The Best Outdoor Adventures in California

Although states like Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, Montana and Florida are hailed for their wide array of outdoor adventures, the massive state of California also has plenty to offer nature lovers.   From pristine mountain lakes and flourishing redwood forests to sunny beaches and sandy desert dunes, these are the best spots for outdoor exploration in More »

The Beauty of Okinawa Japan

I must admit, I don’t know a lot about Japan. It’s on my bucket list to be sure, but beyond Geishas, snow monkeys, and the bright lights of Tokyo, I’m not that fully versed in the country and what else it has to offer. Blame it on action films and nature documentaries, but the Western More »

5 Important Motorcycle Laws

If there’s a road trip in your future, why not consider leaving the car at home and riding across country on a motorbike? It’s better on gas, you’ll love the feel of the breeze against your skin, and you’ll meet plenty of like-minded souls who crave the open road as much as you do. Although More »

Tag Archives: seasonal travel

5 fall festivals worth a trip

Kate Maxwell, editor-in-chief of Jettsetter.com, shares her roundup of fall festivals that offer something for everyone in the family: foliage, live music, vineyards and even one of the nation’s best Oktoberfest celebrations.

Festivals are a great way to get up close and personal with a destination, and the locals, and there’s usually plenty to occupy the whole family. Here are five picks for fall — and for where to stay, check out jetsetter.com/today.


1. Scarecrow Festival, St. Charles, Ill., Oct. 5-7
Just a 45-minute drive northwest of Chicago, this award-winning festival brings crowds (there were 150,000 visitors last year) from near and far to see and vote for the 150 incredible, hand-crafted scarecrows — and to enjoy the live entertainment, huge craft show, great food and numerous activities for both kids and adults. The best part? It’s completely free. Plus, it’s located on the beautiful tree-lined Fox River, so you get to do some leaf peeping, too. 

2. North Willamette Wine Harvest Trail of Willamette Valley, Ore., Oct. 6
This event, which takes place 30 minutes outside Portland and costs $79, allows winemaker wannabes to roll up their sleeves and participate in Oregon’s 2012 harvest. You’ll visit three different wineries and learn about the process from grapes to bottle — there are free tastings and food pairings along the route, including a wine country lunch, and a Grand Tasting event featuring all North Willamette’s vineyards ends the day.

3. Flaming Leaves Festival, Lake Placid, N.Y., Oct. 6-7
The Adirondack Park of northern New York offers the longest fall foliage season in the Northeast — the leaves peak mid-September through mid-late-October. You’ll see the best of it at the Flaming Leaves Festival, which is $15 for adults and $9 for kids and seniors — and don’t miss the Lake Placid Ski Jump, part of the Olympic legacy, plus the live bands, bbq chefs and family entertainment, including a petting zoo.

4. Oktoberfest of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Oct. 20-23
Oktoberfest in Tulsa? Ja, bitte. Eat Landjaeger (German-style beef jerky) and Kassler Rippchen (grilled, smoked pork chop) at this German food festival, one of the U.S.’s finest, and take in barrel-racing, ceremonial keg-tapping, an impressive parade and music from Bavarian bands. General admission is $6, and this year, the theme is “Poultry in Motion,” in celebration of the fact that the festival was the origin of the first Oktoberfest Chicken Dance in the United States.  

5. Voodoo Music Experience of New Orleans, La., Oct. 26-28
Every year, just in time for Halloween, the Voodoo Music Experience places New Orleans under a weekend-long spell of music, food, crafts and culture. The festival, which began in 1999, has grown tremendously ever since, and now rivals Nola’s Jazzfest for attendance and big-name entertainment. The festival takes place in City Park over three days and lasts until late at night (this is a party city) — and there are countless local food and beverage vendors, plus everything from jewelry to works of art. This year, make sure you catch Green Day, Jack White, Marcia Ball, the Avett Brothers and more. A three-day weekend pass costs $175; day passes are $90.

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Get lost in these 5 amazing corn mazes

A family in Canada has built the world’s largest QR code out of a corn maze. TODAY.com’s Dara Brown reports.

