Fall is the best time to plan a getaway. Crowds have dissipated. The sun is still warm, even though the air is crisp. The cultural-events season commences, and festivals flourish, celebrating flora, foliage, fall harvests and more. Best of all, the Mid-Atlantic region produces some of the most spectacular fall foliage in the nation. We've found five fabulous fall destinations, all no more than five hours from Baltimore. They provide plenty of autumn activity to keep you entertained and showcase all that nature has to offer.
Lewisburg, W.Va. (5 hours southwest of Baltimore)
The spellbinding scenery you'll see while driving into southern West Virginia's Allegheny ranges will provide enough pictorial keepsakes to fill a scrapbook. Lewisburg, a stylish, historic town with 19th-century architecture, is filled with antiques shops, hip boutiques, art galleries and upscale cafes. Its 235-acre historic district has one of the four still-operating Carnegie halls, live theater, preserved Civil War sites and North House Museum, where exhibitions shed light on the town's first 200 years. For more information, go to lewisburg-wv.com.
Leaf-peeping perch: : Hikers and mountain bikers declare that the region's most scenic vistas are atop Kate's Mountain in Greenbrier State Forest, at nearly 3,200 feet. Flatlanders can stroll the Greenbrier River Trail - 77 miles along the Greenbrier River - and view the kayakers and canoers. ( www.greenbriersf.com)
Stay: : The General Lewis Inn (circa 1834) has 25 antique-filled rooms on a Civil War battlefield. Rates begin at about $110 per night. (800-628-4454; generallewisinn.com)
Sip and bite: : Watts Roost Winery is a family-farm operation with award-winning vintages. Tastings are available by appointment. (www.wattsroostvineyard.com). Tavern 1785 is a historic restaurant with an innovative farm-to-table menu. (tavern1785.com)
Don't miss: : Ghost tours by candlelight of the historic district are offered Fridays and Saturdays, including a cemetery tour. (304-256-8687; greenbrierwv.com)
Middleburg, Va. (2 hours south of Baltimore)
If you turn the car off just outside of town, you're likely to hear Virginia's finest thundering hooves on a fox hunt. Middleburg is in the core of Virginia's horse country. Meander through the antique shops in town, but rejuvenate your soul amid the grazing sheep and cows residing on part of the Goodstone Inn's 265 rolling acres. The inn offers its guests complimentary mountain bikes, canoes at its lake, a pool, access to its private hiking trails, golfing, wine in the evenings and stunning accommodations. For more information, go to www.middleburgonline.com.
Leaf-peeping perch: : Drive the loopy Zulla and Atoka roads for views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Middleburg's most magnificent horse farms.
Stay: : At the Goodstone Inn. Request the Loft Suite, which has a rooftop patio that's perfect for stargazing. Rates start at $330 midweek, $480 on weekends. Rates drop significantly beginning Nov. 1. (877-219-4663; goodstone.com)
Sip and bite: : October is Virginia Wine Month, and there are dozens of festivals and other events. The nearby Loudoun Wine Trail (loudounfarms.org) highlights 17 wineries. For dinner, try Hilltoppers, the Goodstone Inn's restaurant. It features an organic, seasonal menu.
Don't miss: : The National Sporting Library (nsl.org) contains 11,000 historical books on equestrian sports. For horse-race fans, the Virginia Fall Races, featuring steeplechase competition, take place Oct. 4-5 (www.vafallraces.com).
McHenry (3 hours west of Baltimore)
Experiencing fall foliage at its finest doesn't mean roughing it. Make the Lake Pointe Inn your base and then fan out to enjoy other activities amid a mosaic of crimson, amber and moss-green foliage reflecting across the surface of Deep Creek Lake. The inn has in-room steam showers and down bedding. In case you are feeling too mollycoddled, take a white-water rafting ride down the Upper Youghiogheny River. For a gentler nature interface, check out Fallingwater, a Frank Lloyd Wright house that is about an hour's drive north. For more information, go to visitdeepcreek.com.
Leaf-peeping perch: : Take the four-falls trail up to Muddy Creek Falls (Maryland's highest waterfall) in Swallow Falls State Park. Look out for wild turkeys and beavers. ( www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/ swallowfalls.html)
Stay: : The Lake Pointe Inn has kayaks, canoes and mountain bikes for guests. Rates start at $188. (800-523-5253; deepcreekinns.com)
Sip and bite: : There are free tastings and tours at Deep Creek Cellars winery in nearby Friendsville. (deepcreekcellars.com). Make reservations to dine at the Savage River Lodge, where many dishes are prepared in a wood-fired brick oven. (301-689-3200; www.savageriverlodge.com)
Don't miss: : The 41st annual Autumn Glory Festival runs Oct. 8-12. Enjoy food, foliage, parades and music, including the Maryland State Banjo and Fiddle Championships.
Easton (1 hour east of Baltimore)
Locals call Easton the "Hamptons of the Chesapeake Bay" because of its eclectic arts scene. Throughout the fall, you can check out live music, performing arts and gallery events. There's even a film festival. The mild fall days are a fabulous time to rent a bike and cycle the triangle formed by Easton, St. Michaels and Oxford, and to catch a ride on the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry. All around are boat races, kayaking and nature preserves. For more information, go to eastonmd.org.
Leaf-peeping perch: : Settle on the dock overlooking Pickering Creek at the Audubon Center. Golden beeches, yellow tulip poplar, violet and purple-red white oaks and flaming red oaks surround the creek, and Canadian geese and tundra swans soar overhead. (audubonmddc.org)
Stay: : The Inn at 202 Dover, a historic mansion with afternoon tea and a Cordon Bleu-trained chef, is posh and pampering. Rates start at $275 midweek and $375 on weekends. (866-450-7600; www.innat202dover.com)
Sip and bite: : Easton's Little Ashby Vineyard is the place to start. Then visit Restaurant Local, which offers seasonal bounty from neighboring waterways, farms and orchards. (410-819-8088; restaurantlocal.com)
Don't miss: : The Waterfowl Festival, a Shore tradition, pays homage to migrating geese and other wildlife. The festival takes place Nov. 14-16 and includes duck- and goose-calling contests. (waterfowlfestival.org)
Lambertville, N.J. (2 1/2 hours north of Baltimore)
Settled in 1705, Lambertville is nestled in the Delaware River Valley. New Jersey's longest park, the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park, runs through Lambertville and inspires dedicated preservation of its rural beauty. This riverside hamlet has antiques shops, a microbrewery, a progressive ballet troupe and a symphony. Visitors can enjoy them and also stroll over a bridge into New Hope, Pa., and upriver to Stockton, N.J. For more information, go to lambertville.org.
Leaf-peeping perch: : A panoramic view of the idyllic Delaware River Valley can be had from atop the 125-foot Bowman's Hill Tower, located in Washington Crossing Historic Park in nearby Bucks County, Pa. An elevator takes visitors almost to the top; a little more than 20 steps are required to reach the lookout.
Stay: : Request a carriage-house king room at Lambertville House. Rates start at $200. (888-867-8859; lambertvillehouse.com)
Sip and bite: : Drive downriver to the historic shores of Crossing Vineyards, where Washington crossed the Delaware, for tastings and weekly vineyard events (crossingvineyards.com). Dine at the romantic Anton's at the Swan, which showcases seasonal ingredients. (antons-at-the-swan.com)
Don't miss: : The open-air car on the 35-mile Fall Foliage tour on the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad. The 2 1/2 -hour train ride is offered weekends in October. (newhoperailroad.com)