In part two of our series on exploring the colors of fall across the continent, we're examining all those parts of the country that aren't New England: the southeast, the Midwest, and the western U.S.
The popular and beautiful Asheville, North Carolina, home to the Appalachian music and arts scene, has its own website (www.exploreasheville.com) and even its own motto: "Altitude affects attitude." The site offers some coupons you can download (mostly for chain restaurants and hotels/motels), a useful overview of area attractions and links to fall deals called "Autumn Advantage." These are for late summer --July 31 through September 29 -- and include discounts for accommodations and area attractions including passes for the popular Biltmore Estate. At press time, there were no fall foliage packages posted, but check back frequently as they're planning on posting such deals soon, as well as foliage reports, leaf viewing routes and tips. The Blue Ridge Parkway, which stretches for 496 miles along the Appalachian chain, provides some perfect opportunities to pull over and take some pictures; the color show runs from late September to early November, depending on where you are. Or visit Romantic Asheville for ongoing getaway packages (www.romanticasheville.com/fall.htm) at various bed and breakfasts and inns. For the rest of the state, try the North Carolina Division of Travel and Tourism (tel. 800/847-4862; www.visitnc.com).
For an overall picture of Iowa, visit the division of tourism's website (tel. 888/472-6035; www.traveliowa.com). The tourism folks partner closely with the state's department of natural resources when it comes time for fall. For specific updates on fall color, they run a hotline (tel. 515/281-8395) and a website (www.iowadnr.comm/forestry/fallcolor.html) that will be updated very soon; expect specific promotions to appear in August. One of the best foliage stops, according to state tourism representative Tonja Richards, is in Balltown, north of Dubuque, at Breitbach's Country Dining (563 Balltown Road; tel. 563/552-2220). The oldest bar and grill in Iowa, Breitbach's has been serving homespun fare since 1852. Located on the Mississippi, it's a frequent stop for tour buses. Speaking of rivers, there are two National Scenic Byways popular in the fall for leaf peeping. In the western part of the state, try Loess Hills along the Missouri River; on the eastern side, it's the Great River Road, along the Mississippi River.
If you're looking for a deal on a place to stay, wander around and wind up in Lost Nation Iowa, at the Gardner House (tel. 563/678-2600; www.thegardnerhousebandb.com), and take advantage of their special. Accommodations for two at the restored 1903 Queen Anne home, for two nights, are $150. Located in northeastern Iowa about 40 miles from the Quad Cities, the peak season here is usually in the first couple of weeks in October, depending on the weather. According to Gardner House co-owner Leslie Schultz, it's been especially dry this summer, so that may change things. The rolling hills reportedly offer some beautiful views and your hosts will even suggest specific routes for optimum viewing, upon request. A $50 deposit is required upon booking; reservations must be made by September 15. The rates are good only for the month of October. A full breakfast is included, so are afternoon beverages and snacks. Nearby attractions include hiking and nature trails at Eden Valley, local wineries, antique shops, and art galleries. For other bed and breakfast suggestions, try the Iowa's Bed and Breakfast Innkeepers Association (tel. 800/888-4667; www.iabedandbreakfast.com).
One of the more popular recreational spots in the Midwest is Indiana's Brown County State Park, (www.browncountystatepark.com) in Nashville. It's the largest one in the state, located an hour south of Indianapolis, home to camping, horseback riding, swimming, hiking and similar outdoor activities. For accommodations information nearby, including cabins, lodges and cottages -- this is a honeymoon spot too -- try the site for Brown County Lodging (www.browncountylodging.com). Abbey Inn (tel. 800/669-9732; www.abbey-inn.com), with hot tubs and fireplaces and just minutes from the park offers privacy and a year-round special (not good on holidays) if you book online. At press time the inn was offering a special for guests who write "second night free" in the reservation request and the second weekday night (Sunday-Thursday) stay is free. Rates between September 23-November 10 run $120-$240.
