It is officially fall and here in Rhode Island the leaves are starting to turn their magnificent shades of red, yellow and orange. Experts are predicting an excellent fall foliage season this year and this is the first year in three that we will be in the Northeast over Columbus Day weekend, often considered peak “leaf peeping” time in New England. So I started to think about some unique ways to enjoy fall foliage in the Northeast. Anyone can take a scenic drive, but I wanted to see what else you can do to get out there in nature to fully enjoy this beautiful season before the leaves turn brown and drop to the ground, the skies turn grey and the sunlight fades earlier and earlier. Here are some fun options I came up with that should satisfy the whole family, now I just need to decide which one to do…
10 Ways to Enjoy Fall Foliage in the Northeast
1. Train rides — Sometimes the tough thing about scenic drives can be that the driver needs to keep his or her eyes on the road and can’t enjoy the gorgeous views passing by. If you want to give your driver a break and let the whole family enjoy the view, you can take a scenic train ride such as the Mount Washington Cog Railway, Conway Scenic Railroad, or Hobo Railroad in New Hampshire, the Essex Steam Train in Connecticut, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad in New York, or the Strasburg Railroad, New Hope and Ivyland Railroad, or Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway in Pennsylvania.
2. Scavenger hunts and geocaching — Many pick-your-own apple farms in Vermont are participating in a statewide “Apples to iPods” scavenger hunt where families visit participating farms and search among the trees for a wooden apple to win an iPad or iPod Touch. Or, you can create a scavenger hunt of your own with a little geocaching. Maine has over 5,000 geocaching sites throughout the state. Just check out the geocaching website and pick your location.
3. Gondolas and ski lifts — Many ski resorts offer the opportunity to see the scenic foliage from up high with a gondola or aerial tram ride. In Vermont, you can see a view of the Green Mountains at Stowe, Stratton, Killington, Mount Snow, Jay Peak and more. Wachusett Mountain in Massachusetts offers sky rides and Cannon Mountain, Loon Mountain, and Wildcat in New Hampshire or Sugarloaf and Sunday River in Maine offer aerial tram rides, gondolas, and four-person “zipriders.”
4. Bike rides — I can barely make it up the hill of my neighborhood on my bike so I may not be cycling up any mountains soon but if you have a fit family that likes to cycle, a group bike tour might be a fun way to enjoy the scenery. Ride NOHO in Northampton, MA offers a fall foliage bike tour. If you’d rather watch than do, you can be wowed by the professional mountain bikers competing in the Pinnacle Bike Championship in Waterville Valley, NH.
5. Oktoberfest — Oktoberfest celebrations aren’t necessarily just beer-swilling parties, they actually offer plenty of fun for the family including music, games, buffets, and special events. Some places to celebrate a family Oktoberfest include Sugarbush in Vermont, Hunter Mountain in New York, the White Mountains in New Hampshire, Newport, Rhode Island, and Acadia, Maine.
6. Ziplines — What better way to see the trees than to get in the trees? Ziplining is all the rage and you can find ziplining and tree top canopy courses throughout the Northeast including Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont, Deerfield Valley in Massachusetts, Hunter Mountain in New York, Alpine Adventures in New Hampshire, Monkey Trunks in Maine, and Seven Springs in Pennsylvania.
7. Boat rides — The reflection of colorful leaves against the blue water of lakes or rivers is such a beautiful sight so the idea of enjoying the foliage from the water is so tempting. In Rhode Island, you can take a ride down the river on the Blackstone Valley Explorer, in New York you have many options such as the Lake George Steamboat Company, and there are also the Atlantic Seal Cruises in Maine and Lady Katherine Cruises in Connecticut.
8. Alpine slides or mountain coasters — Growing up one of my favorite things to do in Vermont in the summer or fall was to take a ride on an alpine slide. You can enjoy the scenery as you go up the mountain on a chair lift and see it blur by as you slide down the mountain on a sled or coaster. You can enjoy these experiences at Bromley, Okemo, and Stowe in Vermont, Attitash and Cranmore in New Hampshire, Jiminy Peak in Massachusetts, Greek Peak in New York, and Camelback, Pennsylvania to name a few. Just check before you go because a lot of these stop running after Columbus Day.
9. Horseback Riding — On horseback it is easy to leave the busy world behind and you pick your way along winding trails through fields and trees. You can enjoy fall on horseback with a trail ride at Cornerstone Ranch in Massachusetts, Horseback Riding Farm at Farm by the River in New Hampshire, the Icelandic Horse Farm in Vermont, or the Circle B Ranch in New York for starters.
10. Festivals — Fall is the perfect time for harvest festivals and if you check the tourism websites in the area you are visiting you will be sure to find something to strike your fancy like the Adirondack Balloon Festival in Glens Falls, NY, the Great Adirondack Moose Festival in Indian Lake, NY, the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY, Fryeburg Fair in Maine, Stowe Art Festival in Vermont, and the Fall Foliage Festival in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire.