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(Edited) Sept/Oct NY/NE Trip Planning

Here's an updated plan....any further input would be most appreciated...specifically, am I biting off too much distance for the daily drives? (I tried to max out at ~150 miles/day, and I don't know if that's a bridge too far, so to speak.)

Sat 10/2 Arrive Hartford Airport around 6 PM. Rent car, drive to Middlebury, VT.
4 nights here.

One day, cross into New York and either drive up towards Lake Placid or up Lake Champlain, just depends on leaves.

Another day, drive north to Burlington, Stowe, then back to Middlebury via Hancock.

Another day, drive south Woodstock then back up to Middlebury

10/6 Drive to Littleton NH Another 4 night stay

One day each, drive around west and east sides of I-93 through White Mountain National Forest, including Kancamagus Hwy.

Another day, drive to Bethel, ME, to Fryeburg ME, then back to Littleton

10/10 Drive to Springfield MA

10/11 Fly home from Hartford

I know the end of this is the holiday weekend, but hoping that by going back to MA on Sunday will allow to miss most of mess (of course, I could be very wrong!)

(Original Post following...)

I have (refundable) plans for a trip to Venice in October, but if that is not possible (and if travel to New York State/New England is possible), I would love to hear some ideas on a trip with these rough and flexible parameters...

  • 8-9 nights
  • Round-trip from an airport in the area (Hartford perhaps?)
  • Renting a car (this isn't flexible)
  • 3 primary purposes--landscapes, quant old towns, and historical places (and photography of these)
  • Travelling solo, would like to keep lodging around $100/night
  • Preliminary thought something like Hartford up to Lake Saranac and back
  • Would prefer limiting one-night stays, but if that's the way to go then so be it
  • Have never been to this area before, so all sights will be new to me

I would appreciate any input on an itinerary, specific sights that you've enjoyed, and lodging or food recommendations. Thank you!

Posted by
3035 posts

New England is a veritable cornucopia of great places , and my favorite ( along ,with Europe and New York City ) Rather than doing a lot of bounce around , ping - pong driving , I would pick one general area and concentrate my time there . Here are three , among myriad , possibilities . The Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts , The North Shore of Boston and Cape Ann , and Newport Rhode Island and its environs . Do a little research . If you want details , after that , I'd be happy to provide them .

Posted by
842 posts

Thank you, here's something more specific, though I am still at the spit-balling stage here. I'm not looking for anyone to make an itinerary for me. I am doing other research, but was interested in what posters on this site thought about any exceptional sites/lodging/food in this neck of the woods...

Counter-clockwise round-trip from Syracuse. East to I-87 (maybe a stop in Cooperstown?)

North on I-87, see historical sites in Saratoga and Ticonderoga on way to Lake Saranac.

West to Alexandria Bay and then back South to Syracuse

Posted by
3022 posts

The reason to fly to Syracuse would be to visit Finger Lakes, else fly into Albany or Burlington.

For hiking or lodging near Lake Placid you could consider Adirondack Loj.

Remember that I-87 is cashless toll south of Albany, all of I-90 in this area is toll also.

Posted by
842 posts

Thank you, Tom! And, thanks for the heads up about the tolls--looks like I want to stay north of Albany!

Posted by
3022 posts

I visited several years ago, a loop from Burlington to Ticonderoga to Lake Placid to Newport to Boston to Burlington.

I’d plan on October if you have never seen fall color. It is one of the world’s great events, Europe’s autumn doesn’t compare.

I’m going to this area in August, flying into LGA home from Albany. Rental car prices high now but usually prices drop about 2-4 months before the rental date. Visiting the Hudson Valley.

Posted by
842 posts

I appreciate the input, Tom. And, yes, a big part of the idea of this trip would be autumn colors. I'm born and raised in Southern California, and have never taken a leaf-viewing trip anywhere, so it would be completely new for me. Thanks again!

Posted by
3022 posts

Ask a local expert but the first half of September is likely too early for anywhere. The first half of October would probably be prime but I’ve only Midwestern experience.

