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New England in mid-October, 6-7 days - Suggested Driving Itinerary?

New England in mid-October, 6-7 days - Suggested Driving Itinerary?

Old Feb 15th, 2012, 10:51 AM
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New England in mid-October, 6-7 days - Suggested Driving Itinerary?

My husband and I are planning a road trip for mid- to late-October 2012 to New England, and we were unsure where to start as far as planning an itinerary. Neither of us have been to the Northeast before. We are driving from Texas, leaving on a Thursday evening, so should be in the New England area either late Saturday or early Sunday. We plan to drive home beginning the following Saturday morning, making our round trip 10 days total. What are some suggested must see sights? We are debating time to spend in Boston, Cape Cod, New York City, the countryside of Vermont and New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and everything in between. I know we have limited time, so any suggestions of must-see sights and scenery would be great. My husband enjoys a little bit of historical sightseeing, but we don't want to do too many museums unless they are just spectacular. We have been to many many museums and historical sights in Western Europe and in the U.S., so we can be hard to impress at times. We also want to see fall foliage, and we don't know when the best time would be to travel. I understand that it can be really crowded in the best areas at that time of year also.

So here are my questions:
How much time should we allocate to New York City, Boston, Cape Cod, and driving through countryside and small towns?
When would be the best time to travel in October?
Any suggest itineraries?
Any must see sights or destinations?

Thanks so much for any insight!

lasiteral
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Old Feb 15th, 2012, 11:50 AM
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To start, I wouldn't try to include NYC on this trip. It deserves a lot more than the half-day glance you'd be able to give it. I'd probably do a couple of days in northern Vermont (Champlain Islands and the mountains), a couple of days in the Connecticut River Valley and New Hampshire mountains, and then a couple of days in Mass or Rhode Island (maybe based in Newport). At least some part / elevation in VT & NH should have color in mid to late October, just watch for the reports to find out where since it can change year to year. As to where to go, I'd just wander the 2-lane back roads and see what the small towns have to offer. Stopping in at the general store or post office can be an experience. If you stay in B&Bs or Inns, they should also be able to recommend out of the way local sights.
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Old Feb 15th, 2012, 03:29 PM
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1. Unless you are crazy about road trips, I sure would look into flying up here and flying back. Take your pick of Burlington, VT; Hartford, CT; Providence, RI; Boston, MA; and Manchester, NH. I think it will be cheaper than gas, food, and lodging for four days on the road, and I don't think you can make it here and back in four travel days because of the traffic in the northeast. Look at the Google driving times and remember that they don't take into account stopping for gas, eating, or using the toilet. They show ten hours from Boston to Richmond, VA. I have made it in ten hours northbound, but it usually takes 11 1/2 to 12 1/2 sounthbound because of Washington traffic.

2. You don't have time to do the coast, the mountains, and Boston, though you can sample them.

I would spend a couple of days in Boston doing the usual sights, THEN pick up a rental car and drive up through Cape Ann (Salem, Marblehead, Gloucester, Rockport, and Essex) to spend the night in Portsmouth, NH, a town with good scenery and great restaurants. Next day, I would drive to Jackson, NH and spend the night in the White Mountains.

From there, I would go to St Johnsbury, Vermont for the night (exploring the mountains along the way, maybe taking the cog railway to the top of Mt Washington), and on to Burlington next day via Craftsbury Common and Stowe. You could go to Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream factory on the way. Scenery galore. Burlington is the VT version of Portsmouth -- pedestrian downtown, lots of good bars and restaurants.

Down through Vermont, preferably Vermont 100, then on to the Berkshires of Massachusetts. The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge is iconic in a lot of ways (Norman Rockwell painted it). You are up to seven nights. Drive across Connecticut toward Mystic, preferably through Litchfield County and Middletown. This will be a longish day, esp if you stop in Great Barrington, MA, home of one of the great hardware stores in the US. Spend the night in Mystic and visit Mystic Seaport. It is worth it.

Night nine should be in Newport, RI, where you should see one or two of the great houses the next day and take the Cliff Walk before heading off to Boston to drop your car and spend night ten at the Hyatt or Hilton at the airport (Priceline) before catching your plane home next day.

Yes, there are a million things left out, but this routes you through a lot of territory, and as usroadman says, you can inquire locally about what you gotta do.

The third weekend in October is Head of the Charles, one of the largest rowing regattas in the world. Crews come from all over the US and Europe, maybe Asia. It is a great thing to see, but it makes finding a room anywhere in Boston very difficult. The good news is that the weather is almost always good until Head of the Charles and only goes to hell after that, so if you come after Columbus Day ( a big deal in NE, sort of the final day of summer) you will see plenty of leaves and are likely to have crip fall days, many of which will be dry!

