The Best Places to See Fall Colors with Kids This Year

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From the Catskills to the Colombia River Gorge, the leaves are changing

There’s something about the crisp, fresh air of fall that makes us ready for a road trip. If you are itching to find some spots that really know how to do fall right from colorful drives to hikes full of fallen leaves, this list will get you started. Our travels have taken us to ski resort towns and lakeside villages, where you’ll find apple festivals, Oktoberfest celebrations, and tons of leaf piles for jumping in. We can’t wait to share our insider tips that will get you the autumnal experience you’ve been craving.


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Breckenridge, CO

view of fall leaves from the breckenridge gondola
Kate Loweth

Just under two hours from Denver, Breckenridge, CO sits at just over 9,000 feet elevation and that means the leaves change color here super early. Fall is a great time to visit as the ski and summer crowds aren’t there and you can enjoy special events like the annual Oktoberfest. Plus, the hiking and views can’t be beat. Explore the gold rush history, take a guided mountain bike tour and breathe in the fresh mountain air. 

Online: tinybeans.com

Chickasaw National Recreation Area, OK

Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur, OK offers a magnificent display of fall color that stretches along the peaks of the Arbuckle Mountains. Visit Turner Falls, a breathtaking 77-foot waterfall that cascades into a natural pool below. Prime leaf-peeping time is the last week of October and the first week of November.

Online: travelok.com/fallfoliage

Williamsburg, VA

Fall lingers a bit longer in Virginia than in the Northeast and the Kingsmill Resort is a great spot to experience the area’s fall beauty. Sitting on 2,900 acres, it’s the only resort in Williamsburg on the fabled James River with sweeping views of the water. Rent a pontoon, paddleboard, kayak, or jet ski at Kingsmill’s marina to see the magnificent colors along the James River. If you prefer to explore by land, rent a bike and explore Kingsmill’s 2,900 acres of gorgeous fall-colored trees. Just outside its gates are all the attractions and experiences Williamsburg is famous for such as the scenic drives on the Colonial Parkway to Jamestown Island, or hike/walk on the short trails of the coastal estuary at York River State Park.
 

The Tidal Basin | Washington, DC

This man-made inlet to the Potomac River is most famous for the springtime National Cherry Blossom Festival but it’s just as spectacular in the fall. The 3,000+ cherry trees put on a good show and there are plenty of rambling paths to take to breathe in the fall air. Kick it near the Jefferson Memorial for a great view. 

Online: nps.gov/dctidalbasin

Related: DC’s Best Places to See Fall Foliage

 

Blue Ridge Parkway, VA & NC

Spanning from Virginia to Cherokee, North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most scenic drives in the entire U.S. Climb to the overlook where the iconic 100-foot-tall Roanoke Star stands and see the fall color panorama from above. Don’t miss the 215-foot tall Natural Bridge, a limestone gorge carved out by Cedar Creek that can be found on the National Register of Historic Places (tt was once owned by President Thomas Jefferson!). Prime leaf-peeping starts from the end of September through the end of October.

Onlineblueridgemountainlife.com/fallfoliage

Litchfield Hills, CT

Feel the hint of fall in the air in this picture-postcard New England village. Follow the trail of leaves just bursting with color from the maple, aspen, beech, and birch trees dotting the landscape. Cross two of the state’s most picturesque covered bridges. Visit Kent, considered the #1 Fall Foliage Town in New England by Yankee Magazine and ooh and aah over Kent Falls, cascading into the river below. Stately mansions await you as well as the charming town green, perfect for a fall picnic. Enjoy the delicious fall flavors with everything pumpkin!   

Onlinevisitconnecticut.com/foliage

The Maine Highlands, ME

In mid-October, places like Bar Harbor become the center of activity for tourists who still want to take in some sea air while also seeing the gorgeous colors of autumn. There are beautiful family-friendly historic hotels to stay at in the area, and visitors can also enjoy everything from kayaking to whale watching at Acadia National Park. For a total Maine fall foliage tour, head to The Maine Highlands. Start your journey in Bangor to explore Cascade Park and continue on to Maine’s largest lake, Moosehead, in Greenville. Leaf enthusiasts can visit the state’s official foliage website Maine Foliage to receive weekly reports, and see photos from throughout the state as the progression of color begins.

Online: maine.gov/dacf/mfs/projects/fall_foliage

 

The Catskill Mountains | NY

The Catskill Mountains offer the perfect fall panorama. Colorful changing leaves turn the Catskill Mountains into a multi-color work of art. There’s no better way to take in the foliage than adventuring outside! From hiking to camping, there are many family-friendly ways your clan can enjoy the area.  

