East Coast trip for first timers

Old Jan 8th, 2013, 05:20 PM
  #1  
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East Coast trip for first timers

We are planning a 4-5 week trip to the east coast. Last week of September into October. Our wish lists consists of:

New York - maybe a week?
Fall folige - Vermont, Connecticut? Best options
Boston
Washington DC
New Orleans - we realise that this is a long way but maybe a flight there at the end?

So many places to choose from but don't want to be rushing either. We will rent a car where needed and don't mind flying also.
Is this a good time to travel. Must admit high on my wish list is the fall folige so that is why we are chosing this time of year.

Am only really in the early planning stages, have done some reading but we are really open to any suggestions.

Thank you in anticipation
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Old Jan 8th, 2013, 05:52 PM
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> New York - maybe a week?
Would be about right.

> Fall folige - Vermont, Connecticut? Best options
IF you can maintain flexibility, you can wait until the time you are here, and then head for where the colors are at their height. Even a month in advance, it'd be impossible to say where that would be.
Problem is, lodging gets to be a problem in the areas where colors are at their best. So you can either pick a spot now, and HOPE the colors will be good; or wait till a week or so in advance, and hope you'll be able to find a place to stay.

In either case, this will be only part of your trip you'll need to rent a car. New York, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, and New Orleans are all easy to visit with walking and mass transit. Indeed, for most of what you'd want to visit in these cities, a car would be an expense and a major problem.
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Old Jan 8th, 2013, 06:13 PM
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It's a near perfect time to visit the northeast as weather can be warm or cool, but few extremes on either end.

I don't think you should waittoo long to book lodging. Many hotels, inns and motels at all price levels fill up months in advance for peak foliage time. If you're somewhere in Vermont, even if the immediate area isn't peak, it will probably still be beautiful and you can always drive an hour or so in a different direction for more variety in scenery.
Vermont and New Hampshire have the varied terrains you'll want for beautiful drives. Connecticut has some nice drives, but not the mountains and if you're coming all the way from Australia (my assumption based on your screen name) you should go for the best leaf peeping.

You might fky into Boston or even Hartford CT or Manchester NH to get a car and start your drive. You can spend a full week in Vermont & NH. Try to fit in a couple days on the Maine coast. Many of the small resort towns like Ogunquit and Portsmouth NH are still pretty lively until Mid October at least.Lighthouses are great to visit at that timeof the year with fewer crowds.
Then drop off the car in Boston,stay a few days, take a train to NYC after that, a week in NYC, train after than to DC, then fly to New Orleans.

Now we need more details from you. Who is "we"--adults, kids senior citizens? Your interests--museums, hiking? Budget per room per niight and for meals, etc.
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Old Jan 8th, 2013, 06:51 PM
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Thank you for your replies - great suggestions!

Yes was wondering how to put it all together e.g. which direction first.

Flying in to Boston is a great suggestion, but would that be too early for the fall folige? And thanks for the suggestion of New Hamshire and yes we would like to maximise our folige peeping.
Would love to visit the coast of Maine, thanks for the suggestions of towns.
Is Niagara Falls doable or too far?
We are thinking of maybe renting an apartment in New York. Good suggestion then to travel on to DC and then fly to New Orleans (DH wish list).
Yes we are Australian so wish to maximise our stay. The "we" is myself & husband and possibly our good friends for part or all of the trip.
I think we would want to book accommodation ahead if there are 4 of us. Maybe B&Bs?

Trying to piece the pieces together.
Thanks again for your ideas.
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Old Jan 8th, 2013, 07:03 PM
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If you didn't want to fly from DC to New Orleans, you could take the Amtrak Crescent.
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Old Jan 8th, 2013, 07:32 PM
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Well, it may be too early for "peak" but I am always happy with the view a week or so on other side of peak.It just means a different percentage of trees will have changed color. So you may have more red, less yellow, still some green. It's all good! Besides, if you take a drive further north or to higher elevations where they get the frost earlier, the scenery will be different, There's no way to time it all prefectly.

Niagara Falls is the opposite direction of the rest of your trip.