Farmers know: If they build it, you will come.

We’re talking about corn mazes — works of art, amusement parks and fall attractions all rolled into one.

Creating a maze is high-tech these days, with the pattern designed on a computer and then carefully transferred onto a corn field with the help of grids, detailed maps and even satellite navigation systems.

“(Our maze creator) uses a GPS that is attached to a small tractor. He downloads the maze layout to the device and it tells him every turn to make,” said Misty Duren, who manages the Corn Dawgs maze in Loganville, Ga.

Here are five corn mazes to remember.

Kraay Family Farm —  Lacombe, Alberta
This 15-acre maze contains the world’s largest Quick Response (QR) code —  scan it with your smartphone from above and it links you to the farm’s website.

Courtesy Kraay Family Farm

The Kraay Family Farm’s 15-acre corn maze in Lacombe, Alberta, contains the world’s largest QR code.

The Kraay family, which has been creating corn mazes for 13 years, came up with the idea while brainstorming for this year’s design.

“We were looking through some magazines and noticed how many QR codes there were,” said Rachel Kraay.

“I thought, they kind of look like a maze, I wonder if we can make one, and then it snowballed from there. We thought it was a fun play on technology and corn being an ancient crop.”

There were tense moments when the family went up in a helicopter to scan the maze for the first time and found the QR code didn’t work. The problem? Not enough contrast between the green corn and the dark paths  QR codes are usually black and white, providing lots of contrast.

So the paths were tilled and cleared of any weeds, making them darker and the next attempt was a success.

“We were relieved and excited,” Kraay said.

The excitement grew when Guinness World Records officially deemed it the world’s largest QR code this summer.

Open until Oct. 20.

Fritzler Corn Maze — LaSalle, Colo.
Owner Glen Fritzler is a huge Denver Broncos fan, so he decided last fall that he would devote this year’s corn maze to Tim Tebow. But when the NFL star was traded this spring, Fritzler set his sights on Peyton Manning, who joined the Broncos in March.

Courtesy Glen Fritzler

Glen Fritzler of Friztler Corn Maze in LaSalle, Colo., made this year’s maze a tribute to Peyton Manning, who joined the Denver Broncos in March.

“I wasn’t a huge fan of Peyton Manning mainly because he wasn’t on our team… but then he became a Bronco,” Fritzler said. “It’s been a very, very popular maze design.”

The 15-acre tribute to Manning features the quarterback saluting towards the sky and the phrase “Got Peyton” over his shoulder.

Open until Oct. 31.

Baggenstos Farm — Sherwood, Ore.
The Baggenstos family tries to base their corn maze theme on a current event, so this election year the choice was a “no-brainer,” they said.

Behold the smiling caricatures of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney carved out of the corn, along with the directive “Vote!”

Courtesy Baggenstos Farm Store

The faces of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney adorn the corn maze at Baggenstos Farm in Sherwood, Ore.

“We want to encourage people to vote, and we wanted something that would stick in their minds as the election approaches this year, so we decided that a humorous take would be the ticket,” said owners Darla and Jacquie Baggenstos.

Visitors can cast a vote for their favorite presidential candidate, and the farm will announce those “election results” on its website on Nov. 1.

Opens Sept. 29.

Reding Farm Chickasha, Okla.
Coming in at 35 acres, owners Jerry and Nancy Reding bill the attraction as the largest maze in Oklahoma. This year’s theme is a love letter to the Oklahoma City Thunder at the request of the couple’s daughter.

Courtesy Pat Brooks/First National Bank

The corn maze at Reding Farm in Chickasha, Okla., is dedicated to the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team.

The family obtained permission from the team to use its logo and went on to carve out a basketball extravaganza, complete with a player shooting hoops and team mascot Rumble the Bison.

“We do not know if any of the team will attend but we would welcome them with open arms and they would know how much we love the Thunder,” said Nancy Reding.

It should be noted that this maze is actually created out of sorghum, a cereal crop similar to corn that’s drought resistant.

Open Sept. 28 – Nov. 4.

