The siren call of autumn has returned, along with challenges inherent in fall travel — the kids falling back into full-on study mode and intramural commitments, the vacation budget being exhausted from summertime travel, and watching one’s pennies for family vacations in 2018. Fortunately, there are reasonably priced getaways a short drive from major cities that celebrate the simple pleasures of season rather than play as a stay-cation compromise.
Eastern United States
Cooking enthusiasts and junior foodies from New York metro can enjoy a daytrip out to Natirar, a historic estate on 500 lush acres along the Raritan River in Somerset County, N.J. Visitors can tour the 12-acre sustainable farm, growing more than 200 varieties of fruits and vegetables, and learn about its autumn bounty. They can then learn how to prepare some of that harvest at the on-site cooking school inside the estate’s Tudor-era carriage house.
Those wanting to skip driving all together should consider day cruises. Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises offers an Oktoberfest Bear Mountain Cruise departing from New York City. The ambiance on board is pure Europe, with German food, drink and live music and with three hours on land to enjoy natural beauty, hiking trails, the Bear Mountain Zoo and more.
Apple picking is a favorite fall pastime in Central New York, a few hours’ drive from New York and Boston, and varieties such as Jonamacs, Gingergolds, MacIntosh and Honeycrisp are ripe for the picking. The Marriott Syracuse Downtown builds a perfect country retreat weekend around the harvest with hayrides, corn mazes, fresh cider, apple fritters and orchard hopping. Gorgeous foliage abounds in the city parks and places like historic Oakwood Cemetery, with 160 acres of sugar maples, oaks and hickories in full autumn display that get kids into the spirit of Halloween and holiday season.
The XV Beacon Hotel in Boston delivers New England foliage on the ultimate silver platter — the hotel’s rooftop — from the Boston skyline and Charles River to tree-lined streets in full Technicolor splendor. The hotel is walking distance from the Boston Public Gardens, Charles River, Theater District and steps away from public transportation that can take visitors to The Museum of Fine Arts, the waterfront and more.
Western United States
The West has its own autumnal natural wonders, and a prime way to see them is with a stay on Lake Powell, along the Arizona–Utah border. Resorts such as the Lake Powell Resort & Marina in Page, Ariz., or Defiance Lodge on the Bullfrog Marina are gateways to some of America’s most spectacular national parks, including Brice Canyon, Zion, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Arches.
Los Angeles does have an autumn season beyond new television shows, and Marina Del Rey Hotel is a perfect place to experience it. The hotel will feature an Oktoberfest celebration, with ale from local breweries and pub fare, while its SALT Restaurant & Bar takes advantage of harvests from Southern California’s farmers. The Marina is rich with activities such as kayaking, strolling along Venice Beach and Santa Monica Promenade and fireside al fresco dining.
Cape Rey, a Hilton-affiliated resort just beyond San Diego in Carlsbad, encapsulates the California fall experience, from its Craftsman-style architecture, pet-friendly policy, bike rentals and ocean vistas to proximity to fall-perfect outdoor activities such as the Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside Harbor and Legoland California.