Fall was created by New England (right?), so live it up

How do you define the perfect weekend?Two lazy days on the couch in your comfy pants and an old sweatshirt, or a nonstop whirl of family, friends, and fun? Perhaps you’d like a little bit of both. Surely, you’ll want to get out and about. After all, autumn is when New Hampshire is at its most glorious.

Of course, summer is wonderful. Yes, the winter snow is amazing. (Okay, we can all agree there is no need to bring up spring and its inglorious potholes, mud, and blackflies.) But autumn, autumn in Northern New England is nothing short of magical. You’ll want to make every minute of every weekend count. The following should help you get a start on planning your perfect autumn weekend.

Friday Afternoon

First things first—you need to figure out a way to get out of the office early. There are all sorts of ruses. You could feign a sudden attack of the flu or an urgent trip to the dentist. Even better, come up with a customer or vendor in Henniker or White River Junction who you absolutely must see. (If no one comes to mind, invent one.) If the boss asks, just explain that no, a conference call won’t do.

Enjoy the changing colors as you head up 89. After a few quick words and a handshake with your customer, you can get onto the real business of the day.

How convenient that your hiking boots are in the trunk and your kayak is strapped to the roof. There is nothing better than a walk in the woods or a paddle on a brilliant October day.

Turkey Pond will be alive with color and wildlife. Paddle around, explore the little islands, and enjoy the sunshine. If you somehow thought it would be too obvious to strap your kayak on the car, enjoy a walk in and around the Audubon Society’s Silk Farm Sanctuary. Walk or paddle, it will be a glorious end to the day and the week.

Friday Evening

After a busy week, Friday night dinner should be relaxed and easy. No need to cook; Concord has too many good restaurants to stay home. Pull up a chair and enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine and dinner.

Whether you are worn out from paddling or one too many conference calls, Revival Kitchen & Bar on Depot Street is a great spot to land on Friday night. (Or any night for that matter—check out their midweek happy hour for great specials on craft beer, wine, and small plates.) Chef/owner Corey Fletcher has put together a winning menu of interesting cocktails, an eclectic wine list, and interesting farm-to-table dining in a comfortable setting.

“We don’t think people should have to choose between fine food and a relaxed evening,” Corey says. “We want people to be able to enjoy a great conversation along with dishes prepared with the best in local farm products.”

Appetites big and small will enjoy Revival Kitchen’s menu, which changes with the seasons. Chef Corey fuses New England traditions with classic old-world dishes. The fall menu offers an abundance of cozy comfort food in both large and small plates.

Don’t stay out too late. Saturday is another glorious fall day.

Saturday Morning

The Concord Farmers’ Market runs until the end of October. Be sure to take advantage of fall’s bountiful harvest. By all means, don’t forget to pick up a Halloween pumpkin. Once your shopping is done, you’ll want to revive yourself with a cuppa joe at any one of the little coffee shops on Main Street. It will give you a minute to plan out the rest of the day.

Saturday Afternoon

Now it might be tempting to go home and have a nap, but save the afternoon snooze for January when it’s too cold to venture out. If a fall hike is not one of your annual traditions, perhaps it’s time to change that. Grab your family, friends, and hiking boots and head up the road to Mount Kearsarge.

With the surrounding hills decked in red and gold, the views from the summit are spectacular. On a clear day, you can see forever or at least Mount Sunapee, Ragged Mountain, and nearby Pleasant Lake. Although the path is a bit rocky—it is the granite state—it’s a short hike and close to home.

You can begin from Rollins State Park in Warner or Winslow State Park in Wilmot. Warner is the shorter of the two routes. In either case, bring a bottle of water and a jacket; it’s breezy at the top.

Saturday Evening

Wouldn’t it be nice to continue the camaraderie well into the evening? If for no other reason, you’ll want to brag about your athletic prowess.

Since no one wants to be up at dawn cooking before a busy Saturday, make it a potluck. As host, you can set a delicious tone with coq au vin or boeuf bourguignon. Your friends can fill in with an appetizer, salad, a side dish or two, and dessert.

Sunday Morning

After your busy Saturday, you’ll want to sleep in and then ease into the day. If you haven’t splurged on a real newspaper in a while, a crisp fall morning would be an excellent time.

While you’re out, pick up a dozen bagels, some cream cheese, and smoked salmon. You deserve a no-work but still-delicious brunch. Unless it’s been while since you went out for eggs Benedict or French toast . . . because who doesn’t love a fabulous hotel brunch?

