September 26, 2012

Wingwoman Tracy: Calling All Leaf Peepers! Gear Up For Unforgettable Fall Travel

Join me as I take you on a virtual tour of the east coast from the south to the north, to check out my favorite fall foliage spots along the way!

Fall is a beautiful time to visit many points along the east coast and experience autumn’s crisp air, vibrant colors and crystal-clear blue skies. Fall foliage shows off its dazzling colors in the Carolinas and Virginia in mid-September, spreading its infectious hues north throughout September and peaking by mid-October in New England. Since New England is populated with birches and maples, whereas the south has more oak trees, the northern colors tend to be more vibrant with fiery yellows, reds and oranges. No matter where you travel this fall, you are assured gorgeous foliage.

North Carolina is one of my favorite places for great leaf peeping. The famous Inn on Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, is a wonderful place to enjoy all that the fall has to offer. The Inn, situated close to Brevard County known as “Land of the Waterfalls,” allows you to bask near beautiful waterfalls and colorful forest scenery. With an airport located in nearby Asheville, the Inn on Biltmore Estate and Brevard County are accessible and convenient weekend jaunts for many.

Next we hit Virginia as we continue our leaf-peeping adventure! Skyline Drive runs through the Shenandoah Valley and along the Blue Ridge Mountains. The 105 miles of scenic roadway offer 75 stunning panoramic views — just gorgeous throughout October. I highly recommend spending an evening or two at the Inn at Willow Grove, where luxury meets the country! Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Orange County, VA, this Inn combines my ultimate travel desires: Being close to natural beauty and immersed in history! From the Inn, you can take a short trip to visit the home of James Madison just a few miles away.

As we continue north to New England, I recommend driving on the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire for stunning foliage views. The “Kanc,” as locals refer to it, cuts through White Mountain National Forest and guarantees to deliver some of the best views for leaf peepers in the entire nation! Head over to the Monadnock Inn at the foot of Mount Monadnock for an active adventure with some amazing hiking trails.

Mount Monadnock’s beauty and wonderful trails are fresh in my memory having just hiked it this past Memorial Day weekend. It’s the second most-hiked trail in the world, just behind Mount Fuji, Japan.

Before you take on the second most popular hike, you’ll need to fuel up and rest, and the Monadnock Inn will take care of all your needs. Dine on a delicious dinner on the Inn’s porch. The little twinkling lights will instantly calm you with their beautiful ambiance. Surrounded by trees and brisk fall air, you can smell the outdoors and your delicious dinner all at once. Enjoy a deep night’s sleep with the sounds of nature outside your window and Eenergize with a hearty breakfast before you hike up to the summit of Mt. Monadnock, where on a clear day, you can see as far as Vermont and Massachusetts.

Our last stop on our fall foliage tour brings us to Maine and Acadia National Park. Acadia combines amazing pops of color and lush views with ocean vistas as an added bonus, providing varied scenes of natural wonders. You can hike and bike among the multi-hued trees and stay at one of the many inns along the ocean where you can enjoy the panoramic views.

During the fall, I prefer to vacation at bed and breakfasts and inns. They provide such a quaint, intimate setting that really helps welcome and celebrate the changing season. Less commercialized and more cozy, you feel like you are staying at a warm home rather than a large resort. It’s also lovely to strike up conversations with the owners and fellow guests, and I find that this is much easier at smaller lodgings. Parlors and porches provide a great spot to meet other couples and vacationers. Bring along that recently purchased bottle of wine from a local winery and enjoy making new friends.

Dining at B&Bs and inns also feels much cozier and more like home cooking rather than a restaurant meal. It’s like mom is delivering dinner right to your table! And, you get to enjoy the aromas as the food cooks just down the hall.

Take advantage of the owners’ expertise and inquire about off-the-beaten-path places to visit. Fall is the perfect time for local farmer’s markets, apple picking, purchasing some of that delicious apple butter or finding a gorgeous homemade quilt that will keep you warm on those cool, fall nights. Oftentimes the B&B caretakers know the perfect spots to find such seasonal favorites.

This is the time of year you want to soak up the sounds and smells of nature and the beauty of the scenery. My absolute favorite way to celebrate and immerse myself in the season is to witness a spectacular sunrise or sunset. It’s a serene part of any trip and an impressive backdrop for keepsake photos that you can share with your family for decades. Plan a hike around it and create a truly memorable experience.

Extend that memory by establishing a travel tradition — year after year, you can add another sunrise or sunset photo to your collection and see the changes in your own life reflected by the changing season and changing color of the leaves.

Follow me on Twitter (@Wingwoman_Tracy) for more travel tips or to share your favorite fall travel traditions!

Read Tracy’s previous columns: Kiss Summer Goodbye With These Fall-tastic Travel Ideas, The Wind Beneath Your Wings: Giving Lift To Your Perfect Summer Trip, Snorkeling, Rum Punch and Beyond: Top Spring Break Spots and How A Kiwi Led To My Biggest Airport Snafu

Learn more about our Wingwoman Tracy

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