Fall Getaways!

5 easy weekend getaways that remind us why autumn is our favorite time of year.

Colebrook, Connecticut 

Known as part of the Southern Berkshires or Litchfield Hills, the Colebrook/Norfolk region marries urban artistic culture with bucolic landscape — which equals some of the best farm-to-fork restaurants. Norfolk is among the best-preserved villages in the Northeast. Formerly a summer enclave for wealthy industrialists, the architecture of the town’s grand mansions remains intact and worth the drive. It also makes a good home base for exploring nearby attractions.

For the outdoor adventurer
The region’s rolling hills and river valleys have carved the perfect channels for outdoor pursuits: hiking, cycling, river and lake kayaking, fly-fishing and more. Built for speed? Check out Lime Rock Park (limerock.com). Paul Newman was a fixture at this seven-turn course where there are often vintage models worth millions. It’s also the site for a Skip Barber Racing School (skipbarber.com), which offers clinics in racing, defensive and high-performance driving. 

Outdoorsy types get their fix at Bartholomew’s Cobble in Sheffield, Massachusetts (thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/berkshires/bartholomews-cobble.html). Created by geologic upheavals when the Taconic and Berkshire ranges were formed, this hundred-foot-high bedrock outcropping offers mountain vistas and a rugged landscape that support 800 species of plants. For fishing, hiking and picnicking (and an impressive waterfall), visit Campbell Falls State Park in Norfolk. 

For the culture vulture
Since the Berkshire region is a magnet for artists, its bordering towns are ripe with historic venues, galleries and museums. Music aficionados flock to Infinity Hall (infinityhall.com) in Norfolk. Built in 1883 and recently restored, this 300-seat theater boasts its original proscenium stage and showcases classic rockers, folk, country and soul singers. The Mount (edithwharton.org) in Lenox, Massachusetts, is Edith Wharton’s turn-of-the-century classic revival house and formal gardens. There are also regular events, from ghost tours to actors reading her stories; check for limited fall hours.

 
For the food lover
With towns somewhat far apart in this region, restaurants may be a distance from lodging (although a number of inns boast award-winning dining). Here’s a sample of some that are worth the drive, and rolling-hill scenery to match. With a European-trained chef racking up awards, an inventive and ever-changing menu, plus modern Scandinavian decor, visit Community Table (communitytablect.com) in Washington Depot, Connecticut. Tollgate Tavern (tolgatetavern.com) dishes up New American cuisine (raw oysters to Thai tofu) that is locally sourced and globally flavored in Litchfield, Connecticut. For artistic presentations and a unique French/Austrian accented menu, pick No. 9 (number9millerton.com) in Millerton, New York. Pastorale (pastoralebistro.com) is a French bistro in a cozy colonial house in Lakeville, Connecticut. Where else can you get a Croque Monsieur in these parts?
 
For the shopaholic
Thanks to the migration of Manhattanites and Bostonians with weekend and full-time homes dotting these towns, boutiques cater to those with a taste for the good life. From antiques to artisan guilds and gourmet shops, the selection is A-list. Antique hunters flock just over the border, to Millerton, New York, for Hunter Bee (hunterbee.com). New York magazine gave it a nod for the curated collection of American country and industrial pieces, mid-century design classics and quirky folk art. Or scout furnishings to jewelry from thirty-six dealers at Millerton Antiques Center (millertonantiquescenter.com). Harney and Sons (harney.com) in Millerton has gourmet blends of tea by master mixers (they are purveyors to the Queen of England, after all), tea related gifts, accessories and a cafe. Another nearby area worth exploring is the stretch of Route 7 in Sheffield, Massachusetts, which is dotted with antique shops. 
 
Where to stay 
Accommodations range from anniversary splurge indulgent to traditional bed and breakfasts where the owners are a font of information on the area. Mountain View Inn, a Victorian home, has been restored to its 1900s Gilded Age style and decorated with period furnishings and artwork by the innkeeper. A porch swing beckons, guests are greeted with fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and there’s a vintage jewelry and gift shop inside. 67 Litchfield Rd., Norfolk, 860-542-6991, mvinn.com; fall room rates start at $120, which includes breakfast.

