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9 Unique Vacation Ideas for Fall

  • Randy Duchaine/Alamy

    Unique Trips

    En español | When summer is over — and the grandkids are back in school — life's a little more peaceful. Maybe it’s time to plan a different kind of fall vacation.

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  • All Canada Photos/Alamy

    Go Storm-Watching on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island

    Storms that pack a real wallop begin to descend on Vancouver Island in November. Local inns and restaurants on the West Coast have turned the natural spectacle into a tourist attraction, offering special deals to come snuggle up to watch the show with a blanket or a glass of wine. Book a room at the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, a hotel designed specifically to take in the best views of the storms.

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  • Bread and Puppets in Vermont

    School children may be back in their classrooms, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy puppet theater in Vermont. Since 1963, Bread and Puppet Theater has been entertaining crowds — often with performances focusing on political and social issues. Sourdough rye bread is served in the theater, which sits on a 20-acre farm. Shows run through September.

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  • Pedal for Brew in Portland, Oregon

    With over 50 local breweries and a go-green bicycle culture, beer and bikes are a logical combination for anyone visiting Portland. Take advantage of some of Portland’s best weather in fall, and book a three-hour, five-mile (mostly flat) tour of the city, where a guide will take you to dozens of microbreweries and brewpubs for samples and behind-the-scenes tours.

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  • Tom Uhlman/Alamy

    Visit Migrating Monarchs in Monterey Bay, California

    There is never a bad time to visit the Monterey Bay area, but visit during mid-October through the end of winter and you’ll lay eyes on a unique migration: 25,000 monarchs that have gathered in the local pine and eucalyptus trees to escape cooler climates. Following the patterns of the generations before them, monarchs return each year to Monarch Grove Sanctuary, a city park just north of Monterey in the town of Pacific Grove. The best time to view the clusters of monarchs is between noon and 3 p.m.

    There is never a bad time to visit the Monterey Bay area, but visit during mid-October through the end of winter and you’ll lay eyes on a unique migration: 25,000 monarchs that have gathered in the local pine and eucalyptus trees to escape cooler climates. Following the patterns of the generations before them, monarchs return each year to Monarch Grove Sanctuary, a city park just north of Monterey in the town of Pacific Grove. The best time to view the clusters of monarchs is between noon and 3 p.m.
     

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  • National Geographic Creative/Getty Images

    Watch Whooping Cranes on the Gulf Coast

    If you follow the bugle call of the whooping cranes as they head south from Canada, you’ll find yourself at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast of Texas, just outside Corpus Christi. By November, several hundred whooping cranes, the most endangered of all cranes and the tallest bird in North America will have made the wetland their winter home and will stay there until spring. Expect to also spot pelicans, herons, egrets, alligators and bobcats.

    If you follow the bugle call of the whooping cranes as they head south from Canada, you’ll find yourself at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast of Texas, just outside Corpus Christi. By November, several hundred whooping cranes, the most endangered of all cranes and the tallest bird in North America will have made the wetland their winter home and will stay there until spring. Expect to also spot pelicans, herons, egrets, alligators and bobcats.

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  • Niebrugge Image/Alamy

    Stargaze in a Southern California Desert

    Many assume spring is the best time of year to travel to the desert — when spectacular wildflowers are in full bloom. In the fall, you can also find stunning beauty, you just need to look skyward. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, 80 miles east of San Diego, offers low humidity and night skies that are free from light pollution — the perfect combination for stargazing. Bring your telescope and camera, and time your trip for a full moonrise over the badlands in October, once the park reopens after summer closures.

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  • Patrick Batchelder/Alamy

    Go Vine-Peeping in Wine Country

    Need a new spin on the New England leaf-peeping drive? Head to Northern California’s wine country, where the grapevines turn brilliant crimson, orange, yellow and lime hues in mid-October to early November. Timing is everything: The changing of the color coincides with harvest, a time of year when the Napa and Sonoma county regions are hosting wine festivals to celebrate the area’s favorite crop.

    Need a new spin on the New England leaf-peeping drive? Head to Northern California’s wine country, where the grapevines turn brilliant crimson, orange, yellow and lime hues in mid-October to early November. Timing is everything: The changing of the color coincides with harvest, a time of year when the Napa and Sonoma county regions are hosting wine festivals to celebrate the area’s favorite crop.

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  • Danita Delimont/Alamy

    Celebrate Day of the Dead in Puebla, Mexico

    Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated throughout Mexico, but head to the tiny town of Huaquechula, just west of Puebla, to see truly elaborate offerings. Families create altars several stories tall and adorn them with wax candles, photographs and the favorite foods of their departed. Visitors are often invited into homes to see the altars and share a cup of hot chocolate, a slice of sweet bread or a shot of tequila.

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  • Alamy

    Forage for Wild Mushrooms in British Columbia

    While everyone else is seeking out the perfect pumpkin or wandering in a corn maze, head to the rain forest in British Columbia and forage for something deliciously edible —wild mushrooms. Gold chanterelles, oysters and porcinis are all in season in the fall, and tour guides lead hikes through the woods to locate the best places to find mushrooms that are safe to eat.

    While everyone else is seeking out the perfect pumpkin or wandering in a corn maze, head to the rain forest in British Columbia and forage for something deliciously edible —wild mushrooms. Gold chanterelles, oysters and porcinis are all in season in the fall, and tour guides lead hikes through the woods to locate the best places to find mushrooms that are safe to eat.

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