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Fall Travel

Charm U: 20 Great getaways

Even if you’re not campus-shopping this semester, college towns around the Northeast make fantastic fall destinations for their gorgeous settings and cultural offerings that rival their urban counterpart

By Nancy Heiser and Steve Jermanok
September 18, 2011

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The Five Colleges region of the Pioneer Valley is the perfect weekend retreat, especially when fall foliage turns the rolling hills crimson and a bursting apple orchard seems always just around the bend. Start your tour biking on the 10-mile Norwottuck Rail Trail, which stretches east from Northampton to Belchertown. For a rush, pedal across the Connecticut River on a 1,400-foot-long bridge. Or simply stroll the expansive grounds of Amherst, Mount Holyoke, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Hampshire, or Smith – its landscaping was originally created by Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of Boston’s Emerald Necklace and New York’s Central Park. While you’re on campus, head to the Smith College Museum of Art (413-585-2760,, where sculptures by Rodin, Calder, and minimalist Donald Judd share the galleries with paintings by Picasso, Cezanne, and Courbet.

The Hotel Northampton (800-547-3529,, built in 1927 and a member of Historic Hotels of America, is still the premier address in town. For lunch, stop at Green Street Cafe in Northampton (413-586-5650, for a sandwich made with a freshly baked baguette and home-grown veggies. Also popular is the pan-Asian food at Zen (413-582-6888,, the affordable prix fixe Italian dinners at Spoleto (413-586-6313,, and the pizza at Mimmo’s (413-584-1711, Afterward, everyone heads over to Herrell’s (413-586-9700, for ice cream. – S.J.


In the northwestern corner of the state, rolling pasture dotted with horse farms surround Williamstown and its claim to fame, Williams College. The colonnaded buildings of the college and their large manicured lawns slope down to sleepy Main Street. Williamstown has a small shopping district, including an eclectic mix of international wares found at Library Antiques (413-458-3436, Go inside to see their African masks, kelim pillows from Turkey, and Peruvian alpaca sweaters. For lunch, try the Main Street Cafe (413-458-3210) for brick oven pizzas and daily risotto specials. For dinner, Mezze Bistro + Bar (413-458-0123; partners with local farms to feature the season’s freshest ingredients. A favorite lodging spot is the Orchards (413-458-9611,, where many of the antique-filled rooms have fireplaces or overlook the courtyard. Not to be missed is the Clark Art Institute (413-458-2303,, a treasure trove of Impressionist paintings by Monet, Degas, Renoir, and American artists such as Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent. The current exhibition, “Pissarro’s People,” is on view through October 2d. Starting November 12, catch “Rembrandt and Degas: Two Young Artists,” on loan from Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, before the show moves to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. – S.J.


Massachusetts’ second-largest city boasts a lively student scene, thanks to College of the Holy Cross, Clark University, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. First stop after the campus tour should be the Worcester Art Museum (508-799-4406,, an imposing building that houses one of the finest American Impressionist collections in the world. You’ll be awed by the works of Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, Childe Hassam, and William Merritt Chase. Camelot lovers should head to the Higgins Armory Museum (508-853-6015, to eye the 35 suits of armor and array of swords in its medieval-style Great Hall. Bocado (508-797-1011) is a favorite place to share tapas in town, while Italian comfort food can be found at Via (508-754-4842, With its unique five-story round tower and its eye for service, the Beechwood Hotel (508-754-5789, is an ideal choice for families. – S.J.


History, gastronomy, art, and a lively student culture – not to mention three rivers – converge in Providence, a compact and diverse city that is home to Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design, which has recently undergone an impressive revitalization. Boutique hotels, hip eateries, and galleries have opened up in old commercial and factory spaces. Catch the city’s signature event, WaterFire, for this season’s last full show on October 8 (401-273-1155, It’s a public art installation in which 100 bonfires blaze on the surface of the rivers from sunset to midnight. The Rhode Island Historical Society (401-273-7507, offers tours of the John Brown House Museum or Benefit Street’s colorful Colonial homes. At Johnson & Wales University’s Culinary Arts Museum (401-598-2805,, the extensive diner exhibit is a must-see.

