STOWE, VT. - Just like clockwork, as sure as trees turn colour in autumn, my mother would summon us for our annual fall foliage pilgrimage.
Each year she’d pick a different kaleidoscope terrain to explore. Northern U.S. states like New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, New York and even Pennsylvania were among her favourite places to see trees blush with colours of orange and red and yellow. We even ventured into Canada a few times to admire Mother Nature’s colourful new coat in that beautiful part of the world. Because of the colder climate, the trees in provinces like Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia turn a more vibrant mix of colours – perfect for taking photographs. Every trip came with its own risks and rewards.
Our maiden fall voyage was a sleepless affair. Mother didn’t bother making hotel reservations for our Vermont trip and we quickly learned that we were not alone searching for the “perfect” fall photograph.
“You’ll never find a room at this late stage,” I remember the man at the Super 8 motel outside Stowe telling my Dad. “Fall weekends are the busiest time of the year for us.”
He was right. We never found a room even though we searched three states. We drove all night – father berating mother all the way home.
Today, it’s my duty to keep the fall family tradition alive. I gather the kids around the table in late August and we map out our drive through whatever state or province we pinpoint – almost always in the northeast but there have been times when southern states like Virginia and West Virginia, where the changing of colors start later and last longer, have come into play.
The mode of transportation is always car but in recent years my partner and “older” kids have been hinting we should try some other modes being offered these days – “so you can relax and see the scenery along with us, Dad.” My kids are so considerate.
The transportation options are plenty. Motor coaches, trains and even cruise ships are now offering fall voyages and surprisingly, the fall season has become the busiest time of year for each category.
“Our fall cruise is almost always sold out – a year in advance,” Brad Ball, the congenial Director, Corporate Communications of Florida-based Silversea Cruise line, told me recently.
And it’s not just North Americans who come to see the changing colors. Tour groups from China and Japan plan their visits to North America to coincide with the autumn spectacle as well.
“Thirty per cent of our business is from Japan and 90 per cent of the Japanese come to see the colors change,” an official at Mont-Tremblant resort near Montreal told TNNworld.
So, maybe the kids are right. This year I’ll consider a different mode of transportation. Here’s some of the options we have:
Almost a dozen cruise lines now offer fall voyages, including Carnival, Celebrity, Crystal, Cunard, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, Radisson Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean, Yachts of Seabourn and Silversea – the one we put high on our consideration list because of the two fabulous cruises (to the Mediterranean and South America) we enjoyed with this top-of-the-line company a few years ago.
Silversea’s autumn voyages are upscale and worth every penny. Its state-of-the-art Silver Whisper ship offers voyages between Montreal, New York or Boston and travels the East Coast in search of the landscape quilts crafted by Mother Nature.
Carnival’s fall trips start out of New York and patrols the Canadian waters off Halifax and St. John, New Brunswick.
Celebrity offers trips to legendary Quebec City, the oldest city in North America, where side trips to Montmorency Falls – they’re actually higher than Niagara Falls – are all part of the voyage.
Crystal, another luxury line, starts their autumn voyages Oct. 27 from New York to Montreal – a one-way trip that takes you through the entire autumn splendor found in New England and Eastern Canada.
Cunard is planning to add a few fall color cruises this year and maybe they can take some tips from Holland America, a major player in the autumn cruise season with 18 departures between Boston and Montreal.
Norwegian, Princess, Radisson Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean and Yachts of Seabourn all offer similar sailings along the East Coast, between historic cities like Boston, New York, Quebec and Montreal.
That’s one of the bonuses about traveling by ship. The cities you visit are as interesting and enjoyable as the changing leaves. Montreal and Quebec City offer lots of early North American history – most of their ancient construction is still visible and have become a living history of quaint shops and chic restaurants nestled in 16th and 17th century stone buildings.
Boston and New York offer their own exciting charm and Halifax, with its long naval history and resurrection as one of Canada’s finest dining cities, has become a very popular port of call with the fall color set. Halifax is also where many of those who perished in the Titanic disaster are buried in a moss-covered cemetery in the centre of town.