13 Best National Parks to See in the Fall

Posted October 29, 2013 by


U.S. national parks are beautiful to begin with. But when the deciduous trees that blanket so many national parks become aglow with radiant fall foliage, the spectacle is astounding. You might need to pack a sweater, but you can snap gorgeous photos, partake in special activities, and, of course, enjoy the colors of autumn when you plan a trip this season.

Although fall means fewer crowds (and perhaps the chance to more easily spot wildlife) in popular parks, the weather can be unpredictable, and some facilities even close up after the summer season. Be sure to contact your park for details on what's open and what's not before planning your trip.


Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia might be the first place that comes to mind when you think of fall colors at national parks—the destination attracts thousands of leaf peepers in autumn, so be prepared for some crowds. But it's totally worth it—traverse the park's more than 125 miles of hiking trails to discover amazing views, take a ranger-led bird-watching walk among the changing leaves, or rent a kayak and take in the scenery from the water.

When to Go: Peak fall colors generally pop up around mid-October. Check the region's leaf status on


Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, Texas

You might be surprised to learn that the Texas Hill Country is a prime place for leaf peeping down south. Head to Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, where you can get a side of American history with your foliage. The park is home to the LBJ Ranch (also known as the Texas White House), which is surrounded by wild brush country. Here, sumacs, oaks, and haw hollies become awash with intense fall hues during autumn.

When to Go: You'll likely find the best foliage from mid-October through November.


Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

This park's famed cave system—more than 400 square miles of explored underground caverns that make up the world's longest—is the reason most visitors make the trip. But don't overlook the scenery aboveground. Forests of oaks, hickories, gum trees, and dogwoods on rolling Kentucky hills become a mosaic of fall colors this time of year.

When to Go: Check for updates.


Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

We love the sweeping views of water and the eyeful of beautiful fall colors that Sleeping Bear's sky-high dunes afford during this time of year. Visitors can get even better views from the air: Board a helicopter or hot-air balloon and view fall foliage on an aerial tour.

When to Go: You'll find peak colors in the region from mid-September through early October. Check's Fall Color Map to see the status of local foliage.


Valley Forge National Historical Park, Pennsylvania

Just a short drive from Philadelphia, Valley Forge is the site where General Washington and his Continental Army camped during the Revolutionary War. Here, visitors can learn about life in the 18th century as well as explore an expanse of lush parkland, including more than 3,000 acres of grassland, wetland, and deciduous forest, which become awash with rich colors in autumn.

When to Go: Weekly foliage reports are posted on Pennsylvania's official tourism website.


Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

There are about 100 native tree species in America's most-visited national park, most of which turn kaleidoscopic come fall. Changing leaves are complemented by autumn wildflowers: delicate asters and other varieties furnish pops of color.

When to Go: Get weekly reports on the state of local foliage on the National Park Service website.


Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Since Shenandoah's more than 300 square miles of parkland are so heavily forested, it's a gorgeous place to be when the seasons change. Look for oak and chestnut trees, which are abundant in the park, as well as splashes of autumn pigment from sassafras, sumac, and poison ivy. (Yes, poison ivy leaves change color in the fall. Just don't get too close.)

When to Go: Take a peek at the park's Mountain View Webcam for a real-time look at the changing leaves. Expect the best colors in mid-October in more elevated parts of the park and late October to early November in more low-lying areas.


Glacier National Park, Montana

Fall foliage in this enormous, wild expanse of alpine forests and Rocky Mountains in Montana is quite the sight. But fall is a wonderful time to visit if you want to see wildlife, too. The National Park Service website says that there are fewer people in the park and more animals—including grizzlies, wolves, and eagles—out and about during autumn.

When to Go: Peak fall colors generally appear at the end of September and beginning of October.


Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park's jaw-dropping sky-high cliffs provide the perfect points for seeing miles of mesas and forested land decked out in reds, oranges, and golds. Climb to the top of Zion's massive sandstone cliffs to get sweeping bird's-eye views of the autumn scenery.

When to Go: Zion shows its best colors in late October.


Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia

Peep the leaves in well-tread Harpers Ferry, where 70 percent of the land is covered with forest. Fun fall activities sweeten the deal: Visitors can explore living-history museums on Shenandoah Street or make traditional 19th-century tin housewares using period tools.

When to Go: Follow Harpers Ferry on Facebook for the latest foliage updates. According to the page, the leaves are already beginning to change.


Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Close to Cleveland and hugging the winding Cuyahoga River, this national park is a Midwestern sanctuary for fall foliage seekers. There's so much to do: Hike along more than 125 miles of trails, take part in an EarthCaching adventure, or go bird-watching (look out for the bald eagles). One of the most relaxing ways to enjoy the fall colors is to hop onboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, which rolls through the park past lush woods, meadows, the Cuyahoga River, and historical small towns.

When to Go: The best colors flourish in mid-October. Check the Fall Color Report for real-time updates.


Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, Wyoming

These parks are so close that they almost touch, and they offer amazing autumn colors against a backdrop of snowcapped mountains, waterfalls, forests, and lakes that reflect the changing leaves. Hikes, horseback rides, and ranger-led treks are fabulous ways to see the foliage. Or get a bird's-eye view with a hot-air balloon ride or a trip on the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram.

When to Go: Head to Wyoming in September and early October to see the foliage. Read more on the Wyoming Office of Tourism website.


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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 13 Best National Parks to See in the Fall. 

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America's Most Haunted Restaurants and Bars

Posted October 19, 2013 by

The Jury Room Chandelier-580x382

Bordello murders, fatal wedding-day accidents, hate-fueled arson attacks, and other tragedies have left behind unsettled spirits in historic restaurants and bars across the country. For the spine-chilling chance to see the resident apparitions and experience their antics, sit down to a filet mignon in Michigan or hit the slot machines at a Nevada saloon. Here are some of America's most haunted restaurants and bars—ones that have given employees, patrons, and even ghost hunters more than what they ordered.

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Mission Table, Traverse City, Michigan

The unhappy ghost of Genevive Stickney, an obese and jealous woman, still frequents her former residence, now Mission Table restaurant. As the story goes, Genevive and her Chicago lumber-baron husband built the home in the late 1800s. Succumbing to the excesses of good food and fruit brandies, the attractive Genevive became quite stout. She had a special gilt-edged mirror installed that made her appear thinner than she was, but eventually she became so large that she needed an elevator to transport her to the second floor. When her philandering husband took up with a mistress and left the mistress all his money, Genevive took her own life.

Haunted Encounters: In Genevive's mirror, restaurant guests have seen the reflection of a woman dressed in 19th-century clothing with hair pulled into a tight bun, the way Genevive wore hers. Lights turn themselves on and off, objects are mysteriously hurled through the air at people, hands on the grandfather clock are moved ahead, and candles are found burning in the morning.

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The Brass Rail, Hoboken, New Jersey

A ghost bride is said to haunt the historical Brass Rail restaurant in downtown Hoboken. Legend has it that on her wedding day in 1904, she tripped at the top of the staircase, fell, broke her neck, and died. Later that night, her distraught husband, who was drinking heavily, wrote a suicide note and hung himself in a room near the stairs.

Haunted Encounters: Restaurant staff and patrons have spotted spirits of the bride and groom wandering up and down the stairs. A photo taken by the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society revealed a white wisp of smoke hovering above the stairs when no one was smoking in the room. Others say they have heard walking in the upstairs dining room when it was empty and seen the ghost of a woman wearing white in the back alley.

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The UpStairs Lounge, New Orleans, Louisiana

Forty years ago, one of the deadliest crimes against the LGBT community in U.S. history took place at this French Quarter gay bar above The Jimani Lounge & Restaurant when an arsonist set it on fire, killing 32 men. The UpStairs Lounge had only one entrance—the door at the bottom of the stairwell, where the fire originated. While the fire blazed, patrons tried desperately to climb out the windows but couldn't escape, since windows were mostly barred or blocked completely. Several bodies were unclaimed by embarrassed family members, and the arsonist was never caught. The UpStairs Lounge area is now the kitchen of the first-floor Jimani Lounge & Restaurant.

Haunted Encounters: The building's current owner, who witnessed the event as a child when his father was owner, has seen apparitions of charred bodies, dark shadows, white orbs, and flashes of light in the building. When Syfy's Ghost Hunters crew visited last year, detectors picked up screeching noises in the stairwell.

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The Masquerade, Atlanta, Georgia

This concert venue in Atlanta's historic Old Fourth Ward neighborhood was originally a mill that produced wood shavings. Since the mill property's opening at the turn of the 20th century, it has seen its share of fires, structural collapses, and the gruesome accidental death of mill worker Hubert Neal in 1899. But the grisly stories that circulate at The Masquerade only add to the appeal for the goths, metalheads, and punk rockers who converge here for shows.

