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A scenic itinerary for a New England fall foliage road trip

Cover off all of the storybook villages, warming comfort foods, and vibrant autumnal hues in this northeastern corner of the United States.

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The deep russet tones and the bright orange hues of autumn have come and gone, leaving us in somewhat of a colourless stretch. So this gives us a few options: to power through the rest of winter with spring on the mind, or to get excited about the next time autumn rears her cosy head.

If it’s Option B that you find most tempting, then we have the dream itinerary for you. From all the comfort treats that come with the season - deep-dish apple pies and warm cider - to the tree-lined highways and villages of the USA’s most charming countryside, here’s how you can witness the very best of fall foliage.

Day One: New York City in the fall

Before you pick up the car, take a moment to savour the autumnal air of the Big Apple. Stay in the heart of New York City, and begin your day with a walk through the timeless Central Park. Enjoy a warming coffee as you stroll beneath the trees and over the crunchy leaves blanketing its 840-acres. By night, take to the buzzing Times Square and do what you must do: people watch. If there’s time, treat yourself to a spot of retail therapy in Saks Fifth Avenue.

Day Two: up to cosy Vermont

Now that you’ve experienced how autumn transforms the big city, it's time to take a breath in upstate New York. If you are the king or queen of cosiness, pay a visit to Yankee Candle's flagship store in Deerfield, where you can smell a delightful selection of candles. After this, make your way into the scenic Berkshires, the highland region spilling across New York and Connecticut and broken up by charming villages.

Then it’s time to continue north and into Vermont, a state known for its forested hiking trails, quaint wooden bridges, and tasty cider doughnuts. The best part of your second day on the road trip is the journey, so make sure to savour all the fall foliage colours as you make your way down the scenic highways.

Day Three: the Kancamagus Highway and beyond

As you head further north into the forested, northeastern state of Vermont, you will notice that the trees only get denser. Which will be an absolute delight to the fall foliage lovers out there, or the “leaf peepers” - as they are affectionately known in these parts. On the third day of your journey, you will get to truly revel in New England's natural scenery at its best.

Be sure to stop off at Quechee Gorge, a glacially formed gorge and Vermont’s deepest, and then continue along the Kancamagus Highway (pronounced “Kan-kuh-MOG-us”, or simply referred to as “The Kanc”), a 34.5-mile scenic drive which is routinely awarded for its fall foliage scenes.

Day Four: take it easy in Bethel

With a new days comes a new state. Vermont has brought the autumnal bliss and Maine is set to deliver even more. Base yourself in the charming mountain village of Bethel.

From here, you have the opportunity to head to Mount Washington, a striking peak surrounded by the vast 750,000-acre White Mountain National Forest. The mountain is just a one-hour drive from Bethel, and it won’t come as a surprise that this detour will be full of fall colours. You can even ride the mountain's historic Cog Railway – known for being the only one east of the Rocky Mountains – to the 6,288-foot summit of New England's highest peak. Keep an eye out for moose!

Day Five: to the sea

Fall isn’t just about the forested parts of New England, it’s about the fresh salty air. To sample the best of this region's seasonal produce, drive south to the seaside city of Portland. The city delights with its 19th-century architecture and for being home to Maine’s oldest lighthouse.

Because of its prized spot on the coast, Portland also has a flourishing culinary scene, so you could consider whiling away the afternoon in a waterfront restaurant or simply buying some delicious seafood to take away and enjoy as you savour the ocean views. Craft beer lovers will also love this city, on account of the microbreweries popping up all over town.

Day Six: Boston’s freedom trail

Take in more of the coast on the drive down to Boston. Here, you can dive deeper into the history of the nation. Follow the 2.5 mile red-brick Freedom Trail through the Boston neighborhoods where the American Revolution found its feet. Then take a well-earned break in the green acres of Boston Common.

As your trip comes to an end, round out your fall foliage adventure in Nantasket Beach. The atmospheric peninsula has a fascinating maritime past and a track record for drawing in hoards of city slickers during the summer months. Don’t miss your chance to cosy up in one of the local haunts as you tuck into the local specialities of traditional clam chowder or New England lobster.

If you can see yourself becoming a leaf peeper next autumn… we can help. If you’re looking to experience all of these autumnal New England destinations, our New England in the Fall tour will take you there. And you won’t have to do any of the driving - promise.

Serena is a writer based in London. Born in Malaysia and raised in Australia, she calls the UK home despite only recently acclimatising to the dearth of sunshine. Her writing has appeared in The Independent, Business Insider, South China Morning Post, i-D, Refinery29, Glamour, Vox, Metro, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, and Cosmopolitan. She has also published a book of aerial photography: How Women See The World. Throughout her decade-long career, Serena has told the stories of Arctic explorers, human rights activists, award-winning chefs, refugees, and the UK’s last lighthouse keepers.

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