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Best spots for fall foliage in the mid-west
MID-WEST Kansas In Northeast Kansas, the Glacial Hills Scenic Byways runs through a distinct landscape named for the rolling hills and the rock-strewn valleys. Its name reflects the receding ice, which left highly fertile farmland. Illinois In Southern Illinois, the Shawnee National Forest is a hiker’s paradise, seated between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and with paths meandering through canyons under forest canopies. Its crown jewel, Garden of the Gods, overlooks views of towering sandstone outcroppings formed millions of years ago. In the central part of the state, the Grandview Drive is considered to be one of Illinois’ most scenic routes. Indiana An hour from Indianapolis, Brown County State Park resembles the Great Smoky Mountains but Indiana’s largest park is fall color hot spot, with nearly 20 miles of tree-lined roads and many scenic vistas overlooking miles of uninterrupted forestland. The 2,300-acre O’Bannon Woods State Park is surrounded by beauty located within the foothills of Southern Indiana and bordering the Ohio and Blue rivers. Credit: Northeast Iowa RC and D Iowa Yellow River State Forest in Harpers Ferry makes for a good fall jaunt. Its Backpack Trail was named Iowa’s best hiking trail by Outdoor magazine in 1996, while Paint Creek Unit is quite the recreational hiking loop. Or catch some fall color via kayaking or canoeing on The Upper Iowa River in Northeast Iowa that can be accessed at Kendallville, Bluffton and Decorah. Minnesota The North Shore “All-American” Scenic Drive stretches 154 miles along the shore of Lake Superior is aligned with yellow aspen, birch trees and scarlet maples. And the Minnesota Great River Road follows the Mississippi River and passes through Chippewa National Forest, Itasca State Park and Frontenac and Great River Bluffs state parks. North Dakota The Rendezvous Region in northeast North Dakota is home to the wooded Pembina Gorge and Pembina Gorge State Recreation Area; hike on marked trails or rent a kayak to paddle along the Pembina River. Next, head west on the Turtle Mountain Scenic Byway and stop at Coghlan Castle and Lake Metigoshe State Park in the Turtle Mountains along the U.S/Canadian border. Credit: North Dakota Tourism Oklahoma The Talimena National Scenic Byway is a 50-mile drive partly through southeastern Oklahoma and touches upon Winding Stair Mountain in the Ouachita National Forest. Also in this region, Beavers Bend State Park is adorned with forests of pine and hardwood plus rugged terrain and waterways for seeing on foot. South Dakota Custer State Park is not only known for its free-roaming resident bison -- it also produces vibrant fall foliage at every turn. The Needles Highway has views of the Cathedral Spires, among birch, aspen and ponderosa pines while the Wildlife Loop leads towards Mt. Coolidge, where burr oak tree leaves burst in orange. On the northern edge of the Black Hills, Spearfish Canyon offers waterfall views from a spruce, pine, aspen, birch and oak tree forest.
When Everybody's an Expert, Who Can You Trust?
In February 2004, something funky happened on the Canadian version of Amazon.com. Because of a temporary glitch, you could see who had written which anonymous book review--and an amazing number were written by the authors themselves. Everyone has an agenda, right? It seems obvious, but we all forget it: Not all opinions are trustworthy. Rather than following advice blindly, you should always bear in mind where it came from, and how it was gathered. Some may argue that this article is self-serving, but we hate to see people get duped. What's especially galling is when authorities claim to be fair and balanced, and are anything but. Guidebooks Writing travel guides seems like a dream gig. The truth is, writers are rarely paid enough to cover the expenses necessary to do the job properly, let alone earn them a decent wage. So, unlike the major travel magazines, the authors accept freebies--which skews what they write about, and how. Many cut corners on their research, glancing at menus and hotel websites rather than actually evaluating places. Some writers even crib directly from other guidebooks. Furthermore, while most printed materials have a built-in lead time, books are worst of all. By the time a first edition actually sits in travelers' hands, the information is probably at least two years old. Subsequent editions tend only to be updated via phone and Internet, meaning the writer might not have even set foot in the destination in five or more years. What can you do? Always check for the copyright date (though guides are famous for hiding it, burying it at the back or after pages of glossy photos) to make sure the edition is recent. Cross-referencing between guidebooks, and supplementing with Internet sources, also helps. User review sites TripAdvisor, IgoUgo, and other sites that provide platforms where millions of travelers post their opinions certainly have a democratic appeal. But do you really want the opinion of just anybody? There are probably people in your life whose recommendations you don't trust--like the neighbor who lives on fast food and vacations at the same beach town you avoid--so why plan a trip according to a message that was posted by cooldude23? It's easier to take anonymous advice if there seems to be a consensus. But on a recent visit to IgoUgo, eight of what were rated the top 10 hotels in San Francisco were based on the reviews of one person each. The remaining two had two reviews apiece--hardly mass approval. Even when a hotel gets several postings, opinions tend to be all over the map. Las Vegas's Cancún Resort received the lowest possible rating from one reviewer ("beds were thin and you could feel the springs every time you turned over... bathrooms clogged up a couple of times"), a top score from another ("a great resort for a family!"), and several ratings in between. It's all very confusing, and turns the viewer into a psychologist, trying to figure out which message comes from a like-minded traveler. The best idea is to approach these sites like an ice-skating competition and throw out the high and low scores as aberrations. Then read the remarks carefully, looking for specific gripes and compliments about the details that matter to you. Convention & Visitors Bureaus Visitors centers can be wonderful sources of information, often doling out free maps and lodging assistance, but they're rarely completely objective. It's not that they lie outright--it's that they only present a select, enticing assortment of details. A brochure from the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce boasts of "559.6 miles of unspoiled coastline" yet never mentions that you'll run across more no trespassing and private property signs than you will public beaches. And the fact that parking on the Cape often costs $15 a day for outsiders? If all you read was the brochure, that's something you'd only discover upon arrival. Also, most CVB maps and information centers only list properties that are chamber members (meaning they pay dues), so you might not be getting the whole picture. Small establishments, in particular--cafés, B&Bs, galleries--don't often find it worthwhile to participate. Sometimes, the maps and materials distributed at rest stops and hotels aren't even produced by the CVB. One of our editors, while in Spearfish, S.D., noticed that an interesting-looking restaurant--the Bay Leaf Café--wasn't mentioned in the brochure in his motel room. "The big hotel chains contract out to companies who make other brochures, and they try to get us to buy ads in them," says Taffy Tucker, one of the restaurant's co-owners, when we called for an explanation. "If they're $225 a pop, that's over $1,000. That just doesn't work for us." The editor, who considers himself fairly aware, hadn't even realized that the guide wasn't civic-sponsored. The bottom line: You're wise to ask for a local's unvarnished opinion, and to keep your eyes open. Spokespeople Large companies such as American Express, Travelocity, Expedia, and Priceline employ staffers who present themselves as industry experts always available to the lazier members of the press. Expedia plays no role in house exchanges, but that didn't stop the Chicago Tribune from quoting Expedia spokesperson Cari Swartz on the topic. "Most people," she said, "prefer to stay in hotels." Expedia, of course, is in the business