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Top Northeast Fall Foliage Treks by Train, Boat, or Car!

A young girl rides on her mothers back during a brightly colored fall hike in Vermont.
Photo Courtesy: Joanna Wheatley

Fall is the perfect time for an inspired drive, train, or boat cruise with your family! If you live in the Northeast or are planning a family vacation there, be sure to put these family-friendly experiences on your fall visit bucket list. Those looking for a kid-friendly fall foliage train ride will love Mount Washington Cog Railway, an authentic coal-fired train. (This train trek even offers a unique stamp from the special Mount Washington Post Office!) If you’re looking for another adventure, try a narrated boat cruise around Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay as you take in brilliant fall hues. More of a road trip kind of family? We have a number of great recommendations, including Maine’s Old Route 1, one of the most dramatic drives in the Northeast! 

No matter which of these Top Northeast Fall Foliage Treks by Train, Boat, or Car you take, be sure to take pictures along the way to capture family memories for years to come! Your kids are sure to love spending on time together on a fall foliage train ride, drive, or boat cruise.

Fall Foliage Boat Tours for Families

A young girl sits upon her father's shoulders as they stand in front of several canoes on a perfectly colored fall day.
Photo Courtesy: Marz Olda

Take a kid-friendly boat tour to experience autumn like never before! Between Maine, Connecticut, and river cruises up the Hudson in New York, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see the fall foliage as a family. Here are our favorite suggestions!

Acadian Boat Tours, ME

A stunning blue lake house sits along the Acadian shore during a beautiful, golden fall day.
Photo Courtesy: Suzanne Jacques

Our first fall-inspired boat cruise takes you through beautiful Acadia National Park. By water, experience autumn magic with Acadian Boat Tours! This Bar Harbor company offers an array of adventures for all ages, no matter your bucket list or budget. From bird sightings to lighthouses to leaf-peeping, these tours are sure to please the entire family! First, they provide daily nature and sightseeing cruises along the Acadian coast. This stress-free 2-hour tour through Frenchman Bay will leave you relaxed and kids entertained by knowledgeable guides. (Plus, it’s pet friendly!) Families looking for a boat cruise featuring animal sightings can book the Puffins, Lighthouses, & Seabirds Cruise. Experienced guides can help birdwatchers find puffins, gulls, terns, and other winged friends. Or, try the VIP Somes Sound Fjord & Harbor Tour. This unparalleled tour will escort your family through a truly stunning experience, featuring quaint villages, vintage homes, and views only nature can create!

Hudson River Cruises, NY

A boat house sits along the Hudson River on a glorious fall day.
Photo Courtesy: Hudson River Cruises & Events

A Hudson River Cruise is an exciting New York excursion! Offered by various providers around the state, each option differs in terms of distance, duration, and scenery. Families looking for a short stay can hop on a two-hour narrated tour by Hudson River Cruises. It departs from East Stand Street in Kingston and continues up the river, providing food and drink available for purchase. Sail past iconic Hudson River Lighthouses, Victorian mansions, and unique bridges along the way! NYC families can also take a Seastreak Catamaran from New Jersey’s Highlands or West 39th Street to enjoy an ever-evolving rotation of fall foliage. Soar under the George Washington Bridge toward the Cloisters, passing some stunning Palisades vistas. Want a more extended getaway? American Cruise Lines offers an 8-day round trip that departs from New York City and travels through Kingston, Hyde Park, The Catskills, and other leaf-peeping paradises!

Katahdin Cruises, ME

A semi-ariel view of Moosehead Lake with sweeping fall foliage, including hues of green, red, and yellow.
Photo Courtesy: Katahdin Cruises and Moosehead Marine Museum

Go back in time with the Katahdin, lovingly referred to as “Kate.” While sailing this 1914 steamboat, you and your family will also be aboard a National Historic Site! This truly memorable experience takes you around Moosehead Lake, the largest lake in Maine. Aboard, families will find indoor and outdoor seating, as well as ample space to move around while admiring the autumn scenery. Don’t worry about packing snacks! The Katahdin offers food and drinks on board for an added price. It is worth noting that children aged 10 and under are required to wear a life jacket while onboard. Katahdin Cruises will provide them, but families can also bring their own. After your cruise, don’t miss a chance to peek around the Moosehead Marine Museum. Here, your kids can find a wide range of nautical treasures, as well as interesting historical facts!

