10 Car-Free Fall Foliage Trips of the Northeast
From a castle on the waterfront to a yurt in the woods, here are some of the most spectacular places to experience fall foliage in the northeast—all easily accessible and enjoyable without the car!
What to fall for: No matter what time of year you visit this historic hamlet on the harbor 16 miles north of Boston, the town will cast its spell. Yet when the leaves form a crimson canopy, the pumpkins come out, and Halloween takes hold, there is a haunting chill in the air that well serves the stories of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Soak up the bewitching colors of the season as you explore the Walking Heritage Trail, hunch over the graves of hanged victims, and ride the Tales & Tombstones Trolley (one hour, from $21). Grab a bite at the newly opened Opus restaurant or locavore gastropub Naumkeag Ordinary before visiting Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables, situated conveniently across the street from your accommodations at the Morning Glory Bed & Breakfast, a charming 1808 Georgian Federal house with a rooftop patio (from $190).
Peak Season: Mid-October
How to get there: From Boston, take the Newburyport/Rockport commuter rail or the Salem Ferry (roundtrip, from $29) now through October 31st. The Morning Glory B&B offers free transportation to and from the port and train stations.
What to fall for: Without knowing Burlington recently joined a tiny coterie of American cities to be 100% run on renewable energy, you can sense a "green" ethos while walking through the streets that goes beyond being pedestrian-friendly, accessible by train, and the Green Mountain State. You may be here for other hues, like orange, burgundy, and gold, but Burlington’s celebration of the environment—found on plates at the Farmhouse Tap & Grill, in pint glasses at Burlington Hearth, and in guestrooms at newcomer Hotel Vermont (from $199)—makes for a more rewarding getaway. Take one of Hotel Vermont’s complimentary bikes out for a scenic ride around Lake Champlain or use their suggested guided itinerary for an off the beaten path farm-to-foliage-to-table excursion on two wheels.
Peak Season: Mid-October
How to get there: Visit Amtrak.com to book your trip.
What to fall for: Affordable all-inclusive getaways in luxurious remote destinations don’t come along often enough for car-free travelers, which is why this package from Metro-North and the Mohonk Mountain House belongs on your bucket list. Daily meals, transportation, and on-site activities-—including yoga, guided hikes, and tennis-—are part of the deal (worth a splurge from $297 per person per night for all-inclusive amenities) at this 145-year-old Victorian castle nestled on Lake Mohonk. At some point mid-stride in the Shawangunk Mountains, stop a moment to look down at the resort’s red rooftops blending in with fall’s dramatic backdrop.
Peak Season: Mid-late October
How to get there: Ride Metro-North from New York City to Poughkeepsie Station. Book your stay two weeks in advance and connect with the hotel for pick-up and drop-off via their free shuttle.
What to fall for: State capitals like Providence are a rare breed. Here, half way between New York City and Boston, the vibe is anything but business and politics. After a long workweek, this has become a place to forget all that. With a sizzling art scene, hip hotels, and James Beard-nominated restaurants opening up, Providence is the Northeast’s new cool kid on the block. Wake up to a cup of Bolt Coffee at The Dean Hotel (from $99 for a single room or from $149 for a suite), a former brothel-turned-hotel with elegant rooms, a cocktail lounge, karaoke bar, beer, bratwurst and pretzel hall, and a locally sourced aesthetic. From The Dean, go for a 13-minute stroll past City Hall, across the river-—where WaterFire is celebrating its 20th year-—and over to the Rhode Island School of Design. From there, head up a few paces to Prospect Terrace Park for sweeping views of the city’s blazing skyline. Walk east through Brown’s beautiful campus, up Thayer Street, and head over to brunch at the Duck & Bunny. Wind down the day at Roger Williams Park Zoo’s annual Jack O Lantern Spectacular (happening Oct 2nd thru Nov 2nd, featuring 5,000 creatively carved pumpkins), then settle in to a creatively carved meal at Birch.
Peak Season: Late October
How to get there: Take Amtrak’s Acela or Northeast Regional trains. Peter Pan Bus and Megabus also service Providence.
What to fall for: When the mountains start calling this season, bring the flannels and flasks to the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Highland Center at Crawford Notch—the oldest, continually maintained hiking trail in the country. Breakfast and dinner are included in your stay, as are the naturalist programs, L.L. Bean gear, waterfalls, and breathtaking summits with panoramic views accessible right outside your door. With non-member rates from $81/pp, this is one of the best budget-friendly glamping adventures in the northeast.
Peak Season: Early October
How to get there: Through fall, AMC’s Hiker Shuttle offers transportation to various major approach routes. The AMC shuttle also picks up in Gorham, NH. If coming from Boston, take Concord Coach Lines to Lincoln, NH, where Shuttle Connection offers van service to the Highland Center.