of selling hotel rooms. Some even have journalistic-sounding titles, such as editor-at-large--but they're not bound by journalism's traditional code of ethics. We just can't say it enough: Everyone in this industry has an agenda. And it's not always the same as yours. Before You Post That Nasty Review... A friend of mine recently stayed at a little hotel in Europe. He had a terrible time, so he posted a bad review on TripAdvisor once he got back. The hotel figured out who wrote it, and threatened to sue if he didn't take it down. American reviewers on bulletin boards such as TripAdvisor and IgoUgo might be surprised to learn that the rest of the world doesn't protect free speech the way the U.S. does. "Libel law overseas usually lets Americans be sued for any statement that stings a foreign business or resident," says Kurt Wimmer, a media lawyer at Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C. "And countries are taking the view that their courts can hear any dispute about content that can be accessed over the Internet in their country." As with so many things, you need to know your risks. Say you criticize a French hotel online, and the hotel sues you. "If you don't plan to make a habit of visiting France, you can ignore it," says Wimmer. "If a French court issues a default judgment, you can only be forced to pay if they 'execute' the judgment. And unless you live in the E.U., that's tough to do. If they were to try to execute the judgment in the U.S., they'd have to go to a U.S. court. Our courts have steadfastly refused to enforce foreign judgments that don't comply with our standards under the First Amendment." But what if you do plan on returning to France--or worse, own property there? "I'd be careful," he says. "You may not want to post quite so freely." But another thing to consider is that foreign lawyers don't usually take suits as easily as U.S. lawyers. "If a French hotel wants to sue you for libel, it'll need to pay a lawyer," says Wimmer. "France doesn't have contingency fees, where a lawyer will just take a case for free as long as he gets a cut of the winnings. Frankly, the hotel would know that its chances of collecting anything are slim, and be more likely to try to convince the site to just take a negative post down." All we'll add is that don't assume you'll be able to persuade TripAdvisor to remove your own review. My friend had a devil of a time, pulling every string he could find before getting some help. --Erik Torkells
South Dakota: Presidents, Tumbleweeds, and Brontoburgers
Day 1: Rapid City to Badlands Pre-trip research showed that the region has something for everyone, from wholesome families to thrillseeking bikers. Shawnda and I fall somewhere in between. Friends since high school, we now live on separate coasts and meet up once a year for a generally silly road trip. After arriving at the Rapid City airport, we drive 50 miles east to Wall Drug. It became well-known for the barrage of signs you pass on the approach, and now the glorified gift shop is famous because it's famous. I prefer my kitsch organic, not preprocessed; we make the best of it, posing atop a giant jackalope, laughing at the coin-operated diorama of dancing rabbits (one's arm has fallen off, another's arm is dangling by a mere thread), and watching kids get all atwitter as the animatronic T. Rex growls. Continuing east through Buffalo Gap National Grassland, we stop to admire a never-ending meadow of yellow flowers. What keeps us loitering there, though, is the deep silence. Badlands is Shawnda's kind of national park. You can hike, but you can also just pull over at a viewpoint, walk 50 yards, and snap a photo. The Badlands is my kind of national park, too, if for different reasons. It's gorgeous, but not in a standard way, with weird, desolate spires rising out of the prairie floor. The rock in the spires is composed of multicolored layers, and the colors change with the light. We check in at Cedar Pass Lodge, a collection of 22 cute, basic cabins on the park border. While Shawnda takes a nap, a thunderstorm blows in. The atmosphere turns primal. A curtain of black clouds draws across the sky, and lightning streaks on the horizon. I walk behind our cabin, dodging the tumbleweeds whizzing by. Even more tumbleweeds, driven by the wind, are forced up and over the back side of one of the spires. It looks like lava erupting from a volcano. The other research I did was to get restaurant recommendations from M.J. Adams, owner/chef of The Corn Exchange in Rapid City (which I'd read about in Gourmet). Near Badlands, she suggested Circle 10, off I-90, not far from a 15-foot prairie dog statue. We have salads with dried cherries, blue cheese, and walnuts, then BLTs on homemade English muffin bread. The people who own Circle 10 are very sweet, but Shawnda still wants to steal their pet mutt. At 10 p.m., we go on the Night Prowl. A Badlands ranger leads a group of about 30 on a 400-yard walk into the park, past some of the rocks. The goal is to look at the stars. We lie on the ground, while the ranger sermonizes about light pollution. We don't learn a whole lot, but just being outside at night, away from civilization, is a highlight of our road trip. Lodging Cedar Pass Lodge20681 Hwy. 240, Interior, 605/433-5460, cedarpasslodge.com, cabins from $65 Food Circle 10I-90, exit 131, Philip, 605/433-5451, BLT $6.50 Activities Wall Drug510 Main St., Wall, 605/279-2175, walldrug.com Badlands National Park605/433-5361, nps.gov/badl, $15 per car per week Day 2: Badlands to Custer The drive out of Badlands, along Route 44, is one of the most sublime Shawnda and I have taken. We generally rent convertibles, and we worried that it'd be too hot to go topless in July. But the weather stays bearable, and the sky is breathtaking: white at the horizon, turning bluer and bluer as you look up, until it peaks somewhere between cornflower and royal. We hightail it, as we're booked for the 1 p.m. Candlelight Tour at Wind Cave National Park. I've sworn off caves, having found them indistinguishable. But the Candlelight Tour goes to parts of Wind Cave not accessible on other tours, and you carry "candle buckets"--metal pails rigged so you hold them on their sides, with candles inside--just like 19th-century settlers did. Besides, the cave interior is 53 degrees year-round, and the day is really heating up. The 10 of us--11 if you count our guide, Michael--ride an elevator down 190 feet, then trudge single file through a lighted area. After about 15 minutes, Michael lights our candles and we head off into the dark. Candle buckets let you direct the light laterally, but not up or down, so you don't know how low the ceiling is or how bumpy the ground. I spend the two-hour tour in a perpetual stoop. There's a lot of interesting geology--grid-like formations called boxwork, nubby "popcorn," which looks like it sounds, and delicate crystals known as frostwork. We stop in a nook named Pearly Gates, and sit on ledges. Michael, who is highly earnest and from Malta, which makes for an entertaining combination, slowly scans the room. "Do you want to experience something . . . different?" he says, and Shawnda begins to giggle uncontrollably. He tells us to blow out our candles. In total darkness, your eyes try to adjust, but they can't--so you give in, and it stops mattering if your eyes are open or shut. The only food at Wind Cave is sold in vending machines, and when we surface we're starving. I'm excited to go to Flintstones Bedrock City, a campground in Custer with exhibits and photo ops, where you can actually order a Brontoburger. But the place is lame, in a word, and we head to Hill City, where we prepare to get an Old West photograph taken. The young women at Looking Back Photo (now closed) decide that I should be a "rugged cowboy" and Shawnda a "saloon girl." Let's just say that her credentials are more impressive than mine. When we call that afternoon, Sage Creek Grille, another M.J. favorite, says we don't need to reserve. But we arrive to find there's no room. We sulk our way over to Pizza Works (now closed), where we sit outside and peer up at the glowing Custer sign atop the hill. For dessert, we split a satisfying piece of blueberry pie at Reetz's, also known as the Purple Pie Place because, well, it's hard to miss. Lodging Comfort Inn & Suites301 W. Mt. Rushmore Rd., Custer, 605/673-3221, choicehotels.com, from $133 Food Sage Creek Grille611 Mt. Rushmore Rd., Custer, 605/673-2424, dinner entrées from $18 Purple Pie Place,19 Mt. Rushmore Rd., Custer, 605/673-4070, $3 Activities Wind Cave National Park605/745-4600, nps.gov/wica, Candlelight Tour $9 Flintstones Bedrock CityHwy. 