Leaf-Peeping Escapes from NYC!
As lovely as New England's forests and charming small towns are in autumn, the region has not cornered the market on fall foliage. A short road trip or train ride away, the NYC metro area has colors as vibrant as anyplace in America. I shared these four "weekend escapes" with PIX11 Morning News co-host Sukanya Krishnan today:
Sleepy Hollow, NY: Yes, that Sleepy Hollow! Trace the ride of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman through the blazing autumn finery of Rockefeller State Park Preserve, take a lantern-light cemetery tour (if you dare), tour Historic Hudson Valley sites such as Washington Irving's Sunnyside and Philipsburg Manor along the river, and chow down at one of the outstanding nearby eateries in Tarrytown.
Planting Fields Arboretum, Oyster Bay, Long Island: Sure, we think of beaches when we think of a Long island weekend, but you can make like a millionaire when you stroll the grounds of Planting Fields Arboretum, a Gatsby-esque “Gold Coast” estate and botanical gardens, whose trees burst into full-on autumn colors.
Natchaug State Forest, Eastford CT: New Yorkers sometimes forget that New England is closer than it might seem: Northern Connecticut is home to authentically rustic New England forests, including Natchaug State Forest and others, and charming small towns that are close enough for a weekend drive with affordable vacation rentals.
New Hope, PA: Just over the Delaware River from New Jersey, Bucks County’s trees light up in autumn, and the town of New Hope, with its galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and artsy vibe, will impress even Manhattanites.
Shoulder Season Bargains for Under $100/Night!
It’s Shoulder Season! The weather’s still great, but the crowds have thinned out at some of our favorite travel destinations. Translation: Luxurious vacations at a discount. Budget Travel’s president and publisher, Elaine Alimonti, shared these three amazing vacations for under $100/night on the Weather Channel’s AMHQ this morning. For 19 more awesome and affordable trips, read 22 Vacations for Under $100/Night. MAUI Visit Maui before mid-Decenber (when the winter crowds arrive) and you can find a stylish steal at one of the island's resorts. You can relax on legendary Ka’anapali Beach, three miles of white sand that’s often been named the most beautiful beach in America; check out Maui’s ultimate must-see Haleakala, a 10,000-foot-tall dormant volcano; and pig out—literally!—at a traditional Hawaiian Luau with kalua pork cooked in an underground imu oven, plus hula performances! STAY: Maui Beach Hotel has rooms from $85 during the week, and you can get 10 percent off by showing your best “shaka sign” (the thumb-and-pinkie finger “hang loose” hand sign) at check in. NEW HAMPSHIRE Here in the east, a fall weekend calls for a New England road trip to see the amazing fall foliage. White Mountains National Forest is one of the best New England leaf-peeping destinations. Bright red foliage should start appearing in New Hampshire around September 15, with peak color usually arriving in early October and lasting into the first half of the month. STAY: 1785 Inn, in the White Mountains, has rooms from $79/night, including full country breakfast. Book a room in winter and you’ll get two complimentary passes for onsite snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. LOS ANGELES Can you keep a secret? Los Angeles's warmest, sunniest beach weather comes in fall—after the summer tourists are gone. Hike in the Santa Monica Mountains by day, dine on perfect seafood right on the beach at sunset at Gladstone’s (where Sunset meets the Pacific Coast Highway) and savor the city’s art collections, which are the finest on the West Coast, including the Getty, the LA County Museum of Art, and the Norton Simon. STAY: While some of L.A.’s swankier hotels can be pricey, but a vacation rental in Silver Lake—LA's hippest neighborhood—can be yours for $98/night from HomeAway. Browse the cool boutiques and delicious food trucks, and stroll over to the Saturday farmers market for fresh food and celebrity spotting.
