Leaf-peeping season is upon us, a time for getting outdoors and taking in the beautiful change of seasons. Across the country, this selection of charming small towns and quaint romantic resorts offer not only fantastic autumn colors, but also memorable stays, as well as other local events running from Halloween through Thanksgiving.
Kennebunkport, Maine is one of the top locations for an autumn road trip. Not only will you have access to some of the country’s most striking color changes, you can also take part in the local fall fests and celebrations, go lobster fishing and learn about the fascinating history of this shipbuilding port that is filled with antique charm.
Stowe, Vermont is one of New England’s premier small towns to recreate in, whether it be winter skiing, summer hiking or enjoying the arrival of Stowe’s vibrant autumn color changes. At The Lodge at Spruce Peak, you’ll be right in the heart of things, as this luxury resort is set around an aptly named “Village.” It’s where you’ll find The Lodge, as well as a rental collection of highly coveted penthouses, along with Vermont country market shops, restaurants and outdoor and designer apparel boutiques.
Don’t let the trappings fool you though; they play second fiddle to the outstanding skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, and fly fishing that Stowe is renowned for, in addition to its phenomenal autumn nature displays.
Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
New Hampshire is notably at the forefront of any leaf-peeping conversation, and if you want to experience it with a touch of luxury, why not head to the Omni Mount Washington, an elegant hideaway in dreamy Bretton Woods?
Dating back to 1902, guests used to come here by train from New York and Boston, and then explore the gorgeous surroundings by horse and carriage. Several presidents have stayed here, as did Thomas Edison
In addition to the foliage, there are zip lines and a golf course to keep you occupied. And if you should happen to get here after the leaves fall, don’t sweat it, as the Omni is a top ski resort as well!
While California might not have an abundance of flaming red maple trees, it does feature scenic Highway 49, better known as the Gold Rush Trail. You can head out of historic Oakhurst to check out its mining past and drive up into the Sierra Nevada foothills where you’ll find aspens and dogwoods in full color.
Yosemite National Park is just a 30-minute drive from Oakhurst, and is far less crowded after Labor Day. Stay in Oakhurst at the Chateau du Sureau, a charming nine-acre property reminiscent of the French countryside.
Jasper, Arkansas is where you want to base yourself for some gorgeous leaf viewing in the Ozarks. Stay at the rustic Bluff Dwellers Cabins and you’ll be treated to one of America’s best autumnal panoramas, overlooking the historic Buffalo River. Home to great rock climbing, canoeing, hiking and large elk herds, this is an excellent underrated spot.
Forget about those frigid autumn nights and head to historic colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, where you can combine mild temperatures and fiery foliage. There is also a ton to do here for the whole family besides just gaping at the leaves.
There is a Food & Feasts of Colonial Virginia over at the historic Jamestown settlement for Thanksgiving; you can join a Haunted Williamsburg tour where costumed storytellers will take you on a candlelit walking ghost tour; and for those colorful trees, head out to either Colonial Parkway, Waller Mill Park or Island Loop for some stunning views.
The rolling hills of the Berkshires are the best spot in Massachusetts to see fall colors, with a hike up the Stony Ledge trail near Mount Greylock offering a superb panorama of vivid colors.
The quaint town of Lenox is a great place to base yourself, and the beautiful Tudor mansion estate, The Blantyre, is the perfect place to hunker down after a day in the woods. And private trails here ensure you don’t even have to leave the property if you don’t want to.
Taylors Falls, Minnesota
Minnesota is also home to some superb northern leaf mania. Tiny Taylors Falls has only 1,000 residents, and is set along the beautiful St. Croix River. You can go hiking in Interstate State Park, kayaking or canoeing along the river or take in the colors on a leisurely river drive along scenic Highway 8.
From rock climbing to exploring glacial potholes, the natural attractions abound here. The historic Angel Hills area of this aptly named “village on the river” has some elegant restored Victorians dating back to its 1850’s lumber-era days.
Set on over 100 acres of forest, Winvian Farm is a 1775 farmhouse that boasts 18 diversely-themed cottages. They range from an indoor campground to a log cabin to an accommodation built around a restored 1968 Sikorsky helicopter, as well as a unique treehouse that gets you as close to quaint Morris, Connecticut’s dramatic changing leaves as possible.
There’s also a five-diamond farm-to-table restaurant and a 40-foot swimming pool to keep you busy, should you tire of the Litchfield Hills’ finest scenery. This is one truly special autumn retreat.
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
While tiny Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is noted for Dollywood, the family theme park of entertainer Dolly Parton, it’s also just 10 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which bursts to life with a stunning display of foliage every October.
Make sure to check out Cades Cove, a verdant valley ringed by mountains, where in addition to the changing leaves, you’ll have a great chance to spot wildlife such as white-tailed deer, black bears or coyotes. You can go hiking and biking here, or drive the 11-mile one-way loop trail to take in the best of the Smokies.
The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and Rich Mountain Road are also highly recommended leaf-viewing drives you can do just outside of sleepy Pigeon Forge.
Last, but certainly not least, the Woodstock Inn and Resort is a member of Historic Hotels of America. This was Laurance Rockefeller’s former country home, and is set along the village green in charming, artsy Woodstock, Vermont. Falconry, fly fishing and golf are all on tap at this regal stay, and wood-burning fireplaces will keep you cozy after a day in the woods.
The Billings Farm Museum, also part of the Rockefeller Estate, is just down the road, and hosts an array of festivals and events during the autumn season, ranging from cider pressing to barn dances and other harvest activities. The surrounding colors and falling leaves seal the deal, putting charming Woodstock right up there with all the other wonderful spots to head to this fall, so better start planning now.
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