Head to the Federal Hill neighborhood for Italian restaurants – Al Forno on the East Side for wood-grilled pizzas (401-273-9760, and Bacaro (401-751-3700, or Gracie’s (401-272-7811, for sophisticated fare downtown. A grand 1920s-era Masonic temple was recently turned into the luxurious Renaissance Providence Hotel (401-919-5000, – N.H.

Rhode Islanders will happily point out-of-staters to Newport and just as happily leave the western part of the state – from Westerly to Narragansett, dubbed South County – to themselves. This scenic region is home to century-old tourist destinations like Watch Hill, some of the most sublime stretches of beach on the New England coast, and, in the South Kingstown village of Kingston, the campus of the University of Rhode Island. Try sea-kayaking an inlet on the western side of Narragansett Bay with Narrow River Kayaks (401-789-0334, If you prefer a long stroll, head to East Beach in Charlestown, one of the wildest bits of sand in Little Rhody. Walk to Ninigret Pond, home to the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge ( and a stopover for more than 250 recorded species of birds. Cucina Twist (401-789-5300, offers wings, nachos, pasta, and other affordable comfort food. For Point Judith calamari and native littleneck clams, scallops, and cod, head to the Coast Guard House in Narragansett (401-789-0700, Spend the night at the Holiday Inn in South Kingstown (401-789-1051,, one of the closest hotels to campus. – S.J.


Lest you get confused: Hamilton, New York, is home to Colgate University, while Hamilton College is in Clinton. The two towns, about 20 miles apart, share a rural landscape of rolling hills and rivers, the city of Utica for services, and plenty of recreation opportunities in vast Adirondack Park.

Hamilton’s town green, with its gazebo, fountains, and weekly farmers’ market, is an inviting spot. The elegant Colgate Inn (315-824- 2300,, renovated this spring, is a downtown focal point. Clinton resembles a picture-perfect New England village. The steepled building on its green, originally a Methodist church built in 1842, is now the Kirkland Art Center, sponsoring exhibits and concerts (315-853-8871, Follow the lovely aroma to Elm Street, where Clinton Cider Mill serves doughnuts made with mulled cider, a fall tradition since 1927 (315-853-5756). Hamilton College will mark its 2012 bicentennial with a kickoff celebration next weekend (315-859-4011, Find lodging suggestions, including rooms at Hamilton’s own Bristol Center (315-859-4271), on the college website.

If that’s not enough to attract you, stately and historic Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame (607-547-7200,, is a short trip from both campuses. Or drive to Utica and hop on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad for a two-hour foliage excursion into the vast mountain and lake wilderness (315-724-0700, – N.H


In New York’s Finger Lakes region, you can hardly turn around without seeing a waterfall – there are more than 1,000 – plunging down a steep grade. In fact, if you take a country drive to any of the area’s fine Riesling wineries, you’ll likely spot more than one bumper sticker that reads “Ithaca is Gorges.” Cornell University and Ithaca College are located south of the 40-mile-long Cayuga Lake. Spend the night at the Statler Hotel (607-257-2500,, where students at Cornell’s acclaimed School of Hotel Administration hone their skills. First stop is a walk atop the suspension bridge that spans the dramatic Fall Creek Gorge, one of two deep fissures on campus. After you catch your breath, head to the I.M. Pei-designed Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art (607-255-6464, to see its impressive collection of Asian and European art. Off-campus, check out the Museum of the Earth (607-273-6623, and artist Barbara Page’s imaginative 500-foot-long mural depicting the history of Earth from the first visible signs of life. Ithaca is home to one of the country’s most renowned vegetarian restaurants, Moosewood Restaurant (607-273-9610, South African chef Samantha Buyskes has made a name for herself at the helm of Simply Red Bistro (607-523-9401, at the Sheldrake Point Winery. – S.J.