#BTReads: 'Wine in Words'
Though Wine in Words (Rizzoli, 2015) is a new book, its author, Lettie Teague, has been schooling me on all things wine for more than a decade. Teague and I worked together at Food & Wine, where she was the magazine's wine columnist, and I was blown away by her ability to educate, entertain, and induce authentic lol's while writing about grapes, wineries, bottles, corks, and the fascinating (and sometimes quirky) people who devote their lives to them. Now the wine columnist at the Wall Street Journal, Teague has delivered the one wine book every Budget Traveler should keep on his or her shelf. Wine in Words can be savored one short chapter at a time or consulted as a handy reference on pairings (contrary to longstanding guff, for instance, white wines go better with cheese than reds), demystifying terminology (there's one word you should never use when describing a wine's texture and I'm not going to give it away), and the world's great wine regions (you'll learn, for instance, the lesser-known differences between Napa and Sonoma and what residents of each region say about each other behind their backs). After reading Wine in Words and placing it on my cookbook shelf for frequent re-reading, I asked Teague to share a travel tip for budget-minded oenophiles: "The North Fork of Long Island, to this transplanted Midwesterner, is like that part of the country perfected—rolling fields, farms, and horses but with (quality) wine grapes as well!" Your turn: Tell us what you're reading now by tagging #BTReads on social media! Or let us know below in the comments.
Great Getaways: Cheyenne, Wyoming
Cheyenne has close ties to The Wild West, so much that every summer since 1897 the city has roped in “The Daddy of ‘Em All." Translation: every July, the city hosts Cheyenne Frontier Days, a two-week extravaganza featuring the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and western celebration. Held at Frontier Park, the main attraction of this bonanza is the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Rodeo where nearly 1,500 contestants from different parts of the country come to Cheyenne to participate in various rodeo competitions for cash awards and other prizes. Category events extend from roping, barrel racing, and steer wrestling, to bull, bareback and saddle bronc riding. It's never too early to plan for the next event on July 22-31, 2016, or July 21-30 in 2017. Visitors can tell when the Cheyenne Frontier Days is in full swing. Along with the rodeo, there are many ongoing celebrations recognizing Cheyenne’s history and honoring its community. Head downtown to watch an ongoing set of four Grand Parades, featuring a procession of marching bands, state officials on horseback, military personnel, and floats replicating symbols of Cheyenne’s past. Additional festivities include a carnival, massive pancake breakfasts, and an air show by the USAF Thunderbirds. Now, back to the rodeo. If you’ve never been to one before, a free daily “Behind the Chutes” tour gives you an insiders’ look, bringing you all around the arena and down to the chutes where riders, bulls, and broncs emerge from, as well as near the place where the contestants get ready. You can also explore Old Frontier Town, a replica of a village complete with storefronts, and watch a demonstration of dances and storytelling by American Indian performers inside the Indian Village. If you’re looking for a the perfect souvenir or accessory to complete your Western look, you’ll find many well-stocked vendor tents in Frontier Park. Nights at Cheyenne Frontier Days are buzzing with entertainment as well. The Frontier Nights series features concerts by major headliners, where advanced ticket purchases are a must. The 2015 lineup says it all: Aerosmith, Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban, and Big and Rich. While the Cheyenne Frontier Days are a great time to visit, here are some ways to get a good sense of Cheyenne’s western legacy any time of year. Ride a historic trolley tour Walking about downtown Cheyenne is pretty easy, but the best way to get your sense of direction—and learn some history—is by going on a trolley tour. Departing from the Cheyenne Depot, the Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley takes you on a ride through the city’s various districts. Your driver/guide excitedly shares tidbits and tales about Cheyenne’s beginnings as a base on the western expansion route for the Union Pacific Railroad and its early days as a bit of a rough and rumble place. The city's past also includes time as a boomtown for the cattle industry, as barons built their mansions along a section of downtown Cheyenne called Millionaire’s Row that sadly became a municipal lot. You might also hear about Wyoming being unique in giving ladies a lot of