16, Custer, 605/673-4079, $8 Day 3: Custer to Spearfish The Comfort Inn puts out a nice breakfast: Styrofoam cups hold single servings of waffle batter, and there are two waffle irons in the common room. But we can't pass up Chute Roosters, outside Hill City, if only because of the name. The food is forgettable, but the owner's a charmer. Roberta Wilburn, who bought the place in 1998, tells us about the ghost who haunts the building, an old dairy farm. When I try to buy a Chute Rooster mug (it's a rodeo term) she can't find the key to the vitrine, and promises to mail the mug if she ever locates the key. I fear she won't remember, however, as she's quite excited about the Elvis impersonator who'll be stopping by that evening (note: The restaurant is now under new management). And then, Rushmore. It might just be the world's greatest tourist trap--the idea for it came from state historian Doane Robinson, who in 1923 proposed that a monumental carving would draw more visitors to the Black Hills. It was a rare case of a historian actually making history. We're moved by the ambition and the artistry, but Rushmore is a bit of a yawner. Should it be seen? Absolutely. Does it take long? Not so much. We felt the same way about Crazy Horse Memorial, the Native American rejoinder to Rushmore, when we passed it yesterday. The scope is astounding, but we just didn't get much out of it--of course, we also didn't stop. Why pay $10 when we could see it from the road? M.J. raved about a burger in Rochford, a blip of a town, so we take Route 17 out of Hill City. It's unpaved part of the way, and the Black Hills are beautiful. At times, the road runs parallel to the Mickelson Trail; popular with hikers and cyclists, the trail traverses the length of the Black Hills from Edgemont to Deadwood. Moonshine Gulch Saloon, the burger place, is dingy and strange--words that can mean good things to me, but not to Shawnda. The ceiling is covered with business cards (including mine, now), baseball caps, snarky signs, all sorts of things, all coated in dust. We get a kick out of a rock next to our table. Painted on one side: PLEASE TURN ME OVER. Painted on the other: M-M-M THAT FEELS GOOD. The burger isn't bad, but the place freaks Shawnda out--particularly the photos of customers bottle-feeding a fawn next to an 8-by-10 glossy of a hunter holding antlers, the rest of the deer's corpse visible in his truck. She has to work up the nerve to go to the ladies' room. But not only is it fantastically clean, someone has written inspirational graffiti on the walls. It's perhaps the last place one would expect a quotation from Euripides. While my obsession has never been as strong as the one in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I've always longed to see Devils Tower, across the Wyoming state line. (The apostrophe got lost when the government proclaimed it a national monument, and all the bureaucrats in the world can't squeeze it back in.) Shawnda and I are heartened to hear that after climbers discovered that the tower is especially sacred to Native Americans in June, the number of climbers that month has dropped 80 percent. Scrambling over the boulder field at the base is enough climbing for us. We have a good laugh over the names given to the climbing routes ("Old Guys in Lycra"), the exhibit asking visitors to write what Devils Tower means to them ("It gives me the creeps"), and a tasteless T-shirt in a nearby gift shop ("I like it on top"). The parking lot at the Fairfield Inn in Spearfish, S.D., is full of vintage Chevy Impalas, as our visit coincides with a convention. We take our cue from them and have an evening of retro pleasures: a brownie sundae at the Bay Leaf Café and Air Hockey at an arcade, where we rock out to "Thunder Road" on the jukebox. Lodging Fairfield Inn2720 1st Ave. East, Spearfish, 605/642-3500, fairfieldinn.com, from $55 Food Chute Roosters101 Chute Rooster Dr., Hill City, 605/574-2122, breakfast $4 Moonshine Gulch Saloon22635 N. Rochford Rd., Rochford, 605/584-2743, $2.75 Bay Leaf Café126 W. Hudson, Spearfish, 605/642-5462, $5 Activities Mount Rushmore National Memorial Keystone, 605/574-2523, nps.gov/moru, $8 parking fee Crazy Horse MemorialHwy. 16/385, Crazy Horse, 605/673-4681, crazyhorse.org, $10 Devils Tower National Monument307/467-5283, nps.gov/deto, $10 per car Day 4: Spearfish to Rapid City Having spotted the Geographical Center of the U.S.A. on our map, I decide it'd make a fun photo op. We skip the Center's office in Belle Fourche, figuring all we really care about is the actual spot, and drive for 30 miles on a road that has more roadkill than we've ever seen. But there's no sign where the map has a dot, and the big empty nothingness doesn't have the same appeal as it did on Day 1. (Next time, I'll stop at the office.) On the return south, I want to check out another dot--the Government Experimental Farm. It sounds like a locale from The X-Files, and therefore worth investigating. Again, nothing there, except a lot of empty corrals. I try to convince Shawnda that federal scientists have found a way to turn animals invisible; it would certainly explain why cars keep running them over. Being neither bikers nor gamblers, we drive right through Sturgis, home of the big motorcycle rally every August, and Deadwood, an Old West town converted to a gambling destination. We stop for another burger, at Boondocks. It's full of Hollywood memorabilia, and we enjoy watching the bikers roar in. What we need is a challenge, and we find it at the Black Hills Maze. The maze is 1.2 miles of walkways, divided by wooden fences. There are four towers, and each one has an ink stamp with one of the Rushmore faces on it; the goal is to get all four stamps. We need an hour and four minutes to complete the maze, which is a huge victory if only because an hour and a half gets your name posted on the Hall of Shame. Two 9-year-olds solve it in 45 minutes. Built in 1928, Rapid City's Hotel Alex Johnson has neat old bones, though the water pressure and air-conditioning are feeble. It's a relief to be downtown, where we can walk rather than drive. There are statues of presidents on many corners, starting from both ends of American history, more or less (Washington, Bush Sr.); 25 are completed. Shawnda, obsessed with politics, can't resist chatting up the woman at The Presidents Information Center and posing with JFK, whereas I'm entranced by a Pomeranian that's been half-shaved to resemble a tiny buffalo. We've never met M.J., but by this point it feels like she's been in the back seat the whole time. In 1996, she moved from New York to Rapid City, where she opened The Corn Exchange. Her goal was to serve good food, using fresh ingredients. I'm happy to report that her restaurant is delightful. The room feels both sophisticated and homey--with a tin ceiling, hardwood floors, and exposed brick--and M.J. dotes on all her customers, including us. Shawnda and I split everything: a cheese plate, smoked trout on a white corn pancake, entrées of salmon and duck, and a bottle of pinot gris listed on the menu as Mr. Skikkels's favorite. Mr. Skikkels, M.J. informs us, is the cat who lives out back, and I should think he'd like the Belgian chocolate pot de crème even better than the wine. We certainly do. Lodging Hotel Alex Johnson523 Sixth St., Rapid City, 605/342-1210, alexjohnson.com, from $110 Food Boondocks21559 Hwy. 385, Deadwood, 605/578-1186, burger $6 The Corn Exchange727 Main St., Rapid City, 605/343-5070, entrées from $15 Activities Black Hills MazeHwy. 16, Rapid City, 605/343-5439, blackhillsmaze.com, $7 The Presidents Information Center631 Main St., Rapid City, 605/342-7272 Resources Center of the Nation415 5th Ave., Belle Fourche, 605/892-2676 Finding your way The tourist season is mid-May to mid-October, and many establishments hibernate in winter. Despite the northern latitude, summer is broiling, and August thunderstorms can be vicious. The good news: Rapid City has an efficient airport, with rental cars outside. Ours, from Thrifty, had a 150-mile-per-day restriction. We bet we wouldn't need the unlimited mileage upgrade, and were penalized $37 (148 miles over, at 25¢ a mile). We gained some of that back by using the Mt. Rushmore parking pass ($8 value) in the glove compartment. Thrifty says customers often leave theirs for the next driver.
