As summer's fleeting charms begin to fade, fall swirls into view in a burst of kaleidoscopic color. Relish autumn's arrival with 50 nifty travel ideas for the Mid-Atlantic region: from leaf peeping and leisurely drives, to museum-hopping, fall-inspired menus, Halloween delights and more, to usher in this glowing season of change.
1. Nestled amid the abundant trees of Maryland's largest forest, Savage River Lodge is an ideal starting place for leaf peeping. The handsome three-story lodge boasts a grand stone fireplace and the onsite cabins have oversized soaking tubs, plus porches with rocking chairs. The lodge offers several packages to add to your stay. The Art & Nature package is $118 and includes tours of Fallingwater, the iconic home by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, plus a gourmet picnic lunch. Rates for cabins start at $185 per night. Go to savageriverlodge.com.
2. Escape to Gaylord National Resort at National Harbor for the "Fantastic Fall Getaway." The resort offers comfy rooms, entertainment, fountain shows, dining and a spa, all in a waterfront setting. Enjoy National Harbor special fall events, including Das Best Oktoberfest (Sept 24-25) and Restaurant Week (Oct. 3-16).The package, available through Nov. 17, includes $50 in dining credits and room rates start at $189 per night. Call 301-965-4000.
3. Now that the kids are back to school, why not check into the Liaison Capitol Hill in Washington for a grown-up slumber party? The hotel's fall package for two adults includes one night's accommodations, a $100 dining credit for celebrity chef Art Smith's onsite restaurant, Art and Soul — plus a copy of his cookbook. Rates start at $249 per night, available Sept. 23-Feb. 29. Call 202-638-1616.
4. Located two blocks from the White House, The St. Regis in Washington fetes autumn with a tie-in to The National Museum of American History's "First Ladies at the Smithsonian" exhibit. Guests stay in the luxurious Caroline Astor Suite and receive a private tour of the museum. Rates start at $509 per night, available Thursday-Saturday. Go to starwoodhotels.com/stregis.
5. Keswick Hall in Charlottesville, Va., offers brilliant eye candy for fall travelers. Reds and yellows paint the Blue Ridge Mountains, the background for the historic hotel that sits on a 600-acre estate brimming with history. Seasonal resort activities include pumpkin carving and apple picking. Keswick's Autumn Gourmet Package includes accommodations, breakfast, dinner, and a wine tasting for two. Rates start at $380 per night through Nov. 30. Go to http://www.keswick.com/autumn.
6. With crisp weather and beautiful foliage, Colonial Williamsburg is tailor made for fall. Beyond the history here, there's fine dining, spa treatments, and golfing. The Autumn Stories Package, available through Nov. 27, offers a chance to hit the links and view art exhibits. At night, ghost stories add an extra thrill. Rates start at $109 per person. Go to history.org.
7. Peep fall foliage along the scenic Potomac River with the "Bike and Cruise" package at Kimpton's Hotel Monaco in Alexandria, Va. The two-night offer includes a bike tour along the Mount Vernon Trail and a boat cruise return aboard the Miss Christin. Rates start at $249 per night. Call 800-368-5047 or go to monaco-alexandria.com.
8. The Inn at Lambertville Station, nestled in charming Lambertville, N.J., has just unveiled 45 Ethan Allen redesigned rooms, with waterfront views. Perfect for leaf peeping, Lambertville is a quaint town, lined with art galleries, antique shops and boutiques. In the fall, the historic Delaware-Raritan Canal tow path offers scenic vistas and the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad features "Fall Foliage Trains" – a nearly three-hour journey to take in fall colors. Go to lambertvillestation.com
9. The lovely inn known as the E.B. Morgan House is situated right on the shores of The Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway in Aurora, N.Y. It offers picturesque views of the water and great old trees surrounding the property. The byway runs 87 miles around the lake offering beautiful scenery in addition to four state parks, a National Wildlife Refuge, and a number of wineries, shops and restaurants. Go to ebmorganhouse.com.
10. Celebrate autumn New England-style at Forty 1 North in Newport, R.I. The marina-side hotel boasts floor-to-ceiling windows, eco-friendly features, two restaurants, plus fireplaces and iPads in every room/suite. Seasonal deals include the Fall Harvest package, offering a two-night stay, a "Harvest Supper" showcasing farm-to-table fall vegetables and the "Anona, Goddess of the Harvest" cocktail. Rates start at $930 for two through Nov. 30. Wednesday overnight required. Go to 41north.com.
Food and wine
11. Celebrate Harvest and Crush weekend Sept. 24-25 along Maryland's Piedmont Wine Trail. At Boordy Vineyards, the event includes food, live music, wine pairings and sampling of ripe grapes followed by the wine they will become. Go to piedmontwinetrail.com.
