With so much concern about the rising cost of travel this summer, autumn comes as a relief. Arguably the best fall foliage occurs right here in the United States, where local escapes of two or three nights remain affordable. Forget about "staycations" and the same old, same old. Instead, get out and take in all the vibrant hues via train, plane, automobile, or even kayak, gondola, or schooner.
Here are a few unique and cost-friendly foliage packages in New England and beyond for under $500. With all the extras, you'll forget you're traveling on a budget.
Adirondack Park, in upstate New York, is an ideal getaway destination for viewing fall foliage mostly due to its size of six million acres and abundance of tall, tree-covered mountains. Best of all, there's no admission fee, so leaf peepers can peep for free.
While hiking trails for any agility level abound, you can see foliage via kayak by staying at the Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa in Lake Placid and booking the Bed & Breakfast package. If you go midweek, October 13 through November 1, you pay just $200 per night for two. With taxes, that comes to $664.50, or $332.25 per person, for three nights' accommodations and full breakfast in the resort's AAA 4-Diamond restaurant, The View. Guests also have complimentary access to kayaks for use in Mirror Lake.
Cost Breakdown: $332.25 per person for three nights
VisitAdirondacks.com has a search tool for finding more hotel packages in the area, as well as trip planning information.
If a kayak is too low-key, how about viewing the changing leaves from a schooner at sea?
Set sail with the Fall Colors Surf and Turf package at Brewster House Bed & Breakfast in Freeport, Maine. With this steal of a deal, you stay two nights in a queen room, and also receive a two-hour cruise on an antique schooner—plus a foliage driving tour, $100 Freeport shopping spree, $50 restaurant gift certificate, and $50 gas card—all for $625 (including taxes) for two, or $312.50 per person. In addition, the Brewster House serves a multi-course breakfast made from scratch every morning. The package is available between September 15 and October 30.
Cost Breakdown: $312.50 per person for two nights
For help planning a foliage trip to Maine or to find other packages, go to the Visit Maine website.
While foliage by water can be spectacular, imagine seeing the swaths of red, orange, and yellow from above.
The Fall Foliage Fly Over package at the Mayhurst Inn in appropriately named Orange, Virginia, allows you to capture a bird's-eye view of fall color by soaring above the Blue Ridge Mountains in a biplane. The package also includes two nights' lodging, full breakfast each morning, and warm mulled wine each evening. Once you're settled in the privacy of your own room, you can indulge autumn-style with a fruit and cheese tray, bottle of Virginia wine, and a post-dinner dessert of hot apple or pumpkin pie. The whole package, including taxes, totals $791.70 during the week ($834.50 on weekends) per couple.
Cost Breakdown: $395.85 weekday/$417.25 weekend per person for two nights
Look for more Virginia travel packages and deals on the Virginia is For Lovers website.
More into trains than planes? The Rosewood Country Inn in Bradford, New Hampshire (in the Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee Region) is offering a Hail to the Leaf Package that comes with a two-hour train ride past the Connecticut and Williams rivers and into Vermont. In addition to staying three nights and chugging along past covered bridges, guests receive gourmet breakfast, tickets to the nature trails at The Fells, and admission to Canterbury Shaker Village. With taxes, rates start at $504.36 per couple, or $252.18 per person for midweek stays September 21 through October 16.
Cost Breakdown: $252.18 per person for three nights
You can find other foliage packages listed on VisitNH.gov.
It's easy to become East Coast-centric when thinking about fall foliage, but places like California will surprise you. While Mammoth Lakes is best known as a High Sierra ski resort town, it's also an autumnal hot spot where you can examine foliage up close while hiking or see bursts of color mountainside on a scenic gondola ride.
Through November 6, you can add a little overnight luxury to the experience by booking a stay at the Westin Monache, Mammoth Lakes' newest resort, which has a Fall Colors package with accommodations in a deluxe suite and breakfast at the alpine-inspired Whitebark Restaurant starting at $199 per night. A three-night stay, for example, would total $754.09 (with taxes and resort fees) for two, or $377.05 per person. Guests will also receive a fall foliage map with driving directions for more extensive explorations.
Gondola rides (available through September 21) are buy-one-get-one-free if you book in advance online.
Cost Breakdown: $377.05 per person for three nights
This is just a sampling of all the great affordable Fall Foliage Destinations across the country. If you know of any others, please comment below and share your experience with other travelers.