Denali National Park, Alaska
I’ll admit that Alaska was barely on my radar until Sarah Palin amused the masses during the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Eight years after she talked about being able to see Russia from her backyard, I finally made it to Alaska during Labor Day weekend, the unofficial start to the fall in the U.S. Alaska is easily one of the most underrated places to visit in the U.S. I admit it is not the easiest to get to and feels like it is in the other end of the world. But it is also completely worth the trip; from the stunning Seward peninsula to Northern Lights spotting in Talkeetna to the golden fall foliage in Denali National Park, the vast expanses of land around you do not disappoint.
The great thing about visiting Alaska in the fall is the combo of beautiful foliage, relatively manageable weather and increased chances of seeing the green wisps of the elusive Aurora Borealis. You can fly into Anchorage as we did and rent a car to drive around. We stayed in Healy, a small town right outside of the 6-million acre Denali National Park. Yes, you read that right, Denali is 6 million acres of wilderness, so needless to say you will not do it complete justice. However, you can either drive into the Park on Denali Park Road up until a place called Savage River or take a shuttle bus deep into the park to see even more scenic spots. Denali, the tallest peak in North America stands over 20,000 feet above sea level deep inside the park.
We stayed at the Touch of Wilderness B&B in Healy which was very cozy and lovely, but you can use Booking.com to easily find a place to stay in and around Denali.
Loire Valley, France
Located in central France about 2.5-hour drive from Paris, Loire Valley is an easy getaway from the capital city. Driving the length from Paris to the heart of the Valley, you will pass many idyllic, storybook villages out of a Monet. Known as the Garden of France, this region played an important part in French history with the Loire River serving as a busy transportation passage for the country.
Base yourself out of the quaint university town of Tours which is accessible by train from Paris. We stayed at a cozy Airbnb centrally located in the town.
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From Tours, rent a car and drive around majestic chateaux such as Chenancouex, Amboise, Villandry and admire the mix of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. Leonardo da Vinci is said to have lived in the town of Amboise for the latter part of his life and has influenced the architecture of chateaux such as Bloise and Chambord.
It goes without saying that while summer is always a nice time to visit France, you will deal with significantly smaller crowds in the fall with the added advantage of having the fall foliage augment the ornate castles of Loire Valley. October is a good off-season time to visit this region and slow down to meet the languid pace of life here.
New Orleans, USA
My love for this southern city knows no bounds; I have experienced it in every season and it never fails to please. Cajun food, colonial buildings, live jazz at every street corner and delightful cobblestoned streets are just part of the charm of this city. But in case you are not in the mood for the oppressive heat and humidity of the summer, fall is a good time to visit. Catch Treme Fall Fest, Burlesque Festival, Beignet Festival or other regular celebrations in the birthplace of Jazz, where living the good life eating sumptuous foods to the sultry sound of the saxophone is just par for the course. Check out my blog post of top things to do and to avoid in New Orleans.
Bruges is just so damn charming. It wasn’t even on my radar until my friend who is a big fan of the movie, In Bruges, wanted to go there on the tail end of a European trip. And I was so glad I did! In the land of waffles, chocolate, and beer, Bruges has plenty of opportunities to consume a lot of those things. The best way to explore Bruges is by foot, on cobblestones streets and narrow alleyways, as well as navigating the web of canals.
Easily accessible by train from Brussels, Bruges is an easy weekend addition to any European trip. Catching it after the busy summer tourist season in Europe is a good way to deal with fewer crowds and enjoy the charm of the city with a loved one or by yourself. Stay at the Hostel Lybeers if you are on the market for something more affordable, eat dinner at Nomad and drink beer at Le Trappiste.
Kyoto is stunning for many reasons, but it’s something special in the fall. The cradle of Japanese traditions held tightly to the chest, Kyoto is sublime in its self-assurance in retaining the architecture, artifacts, and arts of a historic past while seamlessly integrating modern structures and conveniences to woo tourists and locals alike. Steeped in shrines, temples and oodles of elegant charm, Kyoto is that much more gorgeous covered in the fall hues of rust oranges, golden yellows, and earthy browns. While Japan is always more popular to visit in spring for the cherry blossoms, it is also much more expensive to travel there then so try out Kyoto in its natural splendor accessorized in fall hues. For a full 2-day itinerary head over to my blog post.