As fall settles in, school starts back up and leaves already start floating off the trees, it's time to start thinking about your next getaway, now that summer vacation is a memory. Picture this: It's the first cool day, and you take out your favorite sweater, pull on a pair of socks for the first time in months, and pour some hot, tasty beverage of choice to help welcome the season. Leaf peeping, a silly tourism term, invites you to revel in the colors of fall. Some B&B leaf peeping packages may be sold out, but we've corralled together these resources, deals, and packages to get you started. And, in order to do justice to the entire country, we're breaking this report into two sections: New England/Northeast, and everywhere else.
- For starters, there are some good general resources out there, including our "Traveling the U.S: A Catalogue of State Tourism Offices."
- Those looking for packages oriented around a specific type of accommodation -- namely, a bed and breakfast, can try www.bedandbreakfast.com, which is an extensive site that ranks small and large cities and advertises tons of deals.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service has a fall foliage hotline (tel. 800/354-4595; www.fs.fed.us/news/fallcolors), with links on the website to national forests in various parts of the country. Right now the page says to check back in September (which it is!); the outgoing message on the hotline says the same.
- Try the Foliage Network (tel. 518/347-0149; www.foliagenetwork.com), which tracks the northeast, southeast, and midwest for foliages updates twice a week between September and November. You can even sign up to become a "foliage spotter" for the site and receive an e-mail newsletter with updates. There's a listing of places to stay organized by state.
Peak foliage time is rumored to be early to mid-October in Maine (tel. 888/624-6345; www.visitmaine.com). Searching for travel packages you can find a handful of incentives for travel, such as Fall Foliage Pancake Pan-tacular at the Camden Windward House Bed & Breakfast Inn (tel. 888/492-9656; www.windwardhouse.com) good for stays October 16-31. Reduced nightly rates start at $140 based on double occupancy. The package includes a gourmet breakfast menu with several types of pancakes; innkeepers will provide information about some of their favorite fall foliage walking and driving routes in the Camden area. You must download the reservation certificate and present it up on check in to receive the discount.
The travel and tourism section of the Vermont State website (tel. 800/VERMONT; www.travel-vermont.com) has a fall foliage forecasting map that shows approximately when the colors are at their peak; according to the animation, peak looks to be the weekend of October 14. Woodford State Park, located near the Massachusetts border, is a prime spot for fall foliage and outdoor activities such as hiking; it also has 103 campsites. You can search the Vermont site for packages. Although it is not a fall foliage tour per se, The Frost Country Guided Hike in Waitsfield, offered by the Mountainview Inn (tel. 802/496-2426; www.vtmountainviewinn.com) is a walk through the woods that inspired poet Robert Frost, with stops at Rattlesnake Point, Mount Moosalamoo, Silver Lake and his cabin. The package includes five nights' lodging with breakfast, dinner and trail lunch. The package is only good October 8-13 and it starts at $1,199 per person based on double occupancy; taxes and gratuity are included.
History buffs and outdoorsy types might enjoy the Fall Foliage and Historic New England tour run by Yankee Vacations (tel. 866/535-8222; www.yankeevacations.com) A fully escorted motor coach tour that begins and ends in Boston, the trip departs October 9 and goes for six nights; thirteen meals and your accommodations at hotels and inns; prices start at $1,375 per person based on double occupancy. (The September 30 departure is sold out). It includes Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, stops at the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock, Maine's lake region, New Hampshire, and then finally Old Sturbridge Village before heading back to Boston.
Also in New England, New Hampshire's Travel and Tourism site (tel. 800/258-3608; www.visitnh.gov/harvest) is the gateway to all autumnal activities. When you call, press 1 for foliage information and you will bypass the long greeting; on the website, search for "flora and fauna" packages for foliage specials. The Atkinson Resort and Country Club (tel. 603/362-8700; www.atkinsonresort.com) in Atkinson has a Leaf Peepers package starting at $379 per couple, good through October 31. The package includes two nights in its Fieldstone Suites, two $10 vouchers for breakfast, a $100 gift card for dinner at the Stagecoach Grille or Merrill's Tavern, a bottle of New Hampshire maple syrup and two boxed lunches for your foliage drives, along with maps to guide you.
Cosmos Travel (tel. 800/276-1241; www.cosmosvacations.com) again is offering a handful of foliage-related excursions. You can opt for seven days for Niagara Falls and D.C., eight or 10 days in New England, or a 13-day Eastern U.S. and Canada Grand Vacation. The tour starts in New York City and goes to Boston, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Lancaster PA, D.C., Philadelphia and then finally, back to New York. The trip is comprehensive, costs $1,429 per person, and includes sightseeing, tour director, transportation, and hotels. You must act quickly though because departures in late September through mid-October are not available; call if you want to leave September 13, 19 or 20. The eight-day New England foliage trip has availability for September 21, 30, and October 5 departures and costs $1089.
Connecticut (tel. 888/CT-VISIT; www.ctvisit.com) has some great hiking, driving and otherwise scenic opportunities to view fall foliage. The Fall Foliage Driving Loops) give you seven suggested routes and ideas for welcome detours along the way (cider mills, antiques, museums, etc.). Litchfield County in the northwestern part of the state (tel. 860/567-4506; www.litchfieldhills.com) is especially suited for this type of activity. There are a handful of packages listed, including "Falling for Fall Foliage" at the Wake Robin Inn (tel. 860/435-2000; www.wakerobininn.com), priced at $149 per night plus tax for rooms with a queen or king bed during the week. Located in Lakeville, the Inn offers the special October 1 through November 20 for Sundays-Thursdays.