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To see Vermont’s fall colors, make plans well in advance

SHARE To see Vermont’s fall colors, make plans well in advance

Small-town Vermont has year-round appeal: apple blossom white and cherry pink in the spring, Currier and Ives serenity in winter. Summer offers a full complement of scenic and recreation possibilities. And fall?

Take some of those small towns, ones that are tucked cozily among the nooks and crannies of the Green Mountains. Add some trees, ones with leaves that turn gold and scarlet when there's a nip in the air. Add pumpkins, perched next to rustic plows, and corn stalks and scarecrow people standing by white-board fences. Toss in a few country inns, quaint places with welcoming atmospheres and full cookie jars. And you just might find yourself wondering if there's any place better than Vermont in the fall.With typical New England modesty, Craig Altschul, editor of Vermont Vacations Magazine, notes, "there is no show anywhere in the world (perhaps the Universe) like the one that unfolds here from mid-September into mid-October.

"Fall in Vermont is the favorite time of the year for many visitors because if one happens to be in just the right place at just the right moment, there can be a show of beauty so breathtaking it will stick in one's head forever."

That means, however, that Vermont can be crowded during this time. So, here are some tips for making the most of it.

1. Plan ahead. Make lodging reservations in advance, and as long in advance as possible. Many of the most popular places are booked a year ahead. If you want to visit next year's "Big Show," start planning now. But be sure to check on refund and cancellation policies.

2. Try off-peak times. The busiest time in Vermont is from the end of September through Columbus Day. But, depending upon the year, the foliage season can last much longer than that. You may be taking a chance, but usually a lot of the color and fewer of the crowds are found in early September and late October.

3. Consider non-traditional travel. Companies such as Bike Vermont (1-800-257-2226), which offers inn-to-inn bicycle tours, have several popular fall foliage tours. Hike-and-bike tours and bus tours are also available. Again, these usually must be booked in advance.

4. Look for festivals and fairs. Every weekend through the fall season offers something out of the unusual, from flea markets to church suppers. For a complete list, contact Vermont Tourism at the number listed below.

5. Check the hotline and the Web. The state's Fall Foliage Hotline operates from Sept. 1 to Oct. 24. Call 1-800-828-3239. Or click on the Web site at (www.travel-vermont.com).

6. Take your chances. Even at the last minute, you can likely find someplace to stay. Pop into any Chamber of Commerce, and they'll probably be able to find you accommodations. If you're coming without reservations, however, it's best to aim for midweek. Also check early in the day. By late afternoon things get a bit dicey.

- For more information about Vermont, call the Vermont Department of Travel & Tourism at 1-800-VERMONT.