A Newbie’s Guide to New England Leaf Peeping

BY JOANN BELL

If you’re a New Englander, you know that the autumn season begins the day after Labor Day. Sure, the calendar says we have until the end of September, but change is in the air far earlier in the month. Farm stands have started selling ‘mums' (chrysanthemums), apples are on deck and pumpkin-spice-everything has hit our local stores.

As the leader in educational travel for adults — and as an organization with headquarters in Massachusetts — we’d be remiss if we didn’t give you the insider’s scoop on exploring New England in the autumn. Here are a few tips that the locals use for getting the most out of the beautiful autumn season. We hope you’ll pay New England a visit! If you do, stop by our headquarters in Boston and say hello!

  

Take a Peek at “Peak” Times

When autumn foliage is at its peak, a riot of reds, oranges and golds blanket the landscape as far as the eye can see — it’s truly beautiful. The timing of this phenomenon is different for each region, beginning earlier in the northern regions and gradually making its way south. If you’d like to schedule an adventure in earlier to mid-September, consider visiting northern Vermont, northern New Hampshire or Maine. Early October is prime leaf peeping time in all six New England states, and typically when “peak” viewing occurs. But don’t worry — if you can’t get away to New England until mid-October, parts of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island still often have vibrant colors to enjoy.

 

  

Avoid the Weekend Crowds

The locals may not like to admit it, but we do our fair share of leaf-peeping. However, the majority of our explorations occur on the weekends, so if you’d like to experience the spectacular colors with fewer crowds, schedule your foliage drive or orchard visit on a weekday when the majority of locals are at work. (Or if you live nearby, consider taking a day off mid-week to explore some of the more popular leaf-peeping regions, like New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock or the Berkshires of Massachusetts.)

 

  

Go Off the Beaten Path

If you’d like to get off the road entirely, there are myriad ways in which you can still enjoy the autumn colors. Historic railroads offer a leisurely and fun way to explore New England, or you can set sail for a coastal view of the region’s foliage. For a more physically active exploration that will bring you into the heart of the New England color, find a local bike trail, put on your hiking shoes, or paddle a canoe along a quiet waterway.

 

Know Your Leaves

Ash, aspen, beech, maple or oak — it’s hard to choose a favorite. If you are the type of learner who appreciates botanical knowledge, you might like to brush up on your leaf identification skills before your next leaf-peeping adventure. That way, when you are enjoying a walk through Vermont’s countryside or Acadia National Park, you’ll be able to name the sources of those gold or orange vistas.

 

  

Try the Local Flavors

If there’s one autumn treat that most locals would recommend, it’s this: cider doughnuts. Many local orchards have hot cider doughnuts being made throughout the day, and often have their own special recipes for making theirs the “best” in the region. Maple sugar candy and pumpkin-flavored baked goods would also make it to the top of the recommendation list. But don’t feel limited by sweet treats if you’d like to explore New England cuisine during your autumn trip. Seafood is always king, and a lobster dinner or hearty bowl of clam chowder is recommended for any visit. We also have excellent vineyards, dairies and marketplaces where you can satisfy your foodie cravings.

Local friends, do you have any other New England leaf-peeping tips? Share them below!


  JoAnn Bell
JoAnn Bell, Senior Vice President of Program Development, develops and manages more than 5,500 learning adventures in 150 countries and 50 states.