Corn Dawgs — Loganville, Ga.
Owners Misty Duren and her husband love the Atlanta Braves, so they wanted to honor Chipper Jones — the team’s long-time third baseman who is planning to retire after the 2012 season.

Courtesy Corn Dawgs

The Corn Dawgs maze in Loganville, Ga., is dedicated to Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones.

The maze features a likeness of Jones as well has his number 10. Fans can enjoy four miles of trails and trivia about the baseball star.

“We hope that he comes out to Corn Dawgs and maybe he can get lost in the maze,” Duren said.

Open Sept. 23 – Nov. 4.

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5 easy fall weekend getaways

Travel + Leisure’s Nilou Motamed says that if you’re looking for a fun fall weekend getaway, you should head to Falls Village, Conn., the beach in Boca Raton, Fla., or the mountains in Colorado.

We’ve found five easy big-city escapes, whether your perfect fall weekend involves hiking among changing foliage colors or joining in the wine harvest.


Easy getaway from NYC and Boston: Litchfield County, Conn.

Stay: The Falls Village Inn

You can really get off the grid here: cell phone reception is almost non-existent. Recently redesigned, the four guestrooms and suites have botanical prints, crisp linen upholstery, and bathrooms with black-and-white tiles. The dining room showcases the work of local artists and the casual table coverings are brown butcher paper. Food is sourced locally, including hamburgers made from the grass-fed beef of nearby Whippoorwill Farm. Walk it off on the Appalachian Trail, which is right outside the door. Doubles from $199/night.

Related: America’s best fall color drives

Easy getaway from San Francisco: California wine country

Stay: Auberge on the Vineyard, Sonoma

The crush season is going on now, so reserve your spot at this historic seven-guestroom inn to be there just as the grapes are being harvested — and to participate in an on-site workshop on pruning, blending and barrel tasting. Take in views of the Alexander Valley vineyards from the inn’s expansive verandah and enjoy a three-course breakfast, served at 9 a.m. each day, with fresh fruit and hot entrees such as quiche Lorraine or pain perdu. Doubles from $165/night (September and October).

Easy getaway from Denver: Rocky Mountains

Stay: Hotel Aspen, Colo.

See the trees turn bright yellow at this newly remodeled hotel right on Main Street in downtown. With 45 guestrooms, Hotel Aspen has plenty of perks including a heated outdoor pool, a firepit, free WiFi, free airport transportation and complimentary breakfast each day — including made-to-order buttermilk waffles and applewood smoked bacon. Time your visit to the first week of October to catch the Aspen Film Festival. Doubles from $179/night.

Easy getaway from Miami: Florida Beach

Stay: Boca Raton Resort Club

Fall is the time for great values in Florida — before the prime winter season begins. And the room to book is at this full-service resort, complete with seven pools, 30 tennis courts, plus the Palazzo Spa with 44 private treatment rooms. A shuttle leaves every 15 minutes for the half-mile stretch of private beach nearby, where you can participate in family activities such as sand castle building contests, kite flying on the beach, beach volleyball and ocean inner tube races. Doubles from $199/night (Oct. 1 – Dec. 19).

Easy getaway from D.C. and Philadelphia: Chesapeake Bay

Stay: Tides Inn, Va.

Embrace the outdoors: Explore the surrounding tributaries in one of the resort’s kayaks, partake in a leisurely game of croquet or check out the 18-hole golf course and marina. You can also learn oyster roasting with resort’s executive chef or take a mixology class where you’ll pick your own herbs for some of the cocktails, and end the day with s’mores on the terrace or at the beach. The “Wild About Virginia Wine” package includes a picnic lunch and a map for a self-guiding bike tour of four nearby wineries. Doubles from $240/night (based on a two-night stay through Oct. 31).

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Free stopovers lure travelers to Iceland

Olivier Morin / AFP/Getty Images

Winter is an ideal time for a soak in the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa surrounded by lava fields.

Schnapps and smoked reindeer. Steaming hot pools. Crisp views of the dancing northern lights.

These are a few of the reasons to imagine Iceland for fall or winter travel.