RiverQuest Cruises, CT

The RiverQuest sails through a Connecticut river on a fall afternoon.
Photo Courtesy: Connecticut River Expeditions, RiverQuest

Families will love taking an enchanting look at fall foliage by water with RiverQuest, which offers eco-tours along the Connecticut River. Gaze upon autumn hues while you enjoy snacks and drinks you packed for an onboard picnic. (No cafe aboard, but you can pack your own stock, including alcohol!) Choose from a wide array of cruising options too, including a specially designed fall foliage tour. On board, experience the joy of a Connecticut fall as you view migrating birds, historical sites, and time together! Avid bird watchers may also be interested in the Tree Swallow Sunset Cruise. Enjoy the flurry of activity created by these migrating birds as they head south. Tell kids to keep their eyes peeled, as they may also see bald eagles and great egrets on this 3-hour tour. Cruises are quick to sell out, however. Be sure to book online before your trip!

Fall Foliage Train Rides for Families

A sweeping view of a Vermont farm, complete with house and barn, surrounded by brilliant fall foliage.
Photo Courtesy: Vanessa Garza

A fall foliage train ride is an amazing way to explore the Northeast with kids! Hop on one of these vintage railways and soar through dramatic landscapes in New York, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. Each presents its own colorful adventure for families!

Catskills Mountain Railroad, NY

A trip aboard The Catskills Mountain Railroad will be an unforgettable experience! This scenic train travels from Kingston Plaza’s Westbrook Station through the Hurley Flats and returns; but, there’s a twist: everything is Halloween-themed! That’s right, the railroad has rolled out a new Fall Adventure Train, available during weekends until mid-October and designed to give your family a taste of the ultimate autumn action! Kids can take this fall foliage train ride to learn more about the origins of the Jack-O-Lantern, in addition to the Catskills’ history with its own lantern style. For an added bonus, book the Pumpkin Express Edition. Little ones will be rewarded with their very own pumpkin to decorate! With three trips at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm, a ride runs for eight-miles and about an hour and fifteen minutes, offering closed or open-air vintage cars. Arrive early to grab a coveted window seat!

The Adirondack Scenic Railroad, NY

Train tracks aside a sparking late in the Adirondacks on a stunning autumn day, featuring hudes of red and green,
Photo Courtesy: Adirondack Railroad

The Adirondack Scenic Railroad is another fantastic fall foliage train ride with kids! Hop aboard this picturesque railway at Utica’s historic Union Station running to Thendara, otherwise known as Old Forge. Along the way, kids can gaze out the window awestruck while you travel through verdant forests, passing rivers, streams, and a bounty of fall foliage. Your family’s trip duration will be based on what option you choose, though. While the original Utica to Old Forge trip runs about five hours round-trip, you only have a half-hour to explore Thendara before heading back to Utica. But if you book a four-hour-layover, you can meander at your own pace, without wondering about time constraints. Additionally, the railroad also offers an extensive option from Utica to Big Moose, totaling about nine hours. Don’t worry if you’re hungry along the way – The Adirondack Scenic Railroad always features an on-site cafe! 

Mount Washington Cog Railway, NH

The Mount Washington Cog Railway car ascends to the sumit in an array of fall colors. This is an amazing fall foliage train ride with kids!

Our next fall foliage train ride is the Mount Washington Cog Railway, which is truly an exciting summit route! Ascend on an authentic coal-fired train during your guided climb up New Hampshire’s most marvelous mountaintop. Once you’re there, explore the Sherman Adams Visitors Center and its rooftop observation deck, cafeteria, and two gift shops for an hour. Relish the thrill of being on top of the Northeast! Buy a postcard as a souvenir and you can even send it with a unique stamp from the special Mount Washington Post Office. At the Tip Top House, a hotel-turned-museum, learn more about the area and take a picture with the iconic Mount Washington sign. An hour’s return means your total trip is approximately 3 hours. Though trains leave throughout the day, many are booked in advance, so buy a ticket early. Don’t forget to take a jacket, as temperatures can change considerably!