12. For Marylanders who love seafood in season, fall means oysters. Whether you like to eat 'em raw, fried, broiled, or grilled, chances are you'll find them at the annual St. Mary's County Oyster Festival, held on the local fairgrounds. From cook-offs to a national oyster shucking contest, music and more, the bi-valves will take center stage on Oct. 16-17. Go to usoysterfest.com.
13. Bayou Bakery in Arlington, Va., is a casual coffee bar and eatery where gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, beignets and other Nawlins' delicacies are proudly served by Louisiana-born chef owner David Guas. During the fall pecan harvest, the award-winning pastry chef also whips up pecan pie and sweet potato tarts. Go to bayoubakeryva.com.
14. What better time than fall to embark on an exotic gastronomic adventure? For one night only in Washington, Behroush Sharifi, aka "The Saffron King," will join forces with Rodney Scruggs, executive chef of Occidental Grill & Seafood, to host a "Global Feast for the Senses." The five-course, spice-themed dinner promises eclectic dishes infused with nutmeg, cinnamon, black cumin, and long pepper, to name a few. The Oct. 20 event is $110 per person. Call 202-783-1475 or go to occidentaldc.com.
15. Throughout October, celebrate Virginia Wine Month, a series of festivals, hotel packages and great deals on wine. The Richmond International Wine Excursion kicks off Oct. 28 and 29, and features tastings, a "locavore" luncheon and other global cuisine. Several hotels are offering packages, including the posh Jefferson Hotel and the cozy Linden Row Inn. Go to visitrichmondva.com/wine.
16. The Thomas Jefferson Wine Festival has quickly become one of Virginia's premier wine events each fall. The third annual festival, set for Nov. 19 on the grounds of Poplar Forest, the president's historic retreat, will bring together area wineries, artisans, local food purveyors, music and more. Tickets are $20 in advance. Go to thomasjeffersonwinefestival.eventbrite.com or call 434-534-8120.
17. The new Mason-Dixon Wine Trail (formerly Uncork York) is a multi-state wine region featuring more than a dozen family-owned wineries that wind through the Susquehanna River Valley in Pennsylvania, to just south of the historic Mason-Dixon Line in Maryland. Visit any of the dozen wineries for the Wine Just Off The Vine celebration, Nov. 12, 13,19 and 20, for a peek into the art of crafting fine wine. Go to masondixonwinetrail.com.
18. Atlantic City is typically bustling with gaming and nightlife, but fall brings fewer crowds and great hotel deals. Visit in time for the inaugural Beer vs. Wine event on Oct. 22. Some two dozen American craft breweries take on 15 American wineries as attendees decide which beverage pairs best with a variety of foods prepared by local restaurants. Go to acbeervswine.com.
19. Celebrate fall with classical music performances by the BSO at the Music Center at Strathmore, situated on 11 scenic acres in Bethesda. Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 "Pathetique," cellist Alicia Weilerstein, and the world premiere of "Chuphshah! Harriet's Drive to Canaan," a homage to Marylander Harriet Tubman from African-American composer James Lee III, are among the offerings on Saturday, Sept. 24 at 8 p.m. Go to bsomusic.org.
20. Explore the charm of small town America during the annual Mountain Magic In Fall Bluegrass, Antiques and Crafts Festival. Held Oct. 1 in Buchanan, Va., against the backdrop of the town's historic Main Street, the festival showcases its heritage through music, crafts, history and architecture. Go to townofbuchanan.com.
21. The Crooked Road, Virginia's Heritage Music Trail, winds through the mountains and valleys of southwest Virginia, where the music is as rich as the brilliant fall leaves. Live music venues, museums and cultural centers lie along the trail. Top bluegrass acts perform at venues like the Carter Family Fold, the Floyd Country Store and the Rex Theater in Galax. Go to thecrookedroad.org.
Festivals and fun
22. Summers Farm in Frederick hosts the Great Pumpkin Fun Run – a cross-country course through the corn fields - on Sept. 25. The 5K run and 1-mile fun run benefit St. Jude's Childrens Research Hospital. After the run, enjoy the farm's many seasonal offerings, including hayrides, corn mazes and a pumpkin patch, of course. Go to summersfarm.com.
23. Cinema takes center stage this fall at the Chesapeake Film Festival, Sept. 23-26, in Easton, Chestertown and Cambridge. The festival brings the finest in narrative documentary and short film to the region, along with discussions, receptions and more. For a full schedule, go to chesapeakefilmfestival.org.
