Ghost Towns, USA

October 30 2009 by Casey Bower

ghost-town-wr.jpgIn the "spirit" of Halloween, I decided to do a little research into old Ghost Towns around the country. I naturally assumed that there would be plenty in the old, Wild West, but was surprised to see that there is a spattering of ghost towns all across the United States. There were so many to choose from with incredibly interesting stories, but I going to focus on three.

I'll start with Dudleytown, Connecticut; hidden among three smaller mountains in the Appalachian Mountains. Many people know of the town because of the haunted forest nearby. Dudleytown was never a thriving metropolis, far from it. At the height of its day in the early 1800's, the town supported 26 families. During the Civil War, the families that survived the small pox and yellow fever supplemented their farming by cutting and burning wood for charcoal to sell to surrounding communities. Dudleytown is reportedly not known as haunted, rather that the whole area is possessed by demonic forces having the most active paranormal activity in the world. Evidently a curse was brought from England over to the town by the founders and caused the residents to lose their minds and commit murder among other things. Today ghosts, poltergeists and dark creatures roam the area. It must be true because Dan Aykroyd from the movie "Ghostbusters" has called it the "scariest place on Earth".

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Cesar Milan and His Dog 'Daddy' are Inseparated!

October 29 2009 by BW Innsider

cesardog.jpgHave you tried the "Best Western Friends Forever Inseparator"? Take a few minutes and create a hilarious merged image of you and your pet and share it with family, friends and co-workers. Create your unforgettable photo by logging on to www.bwff.com.

Also, check out these pet travel tips from Cesar Milan:

Taking a Car Trip?
Hiking with Your Dog

Thinking about taking a trip with your pet? Check out Best Western pet friendly hotels.

Bike, Trike or Hack?

October 28 2009 by Jason Fogelson
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motorcycle-trike-wr.jpgI write about riding around on two wheels. That's my passion.

But there's another step between two wheels and four: Three wheels.

There are two ways to get on three wheels with Harley-Davidson. Since 2009, the Motor Company has offered a factory Trike, with one wheel and a traditional fork in front, and two wheels in the rear. For 2010, you can choose between the Tri Glide Ultra Classic (starting at $29,999), which is basically a three-wheeled version of the Ultra Classic; or a Street Glide Trike (starting at $26,999), a more stripped-down version of the Touring platform.

The other option is to add a sidecar to your bike. Harley makes a sidecar rig that's designed to hook up to the Touring lineup, and there are aftermarket manufacturers who will build sidecars for other bikes in the lineup. When a sidecar is hooked up to a bike, the resulting three-wheeled contraption is called a "rig," or a "hack," probably based on the tradition of horse and buggy hacks.

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Fall Fun: Corn Mazes, Hayrides and Haunt Spots

October 27 2009 by Karla Henriquez

corn-maze-entrance-wr.jpgThousands of years ago, the Celts celebrated the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the winter with bonfires, costumes, and parades. They believed that in the late autumn, the line between the worlds of the living and the dead was less distinct. In places where the seasons are marked, it's easy to imagine this to be true as we experience warm sunny days followed by cold nights, see living green leaves alongside brown and dead ones, and as the whole natural world transitions into a long slumber, almost a death. It really does seem to be a time when the worlds of the living and the dead mingle.

People today appear to have the same desire as the ancient Celts did to celebrate this time of year. Some of these celebrations are nothing more than a goodbye to the bounty of the summer - we visit farms and run through corn mazes, take wild hayrides, and drink apple cider. Other activities are more eerie - we carve sinister looking jack-o-lanterns; decorate our homes with spiders, cobwebs, black cats, and witches; or visit haunted spots, both real and make-believe.

In the spirit of these fall festivities, I'm devoting this post to corn mazes, hayrides, and haunted spots.

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What's Your Travel Name?

October 27 2009 by Chris McGinnis

name-tag-wr.jpgI've been waiting and wondering about this and now it looks like its time to bite the bullet and change my name.

