And just like that it’s already time for our 3rd annual mother daughter Fall foliage trip to New England. There truly is nothing like it especially being a Texas girl at heart who has never had true seasons. The changing leaves at their peak colors take my breath away every year.
This year instead of trying several new towns like last year we decided we wanted to do a quick trip and go back to our all time favorite spots from the past two years.
The best form of transportation for the trip once you are up there is to rent a car. Thankfully everything is fairly close to each other so you can pack a lot in in a short amount of time. It’s typically more cost effective to pick up the car and drop it off at the same location so we fly in and out of Boston Logan International Airport. My only piece of advise for driving is to do it while it’s light out
Day 1- Stowe, VT Day 2- Woodstock, VT Day 3- Woodstock, NH Day 4- Kennebunkport, ME Day 5- Boston, MA
Day 1: Stowe, VT– Stowe, VT is the furthest drive that we will do so that’s why we are flying in early and heading straight there. Out of all of the places I’ve been in New England, there’s just something about Stowe (even as touristy as it is) that I just love. Mama didn’t get to do this one two years ago so I insisted we go back! It’s pretty expensive to stay right in town but if you’re only there for one night, WORTH IT.
Must do: Drive through Smuggler’s Notch, take a gondola ride up Spruce Peak and hike the trails (beginner level), walk around town and grab coffee at Black Cap, grab apple cider and donuts at Cold Hollow Cider Mill on way out of town
Day 2: Woodstock, VT– Not to be confused with Woodstock, NH (although we head there next), Woodstock, VT is another more popular destination that is 100% worth the hype. The town looks like it’s out of a hallmark movie! Woodstock, VT is about an hour and a half away from both from Stowe, VT and Woodstock, NH.
Must do: walk around town and grab a picture in front of Middle Covered Bridge, drinks at Au Comptior, dinner at Prince and the Pauper or The Red Rooster, visit Sugarbush Farms for cheese and maple syrup
Day 3: Woodstock, NH– This is our only new destination this year and it is purely because I wanted to stay at Lumen and also do the train dinner. We’ve tried for two years to do this but it books up SO far in advance. We somehow grabbed an early dinner reservation this year so I’m super excited. We plan on using Woodstock really just as a place to stay and then head onto the pretty leaves further north.
Must do: grab a reservation for The Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train (books months in advance)
Near by: Artist Bluff hiking trail (most stunning view on top), Flume Gorge, Kancamagus Highway (56 mile stretch of THE most beautiful foliage you will see), Bear Notch Rd., Rocky Gorge Scenic Area
Day 4: Kennebunkport, ME– While Stowe and Woodstock are places that I’m sure are beautiful year round, they are special to me for their Fall charm. On the other hand, Kennebunkport is a place I’d love to go year round for a different kind of charm. It’s less about the Fall foliage and more about a cute town on the coast of Maine. I joke that it’s the 30A/Rosemary Beach of the north 🙂
Stay- Airbnb (we typically stay in Kennebunk or a surrounding town since it’s cheaper and close by)
Must do: walk around town, grab a drink at Batson River Brewing & Distilling (always decorated so cute for fall), get a lobster roll and clam chowder at The Clam Shack
Near by: Nubble Lighthouse, Stonewall Kitchen York Company Store (they serve breakfast)
Day 1: Burlington, VT Day 2: Stowe, VT Day 3: Manchester, VT Day 4: Woodstock, VT Day 5: White Mountains, NH Day 6: Maine Coast (Portland, Kennebunkport, York, Portsmouth) Day 7: Salem & Boston, MA
THINGS TO KNOW
A lot of restaurants and other places are closed random days of the week like Tuesday and Wednesday. Also random times. Many close before 8 pm which we found extremely odd and inconvenient. Check before you go! Also highly recommend making reservations for places that take them.
Rent a car! Not many Ubers and it really is better just to have one.
Be open to rerouting. If you plan your trip in advance you might very well not know when “peak” is. The more north the towns are, the better chance of seeing foliage. We happened to be there during peak in Stowe and New Hampshire which was awesome. Manchester and Woodstock are a little more south and had not hit full peak yet so we were a little disappointed and wished we would have rerouted to other areas.
There is no service is a lot of parts especially the mountains. Have back up maps and plenty of music on your phone.
