THE SCENIC ROUTE
5 Fall Foliage Drives
This season's biggest roadside attraction is leaves in brillant shades of crimson and gold. Break for photo ops, refuel on fresh cider and apples, and check in to a cozy inn.
VERMONT ROUTE 100
Stamford, Vt., to Newport, Vt., 216 miles
Snaking through the center of Vermont all the way from the Massachusetts border to the Canadian one, Route 100 feels less like a state highway than one long, rambling backcountry path. A strict billboard ban preserves every vista as the road winds between the peaks of Green Mountain National Forest and passes through quaint valley towns like Hyde Park and Weston (population 631). With only farm stands, country stores, and covered bridges breaking up the landscape, you'll consistently feel 200 miles from the 21st century.
Don't miss: The seven-mile stretch through Granville Gulf State Reservation, a favorite for leaf peepers, is also home to the multitiered, 35-foot-tall Moss Glen Falls, which can be seen from the road.
Trip tip: The Vermont Curiosities guidebook ($16) goes beyond foliage, introducing travelers to little-known gems around the state, from roadside barbecue joints to hole-in-the-wall museums.
Where to stay: The Old Red Mill Inn, in the heart of Wilmington, retains rustic charm from its previous life as a sawmill (18 N. Main St., Wilmington, oldredmill.com, from $70). Homemade cookies and intricate quilts create a homey vibe at the Brass Lantern Inn, but be sure to leave the property from time to time to explore Stowe's award-winning restaurants (717 Maple St., Stowe, brasslanterninn.com, from $99).
GREAT LAKES SEAWAY TRAIL
Massena, N.Y., to West Springfield, Pa., 518 miles
Consider this scenic waterfront byway an inland version of California's Route 1—minus the traffic. Among the highlights of the 500-plus-mile drive: the St. Lawrence Seaway's imposing Eisenhower Lock, the 28 historic lighthouses skirting the shores of the Niagara and St. Lawrence Rivers and Lakes Ontario and Erie, and the country's ultimate aquatic spectacle, Niagara Falls. Forty state parks along the way supply ample spots for camping, as well as opportunities for everything from bird-watching to shipwreck diving.
Don't miss: Presque Isle State Park, a sandy, 3,200-acre peninsula near Erie, Pa., has miles of untouched beaches to explore.
Trip tip: Ditch the tired car games in favor of the Seaway Trail's new geocaching trail: a high-tech treasure hunt where you use a GPS unit to locate natural and historic landmarks. Supplies are available at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Store.
Where to stay: The Georgian-style Hillcrest Inn (1 Hillcrest St., Niagara Falls, N.Y., hillcrestniagara.com, from $119) sits on a quiet block just out of earshot of the boom of Niagara Falls; guests can eat breakfast on a private balcony with views of the upper rapids. The Boothby Inn is a restored 1888 Victorian home in the heart of downtown Erie, mere minutes from the bay (311 W. 6th St., Erie, Pa., theboothbyinn.com, from $130). In the aptly named Shakespeare room, the decorative tiles lining the fireplace depict scenes from some of the Bard's famous plays.
BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY
Waynesboro, Va., to Cherokee, N.C., 469 miles
One of the New Deal's most ambitious endeavors, this curvaceous "park-to-park highway" links Virginia's Shenandoah National Park with North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains National Park via dozens of hairpin turns and 26 tunnels cut through Appalachian granite. Spot a 19th-century farm or postage-stamp-size town at the bottom of a verdant mountainside and you'll realize how seemingly unchanged the road remains since its inception in 1935.
Don't Miss: Concerts of traditional Appalachian banjo and fiddle music start at 10 a.m. Sunday through Thursday at the Blue Ridge Music Center, located in Galax, Va.
Trip Tip: Banjo music is the ideal soundtrack for this drive. Get in the mood with Drive Time: Blue Ridge Parkway ($8), a CD compilation of Appalachian music with songs by Aaron Copland and John Williams.
Where to stay: Step back in time with a visit to the Mast Farm Inn, where you can admire the meticulously kept grounds and gardens from a porch rocking chair or sharpen your culinary skills at the Mast Farm Inn School of Cooking (2543 Broadstone Rd., Banner Elk, N.C., mastfarminn.com, from $99). The Bearskin Lodge on the River is situated along a trout stream on the edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park (840 River Rd., Gatlinburg, Tenn., thebearskinlodge.com, from $45). Log and stone accents give the property an appropriately rustic look.