Now that school is back in session and the promise of cooler temperatures is in the air, snowbirds are planning their annual pilgrimages south. But a balmy climate is not everyone’s idea of paradise. Cold weather fans embrace the chilly weather and set their sights north this time of year. Here are nine locations worthy of breaking out a parka.
The towering granite spires and snowy peaks of Denali National Park and Preserve attracts more than a half-million visitors every year. Located in Alaska’s interior, the preserve spans 6 million acres along the Alaska Range and encompasses towering peaks, massive glaciers, ancient fossils and the highest mountain in North America. Called Denali, the peak soars 20,310 feet above sea level, the equivalent of three-and-a-half miles from base to summit and a mile higher than Mt. Everest. Daytime winter activities in Denali include dog sledding, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing. At night, visitors can stargaze and observe the Northern Lights. For the heartiest of souls, camping is available in winter. Just be prepared for -40 degree temperatures. And every February, Denali hosts Winterfest, a four-day celebration including ranger-led ski and snowshoe tours, ice carving demonstrations, ice block sculpting competitions, and cross-country ski races. For those who prefer to visit termperatures are warmer, activities include hiking, camping, rafting, fishing and wildlife viewing. www.nps.gov/articles/denali.htm. www.travelalaska.com.
The Kennebunks, ME
Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, collectively known as The Kennebunks, are two picturesque towns on the southern coast of Maine. Perhaps best known as the summer home of former President George H. W. Bush, Kennebunkport is located on the Kennebunk River where it meets the Atlantic Ocean and encompasses Cape Porpoise and Goose Rocks Beach. Kennebunk is located five miles inland along the Mousam River. While summer is high season along the southern coast of Maine, autumn is the optimum time to see the vibrant fall foliage that turns the towns glorious shades of red and gold. It’s also when restaurants and tour companies are still fully operational before shutting down for winter. Leaf peeping is at its prime from late September to early October. And the best way to cap off a foliage tour is with drinks at Old Vines Wine Bar or at the HoneyMaker Mead Room. Other popular activities nclude browsing the art galleries and boutiques, as well as whale watching excursions. In Kennebunkport, lodging options include the new Yachtsman Hotel and Marina Club, located directly on the river. Next door is the Kennebunkport Marina, which provides dockage for guests who arrive by boat. Guests can also rent a power boat, as well as kayaks and canoes. Accommodations include 30 bungalows with water views. In Kennebunk, the Grace White Barn Inn is a luxurious Relais & Chateaux property with a spa and a Forbes five-star restaurant. The property offers a unique Tour de Bunks guided bike ride with General Manager Daniel Braun, followed by a 60-minute deep tissue massage. Yachtsman Hotel and Marina Club, rates $224 and up. 59 Ocean Ave., Kennebunkport. 207-967-2511, www.yachtsmanlodge.com. Grace White Barn Inn, rates $410 and up. 37 Beach Ave., Kennebunk Beach, 207-967-2321, www.gracehotels.com.
You can always take your northern excursion to the extreme and head to Iceland. It’s common knowledge this is one of the best places to view the Northern Lights, and now is the time to go. The aurora borealis is best viewed from mid-September to late March. But there are plenty of other unique things to do in Iceland besides the obvious. Once you and every other tourist on the island have taken a dip in the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa where you can bathe in warm, mineral-rich waters, head over to Bjórböðin, Iceland’s first beer spa. Part of Bruggsmidjan Kaldi microbrewery, located about a half-hour from Akureyri in northern Iceland, Bjórböðin offers guests a 25-minute soak in a wooden tub filled with beer, water, hops and yeast. After that comes decompression in a relaxation room for another 25 minutes followed by a stop in the restaurant for a nosh and a round of — what else? — beer, of course. www.bjorbodin.is/eng
Northeast Kingdom, Vt.
Vermont is known for its natural beauty and pastoral vistas, especially in the rural paradise known as the Northeast Kingdom, encompassing three counties in the northeast corner of the state. To explore the area, called “The Kingdom” by locals, consider establishing a home base in Burlington, then take day trips to see the sights. Foodies may want to visit Jasper Hill, a dairy farm in Greensboro with an on-site creamery and underground aging facility for cheese, and stop at Couture’s Maple Shop in Westfield to pick up some syrup to bring back home. Beer aficionados can take a tour of local breweries. Hill Farmstead Brewery in Greensboro has developed a cult following for its small-batch brews. If taking in the great outdoors is more your speed, pack a picnic and drive along the clear waters of Willoughby Lake where you can take in the sweeping views of the region. Here you can go mountain biking on the Kingdom Trails, rent canoes or kayaks. Finish the day strolling along the Lake Memphremagog boardwalk in Newport. Other attractions include the Bread and Puppet Museum, Dog Mountain dog park and the Fairlee Drive-In Theater. www.northeastkingdom.com.
