Category Archives: Active Travel

Enjoy fall foliage by boat

5 hrs.

Courtesy New York Water Taxi

New York Water Taxi in NYC is one of a handful of enterprising boat companies that now offer traffic-free foliage tours by water.

Driving around looking at the gorgeous amber, orange and sunset-colored leaves of deciduous trees is a familiar fall road trip, but a handful of enterprising boat companies now offer traffic-free foliage tours by water.

For three upcoming Sundays (Oct. 21 and 28, and Nov. 4), New York Water Taxi offers guided day trips leaving from Manhattan at 12:30 p.m., and gliding 60 miles up the Hudson River to West Point. Introduced two years ago, the five-hour round-trip takes passengers past historic sights such as Grant’s Tomb, and Sleepy Hollow, where Washington Irving is now buried; and offers views of brightly hued trees like red maple, yellow birch and flowering dogwood. The $65 ticket price includes lunch (sandwiches, salads and desserts from Fresco by Scotto); a cash bar sells cocktails costing up to $10. The route is so popular that the company also does a VIP tour lasting a full weekend, with a night in West Point, rooftop cocktails at a lounge overlooking the Hudson Valley, and a tour of America’s oldest winery, Brotherhood, which still uses cellars dug in 1839.
Tickets are $499 for one person, or $750 for two.

More fall foliage cruises:

DC Cruises, Oct. 20-Nov. 24 (weekends only)
One-hour cruises on double-decker boats take passengers through the capital’s waterways, passing sights like the Jefferson Memorial, flanked by brilliant trees. Passengers can sip free hot cider from Ziegler’s, made from regionally-sourced apples. A Thanksgiving day cruise swaps cider for pumpkin-spiced tea and other festive snacks.
Tickets: $24 for adults, $12 for children.

Atlantic Seal Cruises, Oct. 6-27
Three-hour excursions on a 28-person cruiser navigate around the small islands of Maine’s Casco Bay. As the company name suggests, harbor seals congregate on rock ledges and play in the bay as the boats pass. Other wildlife native to the area includes osprey, herons and the occasional whale.
Tickets: $35 for adults, $25 for children 5-12, $20 for children 1-5.

Mississippi River Cruises, Sept. 27-Nov. 17
The Celebration Belle, a classic 800-passenger paddlewheel boat, departs from both Moline, Ill., and Dubuque, Iowa, on four-hour Mississippi cruises. A lunch buffet with dishes like baked cranberry-glazed chicken and turtle cheesecake—all prepared fresh on board—is included, as is live music from the Celebration River Cruises band.
Tickets: $60 for adults, $45 for children.

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Get out! 5 leaf-peeping adventures

3 hrs.

Courtesy Tree Climb Connecticut

Want to see the colors of the changing leaves up close? Tree Climb Connecticut offers a treetop view.

Travelers these days can experience autumn foliage in a mind-boggling number of ways: floating over treetops in hot air balloons, paddling kayaks down rivers and lakes, or ziplining high above the forest floor. There are even tree-climbing lessons.  

Leaf peeping clearly isn’t what it used to be.

The annual fall rite of passage of reveling in the wonders of nature has become more active in recent years, said Rena Calcaterra, marketing and public relations coordinator for the Connecticut Office of Tourism, as people, especially aging baby boomers, have become more health-conscious.

 “The trend is not just to look and see, but to participate,” Calcaterra said. “And it’s a lot more fun that way.”

Here is a roundup of 5 leaf-peeping adventures.

Tree climbing in Connecticut
Climbing trees is a regular activity for many children, yet most adults rarely do it. But what better way to see the turning leaves than being in up in the treetops among them? Tree Climb Connecticut, based in Manchester, offers several ways for want-to-be arborists ages 7 to 70, to experience the fall foliage. “You can climb up to 80 feet into the canopy of a forest for a truly awesome view,” the website notes,  enjoying “the Peter Pan feeling as you “float ” in the forest, learn to walk on a limb, swing from the tree tops, or even descend past limbs like an elevator past floors.” In 1-½ day long Recreational Tree Climbing classes, participants learn how to climb on their own. Instruction includes the basics of safety and technique, how to select proper trees and equipment, and how to tie, throw and set ropes. Adventure Climbs are for those who want to climb trees for a morning or afternoon while being supervised, but without formal training. The sport of tree climbing began about 15 years ago in Georgia, then moved out West, said Gary Gross, Tree Climb Connecticut’s founder, who also trains professional arborists. “But no one was doing it in New England,” said Gross, one of 11 children who grew up on a farm and spent much of his childhood climbing trees. Similar services are offered in neighboring states. Classes cost $280 per person; adventure climbs cost $60.  

