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New England Revisited

It only lasts for a few weeks each year. But while it’s here, it’s glorious.

Fall is an ideal time to travel to most places in North America, but perhaps no region embraces and embodies its beauty more than New England. Though peak foliage season is short and somewhat difficult to time, the heavily wooded landscape erupts in a display of color that draws tens of thousands of visitors from around the country each year.

There are numerous ways to experience the beauty of fall in New England, from scenic train rides and harbor cruises to autumn festivals, farm tours and more. If your group enjoys fall travel, consider these activities and ideas for your next foliage tour of New England.



At the southern end of New England, Connecticut offers groups opportunities to enjoy its fall landscape by road, rail and river.

“We have the Connecticut River running right through our state,” said Anne Orsene, executive director of the Connecticut Central Regional Tourism District. “There are numerous riverboat cruise options that are great for groups. They’re a nice way to view the scenery. Some of them go by landmarks, such as the Gillette Castle and the Goodspeed Opera House.

“The Essex Steam Train and riverboat is a popular stop for groups. It’s the only steam train and riverboat combination in the country, and it gives you a variety of ways to see the foliage.”

Many groups traveling in Connecticut make time to stop at Mystic Seaport, a living-history village that re-creates the seafaring lifestyle of the New England coast. The seaport and the surrounding area host a number of special events during fall, including Chowder Days in October.

Autumn also makes a great time to explore Connecticut’s burgeoning beer and wine scene.

“We have so many breweries that have been popping up, and a lot of them can accommodate groups and have event space,” Orsene said. “We also have a wine trail, and the fall is one of the nicest times of year to visit a vineyard.”


New Hampshire

Active groups with a sense of adventure can experience the best of fall in New Hampshire by exploring the White Mountains.

“The Appalachian Mountain Club is a nonprofit organization that helps maintain trails throughout New England, and here in New Hampshire, they maintain three lodges and eight high huts along 60 miles of the trail in our White Mountains,” said Kris Neilsen, communications manager for the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism. “They offer guided adventures for people of all abilities. They can provide groups with customized tours, which can include hut-to-hut hikes.”

If mountain hiking is too strenuous for your travelers, consider taking them to see foliage on the New Hampshire coast with the Isle of Shoals Steamship Company, which operates a Victorian-style steamship. Narrated tours year-round showcase famous lighthouses and the oldest working naval shipyard in the country. The company also offers sunset cruises in the fall, giving travelers a chance to catch coastal color in perfect light.

New Hampshire also has several scenic train rides that are popular with autumn visitors. The Mount Washington Cog Railway is one of the oldest mountain-climbing trains in the world, and the Conway Scenic Railroad offers special excursions for fall.

“They take groups on their Budd Diesel Cars up to the front door of the White Mountain Cider Company, where they have delicious, fresh apple cider and cider doughnuts,” Neilsen said.



With hundreds of miles of rocky coastal terrain, Maine is beautiful at any time of year. But beginning as early as September 1 in the northern reaches of the state, autumn colors take the area’s scenery to another level.

“Fall is spectacular here — the colors are absolutely fabulous,” said Donna Moreland, development project officer for the Maine Office of Tourism. “One great way to tour is to follow some of our scenic byways. There are lots of opportunities to follow a beautiful byway and enjoy foliage along the way.”

Maine has a number of national and state scenic byways. The Old Canada Road National Scenic Byway, which follows a historic road along the Canadian border, is a popular one for visitors. The Grafton Notch Scenic Byway winds through the state’s lakes and mountains region. And the Schoodic National Scenic Byway and the Acadia Byway showcase the best of Maine’s rocky coastline.

Moreland said fall is also a popular time to visit the lighthouses on the coast.

“Lighthouses are even more beautiful when you have foliage behind them,” she said. “Within a short distance of Portland you can tour six different lighthouses that are very popular.”

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.