Incidentally Michigan has fine fall color. Wisconsin and Minnesota are also good. The main attraction of New England and upstate NY is fewer fields so more trees, and hilly terrain means one can see more trees at once. The maples and the oaks are the same species and individually color the same across the North (of the eastern half of North America).

Here’s the link to the lodge I mentioned.

https://www.adk.org/stay/lodging-and-camping-overview/

I did the Mt Jo hike from the Loj. Pretty and short, but Appalachian Mtn hiking isn’t as nice as “out west” mountain hiking, lots of scrambling up steep wet rock washes and humidity, no nice switchbacks.

Posted by
4453 posts

You could fly into Hartford-Springfield (aka Bradley) and do a loop west through the Berkshires, north into the Adirondacks, east through Vermont and New Hampshire and maybe southern Maine, then back to Hartford (or, with a car drop-off charge, fly home out of Portland). No big cities. Some freeways if you want them in the southern part, but slow going through VT and NH. Don't worry about the tolls, they're cheap and you don't have to stop, they'll take pictures of your car and the rental company will bill you (plus I suppose an admin charge for their trouble). October is much better for leaf-peeping, I'd guess mid-month but climate change has been going on since I used to do it in the 1970s.

Posted by
2644 posts

For a leaf peeping timing idea, NH and VT are usually around the 10th to 14th of October, but of course not always... It is guesswork, really.

Posted by
842 posts

I appreciate all of your feedback on timing on driving conditions. Much appreciated!

Posted by
3022 posts

A last comment: it’s better to mistime leaf peeping and be a bit early, and see colored trees mixed with green ones, than be late and see colored trees mixed with bare trees. Also in cities, color will be later than rural areas because of the urban heat island effect, and due to the number of exotics (especially from the Orient) that can color later.

Tolls: we travel enough in the Chicago-Maine-Virginia triangle to have bought a transponder which we use in personal cars and in rentals. Pricing NY I noticed Enterprise has a reasonable toll charging policy, $3-4 per day used. Sometimes companies charge both a flat rate per rental plus a daily charge for every day of the rental period after the first day of use.

Posted by
690 posts

We've stayed in Saratoga Springs (great place) after day tripping through the Adirondacks including Saranac Lake and Lake Placid - the latter of which I believe would be a better place to overnight between the two because it has more commercial activity. The Saratoga Battlefield was interesting and we also drove to Fort Ticonderoga but didn't go in because they wouldn't give us a discount even though they were closing within the hour. Burlington, Saint Albans, and Stowe are some fun options over in Vermont. Cooperstown is a great town as well and the Hall of Fame is kind of spiritual with all the plaques. On another trip we went the other direction and visited many wonderful places including Newport, RI and onto Cape Cod. We made it all the way to Provincetown and also would recommend visiting Nantucket. Guessing your flight options from LA might be better into Boston than Hartford. Hope this helps and enjoy your trip!

Posted by
348 posts

I hope your trip to Venice is a go, but if it isn't, New England is wonderful in the Fall and a great choice.

You have a lot of options, as I'm sure your research is showing you. Here are a couple that I can think of:

-- if you want to do a loop from one airport, I would choose Albany or Burlington, VT, if your primary intent is to go up to the Saranac Lake area. Albany is in general cheaper, but deals do pop up for BTV.

For a loop starting and ending in Albany, you might head up to Saratoga Springs for a bit, then to Saranac Lake and spend time there and in Lake Placid, then head down to Fort Ticonderoga. From there, head over to Vermont for some leaf-peeping. Many options in VT depending on your interests, but you could meander up to the Burlington area, stopping at Mt. Independence (check opening dates; they close mid-October) and the Shelburne Museum. If you want to base yourself in Burlington for a few days, consider staying in a smaller town to save $$ and get better atmosphere; Vergennes has some nice little B&Bs/inns and a good restaurant selection. And/or head over to the Waterbury/Stowe area, which has photography options galore and plenty to do (Ben & Jerry's, the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, the Stowe gondola, which operates through at least mid-October). Again, stay in the smaller towns, not Stowe, for better rates. Waterbury has a great town center and excellent restaurant scene. You could then loop back down Route 100 (spectacular) and meander your way back towards Albany.

