By Pam Mandel for BedandBreakfast.com
The days are a little shorter and the smell of dry leaves will soon fill the air. The calendar is turning to autumn, and it's time to make the most of sunny, crisp fall weekends before winter sets in. Grab a mug of warm apple cider and read about our favorite destinations for autumn adventures.
The Beach Getaway: Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama
Longing to hang onto summer? Head to the Gulf! This region offers gorgeous white sand beaches, a historical Civil War fort (Fort Morgan) and seafood fresh from the Gulf of Mexico. Dolphins play offshore, and there are lots of opportunities to get on the water, either by chartering a rig you'll skipper yourself or joining a cruise. How about some competitive big-game fishing, either as a spectator or from the water? Mobile, Alabama, or Pensacola, Florida are the nearest metro areas, but there's an airport in Gulf Shores if you want to fly in.
Where to stay: Just east of the town of Gulf Shores is sister burg Orange Beach, sandwiched between Gulf State Park and Perdido Beach. The Original Romar House Bed and Breakfast is a remodeled 1920s beachfront property. There's an on-site bar, the Purple Parrot, where you can wind down your summer with tropical cocktails while listening to the wind in the palm trees. Heads up: No kids, no pets here; it's strictly a grown-up playground.
Estes Park is the gateway for Rocky Mountain National Park, home to spectacular peaks, wildlife and a road that scrapes the sky at more than 12,000 feet. There's hiking, climbing, fishing, horseback riding ... if it's an outdoor activity, odds are you'll find it in Estes Park. But there's also a thriving arts scene; the town is home to dozens of galleries and artists' studios. You'll find jewelry, metalwork, photography, painting and all kinds of creations made by Colorado artists. The food is great here, too; it's mostly casual dining (flanking a National Park will do that for you), Discover hand-cut steaks, area-made microbrews and local, seasonal menus. Denver is about an hour away by car--and it's a stunner of a drive.
Where to stay: The Golden Leaf Inn boasts details that reflect the Arts and Crafts architectural style. It features a beautiful tiled fireplace and craftsman furniture, and it's a mere five-minute walk from the center of town. The rooms' mountain views are spectacular--you might even see Colorado wildlife right outside your window. The inn will fuel you at the beginning of the day with breakfasts made with organic ingredients. When you return in the evening, unwind in a roomy saltwater hot tub.
The Small Town: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Small-town America is alive and well in this pretty pre-Civil War resort town on the shores of Lake Geneva. The town is an excellent base for a fun long weekend. There's lakeside dining, fishing, cocktail lounges, historical homes and concerts in the park. An annual Oktoberfest, featuring everything from restaurant and shopping deals to hay rides and craft shows, takes place October 10 through 11, 2015. The town is about a 90-minute drive from Chicago O'Hare, and about an hour's drive from Milwaukee.
Where to stay: The T.C. Smith Historic Inn is just two blocks from downtown. It was built in 1865, and while the rooms are furnished with antiques, the amenities are thoroughly modern: This pre-Civil War home offers Jacuzzi tubs, free afternoon tea, and complimentary wine and cheese, and the homemade breakfast may be served in your guestroom if you wish. Kids and pets are very welcome, but do let your innkeepers know in advance so they can plan for you.
The Family Vacation: Lake Lure, North Carolina
In this lakeside town, you'll find glorious waterfalls, a placid lake that's great for swimming and quiet boating, lakeshore beaches, and--perched high above it all--majestic Chimney Rock. Scenes in movies including "Dirty Dancing" and "Forrest Gump" were filmed here. And since you're right by the Blue Ridge Mountains, you'll be in the perfect place to view the changing leaves of fall. The town is about 27 miles from Asheville.
Where to stay The Lodge on Lake Lure has a pier that juts out over the water--it's the perfect place for some lakeside leaf peeping. If the weather allows, you can have breakfast on the veranda while listening to the birds that occupy the tree-lined grounds. Built in the 1930s as a retreat for the North Carolina Highway Patrol, the lodge reopened in the '90s as a small hotel. The property offers free canoe rentals for guests, and the innkeepers will help you arrange fun local activities: rafting, rock climbing, fishing, and more. Let the innkeepers know in advance and they'll make sure your room is set up to accommodate the kids.
The Brewery Crawl: Cooperstown, New York
Spend your weekend checking out the Cooperstown Beverage Trail. Cooperstown was once the hops growing capitol of North America, and now it offers a lively brewing scene. But it's not all beer here; you'll find plenty of cider, wine and spirits, too! The trial is 37 miles long, so you could do the entire route in a day--and on a bicycle, even-- ut we recommend you explore over the course of a weekend. You'll be drinking, so be sure to have a designated driver or join Hop On Tours and forget about the driving entirely.
Where to stay:The historical Cooper Inn is a two-story Federal-style mansion with beautiful period detailing that includes an original 1800s staircase. It's walking distance from the Baseball Hall of Fame and not far the Farmer's Museum, the Fenimore Art Museum, and the Cooperstown Brewery. Albany is just over an hour's drive away.
McMinnville (and nearby Carlton) is packed with excellent places for wining and dining. This western town in the heart of Willamette wine country has a beautiful weekly farmer's market, a bounty of local-wine tasting rooms and about 20 restaurants within the span of a few blocks downtown. Head to the Market (that's what locals call the farmer's market), and enjoy a salad or fresh sandwich while people watching.
Where to stay:Youngberg Hill Vineyard and Inn is surrounded by 22 acres of rolling vine-covered hills. The inn, which sits beside a working organic winery, has nine rooms, all with private baths. The house has a beautiful wraparound porch, and guestrooms have balconies and in-room fireplaces. A daily complimentary wine tasting is served in the afternoon.
This article originally appeared on BedandBreakfast.com. BedandBreakfast.com is the world's most comprehensive site for discovering unique accommodations and booking bed and breakfast getaways. With more than 10,000 properties and nearly 75,000 rooms, BedandBreakfast.com connects travelers with extraordinary B&Bs, country lodges, urban inns and small hotels worldwide.