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Autumn in New England: 10 Great Reasons to Visit in the Fall

Autumn in New England: 10 Great Reasons to Visit in the Fall

As summer fades to autumn and the leaves begin to paint the landscape with vibrant red, orange, and gold hues, New England emerges as a truly enchanting destination.

Nestled in the corner of the northeastern United States, this region becomes an irresistible playground for nature lovers and adventure seekers during fall.

From picturesque small towns adorned with historic architecture to sprawling forests that transform into kaleidoscopes of colour, there are countless reasons why New England is considered one of the best places in the world to experience fall’s magic firsthand.

In this post, I highlight some compelling reasons that make New England an unparalleled destination for those seeking an unforgettable autumnal getaway.

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Where is New England?

New England is in the northeast of the United States and comprises six states, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. It borders New Brunswick and the city of Montreal in Canada and is a close neighbour to New York in the United States.

Many New England counties are coastal, with popular destinations such as Martha’s Vineyard, Camden and New Castle being favourite U.S. destinations. These beautiful coastal New England locations offer an escape from city life and a return to nature with pursuits such as fishing and whale watching.

Further inland, towns like Stowe and Woodstock offer numerous hiking trails and mountain adventures for those looking to reconnect with the beauty that New England in the fall has in abundance.

When is fall in New England?

Fall (autumn) in New England starts in late September and ends in late December. This autumnal season marks the end of the summer months and the beginning of winter. Fall is the most beautiful season in New England, known for its vibrant foliage and picturesque beauty and attracts a wealth of visitors each year.

Top reasons to spend time in New England in the fall

Go hiking in New England and discover excellent trails

One of the reasons New England is a fantastic destination in the fall for those who enjoy getting outside is the variety of hiking options. In fact, New England has some of the best state park trails you can find in the United States. The region’s vibrant foliage is the best backdrop for an invigorating day on the trails amongst the cool crisp air New Englanders know and love.

Vermont and New Hampshire have a vast network of trails suited for different fitness levels, offering incredible views at high elevations. Peaks from Camel’s Hump and Mount Abraham in VT to Mount Willard and Mount Washington in NH are just a few examples of epic scenic vistas that serious hikers can enjoy.

For an especially unforgettable experience, consider a hike in Stowe, Vermont in the fall. This popular town is renowned for its mind-blowing autumnal display and offers many hiking opportunities in the Mount Mansfield and Smuggler’s Notch areas. 

But don’t stop there. Throughout the New England region, an array of hiking trails exist, each showcasing the region’s autumnal beauty. From the coastlines of Maine to the woodland trails in the foothills of Connecticut, and the serene footpaths in Massachusetts’ Minuteman National Historical Park, a multitude of hiking options are available. 

Remember that New England’s weather can change quickly in the fall. Always check the local forecast and trail conditions before you head out. Also, with New England being a popular leaf-peeping destination, parking and trailhead access can vary, so be sure to check those details too.

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Mount Mansfield covered in rich orange and green foliage

See New England’s waterfalls at their best (and go wild swimming)

While the first reason you may think to visit New England in the fall is the colourful leaves, the magic is only amplified when you add the numerous waterfalls and wild swimming spots you can visit. 

If you time your trip just right, you can enjoy dipping a toe in a refreshing pool of natural water as the sound of a waterfall plays in the background, and the vibrant oranges, reds, and yellows create a natural canopy above. Yes, the water may be a bit chilly, but that only means you’ll likely have the pool all to yourself. 

Here are just a few of the fantastic waterfalls that New England has to offer:

Buttermilk Falls

Buttermilk Falls is truly one of Vermont’s hidden gems. With three separate swimming holes and waterfalls, each of differing sizes and accessibility levels, it really has something for everyone. 

Texas Falls

Another accessible waterfall option is Texas Falls. While swimming is prohibited due to the dangerous series of falls, the viewing platforms are covered by beautiful trees that offer a great view of the incredibly clear water.

Thundering Brook Falls

If you’re looking for an easy walk to an impressive waterfall, head to Thundering Brook Falls. Take the boardwalk for half a mile to see the impressive 125-foot waterfall. If you keep climbing upward (or drive around to the top), you’ll come across a small swimming hole.

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Go leaf peeping and see the vibrant colours of fall

Each fall, New England comes alive with stunning fall foliage. Vibrant reds, oranges and yellows cover the mountains and coastline, offering sweeping views perfect for hiking and road trips. For the best fall colours, visit the mountains of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, or Massachusetts, or drive along the coastline to see the colours contrast against the ocean.

The Green Mountains of Vermont and the White Mountain National Forest of New Hampshire offer scenic drives where you can stop at overlooks and take short hikes to see the fall colours in all their splendour.

In fact, the White Mountains are one of North America’s most beautiful landscapes and are home to many of the New Hampshire State Parks, including Franconia Notch state park and Mount Washington State Park.