firsts: It’s the first state to permit women to vote, own property, and even hold public office—and home to the first female governor, too. On my tour, we stopped at venues like the Capitol Building, Wyoming State Museum, Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, and Frontier Park. Shop for western gear When in search of the perfect cowboy hat or a neat Western souvenir, downtown Cheyenne offers a number of options. Visit The Wrangler, home to a heavy selection of cowboy hats plus a ton of boots, belts, bejeweled jeans, and other frontier attire. Customer service is great, too, as the store employees will work with you to make sure your hat or boots fit just right, and hat brims can be adjusted by going through a steaming process. If décor is more your thing, Wyoming Home has furnishings that fit a frontier taste, from bedding and house fixtures to jewelry and knickknacks plus edible treats. For the ladies, Just Dandy carries women’s fashions and accessories. Get out into nature Wyoming may be known for its views of the prairie, but there’s a lot more to the scenery. Head west from Cheyenne to see Vedauwoo, a recreation area that is a 30-minute drive from the city. Vedauwoo has impressive rock formations that cautious climbers and experienced ramblers can walk around or step up or pull themselves up on. The formations consist of Sherman Granite dating back to 1.4 billion years ago. Another great outdoor option is Curt Gowdy State Park located about 25 miles from Cheyenne. Named for the late sportscaster and Wyoming native, this state park has 35 miles of hiking and biking trails at various rated levels, plus sections for horseback riding and even archery. It’s pretty rich in flora and fauna too with various plants and flowers along your route. Start off your day with a stop at the park’s visitor center to pick up a map or learn more about the area. When en route back to Cheyenne from Curt Gowdy State Park, fulfill the appetite you’ve built up at a family-friendly institution, The Bunkhouse Bar. Complimented by a saloon décor, the menu here is all about comfort food specialties: chicken fried steak, various sandwiches, and burgers. And of course while in Wyoming, horseback riding is a must. Terry Bison Ranch is a good place to do so. The ranch offers one-hour or full-day trail rides with slight hill climbs. Before or after your ride, get some grub at the ranch’s Senator’s Restaurant. I had the Bison burger, which comes just about any topping to choose from and tasted quite nice. Grab some local grub In Cheyenne, finding a good steakhouse or laidback barbecue joint is pretty easy. Yet if you’re seeking a bit more formal atmosphere, you have options, too. At the Rib and Chop House, a local restaurant chain with a location in downtown Cheyenne, you can order falling-off-the-bone tender baby back ribs or premium cuts. If you’re seeking a different flavor, Morris House Bistro is all about lowcountry cooking. Based in the former home of Wyoming’s first female Justice of the Peace, this bistro serves up Southern dishes inspired by the head chef’s family recipes with added Wyoming ingredients. Inside the Historic Plains Hotel, the Capitol Grille is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and serves fine Wyoming local ingredients and beef in all their dishes. After eating, take a peek inside the hotel lobby and look straight up at its celestial ceiling. Its design shows the order of the planets around the time of the hotel’s opening in 1911 as Wyoming’s first luxury property. Craft beer in Cheyenne has been booming lately. One of the best places to go is Freedom’s Edge Tap House Brewing Co., which produces inventive, small-batch suds at its location inside The Tivoli Building, which operated as a saloon back in its heyday. There, you can order a glass or flight of on-tap creations such as Java Jolt Coffee Amber ale or the spicy High Noon Chili ale. At the Depot, Cheyenne Brewing Company is part bar, part restaurant with about five original company beers alongside other tap and bottled ones, cocktails, and wines. Looking for crafty cocktails? Head to The Suite Bistro for flavored martinis like the WY Campfire, a marshmallow vodka and Kahlua mixture, to go with their fine dining menu. And to close out the night in Cheyenne, head to The Outlaw Saloon. With a main dance floor, pool tables and dartboards plus an outdoor backyard setting with a stage, and even a mechanical bull, you’ll be quite entertained. This article was written by Michele Herrmann, a travel and lifestyle writer/editor who contributes destination features and travel advice pieces to various media outlets. To date, the farthest she's ventured to is Fiji, along with much of Europe and a good deal within the U.S. For more travel stories, check out her blog, She Is Going Places.