24. The Waterfowl Festival in Easton is a Maryland Eastern Shore tradition for all ages, with food, music and myriad activities. The event is Nov. 11-13 and includes geese and duck calling contests, a food and wine tasting pavilion, and artists from around the country. Go to waterfowlfestival.org.
25. Enjoy the beauty of fall in the mountains of Garrett County at the annual Autumn Glory Festival. The event, held Oct. 12-16, features parades, music art exhibits, antique and craft shows, food and more. Don't miss the Oktoberfest dinner and concert by the Oom-Pah band, dogsled events, and the official Maryland State Banjo Championship. Go to visitdeepcreek.com.
26. Experience the picturesque autumn beauty of Philadelphia's northern countryside in Bucks County, Pa. Local towns get in the fall spirit by hosting a series of events — from lantern-led ghost tours to hayrides, to a folk art competition with larger-than-life scarecrows. The 40th annual Apple Festival offers scrumptious treats such as apple dumplings, fritters and a fall favorite, apple cider. Go to visitbuckscounty.com/events.
27. Philadelphia's Manayunk EcoArts Festival, Sept. 24-25, is an earth-friendly celebration with technology, interactive demonstrations, and entertainment — all focused on being nice to planet Earth. Go to visitphilly.com.
28. Pay homage to history this fall in Gettysburg, Pa. Dedication Day on Nov. 19 honors President Lincoln's visit, complete with recitations of the famous Gettysburg Address. On Remembrance Day, held this year on the same date, thousands of re-enactors and living historians will converge on the town to honor Civil War soldiers. At day's end, volunteers will light 3,500 candles in the Soldiers' National Cemetery and place flags at gravesites. Go to gettysburgfoundation.org.
29. Fall Arts Jubilee (now through Nov. 6) in Alexandria, Va., highlights the arts with events throughout the city, from outdoor art festivals to indoor performances, exhibitions, and films. Round out the experience with a visit to the Torpedo Factory Art Center and shopping at boutiques and galleries. Pop into a café or dine in one of the city's acclaimed eateries, enjoy a glass of wine or craft beer. Go to visitalexandriava.com.
30. Fall's gorgeous hues abound during the Chrysanthemum Festival at Longwood Gardens, about 12 miles from Wilmington, Del. From Oct. 29 to Nov. 20, some 200,000 chrysanthemums in vibrant yellow will drape the walls, form chandeliers and be arranged in other artful configurations inside the four-acre conservatory. Outside, gorgeous gourds and giant pumpkins decorate the sprawling grounds. Go to longwoodgardens.org.
31. Whether you're a model train buff, or simply love beautiful gardens, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania's annual Garden Railways Tour will delight. This self-guided tour of 10 private homes features working model trains set amid landscaped gardens. Sites are located in and around Lancaster, Pa. Tickets for the Oct. 9 event can be purchased at the museum or online. Go to rrmuseumpa.org or call 717-687-8628.
32. Need family-friendly activities that won't break the bank? Then head to Fairfax County, Va., for a variety of outdoor fall fun that's inexpensive — and sometimes free. Spend the day hiking or rock climbing at Great Falls National Park or savor the serenity of the new Korean Bell Garden at Meadowlark Gardens, said to be the only one of its kind in North America. Go to fxva.com.
33. Fall is an inspiring time to visit Washington as the national monuments, memorials and outdoor spaces take on a brighter hue. The National Arboretum in D.C. hosts a fall foliage display every year and also offers an orchid show, sale and exhibit on Oct. 8-10. Go to usna.usda.gov.
34. Talbot County's scenic byway along Route 33 from Easton to St. Michaels to Tilghman Island, offers an incredible fall drive along country roads and a blazing array of fall shades. Here, the big sky vistas and waterscapes accelerate the depth of the fall foliage. Go to tourtalbot.org.
35. Traditional fall foliage sites in Maryland include the Deep Creek Lake area, Cumberland/Frostburg and the Catoctin Mountains north of Frederick. They're pedestrian friendly and also accessible by car, train or bike. Go to visitmaryland.org.
36. Maryland's Eastern Shore evokes a very different fall experience: besides foliage, envision golden fields of soybeans, acres of orange pumpkin patches and flocks of Canadian geese in flight.
37. Enjoy fall colors from the deck of the Woodwind, a 74-foot wooden schooner offering sunset cruises on the bay every other Monday in September. Listen as a guest speaker from the Historic Annapolis Foundation brings the history, lore, and intrigue of Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay to life. Call 410-263-7837 or go to schoonerwoodwind.com.
