When it comes to showing off fall colors, New England clearly does it best. And even though you don't have to travel to glimpse some red and gold, there are certain towns in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island and Connecticut that boast some particularly stunning foliage displays, drawing families for fall day trips or weekend getaways.
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. These fall locales 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 the complete Mommy Poppins 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
1. Newburyport, MA
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 19-20, 2019, 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 1:30pm 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 the 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
2. Stockbridge, MA
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 12-13, 2019, head to the Berkshire Botanical Garden for its annual Harvest Festival, which features live music, crafts, and a haunted house.
Play: Near Laura's Lookout, the Stockbridge Playground offers 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 appetizer 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 at the Red Lion Inn, which has a variety of dwellings, including suites and guest houses, to accommodate your family.
Rivertour Blackstone is a relaxing way to appreciate the foliage. Photo courtesy of Rivertour Blackstone
3. 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 on September 14-15, 2019.
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 an indoor pool and free, hot breakfast.
4. 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, many families 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 story times, crafts, campfire evenings, and a nature trail sprinkled with fairy houses.
Eat: A favorite among locals, Coyote Grill serves 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
5. Ludlow, VT
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.
6. Camden, ME
Arguably, Acadia National Park wins for fall destinations in Maine, but it's also a more crowded and expensive alternative during peak foliage season. For a closer attraction with plenty to do, check out Camden, a quintessential New England town full of coastal charm that glows in autumn.
See: Whether you're up for a fall hike or looking to drive up to the summit, Mount Battie offers breathtaking views of Camden Harbor and Penebscot Bay (and a perfect picnic opportunity). You can also enjoy the foliage from afloat by taking a harbor cruise to Curtis Island Light.
Play: Enjoy a free visit to the Merryspring Nature Center where professionally-designed gardens await. Attend family programs, a Fall Fairy Festival on September 29, 2019, or a Fall Foliage Walk on October 19, 2019. You can also let the kids burn off energy on the playground while you enjoy the waterfront views at Rockport Marine Park.
Eat: There is no shortage of scrumptious eateries in this area; for delicious sandwiches (and amazing grilled cheese!) head to the Camden Deli, or sit down and enjoy seafood fare with a magnificent view at Peter Ott's on the Water.
Stay: The Camden Riverhouse Hotel and Inn is a charming hotel located just steps away from the harbor, shops, and restaurants. It welcomes guests with free breakfast, an indoor pool, children's activities, and family rooms or suites that include microwaves and refrigerators. Pets are welcomed in rooms located on the first floor.
7. Kent, CT
Located just a few miles from the NY state border, this picturesque town offers quaint museums, natural beauty, and many restaurants.
See: The main attraction is Kent Falls, famous for its 250-foot cascading waterfall. The trail to the top is steep, but professionally equipped with handrails and a clear walkway with multiple lookouts. At the base of the Falls sprawls a large grassy area, perfect for playing a ball game or enjoying a picnic. Hiking in Macedonia Brook State Park is also a fall must-do.
Play: This town is more about exploring nature's playgrounds, but kids will enjoy the variety of antique cars and equipment at the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association and its annual Fall Festival taking place in late September.
Eat: J.P. Gifford Market is a local favorite and for good reason. Delicious sandwiches, burgers, and wraps, and a casual outdoor seating area make this a family-approved choice. If your family has a sweet tooth, get your fix at Kent Coffee and Chocolate.
Stay: You will find only quaint inns or bed and breakfasts in this area, and a good bet with kids is the Cornwall Inn, which features free continental breakfast, a seasonal outdoor pool, a gathering room stocked with board games and books, and a refrigerator in the breakfast room. Pets are also welcomed in lodge rooms for a $20 fee (per pet, per stay).
8. Old Lyme/Old Saybrook, CT
If you're looking to combine autumn glory with a coastal town, head to a New London County destination steeped in history and art.
See: Feel the crunch of fall leaves under your feet while you marvel at the beautiful and intricate Wee Faerie Village, an annual tradition at the Florence Griswold Museum. Each year features a different theme, and fairy houses are on display from the end of September through the end of October.
Play: Let the kids scale the playgrounds at Town Woods Park or Clark Community Park, or head to Fort Saybrook Monument Park where families can enjoy birdwatching and a story board tour depicting the history of the Saybrook Colony.
Eat: You will find a lot of delicious cuisine in the area. For no-frills, finger-licking-yummy food, head to Teddy's Old Lyme Pizza Palace. For a quick bite of coastal fare, indulge in a hot buttered lobster roll or New England clam chowder at Liv's Shack (non-seafood options also available).
Stay: Old Lyme features only a couple of small inns, so your best bet is heading to the town next door. Quality Inn Old Saybrook - Westbrook welcomes families with free parking, free WiFi, free breakfast, an indoor pool, and rooms that include refrigerators and microwaves.
Connecticut is full of more fantastic leaf peeping spots, too...check them out here!
Top photo: The White Mountains surrounding Waterville Valley offer jaw-dropping views. Photo by iStockphoto