Foliage Experiences in New England: Fun Takes on Fall Foliage

  Fall foliage experiences give New England families a chance to enjoy leaf-peeping in exciting ways. Photo courtesy of the Adventure Park at Storrs
Fall foliage experiences give New England families a chance to enjoy leaf-peeping in exciting ways. Photo courtesy of the Adventure Park at Storrs

When you live in New England, you tend to get really excited about all of the things to do in fall. From country fairs to cider donuts, pumpkin patches to corn mazes—fall is our very favorite for family activities. This brings me to the season’s main event: leaf-peeping.  Sure, you can throw the kids in the car and try to convince them to look out the window and admire the beautiful scenery, but where's the fun in that? This list of New England fall foliage experiences gets you and your family out of the car and into nature in new and exciting ways! From family friendly hikes to rail bike adventures - to soaring 60 mph through the trees, we've found a little something for everyone. 

Enjoy our picks for Fall Foliage experiences in New England, from the gentle hills of Connecticut to the rugged coast of Maine, and from Boston's Back Bay to New Hampshire's White Mountains. And be sure to explore our Fall Fun Guide for Boston Kids ad well as our Fall Fun Guide for Connecticut Kids to find more autumn fun around New England. 

Image of fall landscape in New England, with foliage and moose. 
New England dazzles with color every fall. Photo courtesy of the New England Outdoor Center, Facebook

Fall Foliage Experiences in New England - Boat Rides

1. Connecticut River Museum – Essex, CT

There is nothing quite as magical as the sun setting across an autumn sky.  Join the Connecticut River Museum aboard the RiverQuest as you cruise down the Connecticut River and enjoy the foliage. 

2. Connecticut Water Sports – Litchfield, CT

Snuggle up with a blanket while you float around Bantam Lake on Connecticut Water Sports’ pontoon boat.  Guests can schedule a private tour or purchase tickets for one of their weekend cruises. Guests are encouraged to bring their own food to enjoy during the cruise. 

3. Charles River Foliage Cruise – Cambridge, MA

Enjoy the quintessential fall experience of the foliage in Boston. Sip a cup of complementary cider while you float through Cambridge, Boston, and the Back Bay scenery.  

4. Moose and Wildlife Tour – Millinocket Lake, ME

Is there anything more “Maine” than taking a wildlife tour along Millinocket Lake while looking for moose.  The New England Outdoor Center offers wildlife cruises through the first half of October. The tour lasts three hours and typically takes place on their luxury pontoon boat. 

5. Essex River Cruises – Essex, MA

Foliage and donuts go together like cocoa and marshmallows.  Essex River Cruises Fall Foliage and Cider Donut Cruises do not disappoint. Enjoy the captivating views of brilliant oranges, yellows, and reds while you enjoy hot cider and donuts from Russel Orchards in Ipswich. 

Image of steep crevice in NH - Fall Foliage Experiences in New England
The Flume is one of New England's stunning foliage hikes. Photo by Tom Howe, courtesy of NH State Parks 

Fall Foliage Experiences in New England - Hikes

6. The Flume – Concord, NH

Enjoy a 2-mile stroll through moss-covered granite walls that rise 90 feet, covered bridges, glacial pools, and waterfalls. The natural granite gorge extends 800 feet at the base of Mount Liberty and is a must see of the White Mountains. It’s a good idea to make Reservations in advance online as in-person availability is not guaranteed. Popular hour blocks or days could sell out.

7. Cadillac Mountain, Summit Loop Trail – Acadia, ME

Reaching the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak along the eastern seaboard, is a must-do in Acadia. But the 7-mile (roundtrip) hike can be daunting for kids. A nice option is to drive the 3.5-mile paved road that nears the top of the mountain in the early morning (the Island Explorer does not go up Cadillac, unfortunately), and then walk the 0.5 summit trail to the peak. The peak is wide, with 360-degree views of the surrounding island, and there's lots of terrain for the kids to scramble on (though take care around the sharp granite outcroppings). 

8. Gillette Castle – East Haddam, CT

The castle, open Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day, features beautiful views of the Connecticut River and offers insight into the life of actor and director William Gillette, best known for portraying Sherlock Holmes. Bathrooms, food concessions, and a gift shop are open in season.

9. Sleeping Giant Tower Trail – Hamden, CT

The mountaintop that stretches 2 miles and resembles a sleeping giant inspired this park's name. Although it was hit by a tornado a few years ago, things are getting back to normal. The Sleeping Giant Tower Trail is a moderate, well maintained walking trail with wildflowers and a castle-like lookout tower that provides spectacular views of the surrounding region. 

