Some of New England's most stunning foliage is within striking distance of America's most popular living museums. Here's how to make the most of America's striking autumn leaves.
OLD STURBRIDGE VILLAGE
A must-stop is this famed outdoor museum, which recreates what daily rural life was like from 1790 to 1830. You'll find sooty-bearded blacksmiths banging out horseshoes on anvils and a working farm with draft horses pulling ploughs. An Apple Days festival in the first two weeks of October usually coincides with peak colour in south-central Massachusetts. There's spectacular colour at Sturbridge as well as on the leafy country lanes leading to it. Or stray off the beaten path with a short hike along part of the Mid-State Trail.
HANCOCK SHAKER VILLAGE
In the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, synonymous with drop-dead gorgeous foliage, this cluster of 20 authentic buildings and barns crafted by America's finest woodworkers makes a stunning autumn backdrop.
Wander the adjacent meadows and herb and flower gardens framed by majestic trees. Along the way, engage the costumed weavers and carpenters and learn about the Shakers' faith.
STRAWBERY BANKE MUSEUM
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Experience how people lived and worked in this typical American neighbourhood through nearly four centuries of history. Strawbery Banke was settled in 1630 by Brits who couldn't spell but sure knew how to build homes with staying power: most still stand on their original foundations.
Vermont's Lake Champlain shoreline is one of the most stunning places for calendar-calibre leaf peeping. It's also home to this 567ha working farm, a National Historic Landmark beloved by foodies for its artisan cheeses, organic market garden, maple sugaring and mushroom foraging.
BILLINGS FARM AND MUSEUM
This is a meticulously restored 1890 dairy farm still in operation, in the verdant hills of Woodstock, whose sugar maples explode in a brilliant palette of oranges, yellows and reds. Through the milking of the herd and the churning of the butter, you'll get a glimpse into Vermont's 19th-century rural cultural heritage.
Back in western Massachusetts, this authentic 18th-century village in the Connecticut River valley is known for its well-appointed museum homes with period furnishings. There are guided and self-guided tours of a dozen antique houses built between 1730 and 1850. If you're into demonstrations, there's dressmaking, tinsmithing, gunsmithing, silversmithing, shoemaking, cabinetmaking and open-hearth cooking. A stroll along the Channing Blake Footpath to the Deerfield River will reveal autumn vistas that will take your breath away.
Tourism promoters have already done some of the work, mapping out a 442km "living history and rural relaxation" tour that starts and finishes in Boston.
This is an ambitious tour so give yourself at least 10 days to make all the rounds. Alternatively, you can skip a leg here and there and adapt the route for a briefer escape. This route takes in Sturbridge, Massachusetts; Woodstock, Connecticut; Westerly and Bristol, Rhode Island; and Plymouth, Massachusetts.
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TIMING IT RIGHT
Predicting when and where the autumn foliage will peak isn't an exact science, but interactive maps do a fair job of tracking the colour in real time. Check out yankeefoliage.com for details.