Interior designer Stella Somers and her husband Michael spent eighteen months restoring Rock Hall Luxe Lodging to its former Mediterranean Revival glory. The five-bedroom mansion, on twenty-three acres, is on the National Register of Historic Places and was originally built in 1912 for the heir to a steamship fortune, who maintained the home with a staff of eighteen. Architectural details include claw-footed tubs, ornate mirrors, original chestnut woodwork and a stunning leaded window in the main hall. Innkeepers, the Somers have great taste and an eye for detail. They select specialty cheeses and olives from Arthur Avenue, the little Italy of the Bronx, for a Mediterranean-style breakfast that includes frittatas, smoked fish (that Michael cures), locally made granola and fruit. Amenities include: a tennis court, a swimming pool and Jacuzzi, private yoga sessions in the fitness studio overlooking the pool, a vintage billiard room, a movie screening room and in-room massage. In fall, guests can pick apples in the century-old orchard or walk the grounds to view one of the largest private collections of specimen trees in New England. For autumn romance, the inn can arrange a fall foliage tour on a private carriage ride. 19 Rock Hall Rd., Colebrook, 860-379-2230, 19rockhallroad.com; fall room rates start at $325, which includes breakfast. Insider tip: it’s the only surviving residence north of the Mason-Dixon line designed by Addison Mizner, the “Architect of Palm Beach.”
 

 

Stowe, Vermont

Visit Stowe between the last week of September and the first two weeks of October to see the leaves of sugar and red maples, birches, elms and poplars redden and golden. This Alpine mecca in winter considers itself the color capital in autumn. While some resort destinations fade to ghost towns après ski season, Stowe’s year-round population keeps it thriving. Many residents were urbanites seduced by this village tucked in the valley around Mount Mansfield, the state’s highest peak. The village is compact enough to be navigated on foot or on bike, with options for antique lovers to Anglophiles. 
 
For the outdoor adventurer
National Geographic ranked Stowe as one of the top 100 adventure towns for its range of all-season activities, from hidden swimming holes to high altitude thrills ranging from zip-lining to scaling summits on foot for panoramic vistas. Float on a gondola to the near-peak of Mount Mansfield (stowe.com/activities/summer/gondola-skyride) and access hiking trails from there or dine with a view at the Cliff House restaurant. A toll road promises a 360-degree view at the top. The five-mile Stowe Recreation Path (gostowe.com/thingstodo/sports/recreation-path) is a popular walking, biking and picnic path. Try the hiking trails on and around Mount Mansfield and Smuggler’s Notch State Park, which includes a stretch of the Long Trail. For the especially scenic route, hike to the waterfalls at Bingham Falls or Moss Glen Falls. Or top the trees on a tour over Mount Elmore and Worcester Mountain Range with Stowe Soaring scenic glider ride (stowesoaring.com). Umiak Outdoor Outfitters (umiak.com) provides guides and supplies for different adventures with gold panning to river paddling in the fall. For the high life, ArborTrek Canopy Adventures (arbortrek.com) has 4,500 feet of zip-lines at Smugglers Notch State Park.
 