10 Most Romantic Islands in the World
1. ST. LUCIA To give you an idea of how verdant St. Lucia's tropical vegetation is, in the film Superman II, Christopher Reeve flew all the way to the Caribbean island's Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens to pick two bird of paradise flowers for Lois Lane. Frequent sun showers (the locals call them "liquid sunshine") sparkle and descend over abundant waterfalls and crystal-clear bays, all under the watchful eyes of the island's two iconic volcanic landforms, Petit Piton and Gros Piton. SEE THE ROMANTIC ISLANDS! The eco-friendly resort Fond Doux Resort & Plantation, in the town of Soufrière, is nestled among fruit and vegetable trees including breadfruit, pawpaws, and mangoes (fonddouxestate.com, from $230 per night). Another option: Staying at Stonefield Estate Resort is well worth the splurge, with its ultra-private villas, each equipped with its own swimming pool, outdoor garden shower, and porch hammock (stonefieldresort.com, from $225 per night). We're not telling you to go skinny-dipping in your private pool, but if you've never tried it before, now would be the time. The property's free made-to-order breakfast—which includes local juices like tamarind and passionfruit, and specialty dishes like scrambled eggs and bacon nestled in a fresh-baked baguette—are served at Stonefield's Mango Tree restaurant, overlooking Soufrière Bay with an impeccable view of Petit Piton. Handsy lovebirds can head to the dormant volcano Sulphur Springs (billed as a "drive-in volcano") to rub handfuls of mud over each other's bodies, then submerge themselves in the Black Pool's legendary healing mineral waters (soufrierefoundation.org, $5). The benefit: baby-soft skin. Go on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, when foot traffic is light. The island is famous for its hardcore four-hour hike of Gros Piton, but the Tet Paul Nature Trail (called the "Stairway to Heaven" walk), with its panoramic island vistas as a reward, is doable even for non-athletes (soufrierefoundation.org, $5). While you're near Soufrière's town square, pop into Alin's Fast Food for roti (curried chicken and potato wrapped in unleavened bread) and a cold Piton beer (across the street from the Church of the Assumption, $7). In the mood for a charming candlelit dinner? Try The Hummingbird restaurant, specifically the coconut curry shrimp or the fisherman's catch, both served with cooked breadfruit and root vegetables, and a fresh-lime daiquiri to wash it down—plus the decadent chocolate rum cake for dessert (hummingbirdbeachresort.com, entrees from $10 to $15). Pro tip: Spray yourself down with mosquito repellent before you go. 2. FIJI If getting away from it all—far, far away—with your main squeeze is your fantasy, flying to Fiji fits the bill. The collection of 333 islands boasts so much untouched natural beauty that the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away was filmed here. (Talk about secluded.) If that's not tempting enough, the Fiji tourism board claims there were 600 proposals in Fiji last year...and 600 yeses. The rain-forest-rich island of Taveuni, with its coconut plantations and waterfalls, has much to offer lovers seeking beauty in nature. Every room at Garden Island Resort has an ocean view and outdoor space—plus you can take diving courses right on site (gardenislandresort.com, from $189 per night). Scuba-diving the colorful coral-blanketed Rainbow Reef—including the famous perpendicular Great White Wall of luminescent coral—for an up-close-and-personal peek at sea life, including barracuda and parrotfish, is a tradition for couples (taveunidive.com, from $114). If you venture off property for dinner, the menu at Vunibokoi Restaurant, part of the Tovu Tovu Resort, is chock-full of local eats like taro leaf and coconut cream soup and shelled mangrove crabs (tovutovu.com, entrees from $15 to $20). For an aboveground excursion, take a leisurely nature walk on the wooden-planked boardwalk through one of the world's largest Asian orchid collections at the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, 10 miles north of the town of Nadi (gardenofsleepinggiant.com, $16). Tranquility is easy to come by via the garden's massive lily pond and lush Fijian rain forest. But back to Cast Away: If you want to explore the beach where Tom Hanks taught himself to spearfish, take a boat ride to uninhabited Monuriki island and join the other movie buffs basking in the sun. 3. BORA BORA Bora Bora isn't nicknamed "The Romantic Island" for nothing. The six-mile-long French Polynesian island's overwater bungalows are the stuff postcard pictures are made of. Hotel Maitai Polynesia (bora.hotelmaitai.com, from $233 per night) offers both quintessential overwater bungalows—complete with glass coffee tables to spy the tropical fish flitting about in the turquoise lagoon below—and wallet-friendly garden-view rooms situated among exotic mountainside plants. Every room includes a bed strewn with local flowers. By day, an outfitter like Moana Adventure Tours or Bora Bora Romantic Tour can schedule private excursions ranging from a snorkel safari to a pricier private "motu" picnic, in which you dine à deux on Polynesian barbecue on a tiny islet, snorkel with manta rays, and feed sharks by hand. That's only if you're feeling flush, though. To offset the activities' cost, go with a group instead (boraboraromantic.com, moanaadventuretours.com, from $50 per person). On a special night, you can sample the prime rib at Restaurant Fare Manuia (689-67-68-08)—visitors rave about it—but the food trucks (called "roulottes") by the pier in Vaitape have delicious options too. One popular choice is Roulotte Matira ("Chez Sam"), which serves up tandoori chicken and curry. No matter what's on your itinerary, pencil in time to savor one of the island's vivid sunsets...kissing encouraged. 4. NORTH BIMINI, BAHAMAS A two-hour boat ride from Miami, North Bimini, Bahamas, allows for an island experience—minus the price of a long-haul plane ticket. The island offers a particularly enchanting piece of American history: Author Ernest Hemingway considered it his favorite escape, namely for the island's fishing. Marlin Cottage, where he stayed with his wife Pauline during his first summer on the island, is still available for rent at Bimini Blue Water Resort, a no-frills, tried-and-true fisherman's complex with 32 slips, ideal if casting and reeling is your shared passion (800/688-4752, from $101 per night). To up the bling factor, couples can book their own private guest villa at Resorts World Bimini (rwbimini.com, from $180 per night)—or wait until winter 2015 when the property's sleek Marina Hotel opens, offering high-end amenities like floor-to-ceiling windows, marble bathrooms, and an expansive rooftop pool and bar. One sentimental must-do: Visit the otherworldly-looking, undulating Love Tree, atop a rocky outcropping right on the beach. Several couples have gotten engaged under it, and it's a lovely photo op to boot—local Bahamian legend says it brings good luck and fortune to those who kiss beneath it. To win your lover over forever, tote along a slice of sweet cinnamon-raisin or coconut Bimini bread from A Taste of Heaven Bakery and Take-Away (Kings Highway). If the lure of Hemingway whets your and your partner's appetite for adventure, check with your hotel to find an outfitter who can take you snorkeling at the eerie shipwreck site of the SS Sapona, which functioned as a booze repository during Prohibition before a hurricane obliterated it in 1926. Afterward, clamber up a giant rope swing and jump off the wreckage together into the blue ocean. Come dinnertime, share a lobster pizza at Edith's Pizza, not far away from the bakery (Kings Highway). Bonding has never been so delicious. 