Nicer inns in Vermont at that time of the year can be $200 and up per room per night. Is that in your budget?

Apartment rentals of less than 30 days are mostly illegal in NYC. There are dozens of posts about that topic on this forum so I suggest that you look at them . People get into some heated arguments on that topic so better that you look at the information already posted so this thread doesn't get overun with comments on that right now when you have so many things to consider. There are apartment style hotels that people can suggest.

Again, more details when you have a better idea of a budget and what you actually want to see and do. Fall foliage is beautiful, but I doubt you want to spend 6 or 7 days just looking at leaves.
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Old Jan 8th, 2013, 08:03 PM
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Hi aussie_10, I am soooo envious! New England is one of our favourite parts of the world!

Back in 2004 before I had heard of Fodors, we did a five week trip starting in New York, trained to Boston and then picked up a car and covered New Hampshire,Vermont and Maine in October.
I mention 'before I had heard of Fodor's' because we made NO advance bookings (probably a cardinal sin during foliage season) but found beautiful 'New England Inn' accommodation everywhere we stopped. Ironically the only place we had a little trouble was in Bethlehem NH - there was literally "no room at the Inn!"

Obviously if there are four of you this may be more of a risk but seriously, there was a plethora of accommodation.

With regard to timing, we had apparently "missed the peak by a week" according to local experts but it was still spectacular and if they hadn't told me, we would have been none the wiser. The advantage of not booking of course was that we just wandered at will.....

Obviously there are experts with much greater knowledge on this area than me but just giving the Aussie perspective! If you have any other questions that you think I could help with feel free to yell out.
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Old Jan 8th, 2013, 08:48 PM
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Amtrak Crescent I looked it up. Interesting options but a long trip, says 26 hours from Washington DC $226.

nyer I just assumed that you could rent an apartment in New York but as suggested I will research that elsewhere and not on this thread.

Budget: would be happier spending $120 to $150 per night than $200 but I guess it would depend on availability and facilities. We are not ones to spend a lot of time indoors would rather make the most of outdoors. We are in our 50s and do like to walk and long walks. Love your national parks. Have spent several holidays visiting the Nationals Parks of the West Coast.
I have had a look at some suggested fall folige drive itineraries. But just trying to get a feel for what is doable and how much we can fit in the time.

I guess a week in VT, NH & Maine maybe
a couple of days in Boston?
1 week New York
3 days DC?
3-4 days New Orleans

Still probably leaves a week for somewhere?
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Old Jan 8th, 2013, 08:58 PM
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ozgirl just saw your post. Sorry didnt see it earlier.
Yes we do like the travel & stop, free wheeling. We just did that in Ireland in September. But agree it may be a little more difficult with 4.
So you spent 4 weeks wandering in the area? Lots to see and do?
I will check out your trip report as well. I love reading trip reports and you get lots of good ideas reading them too.

I will be back with questions.
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Old Jan 8th, 2013, 09:23 PM
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Hi aussie_10, it was pre joining Fodors so no trip report unfortunately! I do have all of our maps at home with routes marked but at work at present.

Basically, we had a few days in NYC caught Amtrak to Boston, (I think 2 nights there, definitely could have done with longer) and then headed off to see New England.
We didn't have the full 4 weeks there because we had to make our way down to Washington DC for a conference afterward.

From memory, and I can check more details when home, we went from Boston to Stockbridge NH, then headed north including White Mountains, lake Winnepesaukee and then across to the coast (at Kennebunkport I think) and right up to Bar Harbor, Maine - our favourite!

There is lots of detail in there that I can't remember without my map but it was all gorgeous. Leaving Bar Harbor we headed south, skirted around Boston and headed inland on a route which took in Gettysburg PA (fascinating) before arriving in DC.

