Did you realize that fall color is already in the leaves up north in New England? It is somehow comforting that autumn is the one season that seems to descend gradually on the United States. Summer, on the other hand, seems to plummet upon us in a week. Winter can have a similar personality. Gradual autumn, arriving from north to south is a blessing. It affords you the opportunity to have up to three fall color road trips a year. “What, you say you’ve never taken a fall leaf trip?” Boy is it a good thing that I found you. Here are Gildshire’s best ideas on the topic of leaf drives, alongside some “what to do” possibilities. We are including some money saving ideas on dining and lodging. These are some of our favorite places to eat and to stay that won’t bust your budget. You will also find the best time of year to see the most spectacular colors.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee: Go anytime from mid-October through the 10th of November. What to do there? In Gatlinburg, you are already nestled at Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It’s the most-visited such park in America. Grab lunch or dinner at Crocketts Breakfast Camp. The folks in our traveling circles rave about the cinnamon rolls, corned beef hash, and pancakes. Spend overnight at Marshall’s Creek Rest Motel.
Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania: Go sometime during the first 2-3 weeks in October to see the best fall color display. What to do in this town that was named for the legendary athlete? Enjoy breathtaking Lehigh Gorge, and enjoy being a little more than two hours from the closest major city. Doesn’t that clean, fresh air taste like the first kiss you shared with your best guy or girl? Have lunch or an early dinner at Trattoria 903, where the people who know what they are about, recommend mushroom and shrimp bisque, chicken saltimbocca, or lobster ravioli. Overnight at The Times House hotel.
Sugar Hill, New Hampshire: Visit this area anytime from September 15 through October 12. What to do there? Enjoy the most iconic region in the country when the subject is turning leaves and fall color. These are sugar maples, which offer brilliant color shows. Oak trees grow in the Boston area. While pretty, oaks don’t dazzle like maples. Enjoy a great meal at Polly’s Pancake Parlor, where the hostess or server will introduce you to the custom-made pancakes (duh), but also eggs topped with specialty cheeses. Overnight at Hillwinds Lodge (it’s technically in Franconia, but only 2.5 miles from Sugar Hill.)
Saranac Lake, New York: This lovely town offers some flexibility in travel times. Go anytime from Sept. 25 through Oct. 26. What to do there? If you have never driven through the Adirondack Ranges, you’ve missed out on some great stuff in the way of stunning vistas. Did that mountain air make you hungry? Us, too. Let’s satisfy our cravings at Lakeview Deli. Gildshire recommends the fresh mozzarella and basil mayo with bacon on a perfectly toasted sub roll, but we know people who say the roast beef, pepper jack cheese, avocado, arugula, and garlic aioli on a tasty 12-grain bread is the way to go. Overnight at the Maple Leaf Inn, located in nearby Lake Placid.
Manchester, Vermont: When most people think about fall colors, Vermont is their daydream’s locale. Sure, we started with the premise that there are abundant colors all over the place. That said, we would never skip going to Vermont, and the Manchester area is a favorite. Get there anytime from the tail end of September through Oct. 20. What to do once you get to Manchester? Well, the city itself is in the gorgeous Battenkill River Valley, and at the bottom of Mount Equinox. We like to walk to Equinox Pond (pictured below) to see what God wrought in this part of the world. Satisfy your good appetite at Nippers Cafe and Steakhouse. That’s where the world’s best (at least in some folks’ opinion) filet Poivre, ahi tuna and stir-fry are served. Stay the night at Olympia Lodge.
Does this sound like the kind of trip you can get behind? If this is your first such trip, you are in for a treat and a half.