Seacoast and mountains are within easy striking distance of the home of the University of New Hampshire in Durham. The Paul Creative Arts Center (603-862-2290, serves as cultural hub for the university and town, hosting concerts, plays, and the university’s art museum. You can take in a Division 1 ice hockey game at the Whittemore Center Arena (603-862-4000, or drive to the energetic Kelley’s Row Restaurant & Cellar Pub, in nearby Dover (603-750-7081, Want more? Head to Portsmouth, which is rich in maritime and Colonial history but also home to a vibrant shopping and restaurant scene. The Music Hall in Portsmouth offers films, concerts, and performances by names like Lily Tomlin, who’s coming November 9 (603-436-2400, Nature lovers, walk the self-guided trail at Adams Point, part of Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Durham, an important stop for migrating birds (603-868-1095, The Kancamagus Highway, in the White Mountains north of Durham, is one the country’s most stunning drives, particularly in autumn (800-367-3364, Back in Durham, ride a hay wagon, pick a pumpkin, or run the corn maze at Emery Farm (603-742-8495,, then crash on a canopied bed at the historic Three Chimneys Inn (603-868-7800, – N.H.


The Connecticut River may separate Vermont and New Hampshire, but the upper river valley is really one community and playground for residents of both states and students of Dartmouth College in Hanover. Rent a canoe at the Ledyard Canoe Club (603-643-6709, for a fall group float on the river. Check with the Upper Valley Trails Alliance (802-649-9075, for hiking and biking suggestions. For culture, take a self-guided historic and architectural walking tour of campus, starting at the staffed information booth on the green (603-643-3115, The 24-panel mural The Epic of American Civilization, by Mexican artist Jose Clemente Orozco, in the Baker-Berry Library, is a must-see. At the hands-on exhibits at Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich, Vermont, across the Connecticut River from Hanover (802-649-2200,, you can view a fog machine or learn the physics of bubbles.

Sink into a leather couch and listen to live music at Hanover’s Canoe Club Bistro (603-643-9660, Lou’s Restaurant and Bakery (603-643-3321, offers breakfast all day, including homemade corned beef hash and pina colada pancakes. Or see for yourself why Morano Gelato has been called the best in America (603-643-4233, Bakers will enjoy a stop at King Arthur Flour (802-649-3361,, a retail shop with demos and samples. The historic Hanover Inn offers lodging on campus (603-643-4300,, or try the new boutique hotel Six South St (603-643-0600, The country-style Norwich Inn, just over the river, offers 38 rooms and brews its own Jasper Murdock Ales (802-649-1143, – N.H.


Brunswick, home to Bowdoin College, lies in a water-rich region. To get oriented, take the Androscoggin River Bicycle Path, which parallels the broad estuary for 2½ miles, or head to Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in nearby Freeport, where you’ll find easy coastal hikes. A drive down one of the rolling peninsulas of neighboring Harpswell also gets you vistas of harbors and coves. Pick up pumpkins, apples, jams, goat cheese, baked goods, “dilly beans,” or homespun crafts at the farmers’ market on the village green Tuesdays and Fridays ( or at picturesque Crystal Spring Farm on Saturdays (207-729-7694, Cabot Mill Antiques (207-725-2855, and the weekend Waterfront Flea Market (207-729-0378), both housed in a refurbished mill called Fort Andross, are a browser’s dream. In town, find upscale casual dining at Henry and Marty (207-721-9141, or sup at tiny Trattoria Athena, a Greek-Italian hybrid (207-721-0700, The new 52-room Inn at Brunswick Station is situated directly across from Bowdoin (207-837-6565, The Brunswick Inn, on the mall, is also within walking distance (207-729-4914, On campus, Bowdoin College’s Museum of Art (207-725-3275, brings together 88 works for “Edward Hopper’s Maine,” an acclaimed exhibit on view until October 16. – N.H.


