Though its August and the calendar will soon read September, in some parts of North America, it will feel as if July hasn’t gone anywhere. However, those eagerly anticipating the arrival of autumn’s cool, refreshing breezes are in luck as there are several genuinely cool places — figuratively and literally — waiting to be discovered over the course of a long holiday weekend.
In order to keep your cool, you may want to plan ahead for your fall road trip before heated competition arises for reservations when the leaves start turning. Bonus: Many of the locations will appear in your kids’ social studies classes at some point, and trip memories may find their way into some papers and projects.
On Track at the Grand Canyon
Get a jump on the 2019 centennial celebration of Grand Canyon National Park with a journey that not only winds through one of America’s most emblematic landscapes but also the later years of the “Old West.” The Grand Canyon Railway has enchanted countless visitors from around the world since 1901, not only with breathtaking scenery but also fascinating folklore and tales authentic spun by actors and musicians. It has classes of service, ranging from no-frills Pullman and Coach, to Luxury Dome and Parlor, which include food and drinks. Off-track lodging options include the newly refurbished Grand Canyon Railway hotel, an RV resort, Maswik Lodge and even the Railway Pet Resort for four-legged family members.
Hit The (Oregon) Trail
The backbone of transportation in the early American West, which served as a primary route for nearly 500,000 pioneers between 1841 and the 1880s, also celebrates a milestone: its 175th anniversary. The roads leading to Boise, Idaho, and Pendleton, Oregon, boast historic guideposts such as the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Oregon Trail Reserve, featuring actual remnants of the trail, including rock art deemed as early advertising efforts), the Idaho State Museum and Inn at 500 Capitol in Boise, noted for its Oregon Trail-themed rooms.
Though it takes effort to get to Western Montana, the rewards include cool mountain air in higher elevations, cold rivers suited for plunging and fishing, and shady forests to hike and bike. You’ll find them in Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. Kalispell, Missoula, and Whitefish offer a variety of rustic and fun accommodations, from riverside lodges to rehabilitated barns and luxury guest ranches to contemporary urban spaces. Glacier Country is also home to the Flathead and Blackfeet Indian Nations, opening out Western Montana’s cultural heritage in a rich, colorful tapestry of art, music, dance, storytelling, industry and leisure.
New England, New Adventure
New Hampshire’s Waterville Valley and White Mountain National Forest are best known for skiing and winter sports, and the fabled fall foliage is a few weeks away. However, late summer is ideal for experiencing a forerunner of today’s fitness and run clubs: The Waterville Athletic and Improvement Association, founded in the 1800s by guests staying at Greeley’s Hotel. The association still oversees the valley’s 100-plus miles of trails, which range from easy walking paths to more advanced trails, such as a hike up the 4,315-foot summit of Mount Osceola. Young readers will enjoy the H.A Rey Center, a living tribute to the creators of the immensely popular Curious George books, who made the area their part-time home in the 1950s. The center hosts nature walks, writers’ workshops, discussion clubs, art shows and activities for children.
Take advantage of the opportunity to view the Margerie and Grand Pacific glaciers before Glacier Bay closes for the season Sept. 3. The park stages a full-day tour of wildlife viewing, from Puffins and coastal bears to whales, stellar sea lions and seals, while bringing passengers up close and personal to the calving glaciers. Throughout September, Denali Park Village plays host to the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights, at its peak intensity. Nature’s fireworks display is the result of particles escaping from the sun’s surface and being hurdled around in space as winds that eventually reach the Earth.
Fjord Fascination at Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec, Canada
While Norway’s famous fjords draw adventurers from around the globe, North America has breathtaking, wintery waterscapes of its own. A magical region awaits two hours north of Quebec City by car, where the mighty Saguenay River meets inland sea Lac Saint-Jean. While different corners of this natural wonder are best viewed at Parc Adventures Cap Jaseux, Saguenay-Fjord National Park and Monts-Valin National Park, there are many adrenaline-filled activities (hiking, biking and zip lining among them) and historical sites that flesh out this vibrant corner of Canada.