Embrace the slow life movement and clear your mind among the rolling prairies, fresh air and wide open spaces of South Dakota with a road trip along the Missouri River from Sioux Falls to Pierre. Start at the Stockyards Ag Experience, an exhibit that takes visitors on a journey through the history of the Sioux Falls Stockyards and highlights the operation’s influence on history, economy and society. After that, visit Strawbale Winery in Renner. In addition to producing a variety of red and white wines and a rosé, the winery produces fruit wines mades with apples, cherries, plums and black currants. Visitors can sample the vino in a tasting room made from straw bales. Next stop is the Lewis and Clark Lake Recreation Area in Yankton. Outdoor activities are plentiful here and include hiking, camping, fishing, boating, horseback riding, snowmobiling and more. A variety of accommodations are available in the park, including cabins and the privately managed Lewis and Clark Resort and Marina. Be sure to save some time while you’re in Yankton to visit the 6th Meridian Hop Farm, which features an open-air beer garden and dining experience among the hops. Finally, learn about the history and culture of the indigenous people of the area at Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center in Chamberlain. www.travelsouthdakota.com.
Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
For hiking enthusiasts, September and October are a great time to visit Newfoundland and Labrador, the most easterly province of Canada. Not only are hotel rates lower, but the cooler weather brings with it vibrantly colored fall foliage and plenty of adventures and festivities. The Hike Discovery Trail Network on the Bonavista Peninsula of Eastern Newfoundland is home to a stunning coastal trail system filled with sea cliffs and barrens. The Skerwink Trail delivers scenic views of Port Rexton and Trinity’s autumn colors. And the East Coast Trail network links together 32 historic communities (from Portugal Cove to Cape St. Francis to Cappahayden) with 186 miles of hiking trails that pass by lighthouses, abandoned settlements, deep fjords and sea stacks, vertical rock formations that rise from the sea near the coastline. For guided tours, Bonavista Adventure Tours offers historical walking, boating and hiking tours, as well as foraging and beach “boil ups” — a local tradition featuring seafood cooked over a fire on the beach. Through Oct. 28, Artisan Inn and Vacation Homes in Trinity offers a three-night Hike and Dine package starting at $137 a night per person that includes accommodations, dinners, maps and more. www.newfoundlandlabrador.com
Kohler isn’t just the name of the company that produces plumbing fixtures for the kitchen and bathroom. It’s a town one hour north of Milwaukee, one of the oldest planned communities in the United States, and home to a sprawling vacation resort featuring golf courses, a spa, restaurants and shops. Golf is a major attraction at Kohler, thanks to the world class courses. Whistling Straits has hosted PGA championships, the U.S. Senior Open and will host the Ryder Cup in 2020. Blackwolf Run has hosted the U.S. Women’s Open. Other outdoor activities including hiking, fishing, horseback riding and trap shooting at River Wildlife, a 500-acre wilderness preserve. For a more chill version of R&R, get a treatment at the Kohler Waters Spa, sip some hot cocoa at the Craverie Chocolatier Café, practice your savasana at the holistic Yoga on the Lake studio, and then settle into luxurious accommodations at the five-star The American Club, the Inn on Woodlake, or Sandhill, a private rural cabin retreat. Rates $321 and up. 444 Highland Drive. 855-444-2838, www.americanclubresort.com.
Mackinac Island, Mich.
Located where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan meet, 3.8-square-mile Mackinac Island is a unique destination akin to traveling back in time to a Victorian village. For starters, the island has banned motor vehicles. Transportation is limited to walking, biking and horse-and-buggy. Be sure to explore Mackinac Island State Park, which covers more than 80 percent of the Island, and snap photos of the famous Arch Rock, a natural limestone geological formation located on the southeast end of the island. Overlooking Lake Huron, the recently revamped Mission Point resort is an historic grand hotel dating back to the 19th century. Its expansive Great Lawn overlooking the water is the perfect place to do yoga, meditate or fly a kite. If you’re craving a little more action, there are tennis courts and kayak tours. There are also new spa and wellness facilities. The resort is seasonal and open from April through October annually. Rates are $179 and up. 1 Lakeshore Drive, 231-331-33419, www.missionpoint.com. www.mackinacisland.org.
Often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the North, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a 70,000-acre park in western North Dakota. Comprised of two units — the North Unit and South Unit — the park offers breathtaking Badlands scenery, wildlife and outdoor adventure like hiking, biking and horseback riding. Access the South Unit through the historic town of Medora, or the North Unit from U.S. 85 south of Watford City. The park features more than 80 miles of marked horse trails, plus countless unmarked trails carved by bison, wild horses, long‐horned cattle, elk and deer. In addition to the park trails, the Maah Daah Hey Trail features 144 miles of non‐motorized single track through the Badlands, with campsites every 20 miles. Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Maah Daah Hey trail are both open year‐round, with guided trail rides and primitive camping available inside and outside the park. While you’re in North Dakota, you may want to take a trip down the “Enchanted Highway,” a 32-mile stretch of I-94 where the landscape is dotted with giant metal sculptures between the towns of Gladstone and Regent. www.nps.gov/thro/index.htm. www.ndtourism.com.
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