My travel name, that is.

My travel name would be the name I use when I buy an airline ticket, make a hotel reservation, rent a car, travel to another country or sign up for a charge card or loyalty program.

Why go to the trouble? Because starting next year, a new federal initiative called Secure Flight will require that the name on the ID you use to check in at the airport EXACTLY matches the name on your airline ticket.

And since the name on my ticket should always match the name on my frequent flier account (to avoid missing out on miles), I'll have to change that.

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Get More Than Just 'Your Kicks' on Route 66!

October 26 2009 by Claudia Kunkel

route-66-wr.jpgYou've heard the song. It's referenced in movies. As a child growing up in Arizona, we're taught about the "historic highway" in our state. But what is Route 66, really?

It's a road starting in Chicago and ending in Santa Monica that stretches over eight states. The highway oozes with nostalgia, history and Americana as it once was. Some see it as a link to the past - to the ways our grandparents traveled that we just simply don't know in today's hustle and bustle. A road where travelers can really get away from the rat race and experience a shell of the extravagant life that existed along this extended stretch of road.

In 1926, Route 66 was known as the "Super Highway." It followed the railroads that moved coast to coast and with the advent of the automobile, people were given a new way to travel, a new way to experience America. Route 66 represented freedom - a super highway for Americans traveling from the Midwest to the West coast. Bursting with brightly-lit hotels, drive-ins, diners, tourist attractions and natural spectacles, the highway was as exciting an experience as the destination.

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Track School

October 23 2009 by Jason Fogelson

superbike-racer-wr.jpgYou've spent some time on that new motorcycle. You took the Rider's Edge New Rider Course. Then you spent some more time on your scoot. You took the Rider's Edge Experienced Rider Course. And then you rode some more.

Now, you're looking for a new challenge, a new way to build your skills.

Maybe it's time for Track School.

The best riders on the road have usually had some training and experience on the track. Time on a racetrack is the safest, quickest way to build riding skills, and it's actually much more accessible and affordable than you might imagine.

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2010 Predictions

October 22 2009 by Bryson Forbes

future-wr.jpgWith just more than two months left in 2009, its time to look ahead to 2010 and make some predictions about the future. Will the Leafs win their first Stanley Cup in more than 40 years? Will we see a federal election in Canada? Will our economy turn the corner quickly and recover from a tough 2009? Aside from the Leafs winning the cup, the other two are a great source for debate, but here are a few personal predictions for the travel industry:

  1. The Olympic Effect. The Vancouver Olympics will be a resounding success and accomplish a number of wonderful things; it will serve as the perfect excuse to transition economically from bad times to good. It will act as a catalyst to improve consumer confidence and boost spending. The Olympics also will highlight the beauty of Canada and its west coast, helping tourism in the second half of 2010.
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Brew Tours

October 21 2009 by Mark Deyer

brewery-wr.jpgFall is a great time of year for serious beer lovers. The crisper, lighter beers depart store shelves and fridges in favor of darker, heavier, and more complex seasonal brews. Fall is also one of my favorite times of year to travel. Green leaves and warm weather depart, bringing an abundance of fall foliage and crisp weathers. Lately one of my favorite travel activities has been to stay away from main thoroughfares and heavily trafficked tourist spots of my favorite cities, so that I can focus on my newest travel passion: The brewery tour.

Touring breweries is not only a memorable way to take in the essence of a locale, but a very affordable and cost effective activity. Since most tours are free to the public and offer a tasting at the end, it can be a great, cheap way to spend a fall afternoon.

Here are some "must hit" breweries for your next trip:

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Cool Cemeteries: Visiting "Cities of the Dead"

October 20 2009 by Matthew Clyde
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Cemetery-wr.jpgThis may seem like a strange post for a travel blog, but with Halloween season upon us I thought it would make for an interesting travel idea.

