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3 ways to see fall foliage in New England and Canada

Vibrant fall colors in Montpelier, Vermont. ©SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Stock

Imagine meandering the charming seaside villages of New England and coastal Canada surrounded by a dazzling canopy of trees boasting leaves of red, orange, and gold. This awe-inspiring corner of North America draws travelers from all over the world in autumn for an iconic bucket-list experience.

There are many options for viewing the kaleidoscope of fall leaves in New England and Canada. Ranging from a few days to a few weeks, these vacations also include local experiences.

Foodies, historians, and nature aficionados alike will find a fall foliage trip rewarding and relaxing. You might seek out the region’s best lobster rolls. Or explore historic lighthouses across Maine, Massachusetts, Québec City, and Nova Scotia.

Savvy travelers know that now is the time to start planning such a fall foliage trip. Their popularity means that the hotels, inns, and cruises book up months in advance for peak autumn travel. To simplify the options, here are 3 ways to experience the splendor of autumn in New England and Canada. 

You may also like: 4 fall-foliage train rides in Northern New England


Princess Cruises ship

See colorful coastlines on a Canada and New England cruise vacation. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

On a cruise, you unpack once and board your ship, which is essentially a floating resort with access to prime ports along the Eastern coastline. With no need to navigate the winding roads that hug the rocky New England coastline, you’re free to sit back and soak up the spectacular scenery.

Your ship will sail between ports such as Bar Harbor, Maine (gateway to Acadia National Park); Newport, Rhode Island (home to historical, oceanfront mansions of legendary business tycoons and heiresses); and St. John, New Brunswick, Canada (where you’ll find the biodiverse Bay of Fundy and its UNESCO World Heritage Sites). 

Group of people on a sailboat

Enjoy the scenery while on an America's Cup Sailing Experience excursion in Newport, Rhode Island. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

AAA travel advisors partner with Princess Cruises to provide stress-free cruise experiences to iconic fall foliage destinations across New England and Canada. The cruise line offers several such itineraries aboard its ships, including the recently renovated Caribbean Princess. Some of the most popular cruises are:

  • Canada & New England (7 days, round-trip from New York City, Emerald Princess);
  • Classic Canada & New England (10 days, Québec City to New York City, Caribbean Princess); and
  • Canada & Colonial America (12 days, Québec City to Ft. Lauderdale, Caribbean Princess).

Compare the itinerary of each voyage to see which one most tickles your travel curiosity. Each offers something a little different—and the shore excursions are often a deciding factor.

Princess cruise-goers are welcomed into each port with a variety of options to deepen the exploration. For instance, you might opt for a Salem witch history tour while in Boston. Take an Acadia National Park tour and attend a lobster bake while in Bar Harbor. Or embark on a marine wildlife cruise while in Halifax, Canada.

As you weigh cruise options, keep this in mind: The most popular sailing dates on Princess sell out quickly, as do the most popular shore excursions. That’s why it’s important to book early.

You may also like: 6 top things to do at Acadia National Park

Guided group tours

Portland Head Light

See iconic attractions such as the Portland Head Light on a guided tour. ©jgorzynik/Adobe Stock

Join an expertly crafted tour with like-minded travelers. A guided tour eliminates the hassle of planning and booking every detail of a land-based vacation. That can be especially challenging when trying to secure in-demand hotels and experiences during the fall foliage season.

AAA travel advisors work with AAA Member Choice Vacations (MCV) to offer fall foliage trips to suit your lifestyle, tastes, and budget. MCV features 6 itineraries that explore the New England coast. The rate includes accommodations, meals, excursions, and more.

The 7-night Islands of New England itinerary bundles the best of Rhode Island and Cape Cod, including the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The 10-night Maritimes Coastal Wonders itinerary weaves together the most breathtaking seaside marvels in Canada, across Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick.

See picturesque Mahone Bay in Nova Scotia in the fall. ©Xavier Ascanio/Adobe Stock

See picturesque Mahone Bay in Nova Scotia in the fall. ©Xavier Ascanio/Adobe Stock

MCV’s most popular journeys are Colors of New England and Boston & The Cape. But it also offers an itinerary that focuses on Vermont—a rare option among guided- tour offerings.

Highlights on the Postcards from Vermont trip include visiting an eighth-generation maple sugarhouse and driving Vermont Route 100. Considered by many to be one of the most storybook fall foliage drives in the world, the route winds past waterfalls, barns, churches, and covered bridges.

You may also like: Vermont Route 100: The quintessential New England road trip

Customized vacations

Aerial view of vibrant fall foliage along the Kancamagus Scenic Byway

Experience vibrant fall foliage along the Kancamagus Scenic Byway in New Hampshire. ©Ron/Adobe Stock

Want to independently tour historic landmarks? Explore fun-filled theme parks and outdoor playgrounds? Wish to discover the famed shopping, dining, and entertainment venues of cities?  Toast the sunset from a gold-sand beach? You can travel to the places you want at your leisure.

Let your AAA travel advisor fashion a custom fall foliage vacation that suits you. Advisors often work with a trusted AAA travel partner, such as Pleasant Holidays or Journese, to craft one-of-a-kind trips that will include everything you need—from car rental, hotel accommodations, and flights to activities and travel protection coverage with cancel-for-any-reason options. 

Shoreline in Acadia National Park

Fall is one of the best times to visit Acadia National Park in Maine. ©jovannig Pokrovsky/Adobe Stock

You have many options. Minimize travel days by basing yourself in a city such as Boston or Québec City, where cultural and dining options abound at night. Then focus on activities and excursions into the countryside during the day.

Or combine a multi-night cruise aboard a small ship with several nights on land. You can explore fall foliage drives, such as the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire or the Schoodic National Scenic Byway in Maine. Or string together renowned fall foliage drives, staying in seaside resorts and boutique hotels along the way. A travel advisor’s knowledge and expertise will enhance your vacation experience. 

Princess Cruises

Plan your fall cruise today

Take a Canada and New England vacation with Princess Cruises this fall. See natural landscapes, historic ports, charming waterfront attractions, and more.

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