The brisk air, falling leaves and bright colors of autumn inspire families to harvest new travel plans. Here are five ideas to consider:
1. Pick Your Own Apples. Whether you fancy Granny Smiths, Fuji or Golden Delicious, the whole family will enjoy a day in a pick-your-own fruit orchard. Gather your crop, then return home to make your own apple juice, pie or cobbler. Stay close to the hearth or visit the state that harvests more than half of the country’s apples. In Washington’s Yakima Valley, the Johnson family has been sharing their bounty for more than 100 years. Stop by their popular bake shop for fresh pies and quiche. Contact: JohnsonOrchardsFruit.com; www.PickYourOwn.org; www.usapple.org
2. Follow the Flock. Head south to Southern Arizona, considered one of the best spots for birding in the country. Declare the historic and family-friendly Tubac Golf Resort & Spa your base camp and let the exploration begin. When not checking off hummingbird and elegant trogon sightings on your list, enjoy a round of golf, a stroll through the local art community or time at the spa. Hike from the resort, situated on the 500-acre Otero Ranch in the Santa Cruz River Valley and appreciate views of the Tumacacori and Santa Rita peaks in the distance. Contact: www.TubacGolfResort.com; www.VisitArizona.com
3. Experience College Game Day, Ann Arbor, Mich. It’s all about the maize and blue in a community where the University of Michigan Wolverines capture the town’s attention every fall. Those lucky enough to snag tickets to the “Big House,” as the100, 000-plus seat stadium is called, will revel in the sweet small of barbecue as fans fire up their grills prior to the game. While in Ann Arbor, check out the local farmers market, enjoy breakfast at Zingerman’s, a local fan favorite and visit the botanical garden. Stay at the cleverly renovated and centrally located Graduate Hotel, where you’ll appreciate the classic collegiate inspiration and the nods to local history and tradition. Contact: www.GraduateAnnArbor.com; www.VistiAnnArbor.org
4. Discover Farm Fresh. Fall is an ideal time to celebrate our nation’s bounty by visiting farmers markets, joining in a barn dance or visiting a county fair. Take a farm tour and learn how our food moves from plow to porch. Visit a community garden and become inspired to join in or plan for your own. For a more immersive experience, spend the night or a weekend on a family farm. Leave the electronics and everyday expectations behind and get ready to pitch in for the morning chores. At farms across the country, kids can collect eggs, pet pigs, corral critters, tend to a garden brimming with fresh produce or hang out in the shade of fruit trees. Contact: www.FarmStayUS.com
5. Take a Scenic Drive, Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, Colo. During a 48-mile, two- to three-hour drive via Trail Ridge Road, observe wildlife, crystalline lakes and jagged peaks. With proximity to the Continental Divide, it’s an ideal time to explain to the kids how the “roof of the continent” spills moisture to the east and the west. This expansive, peak-filled National Park is also well known for its elk population. The Fall rut or mating season is an interesting time to witness animal behaviors as they bugle and battle for supremacy. Look for between 600 and 800 elk grazing at lower elevations during the fall and winter months. Be on the lookout for bighorn sheep and the occasional moose browsing the willow thickets. Contact: VisitGrandCounty.com; VisitEstesPark.com; www.NPS.gov
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