5. CURAÇAO Part of the fun of this island is saying its name: CURE-uh-sow. Planners with tight schedules and trim budgets can hit Curaçao almost anytime: This Dutch Caribbean island is one of the three A-B-C islands—along with Aruba and Bonaire—that you can book without bad-weather concerns: They're situated below the weather "belt," making them essentially immune to hurricane season. Once you're in Curaçao, strolling hand-in-hand seaside in the historic capital city of Willemstad among the brightly colored buildings, the Queen Emma pontoon bridge in the background, is like being on your own romantic movie set. Kayaking Spanish Bay is another film-perfect experience for couples. Outfitters like Adrenaline Tours Curaçao will take you out for an afternoon of kayaking and snorkeling among the coral and scorpion fish (adrenalinetourscuracao.com, from $45). Take bets on who can spot the most live lobsters under the sea. For a private sanctuary feel, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort sits on 27 acres of exotic natural preserve (santabarbararesortcuracao.com, from $189 per night)...and serves up blue curaçao cocktails in the lobby (of course). Check "eat fresh seafood" off your list at local favorite Sea Side Terrace, a restaurant housed in a shipping container that cooks up fresh lionfish and dishes out fish soup and other inexpensive dishes (599-461-8361, from $4.50)—all while you lounge under straw umbrellas with your feet in the Caribbean sea. 6. BORACAY Loafing is encouraged on Boracay, a teensy four-mile island in the Philippines lauded for its beautiful pristine beaches. Expansive White Beach is the most popular (read: touristy), but peace and quiet can be had at Puka Beach for the price of a tricycle ride to reach it (about $3). Those in search of relationship zen can seek it at the Argonauta Boracay boutique hotel, surrounded by tropical gardens bursting with ferns and heliconias and an indoor garden with koi pond, where you can sip your morning coffee or an evening cocktail. Lounge on the roof deck to soak in panoramic ocean views (argonauta-boracay.com, from $125 per night). When you've had enough sunbathing, take the plunge with your lover at eco-adventure locale Ariel's Point, where you can climb up a bamboo ladder and cliff-dive in tandem, as part of a daylong excursion (arielspoint.com, $46). The flat fee buys you a boat cruise to and from the destination, cliff-diving, snorkeling, kayaking, hammock lounging, an open bar serving local spirits and beers (San Miguel and Red Horse), snacks, and an ample lunch buffet of traditional Filipino dishes like longaniza sausages and pancit noodles. A traditional candlelit dinner it's not, but D'Talipapa, a cook-it-yourself "wet market," allows you to choose your own raw seafood and have it cooked in a nearby stall. We hear great things about the garlic and butter prawns and the lobster. To whittle the price further, impress your companion by bargaining with the sellers. 7. LANAI, HAWAII Hawaii, that quintessential honeymoon destination, is indeed within a budget traveler's grasp in Lanai—no plunking down a high-limit credit card for a pricey resort necessary. Hotel Lanai, an 11-room inn originally built as lodging for Dole Plantation execs in the 1920s, has cozy, plantation-themed decor and a free continental breakfast (from $149 per night, hotellanai.com). For lunch, settle in at Lanai Ohana Poke Market and try multiple types of the Hawaiian pupu seafood dish poke, including spicy ahi and mini octopus (808/559-6265, facebook.com/lanaiohanapokemarket, entrees $7 to $14). Go early, around 10:30 a.m., before the poke runs out. Your own relationship will hopefully turn out better than the tragic one credited with the legend of Sweetheart Rock (Puu Pehe), a heart-shaped sea stack you can view from the 15-minute hiking trail leading up from Hulopoe Beach Park (gohawaii.com). According to local lore, a warrior from Lanai captured a beautiful princess from Maui, married her, and imprisoned her in a sea cave close to the rock in order to discourage potential suitors from laying eyes on her. Bad weather kicked up one day, drowning the princess. Anguished, the warrior plummeted from the top of the rock to his own death. On a more uplifting note, if you peer closely from the breathtaking hilltop vantage point, you might see spinner dolphins frolicking in the waves. 8. LOMBOK Couples looking for an unconventional trip, take note: The tropical island of Lombok, Bali's quieter next-door neighbor, is known for its unspoiled white-sand beaches, sea turtle-rife waters for scuba-diving, and righteous waves ideal for surfing. Scuba Froggy has three locations and will take you scuba-diving among a range of sea creatures, from clownfish to coral fans (scubafroggy.com/en; from $25). Chic boutique hotel Qunci Villas in Senggigi offers a number of "romantic moments," from vow renewal to a romantic dinner decorated with local flowers—or just grab a cocktail and tapas at the outdoor lounge bar for sunset happy hour and watch the sun dip down beneath a deep-orange horizon (quncivillas.com; from $189 per night). For an authentic local food, Warung Hesty, in Pujut, doesn't look like much, but travelers say dishes like Lombok curry and spicy chicken fried rice are excellent—and affordable (0818546441). If you desire a bit more atmosphere, dine in a private outdoor bamboo hut at Coco Beach restaurant, in Senggigi. Fresh fish and chicken, Indonesian eats like gado gado (mixed vegetables and eggs with peanut sauce), and herbal teas are all on the menu (628175780-055; entrees from $5 to $10). 9. MALLORCA This Spanish island located in the Mediterranean Sea offers a wallop of art and history along with its jet set-approved culture. The HM Balanguera, in the city center of Palma de Mallorca, offers contemporary design—bright-white interiors with rustic wood accents—and a chic rooftop pool with lounge chairs and private cabanas suitable for cuddling with a cocktail in hand (hmbalanguera.com, from $112 per night). For your daily dose of culture, take a tour of the Majorca Cathedral, right on the sea, built over more than 400 years and completed in 1601 (catedraldemallorca.info or spain.info, $8). Or pay a visit to famed Mallorcan artist Joan Miró's museum and his studio—left just as it was when he died (miro.palma.cat, $8). For pure fun farther north, charter a 50-foot schooner for a three-hour sunset sail including platters of tapas and cold drinks and ample opportunity for a dip in the Bay of Pollensa (tudordawnyachtcharters.com, from about $65). If the beach is your preferred scene, Cala Major is the one closest to the city center. It's equipped with public restrooms, showers, and chairs and umbrellas for rent. When sightseeing has left you famished, duck into Celler Sa Premsa with your date and sample authentic Mallorcan cuisine, including tumbet(cooked potatoes, eggplant, and red peppers with tomato sauce), frito mallorquín(fried lamb liver with potatoes, peppers, and herbs), and local wines, amid warm rustic décor including vintage bullfighting posters and walls fashioned out of wine barrels (cellersapremsa.com, entrees from $11 to $17). 10. MALDIVES There's something about these sinking islands that gives them a romantic it's-now-or-never vibe, perfect for couples crazy in love. On the other hand, when travelers think "Maldives," they also think "expensive," but that doesn't have to be the case. The recent government-sanctioned rise of informal guesthouses with local families as the hosts has presented an alternative to ultra-expensive resorts. The Amazing Noovilu guesthouse on Mahibadhoo, for example, starts at $125 per night for accommodations and all meals, and your host, Mazin, will take you on-shore fishing and give you Maldivian language lessons for free (theamazingnoovilu.com). Resort-wise, the luxe Kurumba Maldives, located on its own private island, offers a variety of last-minute and holiday deals, plus flexible meal plans if you want to dine on-property; breakfast is always free (kurumba.com, from $260 per night). Whale shark excursions are huge in the Maldives. Swim right next to this (harmless) biggest fish in the world with an outfitter like Blue Tribe, which also offers low-key romantic stargazing cruises complete with sparkling wine and petit fours if whale-spotting isn't your thing (bluetribe.biz). For authentic food at a joint frequented by local fisherman, hit up the Dawn Café tea house on the heavily Muslim island of Malé for dishes like chicken briyani and curries (960/331-2286). A more romantic atmosphere can be found on Malé at Sala Thai Restaurant, which counts classic Thai dishes like masaman and panang curries and stir-fried noodle dishes among its extensive menu items (salafamilymaldives.com).