For the food lover
Stowe chefs have pioneered the field-to-fork movement, no surprise given the number of farms within picking distance. Some restaurants have their own culinary gardens and chefs who forage for seasonal mushrooms and other delicacies. Michael's on the Hill (michaelsonthehill.com) is set in an early nineteenth-century farmhouse. The restaurant has Green Mountain views and three dining areas, including an enclosed wrap-around porch and the renovated original barn. Owned by Michael and Laura Kloeti, the restaurant’s accolades include multiple Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence and Michael being crowned Vermont Chef of the Year by the state’s hospitality council. The food has been described as “new interpretations of classical Continental cuisine, Vermont-style.” In the fall, they forage for ingredients used in their wild mushroom tartine with truffle honey gastrique. Visitors can also arrange a private cooking class with Michael. Hen of the Wood (henofthewood.com) chef Eric Warnstedt, twice named a James Beard Best Chef finalist, offers a curated menu of New American food in a former mill, from the duck sausage and local cornmeal polenta to goat’s milk dumplings with cauliflower and pine nuts. At Flannel at Topnotch Resort (topnotchresort.com/flannel) entrees vary from the king salmon with creamed corn, barley and risotto to the aptly named Flannel burger with pork belly, a farm egg, Vermont cheddar and glazed onions. Try Trapp Family Lodge (trappfamily.com) brewery’s Austrian-style lager or purchase syrup from its maple trees. Every March, the family starts sugaring the old-school way using a sled and a team of draft horses to gather sap. In the historic Butler House, Frida’s Taqueria (fridastaqueria.com) serves authentic Mexican dishes and hand makes corn tortillas. Tour Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Plant (benjerry.com/scoop-shops/factory-tours), billed as one of the happiest places in Vermont. Insider tip: Sampling is free; we wish we could say the same about the calories. 
 
For the shopaholic
With so many artisans nearby, Mountain Road, the town’s main artery, is home to a number of high-quality craft shops featuring locally made jewelry, art, knitwear and woodwork. Shaw’s General Store (heshaw.com) is family-owned since 1895, with souvenirs, ice cream and local specialties. The main floor has a bookstore with regional guides. Foliage Arts Festival (craftproducers.com) features more than 150 vendors selling regional food, photography, prints, jewelry, drafts and textiles. There is a Vermont craft beer tent, along with artisan demos, entertainment, horse and hay wagon rides and pumpkin carving. Held Columbus Day weekend. 
 
Where to stay
Accommodations range from Aspen-style resorts with swank spas to family-run bed and breakfasts with heirloom antiques. Topnotch Resort and Spa completed a $15 million renovation in June. With sixty-eight rooms as well as two- or three-bedroom homes for rent, the resort is ideal for families. Renowned for its tennis academy, there are clinics and lessons for all ages, plus the 35,000 square-foot spa offers a special Shirley Temple package for girls under twelve. If your kids are the furry canine variety, they are welcome at Topnotch, which even offers in-room doggie massages. Take advantage of hiking trails, bikes, canoes and fly-fishing equipment, plus horses onsite for trail or carriage rides. 4000 Mountain Rd., 802-253-8585, topnotchresort.com; fall room rates start at $270.
 
 
 

Portland, Maine

Forget Yankee reserve: Portlanders will (sweetly) tell you where to go — and how to get there. They are passionate about living in a place that boasts a small-town feel plus urban amenities. Downtown’s Old Port area is the shopping and nightlife nexus, with replica streetlights and cobblestone steps. In 1866, exuberant Fourth of July festivities sparked a fire that decimated the city. By the late 1870s, Portland had risen from the ashes with a Victorian rebirth of candy-colored cottages, row houses and bungalows. The harbor remains a working waterfront and the Old Port’s warehouse revitalization has been an architectural coup. The Arts District — with galleries, antique shops and artist studios — covers most of Congress Street to the West End.
 
For the outdoor adventurer
Considering Portland’s a culinary hot spot, it’s a good thing there are myriad ways to burn calories. Casco Bay is a resource for kayaking and sailing; on land, Portland ranks as one of the greenest cities for its labyrinth of parks and recreation paths. Check out a Portland Trails map (trails.org) and walk, jog or bike around a cove, the waterfront, a waterfall, two lighthouses and the green areas of the city. LL Bean’s Outdoor Discovery School (llbean.com) in Freeport is a bit north of Portland, but worth the drive for sea kayaking clinics or just a sunset paddle, biking and fly-fishing lessons. To see what’s happening outdoors, check out the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend (greatmaineoutdoorweekend.org). The site compiles outdoor activities with a special weekend series of events in October. Until October, explore Casco Bay on a wooden schooner built in the early twentieth century with Portland Schooner (portlandschooner.com). For a taste of Maine, sail to Cow Island for a lobster bake. Hop a ride on the Narrow Gauge Rails (mainenarrowgauge.org). A historic two-foot train carries riders along the waterfront. Or climb the Portland Observatory (portlandlandmarks.org), the country’s only remaining maritime signal tower. Options for a guided tour: panoramic views and — on a clear day — a peek at the White Mountains.
 