Tempting first-time visitors are off-season discounts and Icelandair’s policy of allowing stopovers at no additional fare on flights between the U.S., Canada and more than 20 destinations in Europe.

“Most stopovers are two to three nights,” says Michael Raucheisen, a spokesman for the airline. “Just enough to make you want to go back for a full trip.”


Five hours by air from the East Coast, the capital city of Reykjavik, with its cozy cafes and village-like streets, makes a convenient base for viewing the aurora borealis, an atmospheric display of color often visible in the Northern Hemisphere between September and April.

Yes, it’s dark here in winter, but not completely. The shortest days are in mid-December and the first part of January when the sun rises just after 11 a.m. and sets between 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. But darkness is the point, especially this year. Astronomers predict that the northern lights will be some of the brightest in decades due to a peak solar cycle.

“Of course, there are no guarantees,” says Edda Jonasdottir, owner of Eric The Red Guesthouse, near Reykjavik’s historic center. “It can rain for the whole period and people won’t see it.”

No worries. There’s plenty more to do in Reykjavik, a sophisticated city with theater, museums, bookstores, bars and a lively weekend nightlife.

Despite its name, Iceland has a mild climate. Average winter temperatures are in the 30s, but biting winds can send the chill factor into the single digits, so plan to bundle up.

Plan a stopover on your way to or from Europe. Icelandair allows stopovers of up to seven nights in either direction, depending on seat availability and fares. The airline flies nonstop to Reykjavik year-round from Boston, New York, Seattle and Denver and offers seasonal service from Washington D.C., Minneapolis-St.Paul, Orlando, Halifax, Toronto and, starting in May 2013, Anchorage. 

Take advantage of the airline’s hotel discounts, or book a guesthouse or small hotel near the town center. The couchsurfing movement started in Iceland; many members offer free lodging or the chance to meet up for coffee or sightseeing.

Not planning a trip to Europe? Take long weekend, and book one of Icelandair’s all-inclusive three-night, four-day packages. Prices, including airfare, hotel, a northern lights tour and a glacier walk start at $787 per person, double occupancy for travel through March from Washington D.C., Denver, Boston, New York and Seattle.

Iceland is known for its geothermal spas and pools. Most famous is the Blue Lagoon located in a lava field and fed by water from a nearby geothermal plant. Save time and money by visiting on the way to or from Keflavik airport. Reykjavik Excursions offers transportation, admission and luggage storage via its Flybus shuttle for 8,000 Icelandic krona (about $65).

Less touristy and more affordable are the city’s pools. The biggest is Laugardalslaug, with an Olympic-size pool, four hot tubs, a steam bath and a water slide. Admission is 500 krona, about $4.

Aside from the deals, a visit here can still feel pricey. Icelandic wool sweaters sell for hundreds of dollars. Better to make souvenirs out of bags of colorful marzipan-filled licorice sold at a weekend flea market on the waterfront.

For a splurge, Jonasdottir of Eric The Red recommends visiting a restaurant serving a holiday-season buffet of Icelandic specialties such as smoked reindeer and lamb.

The drink of choice: A type of schnapps called Black Death,  made with potato pulp and caraway seeds, traditionally chugged after chewing on a chunk of fermented shark meat.

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Where to see the best fall foliage

Courtesy of NHDTTD/George Murphy via Condé Nast Traveler

Alton Bay, N.H., offers colors galore in autumn.

While we all love summer and its days filled with sunshine and ice cream, we can’t be sad for long — fall is on its way with all its usual bright colors and beautiful views. Here’s where to find the best ones.


NORTHEAST

1. The longest season: New Hampshire’s Lakes Region

When to go: Late September through late October

Why go: The secret to finding a lingering foliage season is steering clear of the weather that knocks leaves from their branches. “I would choose those locations away from the wind of the coast and at higher elevations,” says Jerry Monkman, co-author of “The Colors of Fall Road Trip Guide.” This New Hampshire region — which encompasses Lake Winnipesaukee, Squam Lake, Lake Ossipee, Mirror Lake, Newfound Lake and Lake Winnisquam — is protected from the harsh winds of the coast and doesn’t rise more than 600 feet above sea level, giving you the best chance for a long leaf season.

