New Hampshire Fall Guide: Where to Eat, Stay, and Play

Condé Nast Traveler

The first thing you should know about a New Hampshire fall is how insanely colorful its trees get. The second thing to know about the state would be how to pronounce the name of the state’s capital. Calling it “CON-cord” like the grapes, or the former high-speed jet service to Europe will immediately raise some eyebrows—if you want to blend in with the locals, know that’s it’s pronounced “CONK-erd.”

That being said, don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is a land of locals versus outsiders. New Hampshirites have warmly welcomed tourists since the earliest days of our country, when city slickers from Boston and New York would escape city congestion in search of fresh air and mountainous landscapes. In the warmer months, the state swells with out-of-towners, but come autumn, the summer crowds dissipate and the state comes alive with glowing foliage and peaceful vistas.

With revivals in its food and beverage scene in recent years, and classic excursions like hiking and apple picking as enjoyable as ever, there’s never been a better time to visit New Hampshire. You’ll find that there isn’t really a right or a wrong way to “do” a trip here. This is, after all, the Live Free or Die State—but after even just one weekend here, you’ll come to see this is Grade-A, choose-your-own-adventure land. This is a place that invites long, scenic drives and a freewheeling sense of wanderlust. But if you’re taking it from us, here are a few pointers on how to go about the perfect Granite State escape this fall.

How to get to New Hampshire

Easily accessed yet worlds away from other Northeast destinations, New Hampshire is best explored via car. That way you can easily road trip from the coast the mountains, taking in the fall foliage along the way and exploring the country roads that criss-cross from Portsmouth to the Canadian border. There are a handful of flights to Manchester Airport from assorted East Coast destinations, but the airport with more routes, Boston Logan International Airport, is just a forty minute drive from the state’s southernmost border.


Denis Tangney Jr/Getty

White Mountain National Forest

Yefta Albert/Unsplash

What is fall like in New Hampshire?

The main attraction this time of year is the state’s famous fall foliage, which peaks in the Great North Woods region in the first week of October, then trickles southward, usually hitting the Massachusetts border around Halloween. While there aren’t quite the same lake-going crowds found in summer or the winter sports throngs found in winter, there can still be some traffic on the main highways on the weekends–all the more reason to indulge your adventurous side and explore some of the roads and hiking trails less traveled (truly, as one of the Union’s smaller states, it’s pretty difficult to get lost here).

What to do in New Hampshire

While you might not be able to “conquer” New Hampshire in a single weekend, the beauty of this small-er state is that it’s easy to get a good summary in just a few days.

If you’re driving in from points south, start by taking Route 95 up to Portsmouth, a vibrant small city known for its charming shops, burgeoning food scene, and lighthouses—it’s the perfect place to stroll around in search of souvenirs to bring home. Tugboat Alley and Pickwick’s Mercantile are two of the classic spots to peruse “Live Free or Die” shirts (the state’s motto), locally made trinkets, and other assorted curios. If you have time to spare, go for a drive along Route 1A south of Portsmouth, which hugs New Hampshire’s often overlooked yet gorgeous 18 miles of seacoast—it’s a time of year when the summer crowds have dissipated, and the churning waves are at their most dramatic.

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