The Ultimate Fall Upper Valley Bucket List

The best things to dine and do in the Upper Valley this term.

by Anne Johnakin | 9/7/21 3:10am

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by Sophie Bailey / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

This article is featured in the 2021 Freshman special issue.

Fall in the Upper Valley holds a special place in my heart, as it does for a lot of Dartmouth students. The changing leaves remind me of meeting my best friends freshman fall and all the fun times we had carving pumpkins and swapping flannels. As we ring in the first normal fall in a while, I hope this list gives you some ideas for how to take full advantage of the season. 

These events range from free to as much as you want to spend, and are varying distances from campus. If you don’t have a car, no worries! Lots of things are walkable, and the Advance Transit bus service runs during weekdays to many surrounding towns. And, if you have your driver’s license, there are plenty of ZipCar rentals available for you to drive.

Maple Creemees

Distance from Campus: Variable

Cost: Around $5

My personal favorite thing about being in the Upper Valley is getting to eat maple creemees — a Vermont ice cream staple that’s not quite soft serve, and often comes with crunchy maple sugar bits on top. You can get them at many locations near campus, such as Mac’s Maple (20 minute drive) or Dan and Whit’s (4 minute drive). Also, campus events sometimes serve maple creemees, so keep an eye out for free creemees on campus!

Hiking Gile

Distance from Campus: 16 minute drive

Cost: Free

Are you really a Dartmouth student until you’ve posted a photo from atop Gile Fire Tower? This iconic photo-op is at the end of an easy, 1.4 mile out-and-back hike that is great for novice and experienced hikers alike. Hannah Burd ’22, a fan of the Gile hike, described the experience of the summit: 

“When you climb to the top of the tower, you’re just surrounded by trees,” Burd said. “During the fall, when the leaves are changing, it is just vibrant, bright oranges and reds. It’s one of the best places to see the fall foliage in the area, in my opinion.”

Organic Farm Events

Distance from Campus: 5 minute drive or 1 hour walk (transportation often provided)

Cost: Free

Lucas Rathgeb ’22, who has been involved with  Dartmouth’s Organic Farm since his First-Year Trip, gave an overview of the O-Farm’s fall events. One of the most quintessential O-Farm events is Harfest, which takes place every fall and features food, music, pumpkin carving and face painting. Rathgeb also says there will be campfires in the fall, a fun opportunity to hang out with friends and make s’mores. 

“We will also be having more pizza dinners,” Rathgeb added, commenting on my favorite part of the O-Farm: the wood-burning pizza oven. “We now have the pizza oven refurbished, since it was out of order for a while.” 

Riverview Farm or Patch Orchards

Distance from Campus: 20 minute drive to Riverview and 16 minute drive to Patch 

Cost: As much as you want to spend

Cider donuts! Pumpkins! Apple picking! One of Burd’s favorite memories of fall in the Upper Valley is going to the orchard. 

“I’m in Allen House, and I remember they organized some trips my freshman fall,” Burd said. “We all went apple picking, and there was a pumpkin patch. It was pretty much as fall as it could get.” 

Each week through late-September or mid-October, there are farmer’s markets at Richmond Middle School in Hanover on Wednesdays 4-7 pm and in Norwich on Saturdays 9am-1pm. These are a great way to meet community members outside of Dartmouth, support local businesses and eat some fantastic food. The baked goods from Salubre Trattoria are amazing, and I love many of the local jewelers and artisans. If you’re craving a grilled cheese from Griddle and Groovy, be sure to put your order in early — the stand is often backed up by as much as a half hour, but the sandwiches are worth the wait.

Big KAF

Distance from Campus: 5 minute drive, 24 minute walk

Cost: As much as you want to spend

Another place to get maple-flavored treats is the flagship cafe, bakery and store of the King Arthur Baking Company (renamed from the King Arthur Flour Company, or KAF, in 2020). I think the trek out to Norwich is worth it for the pastries and maple lattes. It may be sentimentality that ties Dartmouth to KAF — the world-famous bakery operated a beloved second cafe in Baker-Berry Library that closed last year — but going to Big KAF is a fun excursion to make with friends. While you’re there, you can also stop by KAF’s baking shop to grab box mixes and plenty of baking accessories to make sweet treats right from the comfort of your dorm. I highly recommend the gluten-free microwavable brownie cups.

Visit a Farmer’s Market

Distance from Campus: Varies by location 

Cost: As much as you want to spend

Each week through late-September or mid-October, there are farmer’s markets at Richmond Middle School in Hanover on Wednesdays 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and in Norwich on Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. These are a great way to meet community members outside of Dartmouth, support local businesses and eat some fantastic food. The baked goods from Salubre Trattoria are amazing, and I love many of the local jewelers and artisans. If you’re craving a grilled cheese from Griddle and Groovy, be sure to put your order in early — the stand is often backed up by as much as a half hour, but the sandwiches are worth the wait.

Homecoming Football Game

Distance from Campus: On campus

Cost: Free for students

I love a good fall football game, but even if you’re not a football fan, the Homecoming game is not one to miss. Spectators come to Memorial Field decked out in Dartmouth merch and tailgate before the game. Burd has been to three homecoming games, and described the energy in the stands as “electric.” While Dartmouth isn’t a big football school, Burd said, this “is the one game during the football season that a lot of people show up for and go hard for.”

Still North Books & Bar

Distance from Campus: In town

Cost: As much as you want to spend

Located right in the heart of downtown Hanover on Allen Street, this alumna-owned bookstore, cafe and bar is a great off-campus space for Dartmouth students to study and hang out. Their cafe has baked goods, sandwiches, and beverages, including familiar favorites once provided by Little KAF, like choffee and the brie and apple sandwich. 

Still North owner Allie Levy ’11 says these menu additions hope to fill the hole of Little KAF and “keep a small tradition going.” Still North also hosts events at night, such as tiny concerts and book readings, that are super fun! 

“When I first came up with the idea for Still North, one of the most important things to me was that it be a space that was as welcoming for students as it is for the rest of the Upper Valley community,” Levy said. “When I was a student, there weren’t a lot of spaces that felt really shared by students and other community members.”

Moosilauke Lodge Dinners

Distance from Campus: ~1 hour

Cost: $8 for students

Dinners at the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge returned this summer to fanfare from students, and they will continue this fall. The Dartmouth Outing Club often runs free buses up to the Lodge, and it’s a great way to get a break from campus and see beautiful mountain views. Plus, a home-cooked meal served family style with friends has perfect cozy fall vibes.

I hope this list inspires your own fall bucket list! From seeing the leaves change to eating pumpkin-spiced and maple treats, fall in the Upper Valley has a lot to take advantage of. 

“The best thing that I can say is try out as much as possible and see what fits,” Rathgeb said. “Say yes to opportunities to try something different.”

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