-- If you are open to doing an open jaw trip and you like driving, think about flying into Albany and out of Manchester, NH (both serviced by Southwest, so usually some good flight pricing). Again, depending on your interests, you might be able to include points from the loop above, but then head over from Waterbury/Stowe via Routes 302 and 112 to New Hampshire and the Kancamagus Highway, an absolutely spectacular drive. Spend some time in the White Mountains, or head down to Concord for some historical sights, then fly home from Manchester.

Make sure whatever your route that you stay off the interstates as much as possible. Driving around New England in the Fall on two-lane roads is a joy; slow down and enjoy the ride.

Don't get too hung up on "peak" foliage season. It's a big range. In general, northern areas and higher elevations will peak earlier, so the higher you go, the earlier the leaves. In the mountains in northern Vermont where I live, peak foliage is usually very early October. Mid-October is generally peak season for the mountains in the middle of the state and the Lake Champlain area. But the foliage is spectacular for at least a week or two before peak, and at least a week or two after -- until we get that one big wind and rain storm and everything comes down and turns brown. Bottom line, it's beautiful from late September through end of October (unless that wind storm came through early).

Columbus Day weekend is prime leaf-peeping season in Vermont. Either avoid it or plan on staying away from the major tourist towns, which will be mobbed.

Have fun planning your trip!

Posted by
7 posts

I grew up in Connecticut and the classic fall foliage trip for us was always driving up Route 7 through the Berkshires and Vermont, spending the night in northern VT somewhere, and then taking the ferry across Lake Champlain, and then back home driving by Lake George.

As someone else said, it's hard to predict where "peak" foliage will be at a given time. At most anytime in October it will be peak somewhere, you just won't know if it will be in the hills, in the valleys, north, south, etc. You may want to keep a loose and changeable itinerary until it gets closer and you will know for sure.

Apple cider and apple cider doughnuts are a big deal to New Englanders that time of year. Someone else mentioned Cold Hollow, which is generally considered to be one of the best, but you can't really go wrong with any of the local orchards.

Have flown into and our of Bradley Airport (Hartford) many times and highly recommend it. Never crazy busy, easy to navigate, and good access to highways. Although, based on the itinerary that you are thinking, airports further north or west (Burlington, Albany, Syracuse) might better suit you.

Can't miss sights in my opinion: Clark Art Institute in Williamstown MA, Saratoga Battlefield, Fort Ticonderoga, Hancock Shaker Village, and yes, if you like baseball do make the effort to get over to Cooperstown. Also, if you like basketball, the Basketball Hall of Fame is in Springfield MA. Springfield itself is kind of a depressing, run-down small city, but if you do end up flying into or out of Bradley then it's a very short drive.

Posted by
3035 posts

@kblur9 , Small world , as you mention Route 7 . This has long been a favorite trip for my wife and myself ( the last 25 years ) as we frequently meander from Gaylordsville CT , north to Williamstown , several times a year . This fine book is always to hand on my desk , and you might find it quite enjoyable , if you are so inclined - https://www.amazon.com/Along-Route-Journey-Through-Western/dp/0764333720

Posted by
842 posts

Thank you all for taking the time to offer such complete and detailed answers! This is the type of personal information that makes this Forum such a wonderful tool.

To DebVT--I'd love to do an open-jaw trip, but the darn car-rental fees seem to go up quite a bit when dropping off in a different State.

Posted by
348 posts

the darn car-rental fees seem to go up quite a bit when dropping off in a different State.

Ahhhh, they gotcha..... bummer, but still plenty of ways to put together a good trip.

One more note: in “normal” times, I’d suggest flying in and out of Montreal for easy access to northern NY and VT. Usually the prices are much cheaper and flight options more plentiful than smaller airports like Albany and Burlington.

Obviously Montreal is a major complication to travel plans during these times, and who knows when the Canadian border will even be open for tourism (although there is a lot of push to get that done as soon as possible). But if this trip is delayed to another year for you, consider Montreal along with the other airport options already mentioned.