Guided walking in Vermont
Country Walkers, a company that specializes in active travel, offers a number of hiking and walking tours that take-in fall foliage, including a six-day, five-night guided walking tour: Vermont Fall Foliage-Goshen to Stowe. Travelers on foot journey on trails through rolling hills, lush meadows and forests. “You’re out in the leaves. You can smell them and hear the crunch under your feet,” said Carolyn Walters Fox, who handles the company’s marketing and media relations. “Pumpkins are all ripe in the fields.” On a clear day, foliage in three states and Quebec can be viewed from Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. Stops include general stores in quintessential “picture-perfect” New England villages, hayrides, visits to a dairy farm, a lost pioneer settlement, and a cabin where Robert Frost wrote. “You are walking off the beaten-tourist path — completely,” said Fox. After a day of walking, it’s hot cider and cookies in front of a fire, chef-prepared meals, and overnight stays at cozy country inns. Departure is Oct. 7; $2,698 per person, based on double occupancy.

Boating on Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri
The Lake of the Ozarks, a man-made lake about 175 miles from St. Louis, runs 92 miles end to end and is surrounded by state parks and the Ozark Mountains. “Our fall is in full swing right now,” said Rebecca Green, a spokeswoman for the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau, of the region that prides itself on everything from its hiking trails to its world-class boating. “With our rolling hills and the colors we get along the 1,150 mile shoreline, it’s hard to beat.” Coming up is the 27th Annual Fall Harbor Hop on Oct. 13 when participating boaters “hop from place to place” at over 40 locations to try their hand at poker, all while listening to live music. “There is no better way to enjoy the fall foliage as well as being on the water,” Green said. Boats — from speedboats and pontoons to fishing boats, personal watercraft and even houseboats — can be rented or chartered by the hour, day or longer, and several commercial vessels operate narrated scenic cruises through late fall.“ Why drive to a restaurant when you can cruise there?” the website notes. The region boasts plenty of non-water related activities, too, like the 33rd annual “Olde Tyme Apple Festival” on Oct. 6. (Think apple pie, a parade, and a fiddling  contest).

Ziplining in Asheville, N.C.
Navitat Canopy Adventures, based in a secluded mountain cove in the Southern Appalachians, promises an adventure through the treetops that harkens back to the carefree days of childhood, soaring high above the forest floor while taking the epic scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The company’s small, personalized groups of no more than eight guests and two highly trained guides, are educational, it says, and boast some of the longest and highest ziplines in the Southeast. “The views are phenomenal” said Marla Tambellini, director of marketing and public relations for the Asheville Convention  Visitors Bureau. “The Asheville area is fortunate to have one of the best fall color displays in our backyard. With more than 100 deciduous tree species, significant elevation changes, and a variety of micro-climates, we enjoy one of the most extended fall foliage seasons in the nation, lasting from late September to early November.” Navitat wrote on its website: “You’ll cross two suspended sky bridges and experience rappelling twice. By the end, you’re guaranteed to feel like Indiana Jones, or at least a genuine tree-lovin’, tree-huggin’ ziplining expert.”

Floating and soaring above in Hocking Hills, Ohio
Soaring above Hocking Hills, located about 40 miles southeast of Columbus, in a small plane is one of the best ways to see the stunning fall tapestries of color in the some 10,000 acres of lush forests, lakes and distinctive geological formations, locals say. Hocking Hills Scenic Air Tours offers panoramic, aerial views that get close enough to waterfalls “to see water actually coming off the rocks, and see into caves,” said Harry Sowers, a pilot of 44 years and flight instructor who owns the company. “I think most people are touched by the Hills’ grandeur, the awesomeness of it, and the uniqueness and beauty of nature,” said Sowers, who frequently breaks into John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart imitations. “It’s to ease them into feeling comfortable.” Sunset, sunrise, and customized flights “at prices the average family can afford,” he said, start at $80.25 for two people for 20 minutes. Visitors can float over the treetops and take in 360-degree views as “foliage unfurls from beneath the balloon’s basket” with Hocking Hills Hot Air Ballooning. Other activities include fall-themed historic train rides that serve wine and cheese, and organized hikes, like the three-mile Lake Hope Fall Hike that begins with a cup of sassafras tea and ends with bean soup and cornbread.