If driving is more your speed, travel across rolling farm country and down winding roads. Go across hillsides to check out magnificent waterfalls where reflections of changing leaves bounce off the water. The Catskills hold endless opportunities for seeing fall foliage. They have been the vacation destination of choice for generations of families and are a short drive from several major metro areas.

Online: visitthecatskills.com/fall

Bayfield, WI

Photo credit: Bayfield Visitor’s Bureau

Bordering Lake Superior, this little town is the gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore with lighthouses, waiting-to-be-explored sea caves, and outstanding kayaking. Bayfield is most famous for its Apple Festival, which will be taking place October 7-9, 2022. There are also plenty of nearby orchards and farms to visit. The best leaf-peeping is typically the second week in October.

Online: bayfield.org

Stowe, VT

Fall is definitely in the air in Vermont! Foliage color starts to change in the higher, cooler areas of the Green Mountains, spreading down into the Lake Champlain Valley and Connecticut River Valley, and moving from north to south across the state. Located at the foot of Mount Mansfield, Stowe offers the perfect destination for a fall getaway. Surrounded by renowned fall foliage, you can hike the woodland paths, stroll the historic village, and take in some local Fall Festivals! Stowe is, in fact, called “Fall’s Color Capital.”

Good to know: If you’re fans of The Sound of Music, stay at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe. The entire property is owned and operated by the von Trapp family.

Online: vermont.com/foliage

White Mountains & Lake Winnipesaukee Loop | NH

New Hampshire delivers flamboyant fall foliage through October. In the White Mountains, take a scenic drive along the Kancamagus Highway, between North Conway and Lincoln. The Kancamagus is more than 26 miles of roadway for leaf peepers to enjoy the beautiful scenes. 

In the Lakes region, crystal lakes add some blue to the view near Winnipesaukee and Squam lakes. The Lake Winnipesaukee loop is about 75 miles long. New Hampshire’s largest lake presents beautiful views across the water as you roam through charming towns and villages like Laconia, Wolfeboro, and Moultonborough.

Onlinevisitnh.gov/foliagetracker

Taos & The Enchanted Circle | NM

The southwestern landscape of New Mexico is a must-see in the fall, especially driving around one of America’s most scenic drives: The Enchanted Circle. This is an 83-mile drive that connects the towns of Taos, Eagle Nest, Red River, and Questa—and you will find some truly spectacular views. Head down the Corrales Road Scenic Byway and breathe in the smell of roasting green chile in the fall. The Bosque’s 400 acres along ten miles of the river provide habitat for almost 200 species of migrating and nesting birds, making bird watching a favorite activity.

Online: newmexico.org/fall-events/fall-colors/

Tualatin Hills Nature Park | Beaverton, OR

Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District

Though it’s just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from downtown Portland, this park feels a world away. It’s a 222-acre wildlife preserve and home to a variety of animals along with some stunning fall foliage. Hit the 5-mile (paved) Vine Maple Trail for your postcard-perfect shot. Word to the wise: no pups except service animals are allowed. 

Online: thprd.org/parks-and-trails/detail/tualatin-hills-nature-park

Related: 10 Jaw-Dropping Fall Hikes for Portland Families

Columbia River Gorge | OR & WA

Take your pick: on the Oregon side you can get up close and personal with some stunning color without having to stray too far from your auto, plus you get the added bonus of waterfalls. Try the gentle 2.4-mile hike around Latourell Falls or explore the grand dame of Multnomah Falls. Make a stop in Corbett, OR at the historic Vista House. On the Washington side, you’ll have fewer waterfalls and more sweeping views. Check out the Goldendale Observatory and surrounding park for an unforgettable autumnal site.  

Online: fs.usda.gov/crgnas

Chicago Botanic Garden | Chicago, IL

Who says you have to leave the city limits to be wowed by autumn colors? The Chicago Botanic Garden features 385 acres of gardens to explore and in the autumn you’ll find not just brilliant tree colors (on trees great and small) but also lots of cool events like their night of 10,000 Jack-o’-Lanterns in late October. Kids can grab seasonal bingo cards to spot what has changed since the last season. 

Online: chicagobotanic.org

Related: Cool Airbnb Rentals for Chicago Families

Tunnel of Trees | Harbor Springs, MI

In the northwestern part of Lower Michigan, you’ll find the Tunnel of Trees—a 30-mile stretch of road that you can drive or bike. Located near Harbor Springs, there just happens to be an amazing farm/winery/cafe/brewery (yes, all of those things) right near the start of the famous Tunnel. Pond Hill Farm is open year-round until 6 p.m. and is a great place to stop for lunch or to pick up some fresh jams from the farm store. There are also trails to hike onsite.

Online: puremichigan.org/harbor-springs

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