive with its annual Seafood Festival. While seafood is a major food group throughout New England no matter the time of year, the Bowen’s Wharf Seafood Festival showcases the “Harvest of the Sea”–fresh seafood. As you wander through the Wharf’s various colorful tents, you’ll find delicious dishes made from just about every type of crustacean or fish alongside traditional fair favorites. Enjoy the music, sunshine, and cool weather at one of the finest natural harbors in the region.
Whether you’re looking for a new place to live or just want to explore a new town, make time to visit one of the best towns in New England in fall. You’ll even find many of these spots make for great winter getaways in New England, too!