If you’re looking for a road trip that might actually pull the kids’ eyes from their tablets and iPhones, you can’t beat the stunning colors of the fall foliage. Although cider doughnuts and jumping into piles of leaves are classics, to truly entertain the troops, you’ll need to amp up the options.
Folks argue whether the northeast, the Rockies, the eastern seaboard, or west is best. As a former VT’er, I’m clearly biased (I even made my main character of my first novel from Stowe!), so I went to someone who surely knows a thing or two about harmonious families; Sam von Trapp (yes, those von Trapps—Maria and the Captain were his grandparents) of the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT. Apparently, the hills are alive with mountain biking! No surprise, as one of Sam’s big goals upon returning from a life as a Chilean ski instructor was to create a network of mountain biking trails on the 2500 acre property (and to bring in the snowmaking system that would morph them into excellent Nordic ski terrain come winter).
But every family’s different, so I tapped a few other Vermont travel pros for their top out-of-the-box autumn things to do with kids, in any region. These are a few of their favorite things:
1. Disc Golf
Disc Golf is a great way to enjoy the outdoors with a little friendly competition for kids of any age—even the big ones. (Bonus for agro-golfers: these “clubs” are meant to be thrown.) Small frisbee-like discs are tossed toward chain basket targets with a goal to complete the course in as few throws as possible. “At Sugarbush Resort , you can grab a lift ride up to the top of Gadd Peak to catch a spectacular view of the foliage; play a round of disc golf back down the mountain to the base area; and hang out afterwards to listen to live music, let the kids carve pumpkins, get their faces painted, and grab a balloon sculpture,” says Candice White, Vice President of Marketing, Sugarbush Resort.
2. Zip Lining
Zip lines may have started in the sweaty rainforest, but gliding and swooshing through the brilliant reds and golds of sugar maple glade is tough to beat. It’s my top t(w)een pick. Mike Smith of ArborTrek Canopy Adventures at Smugglers’ Notch Resort says, “A zip line canopy tour provides thrills as well as a unique learning experience that families enjoy. Active families who want even more fun in the trees are swinging and sliding on our Treetop Obstacle Course and climbing trees in our harnessed tree climbing adventure.”
Search out local Oktoberfests, says Dave Meeker of Mount Snow Resort. “Not having to spend a ton of time in the car to get to a fun destination with the family is a major factor when considering where to go, which is something I’ve learned as a new dad. Cruising through the foliage is legendary road trip material and families can enjoy relief breaks bopping around to different farm stands and pumpkin patches. Every Columbus Day weekend, Mount Snow Oktoberfest becomes this super family-friendly event that has something for everyone—festival games, pumpkin painting, an apple slingshot, and other cool stuff for the kids, as well as great beer, live oom-pah music, yodeling contest, and keg toss for the adults.”
4. Gondola Rides
Myra Foster, from Stratton Mountain Ski Resort, suggested getting a bird’s eye view. “It’s hard to predict when fall foliage will be at its peak, but there’s no better place to view the colors than from the peak of a mountain. Stratton’s gondola runs daily through fall foliage with cabins large enough for the whole family (can fit eight to 10). You’ll rise 2003 vertical feet and disembark with even little legs fresh for a short hike (about 1.5 miles round trip on easy terrain) to the historic firetower which sits at the intersection of the Long and Appalachian trails with views stretching clear across four states and mountain ranges (the Berkshires in MA, White Mountains in NH, Adirondacks in NY, and Vermont’s Green Mountains now in a blaze of orange, yellow, and red). Columbus Day weekend at Stratton includes family fun events like pumpkin painting, apple dipping, hay rides, and much more.”
At first it’s a rush, the whooshing of the flame, clambering the kids up into the sturdy wicker basket—but then comes the peace and serenity as you glide over the forests and hills. (It will leave even your chattiest-cathy-kiddo speechless.) Chuck E. Baraw, Sr., Stowe Balloon Company chief pilot and president of Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa agrees. “Without question the best view of the foliage is a sunrise ride in a hot air balloon—we can be anywhere from 500 feet to 4-5,000 feet flying over the mountains. If you really want to see and photograph the colors, we’ll actually fly along the treetops. In Stowe, you can continue the experience back at Stoweflake’s Fodor’s-Choice-Winning Spa with a Vermont Maple Sugar Body Polish Treatment—one of the main ingredients is Vermont maple sap, leaving you with a semi-gloss glow on the skin. The kids can enjoy fall Discovery Programs like a llama walk and farm tour or rock climbing.”