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Get out! 5 leaf-peeping adventures

3 hrs.

Courtesy Tree Climb Connecticut

Want to see the colors of the changing leaves up close? Tree Climb Connecticut offers a treetop view.

Travelers these days can experience autumn foliage in a mind-boggling number of ways: floating over treetops in hot air balloons, paddling kayaks down rivers and lakes, or ziplining high above the forest floor. There are even tree-climbing lessons.  

Leaf peeping clearly isn’t what it used to be.

The annual fall rite of passage of reveling in the wonders of nature has become more active in recent years, said Rena Calcaterra, marketing and public relations coordinator for the Connecticut Office of Tourism, as people, especially aging baby boomers, have become more health-conscious.

 “The trend is not just to look and see, but to participate,” Calcaterra said. “And it’s a lot more fun that way.”

Here is a roundup of 5 leaf-peeping adventures.

Tree climbing in Connecticut
Climbing trees is a regular activity for many children, yet most adults rarely do it. But what better way to see the turning leaves than being in up in the treetops among them? Tree Climb Connecticut, based in Manchester, offers several ways for want-to-be arborists ages 7 to 70, to experience the fall foliage. “You can climb up to 80 feet into the canopy of a forest for a truly awesome view,” the website notes,  enjoying “the Peter Pan feeling as you “float ” in the forest, learn to walk on a limb, swing from the tree tops, or even descend past limbs like an elevator past floors.” In 1-½ day long Recreational Tree Climbing classes, participants learn how to climb on their own. Instruction includes the basics of safety and technique, how to select proper trees and equipment, and how to tie, throw and set ropes. Adventure Climbs are for those who want to climb trees for a morning or afternoon while being supervised, but without formal training. The sport of tree climbing began about 15 years ago in Georgia, then moved out West, said Gary Gross, Tree Climb Connecticut’s founder, who also trains professional arborists. “But no one was doing it in New England,” said Gross, one of 11 children who grew up on a farm and spent much of his childhood climbing trees. Similar services are offered in neighboring states. Classes cost $280 per person; adventure climbs cost $60.  

Guided walking in Vermont
Country Walkers, a company that specializes in active travel, offers a number of hiking and walking tours that take-in fall foliage, including a six-day, five-night guided walking tour: Vermont Fall Foliage-Goshen to Stowe. Travelers on foot journey on trails through rolling hills, lush meadows and forests. “You’re out in the leaves. You can smell them and hear the crunch under your feet,” said Carolyn Walters Fox, who handles the company’s marketing and media relations. “Pumpkins are all ripe in the fields.” On a clear day, foliage in three states and Quebec can be viewed from Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. Stops include general stores in quintessential “picture-perfect” New England villages, hayrides, visits to a dairy farm, a lost pioneer settlement, and a cabin where Robert Frost wrote. “You are walking off the beaten-tourist path — completely,” said Fox. After a day of walking, it’s hot cider and cookies in front of a fire, chef-prepared meals, and overnight stays at cozy country inns. Departure is Oct. 7; $2,698 per person, based on double occupancy.

Boating on Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri
The Lake of the Ozarks, a man-made lake about 175 miles from St. Louis, runs 92 miles end to end and is surrounded by state parks and the Ozark Mountains. “Our fall is in full swing right now,” said Rebecca Green, a spokeswoman for the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau, of the region that prides itself on everything from its hiking trails to its world-class boating. “With our rolling hills and the colors we get along the 1,150 mile shoreline, it’s hard to beat.” Coming up is the 27th Annual Fall Harbor Hop on Oct. 13 when participating boaters “hop from place to place” at over 40 locations to try their hand at poker, all while listening to live music. “There is no better way to enjoy the fall foliage as well as being on the water,” Green said. Boats — from speedboats and pontoons to fishing boats, personal watercraft and even houseboats — can be rented or chartered by the hour, day or longer, and several commercial vessels operate narrated scenic cruises through late fall.“ Why drive to a restaurant when you can cruise there?” the website notes. The region boasts plenty of non-water related activities, too, like the 33rd annual “Olde Tyme Apple Festival” on Oct. 6. (Think apple pie, a parade, and a fiddling  contest).

