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Getaways -10 Things To Do on the Hunt for Red October

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By Marjie Lambert

RISMEDIA, Sept. 19, 2008-(MCT)-Most of New England’s lobster and clam shacks close just after Labor Day, and soon after that, the whale-watching tours off the Maine coast will stop. But if you think there’s nothing to do in New England in the fall except enjoy the glories of the foliage changing color, you are oh-so-wrong.

Here we offer 10 fun things to do in New England during leaf-peeping season.

1. Go Antiquing. The roads and small towns of New England are dotted with antique shops where you’ll find everything from butter churns and painted furniture to collectible pottery and vintage record albums. But if you’re more than a casual browser, New Hampshire’s Antique Alley (www.nhantiquealley.com) claims about two-dozen stores with more than 500 dealers. The alley is along a 20-mile stretch of Route 4 that runs through farmland west of Portsmouth and east of Concord.

2. Sample Cheese. Artisanal cheesemaking is booming in Vermont, which now has nearly 40 cheesemakers who create fromage from the milk of cows, sheep and goats. The Vermont Cheese Trail (www.vtcheese.com) runs the length of the state and includes about 15 cheesemakers who invite the public in for tastings and sometimes demonstrations. Be sure to call ahead and see if they’re open _ most are small operations and can’t always accommodate drop-in tasters.

3. Celebrate the Harvest. It’s harvest season, and New England offers dozens of festivals to celebrate it. Here’s just a sampling (see websites of state tourism agencies, page XJ, for more): Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Harvest Festival, Oct. 11-12 (www.cranberries.org); Gilfeather Turnip Festival in Waldsboro, Vt., Oct, 25 (www.friendsofwardsborolibrary.org); and Great Maine Apple Day in Unity, Me., Oct. 18 (www.mofga.org).

4. Scale the Heights. New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, at 6,288 feet, is the highest in the Northeast, and on a clear day, offers breathtaking views. By “clear day,” by the way, we mean a clear day at the peak, where a confluence of factors can create weather very different from what you’ll experience at the base. Drive the eight miles or take a van tour to the top if fog, hairpin turns, sheer drops and a lack of guardrails don’t bother you (www.mountwashingtonautoroad.com). Otherwise, hike it-or try one of the other peaks in the Presidential Range-there are nine over 5,000 feet.

5. Learn to Bake. Those of us who love to bake know King Arthur Flour (www.kingarthurflour.com) as the source of specialty flours and baking equipment. But its store in Norwich, Vt., is also a fine place for a novice baker to learn the basics or a veteran to brush up on advanced skills. Adult half-day classes include baking pies, cakes and of course bread, but in the fall, the school offers such timely topics as autumn pastas and pies made with autumn fruits. And there are classes for kids too.

6. See a One-of-a-Kind Museum. Tour museums you won’t see anywhere else. You can find more at state’s tourism websites, but here are a few to get you started: antique cartoon toys and drawings at Fawcett’s Antique Toy Museum in Waldoboro, Me. (http://home.gwi.net/(TILDE)fawcetoy/); landscape murals by Rufus Porter at the eponymous museum in Bridgton, Me., where he spent his childhood (www.rufusportermuseum.org); and a working schooner and a replica gunboat at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes, Vt. (www.lcmm.org).

7. Sip the Grape. Try the Rieslings, Gewurztraminers and dessert wines that do well in places with short growing seasons, but also be sure to sample idiosyncratic wines from local grapes like Cayuga and Niagara that you won’t find at your local liquor store. Upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region (www.visitfingerlakes.com) has nearly 100 wineries. Massachusetts (www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/wineries.htm) has two dozen. Maine and Vermont also have several wineries.

8. Cross the Bridge. Vermont has 107 covered bridges (www.vtonly.com/brdgmap.htm), some maintained well enough to support traffic, others neglected to the point that they are closed. The bridges were covered to protect the wooden trusses that support them from the elements, but the roofs also provided unexpected benefits. Covered bridges were also called “kissing bridges” because they offered a couple in a horse and buggy time and privacy for at least one kiss. New Hampshire and New York also have some covered bridges.

9. Take to the Water. Most water-related activities close down after Labor Day, but a few remain open til mid- to late October, including day cruises of Lake Winnipesaukee by the M/S Mount Washington (www.cruisenh.com); sailboat rentals on Lake Champlain, Vt. (http://communitysailingcenter.com); paddling tours of the Champlain Valley and Northeast Kingdom by Brooks to Bays Nature Tours (www.brookstobays.com); kayaking or canoeing on Kezar Lake in Center Lovell, Echo Lake in Aroostook State Park, and the Kennebec River between Winslow and Augusta in Maine.

10. See the Light. New York has more than 80 lighthouses; Maine and Massachusetts each have more than 60, although only about a quarter of them are open regularly for public tours; a few more allow tours of the grounds only.

© 2008, The Miami Herald.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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