While summer is coming to an end, that means autumn is on the way, and with it comes the opportunity to experience New Hampshire’s vibrant fall colors. This is one of the best times to visit the state and take advantage of everything it has to offer.
The Granite State offers many ways to experience the season off the beaten path; whether a hike, a drive, or a weekend stay. A foliage leaf peeping excursion can also be combined with a visit to one of the state’s many attractions. New Hampshire bursts with the colors of nature and adventurous activities to keep the entire family busy.
New Hampshire’s foliage season runs roughly from mid-September through mid-October, but this varies widely depending on weather, topography, and geography. Just before the season begins, a sneak preview of fall can be found as swamp maples surrounding some ponds and lakes turn a fiery red. Columbus Day Weekend is often the focal point of fall foliage excursions, but the White Mountains can present colors earlier.
As to “peak,” that is a subjective term – “peak” is in the eye of the beholder – and light and the mix of trees in foliage add to the mix.
Nonetheless, there are plenty of activities to keep visitors busy for a day or weekend.
Here are a few tips for enjoying New Hampshire’s fall colors:
By Boat: TAKE A CRUISE FOR A COLORFUL VIEW
One special place to enjoy the foliage show is Lake Winnipesaukee. It’s hard to see foliage while you’re driving. The M/S Mount Washington offers a unique and relaxing viewpoint. The big lake has amazing colors and the juxtaposition of the water and sky can be breathtaking. Sundays through September to mid-October, they offer Fall Foliage Dinner Cruises from Weirs Beach from 5–7 p.m.
By Train: TAKE THE TRAIN THROUGH THE TREES OR A LIFT OVER THE MOUNTAINS
Climb aboard one of the region’s three sightseeing trains for unique views of foliage: Hobo Scenic Railroad in Lincoln, the Conway Scenic Railroad in Conway, and the world-famous Cog Railway that chugs up Mount Washington from its base in Bretton Woods.
For a different aerial view, take the sky ride to get a bird’s eye view of the fall foliage. Ski mountains in the area can offer trips up their chair lifts and gondolas to the tops of their mountains, where the views are simply spectacular. Consider the Loon Mountain Gondola in Lincoln, the Wildcat Mountain Gondola in Jackson, and the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway in Franconia.
City Base: A CAPITAL CITY
Concord is an emerging destination worth a look. It is set in the middle of the state, with great hikes, apple picking, and events within an easy drive. It makes the perfect fall foliage base.
Main Street in Concord is getting a facelift and what is done so far looks great, with lots of new places to shop, eat and great 19th century brick architecture.
Almost 100% of the stores and restaurants along Main Street are locally owned. They range from high fashion, to antiques, to a range of authentic cuisines including Greek, Asian, American, Mexican, vegan and more. It is a small city with big city offerings, reminiscent of Boston’s Newbury Street, with
a variety of art-inspired stores including the League of NH Craftsmen, Capital Craftsmen and Romance Jewelers, art galleries and shops with other rare finds.
Concord is the state capital – that means the State House on Main Street – open five days week with 194 years of history to share. But, there is a lot more. See the grave and the home of Franklin Piece, the only US President from New Hampshire. Learn about New Hampshire’s First in the Nation Primary at the State Library, Barley House Restaurant, and State House. Or, venture outside the city to see Canterbury Shaker Village, the Pierce Homestead, stone arch bridges, or Mary Baker Eddy’s home (there are two).
Indoors: FALL INTO ART
The Currier Museum of Art in Manchester provides a reason to step inside during the autumn. Curated exhibits are changed frequently, so you are bound to experience art and life differently with every visit.
One recent featured exhibit gave a chance to experience powerful photography — Witness to History: James Nachtwey — Afghanistan, Ground Zero, Iraq launching on September 11. This captivating display features iconic and compelling photographs of the crumbling Twin Towers along with images taken in Afghanistan before 9/11 and later in Iraq. The Currier museum worked with James Nachtwey to put together this visual account of 9/11 and illustrate the effects of war on both combatants and civilians alike.
In a Valley: SURROUNDED BY FOREST AT WATERVILLE VALLEY RESORT
Waterville Valley is a full-featured resort area, which just happens to be surrounded by some of the most spectacular landscapes in northern New England. The adjacent White Mountain National Forest features America’s oldest network of hiking trails leading to spectacular views in every directions.
After working up a big appetite with the fall hikes, Waterville Valley offers their Annual Chili Challenge & Brews Event in late September. For this annual favorite, area restaurants compete in Town Square for the title of Best Chili. Attendees can sample all of the contestants’ chili for $7.50 for adults and $5 for children (ages 12 and under). The Brew Tent will also be open in Town Square throughout the contest. During the same weekend, families will enjoy the White Mountain Storytelling Festival, providing stories and story times for guests of all ages.
To complement the brilliant fall foliage, Waterville Valley’s Town Square is hosting a Fall Foliage Celebration in October. The weekend will feature a variety of family activities including free outdoor concerts, children’s games, and pumpkin painting.
No matter how you choose to explore the vibrant colors of autumn, your trip to New Hampshire will revive your spirit and leave you amazed at the beauty of the Granite State.
For More Information
- M.S. Mount Washington Cruises — www.cruisenh.com or call (603) 366-5531
- Mount Washington Cog Train — www.thecog.com
- White Mountain Tourism — www.visitwhitemountains.com or call (603) 745-8720
- Concord Chamber of Commerce — www.concordnhchamber.com/visitor_info.html
- Currier Museum of Art — www.currier.org or call (603) 669-6144
- White Mountain Storytelling Festival — www.nhstorytelling.org/festival
- Waterville Valley — visit www.visitwatervillevalley.com or call 1-800-GO-VALLEY