Essex Steam Train, CT

An Essex Steam Train goes full steam ahead along a glimmering lake on a bright red fall day.
Photo Courtesy: Essex Steam Train

All aboard the Essex Steam Train! This Connecticut attraction is particularly appealing to families who want to see fall foliage from a comfortable position. Plus, what could be better than soaring through the autumn landscape on an original steam locomotive? Kids will love the feel of these vintage rail cars as they ride through the Connecticut River Valley! Your adventure will begin at the 1892 Essex Station, before proceeding through Deep River and Chester. All the while, a knowledgeable narrator will turn history to life before your very eyes! Before long, you’ll pass Pratt Cove and Chester Creek’s tidal wetlands, habitats for bird species like swans, geese, and blue heron. Framed by Connecticut’s fall foliage, The Essex Steam Train’s scenic route is truthfully something you’ll have to see to fully appreciate. Grab a window seat and prepare for the round-trip of your life upon this fall foliage train ride!

Plus, don’t miss boarding the Becky Thatcher, a riverboat operated by the same company! This double-header experience will delight everyone in your family as you sit back and enjoy nature’s canvas. The riverboat offers two decks for families to choose from, the Main Deck and the Second Deck. Both have moveable seating, but there are some differences between the two, so be sure to read carefully before booking.

Fall Foliage Drives for Families

A stunning view of a bright sun shining through fall foliage in Central Park.
Photo Courtesy: Ashton McKenney

Want to see the fall foliage from your family’s car? Take a scenic drive along one of these vibrant routes in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or Vermont! Here are a few favorites when traveling with kids, including where to stop along the way!

Kancamagus Highway, NH

Two parents hug their small child within White Mountain National Park on a glorious fall day.
Photo Courtesy: Pooja Acharya

Take a New England fall foliage drive on New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway! This 35-mile-long scenic byway runs through White Mountain National Forest, providing an alternative route for families who prefer to remain in the car. Give kids a historical background before departing on this once Native American land. Then, start on Route 112 from Lincoln continuing eastward toward Conway, passing beautiful attractions like the Osceola Range, Mount Tremont, and Sugar Hill. When you enter White Mountain National Forest, you’ll follow the Pemigewasset River for about four miles until Hancock Branch. Prepare for a series of hairpin turns before reaching the Kancamagus Pass, the highest point of elevation along this Mount Washington highway! Be sure to remind kids to keep their eyes peeled for wildlife, like moose, hawks, and maybe even an eagle! On the Conway side of the byway, you’ll find an abundance of cute boutiques alongside numerous family-friendly restaurants! 

Pro Tip: Book your family’s stay at the Omni Mount Washington Resort, where you can overlook this amazing autumn view from your own bed!

Mohawk Trail, MA 

Sunset in the Berkshires along the Mohawk Trail close to Williamstown.

Massachusetts’s Mohawk Trail can’t be missed by families seeking fall foliage! Once an important Native American trade route, this 69-mile-long trail runs from the state’s Central Mountain region in Athol to The Berkshires in Williamstown. It also has endless stops along the way for families to experience New England’s immense natural beauty! Of course, depending on where you visit, you’ll find various roads to get you there. One of the most famous ways is by taking Route 2, which leads 37-miles from Greenfield in the east to North Adams in the western Berkshires. Along the way, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to appreciate the fall foliage, whether in the car or when you finally decide to stretch your legs. Remember to snap lots of pictures while you stop at the many sites of interest! 

In Greenfield, walk around Rocky Mountain Park to bird-watch, hike, or bike. At the Northfield Mountain Recreation Center, families can also kayak, rock climb, or even take a boat cruise with the glimmering Connecticut River as your backdrop. Shelburne Falls is another popular destination along the route, renowned for its Bridge of Flowers. Continue through the Mohawk State Forest and you’ll wrap around one of the most mind-blowing bends heading into North Adams. Want to see the trees from an entirely new vantage point? Schedule kids for a zip-lining lesson in Charlemont at Zoar Outdoor or Berkshire East! Once you actually reach North Adams, take a break from outdoor activities by stopping in Mass MoCA for a dose of modern art. Afterward, you’ll be ready for your family’s fall foliage finale: Natural Bridge State Park! Roam in amazement as natural white marble arches blend into miles of Massachusetts leaves.

Route 100, VT

A lovely farm sits within a valley in Sleepy Hallow Vermont on an exquisite fall day awash in autumn hues.
Photo Courtesy: Lia Kouri

The next New England fall foliage drive is along Vermont’s Route 100, a scenic byway located in the south-central region! Offering almost 200 miles of fantastic views of winding country roads, expansive open fields, and cascading waterfalls, it provides plenty of stops for your journey. Many families take the southern route past Braggs Farm (for fresh produce) or Cold Hollow Cider Mill (for a warm pick-me-up!). The scenic stretch between Pittsfield and Ludlow features the Green Mountain Sugar House. Here, kids will delight in sampling tasty treats before hitting the road again. Further south, Mount Snow offers a ride up the summit on a picturesque chairlift. The Skyline Drive, along Mount Equinox, is another incredible option to view the Green, White, and Adirondack Mountains simultaneously. No matter which route you take, your family is sure to adore being together on a New England fall foliage drive!

