Text by Elizabeth Czapski
As fall extends its magical touch across the country, bringing with it highly anticipated cooler climes and its iconic color show, there’s no better time to take a trip to experience the season’s distinctive glory somewhere special. And where could be more idyllic to revel in the comforts of autumn than a cozy cottage community? From mountainous marvels and waterfront wonders to scenic landscapes laden with vivid leaves, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite spots to sit back, relax, and watch the stunning season unfold.
For a distinctive autumn experience, trade the red hues of changing leaves for a unique red rock paradise. Seated just over 100 miles south of the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Arizona, is known for its brilliant towers of stone and sculpted cliffs that create a dramatic skyline like no other. With nearly 2 million acres of national forest and 300 miles of networked trails for hiking and biking, this Southwestern city is primed for exploration. You’ll also find wellness spas, wineries, and delicious restaurants, along with myriad shops and galleries in this small town known for its impressive art scene. See more in our Autumn issue on newsstands now.
A getaway to Lexington, Virginia, promises the best of old and new, encapsulating historic charm and contemporary ventures. A stroll along downtown’s cobblestone streets is made all the more enchanting by a canopy of seasonal color, so take your time as you peruse local shops, farm-to-table restaurants, and vibrant galleries. If you’d like to stay in the heart of the hustle and bustle, The Georges is the perfect place. Housed in three historic buildings on opposite sides of Main Street, each of its 21 rooms and suites have been elegantly renovated, modernized, and uniquely decorated while maintaining the character of some of the city’s oldest surviving structures. A bit more off the beaten path, The Inn at Forest Oaks (above) boasts beautiful Blue Ridge Mountain vistas across a storied estate that includes a bed-and-breakfast in a restored manor house as well as a century-old guest cottage turned vacation rental.
Take a road trip through Vermont, and revel in its vast hills filled with striking views of leaves shedding their lush green color in exchange for vibrant coats of golden yellow, auburn, and red. From mid-September to early-October, Vermont’s leaves become the star of the show, and this breathtaking display is perhaps at its most striking along the scenic byways of the state. Since three-quarters of Vermont is covered in forests, there’s plenty of canvas for the palette of autumn to come to life. The state’s many pick-your-own farms and orchards, historic sites, museums, and hiking trails provide the perfect rest stops for your leaf-peeping venture—whether a day trip or beyond.
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s gorgeous Lake Geneva rose to prominence in the late 1800s as magnates of business and industry from Chicago built lavish summer homes there, and more than 100 of these historic havens are still standing today. Visitors can view them on boat tours or by foot on a 21-mile walking path that circles the lake and is shrouded in rich autumnal hues this time of year. You can even stay at the area’s first mansion built in 1856, Maxwell Mansion, which gives off a cottage feel complete with period antique furnishings that imbue a rustic-chic ambience. A pedestrian-friendly downtown is home to parks, marinas, boutique shops, award-winning restaurants, and outdoor activities on and off the water that range from paddle sports to canopy tours. Be sure to catch the legendary mail boat at the Riviera Docks in the heart of downtown—hop aboard and experience their unique postal delivery system with more than 100 years of service.
While many tourists return home once summer has ended, the harvest season shares its cool mornings and pleasant daytime temperatures with those who choose to linger in beautiful Jackson, Wyoming, and locals say that fall is the best season for colorful experiences in the open spaces of life in the Western Rockies. From hiking and fly-fishing to waterfalls and geyser activity, there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure between nearby Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. And if manmade creations are more of your thing, each September, the acclaimed Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival offers 12 days of visual and culinary arts.
Coined “The Ocean State,” Rhode Island touts 400 miles of New England coastline rife with fall delights that span sailing and enjoying its signature clam cakes—all amid kaleidoscopic autumn color. In Newport, history buffs can step back in time to the Gilded Age with visits to renowned mansions and many museums, including the recently opened Sailing Museum. The state capital, Providence, boasts delectable dining options, storied 18th- and 19th-century homes along the streets of College Hill, and iconic WaterFire, a 1.5-mile stretch of fire-lit river parks that line downtown and host seasonal festivals and ample outdoor art that adorns the scenic landscape.