Could easily have spent twice as long I think.
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Old Jan 9th, 2013, 02:52 AM
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That might be Stockbridge MA. You'll be here during a variety of foliage. The color starts in the north at highest elevations so if you want color you might spend first week in NYC or Boston. I think I would head up the Maine coast first although Yankee magazine voted Camden ME one of the prettiest foliage spots. Not sure when the windjammers head south but it would be nice to see Camden harbor when they were around. You can watch boat traffic from top of Mt Battie (take the auto road).
There are different foliage and harvest events. If this interests you, you might pick one or two to visit. Keene NH has a famous pumpkin festival toward the end of Oct, like the weekend before Halloween. Some towns in VT and NH put out leaf or hay people (scare crows).
Plan your foliage drives for mid-week. Avoid the weekends. You might find a room mid-week but I doubt it on weekends in popular areas. If you like cheese, wine, beer or ice cream, you could get the appropriate trail maps from the state dept of agriculture. Some of the wineries we have visited in Maine are in nice locations and fun to find.
You need to know NH's White Mountains are tall and craggy granite. VT's Green Mountains aren't as tall and craggy. Both are beautiful. The area of western VT along Lake Champlain is beautiful farming country. Although NH has farms you don't see as many big ones as in this area of VT. This gives you long distance views of the countryside. Haven't been to the Great Vermont Corn Maze is years now but that's a fun "walk" in northern VT not far from Littleton NH at the top of the White Mountains. See their website.
Foliage "cruises" and/or harbor tours are relaxing. Portsmouth NH and Portland ME are two good choices. Food tours of Boston and Portland ME are a lot of fun but pricey. I like the ones in Boston best (the Chinatown tour ends with a dim sum lunch). Don't miss the Tenement Museum in NYC. Also good food tours in NYC. If you want a fun ghost tour, do the one in New Orleans. We have been disappointed in the ones we've gone to in New England.
Visit Yankee Magazine's website for some suggested drives and foliage pictures. You might pick where you want to go based on the photo. Jeff Folger also specializes in foliage photography and has a website.
The other thing you might check into that I keep forgetting is hawk migrations. There are a couple of hill tops with viewing areas. The Audubon has info on this. I think NH has two viewing sites. I have to admit that living here, we tend to forget about the tourist attractions but when Canada geese fly low, we always stop to watch. They will circle a spot before landing. Drive slowly on the backroads to avoid wild turkey flocks and deer. I've only seen a moose once but you'll see signs warning that they might be in the road. OTH the rule is if you see one deer, there's probably another one right behind it. I almost hit a group once. My passenger yelled for me to stop. It was night and we were looking for a restaurant near Lake Winnipesaukee. If he hadn't been looking, he wouldn't have seen the deer starting to run across the road. The last one just barely cleared my car.

There are many hiking trails in addition to the famous ones in the White Mountains. You can pay to hike The Flume which is a beautiful gorge or you can check local areas for trails. In NH in addition to parks there are federal flood control areas which are hundreds of acres people can enjoy for walking, horseback riding, etc. A lot of them are old roads that run along the river (which flood in the spring because of the dams that were built for flood control). If you buy a state atlas and gazetteer from DeLorme (available at many gas stations, book stores and markets) you will have very detailed road maps including seasonal roads and hiking trails. We use them when we travel in VT, NH and ME because we don't like to drive on the interstate highways all the time. Good to use if you're looking for a farm that sells cheese. (we don't use gps gadgets).
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Old Jan 9th, 2013, 03:24 AM
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I owuld start in Boston, follow the Maine coast north, cross the White Mountain of New Hampshire to the middle of Vermont. If you take this trip at a modest pace, exploring rather than rushing, you will see plenty of color though it won't be at peak. Except some years. It is not an exact measurement.

When I had enough of Vermont, I would drive south to Albany NY, where I would return the car and take the SPECTACULAR train trip down the Hudson Valley to New York City. After NY, I would take the train to Philadelphia for a night, then on to Washington.

Save New Orleans until the end. You will be in the US during hurricane season, and it is possible that you will not be able to get there. In general, the later in the season the better. Yu are not in so much danger of a hurricane in NO itself but of extended air travel delays and rerouting.

With five weeks, you could spend a week in Boston, a week in the New England hinterlands, a week each in New York and Washington, and a week in New Orleans and environs, subtracting a travel day here and there.

