Fall foliage draws tourists to Hanover

by Emily Sun | 10/19/18 2:50am

by Alison Zeng / The Dartmouth

Cindy Yuan ’22 was on a road trip for a sports competition when she spotted something rather different in the landscape from what she was used to back home in California.

“When we drove past all the yellow and orange mountains, I was awed,” Yuan said. “I couldn’t believe the mountains were yellow because of turning leaves and not because of dead grass.”

“Leaf peeping” is the act of admiring the changing of leaves during the autumn season. Luckily for Yuan, she caught the foliage at its peak. By next week, however, this peak foliage is expected to pass, according to Visit New Hampshire’s foliage tracker.

The New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development expects roughly 3 million out-of-state overnight visitors, who are projected to spend 1.4 billion dollars this fall season. This reflects an upwards trend, with the number of tourists increasing by 4.5 percent and spending by 5 percent compared to last year, according to Kris Neilsen, communications manager for New Hampshire Travel and Tourism Development.

“[Leaf peeping] definitely plays a critical economic role in many aspects of our tourism industry,” Neilsen said. “There’s a lot of people and business that count on people visiting during the fall season.”

Lou’s Restaurant and Bakery is one of those businesses effected. Jarett Berke, owner of Lou’s, thinks that fall tourism accounts for about 25 percent of the restaurant’s sales during the season.

“I would say it has a pretty sizable impact,” Berke said. “We get a lot of people coming through the area to look at leaves and make their way through the Northeast. There’s spillover to local businesses.”

Berke said that the beauty of the leaves is one of the main things that attracts people to the area.

“There’s something about it that’s pure and rich and natural and healthy,” Berke said.

As for IDVD and Poster, Hanover’s specialty DVDs vinyl records and posters store, owner Bryan Smith said he enjoys meeting tourists who visit his store in the fall.

“I tend to get a lot more European tourists coming through, especially British and French and Italian who want to see some fall foliage,” he said.

One reason why many international visitors come to New Hampshire for leaf peeping is because of the lack of maple trees in Europe. Biological sciences professor Matthew Ayres noted that the presence of the maple trees is the reason why New Hampshire has a very rich palette of spectacular fall colors. Maple trees produce anthocyanin, which is a pigment that gives leaves their red and purple hues, he added.

“At this time of year, the plants, in response to changes in day length, change in biology,” Ayres said. “It’s a very orchestrated physiological change.”

Neilsen added that New Hampshire’s diverse landscapes provide visitors with a unique experience.

“We promote New Hampshire as variety within proximity,” Neilsen said. “You can see and experience a lot of different things in a fairly compact space.”