Where to get the best view: Obviously, from the middle of a lake (pick one). Bring a kayak and tone your paddling arms. “You can see red maples along the waterways showing their bright colors on the trees, and then reflected down into the water as well,” says Tai Freligh, a spokesman for New Hampshire’s Division of Travel and Tourism Development.

Insider tip: If boating and hiking feels like too much exertion for a good view, tour the lakes region from a fall foliage train. The Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad (603-279-5253, foliagetrains.com, $11 to $15) runs through Oct. 21, and a two-hour round-trip ticket entitles you to a lakeside tour along tracks that were once a part of the Boston Maine Railroad. Daytime rides come with the option of adding on a “hobo picnic lunch” ($10).

2. The latest season to start: Southeast New Jersey

Why go: A good rule of thumb is that the leaves change later the more south you go and the closer you stick to the coast. “This is because these areas are lower in elevation and tend to stay a bit warmer than inland,” says Marek D. Rzonca of the Foliage Network. If the weather cooperates, leaf season in southeast New Jersey — near Wildwood and Cape May, for example — can continue through early November.

When to go: Late October through early November

Where to get the best view: Belleplain State Forest, home to Lake Nummy, a 26-acre lake that was once a cranberry bog. “The forest comprises colorful deciduous species such as oak, cranberry, sweet gum, red maple and black gum set against a backdrop of lush evergreens, which makes for a spectacular variety of colors,” says Abbie Tang-Smith, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. “Belleplain’s proximity to the bay and ocean also helps moderate the temperature, providing a longer leaf season.”

Insider tip: Though the Jersey Shore is best known as a summertime destination, it’s almost more pleasant to visit its coastal towns once the crowds have departed for the season. Cape May’s historic past gets put on full display during its Victorian Week (Oct. 5–9), where you can attend events such as dances and a tea luncheon.

3. The most variety: New York’s Adirondack Mountains

When to go: Late September through mid October

Why go: To get the most variety, you need to go where there is geographic diversity, and contained within the Adirondacks you’ll find marshes, river valleys, hardwood forests and high-elevation alpine environments. “These areas have a good population of sugar maple trees which, in my opinion, are the most attractive in the fall,” Rzonca says. “Other popular species include birch, aspen, oak and silver maple, all of which turn yellow. These trees are then complimented with the brilliant crimson of the red maple. When you put all these trees together, it provides a fantastic contrast and variety of color.”

Where to get the best view: “One of my favorite locations is John Boyd Thacher State Park, located on the Helderberg escarpment in Voorheesville,” says Eric Scheffel of the Empire State Development Bureau of Media Services. “It not only has great fall foliage, but also offers amazing views of the Hudson-Mohawk lowlands — including the City of Albany — and the southern Adirondacks. While it’s known to many Albany-area residents, I’ve found that most visitors from outside the area have never heard of it.”

Insider tip: If you want to make a weekend of it, you can watch the foliage show unfold from your window at the Point (518-891-5674; thepointresort.com). The Relais Châteaux property is styled to feel like a throwback to the Adirondack camps of old.

4. The least crowded: Western Maine

When to go: Late September through early October

Why go: The season here might be short, the weather chilled and the location remote, but if it were easy, everybody would be doing it. Secondary bonus: Lodging is often not as expensive as it might be in showier areas better known for their leaf season.

Where to get the best view: Most Maine visitors are familiar with Acadia National Park, but Grafton Notch State Park, one of Maine’s biggest, is where you should go for day hikes that won’t put you in the path of other tourists. See the leaves as you hike your way to Screw Auger Falls, which was impressively carved out by a glacier.

Insider tip: For up-to-date foliage reports all around the state visit www.mainefoliage.com.

5. The most intense color: Vermont’s Green Mountains

When to go: Late September to late October

Why go: There are just some places where the reds are deeper, the golds are brighter and the oranges have more pop to them. You have to cross your fingers and hope that the weather cooperates to get the palette just perfect: “The brightest fall colors usually occur when there is a long stretch of warm, sunny days accompanied by cold overnight temperatures,” Monkman says. But it isn’t all luck. Maples are known to produce the most intense colors, and Vermont’s Green Mountains have them in spades — there’s a reason Vermont is the country’s largest producer of maple syrup.

