fall foliage Archives - Starr Tours & Charters
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Fall’s Beautiful Foliage

Fall’s Beautiful Foliage

When you spend every day thinking about travel, and your entire family is involved in the business (my husband became Starr’s President back in November of 2017), you get a bit caught up in the jargon of the industry. So I guess it shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise when, while chatting with a 20-something young woman the other day, she gave me a bit of a blank stare when I mentioned the phrase “fall foliage trips.” During our conversation I had mentioned that our bus tour business is very busy during September and October because lots of people want to take trips to see the fall foliage. By the look on her face, I was reminded that not everyone is as ingrained in the business as most of the people I encounter on a daily basis.  I reviewed the definition of “foliage” in order to better explain myself and shared that many people travel during the fall in order to catch views of the changing season.

Hues of red, orange and yellow enhance already picturesque sights in the fall and people travel across the continent, and certainly the world, to see the beautiful views these hues create. People of all ages can appreciate the change of season from summer to fall as they watch the colors of the leaves change before they descend to the ground. The season starts and ends at different times based on the geographic location and predicting peak foliage season is hard to do as each year it varies based on the weather, but we aim to schedule our fall getaways at the optimal time of the months based on past history. Although, let’s be honest, even the beginning of the changing of the leaves can be breathtaking, no matter where you are!  (If you’ve ever wondered about The Science Behind Fall Foliage, check out our blog post!)


Quechee Gorge in Vermont


New England’s dramatic explosion of color each autumn starts in the northern New England states of Maine and New Hampshire typically in late September and moves down to the southern New England states – Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island – around late October.  There are quite a few fall foliage forecast maps out there these days that help predict when the leaves will be at their peak, but since we are often reserving our trips a year in advance, we rely on history to steer us in the right direction. Thankfully, we tend to have a decent track record!

Check out this link for a State-by-State Guide to Fall Colors.


Berkshire Mountains, Massachusetts – Photo by Kevin Sprague


Starr’s tour development team has been building itineraries revolving around “fall foliage season” since as long as any of us can remember. Below is a list of the most popular destinations Starr travelers choose to visit in the fall:

New Hampshire & The Indian Head Resort
Railroads of New Hampshire
Ithaca, NY
Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts
Lake George & Lake Placid, NY
The Poconos in Pennsylvania
And so many more!

We are almost ready to publish our 2020 fall foliage trips on our website but not quite yet. Click this link after November 15th to see our offerings for next fall.

Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon – Photo by Scotty Wong


I hope you will join us this year or next on a Starr bus trip designed to highlight our country’s beautiful fall colors.

Here’s an afterthought: No one ever talks about what a pain it is to rake these leaves however!  I guess the beauty is worth the misery of an aching back!

The Science Behind Fall Foliage

The Science Behind Fall Foliage

There’s something about fall weather that people just seem to love. From drinking apple cider to hayrides, and dressing in spooky costumes for Halloween, fall is a great old pumpkin of fun. But my favorite part of fall is watching the leaves change color and turn into brilliant shades of red and yellow before floating to the ground. But why do the leaves do what they do? Come with me on a scientific journey as we find out why! So welcome to Melanie’s fall foliage spectacular! I will be taking the role of sort-of a Bill Nye the Science Guy character as we discuss the interesting science behind fall leaves.


Nighttime Gives Leaves Their Color

When I was in school, we learned what makes leaves green is this magic little stuff called Chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is what enables the leaves to take carbon dioxide from the air and convert it into the sugars and starch that feed the plant. When the days begin to get shorter and the temperature starts to drop, the trees begin to go into a state of dormancy or hibernation and slow down their food making process thus producing less chlorophyll. It’s kind of like how our skin gets paler in the winter because we are outside much less often. Well, except I am a human and these are leaves, but you get the picture.




The Chemistry of Great Foliage

There are three pigments that give leaves their color:

Chlorophyll uses the energy from sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into food for the plant and gives the leaves their green color.

Carotenoids are the pigment that give many fruits and vegetables, like carrots and bananas, their bright yellow/orange coloring. They are always present in the leaves, but are often masked by the green of the chlorophyll.

Anthocyanins are responsible for the red coloring of cranberries, apples, and other fruits and vegetables. This pigment only shows up in autumn under the right circumstances and is not produced by all trees.

Every color observed during the fall is a result of the mixing of varying amounts of chlorophyll residue and other pigments in the leaf. As the days become shorter and the chlorophyll breaks down, the carotenoids get their opportunity to shine through, thus giving the leaves their common yellow/orange coloring. In the warm autumn days, the leaves can produce a lot of sugar, but cold nights prevent the sugar sap from flowing from the leaf veins into the branches and down the trunk. In order to recover the nutrients in the leaves before they fall, the tree produces anthocyanins and the result is brilliant red leaves.

So, what is the perfect combination for a fabulous display of fall foliage? The winning combination is a warm growing season with a lot of moisture in the air, a summer that isn’t too hot or too dry, and a warm, sunny autumn with cold nights. These cold nights are very important, but temperatures need to stay above freezing as frost will cause more subdued reds. A severe drought will delay the leaves changing color, and a warm wet fall will dampen the intensity of the colors. Heavy wind or rain can also cause the leaves to fall before they fully develop color.


The Science Behind Purple Leaves

Temperature, sunlight, and soil moisture all play roles in how exactly the leaves will look in the fall. We know what exactly causes the leaves to change, but what determines what color they will turn into? Back to anthocyanins! The key to getting purple leaves is also cooler nighttime air. If you notice, we haven’t had a whole lot of purple and red leaves this year, and that’s probably because the nights have been warmer. Science is cool, right?


So the next time you look out the window and see a glistening leaf floating gently to the ground, think about the fascinating science behind it!