What to fall for: The getaway starts before you even leave home. Where you’re going you’ll need one bag of groceries (don’t forget the s’mores!) in addition to the usual overnight necessities. Tucked away on 70 acres in the Catskill Mountains, this upstate retreat has everything else you’ll need, like peace and quiet, your own yurt, your own woods, and your own private planetarium. By day, sitting on your deck at Harmony Hill (from $125 for a yurt, $195 for a mountain chalet), looking out at the leafy spectrum of amber, citrus, and fuschia, you’ll get your foliage fix all right. By night, the stars will light up the sky along with your campfire, chopped wood included. Near the yurt—a 314-square-foot heated sanctuary with a bathroom, kitchen, king size bed, four windows, and a dome skylight—there are hiking trails and meadows, and an 11-circuit labyrinth. The charcoal grill may come in handy, but it’s advised to let owners Jana Batey and Chris Rosenthal arrange for dinner to be delivered to your picnic table ($50 per person with wine) from neighboring Stone & Thistle Farm.
Peak Season: Mid-late October
How to get there: Take the Adirondack Trailways bus to Delhi, NY. Call ahead for Harmony Hill to pick you up at the station.
What to fall for: For a taste of the wild outdoors without leaving civilization, plan a trip to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. You’ll want to linger in your waterfront room at The West Street Hotel (from $129), but this place in the tippy-top corner of the country seems like it was made just for autumn. Acadia National Park will turn you into a morning person; set out onto 45 miles of car-free Carriage Trails with an Acadia Bike ($22 for a day rentals), paddle around the Porcupine Islands in Frenchman Bay with Coastal Kayaking Tours ($49 for half day rentals), and hike some of the 125 miles of trails offering panoramic views of the spectacular season.
Peak Season: Mid-October
How to get there: Take the Bar Harbor Shuttle ($45 per person, one way) from Bangor, ME. Visit http://exploreacadia.com/guide.htm for more car-free travel options to the area.
What to fall for: DC makes it easy to get over summer. Especially when you’re standing atop the recently reopened Washington Monument or at Arlington National Cemetery’s Arlington House above the city and its government buildings that never looked so radiant. Whether roaming the capital’s free attractions—be it the U.S. National Arboretum, Botanic Garden, Smithsonian’s National Zoo, National Mall, Rock Creek Park, or Tidal Basin, or rolling through various neighborhoods like Georgetown and Adams Morgan on the $1 DC Circulator—you’ll be thinking this is better than cherry blossoms or the 4th of July. Enjoy free bikes at Hotel Monaco (from $139) or free breakfast at American Guest House (from $184), and make sure to tap into a few autumnal events, including FotoWeekDC (Nov. 8-16) and Taste of DC (Oct. 11-12), while in town. Before turning in—or riding the rails home—be one of the first to have a nightcap at Union Social, a train station themed bar expected to open this fall in the NoMa district.
Peak Season: Mid-late October
How to get there: The capital is easily accessible via plane, train, and bus.
What to fall for: The journey by train is part of the allure of this Connecticut coast escape. The trip begins without fuss, no traffic jams or getting lost, and carries you into a quaint town tinged with orange leaves and a fair amount of fun for such a small zipcode. Fairfield Restaurant Week (Oct 12-18, from $10 for lunch, $30 for dinner) is on the docket, as is a complimentary welcome bottle of champagne at Delamar Southport, which is taking care of your roundtrip rail tickets with its Metro North Package that also includes breakfast for two at on-site Artisan Restaurant (from $289, weekends). After gallery hopping, a hike and picnic in the newly revitalized Southport Park, and a stroll along pristine beaches, walk over to restaurant week participant Gray Goose Café for a delicious organic meal, the only kind of refueling you’ll need all weekend.
Peak Season: Mid-late October thru early November.
How to get there: Take Metro North’s New Haven Line to Southport Station. Call the hotel directly to book the package and arrange for transfers to and from the station.
What to fall for: It’s been called a hidden gem and Pennsylvania’s best kept secret, but for whatever reason Bucks County still ends up being one of those places you say you’re going to visit some day but never do. In the heart of town, drop your bags at Olivia’s Bridge Street Inn (from $129) and skip over to South Main Street to pick up the Delaware Canal towpath. In a setting like this, you’ll feel as though you’ve never seen the real foliage before. If you only have a short time to explore the canal and take in the sights, rent two wheels at New Hope Cyclery ($10 per hour, lock and helmet included) or enjoy a two and a half hour "Fall Foliage Train" tour on the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad ($42) that whooshes across Bucks County on weekends Oct 3rd thru Nov 2nd; hop on an enlightening hour rail excursion (from $19.95) in an Open Air Car. Slow things down at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve ($5), home to 800 native PA species, for a relaxing guided walk included in admission. Toast to finally making it to Bucks County over a riverfront feast at The Landing or Martine’s.
Peak Season: October
How to get there: The Transbridge Bus (Doyleston/Frenchtown/Flemington line) goes from Penn Station to New Hope, but it might be better to get off at the Lambertville stop and walk across the bridge (approximately 10 minutes) into town.
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