Where to Find the Best Pizza in America
MIDWESTERN PIZZA: CHICAGO-STYLE AND BEYOND "Pizzeria Uno on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Birthplace of Chicago-style." —James Michalek "In Chicago, I head to Lou Malnati's for famous deep dish pizza." —@SheilaS "Classic Slice in Bay View, WI (Milwaukee)." —Jill Gronowski Czajkowski "We love the pizza at Dough Trader Pizza in Spearfish, South Dakota. Yummy sourdough crust from start that is 100 years old. It is pizza to die for." —Cheryl Wyckoff Smith "In Chicago, Eduardo's." —Michelle Buchecker "Imo's Pizza in St. Louis. Delicious!" —Reesa Lehr "Pizza Shoppe in Kansas City, near Liberty, Missouri. The crust has the right amount of crunch with great sauce that compliments any toppings." —Mamie Kuhl "In Chicago, Lou Malnati's, and in Madison, Grampa's Pizzeria." —Sher BonDurant "Gino's East in Chicago." —Alisha Nicole "The Art of Pizza in Chicago. Best deep dish in the city, hands down." —Jennifer Hayes "Alibi in Troy, Michigan." —Denise Martin-Capling "In Chicago, Pequods Pizza. The caramelized crust is awesome." —Kanya Babu IS THE NORTHEAST AMERICA'S PIZZA CHAMP? "Federici's [Family Italian Restaurant] in Freehold, NJ. My parents had their first date there in 1950." —Carol Davison "Patzeria Perfect Pizza on West 46th Street near Broadway in NYC. It is literally a hole in the wall consisting of a counter and four seats, but the pizza and cheesecake are fabulous! New York Style at its best. We stop there every year during our annual trip to NYC." —Michelle Persinger Caruthers "Louie and Ernie's, in the Bronx, is my favorite pizza in NYC." —Robert Firpo-Cappiello "Pepe's in New Haven." —Michele Herrmann "Lombardi's on Spring Street in Manhattan." —Alex Chan "Al Capone's in Downtown Boston. Their subs are outta this world also!" —Denise Keats "Grimaldi's. They have several locations, but the best is in Brooklyn." —Lisa Gordon Liff "Pizza Land in North Arlington, NJ. Soprano's Pizza." —Ana Rosa "Benny Tudino's in Hoboken, NJ." —Lori Schmidt Ernest "Pizza Wagon in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NYC." —Michelle DiGaetano "Santarpio's Pizza, in East Boston, near the airport." —Mike Buscetto "Rowayton Pizza in Rowayton, CT! You can sit outside in the summer, it's BYOB and you can smell the salt air. Divine!" —Kelsey Leigh Williams "Lobingers in PA." —Kerry McAllister "Stanziato's in Danbury, Connecticut." —Kristy Anderson Boiano "Alfredo's Pizza in Bally, PA. Greasy, foldable, and delicious. The best." —Anita Ling Vanzile "Pizzeria Regina in Boston's North End." —Gina Cali "Sally's in New Haven." —Kelly Jameson Walker "American Flatbread in Burlington, VT. Mack's Pizza in Wildwood, NJ." —Rich Brown "Stone Harbor Pizza in Stone Harbor, NJ." —Marilyn Capolarella Currey "Pino's Pizza in Cleveland Circle, Boston." —Michael P. Nasser "Paras Pizza in Sanford, Maine." —Cathy T. Bradbury SOUTHWESTERN-STYLE PIZZA "Dion's Pizza in Albuquerque. The salads there are awesome too!" —Thu Doan "Rome's Pizza in San Antonio, the De Zavala location. Yum. I really miss it (living in Chicago now). Be sure to check out the menu. My favorite pizza is the Tomato Duet. There are other great unique topping combos." —Kim Jones"Oregano's in Gilbert, AZ. So delicious!" —Carrie Collins PIZZA WITH A SOUTHERN ACCENT "DiCarlo's Pizza in Wheeling, WV. Order by the slice or by the tray. Best there is." —Helen Gibbs "Slice Pizzeria in New Orleans on historic Magazine Street near the boutiques, between the Zoo and Garden District." —@Winny_Churchill "Vinnie Van Gogo's in Savannah, GA." —Aubrey Hanson "In Atlanta, it's Antico Pizza or nothing!" —Lauren Hanson Mitchell "Oklahoma City, Plaza District: Empire Pizza is phenomenal. Everything from standard to exotic local flavor combinations. Great price, just over $3 a slice, and you must try adding the pink sauce!" —Holly Fothergill "Primanti Bros. in Fort Lauderdale. Family-owned small chain brought their pizza to Florida. They have a 24-hour shop across the street from the beach. Also have heavy duty sandwiches. Grab some of that great pizza and go and eat it in front of the waves." —JoJo Red THE BEST PIZZA IN THE WEST "I'd like to say I travel the world for pizza, but Blaze Pizza is great and they are headquartered in Pasadena, California, about three miles from my house!" —Shannon McConnell "George's in Brookings, South Dakota. Walk up window!" —Ann Shoup "Gioia in Berkeley, CA." —RuthAnn Yeo "Boston's North End Pizza Bakery (aka Boston Bob's Pizza) in Kailua, HI. We always went there when I was a kid and Bob would put on whatever music we wanted—he always got a kick out of us asking him to play The Beatles!" —Kaeli Conforti" Tony's Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and Gina's Pizza and Pastaria in Corona del Mar, CA." —Julie Hamilton "Big O To Go in Mission Viejo. Same location, same owners for 30 years, and the best fresh ingredients piled high on every pizza." —Pi Scofield "Quei Bravi Ragazzi in Encinitas, CA." —Allison Fraiberg
12 Best Fall Foliage Trips
It's the most colorful time of the year! Here in the northeast, we're surrounded by beautiful shades of orange, red, and yellow as leaf-peeping season kicks into full swing—but you don't have to be in just one region to appreciate all the fall foliage. We've got 11 great seasonal spots around the country—and one in eastern Canada—where you can see the leaves in all their colorful splendor, whether by car, train, boat, or by going for a nice, long walk in the crisp fall air. If all else fails, you can always choose to live vicariously through our Fall Into Foliage board on Pinterest. SEE YOUR BEST PHOTOS OF BEAUTIFUL FALL COLORS! 1. VERMONT It goes without saying that Vermont is one of the most well-known places in the U.S. when it comes to fall foliage—especially in the central and southern parts of the state, the Lake Champlain Islands, areas near Burlington, and in the beautiful Green Mountains. As of right now, most of the state is already seeing the first hint of fall colors, with late, more subtle changes in color still slated to happen over the weekends of October. Up for a scenic fall foliage drive? Vermont's Tourism website offers a printable list of more than 20 drives around the state ranging anywhere from 30 to 210 miles long, as well as regional and historical points of interest, apple orchards, and popular local attractions you shouldn't miss along the way. WHERE TO STAY Eddington House Inn, an adorable B&B located in Bennington, Vermont. Rates from $159 per night thru Oct. (from $139 per night Nov. thru June), include complimentary WiFi, breakfast, parking, and sweet treats like locally made chocolate truffles. 2. NEW YORK Whether you're planning to venture upstate in search of fall fun or opt to stay in the big city, New York gives you plenty of options—visit this website for a detailed list of all the great spots within the state to view fall foliage as peak levels tend to change depending on where you are. Baseball fans will want to visit Cooperstown, home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, while other outdoorsy leaf-peeping activities include renting kayaks on Lake Otsego or hiking among the gorgeous fall colors at Glimmerglass State Park. For an exciting day trip, bring the family to Barton Orchards now through Nov. 2nd, located about a 90-minute drive north of the City in Poughquag, New York, and home to hayrides, train rides, a corn maze, haunted house, and the chance to pick perfect farm-fresh apples, pumpkins, corn and other seasonal vegetables to take home as delicious fall souvenirs. Don't miss the Farm Bakery & Market where you can pick up maple syrup, seasonal mixes and spices, baked pies and desserts, fudge, and best of all, cider donuts. (Activity wristbands are available for $12.50 and include a $3 general admission fee. Prices for fresh-picked apples, pumpkins, and veggies vary by quantity. Please note that no outside food or beverages are allowed on the farm, but feel free to bring your own wagon). Or if you'd rather stay in the heart of the Big Apple, go for a stroll around Central Park, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, or Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx in the fall for vibrant color changes during the last few weeks of October into November—pick any spot in the park for a fall picnic, just don't forget to bring your camera! WHERE TO STAY The Wyndham New Yorker Hotel has a great vacation package now thru Dec. 29, 2015, that includes overnight accommodations from $169 per night, continental breakfast, and free tickets to the Empire State Building. 