There are not many street lights throughout New England so if you can avoid driving in the dark, it is recommended.
DAY ONE: Burlington, VT to Stowe, VT
We chose to start the trip in Stowe so Burlington was the closest airport to there. Stowe is about a 45 minute drive from Burlington with beautiful views along the way and tons of photo opportunities. But then again that’s almost all of New England 😉 There are two routes to get to Stowe but if you arrive during the day I highly recommend taking the route through Cambridge which will bring you down through Smuggler’s Notch– one of the most picturesque routes for Fall foliage.
Cambridge has a cute, covered bridge that we stopped at on the way to grab a picture. Honestly there are more covered bridges in New England than you can count so if you want to wait, there are definitely more memorable ones later on. If you can wait, I suggest bypassing food in Burlington and heading onto Stowe. We stopped at Smuggler’s Notch Resort for pizza and our first cider of the trip and WOW it was good.
From there, continue on through Smuggler’s Notch. There are not many places to “safely” pull over although people are stopped all along the route taking pictures. Drive slowly because it’s twisty and people are known to be in the streets taking pictures *cough cough me*.
We stayed at Spruce Peak Lodge and it really is the best place to stay as it has everything you could need! The lodge has several different restaurants on site, hiking trails, a beautiful golf course, and is the only ski-in and ski-out resort in Stowe if you happen to come in the Winter.
We grabbed pre-dinner drinks at the bar at Solstice located on site at Spruce Peak. For dinner we headed to Idletyme Brewing Company and had the yummiest fried pickles and truffle macaroni and cheese. Loved that they have a large outdoor patio to enjoy the views and amazing weather.
If you want to keep the party going, head on over to Burt’s Irish Pub. It’s a local dive spot so you know it’s good!
Additional things we didn’t get to do but I wanted to try:
Breakfast: The Skinny Pancake
Explore Lake Champlain on bike
Country Christmas Loft
DAY TWO: Explore Stowe, VT
Definitely spend a full day in Stowe or more if you can! This town looks like something straight out of a hallmark movie it’s so cute. We started the day out with a gondola ride and hike up Spruce Peak. There are several hiking trails to choose from that range from beginner to intermediate level. If you want to skip the hike but see beautiful views, take the Stowe Mountain Resort gondola up and down. It’s a small fee and located directly across the street from Spruce Peak.
After our morning hike we headed into town for coffee and breakfast at Black Cap. If you can, I suggest grabbing coffee at Black Cap and then walking over to Butler’s Pantry for breakfast. Unfortunately it was closed when we were there. Make time to just walk around the little town center of Stowe after breakfast and pop into some of the shops- you won’t regret it. A few memorable ones were Shaw’s General store for souvenirs and Laughing Moon Chocolates for obvious reasons- get the Habanero Salted Caramel!
Next we went in search of another covered bridge for pictures and found the cutest red bridge (literally called Red Covered Bridge) about 15 minutes outside of town. There is also Emily’s Bridge located in Stowe that is supposed to be haunted but we forwent that one.
We ended the day at Stowe Cider with a flight of of apple ciders and light bites from the food truck on site. Cold Hollow Cider Mill is another place for cider that I went to the next day. Both good- personally I found Cold Hollow Cider Mill over crowded and over hyped. If you want a more personal, low key experience go to Stowe Cider!
We ended up grabbing some cider to go and heading back to the hotel for room service because we were so tired. It was a fun night of drinking, downing pizza and girl talk by the fire. 10/10 recommend.
DAY THREE: Drive from Stowe, VT to Manchester, VT
Before heading out of town I HAD to have another coffee from Black Cap. I somehow had it 3 times in 2 days. Had the Maple latte, Almond Joy latte and Nutella latte and honestly it was a 3 way tie for my favorite.
Since Cold Hollow Cider Mill was on the route to Manchester we stopped off there for donuts and a cider (breakfast of champions). As stated before I personally found this place over crowded and over hyped. It was a zoo- hard to find a place to park as well as a spot to sit down.
Now on to Manchester! Take Route 7. We stopped at Mad Tom Orchard to pick apples and obviously take orchard pictures. This orchard is literally surrounded by mountains on all sides so the views are amazing. Pictures really don’t do it justice.