PS Portsmouth and Burlington are much smaller than Austin but have some of the same funky vibe and great beer!
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Old Feb 15th, 2012, 05:10 PM
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Ackislander 's advice is very good. I totally agree about flying up. And certainly if you did insist on driving you'd need to forget about NYC, and probably Boston. For one thing, driving and parking in NY is VERY expensive. Actually, you can park for free, but you have to know how/where to do it. Boston is not much better so if you want to see the cities then you don't want a car. If you had three weeks or so I would make some suggestions of how to spend a few days in NYC but with a total of only 10, including driving all the way up here I would skip it.

So - your title says "6-7 days in New England" so that must be your priority. If you fly you'd have more like 8 or 9. I'd fly into where ever is cheapest and would need to know where to give good itinerary advice. But keep in mind that good color in Vermont and NH will be over by the 2nd to 3rd week in Oct, where as the coast of Maine, and Boston itself will be nice later. You didn't include Maine in your tags but consider it. The coast is gorgeous and there are plenty of little towns that are quintessential New England and it's easily reached from Boston.
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Old Feb 15th, 2012, 05:20 PM
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Yo ureally don;t have time to do everything you want. If you have 10 days and the trip each way is 2.5 days you really hav eonly 5 for sightseeing. You would need all of that to do NYC and 3/4 days to do Boston. I fyou want to see much of the countryside that will also take all 5 days. Mid Oct is good for the Hudson River Valley - with a host of historic sights as well as souther Vt and NH and much of Mass (except at higher altitudes, when it will be kind of late.

So - you really need to decide what you want to see/do. If yuo want oth cities and countrysie then I would fly rather than drie n both directions.

As for things to do and see - versus western europe - NYC has the Met - the greatest cultural institution in the western hemisphere - as well as many dozens of other museums - similar to London or Paris in terms of what it can provide (museums, culture, architecture, theater, shopping and charming, historical neighborhoods). Boston has less overall but a huge amount of historial sights and some unique charming neighborhoods, more like a mid size european city. )Just have a look at Beacon Hill, esp near Louisburg Square - and then the mansions heading toward the city center.)
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Old Feb 15th, 2012, 08:52 PM
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Thanks for all the helpful advice! We have really been debating the road trip aspect of it because of the time constraints. If we had at least 2 full weeks I'd be more in favor, but we just don't have enough vacation time to take. We really enjoy road trips as we basically drove all over western Europe when we lived there last year. And I completely understand about not having a car in big cities. We dealt with that over and over in Europe. Having a car in Paris, Venice, Rome, Amsterdam, London, etc. is a NIGHTMARE and we always ended up staying outside of the cities to afford parking at the hotel and commuted in. A pain to say the least. My biggest problem with planning this trip is know how to prioritize. I'm okay with skipping New York City and visiting there "someday." I'd really love to see Cape Cod though, but I'm a little scared of the crowds and traffic that I've read about.

We'll definitely seriously consider flying, though it would still be cheaper to drive in an economical car and hotel nights with the current flight prices.
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Old Feb 16th, 2012, 04:29 AM
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There will be no crowds and traffic on Cape Cod in mid October.
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Old Feb 16th, 2012, 04:35 AM
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You want the first week of October for a trip that included the mountains. I live near Concord NH which is south of the mountains and every year feel that peak is usually around Columbus Day weekend and that's the weekend everyone is out leaf peeping. You might find less traffic on Cape Cod because it's not usually a foliage destination.

I agree with skipping NYC. Probably time your trip to be in Boston on the weekend and north during the week. Highly recommend the food tour of Boston's North End. Then I would drive up to Portsmouth NH for a morning boat trip either harbor cruise or inland rivers. You can park in the parking garage and walk to the dock. Have lunch afterwards.

Head to the White Mountains for one or two nights - one is enough. The White Mountains are tall and craggy. Vermont's Green Mountains aren't as tall and dramatic. I93 will take your right thru the mountains. I know the Kancamangus is very popular but I prefer the more southerly route that goes thru Tamworth and Center Sandwich. Pretty little towns. You can connect with I93. Head up to Littleton and across to northern VT.

I would check out the tourist info for NH and VT to decide where you want to spend the night and what you'd like to see. If you like wine, cheese, or ice cream, you can get trail maps that visit farms and small businesses offering such. Some of these are going to get you on back roads (even we had a small adventure finding the Sandwich Creamery in NH and twice have seen black bears during the day in that area). I suggest you aim for some less popular but actually much more appealing destinations to avoid crowds. For example, I would skip Ben and Jerry's.