3. CANADA While there are definitely enough places in Canada to warrant its own fall foliage report, we'd like to point out one of our favorite spots in Québec for the purposes of this story: Mont Tremblant, an exquisite ski town roughly two hours outside of Montréal that always has something fun going on no matter what season we're in, and fall is no exception. Hop a quick flight on Porter Airlines from Newark, Washington D.C., Burlington, Chicago, Myrtle Beach, or from any of 12 connecting Canadian cities to reach this beautiful ski town nestled in the heart of Canada's Laurentians (they even serve wine onboard—for free!). In Tremblant, there are plenty of outdoor activities to keep you busy while you're admiring the fall colors showcased on the mountains around you: play a round of golf on one of the area's two championship golf courses, treat youself to a 60-minute cruise on the 7.5-mile long Lake Tremblant ($24 for adults; $19 for seniors ages 60 and up; $8 for children ages 2-12, free for children two and under), rent a bike for the afternoon (prices vary), explore the mountain on one of 12 hiking trails, or take a ride to the summit on the panoramic gondola (Adults pay $19.99 per ride; children ages 6-12 pay $15.99; children ages 3-5 pay $4.19, and those under age 2 ride for free; Gondola tickets must be purchased online at least two days in advance). After a long day outside, try your luck at the Casino de Mont-Tremblant (a free shuttle is available every 30 minutes between the casino and the pedestrian village), relax your tired muscles at the nearby Scandinave Spa Mont-Tremblant (access to the Scandinavian Baths for $48 per person; 60-minute Swedish Massages from $130 per person including access to the baths. Take advantage of their fall special—$35 Scandinavian Bath access or $95 for a 60-minute massage with baths), or check out one of the special fall sales happening at Tremblant's many boutique shops. WHERE TO STAY The Residence Inn Mont Tremblant Manoir Labelle offers rooms from $157 per night and is within walking distance of most area attractions. 4. COLORADO Estes Park is the perfect place to view not only fall foliage, but also elk and other area wildlife this time of year. Nature lovers can go fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding in nearby Estes Valley, or even participate in flood recovery efforts. For a spookier fall experience, try one of the Ghost & History Tours at the Historic Stanley Hotel, also known for having paranormal investigators and psychics onsite. Autumn is also the best time of year to take a drive on the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, one of the prettiest drives in Colorado, if not the whole U.S. Other scenic leaf-peaping hot spots in Colorado include Kebler Pass near Gunnison-Crested Butte, the 236-mile loop of San Juan Skyway, The Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway, Trail Ridge Road, and Rocky Mountain National Park, among 25 scenic and historic byways that typically showcase the state's world-famous golden Aspens. A ride on the Georgetown Loop Railroad is also a memorable way to see the fall colors and learn a little about the area's mining history. (Tickets are from $25.95 for adults; from $18.95 for children ages 3-15). WHERE TO STAY The Rocky Mountain Park Inn offers rooms from $129 per night—their Dine & Dash package includes overnight accommodations with dinner and drinks for two at their restaurant, Longz Bar & Grill, from $110 per night. 5. WEST VIRGINIA Grant County is home to some of the most beautiful fall foliage in the country, and the best way to see it is by train. For one night only, Oct. 16th, the Autumn Splendor Dinner Train will travel through Petersburg, West Virginia, just in time for the red and gold leaves to make their debut. You'll start by sampling local delicacies during a food and wine tasting at the South Side Depot in Petersburg while you wait for your train, and enjoy a West Virginia-made dinner of beef brisket, shrimp, potatoes, green beans, and your choice of homemade chocolate fudge turtle cake or pumpin cheesecake for dessert, all while admiring the view. (Tickets are $60 per person for adults only; reservations required). WHERE TO STAY For a fun vacation option, stay at the Smoke Hole Caverns & Log Cabin Resort located in Spruce Knob Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area near Seneca Rocks, WV. Rates at the Log Motel range from $69-$119 depending on which day you go, while cottages are available from $129 per night. 6. TENNESSEE In Tennessee's southeastern corner about two hours from Nashville lies Chattanooga, the state's fourth-largest city nestled alongside the Tennessee River, and a prime spot for viewing fall foliage. The best part: not only is Chattanooga known for having a teriffic network of hiking, biking, and nature trails, but you also have the unique opportunity to view fall foliage by boat. Enter the Southern Belle Riverboat, sailing several times a day from Pier 2, with dinner cruises, lunch cruises, sunset cruises or 90-minute sightseeing cruises up and down the gorgeous Tennessee River. Prices for their three-hour Fall Leaf Cruise—available daily from Oct. 1st thru Nov. 15th—start at $35.95 for adults and $17.95 for children ages 3-12. WHERE TO STAY Several hotels in Chattanooga are offering fun specials including two-night/three-day packages with tickets to area attractions like Ruby Falls and Rock City Gardens. 7. MISSOURI If you're looking for the ultimate scenic fall drive, Branson and the Ozarks are home to three of the area's best fall foliage driving tours (and one walking/jogging tour) aimed to please any leaf-peeping enthusiast. Stop by the Welcome Center located at Highway 65 and State Highway 248 for free maps and tips about local attractions, then set off on your fall road trip adventure. The first driving tour takes you on a 90-minute loop around Table Rock Lake and Kimberling City, while the second takes you on a 70-minute loop from Downtown Branson around Forsyth and Rockaway Beach. The third, more in-depth fall foliage drive is a four-hour long journey through Bull Shoals, Peel Ferry, and Mark Twain National Forest, while the walking/jogging tour just takes you on a 1.5-mile tour of Branson Landing and Downtown Branson along Lake Taneycomo, home to Main Street Lake Cruises, another fun way to get a unique look at the region's fall colors. (Tickets are from $26.50 per person. Check the website for more details on pricing and scheduling. Must reserve at least 72 hours ahead). WHERE TO STAY Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing offers rates from $129 per night to stay in the heart of town. 8. WISCONSIN One of our favorite places to write about is Door County, a bucolic peninsula between Lake Michigan and Green Bay not only known for its lakes, art, and cherries, but also as a fall foliage viewing destination. Be sure to check the Fall Color Report for the latest leaf-peeping updates. Embrace changing seasons with any number of available outdoor activities ranging from cruises on the lake, horse-drawn wagon rides around town, to even a scenic airplane ride over the area, or stick to golfing, sailing, fishing, horseback riding, sightseeing, and hunting for that perfect antique souvenir to bring back home. The best part about visiting Door County this time of year: all the roadside stands and farmers' markets selling fresh, hot apple cider among other farm fresh produce and wines from local vineyards. WHERE TO STAY The Lodgings at Pioneer Lane in Ephraim, Wisconsin, offers a small suite from $90 per night year-round and your choice of six larger suites from $109-$139 Nov. thru mid-June and from $169-$199 from mid-June thru Oct 31st. 9. TEXAS Located about an hour and 45 minutes outside of San Antonio near the town of Vanderpool is Lost Maples State Natural Area, one of best spots for fall foliage in all of the Lone Star State. Spend some time admiring the colors of nature during a fall hike, camping trip, bird watching adventure or treat yourself to a fall picnic in the park. In this part of the country, the leaves tend to change color closer to early-to-mid-November, so there's still plenty of time to get in on the action—check the Fall Foliage Report, updated weekly from October thru November, just in case. Keep an eye out for vibrant red, orange, and golden colored leaves near Daingerfield, Martin Creek, Lake Bob Sandlin, and Martin Dies Jr. State Park in East Texas, known for its oaks, elms, and sweetgums. You'll also find golden and bright yellow cottonwoods throughout Palo Duro Canyon and Caprock Canyon State Park, as well as rusty-colored leaves that contrast with a swampy, Spanish moss-covered Caddo Lake State Park. WHERE TO STAY Foxfire Cabins in the Vanderpool area offers cozy two-bedroom log cabins from $90 per night. 