For an overview of what the county offers, the Brown County Visitors and Convention Bureau (tel. 800/313-0842; www.browncounty.com). With its roots as a pioneer artist colony, Brown County has no shortage of natural beauty; click on "Visitor Information" and scroll down to "Fall Color" for a lesson on identifying tree species. The color runs from late September with poison ivy and sumac through November with weeping willows and larches. Click on "Lodging Deals" on the left-hand side for special offers and coupons. Five places -- Moondance Vacation Homes, Green Valley Lodge, Hickory Shades Motel, Brown County Inn and Overlook Lodge at Salt Creek Golf Retreat -- are running specific fall rates, discounts, and packages. The Brown County site is also searchable by accommodation; a quick search of B&Bs revealed that The Manor at Tabor Hill in Nashville is running a "Saturday in the Park" special (tel. 812/988-9635; www.manorattaborhill.com). If you book at least two nights with them, they will pack a gourmet lunch to take with you to Brown County State Park, and a blanket and pillow for relaxing. Rates run between $145-$295 for fall 2005.
Other resources to try are located on the website for Indiana's Department of Commerce and Tourism (tel. 888/ENJOY-IN; www.in.gov/enjoyindiana). For suggestions, check its discounts page (www.in.gov/enjoyindiana/discounts). There's also a leaf-cam in several regions -- yet to be updated with this fall's colors, of course (www.in.gov/enjoyindiana/trip_ideas/fall_cam.asp).
In Wisconsin, a good place to start is Wisconsin Division of Tourism (tel. 800/432-8747; www.travelwisconsin.com). In Door County, in the northern part of the state, the Chamber of Commerce's site (tel. 920/743-4456; www.doorcounty.com) provides links to information on activities such as fishing, orchard touring (Door County produces lots of cherries and apples) boating, and, of course, vacation packages (www.doorcountyvacations.com). Jon Jarosh, marketing director for the Door County Chamber of Commerce, says there are no specific fall promotions being offered, but your best bet is to click on "vacation packages" on the county site, which lists specials by accommodation name. The Bridgeport Waterfront Resort in Sturgeon Bay (tel. 800/671-9190; www.bridgeportresort.net) is running a "Fall Color Package" for weekdays in September and October, valid from Sunday through Thursday nights. The packages for two-weekday nights start at $234, based no double occupancy, and must be made 72 hours in advance. A harvest-themed floral arrangement greets you in your suite, and a back road tour map shows you the best places for peeping. Similarly, they offer a Fall Golf Package, valid during the same time frame, including a suite and 36 holes of golf at Idlewild Golf Course, starting from $269.
As for foliage forecast, check the county's site in the first week of September; Wisconsin is having a dry summer too, so that may change the peak time, which is usually the first couple weeks of October. There are many events in the fall, including a Harvest Festival in the county seat of Sturgeon Bay (September 24), an Oktoberfest (October 8) in North Bay, at the Pumpkin Patch Fest in Egg Harbor (also October 8).
Further west, on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, is the state's tallest waterfall -- Multnomah Falls, east of Portland and twenty minutes past Troutdale. Stop at the Multnomah Falls Lodge (tel. 503/695-2376; www.multnomahfallslodge.com), which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and houses a U.S. Forestry Service center. It's one of many recommended places to view beautiful foliage -- you can hike around the area to view it -- and all that surrounds it, too. For an overview, Oregon's Tourism Commission (tel. 800/547-7842; www.traveloregon.com) offers a way to search the site by region on its clever and well-designed site, with specific ideas for road trips. One suggested excursion, the Fall Harvest Tour (www.traveloregon.com/getaways/pdf/two.pdf; Adobe Acrobat required), is a two-day trip that starts in Eugene and ends in Salem, with stops in between to sample local cuisine and wineries.
In northeastern Oregon, Alegre Travel manages the Eagle Cap Excursion Train (tel. 541/963-9000; 800/323-7330 or www.eaglecaptrain.com). Their regular Canyon Cruise turns into a Fall Foliage Canyon Cruise during peak peeping, October 15 and 22. Start in Wallowa, and the train takes you along the Wallowa River through large cattle ranches, rugged canyons, and a sawmill. You may see fishermen, rafters and possibly hawks and eagles. Lunch and beverages are served on the train. It's about a four-hour trip, with musicians and historians on board for stories and entertainment, scheduled during peak peeping time. Departs at 10am and returns around 2pm, $60 for adults; $45 for children.
A Final Planning Resource
For more information on planning an Autumn outing to soak up mother nature's palette, head to www.roadtripamerica.com, which provides links to resources for the 50 states and Canadian provinces. You'll find reliable suggestions for routes, accommodations, dining and more.
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