I spent some time visiting a friend in Pittsburgh this year. During my stay, she mentioned that she had the perfect not-so-popular tourist destination that she knew I'd love. Intrigued and happy to have my own personal tour guide around a new city, I asked where we were going. She said, "A cemetery." My reaction was to ask if she knew someone buried there. "No," she replied. I asked if someone famous was buried there. Perhaps Pittsburgh's own, Andy Warhol or Perry Como? "No, it's just a cool cemetery." A cool cemetery? Now, my friend is a bit eccentric, so this didn't surprise me. What did surprise me is Allegheny Cemetery. I had never seen anything quite like it.

I didn't want to leave. I spent hours walking around, taking pictures, reading epitaphs and peeking inside the stained glass windows of mausoleums. Creepy, you say? Understandably, many people are not interested in visiting "cities of the dead." However, the intricate tombstone carvings, elaborate mausoleums, perfectly hand-crafted sculptures and stunning landscape gave me the experience similar to that of visiting a museum. In fact, I found it relaxing, peaceful and fascinating. Maybe it's a little morbid, but there's something calming about being in these artistic sanctuaries surrounded by centuries-old walls, gates and headstones.

Since my trip to Allegheny, I've decided to visit the most unique, beautiful and interesting cemeteries in the US. Here are a few you should plan to check out on your next vacation:

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Cookie Magazine Offers Up Road Trip Games

October 19 2009 by Amy Graff

A1-cover_cookie_146-wr.jpgAfter road-tripping with my kids this summer for 17 days straight, I felt as if I had played every car game possible with my children. License plate bingo, I-Spy, 20 Questions--you name it, we played it.

We recently visited the California Sierra for the weekend--a four-hour drive from our home--and I knew that I would need to come up with something new for the car ride. On the Cookie magazine Web site, I stumbled upon a list of 21 road trip games to keep your kids from saying "Are we there yet?" Here I found a few new games to try. My daughter kept herself busy with "100." You pick one thing--red cars, trees, whatever--and try to find 100 of it. My son had fun playing "Castle in the Sky" and trying to pick out clouds and deciding what they look like.

And both of my children loved playing Slug Bug, which is actually a game I remember playing with my brother as a kid, but I had completely forgotten about it.

See a Volkswagen Beetle and call out, "Slug bug!" One point is awarded to whoever calls it out first, but beware--a point is deducted if one is wrongly called out. Traditionally, this game involves the administration of a gentle "slug" to the shoulder of another player as the bug is called, but depending on the energy level and age of your children, you may select to forgo this part.
Click here to find the complete list of road-trip games in Cookie.

Who Travels More, You or Your Food?

October 16 2009 by Casey Bower

produce-grocery-wr.jpgLately, it seems that every time I sit down to eat someone is asking "is the food local?" Where do you get your tomatoes? Are apples in season right now?

Not long ago, price ruled the market, and people just wanted to get their produce, fruit and meat for the lowest price... but, things are changing, and fast!

Where it was once "cool" to not eat your veggies, it is now "hip" to not only eat your veggies, but grow them too... or at least know where they come from. The garden is cool again, understanding seasons is in and eating exclusively local meals is the bees knees.

Why?

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Apple Picking

October 15 2009 by Karla Henriquez
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apples-wr.jpgEvery September, when the air starts to feel nippy and the leaves are just barely starting to turn, I'm reminded that it's time to drive out to an orchard to pick some of my own apples. Even my farmer's market can't compete with the fresh taste of an apple right off the tree on an early fall day!

This year, my friends and I decided to go to one of the area's most easily accessible orchards at Silverman's Farm in Easton, Connecticut. When we arrived, the kids were excited to jump into a complementary wagon to ride from the parking lot to the store across the street. In no time, we had picked up our half bushel bags and caught a tractor-pulled wagon for a ride into the trees. My 19 month old was fascinated to be bouncing along with the wind in her hair, behind a real tractor. She squealed and clapped the whole way up the hill into the orchard. I even heard a "Bravo!" or two. The friendly driver took us right to the rows that were open for picking that day and gave us a brief set of instructions, then turned us loose on rows of Gala's, Cortland's, and Macouns. I was perfectly happy with this selection since I was looking for apples that I could use to eat, bake and make applesauce.

