Ladies, forget the husbands and the kids, grab your girlfriends and head out to one of these great fall destinations. Patricia Schultz, author of “1000 Places to See Before You Die,” presents her five favorite fall getaway locations.
Location #1: Mohonk Mountain, Catskills, New York With a mountain wilderness disproportionate to its modest size, parts of the Catskills region have been an on-again, off-again vacation destination for 200 years. Today's Ulster county appeals mostly to urbanites looking for a Walden Pond escape, combining rich Hudson River heritage and a beautiful mountain interior of deep forests and hidden waterfalls.
About Mohonk Mountain:For a dose of the old Catskills, the past lives in Mohonk Mountain House — the only remaining example of a type of lodging once prevalent in the area. Seven stories high and sprawling at the edge of a deep glacier-gouged lake, it's a glorious hodgepodge of Victorian turrets, gables and crenellated stone towers, built by two Quaker brothers in 1869 and still run by the same family today (the Smileys).
Mohonk Mountain is set on 2,200 private acres of woodland abutting the 6,400 acre Mohonk Preserve in the Shawangunk Mountains and boasts 85 miles of quiet trails and carriage roads, plus nearly 130 gazebos.
Best time to go to Mohonk Mountain: Mid-September for the four-day Woodstock Film Festival and almost every week for one of Mohonk Mountains-themed weekends. And don't forget the peak of fall foliage, mid October.
Price for rooms: $341, www.mohonk.com
Location #2: Asheville, North Carolina and the Biltmore Estate
The Biltmore Estate has been called “the biggest, most glorious home in America.”
George Washington Vanderbilt II thought he was American royalty, and so in 1887 he aspired to model his country estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains after Versailles. It took him six years, 1,000 men's labor, 11 million bricks to build 250 rooms, some soaring with 70 ft. ceilings. There are 34 bedrooms and 43 bathrooms. Each of the 63 lucky houseguests could use up to 15 utensils during a seven-course meals and have a staff of 650 wait on them.
Best time to go to the Biltmore Estate: Its year-round beauty. But if you have to pick a time, early November to the end of the year for their holiday season, www.biltmore.com
Location #3: Chicago's Millennium Park & Art Institute of Chicago From the 1850's through the late 20th century, the site that is now occupied by Millennium Park was controlled by the Illinois Central Railroad. In Daniel Burnham's 1909 plan of Chicago, he considered the railroad property to be so untouchable that he developed the Grant Park portion of the plan around it.
Construction began on Grant Park in 1917. The first areas to be constructed were the narrow strips between Michigan Avenue and the railroad tracks extending from Randolph Street to 11th Street. The original peristyle was built at this time, at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street.
In 1997 Mayor Richard M. Daley directed his staff to develop plans for a new music venue to be built over the active tracks and surface parking lot. What is now Millennium Park was first conceived in 1998 with the mission of creating new parkland in Grant Park to transform the unsightly railroad tracks and parking lots that had long dotted the lakefront. Over time, with Mayor Richard M. Daley's vision and Frank Gehry's involvement, the project evolved into the most ambitious public undertaking in Chicago's history.
Today, with its unprecedented combination of architecture, monumental sculpture and landscape design, the 24.5-acre Millennium Park has become the crowning achievement for Chicago in the tradition of its original founders.
Chicago is the quintessential American city — and is the deserving home of one of the nation's top art institutions — with one of the world's largest collections, more than 225,000 works in all. One of American art's most recognizable painting is here: Grant Wood's “American Gothic” (Wood's dentist posed for the pitchfork holding farmer and Grant's sister for the spinster daughter at his side.)
Its century-old, Renaissance-style building is one of the countless reasons for Chicago's stature as the world capital of 19th and 20th century architecture.
Location #4: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Nestled at 7000 feet in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Santa Fe, New Mexico, the “City Different,” is America's oldest capital city and claims a long history and rich cultural heritage.
Founded as a capital city in 1607 by Spanish explorers, it was once claimed by the Pueblo peoples.
Ten Thousand Waves Spa: Take the atmosphere of a traditional Japanese hot-springs “onsen” and move it outdoors, add the panorama of the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the perfume of pinon pines and juniper bushes, toss in the juvenile thrill of baring it all in the great outdoors and you get Ten Thousand Waves, a one-of-a-kind wellness retreat.
Deep relaxation is the guiding principle here, and while many come for the waters alone, most explore the menu of body treatments.
Opened in 1981, the Waves is a little bit new age, a little bit zen and a little bit high desert, all melded together in the simple elegance of Japanese and Southwestern aesthetics.
Inn of the Anasazi: Neighboring the palace of the Governors, the oldest public building in America, this unusual inn reaches back even further for its inspiration, to the regions 1,000- year-old indigenous culture — the Anasazi (Navajo for “ancient ones”).
This is Santa Fe's most sophisticated hotel, but it functions more like an intimate, impeccable run inn, decorated with colorful rugs and hand-crafted baskets, textiles and carvings that represent the area's native Latino and Anglo cultures.
Location #5: California's wine country
If America has an answer to Tuscany, Italy — as a locus for wine, food and the good life — than Napa and Sonoma are it. Consistently beautiful and gently landscaped, these fraternal twins, separated at birth by the Mayacamas Mountains and distinctly different in character, produce about 7% of the world's wines.
The 35-mile long arc of Napa is the better known and more densely populated, with some 280 wineries (up from 20 in 1975) producing the region's signature cabernet and many other varieties.
On looks alone, the smaller Sonoma county appears more rustic and laid-back, but don't be misled by the folksy, unfussy character of its 200 wineries. Sonoma wines, especially cabernet, chardonnay, and zinfandel, often outpace those of Napa.
About the Napa Valley wine train: For the multisensory experience, hop aboard the luxury Napa Valley wine train, which runs from Napa to St. Helena, past 27 vineyards. Guests wine and dine during a blissful three-hour gourmet journey aboard handsomely restored 1915-era Pullman coaches.