48 Perfectly Romantic Hours in Paris
I grabbed my fiancé’s hand outside the ivy-draped, trellised garden walls of brasserie La Closerie des Lilas, at the tip of a razor-sharp corner in Montparnasse, and half-led/half-tugged him inside, through a gauntlet of friendly “Bonjour!”s from waiters, alongside tables of alfresco diners, over the restaurant’s tiled mosaic floors, past the grand piano, and, finally, to the low-lit cocktail bar tucked in the back. Save for a few French women quietly sipping white wine and barkeeps in vests and ties hustling to fill drink orders, the glowing red space was blissfully empty—as was the spot at the bar I desperately wanted. It was early, around 4 p.m. That was deliberate. I stepped as swiftly as I could to the curved bar and placed my hands on either side of a small brass plaque nailed to the varnished wood. “Here it is!” I announced, as much to myself as to Neil. He moved in closer to read the engraved script: “E. Hemingway.” La Closerie des Lilas was one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite cafés to write in. He called it his “home café” and argues with a nosy acquaintance there in a particularly amusing story in A Moveable Feast. Neil and I had both read it prior to the trip. I hopped up into the red leather seat facing the plaque, and overflowing bowls of complimentary green olives and potato crisps soon appeared in front of us. I ordered a Hemingway Daiquiri, made from pineapple juice, citron vert, and Havana rum; Neil asked for an Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth, and seltzer). Before the drinks arrived, Neil snapped a picture of me at Hemingway’s perch. “You look so happy,” he said. Being in Paris, at your favorite place, with your favorite person, following in the literal footsteps of a writer you admire, will do that. I had only 48 hours to spend in the City of Light, but a single special moment in Paris is enough to justify an entire trip. For me, it was that one. Last month, my fiancé was called away on a last-minute business trip to Paris. “Do you want to meet me there for the weekend?” he asked. Before he uttered the “d” in “weekend,” I was researching flights online. Problem was, I had only one summer Friday to burn, meaning I’d arrive at our hotel around 4 p.m. on Friday and leave for the airport at the same time on Sunday. Two days. That’s it. I still said yes. You always say yes to Paris. True, Paris has plenty of elegant ways to take your budget, strap dynamite to it, toss it into the air, and shoot it like it’s skeet, but that does not have to be the case. Here’s how we made our trip work on a conservative, hey-we’re-still-saving-money-for-a-wedding budget. You can too, the next time you say yes to Paris. Prioritize location. Schlepping from outer neighborhoods to save cash wastes valuable minutes, and I wanted Neil to experience one of my favorite Parisian neighborhoods, centrally located Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The area can be pricey, but we found a deal on TabletHotels.com for boutique Hôtel Le Sénat, less than a block from the lovely, historic Jardin du Luxembourg (from about $171 per night; see below for more hotel recommendations). The moment I walked in, I knew we lucked out: Our quirky duplex room—the WC downstairs, a shower with a steeply slanted skylight upstairs—had air conditioning (not a guarantee in Parisian hotels), first-floor windows that swung open to reveal a sprawling array of warm yellow atelier windows, and a private upstairs balcony where we sipped café au laits in the morning and drank affordable Bordeaux late at night, a view of Sacré-Coeur basilica on the horizon, the needle of the Eiffel Tower poking up in the west. Tear up your itinerary. Following your heart, not your head, is essential to immersing yourself in Paris. The minute you start adhering to a strict schedule, you’re doing it wrong. When I first visited Paris, on a solo trip in 2011, I created an airtight itinerary of pastry-making classes, day trips, museum visits, and restaurant reservations. Ironically, the activities I enjoyed most—like seeing Marie Antoinette’s cell at the Conciergerie (about $9) and scoring a cashmere sweater on super-sale at Eric Bompard—weren’t on my docket. This trip, I swore I wouldn’t make the same mistake; instead, the first thing I wanted to do was take my sweet time in a café, not writing postcards or scrolling through emails on my phone, but sitting back with Neil, eating ham sandwiches on perfectly baked baguettes, ordering more cheese than necessary, and practicing our French. Le Rostand, a classic café around the corner from our hotel, quickly became our home base (33/1-43-54-61-58). Thirty minutes after I stepped off the RER train from Charles De Gaulle Airport, much cheaper than a taxi (about $11), we were seated at an outdoor table, a French feast before us—baguettes, fromage, vin rouge, jambon beurre—with people-watching at the Luxembourg Gardens across the street as our live-streaming entertainment. Nothing expensive, but everything we wanted from Paris. Walk. The best thing in Paris is free. Clouds are never fluffier and sunbeams never more rapturous than when seen from a bridge over the Seine. After our café outing, we walked hand-in-hand along the river, stopping to wind through the charmingly haphazard bookshelves at Shakespeare and Company and take a selfie on the Pont de L’Archevêché bridge. I insisted on a photo instead of clamping a love lock to the railing, even though I could tell Neil wanted a padlock of our own. We wandered to the Île St.