Ziplining in Asheville, N.C.
Navitat Canopy Adventures, based in a secluded mountain cove in the Southern Appalachians, promises an adventure through the treetops that harkens back to the carefree days of childhood, soaring high above the forest floor while taking the epic scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The company’s small, personalized groups of no more than eight guests and two highly trained guides, are educational, it says, and boast some of the longest and highest ziplines in the Southeast. “The views are phenomenal” said Marla Tambellini, director of marketing and public relations for the Asheville Convention  Visitors Bureau. “The Asheville area is fortunate to have one of the best fall color displays in our backyard. With more than 100 deciduous tree species, significant elevation changes, and a variety of micro-climates, we enjoy one of the most extended fall foliage seasons in the nation, lasting from late September to early November.” Navitat wrote on its website: “You’ll cross two suspended sky bridges and experience rappelling twice. By the end, you’re guaranteed to feel like Indiana Jones, or at least a genuine tree-lovin’, tree-huggin’ ziplining expert.”

Floating and soaring above in Hocking Hills, Ohio
Soaring above Hocking Hills, located about 40 miles southeast of Columbus, in a small plane is one of the best ways to see the stunning fall tapestries of color in the some 10,000 acres of lush forests, lakes and distinctive geological formations, locals say. Hocking Hills Scenic Air Tours offers panoramic, aerial views that get close enough to waterfalls “to see water actually coming off the rocks, and see into caves,” said Harry Sowers, a pilot of 44 years and flight instructor who owns the company. “I think most people are touched by the Hills’ grandeur, the awesomeness of it, and the uniqueness and beauty of nature,” said Sowers, who frequently breaks into John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart imitations. “It’s to ease them into feeling comfortable.” Sunset, sunrise, and customized flights “at prices the average family can afford,” he said, start at $80.25 for two people for 20 minutes. Visitors can float over the treetops and take in 360-degree views as “foliage unfurls from beneath the balloon’s basket” with Hocking Hills Hot Air Ballooning. Other activities include fall-themed historic train rides that serve wine and cheese, and organized hikes, like the three-mile Lake Hope Fall Hike that begins with a cup of sassafras tea and ends with bean soup and cornbread.

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World’s most bikeable wine regions

Courtesy of Burgenland Tourismus

In Burgenland, Austria’s easternmost region, the sun shines more than 300 days a year, making it ideal for grapes and cyclists.

 

 


Slideshow: See the world’s most bikeable wine regions

The rugged trilingual region yields nine endemic and rare old-world wine varietals, like Petite Arvine and Humagne Rouge, which grow nowhere else. What’s more, the Valais’s steep 800-year-old terraces, which export only 2 percent of its wine, have always been difficult to access. But the introduction of battery-enhanced electronic bikes (or e-bikes) have helped the area’s high-perched vintners, and now tasting rooms from Sierre to Leuk are seeing a boom of cyclists sipping stony Swiss whites.

 

 

Cycling and wine have long captured the imaginations of American travelers with dreams of gliding through verdant, château-dotted valleys with a baguette and a bottle of Cabernet Franc. But cycling through wine country is no longer an activity reserved for the French (or Francophiles). Wine regions from Africa to Argentina are opening new cycling paths and offering programs for bike enthusiasts — a cleaner, healthier and more in-depth way to taste the terroir of a region. Tour operators have jumped on this faster than you can say santé, offering a litany of wine-centric cycling excursions around the world.

“There’s no better way to experience South Africa’s stunning landscapes and warm hospitality than by biking the Cape Town Winelands,” says Dennis Pinto, managing director of Micato Safaris, a luxury outfitter specializing in Africa and bush safaris. “We show today’s sophisticated traveler the fiber of the land and its people in an unfiltered, honest way.”

Existing bike-tour companies like Butterfield Robinson have been hosting vineyard bike tours since 1966. Though new destinations are added annually, trips through tried-and-true wine regions like Bordeaux and Tuscany are popular. But new outfitters like DuVine Adventures — whose motto is “Bike. Eat. Drink. Sleep.” — are jumping into the game with more adventurous excursions to untapped areas like Alentejo, Portugal, and Slovenia’s Gorizia Hills on the Italian border, as well as more typical destinations like France’s Burgundy and Spain’s Rioja.

