The tourists have gone home, sweltering temperatures have tamed to tolerable and hotels have reduced their peak summer rates. It’s an ideal time to enjoy the crisp autumn air and the technicolor palette that Mother Nature serves up each autumn. Here are four great places for a fall getaway.
New York‘s Hudson Valley
Napa and Sonoma wine country is so last year. This year, head for the Hudson Valley just north of New York City, where there are more than two dozen wineries, some planted in the 1700s by the French Huguenots who settled this area. Their furnished houses still stand on Huguenot Street in New Paltz, open for historic tours. All but the smallest have tastings; larger wineries including Rivendell Winery) and Millbrook Vineyards also have concerts and shops featuring locally made artisanal cheeses, jams and other edible goodies. There’s also some serious feasting at the Culinary Institute of America where part of the college education is cooking and running the four gourmet restaurants on campus.
Dozens of rock climbers dangle daily from the steep cliff face of what locals call “The Gunks”, short for the Shawangunk foothills of the Catskills, and generally regarded as some of the best rock climbing in the country, with some 1,000 technical routes. This pristine area contains the Minnewaska State Park Preserve and the Mohonk Preserve, with more than 100 miles of walking, jogging and cycling paths, including on 19th century carriage roads. Or, walk through American history at the West Point Museum which displays everything from Revolutionary War flintlocks to artifacts from the NASA space program.
Where to Stay: Mohonk Mountain House perched on a cliff above a 60-foot deep glacier-carved lake, this sprawling 250-room luxury lodge started life as a 10-room inn and tavern in the 1860s. It’s a classic, a must see.
Twenty-two miles long and 14 wide, this cobalt blue lake is ringed with snow-capped mountains year-round – some of them dotted with world-class ski trails – and you can see a wide-angle view of all its jaw-dropping beauty suspended 500-feet above the surface hanging from a para-sail chute at Zephyr Cove. Most of the land around the lake is state or federal parkland, with hundreds of miles of trails, paved and not. Hike the rugged Rubicon Trail near Emerald Bay, stake out your own section of the Tahoe Rim trail, which rings the lake, or bike to Fallen Leaf Lake, a mini-version of Tahoe, from Camp Richardson, where rustic lakeside cabins are tucked among the talk pines.
Where to Stay: Although the four casino-hotels at South Lake Tahoe – Caesars, Harrah’s, Harvey’s and Horizon are larger and more modern, there’s real history and time warp Fifties décor up north at Cal-Neva, once owned by Frank Sinatra and favored by the “Rat Pack” and JFK. Check out the line painted down the middle of the Indian Room ballroom – California on one side, Nevada on the other and a mini-museum of Washoe Indian artifacts along the walls – and a tunnel, open for guided tours, that Sinatra and guests like Marilyn Monroe used to visit other guest cabins. Her ghost is said to haunt the tunnel, although I didn’t see it on my visit.
Not all the hot air is on the campaign trail. The biggest concentration is in the skies over Albuquerque each October, as thousands of colorful hot air balloons float silently above the desert landscape A good place to watch the show is from the top of Sandia Peak via a ride on the world’s longest aerial tram , and a great spot for bargain-priced Native American jewelry is in Albuquerque’s Old Town. Then head north to one of the many pueblos. Most famous is Taos, but most fascinating may be Acoma “Sky City” atop a plateau, also known for the intricately painted pottery made by tribal members. Ride into the sunset atop a horse from the stables at the luxe Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort , which sits astride the Rio Grande, which you can also raft. There’s still some whitewater left this late in the season, and there’s always the spectacular red rock canyon.
Where to Stay: The Sheraton Old Towne is walking distance from almost everything, including Albuquerque’s wonderful children’s museum, Explora!
Eat yourself silly at one of the outdoor cafes along Rue St. Louis in Old Quebec, where buildings date to the 1600s, or climb aboard a modern hydrofoil for a whale-sighting expedition in the St. Lawrence River. Head north of town to Montmorency Falls, taller than Niagara Falls, with a cablecar to the top, bridges across the top and nighttime fireworks. There are guided canoe trips in the Jacques Cartier National Park, and an Amazon River cruise at the largest water park in Canada, with 23 slides, at Saint Gabriel de Valcartier. Or, just stay in town and wander around the only walled city north of old Mexico, discovered in 1535 by French explorer Jacques Cartier – 70 years before Henry Hudson discovered what became New York City.
Where to Stay: The historic, castle-like Fairmont Chateau Frontenac is Quebec’s most renowned landmark, dominating the city’s skyline from a cliff above the St. Lawrence.
Yes, there are lots of places to enjoy the annual autumn foliage show from Mother Nature