Top Fall Foliage Trips in the U.S.

 

It’s been in the air — and in your Facebook timeline with all the posts about pumpkin spice — for weeks. But with the equinox coming Saturday, it will be official: It’s autumn. Soon, fall foliage will abound. Here are some of the best places in the country to go leafing.

 

New England & Canada

This is a classic, from Maine’s Acadia National Park to the Green Mountains of Vermont. Instead of sharing the highways with the thousands of others who had the same idea, consider a fall foliage cruise. You’ll visit ports such as Bar Harbor, Halifax, and Quebec City without having to fight traffic every step of the way and repacking every day, all the while being delivered into the heart of colorful, charming, picture-perfect towns.

 

The Ozarks

The colors come in toward the end of September and beginning of October, starting with blackgum and sweetgum trees, casting reds, yellows, purples and oranges. The peak of the season occurs about a month later, and in between, there are hickories projecting brilliant yellow leaves, sassafras in every color and more than 50 varieties of oak ranging from orange to deep red. On the drive through the rolling Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas and southern Missouri, you’re surrounded by color as far as the eye can see.

 

The Rockies

The aspens of Colorado have already begun to turn a striking golden yellow in higher elevations and will be peaking in a couple of weeks. Working their way down, the leaves will start to drop off the trees on higher slopes while they begin changing color at lower elevations, lasting until early November. Farther north in the Tetons and Yellowstone, orange, yellow and red will swarm the forests, making for a stark contrast against snowcapped slate-colored peaks. Aspens, cottonwoods, and maples combine for a dazzling array that’s hard to beat.

 

The Pacific Northwest

The length of the season depends on how much rain falls, but as long as they last, the fall colors are spectacular. Trails throughout Washington and Oregon erupt in beautiful, deep reds, oranges and yellows, including the Skyline Trail in Mount Rainier National Park, where bushes and shrubs shine in front of tall evergreens and the backdrop of the 14,410-foot Rainier. Silver Falls State Park in Oregon’s Willamette Valley sports colorful trees along a river teeming with spawning salmon and waterfalls galore.

 

The South

Though the summer lasts a little longer down south, there are plenty of places to spot brilliant leaves in perfect weather during the autumn. From the Natchez Parkway spanning Mississippi and Tennessee all the way down to Florida’s Three Rivers State Park near the Georgia border, there is brilliance on display. The Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina light up with dogwood, birch and many other trees changing color across a variety of elevations. Not to be missed is Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley National Park.

All autumn long, there are spectacular foliage trips right in your backyard.

Top Train Trips Around the World

Train travel hearkens back to a romantic bygone era. While there are certainly faster ways to get from one place to another, riding the rails really delivers on showcasing the natural beauty of a destination. In lieu of flying from major city to major city, trains can show travelers how urban and rural areas fit together to form a country. Part of your perfect vacation could be devoting some time to just staring out the window and daydreaming. Here are few of our favorite trains and itineraries for it.

Rocky Mountaineer

Running through British Columbia and Alberta, Rocky Mountaineer takes passengers on a journey through Western Canada. The cities of Vancouver and Calgary mingle with gorgeous mountain scenery, including national parks such as Jasper and Lake Louise. The view from the Virtuoso-preferred Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is iconic. If you want to do some exploring on your own, Rocky Mountaineer has the option of combining rail and car rental. The season runs from mid-April to mid-October. Pro tip: The last month features fall foliage at the lower elevations and snow higher up.

The Blue Train

The 994 miles through South Africa between Cape Town and Pretoria cover some beautiful territory. The Blue Train crosses it in style, with private suites for the overnight journey. The dining is fine, the lounges are elegant, the sights of mountains are vineyards rolling by are spectacular. Going southbound, you’ll stop in the mining town of Kimberly. Northbound travelers see the Victorian buildings of Matjiesfontein. With the departure times of 8:30 a.m. and arrivals at 3 p.m. the next day, The Blue Train is a great addition to safaris.

Belmond

Belmond has seven trains crisscrossing Europe, Peru, and Southeast Asia. They pull into stations at such diverse outposts as London, Machu Picchu, Kuala Lumpur and the Scottish Highlands. (Not all on the same ride, of course.) Some journeys feature comfortable overnight quarters, while others are tailored to allow overnight stays at some of Belmond’s 35 worldwide hotels. The Royal Scotsman and Andean Explorer even have spas onboard to help you unwind even more.