For the culture vulture
Since the city is a magnet for artists and home to Maine College of Art, there is no shortage of opportunities. Options range from the exhibit space at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies to maritime art galleries. The Portland Museum of Art (portlandmuseum.org) is a Pei, Cobb, Freed and Partners-designed masterpiece. The permanent collection features artists with Maine connections, including Andrew Wyeth, Winslow Homer (his Prouts Neck studio is now open to the public) and Edward Hopper. There are also European works by Monet, Picasso and other names. Insider tip: Visiting on a Friday? Admission is free from 5 to 9 p.m.
 
For the food lover
With the catch of the day blocks away, Portland is famous for seafood, as well as innovative farm-to-table cuisine that capitalizes on the state’s organic farmland. Solicit dining suggestions from locals and be prepared for a run-on paragraph: Bon Appetit dubbed Portland “America’s foodiest small town” for spending more money per capita in restaurants than most other American cities. Options are endless, but here’s a starter: The noodle bar and sushi (including ceviche rolls) at Miyake (miyakerestaurants.com), brunch at Local 188 (local188.com), contemporary Greek at Emilitsa (emilitsa.com), seafood at Street and Company (streetandcompany.net) and small plates at Five Fifty-Five (fivefifty-five.com). Be aware that some restaurants are closed both Sunday and Monday evenings. Homegrown Herb and Tea (homegrownherbandtea.com) is a cozy teahouse for house and wellness tea blends and light snacks. Mount Desert Island Ice Cream (mdiic.com) scoops unique combos from salted caramel to blueberry basil. Harbor Fish Market (harborfish.com) will pack your catch for the drive home. Harvest on the Harbor (harvestontheharbor.com) is a four-day waterfront festival held during the last week of October (23 to 26 this year), with cooking demonstrations and tastings. Epicureans can earn and burn calories on Maine Foodie Tours (mainefoodietours.com), with culinary-themed island dinner cruises, trolley or walking tours. Picnic Supplies can be foraged at The Standard Baking Co. (forestreet.biz) for brioche and baguettes, Aurora Provisions (auroraprovisions.com) or Browne Trading Company (brownetrading.com) for gourmet cheeses and prepared foods. 
 
Where to stay
Downtown hosts some of the larger chain hotels within walking distance to the Old Port. In this accessible city, however, you’ll still be near the action even if you stay in one of the outlying historic homes now converted to bed and breakfasts. Portland Harbor Hotel provides classic accommodations in the Old Port near the restaurants and boutiques along Commercial, Exchange and Fore streets. Turndown service includes lobster-shaped chocolates and slippers, plus the hotel is a skip away from Paciarino restaurant, (paciarino.com), where fresh pastas and sauces are made daily. 468 Fore St., 207-775-9090, portlandharborhotel.com; fall room rates start at $169.
For stylish lodging between the Arts District and the Old Port, visit The Danforth Inn, which feels like staying in the elegant home of a host with impeccable taste. The 1823 building has intricate moldings and metalwork, leaded windows and muted walls with splashes of vivid watercolors. With fifteen fireplaces, a baby grand piano in the parlor, sitting rooms on every floor and a billiards lounge with Prohibition-era opaque windows, the inn harkens to an era of glamour and grandeur. 163 Danforth St., 207-879-8755, danforthinn.com; fall room rates start at $229, which includes breakfast.
 

