So-called fall leaves tours are guided trips in certain parts of USA (mainly New England) and Canada where the change of color of leaves is the main attraction. Of course, you can take an organized vacation package, maybe combine the beauty of colorful scenery with an educational exploration of one of the numerous national parks or just follow your gut and see what pans out.
Set your goals
Your main question should be:
- What are the best places for leaf watching?
- When is the best time to visit Connecticut, Maine, Ontario, Algonquin Park or whatever your chosen destination is?
- How much time do you have?
- How much money can you afford to spend?
- What kind of vacation are looking for?
According to your answers, you should plan the fall leave watching tour and hopefully enjoy the best of the results. To help you out with some of the possible dilemmas, I prepared a short presentation of possibilities with numerous spectacular photos.
In the Northern Hemisphere the leaves change of colors from green to one of zillion shades of red or orange fall on the fall (pun intended). Well, Southern Hemisphere has a fall as well, but not in the same months. In North America, where fall watching tours are the most developed experience for tourists, the best months for such tours are September, October, and November. In general, we will see the most brilliant panorama in more northern regions in September and October but if you intend to stay near the Atlantic coast and in more southern parts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine, October and even November could be a better choice.
Finding the peak is not the only point to consider. You should decide how the rest of your program should be. Are you more into historical sightseeing? do you like hiking or biking? Prefer a luxury cruise or a sentimental journey with a steam train? Almost everything is available and if for some reason it isn’t, I’m sure the agencies can design a dream tour of your choice exactly by your preferences. Yet they still can’t order an ideal weather, so a bit of luck should still be on your side.
There are two main regions offering picturesque scenery of forests turning colors into a palette of warm earth tones: Canada and New England. There are several attractive regions in Canada, roughly divided to Atlantic and Pacific part with Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Ontario in first and Columbia and Alberta in later. New England, of course, consists of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
It’s a place with amazing nature, intriguing history and countless tourist attractions ranging from whale watching to wine tours, history tours, and shopping malls. It really doesn’t matter if somebody only cares for great culinary experience or wants to try himself at extreme fishing or climbing, there is everything for him. And the breathtaking colors of the forests in the mountains will complete the picture not only for his smartphone but for posterity as well.
New England Fall Foliage
Best time for leaf peeping in New England is definitely from mid-September to the end of October, depending on the weather conditions in some areas till the mid-November. This area has a very rich history so there is no problem to find attractions worth visiting even if the rain ruins part of the view of the leaves. It’s up to you how you’ll get around because there are many effective ways with their pros and cons. If you have enough time, you’ll probably try to enjoy at more than one option and get the best experience of this charming combination of rural and urban areas.
The most southern state in New England has the highest per-capita income in the USA. With about three and a half million inhabitants living in five and a half thousand square miles, it’s among the densest areas of the States. It has all very developed transportation system with good roads and rail. You can also travel by air, water and there are several options of public transportation including buses and ferries.
Sights to see
- Mystic Seaport Museum – historical seaport village is probably the most attractive part of the museum with last wooden whaler (a ship for catching whales)
- Mystic Aquarium – numerous events for all ages of visitors with beluga whales, sharks, penguins, and other attractive animals
- Gillette Castle State Park – a castle which belonged to a famous actor looks like a medieval castle from outside and has a very unique interior designed by Mr. Gilette himself
- Lake Compounce Theme Park – the oldest amusement park in the USA still working, offering more than one hundred years old carousel, almost a century old wooden slide and dozens of lovely attractions
- How to Travel
There are several scenic drives if you decide to travel by your own car. There is also an option to travel by train and many bike tours for organized or improvised bikers. A very cool alternative is ferry shuttles with well-established tourist friendly lines along the coast. Apart from major bus lines connecting biggest cities, the public transport in Connecticut is poor, so if you want to explore the country on your own and don’t have a car, rent-a-car is probably the best option for most.
Don’t try to see everything in a few days. Instead of that focus on one region, like Fairfield, Hartford, Litchfield, Mystic, New Haven or River Valley and explore it, leaving next region for next visit. Book inns way in advance because they sell out quickly!
Maine is one of the smallest and least populated states in the USA. It’s well known for its beautiful nature with Acadia National Park, the only National Park in New England as one of the major tourist destinations. Fall foliage season in Maine lasts up to mid-November and is followed by ski season which can last deep into May. If you intend to come mainly for the leaf peeking, make sure to check the best time for the designated area, because it’s dependant on its elevation.
Sights to see
- Appalachian National Scenic Trail – a hiking trail passing 14 states, starting in Georgia leading to Maine (it is more than two thousand miles long)
- Kennebunkport – small coastal town south of Portland with a museum, galleries, boutiques, and restaurants
- Monhegan – a small island with a long-term art colony, no cars, and spectacular cliffs
- Casco Bay – take one of many ferries to visit Calendar Islands or hire one of the cruise companies which offer scenic tours in the area
- Wadsworth Longfellow House – the first brick house in the town was built in the second half of the 18th century
- How to Travel
Maine has more coasts than California, so don’t miss the opportunity of traveling on US Route 1. Countless spectacular views (there are more than 60 lighthouses!) should be experienced on a boat as well. There are buses, ferries, and trains with pretty good public transport connecting main tourist points but we should know there is about 90 percent of area covered by forests. If you really want to make the most of dramatic contrasts between colorful leaves and a combination of rocks and sea, it’s best to have your own transportation or join one of the organized groups with a plan which suits you (maybe a train tour?).
Autumn leaves season is the most plentiful with lobster (a signature food of Maine), so don’t miss it. Also try one of the countless outdoor activities like rafting, sailing or hiking, because the nature in this state really offers one of best nature experiences in the world.
Atlantic Canada Fall Colors Cruise
One of the best ways to experience Canada is a coastal cruise with stops in vibrant cities, calm villages, charming islands and a lot of nature. There are also many natural parks to explore with canyons, or if you prefer more cultivated parts of nature, vineyards, and orchards full of fruit in autumn just waiting for your visit.
Quebec is the second largest state in Canada by area and population. It’s also the only state in Canada with the majority of people speaking French. Its capital is Quebec City, although the most known town is the largest – Montreal.
Sights to see
- Place Royale – this is where the Quebec city started with many old stone buildings from the 17th and 18th century
- Forillon National Park – dramatic cliffs made of limestone, the tallest lighthouse, coyotes, bears, colonies of sea lions, coyotes, bears, bald eagles, and numerous other animals are only a small part of everything worth seeing in the oldest national park in Canada
- Iles de la Madeleine (Magdalen Islands) – historical buildings, forested walking trails, bird watching sites, iconic landscapes, and cozy beaches can occupy a visitor for weeks
- Mount Royal – the hill in the heart of Montreal (the same name actually) offers a spectacular view over the city, great food, numerous festivals, and energetic nightlife
- Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre – there supposedly happened numerous miracles and at least half a million pilgrims try to experience its atmosphere and touch the spirit of Saint Anne, the patron saint of Quebec
How to Travel
There are more than one thousand miles of roads in Quebec. Distances between cities are large, so you should have a good car or motorcycle, but motorbikes are forbidden between December 15 and May 15. Their dozens of tourist routes in Quebec designed to show as many historical, cultural and national treasures of the state to the visitors, so it’s best to choose one, make a plan and stick to it. There is also a good network of buses, some of them specialized to transport people together with their bikes.
Quebec, the only fortified city north of Mexico in America is walkable and safe. Use your feet to explore it!