Fall family travel from leaf peeping to star gazing
The gradual seasonal change is an ideal platform for leaf peeping, stargazing, weekend camping, long drives and getaways that can bring your family closer during the cozier fall months.
“Fall is the perfect season to get out and see the world,” says travel expert and president of Rovia, Jim Menge. “A brisker climate can definitely enhance your travel experience. There seems to be more energy and focus, more of a willingness to go outside, rediscover nature and explore destinations whose beauty is deepened by seasonal change.”
With that in mind, we’ve chosen a few activities and destinations to put on your calendar this Sept. 22 to Dec. 21 as you venture out into cooler climes.
Peeper’s paradise: A New England road trip
Is autumn the best time of year? Ask someone who’s driven hours just to marvel at the reds, deep vermilions, ochres and oranges of fall foliage, and you’re likely to get a resounding “yes!” Here are some of the best drives in the northeast that leaf peepers far and wide return to again and again. Travel tip: The best time to visit is in October.
Destinations abound, but for the ultimate leaf-peeping experience, journey to New England, on routes that will take you in and around Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Check out Route 218 starting in Wiscasset, Maine; the Green Mountain Byway, Route 100, in Vermont; Route 112, otherwise known as the Kancamagus Highway, in New Hampshire; Route 9 in the lower Connecticut River Valley; Route 2 along the Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts and Route 77 in Rhode Island.
Discover country stores, eateries, roadside stands, charming bed-and-breakfasts, farms, walking trails, taverns, hills and rivers that dot the scenery. Of course, you’re going to want to do your homework to discover just where you want to go and how much time you want to spend getting there and enjoying the scenery. Check the weather before you go to make sure you’re traveling during a weekend when the weather conditions are ideal for sightseeing (we mean leaf-peeping). With an average 50-miles-plus round trip, take your time — you’re not going to do it all in one weekend; but what you’ll see will be breathtaking.
Camping and star gazing
Fall is an ideal time to take a weekend and study a constellation or two, especially those, like Orion, that informed the architects of the great pyramids of Giza. These constellations have been the wonder of adventurers, kings, pharaohs and sailors for centuries; not to mention many young impressionable minds peering out in wonder from the safety of a family campfire. Travel tip: Bring bottled water, a first-aid kit, binoculars and a telescope.
Camping brings people together, and allows you to leave your cell phone behind, along with the distractions and responsibilities of work and everyday life. If you can turn off for a weekend and see and experience one another, take in a waterfall or mountain view and soak in the night sky, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this sooner.
A destination at the top of your camping to-do list should be the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Enter the park’s boundaries from North Carolina or Tennessee. The park contains 72 miles of the Appalachian Trail, not to mention great mountain views and waterfalls, and multiple options for families to settle in. Campgrounds are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A few destinations for car campers include the Deep Creek Campground in the Southeast; the Smokemont Campground in the South; The Cades Cove Campground in the West and the Cataloochee Campground in the East. You won’t find showers here, or electrical or water hookups. But a few days of roughing it will open your eyes and give you the space to reconnect with the ones you love.
Plan a weekend getaway this fall
Carve out a weekend or two and create your own adventure in the great scenery of the United States. The fall months invite you to take a break and travel to destinations with your family that are worthwhile, culturally significant and will ultimately bring you closer together.