The past meets the present at the Centennial Hotel and Granite Restaurant on Pleasant Street. The grand 19th century Victorian exterior and sleek, sophisticated interior provide the perfect setting for a leisurely brunch.

“Our goal is to delight and surprise you,” says James Riley, the hotel’s food and beverage director. He continues, “Chef Daniel Dionne works with local and regional farms to create inspired, seasonal dishes. Whether you prefer to eat breakfast at every meal or never, from traditional bacon and eggs to a salad, soup, or sandwich, there is something for everyone.”

No need to rush off. James invites you to enjoy the hotel’s beautiful grounds. Sit yourself down in an Adirondack chair under the giant oaks in front of the hotel and relax with one last cup of coffee.

Sunday Afternoon

As for the rest of the day, in most New England homes all Sunday plans revolve around football. The Patriots are either playing or they’re not. If yes, then game time is the determining factor in any and all activities. If not, then you have the entire day and evening to do whatever, whenever you please.

For those free afternoons, apple picking is both fun and deliciously rewarding. Many area farms have pick-your-own orchards. You can wander through the rows of sweet-smelling trees and pick a peck of apples.

While you are there, be sure to grab a gallon of cider. Some farms have hayrides and corn mazes for added entertainment. Picking apples and then baking a pie or crisp are two autumnal traditions you don’t want to forgo.

Tim Bassett, owner of Gould Hill Farm, invites you to come picking in his Contoocook orchard. He says, “An afternoon in the sun picking apples is a New England tradition.” Tim continues, “Look through any family photo collection, regardless of the decade; you are bound to find a snapshot of everyone picking apples and smiling together.”

Along with apple picking, you can tour the farm in a horse-drawn carriage, listen to local musicians, and taste hard cider. If you don’t have time to pick that peck, the farm stand features a wide variety of apples (more than 80 varieties are grown at the farm) as well as apple pies and crisp and cider donuts. All baked goods are made on-site.

Sunday Evening

In case you didn’t realize it, Sunday night is pizza night. Happily, it pairs well with football or without. Whether you make your own or order takeout, you can’t miss with a piping-hot pie.

Monday Morning

Nobody likes Monday mornings, so let’s make it a perfect three-day weekend. Take a few extra minutes to enjoy your breakfast and get ready to ride. The rail trail is calling you and your bike. In case you’re feeling a little stiff after your hike on Saturday, the rail is an easy ride.

Rail trails are an example of recycling at its best. In a bygone age, the railroads brought freight and tourists to New Hampshire. When automobiles and interstate highways replaced the railway, the rails and ties were removed. It’s taken more than two decades but the track bed from Boscawen to Lebanon has been refurbished into a safe, four-season surface. It is perfect for biking, walking, running, and cross-country skiing. With a 1 percent grade, you can get a great workout and not worry about overdoing it.

Monday Afternoon

Alright, maybe now would be a good time to read that book or finally take that nap. It’s been a busy few days and you deserve some quiet time. Of course, that’s assuming there aren’t any pre-winter chores hanging over your head. You know the type—raking leaves, Weedwacking, and checking the gutters. Or forget the gutters and bake an apple pie.

Monday Evening

Like all good things, your wonderful fall weekend staycation must come to an end. Take a deep breath and let out a sigh of contentment. Then, warm up the leftover pizza and relax in your comfy pants. Happy autumn!

Addresses & Contact Information for Getting There

Turkey Pond
Take Exit 2 from I-89 North. Take a left and drive about a mile. Cross a small bridge and immediately turn onto an unnamed road on your right.

Audubon Society’s Silk Farm Sanctuary
84 Silk Farm Road
Concord, NH
(603) 224-9909

Revival Kitchen & Bar
11 Depot Street
Concord, NH
(603) 715-5723

Concord Farmers’ Market
Capitol Street (adjacent to the State House lawn)
Concord, NH

Winslow State Park
475 Kearsarge Mountain Road
Wilmot, NH
(603) 526-6168

Rollins State Park
1066 Kearsarge Mountain Road
Warner, NH
(603) 456-3808

Granite Restaurant & Bar at The Centennial Hotel
96 Pleasant Street
Concord, NH
(603) 227-9005

Gould Hill Farm
656 Gould Hill Road
Contoocook, NH
(603) 746-3811

Northern Rail Trail Starting Points
Jamie Welch Park on Depot Street in Boscawen
Route 11 at Potter Place in Andover

Inn at Pleasant Lake
853 Pleasant Street
New London, NH
(603) 873-4833