We love gawking at New England’s fabulous fall fiery forests. We could road trip for days, taking in view after view. Kids — not so much. Sitting in the back seat looking at trees — even if they’re glowing — gets old fast; meltdowns are guaranteed. That doesn’t mean you and your family should give up your autumn New England getaway. Here are three cool fall trips that your kids will love, where the scenery is splendid — yet secondary to the fun.
This pretty little village, accessed through a historic 1876 red-painted covered bridge, is one of our favorite places to visit in the fall. It’s surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest in all its fall glory and sits in the shadows of the Presidential Mountain Range, with lofty 360-degree views. It’s quieter than neighboring North Conway, too, with a slower pace and a little more elbow room. And in fall, the village hosts its annual Return of the Pumpkin People event with more than 80 whimsical displays (Sept. 30-Oct. 31, free, www.jacksonnh.com/event/return-of-the-pumpkin-people).
Stay: The last time we stayed at the fun-loving, family-friendly Christmas Farm Inn & Spa we could barely coax the kids off the property. They loved the relaxed, festive atmosphere, the colorful playground, and our spacious two-bedroom North Pole cottage with a deck offering mountaintop views. The resort offers a variety of accommodations, from simple rooms in the Main Inn, to modern suites in the Carriage House, to spacious studios in the Barn and one-of-a-kind cottages (www.christmasfarminn.com).
Play: At the top of the list is beloved Story Land, where kids can take the plunge on Roar-O-Saurus, get soaked on Dr. Geyser’s Remarkable Raft Ride, and ride the Antique Cars, the Flying Tractors, the Dutch Shoes, and Cinderella’s Pumpkin Coach. The 67-year-old park has more than 30 rides to delight all ages (www.storylandnh.com). Also, check out Jackson Falls and Glen Ellis Falls and go horseback riding at Black Mountain (www.blackmt.com).
Eat: There’s a reason the Christmas Farm Inn dining room is consistently ranked No. 1 on TripAdvisor. It offers a large menu of fresh, creatively prepared dishes (elk tacos and curried potato carrot bisque) and traditional fare (turkey dinner and rack of lamb) in a relaxed setting. Another great option is the family-owned Thompson House Eatery with a variety of from-scratch dishes like the house-made charcuterie board, foraged lobster mushrooms, and homemade fusilli with Bolognese sauce (www.thethompsonhouseeatery.com).
This former mill town set at the base of 3,344-foot Okemo Mountain in southern Vermont is an unfuzzy, unpretentious town, with a cluster of shops and restaurants, and fine fall foliage views. The surrounding 7,466-acre Okemo State Forest is ablaze come autumn, and the Green Mountain range serves as a picturesque backdrop. Ho-hum your kids will say about that scenery, until you take them out to play in it.
Stay: The intimate, 13-room Main + Mountain Bar & Motel in downtown Ludlow hits all the right notes with its clean, contemporary furnishings, natural woods, and clever layouts, including some rooms with bunkbeds for the kids, and a two-bedroom suite with a deck overlooking the mountains (www.mainandmountain.com).
Play: Head to Okemo Mountain Resort, with enough fun stuff to keep you and yours busy for days. There’s mini-golf, disc golf, a rope challenge course, a gold mining station, mountain biking, and the kid-thrilling Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster, a rider-controlled sled that climbs 1,600 feet up the mountain before plunging down a bumpy, wavy, twisty track, reaching speeds up to 25 miles an hour. For a tamer pursuit, ride the chairlift to the summit and meander the trails. Before leaving town, hike the short trail to Buttermilk Falls, a pretty series of cascades and swimming holes on Branch Brook.
Eat: Head straight to the Mojo Café for lime-tempura fried poblano peppers, house-made chorizo tacos, and pulled pork shoulder burritos; the Vermont cheese quesadilla is a popular choice for the kids (www.mojocafevt.com). Mr. Darcy’s Bar & Burger is a local favorite, with fair prices and decent pub fare (www.mr-darcys.com).
Litchfield Hills, Conn.
This quaint, bucolic region tucked into the northwest corner of Connecticut is filled with small towns, charming country inns, historic homes, village greens, antique shops, farmland, and rolling hills. There are picturesque streams, lakes, and waterfalls, and back country roads that twist through thick woods ablaze with fall color. Sounds romantic, right? It is. And it’s also surprisingly kid-friendly, especially for those who love to play outdoors.
Stay: The lakeside Interlaken Inn sits on 30 acres with plenty of room for the kids to roam and plenty of activities to keep them amused. There are kayaks and canoes for paddling on Lake Wonoscopomuc, a heated outdoor pool, lawn games, tennis courts, and a game room. Accommodations include guest rooms and suites, cottages, and large homes (www.interlakeninn.com).
Play: For a great reward-effort ratio, you can’t beat the Lion’s Head hike in Salisbury, a short scramble to an overlook with sweeping views. If you can get your brood going early, the sunrise vistas from the top are amazing. There are also some 35 miles of trails at the White Memorial Conservation Center (www.whitememorialcc.org) in Litchfield. Also in Litchfield is a short trail to the stone observation tower at the summit of 1,325-foot Mount Tom. Pack a picnic one day and paddle a stretch of the scenic Housatonic River; Clarke Outdoors will set you up with equipment and shuttle service (www.clarkeoutdoors.com).
Eat: For hearty comfort food — meatloaf, pasta, burgers and wraps — check out The Village in Litchfield (www.village-litchfield.com). Brickhouse Pizza in New Milford is the place to go for authentic, fresh-made pizza pies and house-made pasta dishes (www.brickhousepizza.net). Don’t miss a stop at the Arethusa Farm Dairy for a scoop (or two) of their hand-crafted ice cream (www.arethusafarm.com).
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org