I know: it's still July, and some of us have yet to take a summer vacation. But the fliers in the Sunday paper have already signaled the seasonal barrage of back-to-school promotions, which means school, and fall, are not far behind. And when it comes to leaf peeping -- the practice of driving really slowly on a windy country road in the middle of autumn during peak foliage season and annoying those who aren't doing likewise -- the early bird gets the reservation. For many people, it is an eagerly anticipated annual tradition. When we've covered this in the past, we've broken up the information into two installments, acknowledging that there is more to fall than just your stereotypical New England experience, although we do start with the northeast; fall comes there first. Look for part two next week.
There are some good general resources, including our list of state tourism departments. Those looking for packages oriented around a specific type of accommodation like a bed and breakfast, can try BedandBreakfast.com (www.bedandbreakfast.com), 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 site says to check back in September for updates (the hotline still has last year's information once you get past the prompts). The Foliage Network (tel. 518/347-0149; www.foliagenetwork.com) tracks the northeast, southeast, and midwest for foliage, and publishes updates twice a week between September and November. You can even sign up to become a "foliage spotter" for the site; currently, the network has 567 of them. There's also a listing of places to stay, listed by state at www.foliagenetwork.com/places_to_stay.
In Maine, last year's peak foliage in some parts of the state was mid-October, and (tel. 888/624-6345; www.visitmaine.com) the state's website has fall touring loops, hiking, biking and antiquing trail information, and links to packages, under the section Maine Getaways. The Bethel Inn has a special for $99 for midweek stays, $169 on the weekends, for visits between September 1-October 31. The town is located in the lakes and mountain region, and the resort has a golf course, tennis court, pool, fitness center, and other attractions. You can go directly to the state's fall foliage site (tel. 888-MAINE-45; www.mainefoliage.com), which tracks the current conditions in the state's seven zones and will be updated in mid-September. In the meantime, you can sign up to get weekly e-mail updates of fall color. There is a link, too, to past peak foliage dates, dating back to 1996, if you want to plan early. There are also links to the regions of the state with lists of activities and festivals.
Vermont (tel. 800/VERMONT; www.travel-vermont.com) has a foliage forecasting map that shows an estimate of when the colors will be at their peak -- with an illustration to help you determine your travel. Once the season starts foliage reports will be posted here too. Right now you can look through the site for fall packages, such as the hiking trip that sets you up at Inn at Mountain View Farm in East Burke. It is a five-day trip priced at $1,995 per person based on double occupancy, and includes four nights at the Inn, all meals, hiking, and more. There are two departures -- September 30-October 4 and October 7-11. You'll average about four-to-six hours of walking per day and the trip is rated easy to moderate. For something lese expensive, the site has a listing for the Park Light Inn (tel. 888/875-4417; www.parklightinn.com). This Chester, VT inn has a number of packages, including a scenic rail tour that allows visitors to ride a train in order to see views of the foliage along rivers, farmlands, covered bridges. It also includes a walking tour of Chester and Bellows Falls villages. The rate, priced from $89.50 per person based on double occupancy, includes train tickets, maps and guides, breakfast, lunch and lodging. The special is valid September 14-October 14 and some blackout dates may apply.
Starting in mid-September, check out New Hampshire's online foliage report or call the toll-free number (tel. 800/258-3608; www.visitnh.gov/best-time-to-visit/harvest/foliage) for updates. You can get some ideas for travel by checking out scenic drive suggestions, along with links to places where you can pick your own pumpkins or apples, for example. You can search from the website for packages, such as the Autumn Colors package at The Glynn House Inn (tel. 866/686-4362; www.glynnhouse.com) in Ashland. The special is based on two nights accommodations, breakfast, wine and hors d'oeuvres, along with admission to the Canterbury Shaker Village. Room rates start at $130 and the package is available September 1 through October 28. Glynn House also has a package for cycling, available through October 31. Rates start at $80, and include gourmet breakfast, evening wine and hors d'oeuvres and a full day rental of a two mountain bikes, and a boxed lunch for two. The Inn's location in the Lakes Region puts you near covered bridges, winding country lanes, mountains, and other bucolic sites. Click on "easy adventures" under the packages toggle bar, which you can reach by clicking on the drop-down menu "where to stay" on the New Hampshire travel home page.
Cosmos Vacations (tel. 800/276-1241; www.cosmosvacations.com) has a nine-day trip called New England Charm that starts and ends in Boston but goes to Kennebunkport, Portland, and Boothbay, Maine, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, including Shelburne and North Conway, along with Burlington, Concord and Montpelier, Vermont. You can see the local historic attractions, experience nature (and the foliage), and more. The trip includes the services of a tour director, private motorcoach for transportation, mid-range hotels, airport transfers, and the option to add on other tours and excursions. There are departures for this trip planned September 13-October 19. Believe it or not, though, September 13, September 27 and October 5 are the only departures with openings -- priced at $1,199 for the earlier date; the second two dates are priced at $1,229. It's advisable to act quickly if you are interested.
New York state's tourism portal (tel. 800/CALL-NYS; www.iloveny.com) has thus far only a couple of specials posted for fall foliage, including a weekend golf package at Placid Bay Inn on Lake Placid, (tel. 518/523-2001; www.placidbay.com) valid September 1-October 16, priced from $85-$95 per person per day, based on double occupancy. The accommodations available are either a room with one queen or two double beds, and it includes the use of a cart and 18 holes of golf at one of three courses. There is a two-day minimum for weekend stays and three days for holiday periods. Tahoe Resort (tel. 800/833-8484; www.tahoeresort.com) has a fall foliage special at Lake George, priced at $49.95 per room per day in a partial lakeview room. It is available September 3 through October 7, Sundays through Thursdays.
Connecticut's tourism site (tel. 888/CT-VISIT; www.ctvisit.com) has suggestions -- 52 of them to be precise -- for great getaways. When you click on its website, you'll see Fall Foliage Driving Loops. The seven different routes posted should give you some ideas as to where to stay if you want to overnight in Connecticut. You can also search the state for specials. In Niantic, the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina (tel. 860/739-0331; www.innharborhill.com) is offering a "Fall Back in Time" foliage getaway, valid September 1-October 31. The package starts at $500 per couple and includes a two-night stay at this waterfront inn, candlelit breakfast for two, two tickets to a steam train ride (it's a twelve mile journey through the Connecticut River Valley -- perfect for leaf peeping), snacks and beverages, and lodging tax. The special is valid Friday-Sunday in September and Wednesday-Sunday in October. Prices may be different during Columbus Day weekend, however; inquire for details.
Know a spot we left out or you think is worthy of mention. Jump over to our Road Trip Message Boards to share your thoughts.