Haunted Encounters: Staff and concertgoers repeatedly report sightings of an apparition of a tall black man and say they've heard voices, screaming, and heavy phantom footsteps. An investigation by the Georgia Society for the Paranormal Sciences gathered accounts from multiple employees who described the feeling of being watched. The group recorded several unexplained noises and encountered a dark human-shaped mass. In the middle of the night, the group watched as a mysterious dense white fog appeared and dissipated on the club's second level, called "Heaven."

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Pioneer Saloon, Goodsprings, Nevada

The paranormal activity at this 100-year-old Wild West saloon just outside Las Vegas kicked off the 2013 season of Ghost Adventures on The Travel Channel. Reportedly haunted by an elderly miner and a cheating gambler who was killed at a card table in 1915, the Pioneer Saloon hasn't changed much since the days of the town's mining boom. Bullet holes from the gambler's murder can still be seen in the wall.

Haunted Encounters: Nearly every bar employee has seen the ghost of the elderly miner, a short man who wears a cowboy hat, standing behind people at the slot machines or hanging out by the potbellied stove. The spirit of the gambler makes an occasional appearance at a card table at the back of the bar. Visitors and staff have also been known to hear disembodied voices and see mysterious trails of cigarette smoke materialize.

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The Brentwood Restaurant & Wine Bistro, Little River, South Carolina

Drawing paranormal-research conferences, A&E's My Ghost Story crew, and numerous investigation groups, The Brentwood Restaurant & Wine Bistro has been called the most haunted location on the Grand Strand. It's just north of Myrtle Beach's main drag in a 103-year-old Victorian home. The restaurant owners have embraced the supernatural, saying they've never felt threatened. They regularly plan special-event dinners with psychics and talk openly about the restaurant's spook factor.

Haunted Encounters: Guests often get "locked" in the second-floor bathroom. Strange voices, unexplained movement of equipment, and shadowy figures have been reported by even the most skeptical guests and employees. When one of the restaurant owners asked the spirit who was there, the reply—captured in a recording—was "Clarence." Clarence and Essie Bessent-McCorsley were the original owners of the Victorian home.

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Jean Bonnet Tavern, Bedford, Pennsylvania

Built in the 1760s at a major junction of the only road connecting eastern Pennsylvania with the Ohio River, the Jean Bonnet was an important trading post and watering hole for early settlers. If the tavern's original stone walls could talk, they'd tell of rowdy trappers and traders, Whiskey Rebellion farmers' meetings, and encampments of troops summoned here by George Washington. Stories of the spirits at the Jean Bonnet Tavern are captured in The Pennsylvania Ghost Guide, Vol. II by Patty A. Wilson.

Haunted Encounters: Guests and staff describe a strange man in the bar after-hours, doors being opened and closed, and the sensation of being touched when no one is around. When members of the Central Pennsylvania Paranormal Association spent the night, a group of apparitions in frontier-type clothing appeared in a doorway and watched a man playing the piano at the other end of the bar.

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Catfish Plantation, Waxahachie, Texas

In the south Dallas suburb of Waxahachie, Catfish Plantation restaurant occupies an 1895 Victorian home where three former residents are believed to have died. The apparition of Elizabeth, murdered here on her wedding day in the 1920s, appears in her wedding gown. A Depression-era farmer named Will walks around the lobby and front porch in his overalls. Caroline, a strict religious woman who detested alcohol, passed away here in 1970, and now she sends wine glasses flying into the wall. The Travel Channel's Extreme Restaurants show, NBC News, and several paranormal groups have reported on the Catfish Plantation's strange occurrences.

Haunted Encounters: Besides seeing the resident ghosts, the restaurant's guests and staff have felt cold spots that move around. Clocks with missing parts chime. Doors, lights, and faucets all operate at will. And several knives go missing every night.

Jury Room-580x382

The Jury Room, Columbus, Ohio

One of the oldest continually operating restaurants in Columbus, opened in 1831, this downtown mainstay has plenty of stories to fuel its ghostly reputation. It was built on Native American burial ground and lost its third floor to a fire in the late 1800s. The original tin ceiling and historical photos are a throwback to The Jury Room's days as a bordello. At the bar, you can order a "Hung Jury," a "Bordello Bubbly," or a "Lorenzo's Revenge," all nods to the prostitute who shot a man on the bordello's front doorstep in the 1850s and her subsequent trial for murder.