-Louis for a salted caramel ice cream cone at Berthillon, doled out by an impossibly chipper blond woman to each person in line. Walkability is Paris’s great gift to visitors. Ambling when the city is quiet is so rich that tossing a coin into the Fontaine Saint-Michel becomes a toll you’re glad to pay: a token for looking up to find the soaring architecture of the Notre Dame Cathedral in your sight line, or the simple pleasure of making a mile and a half trek along the Seine, with a brief detour to gaze at bronze Étienne Martin sculptures at the Tuileries, capped off with a long kiss under the filigreed edges of the Eiffel Tower. Picnic hard. By the time I joined him, Neil had already acquainted himself with the local grocery stores, purchasing brie and Bordeaux from the St. Germain covered food market (4-6 rue Lobineau, 33/1-48-85-93-30) and cocoa-dusted truffles from Patrick Roger to surprise me. On Day 2, we packed an inexpensive bottle of red wine, brie, a baguette, a ham sandwich, a slice of duck pâté en croûte, a chocolate croissant, and Badoit sparkling water into a paper shopping bag and toted it to the Jardin du Luxembourg for a picnic. The manicured hedges, incongruous palm trees, and massive fountains were more bustling than peaceful on this summer Saturday, but we swooped in and found a concrete bench, where we spread out our bounty and took in the scene—children pointing at miniature sailboats, teenagers on dates holding hands, an orchestra under a pavilion playing a free concert for everyone within earshot. Total price for the full picnic: less than $35. Plan one splurge. Everyone has a financial weakness in Paris: expensive shows, fine dining, beauty products, pricey shoes… My advice: Budget for one big-ticket purchase and enjoy it. Mine was a classic canvas tote bag from Parisian fashion designer Vanessa Bruno’s airy, modern Rue Saint-Sulpice clothing boutique, a sartorial utopia bathed in white, where genial saleswomen assist guests in beautiful French and broken English (totes from about $93). On our last day in Paris, after we’d returned from the Eiffel Tower with a sliver of time to spare before our eight-hour flight, Neil and I made a beeline for Le Rostand for one last glass of red wine. We savored it slowly at a table next to an elderly Parisian couple eating bright-pink sorbet, and we wished we didn’t have to go. There is still so much left in Paris we want to share with each other. But I would do a weekend trip again in a heartbeat. Or, should I say, un battement de coeur. Yes, You CAN Take a Weekend Trip to Paris Flights to look for: My ticket on France’s XL Airways cost less than half the price of a last-minute ticket on Air France. XL, which flies out of Miami, San Francisco, L.A., and New York City, currently offers round-trip tickets to Paris from about $706. Beverage service in the cheap seats is limited, legroom is tight, and the weird guy sitting next to me was blasting Van Halen’s “Jump” through his tinny headphones, but you’ll get to Paris, and with a hot meal to boot. Another discount option: Icelandic airline WOW has round-trip flights to Paris out of Boston and D.C. from about $384. Hotels to try: If you decide against an apartment rental—more popular in Paris than ever before—send an email to the Hotel Du Lys, a 17th-century mansion between the Latin Quarter and St. Germain, to nab unadvertised rooms from about $116 per night, breakfast included. On the Right Bank, Hotel 29 Lepic’s stellar location, near Sacré-Coeur basilica and Moulin Rouge in Montmartre, is tough to beat for the price (from about $70 per night). Markets for stocking your picnic: Creatively flavored macarons such as “lemon and olive oil” from Pierre Hermé’s shops are garnering serious buzz (seven for about $20). Patisserie/boulangerie Gérard Mulot’s pastries and petits fours taste as good as they look; be polite and use French phrases when paying—the young women behind the busy counter appreciate it (baguettes from about $1.25). Le Marché Couvert Saint-Germain (translation: “St. Germain covered food market”), in the 6th arrondissement, kept us in wine and cheese, and hawks everything from fruit to flowers to freshly sliced noir de bigorre ham (4-6 rue Lobineau, 33/1-48-85-93-30). Pro picnic tip: Don’t forget a corkscrew.