Like Micato, several other small luxury tour agencies have pumped up bike-tour offerings, including walking outfitters like Country Walkers and Mountain Travel Sobek, which traditionally offers walking tours of rarefied destinations like Japan, Bhutan and Scotland but launched a bike tour this year in Argentina that travels from Mendoza to Salta in the Uco Valley. All these tours afford guests a hassle-free way to explore wine regions by assisting with luggage transfers, arranging private barrel tastings and scouting independently run vineyards and wine-oriented restaurants and hotels.

In many cases, one doesn’t even need to leave the city to access vineyards and tasting rooms. Frankfurt; Vienna; Santa Barbara, Calif.; and Switzerland’s UNESCO-inscribed Lavaux have urban vineyards or offer wine regions that are easily reached from major metro areas and ideal for evening or half-day trips. And though drinking too much and cycling is not advised, biking through wine country is an easy way to add a few calorie- and carbon-neutral sips to your vacation.

More from Departures.com

 

 

Obstacle races feature mud, fake blood — and zombies

HGL

Run For Your Lives is a race series that challenges runners with a 5K obstacle course of mud, fake blood — and zombies.

In need of some motivation to maintain your exercise regimen while traveling? You could seek out like-minded running buddies, find a local gym or hit the techno playlist on your iPod.

Or, if you’re in one of several U.S. cities in the coming months, you could try to complete a 5K obstacle course race while being chased by zombies. After all, there’s nothing like trying to avoid having the undead eat your brains to get your butt in gear.

That’s the premise of Run For Your Lives, a race series that challenges runners to navigate muddy culverts, tanks of fake blood and other creepy obstacles while racing against the clock and legions of flesh-munching ghouls. Upcoming events include Lakewood, Colo. (July 14), Onalaska, Wash. (Aug. 4) and Wright City, Mo. (Aug. 18).


HGL

Runners who cross the finish line with at least one flag in their belt are considered “alive.”

The 12-race series was brought to life by Derrick Smith and Ryan Hogan, a pair of Baltimore-based entrepreneurs and fans of the post-apocalyptic TV show “The Walking Dead.”

“We wanted to create an obstacle course race and were thinking about what people would run from,” said Smith. “It was probably two or three episodes into the first season of the show and zombies just made sense.”

To animate their apocalyptic vision, Smith and Hogan staged their first event last October outside Baltimore. Runners were equipped with flag-belts — think flag football — and turned loose in waves. In addition to traversing assorted natural obstacles, they also faced several hundred zombies bent on eating their flesh.

Just kidding — the zombies really only wanted their flags. Runners who successfully completed the course with at least one of their three flags intact were considered “alive;” those that had lost them all to the undead horde were deemed “dead,” although they were still expected to finish the race before turning into zombies themselves.

“We thought it would be a one-and-done deal but it turned out to be more popular than we thought,” said Smith, estimating that 10,000 to 12,000 people participated, including runners, zombies and spectators.

HGL

Runners should “expect the unexpected,” said Derrick Smith, one of the creators of Run For Your Lives.

For those considering participating in one of the upcoming races, there are a few things to know:

The events feature two kinds of zombies: traditional “Stumbler Zombies” (think “Night of the Living Dead”) and “Chaser Zombies” (à la “28 Days Later”). Clearly, completing the course is no walk in the park.

“Expect the unexpected,” said Smith, who also offers this bit of sage advice: “Consider entering as a team. If you’re going through a heavy zombie area, have a couple of people up front that you can sacrifice to save everybody else.”

Note, too, that there will be a handful of “health packs” scattered around the course. If you see one, grab it as allows you to cross the finish line as “alive” even if all your flags have been grabbed.

HGL

The Run for Your Lives races feature traditional stumbler zombies — think “Night of the Living Dead” — and chaser zombies — a la “28 Days Later.”

And, finally, expect to get really, really dirty. It’s an apocalypse, people; between the “blood,” sweat and fear, things tend to get a bit messy.

For more information, including schedules, entry fees and post-race party details, visit RunForYourLives.com.

Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.

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