Haunted Encounters: A tall, shadowy man has been seen roaming around the bar and appearing behind bartenders. Objects move at will and women describe being attacked by unseen forces. There have been so many occurrences that the staff now keeps a ghost log and The Travel Channel's The Dead Files has come to investigate.

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High Noon Restaurant & Saloon, Albuquerque, New Mexico

In Albuquerque's Old Town, two different spirits are believed to haunt High Noon Restaurant & Saloon, housed in one of the historic district's oldest structures. Constructed in 1785, the building has served as both a casino and a successful brothel. According to Ken Hudnall's book Spirits of the Border IV: The History and Mystery of New Mexico, some say High Noon is haunted by the ghost of a trapper. The female spirit, investigated by the Southwest Ghost Hunter's Association, wears an old-fashioned white formal dress.

Haunted Encounters: Hudnall says the male ghost may be responsible for the unseen tapping that customers and employees feel on their shoulders, the smell of burning when the fireplace isn't lit, and the calling out of employees' names. Several customers and staff members have reported supernatural sightings, including the female spirit, who haunts the Santos Room lounge. High Noon is one of many restaurants and bars on the lantern-lit Ghost Tour of Old Town.


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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title America's Most Haunted Restaurants and Bars.

Celebrate Pittsburgh's History at Low Prices

Posted February 19, 2010 by Kate Hamman

Pittsburgh 2008 marked Pittsburgh's 250-year anniversary, and the city is still celebrating in style. Step back in time at a history museum highlighting the city's past through art. Then shop for prehistoric goodies at a natural history museum's gift shop, before toasting the town with a martini in a hip lounge. And you can do all of this without going broke.

Senator John Heinz History Center
: As the largest history museum in Pennsylvania, the Senator John Heinz History Center is the place to go to learn about Pittsburgh's last 250 years. Affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, it features a massive collection of art, artifacts, and interactive exhibits. You can learn all about the city's history of accomplishments at the special exhibit, "Pittsburgh: A Tradition of Innovation," which features 50 hands-on displays. Admission costs $10 for adults.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History
: If 250 years seems like a long time, pay a visit to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's store, where you'll find a slew of prehistoric items. Browse the large collection of books covering subjects such as plant life, animals, and of course dinosaurs. The shop sells a range of items, including clothes and accessories that will make a great gift for that archaeologist in your life. The museum has also recently opened a new exhibit, "Population Impact." Gift shop prices start as low as $2.50 for a set of pearl-filled pencils.

Olive or Twist
: Come have a drink at Olive or Twist, which has shaken, not stirred, the classic martini. The expansive menu features cocktails prepared with everything from fruit juices to graham cracker crumbs. And, if you're in the mood for something sweet, you can choose from the many dessert-inspired libations, such as the Pineapple Upside Down Cake, the Chocolate Covered Cherry, and the Key Lime. Martinis start at $6.

To search for flights and compare prices to Pittsburgh, the nearest major airport, please use our price-comparison tool.

 (Photo: Jeff Hixon, Commonwealth Media Services 1996)

Taste the Sweet Life in Hershey

Posted July 7, 2009 by Kate Hamman

PA-Hersheys-ChocolateBuffet-DEF There's no denying that Hershey is America's very own chocolate town. Stay in an affordable lodge with cocoa perks, then satisfy your chocoholic craving at the Chocolate World. Just when you think you've had enough, end the night by sipping a dessert martini at the Hotel Hershey.

Hershey Lodge: Chocolate lovers of all ages delight in the Hershey Lodge, where you're greeted with a Hershey's Bar and possibly a Hershey's character. Along with the many perks of staying at the lodge, including early entrance to Hershey Gardens and best-price tickets to Hersheypark during the summer, there's a range of package deals to make your stay even more economical and enjoyable. Non-package room rates start at $299 in the summer and kids under 17 stay free.

Hershey's Chocolate World: Step into the realm of all things sweet at Hershey's Chocolate World, where you'll discover the largest collection of Hershey's chocolates, collectibles, and clothing in the world. Not only can you hop aboard a free ride that takes you through the history of chocolate, you can also have Hershey bars personalized with your own message. The Marketplace Shops sell the traditional Hershey's Chocolate standbys, as well as a range of items not sold in the U.S. such as the green tea Kisses.