If you hit Vermont mid-week, especially if it is not the week of the Columbus Day holiday, you should be able to find lodging without serious problem. As I learned the hard way last year, this is not true on the weekend or the holiday. Lodging will be easier to find farther north than mid-state.

Because virtually all the important attractions in Washington are free, it is a nice place to spend time to recover from NY! Also lots of casual eating places for government workers help the budget; some Federal office buildings have cafetierias and food courts that are open to the public.

You may find that there is a big price differential between weekend and weekday hotel rates in most large cities. Business travelers pay full price, but their rooms go begging on the weekend unless there is some event. If you spend a week in the same hotel, ask if they will give you a lower rate for the weekend. If not, and you are on a budget, you may want to change hotels for the weekend. Have you used Priceline?
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Old Jan 9th, 2013, 03:52 AM
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Wow thanks dfrostnh and Ackislander so many fantastic ideas and suggestions.

Yes we love festivals and events and food trails, cheese wine etc. Lots of great driving suggestions and we love the smaller back roads.
Love scenic train trips and some great routing suggestions. Boston for a week? Is there lots to see?
Would love to visit Philadelpia and of course DC didn't know most attractions are free.
Hmmm hurricane season? not so enthusiastic. When is hurricane season? How long?
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Old Jan 9th, 2013, 08:59 AM
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Hurricane season in the Atlantic runs from June through October with September being the "busiest" month. I would in no way let it affect how you plan your trip. The chance of your visit being disrupted is very small and ultimately that is what trip insurance is about.
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Old Jan 9th, 2013, 09:11 AM
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Although the train trip through the Hudson Valley would be gorgeous, I'd also suggest you might want to continue driving from Albany to NYC, because there is a lot to see in the Hudson Valley, loads of good restaurants, and it's phyically spectacular. Here's my thread from our short trip last June:

http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...y-262177-2.cfm
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Old Jan 9th, 2013, 09:20 AM
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Boston might be too expensive for a week. On Friday and Saturday, the push cart vendors are in Hay Market Square near Quincy Market. You won't find much to buy since it's mostly fresh veggies and fruit but on Friday's it's not too crowded and the market has been there for a long long time. You can walk across to the Italian North End to buy wonderful pastry, dine and generally explore. You can have a dim sum lunch on your own in Chinatown on Saturday.
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Old Jan 9th, 2013, 07:42 PM
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Oops, sorry dfrostnh, it was Stockbridge MA. Great info in your post!
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Old Jan 9th, 2013, 08:25 PM
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Thanks for the suggestions.
A few questions for the folige road trip and surrounds would it be better to split a week in say Maine, VT, NH say 3,2,2 nights. or 3, 3 & 2.

I am now going to have a look at the Hudson valley also.

I will not let the hurricane season worry me I hope!

I will be back
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Old Jan 9th, 2013, 08:55 PM
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We returned from a month long trip to the US about 6 weeks ago. We left 30th Oct returned back to NZ on 26th Nov.
We flew into San Francisco spent three and a half days there, then flew to New Orleans for four days. Then flew to NYC and stayed there for three weeks, but did a side trip to Boston. We drove one way, you could take the Megabus, or Bolt Bus, and flew back to NYC after about three days.

We didn't get to Washington DC as we had been there on a previous trip but you could take the Amtrak there from NYC.
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Old Jan 11th, 2013, 11:16 AM
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For what it's worth, sounds like you are doing it all yourself so feel free to ignore.

Last season, I did a bunch of airport meets and half day city tours for customers from COSMOS, Globus and Archers who were starting or ending trips in NYC. Folks were mostly from UK, Australia, New Zealand South Africa etc Their busiest time was fall foliage to and from NYC. You might want to look at their website for ideas on hotels and routes and/or as a way to make a part of the vacation no think on your part. I will say that I met many repeat visitors at the airport and the people on the tours I gave at the end of their trips were still talking to each other and enjoying each other's company.

Say hi when you are in the city: thestarryeye.typepad.com/explorenyc
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