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How Loyal Are You?

October 14 2009 by Chris McGinnis

loyalty-handshake-wr.jpgAs many readers of this blog know by now, I recently brought together a group of Best Western's most frequent guests to form the "Best Western Diamond 100." This advisory group consists of business travelers who have stayed with Best Western more than 250 nights over the last five years.

When we first reached out to this group, we expected that about 100 would agree to participate--hence the name Diamond "100." To our delight, nearly 400 road warriors signed up to share their thoughts and voice their opinions on a number of business travel-related topics important to them. This is indeed an excellent illustration of how loyal these folks are to the Best Western brand.

Speaking of loyalty, our most recent BWD100 survey examined members' feelings about frequent travel programs and revealed some interesting nuggets:

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A Cautionary Tale

October 13 2009 by Jason Fogelson

motorycycle-safety-wr.jpgWe all know someone who has been hurt in a motorcycle accident. It's the first thing that comes up when our friends find out that we ride. We deflect, we change the subject, we reassure - we're safe riders, riding is all about managing risk, everything in life is dangerous, you can get killed walking down the street. You know the conversation.

Every once in a while, though, it hits hard.

My cousin Dave and his wife Linda were in a motorcycle wreck last week. Riding two-up on a 2006 Harley-Davidson through a small New Jersey town near their home, they collided with, or were hit by, a pickup truck driven by an 18 year-old boy. Dave and Linda have sustained major injuries. They will both survive, but each has had their left leg amputated. The pickup truck driver was not injured in the accident, and a police investigation is underway.

Dave and Linda will survive. Their injuries, though severe and life altering, are no longer life threatening. The impact of that collision will resonate far beyond that New Jersey street.

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Stress Free Thanksgiving in Canada

October 12 2009 by Bryson Forbes

canada-thanksgiving-wr.jpgIf you are like me, then Thanksgiving is second to only Christmas on your list of top notch holidays. I always enjoyed the start of a new school year, a new hockey season and the majestic colour changes that have all started by the second Monday in October. For all of these reasons and many more fall is without question my favourite season.

In speaking with a friend last week about plans for Thanksgiving he told me that a few years ago his family started "outsourcing" the holiday. After my initial chuckle, which was not reciprocated, I started to listen more intently. The more he spoke the more sense he started to make. A mere five minutes later, thirty seven years of traditional Thanksgiving celebrations had come squarely into question. It seemed so plausible; could you keep all the benefits of this splendid holiday and outsource the bad? Let me see if I can replicate his sales pitch.

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Baltimore in Season

October 12 2009 by Claudia Kunkel

picking-pumpkin-wr.jpgFall is a great time of year to visit Baltimore and there is plenty to do to celebrate the season. Whether you are looking for fall festivals, autumn hikes or Victorian cemeteries you will find it in Baltimore and more.

Families will enjoy everything from apple or pumpkin picking to hayrides, straw mazes, fall crafts and petting zoos at several area farms including Baugher's Orchard & Farm, Spring Meadow Farm Fall Harvest Festival, Irvine Nature Center Pumpkin Fest and Weber's Cider Mill Farm. Most are open Saturday's and Sundays through October. Another seasonal favorite for families might be autumn hikes to take in the fall colors at Gunpowder Falls State Park, Oregon Ridge or Patapsco Valley State Park.

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Old Ruins Become More Important

October 9 2009 by Sam Lowe

ruins-33-cha-wr.jpgruins-11-az-wr.jpgAs I grow older, I am finding a deeper appreciation for older things. Particularly for things that are older than I am. Having adopted that attitude, I eagerly look forward to excursions into northwestern New Mexico because they have old things there that are really old.

Primarily, they are Indian ruins, ancient reminders that white men were not the first to inhabit the land. They bear such names as Chaco Canyon, the Salmon Ruin and Aztec Ruins National Monument. Each is distinctive, yet their origins are similar. And Chaco Canyon is the most spectacular.

