Autumn is my favorite time of year in America. All over the country, superb resorts are set amidst lush fall foliage, in landscapes bursting in iridescent oranges, purples, golds and reds.
Here are my Top 10 Resorts for Fall Foliage. As usual, we welcome your comments, criticisms and alternatives.
#10 - The Wentworth, Jackson Village, New Hampshire: It's hard to get more "New England Autumn" than this pocket-sized town in eastern New Hampshire. There are 51 rooms in the main house and outlying cottages filled with gas fireplaces, hardwood floors and Oriental carpets, surrounded by wildlife and abundant recreational opportunities. And a mid-to-late-October stroll will put you right in the middle of multi-hued foliage.
#9 - The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, Colorado: This may be America's grandest resort, a harmonious blend of Western and Italian influences with 750 rooms and suites, a dozen restaurants, a noted spa and golf course, and one of the world's most impressive collections of Western art lining its hallways. The Broadmoor is back-dropped by 10,000-foot Cheyenne Mountain and 14,100-foot Pike's Peak, which means that colors are bursting out on the aspens and maples everywhere you look from late-September to mid-October.
#8 - Windham Hall Inn, West Townshend, Vermont: Cell phone service in this charming inn (21 rooms/suites and one cottage) is spotty, which may make you either happy or miserable. But innkeeper Katja Matthews has endowed the Windham Hall with a special warmth that really glows during fall foliage season, generally the second half of October. And after just a day or two here, you won't care if you ever see your cell phone again.
#7 - The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan: On Mackinac Island, sitting in Lake Huron, there are no cars. So you get to the 385-room Grand Hotel by boat. This elegant white resort, built in 1887, boasts the longest porch on Earth (660 feet). And the reds and golds of fall foliage in this area are so vivid that the Agawa Canyon Train can take you a hundred miles into Canada to see them.
#6 - The Lodge at Buckberry Creek, Gatlinburg, Tennessee: Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, just outside Gatlinburg, is a woodsy Adirondack-style lodge with never-ending views of the mountains. There are 44 luxurious suites at Buckberry, each with a fireplace, and a balcony overlooking the brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges bursting from the maples and oaks. And Gatlinburg has funky shops and restaurants, unique attractions and a world-class aquarium.
#5 - The Peaks of Otter Lodge, Bedford, Virginia: I think the Blue Ridge Parkway is America's most beautiful road. Just off it, nestled between two of the three Peaks of Otter, is the Peaks of Otter Lodge and Restaurant. Here 63 rooms offer views on a painter's palette of colors, generally from mid- to late-October, when the dogwoods are red, the magnolias yellow, and the sumacs purple. And Abbott Lake lies between the three peaks, right behind the lodge.
#4 - The Coeur D'Alene Resort, Coeur D'Alene, Idaho: Sitting at the foot of the beautiful mountain town of Coeur D'Alene, this resort overlooks an ice-blue alpine lake of the same name, with 125 miles of mountainous shoreline. Lake Coeur D'Alene is one of America's great kayaking spots, with isolated coves and bald eagles overhead. The resort has 340 rooms with stunning views, three excellent restaurants, a golf course accessed by mahogany boat (with the world's only floating green), and its own lake-cruise boat and float-plane...and, from late-September through early-October, you can board either one for close-up views of the cottonwoods, aspens, and rocky mountain maples turning gold or red.
#3 - The Red Lion River Inn, Spokane, Washington: The Red Lion River Inn is actually in the city. But it overlooks the tree-lined Spokane River, and, across the water, Riverfront Park, an oasis of tranquility. Here, amidst a Turn-of-the-Century carousel and clock tower, and a "Skyride" that takes you over the river for an up-close-and-personal look at the fall foliage, you'll see crabapple trees turning red, Norway maples turning yellow, and ash trees turning purple, from early-October through month's end. And the Red Lion's 245 rooms and excellent dining - including a patio overlooking the river - offer a great base for exploring eastern Washington.
#2: Lands Creek Log Cabins, Bryson City, North Carolina: Perched on a mountaintop above Bryson City, near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is a piece of paradise. The 18 beautifully-furnished cabins (and a lodge for groups) are built on stilts over Lands Creek, and you fall asleep to the sounds of the water rushing beneath you. The cabins are filled with crafts and handmade furniture by local artisans, and most have fireplaces, as well as hot tubs outside on the decks. From early-October into November, there's an explosion of color amidst the maples, poplars, and walnut trees here. And a local outfitter named Fontana Guides can take you into the forests and lakes to see it...or to fish in the middle of it.
And now, our top pick...
#1 - The Chena Hot Springs Resort, Fairbanks, Alaska: This resort is actually 60 miles east of Fairbanks, via a road that's been called Alaska's most beautiful drive. Built around natural hot springs, the resort's 80 rooms are comfortable and authentic. From late-August through mid-September, the mountains are covered in a soft blanket of reds, from the falling leaves of bearberry plants. The birch and aspen trees turn yellows, golds, and oranges, and the spruce sheds its deep-green. And, when it comes to spectacular colors, Chena Hot Springs Resort offers an incredible bonus -- the world's greatest light show, the Aurora Borealis, fills the skies with luminescent lights starting in late-August.
That's my own personal list, folks. What do you think?