Where to get the best view: Hit the road. Vermont’s Byway Program, which spotlights scenic and historic routes, means you can easily find country roads that’ll lead you through postcard-worthy landscapes. The Green Mountain Byway takes you between Stowe and Waterbury, past meadows, farms and quaint villages.

Insider tip: About that maple syrup — while the Vermont maple sugaring season starts in March, the Nebraska Knoll Sugar Farm in Stowe, Vt., is open year-round to guests looking for a sweet fix (802-253-4655, nebraskaknoll.com).

NORTHWEST

1. The longest season: Leavenworth, Wash.

When to go: Through late November

Why to go: Several leafy routes start from Eastern Washington’s Bavarian-themed town: Trees line Tumwater Canyon on Highway 2, which stretches to the Puget Sound area, while south on winding Highway 97, the forests of Blewett Pass sport red huckleberry bushes, aspens, and cottonwoods. Electric-yellow trees reflect in Lake Wenatchee north of the town.

Where to get the best view: From Waterfront Park downtown, the steep walls of the valley rise in every direction.

Insider tip: Leavenworth’s Autumn Leaf Festival falls in Sept. 28–30, Oktoberfest is Fridays and Saturdays Oct. 5–20 (and the town is basically a year-round beer garden anyway).

2. The most variety: McKenzie Pass, Ore. 

When to go: Mid-October; the highway closes in early November.

Why go: Driving from the Williamette Valley to the eastern slopes of the Cascades — Eugene to Sisters on Highway 242 — presents a smorgasbord of landscapes. Transplants like the eastern black walnut and Norway maple in Eugene give the university town exotic color, while over the pass, the red of vine maples are juxtaposed with dark lava fields.

Where to get the best view: The Dee Wright Observatory is a striking little castle made of lava but its surrounding area is mostly treeless; the University of Oregon campus has plenty of orange and yellow specimens.

Insider tip: In downtown Eugene, look for deep red Dawn Redwoods, a rare deciduous conifer.

3. The least crowded: The Enchantments, Wash.

When to go: Late September

Why go: Hike out to these lakes and expect to hear someone make a “there’s gold in them there hills” crack — only they’ll be pointing at yellow larches, not precious minerals. The western and subalpine larch turn a bright, almost dusty yellow, which stands out in stark contrast to the pale granite of the Enchantments.

Where to get the best view: Colchuck Lake, a strenuous four-mile hike from the road, is a well-known foliage spot.

Insider tip: Mountain goats live in the area, and they’re not animals to be trifled with — give them a wide berth.

4. The most dramatic: Glacier National Park, Mont.

When to go: Early October

Why go: Timing is everything at Montana’s rugged northern park, where the window between the summer rush and winter snows is razor thin, and it varies every year. The bright yellow larch and aspen and red maples aren’t overshadowed by the area’s jagged peaks and vertigo-inducing big sky — but it’s close.

Where to get the best view: The Going-to-the-Sun Road over Logan Pass is not only poetically named, it’s the park’s most popular driving route.

Insider tip: If Glacier’s blockbuster road is closed, nearby Flathead Lake offers scenic vistas and plentiful huckleberry picking.

5. The latest start: Columbia River Gorge (Washington and Oregon)

When to go: Late October

Why go: The leaves at the highest elevations start to change color first, meaning that the low-lying Columbia River Highway east of Portland gets color late. From I-84 on the southern (Oregon) side of the river, see big-leaf maple and cottonwood in between riverfront vineyards. Use bridges at Hood River, the Dalles and Biggs Junction to design a Washington-and-Oregon loop.

Where to get the best view: Multnomah Falls, just east of Portland, pairs the trees with a jaw-dropping waterfall and a historic Forest Service lodge.

Insider tip: Unlike many mountain highways, I-84 doesn’t close for winter, so it’s a good bet once snows (and road closures) happen elsewhere.

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