Officially known as the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, the site contains evidence of 10,000 years of human occupation, and several of the structures within its boundaries are (or were) immense, some of them covering several acres. The canyon is best known for these large-scale, multi-storied buildings that were planned and constructed more than a thousand years ago by ancestors of the Hopi and New Mexico Pueblo peoples.

Those who study such things believe that from 850 A.D. until 1150 A.D., the area was the center of a vast political, religious ceremonial and trade network that encompassed a large portion of the Southwest. The public buildings contained within its boundaries, also known as great houses, were built using a core and veneer masonry system that added to the strength and stability of the massive structures.

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Canadian Business Travel Forecast Looks Promising

October 9 2009 by Bryson Forbes

canada-economic-recovery-wr.jpgAccording to a market forecast from American Express, a sharp spike is expected in the amount Canadian businesses spend on travel next year. After what has been characterized as the "worst recessionary period in our history" travel and tourism in Canada is starting to see positive signs of recovery. The market forecast projects corporate Canada to increase its spend by 15 percent in 2010, far outpacing a miniscule 1 percent increase from the US and an expected further decline in Europe.

I can attest to the business travel market starting to turn. For the corporate agency I work at, September was the first month in 2009 we were back to pre-recessionary levels. I am cautious though about declaring the trouble completely over just yet. There are three things I am waiting to see before I ink my declaration:

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Travel Demand on the Rebound?

October 7 2009 by Chris McGinnis
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recovery-wr.jpgI started wondering if things were on the mend in business travel when we completed our August survey of Best Western Diamond 100 members. As you may recall, it revealed that unmanaged business travelers expect to travel as much (68 percent) or more (11 percent) this autumn compared to the same time last year.

That sounded like pretty good news to me, and in my blog headline, I pondered whether unmanaged travelers (those who work for themselves or for small companies and call their own shots when it comes to travel) were going to be the ones to "lead the charge out of economic doldrums."

Now there's further evidence that travel demand might be on the rebound: In its Global Business Travel Forecast released last week, American Express said the decline in business travel demand may be bottoming out due in part to pent-up demand for face-to-face meetings.

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Maurice Sendak Exhibit Opens in San Francisco

October 6 2009 by Amy Graff

sendak10_where-wild-things-wr.jpgA wild rumpus has come to San Francisco's urban jungle.
Last week, the Contemporary Jewish Museum opened a retrospective of over 100 works by children's book author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, including rare and original pieces from his 1963 classic Where the Wild Things Are, the book about an angry boy named Max whose mom sends him to bed without dinner.

"There's a Mystery There: Sendak on Sendak," which runs through January 19, 2010, features original watercolors and drawings from Sendak's books, rare sketches, never-before-seen working materials, and exclusive interview footage. You'll find a final drawing from Pierre, A Cautionary Tale with the mischievous boy standing in front of the lion who eats him; a photograph of Sendak's real-life German shepherd, Agamemnon, who was a model for the dog in Outside Over There; and a preliminary drawing of the Where the Wild Things Are wild rumpus scene in which Max tries to tame the monsters as a way to control his own anger.

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Beautiful Botanical Gardens

October 4 2009 by Julie Drossos

botanical-garden-wr.jpgAs we approach the fall and winter months, filled with busy school schedules, demanding workloads at the office and the hustle & bustle of preparing for the busy holiday season, it's easy to forget to stop and "smell the flowers". We can easily take for granted that some of the most beautiful things can be grown from the earth. This is why I've decided to get the scoop on a few of North America's most stunning botanical gardens - a visit to any of these spots would be a perfect escape for anyone as we head into the craziness of the holiday season.

