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Autumn is the time of year for apple picking and pumpkin patches, but it’s not usually the time for family travel. However, because many kids haven’t gone back to school this year (in the traditional sense), parents may not have to wait for a school break to plan a family vacation.
Amie O’Shaughnessy, founder & CEO of travel agency Ciao Bambino, noted that families in particular are looking to hit the road for extended weekends, which they typically couldn’t do when kids were playing sports.
She also pointed out that trips focusing on viewing fall foliage are great for social distancing, as many fall activities take place outdoors.
“The age of the kids has an impact on where the trip is, and what you are looking for,” O’Shaughnessy said. “But our state of crisis has created traction [for fall travel] … because people are looking for different views.”
Our state of crisis has created traction [for fall travel] … because people are looking for different views.
Although there are colorful autumn views across the U.S., these three states are perfect for fall family getaways.
Rhode Island I was a school break-only vacationer for more than 20 years, but last October, I visited my son at college in Providence, R.I., and finally saw the views that everyone raves about.
New England’s fall foliage is just as spectacular as they say, and the freedom to travel between school holidays allows virgin leaf peepers like me to see it for themselves.
“Providence takes quintessential elements of autumn in New England and gives them a modern, city spin,” according to Kristen Adamo, president and CEO of Providence/Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“Clients can check out changing leaves by kayaking the rivers that wind through downtown, and taste apples fresh from the orchard with locally sourced meals, cocktails and desserts.”
My son’s fall “must-do” activity was apple picking, so we headed to Jaswell’s Farm in the town of Smithfield, about 12 miles from Providence.
After filling our bags — and snacking as we picked — we stopped at the farm stand for Jaswell’s famous apple cider donuts. This year, Jaswell’s was named among the “50 Best Apple Picking Spots In America” by Yelp. No doubt those donuts played a part.
Pro Tip: Barbara Weindling, a family travel specialist at Weindling World Travel in Providence, suggests families with extra-short pickers visit farms with dwarf apple trees.
New YorkLake George and the Adirondacks region of New York is credited with being the original American vacation destination, thanks to William H.H. Murray’s 1869 book “Adventures in the Wilderness; or Camp-Life in the Adirondacks.”
Travelers flock to the Adirondacks year-round, but especially for the spectacular autumn colors.
“As many schools are in virtual classrooms, families have more time to spend together and are planning to visit areas that are known for being COVID-19-safe and with fall things to do,” said Gina Mintzer, executive director for Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce & CVB. “The Lake George area offers a variety of fall activities, from driving tours and leaf-peeping to pumpkin and apple picking; hiking and biking trails; and lake cruises.”
As many schools are in virtual classrooms, families have more time to spend together and are planning to visit areas that are known for being COVID-19-safe and with fall things to do.
Meredith Wallace of Minnie Memories Travel in Bedford, N.Y., recommends a visit to Schuyler Farms in the historic village of Schuylerville. The family-run farm takes autumn very seriously, with an annual Fall Festival featuring a 7-acre, self-designed corn maze that becomes a haunted “Field of Screams” on Friday and Saturday nights in October.
“Our farm is an awesome fall experience,” said Jerry Macica, co-owner of Schuyler Farms. “Our hayride to the pumpkin patch has become a family tradition, and the corn maze is almost a fall rite of passage.”
Michigan USA Today has put Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (or “U.P.,” for those in the know) at the top of its “Top 10 Fall Foliage Destinations” list for the second year in a row. And one of the best places to see the U.P.’s fall foliage is Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.
At 60,000 acres, there’s a lot to explore, but the must-see is Lake of the Clouds, which can be reached via hiking trails or a fully accessible overlook. When clients see the picture-perfect blue lake against oranges, yellows and reds of the valley below, they’ll understand why it’s one of Michigan’s most photographed places. A plus for families is that the park is equipped with Wi-Fi access if kids need to get homework done remotely.
“Fall is a beautiful time of the year in Michigan, and this year is no different,” said Dave Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan. “As the weather cools and the colors begin to change, and with virtual learning offering more flexibility for many families, it’s the perfect opportunity for travelers to take a road trip and remain safe while doing it.”
Clients can follow any of the 10 fall color driving routes curated by the Upper Peninsula Travel & Recreation Association. These drives traverse the U.P. along tree-canopied roads near lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior.To maximize foliage viewing, the association also offers online “color reports” throughout the fall season.