Montreal, Quebec

Yearn for a European vacation but your wallet has more domestic ideas? Montreal is the perfect compromise for a long-weekend excursion. Montrealers are hospitable, bilingual and justifiably proud of their artsy, historic and progressive city. Before you go: Unlike guidebooks that can age before the ink dries, Tourisme Montreal (tourisme-montreal.org) is a virtual travel agent with real-time, insider advice and user-friendly links on events, restaurants, attractions, lodging and more. 
 
For the outdoor adventurer
Montrealers love the outdoors: On weekends, people flock to Mont-Royal, the Central Park of Quebec. Unlike the waterways of many cities, the Saint Lawrence River is sparkling clean, and a resource for jet-boating, surfing, stand-up paddling and swimming. Check out KSF (ksf.ca), which rents equipment and runs surf, kayak and stand-up paddling clinics at Lachine Canal and Jean Drapeau Park (parcjeandrapeau.com/en). Classes run through early fall with the option of private lessons beyond then.
The park itself is worth a visit: two islands in the Saint Lawrence with a beach, cycling track and lots of green space. Fitz and Follwell (fitzandfollwell.co) gets raves for its eclectic tours operated out of a retro-ish cycling shop near the base of Mount Royal. Adventures range from underground city hikes to historical walking or cycling tours and even a Jewish Food History tour. 
 
For the culture vulture
If you plan to visit even two museums, the Montreal museums pass (montrealmuseums.org) is worth the investment for free admission to thirty-eight attractions and a public transit option. From the Biodome, with its collection of nearly 5,000 animals and 750 plant species, to Pointe-à-Callière, which chronicles the museum of the archaeology and history of Montreal, to the Biosphere environment museum and its various ecosystems, there is a wide range of flora, fauna and culture on tap. The Botanical Garden (espacepourlavie.ca) is a must-see (and one of the museum pass members), spanning 190 acres with some thirty thematic gardens, from medicinal plants to an Alpine garden. Come fall, the Chinese Garden is decked with paper lanterns (try the guided tour at dusk). While the outdoor gardens are bare from about November until spring thaw, its ten greenhouses are open year-round. Plus, more than half the total area is devoted to the Arboretum. With 7,000 specimens of trees and shrubs, you can get up close with the foliage. Sybarites flock to Bota Bota (botabota.ca), a 170-foot midcentury ferryboat reincarnated as a floating spa in the Saint Lawrence. It houses a eucalyptus steam room, a glass-enclosed sauna with views of the Old Port, an infinity edge pool on the upper deck, beanbag and pool loungers, as well as a restaurant and bar. Services range from massage to yoga. For the indulgent vacation antidote, the water circuit is a traditional way to eliminate toxins: sweat it out in the sauna or steam room, then plunge into a cold water pool. Insider tip: ask about the special Tuesday rate. 
 
For the outdoor adventurer
For the food lover Montreal is home to immigrants from all over the world and its restaurants are famous for dishing up inventive twists on fusion food. There are also traditional Parisian-style bistros and, thanks to a recent municipal change, a fleet of hipster food trucks serving ploys (stuffed pancakes) to tortilla lasagna. Want to taste-test the best restaurants at the right price? During Taste Montreal (tourisme-montreal.org/tastemtl), from November 1 to 11, more than 100 restaurants offer affordable prix-fixe menus for lunch and dinner. Schwartz’s (shwartzsdeli.com), a landmark deli in the trendy Plateau area, was opened in 1928 by a Jewish immigrant from Romania. One devotee calls it the “best reason I ever tasted to convert to Judaism.” No preservatives are added to the shredded briskets, which are marinated for ten days in a secret recipe of herbs and spices before a hickory smoke and steam “bath.” Open ’til midnight or later for nocturnal cravings. Follow the scent of fresh-baked bread through cobblestone streets of Old Montreal to reach Olive and Gourmando (oliveetgourmando.com), a cafe and bakery open for breakfast and lunch. Try a warm goat cheese or Cuban panini with homemade condiments and an iced green tea elixir. And enjoy the oyster bar and cocktails or choose creative Portuguese cuisine at F Bar (fbar.ca) in the Quartier des Spectacles entertainment district. The rectangular building is a design coup: perched on a narrow sidewalk and enclosed by sheets of glass, with splashes of blue and white Azulejo tiles and a terrace overlooking the plaza. 
 