The Swiss Alps

The roof of Europe has awe-inspiring views, and a train window is a terrific vantage point. The Gornergrat train whisks passengers from Zermatt to 10,000 feet of elevation in just over half an hour, opening up a dramatic view of the Matterhorn. The cogwheel train has been running since 1898 and operates every day of the year. Climbing through orchards and vineyards on its way up to mountain passes, the Bernina Express makes its way across more than 50 bridges and through almost 200 tunnels. No wonder parts of the route have UNESCO World Heritage status. Featuring the St. Moritz, Zermatt, the Rhine Gorge and the Oberalp Pass, a ride on the Glacier Express is a full day of feasting for the eyes and palate, with meals prepared fresh onboard.

The Ghan and Indian Pacific

The Ghan runs north-south nearly 2,000 up Australia’s spine, while the Indian Pacific traverses 2,700 miles between Sydney and Perth on the east-west axis through the southern part of the continent. Each journey is a three-night affair, with off-train excursions included in packages. Get to know the Outback on the Ghan train, and consider upgrading to a fixed-wing flight over Uluru/Ayers Rock. From Adelaide on the southern end, you can easily reach the Barossa Valley wine region or the unique wildlife of Kangaroo Island. The Indian Pacific offers Barossa Valley and the Blue Mountains excursions. Gourmet meals and premium wines await in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant car.

Top Short Getaways and Stopovers

Perhaps you’re traveling for business and trying to squeeze in a pleasure trip. Maybe you won’t be back to that part of the world in a while. Possibly you can only get away for a few days. Or you just want a few more days to relax before you head back to work. Whatever the reason, you can explore these destinations in less than a week, either on their own or as part of a longer trip.

Channel Islands, California

Off the coast from Los Angeles, this archipelago is home to a national park and the resort island of Santa Catalina. More than a million visitors arrive on Catalina annually, doing boat tours, snorkeling, and SCUBA diving and enjoying the beach or a nice wine mixer. Five of the chain’s eight islands form Channel Islands National Park. Lindblad Expeditions offers five-day/four-night itineraries out of L.A. on its Base Camp Channel Islands program, which combines wildness and wellness. Mornings begin with yoga or another exercise, and afternoons feature hiking or biking with sightings of rare flora and fauna all along the way.

Fogo Island, Canada

In the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, northeast of New England, Fogo Island makes for a short getaway from the East Coast. Virtuoso-preferred Fogo Island Inn has summer promotions to help you take advantage of the longer, warmer days. For minimum stays of only three nights, the inn is offering workshops with multidisciplinary artist Bruce Pashak with its An Artful Summer or excursions with a naturalist guide in its Flora & Fauna Encounters package. Either shows you the wilds of “an island, off an island, at one of the four corners of the Earth” without spending all your vacation days.

Azores, Portugal

About 1,000 miles west of Lisbon in the middle of the Atlantic, these islands weren’t known to the Portuguese until the 14th century. Mark Twain detailed his 19th-century visit in The Innocents Abroad. Now, they’re a place to stop over for a few days on either end of a trip to Europe, or a long weekend from the East Coast. Each of the nine main islands has a different claim to fame, but there’s an abundant supply of activities out of doors and on the water. Ponta Delgada is the capital, largest municipality and home of the main commercial airport for the Azores. It’s also home to a lively culinary scene.

Fiji/Tahiti

It’s a long way to New Zealand and Australia. Maybe those are on your bucket list and you’re not going to make it back to that area of the world again. Or maybe you’ve sat through that interminable flight over the Pacific one too many times and need to break up the travel. Either way, these islands in the South Pacific make for romantic stopovers to help you relax before an action-packed itinerary Down Under. On the way home, a couple of days on the beach or lagoon can help you ease into getting over that jet lag or stave off the return to real life. In a pinch, Hawaii isn’t bad, either

Dubai


Fly Emirates for your safari, and you can plan a stopover in the ultra-posh, oil-rich city. Where else can you go to the Louvre and the beach and ski indoors? Emirates provides a meet & greet service, a welcome pack, hotel accommodations and airport transfers. Check out a polo match, a great Friday brunch or hit the waterpark at Atlantis The Palm. Spend a day or two, then head out to one of 150 destinations from there.