Posted by
842 posts

Deb, thank you so much for the tip about Montreal! I'll keep that in mind if it's a possibility when I travel.

Posted by
4610 posts

We love the history in New England, but sorry, Boston is the worst area in the USA for rude drivers. I hate driving anywhere near Boston.

New Hampshire and Maine are still nice in September and leaves turning in early October. Bar Harbor Maine is special. Mt. Washington, NH and just about anywhere in either state. Salem, Mass is a great 2 day visit.

Posted by
1124 posts

I’m from northeastern PA. A word of caution about the fall leaves. By Halloween the leaves were always on the ground.

Posted by
842 posts

Again, thank you to everyone who has lent their ideas...I truly appreciate reading your personal experiences and insights!

Posted by
3022 posts

Comments: Middlebury is small and close to Burlington where there are more restaurants and it’s like a big small town.

Look on a vegetation map but at some point Maine is going to transition to more of a boreal forest, mostly pine/spruce/fir with tamarack, birch and aspen which only color yellow. At some point you get too far north for many oaks and maples.

Posted by
1190 posts

My experience is dated. But we got caught in a bumper to bumper creeping along at 10 mph for like 20 miles..

..so definitely seek out information from folk on the ground so to speak

Posted by
6104 posts

In addition to flying into Hartford, look at Albany, NY and Burlington, VT airports.

Posted by
348 posts

You will see some beautiful places with this itinerary.

A few thoughts:

I would fly in and out of Manchester or Burlington rather than Hartford. You are spending a lot of time getting to/from Bradley airport and not planning to see anything in CT or Mass.

I would think about basing in Waterbury, VT rather than Middlebury for these reasons:
-- Hartford (or Manchester) to Middlebury will be a long slog after a flight, especially if you land at 6 p.m. You will end the trip with a drive across the mountains on two-lane roads in the dark. Waterbury is a straight shot up interstates and will take less driving time.
-- You would do less driving overall by staying in Waterbury. For example, you will be doing a lot of backtracking if you base in Middlebury, drive to Woodstock for the day, back to Middlebury to sleep, and then drive all the way back to Littleton, NH the next day. Getting across the mountains takes time, especially on the smaller roads.
-- You may have trouble finding lodgings in Middlebury in your price range. It is a lovely town, but its accommodations are geared toward Middlebury College visitors. I haven't looked at lodging prices myself recently (I spent my wedding night at the Middlebury Inn, which is charming, quaint, luxurious, and $$$), but the town has a reputation for being spendy.

150 miles a day might be too much, depending on how much stopping and sightseeing you want to do. Remember that the best driving will be on 45 MPH or slower roads with curves and stops along the way.

I can't comment on the foliage in Maine (never been there that time of year), but it is a beautiful area. If you decide to fly in and out of Manchester, you could easily tie in a day or two along the Maine coast, which is always worth some time.

I think you have picked a great set of drives and will see some sights that are right in line with your goals.

Posted by
842 posts

Thank you again for the added comments, and a special thank you to Deb for once again taking the time to share so much local knowledge...it is most appreciated!

Deb, the reasons for flying in/out of Hartford were A) I'd be using Delta credits for the flight and B) trying to use my local airport instead of LA or San Diego, I could get to Hartford at 6 PM, but not until 10-11PM for Burlington (and not to Manchester at all.) However, your point about driving unknown, curvy roads at night is well-taken. I think I'll just plan on flying out of one of the big airports, which would get me to Burlington around 6 PM. This would make my arrival much easier! I will also look into Waterbury. Again, thank you!

Posted by
348 posts

Eric, I totally get the airport dilemma. We have the same debate ourselves every time we plan a trip.

If you do decide that Bradley is your best option, it's a very easy, just-under 3 hour, straight shot up 2 interstates to Waterbury, and hardly any cars on the road after you get past Holyoke, Mass. Or, if Middlebury is your destination, maybe stay overnight in a town along the way that's closer to Bradley (Keene, NH might be an option) and finish the drive the next day.

It's great to have lots of good choices -- happy planning!