10. OREGON In the greater Portland and Columbia River area, fall foliage is served up with a side of waterfalls, majestic gardens, dramatic river gorges, and no shortage of local wineries. Take a drive down the scenic Columbia River Highway for views of 900-foot tall cliffs and steep flowing waterfalls overlooking the vast valley. Fall colors can be seen throughout the vineyards of Willamette Valley, where grape vines light up in a variety of reds and yellows. Hiking enthusiasts should make the scenic 1.2-mile, 600-foot ascent to Multnomah Falls for stunning views of the valley below. WHERE TO STAY Comfort Inn Columbia Gorge Gateway offers rates from $85 per night and puts you right in the heart of the action just a 20-minute drive from Multnomah Falls along the scenic Columbia River. 11. CALIFORNIA Yosemite is a wonderful place to celebrate fall and an ideal time of year to visit without having to worry too much about crowds and high hotel prices. Mono County, in California's Eastern Sierra region, is also known for its colorful mix of evergreens, big-leaf maples, Pacific dogwoods, black oaks, and other trees that usually reach their peak colors in mid-to-late October. WHERE TO STAY We love the Yosemite Naitonal Park hotel package from the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Chowchilla—Yosemite Park Area. You'll get overnight accommodations, a park entrance pass valid for seven days for one vehicle full of people, two tickets for the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad steam train, and other perks, from $158 per night. 12. SOUTH DAKOTA Each year the area is draped in color, from the yellow Aspens, elm, ash, and oak trees, to the bright reds of the sumac and maple trees. It's easy to work these scenic drives in as a way of traveling between sites and cities—one of the most scenic, Iron Mountain Road, is a 17-mile road that winds its way through the Black Hills between Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park, both of which are definitely worth visiting in their own rite. Drive the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway, another twisting mountain road that features six rock tunnels and views of the area's mighty Aspens. Hiking and biking enthusiasts can enjoy the 109-mile long Mickelson Trail that runs through the Black Hills with 15 trailheads to choose from. The Spearfish Canyon State & National Forest Service Scenic Byway is also worth a look, as it offers beautiful forest views and all the colors of its spruce, aspen, pine, oak, and birch trees as it winds its way along the Canyon's limestone cliffs. WHERE TO STAY Any of the great hotels mentioned in this story about the perfect South Dakota road trip, including Frontier Cabins in Wall (near Badlands National Park, from $74 per night), Springhill Suites by Marriott in Deadwood (from $79 per night), State Game Lodge in Custer State Park (from $115 per night), or the Adoba EcoHotel Rapid City (from $101 per night).
More Places to go
Deadwood (Lakota: Owáyasuta; "To approve or confirm things") is a city in and county seat of Lawrence County, South Dakota, United States. It was named by early settlers after the dead trees found in its gulch. The city had its heyday from 1876 to 1879, after gold deposits had been discovered there, leading to the Black Hills Gold Rush. At its height, the city had a population of 25,000, attracting Old West figures such as Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane, and Wild Bill Hickok (who was killed there). According to the 2010 census, the population was 1,270. The entire town has been designated as a National Historic Landmark District, for its well-preserved Gold Rush-era architecture. Deadwood's proximity to Lead often prompts the two towns being collectively named "Lead-Deadwood".
Lead ( LEED) is a city in Lawrence County, South Dakota, United States. The population was 3,124 at the 2010 census. Lead is located in western South Dakota, in the Black Hills near the Wyoming state line.
The Black Hills (Lakota: Ȟe Sápa; Cheyenne: Moʼȯhta-voʼhonáaeva; Hidatsa: awaxaawi shiibisha) is a small and isolated mountain range rising from the Great Plains of North America in western South Dakota and extending into Wyoming, United States. Black Elk Peak (formerly known as Harney Peak), which rises to 7,244 feet (2,208 m), is the range's highest summit. The Black Hills encompass the Black Hills National Forest. The name "Black Hills" is a translation of the Lakota Pahá Sápa. The hills are so called because of their dark appearance from a distance, as they are covered in evergreen trees.Native Americans have a long history in the Black Hills. After conquering the Cheyenne in 1776, the Lakota took the territory of the Black Hills, which became central to their culture. In 1868, the U.S. government signed the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, establishing the Great Sioux Reservation west of the Missouri River, and exempting the Black Hills from all white settlement forever. However, when settlers discovered gold there in 1874, as a result of George Armstrong Custer's Black Hills Expedition, miners swept into the area in a gold rush. The US government took the Black Hills and, in 1889, reassigned the Lakota, against their wishes, to five smaller reservations in western South Dakota, selling off 9 million acres (36,000 km2) of their former land. Unlike most of South Dakota, the Black Hills were settled by European Americans primarily from population centers to the west and south of the region, as miners flocked there from earlier gold boom locations in Colorado and Montana.As the economy of the Black Hills has shifted away from natural resources (mining and timber) since the late 20th century, the hospitality and tourism industries have grown to take its place. Locals tend to divide the Black Hills into two areas: "The Southern Hills" and "The Northern Hills." The Southern Hills is home to Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Black Elk Peak (the highest point in the United States east of the Rockies, formerly and still more commonly known as Harney Peak), Custer State Park (the largest state park in South Dakota), the Crazy Horse Memorial, and The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, the world's largest mammoth research facility. Attractions in the Northern Hills include Spearfish Canyon, historic Deadwood, and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, held each August. The first Rally was held on August 14, 1938, and the 75th Rally in 2015 saw more than one million bikers visit the Black Hills. Devils Tower National Monument, located in the Wyoming Black Hills, is an important nearby attraction and was the United States' first national monument.
Rapid City (Lakota: Mni Lúzahaŋ Otȟúŋwahe; "Swift Water City") is the second most populous city in South Dakota and the county seat of Pennington County. Named after Rapid Creek, where the settlement developed, it is in western South Dakota, on the Black Hills' eastern slope. The population was 67,956 as of the 2010 Census.Known as the "Gateway to the Black Hills" and the "City of Presidents" because of the life-size bronze president statues downtown, Rapid City is split by a low mountain ridge that divides the city's western and eastern parts. Ellsworth Air Force Base is on the city's outskirts. Camp Rapid, part of the South Dakota Army National Guard, is in the city's western part. Rapid City is home to such attractions as Art Alley, Dinosaur Park, the City of Presidents walking tour, Chapel in the Hills, Storybook Island, and Main Street Square. The historic "Old West" town of Deadwood is nearby. In the neighboring Black Hills are the tourist attractions of Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, and the museum at the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, and to the city's east is Badlands National Park.