Prefer to travel in style for dinnertime? Take the Green Mountain Railroad from Burlington to Chester. At the end of the line, visit Green Mountain National Forest, where you’ll fully appreciate the elegance of Vermont’s changing autumn leaves. This bonus fall foliage train ride in the Northeast is sure to please everyone in your family!

The Poconos, PA

Two kids stand on either side of a horse while they stroll down the road on a beautiful autumn day.
Photo Courtesy: Meg Bull

The Poconos feature some of Pennsylvania’s most scenic autumn destinations! Route 507 around Lake Wallenpaupack is one of the more famous ones, continuing into Bushkill and the Delaware Water Gap. This also gives families access to Route 447, which showcases must-see Oak and Hickory trees along Canadensis and Analomink. Route 6 is another popular choice among families with younger children, as you will pass through kid-friendly towns like Honesdale, Hawley, and Milford. From there, the road will continue into Route 402, which takes you through Porters Lake to Marshalls Creek. Venture through Delaware State Forest, where a myriad of bright colors will unfold before you. Or try Route 209, which will take you into Jim Thorpe and the Beltzville Dam, where you’ll find nearby Beltzville State Park. Route 903 also takes a very similar route through Jim Thorpe, only this time alongside the idyllic Lehigh Gorge Trail.

Children shouldn’t just experience The Poconos from the car, though! Along the way, wide-open spaces offer spots to settle in and enjoy the great outdoors. Rent a boat on Lake Wallenpaupack, where you can embark from the lovely Mauch Chunk or Tobyhanna State Parks. Take a walking tour of Bingham Park in Hawley, or head to Blakeslee off Route 115 to find the Austin T. Blakeslee Natural Area. Here, you’ll find easy hikes and scenic picnic tables. Further south, hike Bushkill Falls to reach eight flowing waterfalls, some over 100-feet-tall! In nearby Jim Thorpe, stop at the No. 9 Mine and Museum to learn more about the area’s history while descending into a real-life mine. Lehigh Gorge State Park is another fantastic place to see the fall foliage, especially on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. Here, you can enjoy Pennsylvania’s most marvelous autumn destinations in a 1917 vintage railway!

Veterans Memorial Highway to Whiteface Mountain, NY

A family of three sits upon a large boulder overlooking a coloful autumn display in New England.

Veterans Memorial Highway to Whiteface Mountain is a stunning Northeast fall foliage drive with kids! Approximately 40 minutes from Lake Placid, this popular ski area is also perfect for a little leaf-peeping with kids. Veterans Memorial Highway provides a picturesque path for you to journey via car up the mountain, where you’ll come across an unbelievable 360-view, a stone-carved castle, a restaurant, and a gift shop. Another option is to opt for the Whiteface Cloudsplitter Gondola, which transports groups from the Main Base Lodge to the top of Little Whiteface. Or, choose from one of many kid-friendly hikes, which shouldn’t be hard considering the array of options. Ninety trails encompass three mountain peaks and over twenty-five miles of beautiful nature, boasting the best vertical drop east of the Rockies! Enjoy an unparalleled view over the Adirondacks, Lake Placid, Lake Champlain, and the Ausable River when staying at Whiteface Mountain!

Old Route 1, ME

An expansive view of a gorgeous fall valley feature hues of orange, yellow, and green.
Photo Courtesy: Pooja Acharya

Old Route 1 is one of New England’s most dramatic drives! Start in Portland to fully experience its grandeur and head north to Rockland, passing seaside mansions, lighthouses, and stunning fall foliage. Along the way, you’ll find endless opportunities to stop, exit your car, and truly understand why autumn in Maine is so magical. About a half-hour, after you’ve left Portland, for example, you’ll come by Brunswick, which houses one of the few remaining drive-through restaurants in the state: Cameron’s Lobster House. Remember to take some lobster rolls to-go for the rest of your journey! In Wiscasset, visit Merrymeeting Bay, a large, freshwater basin famous for fishing and boating. For a quiet lunch in a scenic setting, look no further than Fort Edgecomb State Park. Take a quick walk around the historic military fortification and then settle in the greenery, where kids can roam free! 

