Three Autumn Road Trips to Fall for in New England

School may be back in session but that doesn’t mean there’s a reason to stop exploring. Here’s where you can work in a science lesson on what happens when chlorophyll breaks down during a long weekend to some of New England’s most iconic locales.

North Conway, N.H.

Trying to pronounce the Kancamagus Highway is almost as much fun as driving it, especially its hairpin turns through the White Mountain National Forest, where ruby, amber and rust trees dapple the plunging peaks. Kids will love a ride up Mount Washington, New England’s tallest summit (the Granite State claims the top five tallest peaks), or a ride on the Conway Scenic Railroad, the world’s first cog railway whose nostalgic 19th century is nestled right in the center of town. Zeb’s General Store offers throwback penny candy, or for some toothsome eats, take a drive a bit further afield to Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill, where the same family has served up flapjacks with locally made maple syrup for 75 years. There may be a bit of a wait but it’s for good reason, and the vistas to admire in the meantime—with ample room for the kids to run around—are worth it. Those who didn’t finish up their back-to-school shopping can also check out hundreds of value-priced outlet stores in Conway or North Conway center, or have a ball at Pirate’s Cove mini golf (open through mid-October). There’s no shortage of family-friendly accommodations in this ski town, but those who want to stay in the heart of the action—with some great views to boot—should check out Red Jacket Mountain View Resort, whose massive indoor water par,k Kahuna Laguna, is open year-round.

Brother and Sister walking on family roadtrip

© Famveldman | Dreamstime

The Berkshires

Sure, Monument Mountain may not have the stunning cliff sides of New Hampshire’s Kanc, but that makes it all the more kid-friendly for a good-paced hike to gaze out at foliage in Great Barrington. The bucolic Berkshires offer up plenty of outdoor activities, especially in fall, when local shops, restaurants, musicians and more come together for Lenox’s harvest Apple Squeeze harvest festival, and the Berkshire Botanical Garden Harvest Festival brings together fans of this sprawling educational space. There’s plenty of smooth and flat family-friendly biking trails (check out Ashuwillticook Rail Trail in nearby Adams) and stunning Bash Bish waterfall is easy to meander to on the Massachusetts-New York border. Whether you’re checking out Great Barrington’s two toy stores or amazing farm-to-table restaurants — Prairie Whale offers up lawn games for those queuing up for its delectable fried chicken — or Norman Rockwell’s muse of Stockbridge, the Red Lion Inn is a slice of Americana that can’t be beat. The Historic Hotel of America’s Take a Hike package, offered through mid-November, includes a backpack with locally made goodies and trail maps.

Woodstock, Vt.

Yes, the Green Mountain State is as wonderfully sleepy as it sounds — but not exactly the case when it comes to the rush when a falcon with a five-foot-wide wingspan is rushing toward your outstretched arm. The “sport of kings” comes to your little prince or princess with falconry lessons at the Woodstock Inn in central Vermont, where the gang can also learn more about how the state’s most famous export — cheese — is made at the on-site Billings Farm & Museum, a fully operational dairy farm that also grows produce. Get a hands-on taste of how your farm-to-table food is procured for the hotel, or check out the Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Quechee, whose rushing gorge is easy to admire from an overview not far from Quechee Gorge Village. The diner there is great for kids, along with old-time penny candy shops, or stroll across one of Vermont’s iconic covered bridges on Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park’s winding trails.