Although the U.S. Congress seems to be asleep at the wheel, there is no reason to cancel your fall travels. Only federally operated parks and historic sites are shut down, while state and local parks and other attractions are still there to enjoy. Here are a few ideas on alternatives to the closed areas.
Forget about Faneuil Hall, the U.S.S. Constitution, Bunker Hill Monument, and the African Meeting House on Beacon Hill – they are all closed. But there is still the rest of the Freedom trail, Old North Church, The Old Statehouse, Boston Common, the Public Gardens and its Swan Boats , or climb onto one of those Ducks you always see going by. Go out to the Institute for Contemporary Art, or maybe to the Renzo Piano addition to the Gardner, seen that yet? Everything else in the city is open.
In Concord the National Park Center is closed but the many other attractions are not. The parking lot at Old North Bridge may be barricaded, but it’s a nice walk from town, and the bridge still crosses the river. See the treasures at the Concord Museum (open 9-5 Monday-Saturday and noon to 5 on Sundays until December). Louisa May Alcott’s house, Orchards, where she lived with her family and did much of her work, is also open (Monday – Saturday 10 to 4:30, 1 to 4 pm on Sundays). Then there is always Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, an especially appropriate place to visit at this time of year. Along its Authors’ Ridge look for the final resting places of the literary greats of nineteenth century Concord, including Louisa May Alcott, Emerson and Thoreau. While there, browse downtown antique stores, look for favorite cheeses in the amazing collection at The Cheese Shop, and stay to sample a fine dining experience by the talented chef at the Colonial Inn’s Merchant’s Row Restaurant.
Fall on the Cape
Cape Cod National Seashore access roads and facilities have shut down but that is not the end of the world. Take the ferry to Provincetown; the fast ferry takes only 90 minutes and leaves from Long Wharf. . There is always a lot to do in P’Town – amble through the galleries and shops filled with original art, fashions and fine handmade jewelry and home décor. The beaches are still there and you can rent kayaks to explore the shoreline.
New Hampshire is open for business
Even if the federal government owns the White Mountain National Forest, roads though it are all open and the mountains are still there to admire. The state sent out a notice that says “Hey, we are open” and that’s a fact. Foliage is at its height in the White Mountains and there is no better way to see it than on a drive around Mount Washington. You can still get to the summit on the Mount Washington Cog Railway or, on the other side, via the Mount Washington Auto Road.
That great natural wonder, Franconia Notch State Park is not operated by the Feds, so everything there is open. From the Flume, the Basin and the Aerial Tramway, to hiking and visiting its two museums, there are many things to do in Franconia State Park. Stay at the Horse and Hound Inn in Franconia and savor a dinner using fresh-grown vegetables from their own garden.
On the western side of New Hampshire, art lovers can skip the closed Saint-Gaudens home and studio in Cornish for nearby Hanover and the Hood Museum of Art’s varied collections. An almost completely unknown treasure at Dartmouth College are the Orozco murals in the Baker Library reading rooms. They are truly stunning in their scope and presentation. In 2013 they were declared to be a National Historic landmark. Enjoy the color and views along the Connecticut river and plan your drive to keep as close to the river as possible (follow the smaller “River Road” whenever possible, as it runs closer to the river).
Southwest New Hampshire is home of the Keene Pumpkin Festival, this year scheduled for October 19, noon to 8:30, when the city will try for a new Guinness World Record of over 30,000 lighted jack-o-lanterns in one place.
Everyone knows how to get to the Cape and Provincetown and that Concord is west of town on Route 2, or by train from North Station. For the White Mountains, follow I-95 North and at Portsmouth pick up the Spaulding Turnpike (Route 16). It will take you to North Conway. For western New Hampshire take Route 2 west to Route 140 north in Winchendon. Then take Route 12 north for Keene and beyond to Hanover. Another option is I-93 north to Concord, then I-89 west (the signs say north) to Hanover.