New England Travel

12 unexpected New England towns to visit this fall

Plan a fall trip to one of these off-the-beaten-path destinations.

Mt. Orne Covered Bridge in Lancaster, New Hampshire. James Hatcher / flickr

Towns like Stowe, Vermont, and North Conway, New Hampshire, receive (well-deserved) accolades each fall season for their incredible fall foliage and many fall activities. But there are plenty of other towns across the region brimming with color and fun.

Ahead, local travel experts recommend some more unexpected New England towns great for exploring this fall.

Fall foliage in Eastham. Bill DeSousa

Massachusetts

Cape Cod is a great destination for fall trips and Eastham has much to offer, according to Bill DeSousa, publicist for the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce. Eastham beaches are great for strolling in the fall, he said, especially Coast Guard Beach, regularly one of the top 10 beaches in America, and First Encounter Beach, the location of the first encounter between the pilgrims and Native Americans. There are also plenty of trails perfect for fall exploring, he said, such as Cape Cod National Seashore’s Fort Hill Trail, Red Maple Swamp Trail, Nauset Marsh Trail, and Buttonbush Trail. Visitors can also check out the Eastham Turnip Festival in November.

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Andover, “a quintessential New England town,” is well worth exploring in the fall, according to Nancy Gardella, executive director of the North of Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau. Head to nearby Smolak Farms for apples, pumpkins, hay rides, and other seasonal treats. Enjoy a hike — and the season’s foliage — in Harold Parker State Forest or Ward Reservation, where visitors can search for the Solstice Stones from Holt Hill. And don’t miss the “gem” that is the Addison Gallery of American Art, noted Gardella, where current exhibits include “Harry Benson: Four Stories” and  “Rosamond Purcell: Nature Stands Aside.”

New Hampshire

Lancaster, located in New Hampshire’s Great North Woods region, offers easy access to the White Mountains region with fewer crowds, according to Kris Neilsen, communications manager with the division of travel and tourism department in New Hampshire. A great place to view foliage is Weeks State Park, Neilsen said, where visitors can drive the auto road to the summit of Mount Prospect and enjoy 360-degree views of the Presidential Range, the Kilkenny Range, and Percy Peaks. Other places worth visiting include the Polish Princess BakeryThe Granite Grind, and Copper Pig Brewery. Don’t forget to check out historic covered bridges such as Mt. Orne and Mechanic Street, she said.

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For a “quintessential country vibe,” head to Sandwich, Neilsen said, where folks will find fewer crowds and “amazing photo ops with rock walls lining the roadway and incredible mountain backdrops.” Visitors can check out locally-made ice cream at Sandwich Creamery. Another must-see: the Durgin Covered Bridge. Stroll the village, full of white clapboard buildings, which is “everything you imagine a small country town would be,” according to Neilsen.

Maine

Bangor is an ideal destination for leaf peeping, according to Steve Lyons, director of the Maine Office of Tourism. Great places for viewing the foliage include the Bangor Waterfront Trail for beautiful views of the colorful leaves against the Penobscot River, and the 680-acre Bangor City Forest for hiking and wildlife watching on nine miles of trails. Other activities include restaurants, breweries, and the Zillman Art Museum.

Another great destination in Maine is Rangeley, according to Lyons, where fall adventures await at Saddleback. Attend an Oktoberfest or explore the trails at SaddleBack Mountain Bike Park, where the bike shop in the base lodge offers rentals, service, and accessories. Last fall, Saddleback opened its first network of single-track mountain bike trails on the lower mountain in the South Branch area. For a beautiful drive, follow the 35-mile Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway.

Equinox Pond in Manchester, Vermont. – Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing

Vermont

Manchester, set between the Taconic and Green Mountain ranges, is one of the best small towns for a fall getaway, according to Travel + Leisure. Visitors can enjoy Vermont’s iconic fall foliage while hiking or driving to see the covered bridges, farms, and “breathtaking scenery,” according to the publication. Choose from plenty of restaurants, shops, and fall fairs and festivals.

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Over in the northern corner of the state in Greensboro, “you’ll sense this away-from-it-all atmosphere,” according to PlanetWare travel guides. The Highland Center for the Arts, which features a 250-seat state-of-the-art theater, has programming year-round. Hike the trails at the Barr Hill Nature Preserve, one of the highest points in Greensboro, and head to Jasper Hill Farm for fall activities and a sampling of award-winning cheeses, according to PlanetWare.

Rhode Island

In Lincoln, visitors can check out the Hearthside House, a shooting location for “Hocus Pocus 2,” according to Robin Erickson, domestic tourism and marketing operations director for R.I. They can also enjoy the “stunning” Lincoln Woods State Park and also Blackstone River State Park, which offers riverfront bike paths and historic walking tours. The colorful, canopied path of the Blackstone River Bikeway is a great place to take in the fall colors, she said.

Visitors can spend time at Buck Hill Management Area in Burrillville and soak in the fall colors among the 2,049 acres of forest, wildlife, wetlands, and marsh, according to Erickson. The town, billed as “comfortably tucked away in Northwest Rhode Island,” has biking, hiking, farms, and nine villages for visitors to explore.

Wethersfield, Connecticut. – Town of Wethersfield

Connecticut

Fall is a great time in Wethersfield, according to Noelle Stevenson, director of the Connecticut Office of Tourism. Visitors can explore the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum, where George Washington met with Comte de Rochambeau for “The Wethersfield Conference,” shop and eat at the Old Wethersfield Country StoreLucky Lou’s, Heirloom Market at Comstock Ferre, Main Street Creamery, and River, with its “stunning” views of the Connecticut River and Putnam Bridge. And, finally, visitors can stroll down Main Street during October during the Annual Scarecrows Along Main.

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In Cornwall, visitors can check out Cornwall Covered Bridge, one of three surviving covered bridges in the state, according to Stevenson. Visitors can also hike a portion of the famous Appalachian Trail, go canoeing, river rafting, or kayaking at Clarke Outdoors, explore the Mohawk State Forest, ride an electric bike with Covered Bridge Electric Bike, shop for locally made products at The Local, and eat at RSVP or Frank Food Co., she said.

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