If you're like many retired Baby Boomers and plan at least one vacation every year, consider hitting the road to enjoy the foliage and take a much-needed break — all without breaking the bank.
Napa Valley, California
The autumn months are a great time to visit San Francisco and California wine country. It's harvest season in Napa Valley, which offers visitors a unique opportunity to see how grapes are harvested and wine is bottled. Vineyard foliage is beautiful this time of year — the colors vary from sunny yellow to fiery orange, depending on the location and varietal.
Plus, San Francisco hosts regular events and celebrations between September and November, including the San Francisco Jazz Festival and the Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival. The fall weather in this Mediterranean-like region stays mild and sunny with temperatures averaging in the 70s. Although regional hotel rates have started to creep up over the past year, you can still find off-season deals, both in the city and near area vineyards.
Lost Maples State Natural Area, Texas
Texas is a best-kept secret when it comes to fall foliage. The Lost Maples State Natural Area, located in Vanderpool almost 90 miles northwest of San Antonio, is awash in color this time of year. A scenic drive can take you there through the heart of Hill Country, and the park rewards you with excellent birdwatching opportunities, hiking, biking, and plenty of photo ops.
The fall season is also an ideal time to catch a festival like Fredricksburg's Oktoberfest, plus October is Texas Wine Month when Hill Country wineries host tastings and events. Room rates at area B&Bs (there are many throughout Texas Hill Country) average around $125 per night or more, and you may be able to find package deals or other discounts.
Root River Valley, Minnesota
Lanesboro in southeastern Minnesota is known as the state's bed and breakfast capital, and the surrounding Root River Valley is one of the best fall foliage destinations in the Midwest. Named for the river winding across its valley floor, this region is also home to a paved trail and historic national scenic byway. Tree-covered bluffs turn yellow, orange and crimson in the fall and provide great sightseeing and photo opportunities for hikers and bikers.
Whether you visit this area for the foliage or for outdoor recreation, you'll find much to do in town as well. Lanesboro is a center for arts and culture, and its downtown district is listed on the National Historic Register. B&B room rates vary throughout the area, but in some cases you can expect to pay less than $100 per night.
Green Mountain Byway, Vermont
Viewing the fall colors in New England is best by way of a road trip, and Vermont's Green Mountain Byway offers a chance to see some of the Northeast's most beautiful foliage. The best time to view is between early September and mid-October, when the maple tree-covered mountains start to turn.
The 11-mile trek along Route 100 takes you through a series of small towns and idyllic farmland, while Route 125 heads into the Green Mountain National Forest. For accommodations, check out the many inns and B&Bs in Stowe, Vermont. Room rates vary widely, but you can find deals for under $100 a night.
Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is home to several trailheads for the Great Smoky Mountains, which are a must-see in September and October. The foliage changes gradually throughout the season, and you can still see brilliant colors in the lower elevations through the end of October and sometimes into early November. US 441 (Newfound Gap Road) provides many scenic overlooks, as do the Foothills Parkway and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
The Smoky Mountain Hiking Trails are another way to see the foliage, and a number of lodges, B&Bs and campgrounds are also available nearby. Several of these are within walking distance of the trailheads. Room rates vary. You don't have to spend a lot of money to take a relaxing and rejuvenating vacation, especially one where you can enjoy the outdoors when the fall colors are on display.
Check out these five great locations, and you might just discover a favorite new annual destination.