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Visit Arnold Arboretum for a festival of color. Credit: Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University Archives.

By Erin Behan

Fall in New England is a magical time of year — certainly one of the best for visitors. New England is, after all, the holy grail of fall color, and the crisp weather and bright blue skies give a glow to the city’s historic buildings and send a dance of color across the Charles River. Yes, there are many ways to occupy yourself in Beantown, but we’ve helpfully narrowed them down to the top three for the best Boston vacation.

Your first stop should be the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, a gem in any season, but for the most storybook of fall views, look for the on-fire maples. The 265-acre (free!) garden is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Oct. 1, 2011, marks the start of leaf peeping, and peak color for Boston is usually around mid-October; check Massachusetts’ fall foliage guide for updates.

Move from leaf peeping to ghost peeping with Haunted Boston’s Ghost Tour. The company’s ghoulish, lantern-led walking tours connect visitors to Boston’s most famous ghosts and tell the kind of haunted tales you craved as a kid and still secretly love as an adult. Among other tidbits, tour-goers learn which well-known Boston hotel is its most haunted. Visit the Haunted Boston Ghost Tours for a $3 off coupon.

There’s something unmistakably Boston about the sight of swarthy rowers cutting through a rippling river, and you can soak up that Ivy League feeling at this year’s 47th Head of the Charles Regatta on Oct. 22 and 23, 2011. The world’s largest regatta (also free!) takes place on the Charles River starting at the Boston University Boathouse and ending at Artesani Playground. The Weld Exhibition is a favorite viewing site.

Don’t forget to book a Boston hotel for your Boston vacation. The Lenox Hotel is the official hotel of the 2011 Regatta. There are a number of Boston hotels near Boston Common, where the Haunted Boston Ghost Tour meets, including Taj Boston, the Boston Park Plaza Hotel and Towers, the Four Seasons Boston, the Radisson Hotel Boston and the Hyatt Regency Boston. Jamaica Plain isn’t heavy on hotels, so Arnold Arboretum visitors should choose a Boston hotel and then take the MBTA OrangeLine to Forest Hills.

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Erin Behan is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn, N.Y., who counts good food, intoxicating drink and adventurous travel among her favorite things.

Tagged: Family time, Hotels

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