It’s time to enjoy the crisp autumn air and the technicolor palette that Mother Nature serves up each autumn. These are my my three favorite places in the USA for a fall foilage destination getaway.
Albuquerque — Not all the hot air is on the campaign trail. The biggest concentration is in the skies over Albuquerque each October. The 2012 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is October 6-14, 2012, with more than 500 colorful balloons, and festival events. A good place to watch the show is from the top of Sandia Peak via a ride on the world’s longest aerial tram. My favorite place bargain-priced Native American jewelry is in Albuquerque’s Old Town. Then head north to one of the many pueblos. Taos is the most famous pueblo, but I prefer Acoma “Sky City”, which sits atop a plateau. Acoma also is 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!
New York’s Hudson Valley — Two hours north of Times Square, with more than two dozen wineries, some planted in the 1700s by the French Huguenots who settled this area, offer tours and tastings. Their simple furnished houses still stand on Huguenot Street in New Paltz, open for historic tours. Tour millionaire mansions including the art-filled Rockefeller estate, Kykuit, in Tarrytown, and the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park, adjoining the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Home, Library and Museum. 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.
- Where to Stay: The historic Thayer Hotel, on the grounds of West Point, with dramatic views of the Hudson River that West Point was built to protect during the Revolutionary War. FYI — Sylvanus Thayer was West Point’s first commandant. Be sure to take time to walk through American history at the West Point Museum, which displays everything from Revolutionary War flintlocks to artifacts from the NASA space program.
Lake Tahoe — Twenty-two miles long and 14 miles wide, this cobalt blue lake is ringed year-round with snow-capped mountains that are perfect for autumn hikes and winter skiing and snowboarding. Get a memorable wide-angle view of all of Tahoe’s jaw-dropping beauty suspended 500-feet above its surface, hanging from a para-sail chute that takes off from 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, or a piece of the Tahoe Rim trail, which rings the lake, or bike to Fallen Leaf Lake from Camp Richardson, where rustic lakeside cabins are tucked among the talk pines.
- Where to Stay: There are modern, large casino-hotels at South Lake Tahoe. Or, you could time warp back to the Fifties further 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. There also are guided tours of the tunnel 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 last visit.
What’s your favorite autumn destination?