Other regions around the country might be a bit superior for, say, soaking up the rays or skiing through powder. But when it comes to leaf peeping, I don't think it's biased to say that New England might be tops. With rolling hills, a high density of deciduous, mature trees, and, probably most importantly, relatively crisp late September and early October temps, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, as well as Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, kick off the fall foliage season with early, vibrant, and lasting color.
Sure, kids might not thrill to the wonders of changing foliage quite the way grown-ups do. But most enjoy trips to pretty destinations, with fun stops to hike, eat, and play along the way. While choices are plentiful in these parts, we're highlighting a few especially lovely fall locales that combine great fall color with fun family activities. Now all you have to do is convince the kids to put down their devices and appreciate the scenery. For more autumn hotspots around the country, check out our complete fall leaves and foliage guide.
There are many bird species to spot in the marshlands of Maudslay. Photo by Nancy Witham Allred/courtesy of Newberryport.com
You can't go wrong puttering around the North Shore this time of year. Make a detour off Route 1A to Salem for Halloween activities, or Ipswich for apple picking or a corn maze, or just enjoy the views on the way to Newburyport, a historic shipbuilding and trade port with a charming brick main street and leafy rolling hills.
See: Encompassing 400 acres, Maudslay State Park is a big, beautiful gem hugging the Merrimack River. On October 21-22, 2017, you can bring the kids to the annual "Maudslay is Haunted" walk through the park, where actors from Theater in the Open provide spooky (but not too scary) sketches in the woods from 2 to 4pm.
Play: Cashman Park is a super-fun playground featuring slides, swings, a pirate ship play structure, and pretty river views.
Eat: You can't leave town without trying one of Chococoa Baking Company's famous whoopie pies.
Stay: The Garrison Inn is a boutique hotel with lots of charm (fireplaces and such), but also suites that can fit families. For extra $30, you can bring your dog, who's sure to love playing in the leaves just as much as your kids do.
Kids love climbing up the fire tower at Laura's Lookout for the best views of Stockbridge. Photo courtesy of Roger S. Hart
A few hours west of Boston, the rolling hills of the Berkshires offer amazing foliage views from just about every angle, but we think Stockbridge is a particularly perfect point from which to explore the region.
See: Just a few minutes from Main Street, the hiking trails for Laura's Lookout/Ice Glen fork off from the river and offer great adventurous details for kids, like bridges to cross, a huge rock shaped like a shark fin, and a fire tower to climb for views. On October 7-8, 2017, head to the Berkshire Botanical Garden for their annual Harvest Festival, which has live music, crafts, and a haunted house.
Play: Near Laura's Lookout, the Stockbridge Playground has swings, multiple play structures, and a merry-go-round ride-on that's a hit with all ages.
Eat: From a Vermont cheddar and crackers app to a roast Turkey dinner, the Red Lion Inn's sophisticated children's menu makes kids feel like they're dining like grown-ups.
Stay: After filling up on a traditional New England meal, stay over at the Red Lion Inn, which has a variety of dwellings, including suites and guest houses, to accommodate your brood.
Rivertour Blackstone is a relaxing way to appreciate the foliage. Photo courtesy of Rivertour Blackstone
Blackstone Valley, RI
This region offers more than just the Paw Sox minor league baseball team. In the fall, it's a leafy, lower-key alternative to Providence, which is a short drive away.
See: Hike or bike along the 11 paved miles of the Blackstone River Bikeway between Woonsocket and Central Falls; or through the end of October, relax instead on a cruise on the 40-passenger Explorer Riverboat courtesy of Rivertour Blackstone.
Play: Historic Slater Park is home to a major playground, with two large spiderweb climbers, and a fall festival.
Eat: Murphy's Law is just next door to the Hampton Inn (see below), and serves up great chowder and fish and chips, and live music on the weekends.
Stay: The recently remodeled Hampton Inn in Pawtucket has a pool and free, hot breakfast.
Waterville Valley, NH
Two hours from Boston, Waterville Valley is a resort town that calls itself a "playground in the mountains." While it's busiest around ski season, there are many families who make a tradition out of autumn weekends here.
See: Brooks, cascading falls, flumes, and glacial structures are just some of the features in the White Mountain National Forest in which the valley is nestled. Take the easy hike up past Elephant Rock to the summit of the Snow's Mountain ski area, and you'll be rewarded with spectacular views to the west and north.
Play: Created in honor of the Curious George authors who summered here, the non-profit Margret & H.A. Rey Center features lots of programs for kids, including storytimes, crafts, campfire evenings, and a nature trail sprinkled with fairy houses that's open to the public.
Eat: A fave among locals, Coyote Grill features great, locally sourced food and kids-eat-free Sundays.
Stay: Ideal for families, Town Square condos at the Waterville Valley Resort have two levels to allow everyone to spread out.
The Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster is a thrill at Okemo Mountains Resort. Photo courtesy of Okemo Mountains Resort
Stowe might be more touted among dedicated leaf peepers, but Ludlow, home to Okemo Ski Resort, is a lot closer, less crowded, and still plenty beautiful (and fun for families) in the fall.
See: Take an easy hike to Buttermilk Falls, a natural swimming hole that's surrounded by a pretty waterfall and some exquisite foliage.
Play: The Okemo Mountain Resort provides some serious fun with its Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster, an exciting ride through the forest that's open through Columbus Day. There's also the Stump Jumper Bungee Trampoline, mini golf, and other games and challenges at Okemo's Adventure Zone.
Eat: With tacos, fajitas, po boys, and fun drinks, Mojo Cafe is Tex-Mex heaven with families in mind.
Stay: Jackson Gore Village at Okemo Mountain Resort has classic rooms close to an indoor pool, or more spacious accommodations just a bit removed from the main property.
Connecticut is full of fantastic leaf peeping spots, too...check them out here!
Top photo: The White Mountains surrounding Waterville Valley offer jaw-dropping views. Photo by iStockphoto