For the shopaholic
With many residents of French ancestry, good taste is in their genes. More than 1,700 shops populate the underground city alone, and Sainte-Catherine Street is lined with 1,200 retailers, including the major department stores and smaller boutiques. At Les Touilleurs (lestouilleurs.com), Le Creuset cookware and Robot-Coupe food processers mingle with artisan and small-shop products as well as top-shelf cookbooks. Want to brush up on your French? This gourmet kitchen shop offers cooking workshops by some of the city’s best chefs, who dish up three to four courses and their culinary wisdom. Jean-Talon and Atwater (marchespublics-mtl.com) are public markets with every imaginable purveyor: cheeses, wild mushrooms, Quebec iced cider and regional wines, terrine and more. Forage for picnic provisions or have a simple meal on the spot. 
 
Where to stay
Each neighborhood has its own personality and a certain brand of accommodations: Options range from downtown’s chain hotels to the auberges (French inns) of Old Montreal. Plant yourself at Hotel 10 to be within walking distance of the Old Port, the entertainment district and just off the main artery of Boulevard St. Laurent. This boutique hotel offers spacious rooms, gracious service and a sleek minimalist decor. 10 Sherbrooke Ouest, 855-390-6787, hotel10montreal.com; fall room rates start at $192. Behind the Notre-Dame Basilica, in Old Montreal, Le Saint Sulpice Hotel is a European-style inn with generous rooms and a “secret garden”: its (heated) terrace restaurant faces the Sulpicians’ gardens, which are the oldest ones in North America. And don’t be shy about asking for help: their concierge is a veritable Wikipedia on Montreal. 414 Rue Saint-Sulpice, 877-785-7423, lesaintsulpice.com; fall room rates start at $195.
 
 

Peaks Island, Maine

Peaks Island is a twenty-minute, three-mile ferry ride from Portland, not far away but one that refreshes the spirit and feels like a foreign country. On this four-mile isle, the speed limit is twenty miles per hour (some people putter around on golf carts), painted buoys anchor picket fences, and driftwood mobiles sway on the porches of shingled cottages with names like Moxie and Puritan. 
 
At the turn of the nineteenth century, the island was known as the Coney Island of Maine, thanks to its amusement park. Providence native George M. Cohan tested new Broadway material there and director John Ford was known as “the mayor of Peaks.” While it’s slower-paced these days, there is still plenty to explore: Visit Maine Island Kayak Company (maineislandkayak.com) for rentals and guided tours, or Brad and Wyatt’s Bike Rentals for excursions on land. There’s Sandy Point beach, Picnic Point, preserves, a WWII fort, art galleries and three museums, including the Umbrella Cover Museum (umbrellacovermuseum.org), which holds a Guinness record for having the biggest collection of umbrella sleeves in the world (though it’s the only museum of its kind). The Cockeyed Gull (facebook.com/cockeyedgull) dishes up Thai scampi scallops with cucumber relish and other creations in a clapboard cottage punctuated by zinnia window boxes. Peaks embodies the beauty of the simple life: As they say at Hannigan's Island Market: “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.”
 
Where to stay
There are only a couple of hotels on this tiny isle, but some cottage rentals are offered for a two-night minimum during this off-peak season. The Inn on Peaks offers lodging and a restaurant with Mainer-sized portions and eclectic specials. The inn’s pub is affiliated with Shipyard Brewing Company, so you won’t go thirsty before retiring to its rooms with gas fireplaces, quilts and quaint wainscotting. 33 Island Ave., 207-766-5100, innonpeaks.com; fall rates through October start at $199. Want to go native and stay for a week? Rent an adorable two-bedroom 1908 cottage: peaks-cottage.com; off-season rate is $900 per week.
 
 
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