Iberian Lounge: Located inside the luxurious Hotel Hershey, the Iberian Lounge takes a sugar high to new heights, with its famous Hotel Hershey Martini made from rich chocolate and liquor with a Kiss. The lounge serves an array of other cocoa-inspired cocktails, as well as a double chocolate stout and a chocolate wine. While the hotel might be too expensive to stay the night, you can sit around the fireplace and celebrate your trip with something sweet.

Use our price-comparison tool to search for flights and compare prices to Harrisburg and Philadelphia, which are home to Hershey’s nearest major airports.

(Photo: Scott Dingman)

Step Back in Time Through the Brandywine Valley

Posted May 19, 2009 by Kate Hamman

DE-WinterthurMuseum-DEF Located at the point where southeastern Pennsylvania meets northern Delaware, the Brandywine Valley overflows with history and culture. Within a single day, you can dine in a Civil War meeting place for Union soldiers, tour one of the Du Pont mansions, and sleep in an antique bed. When you travel through the Brandywine Valley, you travel back through time.

Winterthur: At Winterthur, the Du Pont's country estate, you don't simply tour the impressive collections of antiques, you also get to experience them hands-on. In the Touch-It room, school children learn to appreciate handcrafted goods, with activities based on lighting, kitchenware, and crafts. Outside, take a self-guided stroll through the 60-acre gardens featuring plants from around the world hand-picked by the founder, Henry Francis du Pont, or learn more on a narrated tram ride. Admission costs $20 per adult for two consecutive days, and includes entrance to the gardens, galleries, and house. Your ticket also entitles you to an introductory tour, rides on the garden tram, special exhibitions, the Campbell Collection of Soup Tureens, and the Enchanted Woods.

Cornerstone Inn: Built in 1704, the Cornerstone Inn showcases its long history with period decorations, including 18th-century furniture and antique canopy beds, and a stone facade originally fashioned by Quaker masons. Guests are welcomed by candles in the windows, traditionally used to beckon weary travelers. Visitors can relax in the perennial and herb gardens or sit next to a blazing fire on a cold day. Weekend rates start at $130 per night, and include a hearty country breakfast.

Arsenal at Old New Castle: When it comes to history, the Arsenal at Old New Castle is one for the books. Since its completion in 1811, the building has housed civil war troops, cholera patients, high school and elementary students, and most recently hungry patrons. Today, guests can eat in the Eagle and Cannon Tavern, where Union Soldiers once gathered, or dine in the elegant 1812 Dining Room. Dinner entrees start at $18 and include duck breast with mushroom risotto and braised pork loin.

Use our price-comparison tool to search for flights and compare prices to Baltimore and Philadelphia, which are home to the Brandywine Valley’s nearest major airports.

(Photo: Jeanette Lindvig)

Enjoy Art at Small Town Prices in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Posted May 13, 2009 by Kate Hamman

PA-Lancaster-FirstFriday-DEF In the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, you'll find Lancaster City, which offers the appeal of big city culture at small town prices. The city will woo you with its rich art community, modern hotels, and hip cafes located amongst the rural background of open fields and farmland.

CityFolk on Prince: At CityFolk gallery, you'll find an array of contemporary and traditional folk art, including carvings, paintings, crafts, and antiques. The eclectic and ever-changing space is part of Gallery Row, which is the art beat of Lancaster city. Though the gallery is always free to enter, don't miss the first Friday of every month, when it and more than 90 other galleries and shops celebrate with evening events. Prices depend on each individual piece of work.

Lancaster Arts Hotel: The Lancaster Arts Hotel has revitalized a tobacco warehouse to create a loft-like space, which combines modern design with a historical foundation. The boutique hotel's sleek furniture set against exposed brick feels like an artist's minimalistic dream. You can explore the first-floor art gallery, where works of local artists are proudly displayed. Rooms start at $179 per night.

Prince Street Cafe: Many great artists throughout time have found their muse at the bottom of a cup of coffee. Prince Street Cafe not only provides the liquid inspiration, but also a comfortable place to sip a warm beverage and experience art. The walls are adorned with the works of local artists and photographers, and live musical performances are common. If you're in need of something more substantial than just caffeine, the cafe also serves breakfast, sandwiches, and desserts. Prices range between $6 and $8 for sandwiches.

To search for flights and compare prices to Philadelphia, which is home to Lancaster’s nearest major airport, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: Pennsylvania Dutch Convention & Visitors Bureau)

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