Maine’s Old Route 1 also passes other picturesque locations before reaching Rockland. Waldoboro, a Maine town straight from a postcard, is also worth visiting if you have time to stroll. Here, you’ll discover a selection of kid-friendly hikes at the Waldoboro Town Forest, alongside a beautiful backdrop on Damariscotta Lake. In nearby Warren, famous for hosting the Maine Lobster Festival, stop at Beth’s Farm Market to sample some fresh produce or local delicacies. Oyster River Winegrowers also offers families a three-pronged approach to seeing Maine’s fall foliage, as it’s part-vineyard, part-forest, and part-orchard. Once you reach Rockland, don’t miss the iconic Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, a perfect family photo opportunity at sunset! Of course, while you’re in town, try some seafood from the many delicious restaurants around, most of which are located in the lovely Rockland Harbor. Nothing compares to bonding with your family in this sublime setting! 

Lake Winnipesaukee Loop, NH

A dock sticks out into a glimmering lake on a charming and colorful autumn day in New Hampshire.
Photo Courtesy: Ananda Vartak

Experience New Hampshire’s beauty from the comfort of your family’s car on the Lake Winnipesaukee Loop! This panoramic drive is great for mix-and-matching your vacation with kids, planning stops as you see fit. Begin your journey in Alton Bay and proceed along the route to Wolfeboro, continuing into Moultonborough, Meredith, and other quaint Northeastern towns. While the view is equally awe-inspiring from the backseat seat, kids will be even more engaged when you stop at attractions during your road trip. In the family-friendly Weirs Beach Boardwalk, located on the lake’s southern shores, browse arcade games, restaurants, and shops. In Meredith, you can wander through Center Harbor, a charming town located between Lake Winnipesaukee and Squam Lake. Don’t forget to save time for a tour of the Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough, a historic mountaintop mansion boasting aerial views over New Hampshire’s flickering fall foliage!

As a bonus, Lake Winnipesaukee offers a stunning boat cruise to view fall foliage from the water! Cruise Mount Washington has been a local fixture and family favorite since 1872. Step back into time as you sail from port to port around this gorgeous New Hampshire lake. Families will be in awe as they view enchanting fall foliage along the shore, as well as nearby mountains peaking over the trees.

Happy Trekking by Train, Boat, or Car!

A young child kicks up a lot of fall leaves from a large pile on an autumn day.
Photo Courtesy: Julie Espinosa

That rounds out our top Top Northeast Fall Foliage Treks by Train, Boat, or Car Families Will Love! We are sure your family found one or two things on this list to love too! Whether you choose to experience the wonder of autumn by train, boat, or car, we know you will treasure the time with your family. From unforgettable options for a fall foliage train ride to dramatic autumn drives and boat cruises perfect for leaf-peeping, this lineup is sure to fill your fall bucket list. We wish you happy trails and magical autumn moments with your family!

Thank You to Our Community!

A father stands with his two sons gazing upon a moutain awash in fall hues of orange, yellow, and auburn. Kids will love taking a fall foliage train ride to mark the season.
Photo Courtesy: Kritika Storer

As always, this article would not have been as helpful, informed, or family-friendly without the contributions and input from the amazing members on our Facebook group, Families Who Love To Travel! For more travel recommendations on vacationing with children, be sure to join us on Facebook at Families Who Love To Travel. It’s a community of dynamic families who love to adventure and explore through travel. Plus, follow us on Instagram (@families.love.travel) to connect with other families who love the unique experiences travel has to offer – and to get sneak peeks of upcoming articles! 

*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the accommodations, restaurants, or activities on this list may also be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision.

Next, don’t miss reading the 13 Best Places to See Fall Foliage in New England with Kids. Or, the 11 Best Places To See Fall Foliage Within 3 Hours Of NYC. Your family will also love the 9 Breathtaking Drives for Brilliant Fall Colors in Colorado with Kids!

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Families Love Travel Team

The Families Love Travel Team has a zest for life and an even bigger passion for globetrotting! Comprised of real-life travel professionals, we work hard behind the scenes to provide dynamic solutions for adventuring with children. Our enthusiastic team understands the challenges that often accompany traveling with kids and is committed to making Families Love Travel an inclusive space to convey these experiences.
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