We stayed at Aerie Inn which is almost right next door to Mad Tom Orchard. Out of all of the places we stayed from here on out- this one was our favorite. Not because of any certain niceties other than it was cheap, convenient and got the job done. We could drive right up to the door, unload our belongings and come and go as we pleased. We dropped our stuff off and went into town for dinner. While it might have been a bit more convenient to stay in Woodstock, we chose here as it was considerably cheaper than anywhere else and about 10 minutes outside of Woodstock so not bad at all.
We ate dinner at Silver Fork which came highly recommended. It is an old library turned into a restaurant that still has several of the original bones. It is a little on the nicer side so we chose to sit at the bar since we were dressed casually from our travel day. I’m very glad that we didn’t forgo this place as it was DELICIOUS. We split a few sharable dishes and enjoyed a couple of cocktails. The check came in a library book in which customers sign the pages. Very neat experience!
DAY FOUR: Drive from Manchester to Woodstock, VT to Franconia, NH
Note that we did have to backtrack just a bit this morning since we stayed at Aerie Inn. Nonetheless it was worth it to us. We headed back into town for breakfast at the Little Rooster Cafe and to explore Manchester in the daylight. Manchester is known for their their name brand outlet stores so needless to say great shopping! Little Rooster Cafe was a very small, mom and pop sort of cafe and the food was SO good. Get there early and order the veggie hash with a side of whatever the seasonal pancakes are.
From there we made a few pit stops at Chiselville Covered Bridge and Equinox Valley Nursery before doubling back and heading onto Woodstock. Equinox Valley Nursery was a cute nursery and served donuts. Good for a picture but the donuts were subpar if we are being honest.
On to Woodstock via Route 100! Definitely plan to spend more time in Woodstock than Manchester. Woodstock is super cute! It was just unfortunate that the Fall foliage hadn’t really made its way there yet when we went. If you do decide to stay in Woodstock, everyone just raves about the Woodstock Inn even if it’s just to go and check it out!
We went a little past the town center to Sleepy Hollow Farm and Sugarbush Farm. Sleepy Hollow Farm is a photo opportunity (and that’s it) all over the internet. Personally I just really didn’t get it. Unless you are dying for a picture here, I would pass on it. Sugarbush Farms was very near Sleepy Hollow Farms and also a little underwhelming as they only offered 2 tiny maple and 2 tiny cheese samples. But dammit those tiny samples were good. We bought some and brought it home with us!
We had some time to kill before dinner so we spent some time walking around Woodstock’s town center. This is where the Middle Covered Bridge is and several cute shops. We had dinner at Prince and the Pauper which again came highly recommended and reservations should definitely be made in advance. This was one of our more expensive dinners and if I’m being completely honest I’m not sure if it was worth the price tag. It was a prefixed, 3 course menu that you could choose an appetizer, salad and entree from. We enjoyed the butternut squash and apple cider soup, prosciutto and stuffed dates with blue cheese, and parmesan crusted cod.
After dinner we drove in the dark to Franconia for our stay at Sugar Hill Inn.
DAY FIVE: Drive through the White Rock Mountains, NH
Wake up early! Also note you really need a solid day and a half to two days in New Hampshire to see everything. So this day was our busiest day and we ended up having to rearrange it because we slept in. If you want to make the most out of your day, I highly suggest doing the Artist’s Bluff trail early in the morning. Apparently there are two different routes- one that is 20 minutes and one that is over an hour. I’ll let you guess which one we somehow found ourselves on 😛
There are so many scenic areas in New Hampshire to hike and see. The great part is that there are hikes for all experience levels and if you don’t want to hike there are plenty of lookouts too! Rocky Gorge Scenic Area has a hiking trail that’s supposed to be really pretty but we just went for the pictures at the bottom. Another good one to check out is Flume Gorge.
The real star of the show though in New Hampshire is going to be the Kancamagus Highway. It’s a 34 mile stretch that lives up to the hype with the beautiful orange, yellow and red changing leaves if you hit it at the right time.
If you have a few hours to spare, you might check out the Mount Washington Cog Railway. It’s a train that chugs up to the peak of Mount Washington. Just a heads up it does take 3 hours to get up and back down and you don’t see any fall foliage as it doesn’t grow that high up the mountain but still a really cool experience that takes you above the clouds. I suggest bringing a book because there is no service on the cog.
