If March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb...then Autumn often comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion. To me, though, Autumn is one of the sweetest parts of the year, when the foliage takes on a technicolor-glow, the temperatures are cool and refreshing, the landscape still has that rich, bountiful aura, and we can - finally! - break out the sweaters! It's a time to sit back, relax, and really take the glorious season in. And here are five great places in which to do it...
#5 - LUBBOCK, TEXAS - Lubbock is a unique slice of Southwestern culture, with a history just as colorful as the art in its galleries and the food in its restaurants. Contemporary West Texas characters like Kim McPherson of McPherson Cellars and art empresario Charles Adams have shaped Lubbock's spirit and renewed its creative energy. It's become a thriving cultural center, with an Arts District and fun events such as the First Friday Art Trail, on which you can jump aboard the free First Friday Trolleys and ride to downtown galleries. Lubbock is also a foodie town, with notable restaurants like La Sirena, specializing in the slow-food movement; and Evie Marie's Pit Barbecue, considered one of the best barbecue restaurants in Texas (and that's really sayin' somethin', Pardner!). Lubbock was also the hometown of the immortal rock 'n roll pioneer Buddy Holly, and on Sept. 7, folks celebrated what would have been his 82nd birthday with music, kid's activities, and food. Scheduled to open in 2020 is the Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts, expected to become the cornerstone of downtown revitalization. And if you'd like to stay in a place that combines luxurious accommodations and dining with Southwestern charm, downtown's Overton Hotel is the only AAA Four-Diamond hotel in West Texas.
#4 - LODI, CALIFORNIA - Ninety miles north of San Francisco, and bounded by the Mokelumne River and the Lodi Lake Wilderness area, the town of Lodi is an uncrowded Wine Country gem. This is a scenic, quiet place that feels like the rest of the Wine Country did fifty years ago. In fact, a car-cruise through the lush valleys and small towns and natural beauty of the surrounding area is a "must" here. Grapes made Lodi into the sweet-spot it is today, and the area produces more wine grapes than any other in this region. Indeed, there are some 85 wineries and 450 labels here, and the area produces more than 60 varieties of wine, from Chardonnay to Cabernet. Lodi itself is a laid-back village of boutiques, galleries, artisanal brewers and cheese-makers, and little shops where a bell rings as you walk in. Local restaurants specialize in local, farm-to-table cuisine, and the Wine & Roses Hotel (and restaurant and spa) captures the charm of this area perfectly. And if you're here, perchance, just before Autumn, you may still be able to catch the colorful Lodi Farmer's Market. It won't take you long to see why this is a beloved local tradition, and a feast to delight all the senses....especially the sense of taste!
#3 - CANYON OF THE EAGLES NATURE PARK & RESORT, BURNET, TEXAS - Sitting on the shores of Lake Buchanan in the idyllic Texas Hill Country, Canyon of the Eagles is a full-service resort combined with a 940-acre nature park. And it's a great place to celebrate the season amidst the winding country roads; charming little towns (some of which still boast the foods and the architecture of their original German settlers); and award-winning wineries of this beautiful slice of Texas. This eco-lodge resort has 62 lakefront accommodations patterned on 1920's-era Hill Country cottages. It has 14 miles of designated hiking trails in its private nature park, and the "Vanishing Texas River" boat offers excursions on Lake Buchanan and the Colorado River. The Eagle Eye Observatory here is one of the best locations in central Texas for star-gazing, due to the lack of light pollution, and you'll get an up-close-and-personal view of the cosmos through two state-of-the-art telescopes. And if you'd like to try stretching both your physical and emotional horizons, you can take calming yoga classes on the shores of Lake Buchanan. Canyon of the Eagles - and the Texas Hill Country - are a sweet side of Texas that you've probably never experienced.
#2 - ALABAMA GULF COAST - You may have never thought about Alabama's Gulf Coast as the perfect Autumn getaway - and that's the beauty of it! Here you can have all the joys of a beautiful setting and a wonderful beach vacation, without the crowds. The cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are low-key and fun, and you feel a wave of relaxation sweep over you the moment you get here. And autumn is the perfect time to visit. The water is still warm enough to swim in, but the temperatures on land have begun to cool off from the summer heat. And this time of year, the crowds have gone home and the prices for lodging have dropped. Local restaurants specialize in seafood that was just swimming in the Gulf no more than an hour or two earlier. Autumn is also Festival Season down here, with events such as the 47th Annual National Shrimp Festival, the Hangout Oyster Cook-Off and Craft Beer Festival, and the World Food Championships (do you detect a vibrant foodie scene here?). And the milder weather this time of year offers opportunities for great outdoor recreation, including hiking at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, biking at Gulf State Park, kayaking or paddle-boarding on Lake Shelby, dolphin and nature cruises...and even sand-castle classes!
And now, for my pick as the No. 1 spot in America for an Autumn getaway...
#1 - LAKE GENEVA, WISCONSIN - Located in Southeastern Wisconsin, Lake Geneva is an ideal place to experience fall foliage that bursts out with colors you never knew existed, along with a very unique Old-Time ambience. In the late 1800's the rich and famous of Chicago (90 miles away) discovered the lush beauty of this area, and it rose to prominence as a lakeside retreat for business magnates such as the Maytags, Mortons, Wards, Sears, Hormels, Wrigleys and Schwinns. These families built lavish summer mansions on the lake, many of which still stand today. Happily, visitors can see more than a hundred of them on the many lake-cruise boats...along with perhaps the most brilliant display of fall foliage you've ever seen. So brilliant, in fact, it will take your breath away. If, on the other hand, you'd prefer to walk right through the foliage, or you'd like to get some exercise while you ogle these magnificent estates, there's a 21-mile walking path around the lake. But Lake Geneva isn't just a lake; it's also a charming village filled with parks and vintage shops and restaurants, and opportunities for tours, golf, and renting a boat to take out onto the lake yourself. Lake Geneva's one of those beautiful places you thought had disappeared forever...yet, happily, it remains an eternal Autumn escape in the Upper Midwest. And Lake Geneva has four classic resorts in which to experience it.
Well, these are my Top 5 Autumn Getaways! What are yours...we'd love to hear about your own sweet discoveries!