38. Commune with Mother Nature this fall in the Pennsylvania Wilds region, which boasts some five million acres of forest, and the largest herd of free-roaming elk in the Northeast. The area includes thousands of miles of streams and waterways, designated trails, horseback riding trails and more. Don't miss the new Kinzua Sky Walk, providing views from 200 feet above the Allegheny National Forest. Go to pawilds.com.
39. Don't forget to yell 'Timber!' at the Shawnee Mountain Festival in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Think lumberjack demonstrations, chainsaw sculptures, live music, children's activities, crafts and food. And if you want to glimpse foliage up close, take a scenic chairlift ride up the Shawnee Mountain. October 8-9, 2011. Go to shawneemt.com.
40. Explore trails through Semper Fidelis Memorial Park, overlooking the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va. Visitors can experience fall foliage in environs that honor the sacrifices of America's military personnel. The pathways are lined with benches, memorials, and some 16,000 commemorative bricks. A recently opened "9/11 – We Remember," exhibit features an I-beam from the World Trade Center, a Pentagon building fragment, personal stories from Marines and more. Go to usmcmuseum.org.
41. A great route for fall leaf peeping is the 24-mile Colonial National Historical Parkway, connecting historic Jamestown and Yorktown. Devoid of billboards, the parkway, a National Scenic Byway, is a peaceful and beautiful meander. Go to virginia.org/fall.
42. Skyline Drive, one of America's legendary roadways, is the main artery of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The sweeping, tree-lined drive is dramatic year-round, but come fall it's particularly stunning. Nature lovers can hike, camp, and spy wild animals from deer to black bears at the park, marking its 75th anniversary this year. The Junior Ranger program is fun for youngsters, and history buffs may enjoy a guided tour of Rapidan Camp, the presidential retreat of Herbert Hoover. Stay overnight at Skyland Lodge or Big Meadows Lodge, where the dinner menu highlights fare like fresh rainbow trout, to house-made blackberry cobbler. Go to nps.gov/shen
43. George Washington's Mount Vernon honors the slaves who lived there with a fall program and wreath-laying ceremony on Oct. 8. The event features dramatic readings and African drumming. The estate also hosts Fall Harvest Family Days, Oct. 22-23. Go to mountvernon.org.
44. West Virginia's Bridge Day Festival is a thrill-seeker's paradise, but it's also a great way to view fall colors. During the one-day festival in Fayette County, W.Va., spectators line the 876-foot New River Gorge Bridge, which serves as the launch point for thousands of base jumpers. The event includes arts and crafts, live music and a chili cook-off. Go to officialbridgeday.com.
45. In a city as old as Annapolis, there's bound to be some unexplained phenomena. The Haunted Ghost Tour, co-hosted by the Historic Annapolis Foundation (HAF) and Watermark Tours, takes visitors on weekend night-time treks through the historic district to explore legends and lore. The two-hour tours depart Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. through Oct. 29. Call 410-268-7601, ext. 100 or go to watermarkjourney.com.
46. All a-boarrdd a steam locomotive for a Howloween Murder Mystery on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. Originating in downtown Cumberland, the train ride on Oct. 29 promises a gaggle of costumed ghouls, including Dracula and the Bride of Frankenstein. It's a howling good time, until someone turns up without a pulse. You get to figure out whodunit. Go to mdmountainside.com.
47. Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va., is known for its thrilling rides, but Howl-O-Scream aims to take horror to another level. Now in its 13th year, it's got new bone-chilling scare zones, terrifying shows and gruesome creatures lurking around the park. The event begins Sept. 23 and continues every weekend through Oct. 30. Go to howl-o-scream.com/va.
48. Autumn is Fright Fest at Six Flags America in Bowie, as the park is transformed from summer thrills into Halloween chills. Visitors can enjoy all their favorite rides by day, but when the clock strikes 6 p.m., the park morphs into a place where haunted attractions, hair-raising shows and horrifying creatures abound. Every Saturday and Sunday night in October, beginning Oct. 1. Go to sixflags.com/america.
49. Head to Cape May, N.J., for the annual Sherlock Holmes Weekend on Nov. 4-6. Get into the spirit of things by donning Victorian attire and stalking gas-lit streets in search of clues as you attempt to solve the mystery. Weekend packages begin at $95 per person. Ride along for the Ghosts of Cape May Trolley Tour, featuring a paranormal expert and spine-tingling tales. Call 800-275-4278 or visit capemaymac.org.
50. Take the whole family on fall and Halloween-themed events at campgrounds across the country. Some to visit: Hershey Highmeadow Campground in Hummelstown, Pa., with trick-or-treating and pumpkin decorating contests. Meanwhile, Mountain Lake Campground and Cabins in Summersville, W. Va., will celebrate with costume and campsite decorating contests and a "Monster Mash Dance." Go to gocampingamerica.com.