Chebeague Island is a short ferry ride from the hipster scene in Portland, Maine, but it still moves to a 19th-century tempo. So you can take your time walking among the brilliant fall colors and, when the evening turns cool, cozy up to the fireplace of the Chebeague Island Inn.
That crispness in the air is a sure sign it’s time for the annual pageant of vivid reds, oranges and yellows that inspires leaf-peepers to explore the towns and byways of New England, the Midwest, the mid-Atlantic and the Northwest. But what makes a fall foliage pilgrimage truly memorable is where you choose to stay. We searched the country for properties that put you in the thick of things — and discovered that the best hotels for fall colors are as varied as the colors themselves.
You could wake up to a view of the Green Mountains and a breakfast with local maple syrup in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom (which was spared from Hurricane Irene’s havoc). Or opt for Colorado, where a fall getaway means experiencing the golden splendor of Aspen trees from the minimalist aerie of a Bauhaus-inspired, largely glass-walled hotel.
Whatever their aesthetic, these are places where the breakfasts are homemade and the views are vibrant with fall colors. Of course, some rooms are better than others, so we’ve singled out which rooms savvy travelers will want to book. At North Carolina’s Applewood Manor, for instance, the York Imperial room stands out for its country charm (sleigh bed, gas log fireplace) and private balcony for enjoying the foliage that brightens up the misty Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Blue Ridge lends itself to exploring by car — the parkway was a WPA project built to blend in with the spectacular landscape — but these inns can also be convenient bases for hiking, antiquing, canoeing, even wine tastings at local vineyards, where it also happens to be harvest season.
So when exactly should you head out for a leaf-peeping trip? Anytime from mid-September to early November; generally, the further north you are, the sooner the leaves turn. State tourism boards are your best resource as they typically monitor the local progression of color. But don’t delay. Wherever you’re headed, you can never book too early. Fall colors mark the year’s busiest time for many of these inns — and you’ve got a room to request.
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