Experience autumn’s palette: Top fall foliage destinations on the East Coast

For those residing in the DMV, autumn offers an excellent opportunity to embark on a leaf-peeping tour along the East Coast. From the vibrant northern landscapes of Manchester, New Hampshire, to the majestic southern peaks of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the East Coast is a treasure trove of fall foliage destinations. This guide will provide you with the best spots to witness the spectacular display of autumn colors.

Manchester, New Hampshire

White Mountain National Forest. Photo by Jon Bilous.

Manchester, New Hampshire, is an ideal starting point for any fall foliage expedition. Its northern locale and higher elevation mean it’s one of the first places where leaves start to change, creating a colorful display that gradually moves southward.

One of the top ways to enjoy Manchester’s autumn hues is by taking a scenic drive. The Kancamagus Highway, commonly known as “the Kanc,” offers breathtaking views of the changing leaves. Other notable routes include those near the White Mountains’ Mount Washington and the Presidential Range, both of which provide stunning panoramas of the fall landscape.

Beyond its natural splendor, Manchester boasts cultural attractions like The Currier Museum of Art and its two Frank Lloyd Wright homes: Zimmerman House and Kalil House. These architectural gems offer a unique experience amid the backdrop of vibrant fall colors.

The region also hosts annual events like Apple Harvest Day (Oct. 7) in nearby Dover. This local festival celebrates the harvest season with crafts, food vendors, and live entertainment, making it a perfect complement to your leaf-peeping adventure.

Where to stay

Tru by Hilton Manchester Downtown is a vibrant and contemporary hotel located in the historic section of Downtown Manchester, New Hampshire. It offers guests a variety of amenities, including complimentary breakfast, WiFi, and fitness center, and access to a lively lobby equipped with a workspace and game zone. The hotel also boasts a 24/7 market for any essential needs or cravings. It’s also close to several popular attractions such as City Hall Plaza, Millyard Museum, and the University of New Hampshire-Manchester.

Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania

Keystone State Park. Photo by Clare Kaczmarek.

Nestled in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, the Laurel Highlands is an idyllic destination renowned for its stunning fall foliage. As the leaves change from verdant green to vibrant red, orange, and gold hues, this region transforms into a picturesque canvas that captures the essence of autumn.

The region boasts several vantage points to enjoy the fall scenery. At the top of the list is Keystone State Park, which was named the nation’s Best Destination for Fall Foliage by USA Today’s 10Best as part of its Readers’ Choice Awards.

There is also Laurel Hill State Park, a 4,000-acre gem in Somerset County, with the Jones Mill Run Dam being a perennial favorite destination for fall foliage enthusiasts. And, of course, no visit to the Laurel Highlands is complete without a visit to Fallingwater, a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, which is especially stunning when surrounded by fall colors.

The region hosts a number of scenic drives that allow visitors to experience picturesque foliage while also exploring the area’s many breweries, wineries, distilleries, and other craft beverage makers.

Where to stay

The Hampton Inn Somerset is situated in Somerset, Pennsylvania. Conveniently located off the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) at Exit 110, it’s just two miles away from downtown Somerset and offers easy access to notable attractions like Kooser Stake Park and the Flight 93 Memorial. This hotel offers accommodations that blend comfort and affordability. Guests enjoy free high-speed internet, breakfast, and fitness center.

Roanoke, Virginia

Roanoke Star. Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation.

When it comes to witnessing the dazzling display of fall colors, Roanoke, Virginia, is a destination that should not be overlooked. Nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Roanoke offers a stunning panorama of autumn hues and an array of fall festivities.

One of the highlights of the fall season in Roanoke is the Anthem Go Outside Festival (Oct. 13-15). This outdoor event celebrates the natural beauty of Virginia’s Blue Ridge and encourages visitors to engage in a variety of outdoor activities. Another notable event is the Fall Foliage Train to Michie Tavern (Oct. 15). Organized by Roanoke Tours, Inc, this unique experience allows guests to enjoy the autumn scenery while traveling by train to Charlottesville, VA.

Among the best spots to witness the fall colors in Roanoke are the Natural Bridge State Park, Roanoke Star & Mill Mountain Park, and the famous Blue Ridge Parkway, aptly known as “America’s Favorite Drive.”

Where to stay

The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center, part of the Curio Collection by Hilton, is a historic hotel nestled in the heart of downtown Roanoke, Virginia. This 4-star establishment is known for its southern hospitality, offering guests modern luxury with a touch of tradition. Located just a few steps from the Amtrak Station, the hotel provides easy access to various local attractions. This includes an enclosed walkway that leads directly to the Taubman Museum of Art and the vibrant downtown district. The hotel offers a plethora of amenities to ensure a comfortable stay, including free WiFi, a full-service spa, two restaurants, and two bars/lounge.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Downtown Gatlinburg. Photo courtesy of Gatlinburg Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Known as the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is a top fall foliage destination. The city’s diverse tree species, including maples, hickories, and oaks, contribute to this stunning display of colors.

One of the highlights of the fall season in Gatlinburg is the Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival, which runs from September through Thanksgiving. It features live entertainment, arts and crafts shows, special events, and great food. In addition, the city is adorned with lavish fall decorations, enhancing the charm of this mountain town.

Some of the top locations for viewing Gatlinburg’s spectacular autumn colors are the Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook, Ober Mountain’s Aerial Tramway, and Gatlinburg SkyPark. Visitors also have a unique opportunity to play among the fall foliage at the Anakeesta Mountaintop Adventure Park.

Where to stay

The Park Vista – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel is a top pick for visitors to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Just minutes away from the downtown area and a mile from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it offers guests a convenient location to explore urban attractions and natural beauty. Each of The Park Vista’s guestrooms has a private balcony, and the hotel’s many amenities include a multi-level indoor pool equipped with waterslides, state-of-the-art fitness center, and free internet service. Nearby attractions include the Gatlinburg Space Needle and Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.

* Hilton Honors Fall Promotion: For eligible stays completed now through Dec. 31, Hilton Honors members can earn double or triple base points at Hilton-affiliated hotels. To use this promo, you must register online before completing your first stay. There’s no maximum number of points you can earn from this promo.

Troy Petenbrink

Troy, also known as The Gay Traveler, is a well known travel and food writer. His has been a regular contributor to a variety of outlets including National Geographic, Travel Channel, DCRefined, CBS Local, and Metro Weekly. He also appears on local Washington news outlets as a travel expert.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.