Franco-American culture runs deep in Lewiston, a city often referred to, along with nearby Auburn, as one of “the Twin Cities” or “L-A” by Mainers. Lewiston, home to Bates College, has recently become the adopted city for many Somali immigrants. This cultural injection, plus the influence of the college, makes for a surprisingly diverse community. Museum L-A (207-333-3881, honors the area’s once booming industries, including textiles and shoemaking. Nature lovers will find 3 miles of easy trails through meadows and stands of mixed hardwood and evergreens at the Thorncrag Nature Sanctuary ( A dramatic part of the city’s skyline is the historic 2,000-seat Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul (207-777-1200,, New England’s second largest church, which holds services in English and French. Through October 2 at the Bates Museum of Art (207-786-6158,, a charming exhibit from the private collection of Bates alum Victoria Browning Wyeth features drawings and personal notes with illustrations by her grandfather and uncle, Andrew and Jamie Wyeth.

Fill ’er up on Fuel’s (207-333-3835, French-inspired menu or drink in the lively atmosphere at Fish Bones American Grill (207-333-3663, in the renovated Bates Mill complex. Find Somali fare such as goat curry at the inexpensive Taste of Three One Cafe (207-376-4800). Ware Street Inn, across from campus on an acre of grounds, is a good bet for in-town lodging (207-783-8171, – N.H.


Colby Collegeidyllic brick-and-ivy campus includes Johnson Pond and a 128-acre arboretum with nature trails that visitors are welcome to stroll. Check out the Kennebec Messalonskee Trails system (207-873-6443,, comprising 30 miles in the Waterville area, including trails on Colby’s campus. Fall is also a great time to view the landscape from the elevated tees of the town’s Belgrade Lakes Golf Club, one of the state’s most beautiful public courses (207-495-4653, Through October 2, the Colby College Museum of Art (207-859-5600, shows the photographs of Berenice Abbott, Walker Evans, and Margaret Bourke-White. In downtown Waterville, discover the nonprofit Barrels Community Market, a seller of local produce and other goods that also offers cooking classes and gardening workshops (207-660-4844, Apollo Bistro (207-872-2242,, located in a Victorian mansion in Waterville and paired with a spa of the same name, serves inventive dinners. There are several lodging options in Waterville. (Find out more from the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce at 207-873-3315, Or try Wings Hill Inn (207-495-2400, in the village of Belgrade, with six guest rooms, modern American cuisine in the dining room, and afternoon tea. – N.H.


Sports are a big deal on this flagship University of Maine campus, the state’s only Division 1 school. Fans from the community, including author Stephen King, follow the Black Bears with a vengeance. You can, too (207-581-1110, The university’s Hudson Museum, an ethnographic and archeological collection, has beautiful new space in the Collins Center for the Arts (207-581-1755,, which also will host performers k.d. lang (September 24) and David Sedaris (October 14) this fall. Bangor is a few miles down the road, with a historic downtown and grand mansions left over from its days as a timber boomtown. A 31-foot statue of Paul Bunyan stands in a city park that overlooks a newer gold mine in town – the gaming floor of Hollywood Slots (877-779-7771, In the fall, the UMaine football coach broadcasts a weekly radio show from Sea Dog Brewing Co. (207-947-8009, Join locals and truckers for cheap food and homemade baked goods at Dysart’s (207-942-4878,

Lovers of the great outdoors should check out, then head to either Moosehead Lake (207-695-2702, or Baxter State Park (207-723-5140, for gorgeous hiking trails and campsites. And you can find a comfortable room in a country setting at the Lucerne Inn in Dedham, nestled in foothills overlooking Phillips Lake (800-325-5123, – N.H.