10. Monument Mountain – Great Barrington, MA

If you are looking for a kid-friendly hike with the reward of great views on the end, hit Monument Mountain in Great Barrington. Follow the 1.5-mile Indian Monument trail for a leisurely ascent, or the 0.7-mile Squaw Peak trail for a steep, shorter climb that includes some exciting rock scrambling.

Image of train surrounded by New England foliage. 
Trains are sure to sell kids on fall foliage! Photo courtesy of the Mount Washington Cog Railway, Facebook

Fall Foliage Experiences in New England - Train Rides

11. Hobo Railroad – Lincoln, NH 

This family owned and operated tourist train ride travels 15 miles through through a natural woodsy landscape. Depart from Hobo Junction Station along the shoreline of the Pemigewasset River and allow the fall colors to take center stage, 

12. Essex Steam Train & River Boat – Essex, CT

Start your journey at the historic 1892 Essex Station where you will hop aboard a steam locomotive and enjoy a train ride  into the heart of the picturesque Connecticut River Valley. When you arrive in Deep River, guests are escorted onto the riverboat for a cruise back down the Connecticut River. Take in all the sights from the boat’s multiple decks. 

13. Cape Cod Central Railroad – Hyannis, MA 

Head through marshes, cranberry bogs, dunes, and the natural beauty of Cape Cod. Although there is no specific train ride dedicated to foliage, the Cape Cod Central Railroad offers stunning views through coastal forest and the Cape Cod Canal

14. Mount Washington Cog Railway – Bretton Woods NH 

For more than 150 years, visitors have taken a ride up Mount Washington in the first of its kind cog-railway. The railway ascends on the average grade 25% – that’s pretty steep! Throughout the fall, guests can a Steam Train to the summit and enjoy about an hour enjoying the views and the State Park at the Summit. 

Image of child on zipline with New England foliage in background 
See the fall foliage up close on a New England zipline. Photo courtesy of the Adventure Park at Storrs

Adventure Fall Foliage Experiences in New England 

15. Adventure Park – Storrs &  Bridgeport, CT

The Adventure Park offers some of the largest forest climbing parks in Connecticut. Platforms are secured in the treetops along with ropes and ziplines. Trails are available with tons of different zipline options on multiple levels of elevation (and difficulty). 

16. ArborTrek – Jeffersonville, VT

The ArborTrek Tree Top Canopy Adventure Course offers a variety of different ways to soar through the trees. From ziplines to an aerial obstacle course, spend the whole day exploring the trees (and foliage!) 

17. Beast Mountain Coaster – Killington, VT

Get the rush of racing down the mountain without ever putting on a pair of skis via the Beast Mountain Coaster. Riders over 36 inches tall will enjoy a thrill ride down the 4,800 foot-long track that twists and turns through the woods at is located at the Snowshed Lodge on Killington Mountain.

18. Scenic RailRiders – Concord, NH

If you can bike, you can operate a rail bike, and enjoy the views along a beautiful stretch of abandoned railroad tracks at Scenic RailRiders. Travel through woods, farm lands, and over a few bridges along the Merrimack River.   Visitor’s can choose from a 2 or 4 person railbike to pedal along the 6.4 mile trail. Multiple bikes can be linked together to accommodate larger families. 

19. Highflyer Zipline – Mashantucket, CT

Enjoy some of the greatest foliage views in Connecticut while soaring through the sky about the tree line at nearly 60mph. Although not for the faint of heart, Foxwood’s Highflyer Zipline offers a one-of-a-kind foliage experience. 

20. Rail Explorers USA – Portsmouth, RI 

Enjoy a scenic rail bike ride along Aquidneck Island and spectacular Narragansett Bay. The popular Southern Circuit is 3 miles out and 3 miles back. Make sure to pack a picnic to enjoy at their private waterfront picnic area. 

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
Nantucket Christmas Stroll
Nantucket - 10:00 AM Pick
Newton Festivals of Light
New Art Center - 12:00 PM Pick
Polar Express Train Ride on Cape Cod Central Railroad
Cape Cod Central Railroad Depot - various times Pick
'Twas the Night Before...by Cirque du Soleil
Boch Center - various times Pick
Festival of Illumination and Winter Wonderland
Southwick Zoo - various times Pick
Neighborhood Guides
Activity Guides