Believe it or not, until last October I had never been anywhere in New England before. Yes, I am one of those ridiculous people who has been to more countries than states. I also had not seen a typical all-American fall in very long time, having lived in Florida and Australia for the past few years.
So I was very excited to do a road trip through one of the world’s premier “fall foliage” destinations.
In one week I drove through 11 states — six of which I had never been to before! When I go, I go big. As a New England newbie, I learned a lot from my experience and gathered a few tips on how to make sure you have a perfect fall getaway in New England.
Stay at a B&B
New England is all about character. Therefore, a stay in a B&B is an integral and iconic part of any New England trip. Finding a really good, quaint little B&B will likely require a lot of research (some of these places aren’t even going to have websites!), and during high season — especially around Columbus Day — places are going to be booked out or crazy expensive. I found that a good way to find decent deals was actually on sites like Travelzoo, Living Social Escapes, Groupon Getaways, and BedandBreakfast.com.
In the end, I stayed in two B&Bs. The first was Bromley View Inn in Vermont’s Green Mountains. To be honest, I picked this B&B (a Groupon deal) primarily because there were alpacas on the property. In my mind I had visions of vast mountainous land with alpacas milling about by the dozens. (I blame South America for giving me these notions.) In reality, there were two tiny fenced areas with a couple alpacas housed in them — hardly a main draw, though they were cute!
All in all, Bromley was a nice enough place to get away from it all for a quaint stay in the mountains. And away from it all is a key thing to note. The closes thing to a town is nearby Manchester, and it is a fairly upscale ski resort town, so not a cheap place to dine or shop. (If you are looking for quick, cheap, delicious food in the area, I recommend Cilantro Restaurant.) The inn itself is cozy, with a fireplace in the bar/lounge area. The owners are friendly and there are a couple of lovely dogs ready to vie for your attention.
My second B&B was less impressive. I opted for The Governors Inn Hotel in Rochester, New Hampshire, because the price was right and it seemed like a good location. Sadly, there is pretty much nothing to do in Rochester, and the inn was not quaint or nice in really any way. Our room reeked of some kind of chemicals, we found a giant spider above our bed… the room in general was just not great. And we were right above the kitchen so it was noisy. (There is a restaurant/pub attached, which is so-so.) Overall, I would have rather spent more money and stayed somewhere where there was ANYTHING worthwhile to do. Rochester was a huge disappointment. And on top of that, did you know that New Hampshire doesn’t even air Jeopardy!? Yes, I was so bored that was what I had been aiming to do with my time, and I couldn’t even do that.
Take the back roads
It’s fall in New England, and the mountains and back roads are enveloped in trees. Need I say more? (OK, maybe do some apple picking, too, if you can!)
Sample the local cuisine
Whether it’s fresh cheese from a farm in Vermont or authentic pizza from a restaurant in Boston’s Little Italy (try the original Regina Pizzeria in the North End), one requisite of all travel is to try the local cuisine! But in New England it’s even better, because so much of the food is fresh. While you pass through a local town, pull over and stroll through. Ask around, and you may just find an awesome co-op or an adorable general store to buy fresh local treats. My own personal recommendations from my trip: the Brattleboro Food Co-Op in Brattleboro, Vermont, for some inexpensive local produce, and the Taftsville Country Store (I might be a little biased given that it shares my last name!) just outside Woodstock, Vt., for everything from cheese and maple syrup to pancake mixes and jams!
Tour some breweries
Craft beer is all the rage in New England. Some breweries are bigger ones you’ll have heard of, others aren’t. Try to mix it up. My favorite was Long Trail Brewing Co, which is a bit off the beaten path (Bridgewater Corners, Vermont) but in a really lovely, scenic area. You can sit inside and do tastings (not free but not too expensive) or sit outside by the river. There’s a free “tour” which is basically you independently walking up to a viewing area over the brewery. Still, it is informative but probably nothing too special if you go on any other brewery tours.
The list of breweries in New England is endless (quite possibly I am not even exaggerating on this), so unless you are really into something specific, it is easy to just fit a couple into whatever your route/itinerary is. While there are probably better ways, I found Yelp to be useful in searching for nearby breweries on our driving route and finding their opening hours, tour hours and prices, etc. Otherwise, Boston Magazine named 50 good ones, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Hit up Walden Pond
Take to the woods and see the place where Thoreau wrote his celebrated book on self-reliance and simple living (an idea we could all get behind!), named for that very pond he lived besides. You can see a replica of the tiny cabin that Thoreau built and spent two years living in during his social experiment.
Pay a visit to Boston
Because you can’t visit New England and NOT go to that place in Boston where everyone knows your name (that’s Cheers if you’re too young to know what I’m talking about). And Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. Plus there’s always cool exhibitions and random street art — Boston is New England’s big city, and there’s tons to see and do that is a little bit of a break from the oohs and ahhs of beautiful fall scenery.
Visit an ivy or two
All of the infamous Ivy League colleges are scattered across the small region that is New England, which means it is easy to fit a few of them into a road trip. A visit to Harvard or Yale will be interesting whatever your interests are — history, libraries, Harry-Potter-like architecture.
And while you’re at Harvard…
Rub John Harvard’s foot for luck
Well, I did and I had an awesome trip — so it can’t hurt!