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Five Ways to Enjoy Fall Foliage

September 24, 2010

I have the pleasure of living in an area that experiences all four seasons fairly equally and while each has its own charm, fall has always been one of my favorites. The summer heat and humidity dissipate and the air turns crisp and temperate. The deciduous trees put on a show of vibrant color before they steel themselves for the winter cold. Here are five fun ways to get outside and enjoy nature during this beautiful season. 

The quintessential autumn travel experience is a leaf-peeping tour. New England sets the standard, with her dramatic fall foliage and charming villages. Some favorite areas are the Berkshires and Finger Lakes of New York, the White Mountains in New Hampshire, Hartford and the Connecticut River Valley, and Acadia National Park in Maine. But the Northeast does not have an exclusive on spectacular foliage tours. In the Southeast, the North Carolina mountains and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park are beautiful, and of course I’m partial to central and western Virginia (my home state!). In the West, you will find impressive color in East Texas, North Cascades National Park in Washington, and the Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood in Oregon. 

You can also take pleasure in the fall color from a cruise ship. Well, more accurately on an excursion off the ship. There are several cruise lines that run fall itineraries along the Northeastern seaboard from Baltimore to Nova Scotia. You can enjoy all the added benefits of a luxury cruise, such as top-notch service, no packing and unpacking, nightly entertainment, and sumptuous meals, while you also get to experience the brilliant colors of the season during your port calls. This is the best of both worlds! 

If the crisp autumn weather makes you long to stretch your muscles, you might enjoy a hiking or biking tour. Organized tours are great because they provide any necessary equipment, experienced guides, and have tested the routes. You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to participate, as itineraries are identified as easy, moderate or strenuous, so you can choose the appropriate activity level. Accommodations are included in the tour and may be tent camping, quaint B&Bs or luxury hotels. Vehicular transportation takes you to and from the starting and ending points and carries luggage and supplies daily so you aren’t weighed down. This is a fun way to get your exercise, travel and soak in the autumn splendor all at once! 

"The D" by RawheaD Rex CC license


Train fans will argue that riding the rails is the most comfortable and relaxing way to enjoy the fall foliage. The Amtrak Ethan Allen Express runs 241 miles from New York City to Rutland Vermont and takes a little more than five hours. The Amtrak Adirondack train runs from New York City through the Hudson River Valley to Montreal in a full day run. There are also quite a few private regional trains operating in New England, the mid-Atlantic and Southern states that offer leaf tours with wine or dinner packages, and even restored Pullman car luxury for an upgraded experience. 

Fall is also harvest time and there are interesting places and tasty treats all over the country. Grape harvests in wine country, also known as “the crush”, last several weeks, generally a bit earlier than prime leaf peeing, but the exact timing is subject to the preceding weather conditions. A cooler summer growing season will make for a later harvest time. Popular wine country areas include Napa and Sonoma Valleys in California, the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and upstate New York, among others. In addition to grapes, Autumn is harvest time for apples, pumpkins, mushrooms and plenty of other foods. Wine and food festivals and tastings abound throughout the US in September and October and are a great compliment to the visual splendor. 

Autumn Garden by apdk CC license


A couple of tips that apply to any of these fall foliage suggestions: 

  • Don’t go on a whim. You are not the only person who thinks fall color is fabulous and the best trips will need advance reservations.
  •  Go early in the day. Leaf color tends to be the most vivid in the morning light, but keep in mind that the light just before sunset is also ideal for photography.
  • Get up close. Take pictures of individual elements that are part of the scenery like a weathered barn or fence, not only large panoramic views.
  • Pack a jacket and dress in layers. Autumn nights can turn chilly, even when the day was warm and sunny hours before.

There are many ways to enjoy this spectacular season, so be sure not to miss the majesty of nature during fall.

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