10 Ways to Enjoy Fall Foliage in the Northeast

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… 

Kancamagus Highway view of the mountains in the fall

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.

Riding the chairlift at Pico Peak in Vermont
Riding the chairlift at Pico Peak in Vermont

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.”

Fall foliage in Vermont
Vermont’s gorgeous foliage

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.

Alpine slide in Vermont
Riding the alpine slide in Vermont

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.

Covered bridge in Vermont
One of Vermont’s many covered bridges
Fall foliage in the Northeast


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Publish Date: September 23, 2014

13 thoughts on “10 Ways to Enjoy Fall Foliage in the Northeast”

  1. Dana @ Green Global Travel

    The time in the fall when all the leaves have changed colors but have not fallen yet is one of my favorite times of the year! Like so you wrote, it is a great time for apple picking, horseback riding and so many other fun outdoor activities! Great time to get in some outdoor activities before it gets too cold!

    1. It is so lovely. Of course now that we have finally gotten our green leaves again I am not ready to think about fall yet.

  2. Excellent list! I love the northeast in the fall – my favorite time of year and my favorite place to spend it. While I’ve been on plenty of chairlifts, I’ve never done it without snow on the ground. Need to fix that this fall!

    1. You definitely should, it is beautiful to view the mountains covered in fall colors — almost as pretty as snow 😉

  3. I would LOVE to visit New England in the fall. It’s on my bucket list. Though we have great trees out here in the west, our forests don’t look anything like yours. Thanks for all the helpful tips and suggestions.

  4. Great ideas! I’m heading to the Adirondacks this weekend and was looking for some different things to do – perfect timing! I love those alpine slides, too. I’m not sure I’ll have time to make it all the way to Stowe this weekend, but that’s a fun one!

  5. Constance - Foreign Sanctuary

    Oh, how I miss the changing of the seasons!! In Taiwan, there are two seasons: hot and hotter! 😉

  6. Will be participating on activity #1 and a few others not in your list in. 2 weeks and bringing a bunch of friends with me. Can’t wait!

    Glad to see we are doing at least one off your list.

  7. Some great ideas Tamara, I’ve always heard that Autumn (Sorry I’m English so I say Autumn instead of Fall lol!) is special in the North East of America and places like Nova Scotia. I love the colours that the Fall brings – After the beautiful greens of the spring & summer, we get amazing Yellows, Reds, Oranges and Browns – Such a contrast.

  8. An interesting concept. I never really thought of actively going out to enjoy the falling leaves. Autumn and the change of seasons is just something that happened and usually I’m annoyed by all the leaves I have to rake! Maybe I’ll have to head to a local park and take it all in.

    1. I think since I know it will soon be too cold to spend too much time outside I like to enjoy the fall outdoors as much as possible. But yeah, raking leaves does get annoying!

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