We stayed the night Bartlett, NH which was a central location and good spot to jump on the second half of the Kancamagus Highway. Take Bear Notch Rd there- you won’t be sorry. If you need a good dinner spot that stays open late, Matty B’s Mountainside Cafe is a winner. I think it was $25 for a large pizza and bottle of wine and boy was that a good pizza.
A few other places we would have liked to visit:
Lunch/Coffee: Half Baked & Fully Brewed
Flume Gorge (hike)
Albany Covered Bridge (photo op)
Dinner: 1865 Wine Cellar
DAY SIX: Drive down the NE coast of Maine
Since we stayed another night in New Hampshire we woke up early, took Bear Notch Rd. to the Kancamagus Highway and stopped in Conway for coffee at Sweet Maple Cafe. It’s a cute little spot and their food looked so good but we wanted to hit the road so we didn’t stay for food. We did however stop to grab a picture at Swift River Bridge.
On our drive from Conway to the coast we made a pit stop at Sherman Farm Market for kettle corn and apple cider. They also have a pumpkin patch and corn maze!
From there we originally planned to start our Maine coast adventure in Portland but after coming off of a Fall Foliage high Portland was not our vibe so we escaped and headed South to the smaller, cuter coast towns if you will. Sorry no hate towards Portland but it was just a totally different vibe than what we were craving on this trip!
We moved on to Kennebunkport and Y’ALL. I will for sure be going back and spending some time here. SO FREAKING CUTE. I’ve never been to the Hamptons but I feel like it’s the Hamptons of the South. York and Ogunquit are also close by and equally as cute. You must grab a lobster roll and clam chowder basically anywhere here. We grabbed both at the Clam Shack in Kennebunkport and sat by the water. We also heard that Batson River Brewing is a really fun place if you have time. Honestly just walk around and explore Kennebunkport- you’ll see why!
We stopped by Nubble Lighthouse (there are many on the coast but this is one of the more popular ones) before eating dinner at The York River Landing. The lobster roll was good but man the beer battered fish and chips were the move. Also, get a Shipyard pumpkin beer if they have it. I’m not the biggest beer drinker but I LOVED this.
We stayed the night in Portsmouth but if I could do it over again we would stay in Kennebunkport, York or Ogunquit. We immediately came back the next morning to York for breakfast at Stonewall Kitchen and to explore a bit more before trekking on!
A few other places we would have loved to visit:
Two Lights Lighthouse
Lunch: Lobster Shack (Ogunquit, ME)
Dinner: Black Trumpet (Portsmouth, NH)
DAY SEVEN: Explore Salem, MA and Boston, MA
Unpopular opinion here because literally EVERYONE and their mother told us to go to Salem, MA especially since it was October and Salem is obviously where the witch trials happened not to mention where Hocus Pocus was filmed, but personally I could have passed on Salem. Yes, if you are Halloween, witch or Hocus Pocus obsessed it’s worth stopping by but if not, maybe pass on Salem.
The good thing though is that you can knock Salem out in a couple of hours in my opinion. There are lots of tours- walking tours, ghost tours, hocus pocus film tours, etc- that allow you to see Salem pretty fast. We decided to just drive around Salem and use Helene’s Hocus Pocus set location map to find some of the poplar Hocus Pocus places.
From there we spent the rest of the day in Boston and if you’ve been to Boston than you know how grand it is! It’s hard to see Boston in a day- you really need at least 2-3 but seeing as it’s a direct flight back Houston we really only came for the airport. And oysters. You have to get oysters in Boston! I suggest going to the Lookout Rooftop bar for drinks and then Union Oyster House for dinner!
A couple of other places we would have loved to visit:
Dinner: Little Donkey (Boston)
Would I go back? YES. I literally want to go back every year to do a Fall Foliage trip. I’d love to explore northern Maine next time that I go because I’ve heard amazing things but really you can’t go wrong anywhere in New England in the Fall. It really is just breathtaking at every turn! And seeing as I live in Texas and never see changing leaves or mountains- it was all the more special.
There are WAY more pictures and videos of our road trip adventure and places that we stopped along the way saved to my New England highlights on my Instagram page. If you do go and use any of my recommendations- please tag me! And if you find any amazing spots that I need to visit next year please leave those in the comments below:)