Butchart Gardens
Where: Victoria, BC, Canada
Why: Beautiful, picturesque location, mild temperatures year-round, delicious high tea
Cost: $16.25-$23.50 during the Fall & Winter

I won't lie - I'm definitely biased towards Butchart Gardens because it's in beautiful Victoria - just a short hop skip and a jump over to Vancouver Island from my hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia (BC). However, I guarantee you will be impressed with this very beautiful setting. Every visitor I've ever taken to the gardens has been delighted. Butchart Gardens is located in Brentwood Bay, BC, Canada - very close to Victoria, the capital of the province of BC. The gardens are family owned and receive well over a million visitors from around the world each year. Covering over 55 acres, the gardens are bursting with colorful and rare flowers, steams, ponds, waterfalls and lush vegetation. The mild climate allows for year-round enjoyment. The gardens definitely cover an expansive space, so be sure to wear walking shoes and be prepared to embrace a little exercise.

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Changing Colors in the Northeast

October 2 2009 by Jason Fogelson
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fall-foliage-wr.jpgI live in Southern California now, so I get to ride my motorcycle year-round. But one thing that I miss about living in the Northeast is the change of seasons, especially the arrival of autumn. Green gives way to gold, red, yellow and a spectacular explosion of color just before the trees give up their leaves. Already beautiful scenery becomes outrageously, fleetingly mind blowing. The show moves from north to south, as fall creeps slowly down from Maine to Georgia. Florida doesn't get as much of a show, but then Florida has a show year-round anyway.

When I lived in New York City, I had three favorite routes out of town for great day rides to see the foliage.

My favorite route was always directly to the north. We'd ride up the West Side Highway and onto the Taconic State Parkway. Almost immediately upon leaving the border of New York City up in Yonkers, the Taconic becomes a beautiful divided highway, with long stretches of curvy, tree-shaded two-lane road carved into the rocky hillside. There are even some challenging sections for a motorcyclist, with changes in elevation, decreasing radius turns and off-camber curves. Mostly, it's a beautiful country ride through the Hudson River Valley that can make you forget you were ever in a crowded city. We used to ride up to Lagrangeville for brunch at the Daily Planet Diner then tool around Poughkeepsie, looking at the architecture and admiring the campus of Vassar College before heading back to Manhattan.

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End of Summer Escape - South of France

October 1 2009 by Claudia Kunkel

France,-Sept.Antibes-wr.jpgI have just returned from my end of the summer escape, holiday, vacation, getaway - it was all of those things and more.

It was my fortunate parental "duty" to accompany my youngest daughter to the south of France to help her situate for a semester of French immersion at the University of Lyon. Of all the parental duties involved with raising children, I must say this was one of the more pleasant. After having traveled all that way, it seemed only logical that I seek out some rest and relaxation from all that work. I set my sights on the Mediterranean, specifically Antibes, a mere 4 hour high-speed train ride from Lyon.

I prepared for my sojourn by buying fresh baguettes, cheese and of course, a bottle of French wine to enjoy while watching the vineyards of the Cotes du Rhone region speed by and then watch the landscape start to ease into the lovely Mediterranean Sea. This was my third time through the French Riviera and it never loses its "wow" factor for me. It boggles the mind that water can be so many shades of blue and that there are even more shapes and sizes of yachts bobbing along the coast.

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Leaf Peeping in the Hudson River Valley

October 1 2009 by Karla Henriquez

hudson-river-valley-wr.jpgWith the onset of cool weather comes one of Mother Nature's greatest treats, the change in the color of leaves as trees prepare to bear the cold of winter. Many people set aside a weekend in late September or early October to get away to a place where they can really soak in all the beauty that the change of season offers. Perhaps in some way, this ritual prepares us for the barrenness of winter. This year, when planning your fall foliage tour, consider visiting New York's Hudson River Valley.

This valley appeals to me for so many reasons. It's rich with history, it's easily accessible from the New York metro area by rail, boat, car, or even bicycle, and it's full of charming little towns, excellent restaurants, historic homes, and stunning views. To top this off, the valley offers a magnificent display of reds, golds, and browns beginning in late September and through the month of October.

There are many ways to experience the Hudson River Valley in the fall. Here are a few suggestions:

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