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New Hampshire's White Mountains Majesty

Place a pin on the map at the White Mountains, New Hampshire. It simply cannot be overstated: this is one of the best places in the world to see Mother Nature's annual explosion of color. Like all good things, fall foliage doesn't last forever, so let's focus on the who (that's you!), what, when, where and how of the autumnal phenomena. As for the why, read on!

What: Fall Leaves

It's mostly science -- and a little bit of sugary magic -- that turns a variety of trees into a riot of crimson, yellow, orange and red. Scientifically speaking, when shorter days and chillier nights signal the end of summer, chlorophyll-filled green leaves are triggered to switch off their food-making photosynthesis process. That's when sugar gets trapped in the leaves of deciduous trees -- just how much is part of the magic of New England's fiery fall color palette.

As the green fades away, oak leaves turn crimson, scarlet and russet; hickory and poplar trees turn golden bronze; birches and elms go bright yellow; dogwood and sumac leaves change to a purplish red and beeches become light yellow. Maple trees are standouts, as sugar maples show leaves in reddish orange; black maples sizzle in glowing yellow and red maples burst out in scarlet.

When that riot of colors has a dramatic backdrop of evergreen-covered mountains, bright blue skies, white church steeples and painted covered bridges is reflected in rivers and streams, you have the quintessential New England scene that's irresistible to artists, photographers and admirers from all over the world.

When: New England in Autumn

Mother Nature's gift to New Hampshire means lots of factors come into play: weather, sunshine, rainfall, elevation and latitude. For two or three weeks around the end of September through mid-October, the spectacle unfolds, turning the White Mountains into anything but white. The long Columbus Day weekend is always a popular time to spend a few days in New Hampshire.

Where: White Mountain National Forest

The White Mountains cover a good portion of northern New Hampshire, including Mount Washington, New England's highest. During peak fall foliage, White Mountain National Forest is where you'll want to be. Wake up to a winning view of the spectacular autumn tableau with your hearty breakfast. It stands to reason that the best locations with the very best views are those claimed by historic hotels decades ago.

Scenic drives near these historic hotels provide unbeatable fall foliage opportunities, so grab a camera and prepare to be dazzled.

Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa

The majestic mountains around Whitefield, New Hampshire have been admired by generations of hotel guests at the Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa for 150 years. From a comfortable rocking chair on the broad veranda, you have a front row seat to a nonstop production staged by this rugged northern stretch of the Appalachian Mountains. Of course, it’s at its showiest in autumn.

You can get into the thick of it on a foliage hike along cross-country trails starting just beyond the Mountain View Grand's front door. This property of 1,700 acres has a working farm that kids love, the 1865 wine cellar dining experience that grownups enjoy and s'mores by the fire pits that everyone goes for.

Omni Mount Washington, Bretton Woods

Get set to climb to the crest of New England. In 1869, the world's first mountain climbing cog railway appeared. It wasn't built for logging and it wasn't built for mining the famous granite of the White Mountains, NH. It was built for the pure joy of sightseeing...the same reason that folks are still climbing aboard to chug up steep slopes at no more than 5 miles per hour to reach the 6,288-foot summit. The Mount Washington Cog Railway is part history lesson, part recreation and part entertainment. On a clear day, you'll see 80 miles from the summit of Mount Washington.

Only 10 miles from the cog railway, back at the landmark  Omni Mount Washington, Bretton Woods , you can catch up on more history lessons with a complimentary guided tour. Find out how post-World War II international money matters were decided when President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Mount Washington Hotel played host to 700-plus delegates from 44 nations in ‘44 at the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference.

These days, everyone gets the VIP treatment at this historic resort, where old-fashioned grandeur and charm meet the latest in 21st century standards of comfort and quality.

Eagle Mountain House & Golf Club

Pastoral, pristine and panoramic. Step into a New Hampshire landscape at Eagle Mountain House in Jackson, New Hampshire, where nothing less than a 280-foot wraparound veranda will do. Embellish your interiors with romantic fireplaces, open the windows wide to fresh, country air and venture out to see the Honeymoon Bridge at the entrance to Jackson.

Six of the 55 historic covered bridges in New Hampshire are within an hour's drive of the Victorian-era Eagle Mountain House & Golf Club, providing a wonderfully photogenic circuit for your fall foliage scenic drive. When your camera is full and your stomach is empty, take your pick between a classic New England meal at Highfields or a lighter pub fare from The Eagle Landing Tavern.

How: On a Tankful of Gas

In the White Mountains, New Hampshire, Historic Hotels of America recommends Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa; Omni Mount Washington, Bretton Woods; and Eagle Mountain House & Golf Club. A scenic drive from major metros is within an easy drive: New York City at 350 miles, Hartford at 240 miles, Montreal at 185 miles, Boston at 160 miles and Portland, Maine at 95 miles.

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