The vibrant city of Burlington leaves quaint Vermont behind. Country stores give way to nightclubs, art galleries, and the Church Street Marketplace, a busy pedestrian mall with shops, cafes, and street performers (802-863-1648, Up the hill is the University of Vermont campus, home base for 12,000 students. Great cycling can be had on the 12-mile Burlington Bike Path (802-864-0123,, which connects city parks to the beaches of Lake Champlain. For an expansive view of mountains ablaze with foliage, embark on a scenic lake cruise at the Burlington Community Boathouse (802-865-3377, The country’s new poet laureate, Philip Levine, will be among the many presenters at the Burlington Book Festival next weekend (802 -658-3328, Tour and sample from among a dozen beers on tap at South Burlington’s Magic Hat Brewery (802-658-2739, There is no shortage of on-site activities, including cooking classes, yoga, tennis, and fly-fishing at The Essex, a culinary resort and spa, 10 miles away (802-878-1100,http://www. For more lodging options, check with the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce (802-863-3489, – N.H.


There are few better places to park yourself for a fall weekend than this charming village in central Vermont, home to covered bridges, farms, orchards, and Middlebury College. Plot out a scenic drive through one of the region’s dramatic mountain gaps. (Check first for updates on road closures due to storm damage from Hurricane Irene. You may not be able to complete a loop, but you can still drive out and then retrace your steps.)

In town, walk or bike sections of the Trail Around Middlebury (TAM to locals), a 16-mile scenic loop (802-388-1007, All those Vermont cows you’ll spy artfully dotting the landscape on the drive up also mean a bounty of cheeses; use the Vermont Cheese Council’s map of more than 40 creameries, some nearby and open to the public for tours and tastings, but call before you stop by (866-261-8595, The campus, too, invites exploration. A chateau houses the French department, and the Mahaney Center for the Arts (802-443-3168, offers films, concerts, and art exhibits the public is welcome to attend. Stay at the Swift House Inn (802-388-9925, or Middlebury Inn (802-388-4961, The Storm Cafe (802-388-1063,, perched alongside Otter Creek Falls in downtown, serves lunch and dinner, as does jazzy Jackson’s on the River (802-388-4182, – N.H.


For many Bostonians, New Haven is the midpoint to midtown Manhattan. A place to cruise through in a blur or make a quick pit stop for a white clam pizza at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana’s (203-865-5762, or Sally’s Apizza (203-624-5271,, on Wooster Street near Yale University. Lately, though, the city has blossomed into a foodie mecca. One of the latest additions to the campus is the 124-room boutique hotel The Study at Yale (203-503-3900, Once you’ve checked in, head over to the largest repository of British art outside the United Kingdom, the Yale Center for British Art (203-432-2800, The building stands across from architect Louis Kahn’s other major commission on campus, the equally impressive university art gallery (203-432-0600, For great views of the city, bike or drive to East Rock Park and sit atop the hill. Better yet, bring the special of the day from nearby Miya’s Sushi (203-777-9760,http://www. for a picnic. Denise Appel of Zinc (203-624-0507,, one of the city’s most talented chefs, hits the farmers’ market on a regular basis to plan her prix fixe “market” menu. Caseus Fromagerie and Bistro (203-624-3373, is another bistro that features the best of the farm-to-fork movement. – S.J.


Unless you know someone who graduated from the University of Connecticut in Storrs, you probably have never heard of the state’s “Quiet Corner,” in the northeast section. It is a pleasant surprise. The area is a bucolic blend of historic mills, attractive villages, charming B&Bs, and a seemingly endless array of country roads. Drop your bags off at the Nathan Hale Inn (860-427-7888, on campus. Or snag one of the three rooms at the 1836 Fitch House (860-456-0922, in Mansfield Center. Rates include a breakfast that will fill even the belly of an aspiring freshman. Then wander over to the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry (860-486-0339, to see more than 2,500 puppets from around the world and perhaps catch a performance. Take a drive on Route 169 from Lisbon to Woodstock and be on the lookout for the Roseland Cottage, an 1846 pink Gothic Revival house open through October 15. In Pomfret, grab lunch at the Vanilla Bean Cafe (860-928-1562,, set in an early 19th-century barn. Enjoy tuna wraps and fish cakes with their specialty, ginger lemonade. Dinner at The Golden Lamb Buttery (860-774-4423, in nearby Brooklyn is a culinary event that’s been mentioned at length by many food critics. Ride a hay wagon serenaded by a guitarist on this 1,000-acre farm and then dig in to a dinner of roast duck or the legendary chateaubriand. – S.J.


