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On holiday weekends in New England, when hotel rooms are difficult to find, what does one do? Plan. Luck out. Or use these tips to find a room.



One Columbus Day weekend Jane and I did something crazy: we hopped in the car and headed for the Green Mountains of Vermont...without a hotel reservation.

Now, Columbus Day is New England's favorite getaway holiday. The gorgeous fall foliage may be at its peak and the weather may still be fine, so people get out of the cities and head for the mountains or the sea shore.

On the Columbus Day weekend in question, we had not planned to travel, but the weather was spectacularly beautiful, the forecast called for more, and there was no foliage color in our hometown of Concord, Massachusetts, so we set out to find some.

Our plan: well, no plan actually, which is decidedly not the way to go about enjoying Columbus Day weekend in New England, was to drive until we found some color, take a hike to enjoy it, look for a place to stay the night, and if we found nothing, drive home.

Idiotic, but it worked. Here's how:

Having climbed Mount Cardigan in New Hampshire's White Mountains and enjoyed the panoramic view from the summit, we headed for Vermont, where we found lots of beautiful foliage color, especially at the higher elevations.

The highway traffic of sightseers and "leaf-peepers" was intense, and every travel business was packed.

  Maple tree autumn color, Vermont
  Fall color: you don't
want to miss it!

We passed country inns and motels and looked for "Vacancy" signs. We found none, as expected.

We stopped at one motel which didn't have a "No Vacancy" sign and asked, "Any rooms?" Nope.

Then it came to me: Most of New England's ski resorts have large hotels to house winter skiers. Many of these big places are under-utilized in summer and autumn, even when they host meetings, weddings and other events. Maybe they'd have rooms available.

We thought of Killington, New England's largest ski resort, which was not far from where we were.

Yes, they had rooms, at the Grand Hotel and the Comfort Inn. And no 2- or 3-night minimum stay (as many lodgings require on Columbus Day weekend).


The bonus? Ski resorts are, by definition, at the higher elevations. The foliage color on the mountains around the hotel was spectacular, and right outside our window.

We would have preferred a charming New England country inn, but we were lucky to find any room, and not have to face the long drive home in the dark.

I don't recommend heading into the New England countryside on Columbus Day weekend without a reservation. I recommend that you pin down your desired lodgings well in advance. More...

But if you go wild and crazy as we did, look for a ski area—and hope for the best.

—by Tom Brosnahan

Columbus Day

Fall Foliage Season

Finding Hotels in Foliage Season

New England Almanac

New England Ski Resorts

Where to Stay in NE


Paris Girls Secret Society, the new novel by Tom Brosnahan


Mount Cardigan, New Hampshire

Above, Mount Cardigan, New Hampshire.

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