These routes take you past craggy mountains, covered bridges, and rivers. The Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire is one of the most famous drives to enjoy the fall colours.

Go leaf peeping on foot and by road

In addition to taking a scenic drive, you should consider getting out and exploring the fall colours on foot. The best fall hikes visit waterfalls or take you to rocky overlooks where you can see valleys full of colour.

The rocky Maine coastline and sandy shores of Massachuessettes also offer incredible views of the fall colours, although not always as vibrant as the colours in the mountains. Drive up the Maine coast to Acadia National Park in Maine, or if you are visiting later in the fall, see some of the fall colours along the southern New England Coastline.

When planning your visit to see the fall colours in New England, plan your visit for late September through mid-October. The exact timing of the peak foliage shifts slightly every year and starts in the north and moves south, but this window is your best bet for seeing the colours.

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photo credit Unsplash

Have some seasonal fun at a New England county fair

A county fair is one of the great reasons to visit New England in the fall because, as they say, “fall time is fair time” and here are some of the best county fairs in New England in the fall.

Big E

The Big E is the largest county fair in New England, and it takes place in West Springfield, Massachusetts, every September. The Big E features a wide range of exhibits, entertainment, and food from all six New England states. If you can only go to one fair, this is the one you want to go to!

Topsfield Fair

Every October, the Topsfield Fair takes place in Massachusetts; and is one of New England’s oldest and largest agricultural fairs. It features a variety of livestock shows, carnival rides, and live entertainment.

Freyburg Fair

Fryeburg Fair arrives in Fryeburg, Maine, the first week of October and is one of the largest agricultural fairs in the region. It features a variety of livestock shows, carnival rides, and live entertainment. The Fryeburg Fair is more about animals than rides but is a great family event.

The Durham Fair

Durham Fair takes place in Durham, Connecticut, every September and is one of the largest fairs in the state. It features a variety of exhibits, entertainment, and food. The Durham Fair is in a beautiful location that draws people from all over Connecticut to hear live music and eat unusual food.

Deerfield Fair

The Deerfield Fair is held in Deerfield, New Hampshire and is the largest fair in the state. It features livestock exhibits, horse shows, a midway, and a variety of food vendors. What makes the Deerfield Fair different is the roaming performers that entertain you throughout the fairgrounds. 

These are just a few of the many county fairs in New England during the fall season. There is a fall fair in almost every town throughout the region! So no matter where you are, local fun is bound to be around the corner.

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big funfair illuminated at night
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Taste local autumnal produce at a cider mill or sugar house

One of the tastiest reasons to visit New England is to visit a cider mill or sugar house. 

Vermont in the fall is a great destination where you can pick apples from orchards, drink freshly made cider, snack on a variety of sweet treats such as sugar doughnuts, and take home a souvenir of maple syrup. 

Popular stops during your road trip that offer the above include Bragg Farm Sugar House in East Montpelier, where you can try local creemee soft serve ice cream, made with a higher fat content than usual and in maple flavour. You can also pick up some maple syrup for home. 

Cold Hollow Cider Mill is a massive complex in Waterbury with a take-out coffee counter, cafe, cider tasting room, gift shop, patio dining, and farm paraphernalia. The cider doughnuts are well-sought after, making it to many Instagram posts, stacked in two and balanced on a steaming coffee cup lid. 

Shelburne Orchards in Shelburne, just outside of Burlington, is a working orchard that opens up its field in autumn for families to pick the fruit. The orchard offers rows and rows of apple trees of various kinds. If you don’t want to pick your own, you can buy loose apples and other sweet items at the gift shop, such as delicious doughnuts and maple syrup. At the same time, don’t miss their seven-year-old cask-aged Apple Brandy or the Pommeau, a fortified cider.

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farm shop entrance with old American car outside in New England in the fall
Photo credit – Shelbourne Orchards

Drive the iconic Vermont cheese trail in fall

The scenic state of Vermont is renowned for its abundance of dairy farms and its rich tradition of cheese making.

For those who love the open road and artisanal cheeses, there’s no better way to indulge in this gastronomic delight than by embarking on a journey along the famed Vermont Cheese Trail in the fall.

Spanning over 280 miles and showcasing more than 50 cheese makers, this trail promises an unforgettable experience as you explore the picturesque countryside in all its glory, sample an array of delectable cheeses, and gain insights into the fascinating world of Vermont’s cheese production.

So fasten your seatbelts and prepare for a mouthwatering autumnal adventure as you delve into the delights along the winding roads of the Vermont Cheese Trail.

Cheese platter
photo credit Pixabay

Join a whale-watching tour in Massachusetts

Whale watching in Gloucester is an ideal fall activity and is one of the biggest reasons visitors flock to New England.

Since Massachusetts is one of the best places to go whale watching in the US, if not the world, from early May through October, whales can be seen rain or shine, and fall can be a great time to see the whales without the crowds or high temperatures.