Less than a 30-minute drive south of Hartford, Middletown is best known as the home to Wesleyan University. The town is the gateway to the lower Connecticut River, a historic stretch of water lined with estates once owned by ship captains. Reserve a room at the Inn at Middletown (800-637-9851,, two blocks from campus. Then stop at the Buttonwood Tree (860-347-4957,, a performing arts center that features live music and staged readings. Down Main Street is O’Rourke’s (860-346-6101,, a classic boxcar diner known for its breakfasts and steamed cheeseburgers. Nearby, Pho Mai (860-347-0773) is beloved by students for its cheap, tasty Vietnamese soups. The Italian restaurant Fiore II (860-344-5557, may lack ambience, but it serves a delicious veal Parmesan. In nearby Middlefield is Lyman Orchards (860-349-1793,, where you can pick apples and weave your way through a corn maze. Only a 25-minute drive away, in East Haddam, is the four-story gingerbread Goodspeed Opera House (860-873-8668, Opened in 1877, the company that staged the original productions of Annie and Shenandoah still delivers three musicals a year, including this fall’s 1940s-era City of Angels. – S.J.


Home to the United States Coast Guard Academy and Connecticut College, New London has a long history as a shipping port. The Thames River carves a deep harbor, where 19th-century ships docked on Bank Street and goods were unloaded at the (still-standing) gray-granite Custom House. Walk past Whale Oil Row, four nearly identical Greek Revival homes on Huntington Street, built in the 1830s and 1840s. Around the corner, inside New London’s Post Office, Works Progress Administration muralist Thomas LaFarge painted three large panels, installed in 1938, that depict life on a whaling boat. A small collection of whaling memorabilia can be found at the Shaw Mansion (860-443-1209, The 42-room Italianate mansion at Harkness Memorial State Park (860-443-5725, is closed for the season, but you can stroll or have a picnic on the manicured lawns and gardens overlooking Long Island Sound. For a good lobster-in-the-rough restaurant, follow the locals – before October 10, when it closes for the season – to Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock (860-439-1741, overlooking the Thames. Another downtown favorite is Jasmine Thai (860-442-9991, SpringHill Suites by Marriott (860-439-0151, com) offers lodging in nearby Waterford. – S.J.


The campuses of Trinity College and the University of Hartford are located in Connecticut’s capital city. Start your tour at the red-brick home where Mark Twain lived from 1874 to 1891 (860-247-0998, Louis Comfort Tiffany designed the interior, and many of the furnishings, like a bedpost topped with angels, are original purchases from Twain’s travels. Twain’s next-door neighbor was none other than Harriet Beecher Stowe (860-522-9258, Walk around the sprawling magnolia tree in back of the house and head inside to see some of Stowe’s watercolors and a chair where the diminutive author rested. The centrally located Marriott Residence Inn (860-524-5550, often offers package rates that include admission to both homes. Nearby, the Polish owners of Mo’s Midtown (860-236-7741) serve pancakes chock-full of wild blueberries and large, buttery potato latkes. Downtown in the Trumbull Street neighborhood, you’ll find the Italian restaurant Salute (860-899-1350, Its signature dish is giobatto, a tasty stew of veal, chicken, sausage, and peppers served over homemade fettuccine. After dinner, head over to the Hartford Stage (860-525-5151, From October 20 through November 13, the company will be premiering the play Water by the Spoonful, by Quiara Alegria Hudes, the Tony Award-winning author of In the Heights. – S.J.

Maine-based freelance writer Nancy Heiser and Massachusetts-based Steve Jermanok are regular contributors to the Send comments to