September 9, 2008
Close the door on leaf-peeping through the car window. We went to our fall guys—those IgoUgo members enamored with autumn—for more intriguing ways to enjoy the changing season, and from fountains of wine to fields of corn, ideas were abundant.
Visit vineyards in fall to enjoy the year’s crop of grapes as wineries harvest, crush, and blend. There might be more to see than barrels and bottles; many wineries plan special festivals—like the Napa Valley Harvest Festival or Virginia Wine Month—and some even allow visitors to do a little grape-stomping. Napa is a favorite fall destination of dkfrost, who says, “Napa Valley’s autumn color was so beautiful we will be going back—and I'm from New England.” Just as famous but a bit less convenient, La Route des Vins in Alsace, France, is most fun in October, when, says lintrip, “if you decide to visit Obernai during the grape harvest, the Saint Odile fountain will be spouting the new wine.”
Getting lost in a car has caused many a fall-foliage fight, but getting lost in a corn maze is, well, a delight. The Amazing Maize Maze pops up each year in several locations around the US and UK; vampirefan recommends its Huntersville, NC, location at Rural Hill Farms through November 2. Another top pick is the Amish Farm and House Corn Maze in Lancaster, PA, through October; jaebirdypie says that in addition to getting “an intimate look into the simple lifestyle of the Old Order Amish,” the farm’s corn maze is “able to confuse the wits of anybody.”
Some balloon festivals skip summer in favor of fall breezes, including the famous Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which runs from October 3-12 this year. Peregrine says the New Mexico town is well-loved in autumn: “Come in the fall. The weather cools down, the foliage turns the city to gold, and the International Balloon Fiesta fills the sky with thousands of balloons.” On the east coast, New York’s Adirondack Balloon Festival will light the sky for four days near Lake George beginning September 18.
While the birds are heading south for the season, look north to experience wonderful hawk watching. MSJ recommends Lynchburg, VA, and the Appalachian Mountains: “If you come in fall, you can see the hawks as they make their way from north to south. Take a drive up or down the Blue Ridge Parkway, and pull off at many of the roadside areas to eye the terrific views.” Other prime viewing spots line the Mississippi Flyway, a route used by millions of (feathered) snowbirds each fall. And at the beginning of the route, Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park offers a hawk station with sweeping views.
After you’ve picked your own apples and gourds, take the activity to the next level with some pumpkin worship. TracyJ recommends Pumpkinfest in Mishicot, WI, “ a celebration of harvest with a parade, free petting zoo and hay maze, pumpkin-carving contest, hayrides, and costume contest.” She says that “the downtown area of Mishicot becomes a sidewalk bazaar with many local stores and craftsmen participating,” and that, when she visited, “the Fox Hills Resort hosted a bonfire just after sunset with all the s'mores we could eat amid scary stories.”
Belated State Fairs
Unlike summer’s often sweaty affairs, the straggling state fairs of autumn offer pleasant weather and a colorful backdrop to their even more colorful midways. Arizona’s state fair (October 10-November 2) embraces the season with kids’ harvest activities, while adults enjoy the dynamic show outdoors. As linlanwh divulged, “Phoenix is a wonderful and unknown place to enjoy the changing of the seasons and the fall colors.” Other IgoUgo picks include the October fairs of Texas, Arkansas, Virginia, and North Carolina, which RoBoNC loves so much he’s been “almost every year of [his] life.”