Every year, late afternoon southbound traffic gets backed up on the interstates on Sat and esp Sunday. I89 from VT feeds into I93. Cars are crawling along yet a good road map shows alternate routes on state hwys. BTW there was very poor color last year, maybe this year will be stellar.

Color in southern New England, i.e. Newport and Mystic will be better later in October but later in October could mean trees in northern NH are leafless. Oaks and beeches might still have leaves but it's the maples that have the vibrant oranges and yellows.
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Old Feb 16th, 2012, 12:20 PM
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We both love wine tasting. Any specific places along the way that would be worth stopping for? We prefer the places that are free to taste and then they just expect you to buy something, to be in good taste, of course.
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Old Feb 16th, 2012, 01:34 PM
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There are wineries in Sakonnet, just across the river from Newport, RI, but you have to drive a long way up river to find a bridge. It is drop dead gorgeous around there, but you may well not like the wine. The climate in NE is not wine friendly.

There are, however, fantastic craft breweries in many of the larger towns, esp Boston, Portsmouth, Portland, ME, and Vermont.
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Old Feb 16th, 2012, 04:46 PM
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Fly to La Guardia, pick up a car and take off for the Hudson Valley. There are several things you can see there without reservations (the Rockfeller estate requires a reservation): FDR Home, Vanderbilt mansion, Olana. From the Hudson Valley you can go to Vermont (Vt. 100 essentially goes up the spine of the Green Mountains and is ideal if the colors are out). Loop back through New Hampshire and go back to NY to return the car and fly home. From NH you might devise a route that has you visit Old Sturbridge Village and Mystic, CT. The days that you would have spent going from TX. to the Northeast can be spent touring the area.

To tailor your own itinerary, it might be useful to get some guidebooks of the area.
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Old Feb 16th, 2012, 07:40 PM
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I've got some tourism brochures, so I'll ask some specific questions about particular locations as I sift through the information. All the information thus far has been so helpful! We are fast-paced experienced travelers, but I don't want to try to cram too much into one trip and have a few days to take it easy. I'm interested in staying in some small inns or B&B's along the way, so if anyone has stayed somewhere fabulous (and reasonably priced), we'd definitely check it out.
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Old Feb 16th, 2012, 07:51 PM
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Click on my name and you'll find two trip reports, one on a week in Vermont and the other on going up the Hudson Valley. You might find them helpful.
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Old Feb 17th, 2012, 03:20 AM
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We haven't been in several years but Flag Hill Winery in Lee NH is not too much of a detour from Portsmouth. They also make General John Stark vodka. Even if you don't like the wine, seeing how a family re-invented their old dairy farm is fascinating.

In the Camden area, Cellar Door Winery has a new store right on Rt 1. I much prefer their home location in Lincolnville which is just a little ways off rt 1. See their website. Looks like the tastings are still complimentary.
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Old Feb 19th, 2012, 12:54 PM
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I agree with others that flying makes more sense than driving. Another option for seeing the fall foliage would be the Monadnock Region, the Southwest corner of New Hampshire. We typically hit our foliage peak between the second and third week of October so we would be a good fit for your time frame.

The Monadnock Region is home to Mt Monadnock, the most popular hiking mountain in North America and Miller State Park has an auto-road to the top that will offer you vistas of six states including the Boston skyline on a nice day. Miller is also one of the best places in the state to view the annual raptor migration.

The region has all sorts of arts tours going on that time of year, there is a covered bridges tour, and is home to some of the most quintessential New England towns in New Hampshire like Peterborough, Harrisville, and Walpole.

Despite all the great fall foliage and New England experiences the area has to offer, you will not experience the crowds you will have farther North...it's the best of both worlds!

There is another thread in this forum asking many of the same questions which I answered with links. Click here for those suggestions: http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...s-362394-2.cfm.
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Old Feb 19th, 2012, 03:27 PM
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For Vermont...Route 100 and people who know will agree
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Old Mar 1st, 2012, 01:56 PM
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Just had to chime in with a vote for Cape Cod. October is glorious here.

Like wine tasting? You'll love the Truro Vineyards! Situated on the Outer Cape, smack in the heart of the Cape Cod National Seashore region, it's a great place to meander and taste some excellent vino.

October on Cape Cod also means cranberry harvest time, perfect biking and hiking weather, the famous "OysterFest" in Wellfleet (mid-October), virtually deserted beaches, and tons more to see/do - without the summer crowds.

Consider putting Cape Cod on your itinerary!
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