The area offers an abundance of whales and other marine life due to its colder waters, while its proximity to Stellwagen Bank makes it an ideal spot for sightings. Whether taking a morning or afternoon trip, visitors can expect plenty of opportunities to view whales in their natural habitat! 

Cape Ann Whale Watch in Gloucester offers visitors a 3-4 hour guided boat ride on Hurricane II, one of the fastest whale-watching vessels in the region. An experienced crew will educate guests about marine life and guarantee that you will see whales while onboard; if not, your next trip is free until you do!

The boat also features a spacious sundeck for 117, an inside cabin area for 85, four on-boat bathrooms, and a fully stocked galley with snacks and beverages. Guests can also bring their own snacks to enjoy. 

When going out on a whale watch, it is essential to be prepared. Bring binoculars and sunglasses for optimal viewing of whales, and be sure to bring a jacket even if the land temperature is warm. Remember sun protection, even in the fall! 

Whale tail fin breaching the water in New England
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Celebrate Halloween in New England

A fun reason to visit New England in the fall is for the Halloween celebrations, and what better place to celebrate Halloween than in Salem, Massachusetts?

Salem earned its nickname, “Witch City,” because of the infamous Salem Witch trials, which happened there in the late 1600s. Between the witch trials and the popular Halloween movie, “Hocus Pocus,” which was filmed in Salem, this city has become a popular place to visit during Halloween. 

There’s no shortage of things to see and do in Salem around Halloween and two must-see places to visit are the Witch House and the Salem Witch Museum.

The Witch House was the home Judge Jonathan Corwin lived in. It’s one of the only sites in Salem with direct ties to the trials. The Salem Witch Museum covers the history of the Salem Witch Trials, and the perception and role witches play in our society/media today. 

Events in Salem unique to the Halloween season include haunted houses, vampire balls, Ghost hunts, and a “Haunted Happenings Marketplace.” Note that the closer it gets to Halloween, the more crowded Salem becomes.

For the ultimate spooky experience, consider visiting at the beginning of October to avoid some of the crowds and pre-book a haunted Salem tour and a stay at the Hotel Salem.

Grey clapperboard house with sign Witch House outside
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Enjoy the beauty and tranquillity of fall fishing

As autumn arrives in New England, the coastal waters come alive with an abundance of fish species, making it the perfect time for fishing enthusiasts to embark on unforgettable fall fishing trips.

With its picturesque scenery and cooler temperatures being just two good reasons to fish in the fall, New England offers a unique experience for anglers seeking adventure and tranquillity.

Places like Half Mile Beach in Maine, Block Island in Rhode Island, and Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, are popular fishing spots in the fall.

From striped bass to bluefish and everything in between, these waters have opportunities for anglers of all skill levels. So grab your gear and explore the bountiful fisheries that await you during a fall fishing trip in New England.

small fishing boats on the water with a backdrop of vibrant orange foliage in New England
photo credit Pixabay

Enjoy all the best sights on a New England road trip

The absolute best reason to visit New England in the fall is to experience all the stunning foliage this time of year on an epic New England fall road trip. Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire put on especially beautiful displays of fall colours.

The best place to start this road trip is in Boston, which has its fair share of beautiful places to see fall colour. Before or after hitting the road, you’ll need to plan at least one or two days in Boston to check out the foliage in places like the Boston Common and the Charles River Esplanade. It’s easy to take a day trip to Salem from Boston, too!

From Boston, you’ll want to hit up the White Mountains region of New Hampshire next, famous for having some of the best fall foliage in the Northeast. While here, Flume Gorge is an absolute must, and on this hike, you’ll see two covered bridges and be able to walk through the very cool gorge waterfalls and be treated to a colourful walk through the woods. 

Drive New England’s most famous highway

In the White Mountains, you’ll also want to drive the Kancamagus Highway, hike the Artist Bluff trail, and take the tramway to the top of Cannon Mountain. 

Next up, Vermont! Known for idyllic fall foliage landscapes, maple syrup, and covered bridges, you’ll want to spend much of your time in Stowe and Woodstock. These two towns aren’t too far from each other and offer so many festive fall things to do, as well as charming scenery and incredible fall foliage.

Lastly, plan some time in the Berkshires region of Massachusetts before returning to Boston. The auto road to the summit of Mount Greylock is especially magical in the fall, and you’ll be surrounded by excellent farms and cideries during your stay. 

For this road trip, it’s best to plan about 7-10 days to see the best of what this region has to offer in the fall season, and since New England is a world-class destination for foliage, it’s sure to be one of your most memorable road trips ever. 

I hope this post has inspired you to spend time in New England in the fall. It is certainly an ideal place for an autumnal visit.

red roofed bridge surrounded by vibrant orange foliage on the trees
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If you want to experience some fantastic New England activities, Get Your Guide has a wide selection to book online.

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