5 Under the Radar Fall Travel Destinations - rubythemag.com

From coast to coast, these photo-worthy U.S. cities are serving up the best of the season – delicious dishes and vibrant leaves included.

As the days grow shorter, farmers are harvesting their crops and leaves turning from their summer green into warmer colors before disappearing altogether. Why not plan a fall vacation that takes advantage of the bounty – both at the table and the feast that’s before your eyes?

We’re highlighting destinations across the United States ideal for fall travel. Whether you’re exploring the one closest to you, or venturing all the way across country, your senses are sure to thank you.

Lexington, Virginia

This liberal arts college town is hugged by the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains with the Maury River meandering nearby. In the fall, the foliage is spectacular, with bright crimsons, oranges and yellows. One spot not to miss is Natural Bridge, a 215-foot-tall limestone bridge once owned by Thomas Jefferson that is now a state park.

Lexington’s tiny size is incongruous with its spectacular food scene. Local farms use eco- and tastebud-friendly techniques, so your meals at any of its farm-to-table restaurants, like The Red Hen and Haywood’s, are good for you and the environment. Pick up dairy delights from Cheese to You, sample chocolates at Cocoa Mill and taste a coffee flight at Lexington Coffee Roasters. In the fall, buy local Asian pears from Virginia Gold Orchard.

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Arkansas’ leaves start to change in October, with the peak later in the month and in early November. Ideal viewing is at Garvan Woodland Gardens and in Hot Springs National Park, which is right in the center of the city.

Afterward you’ll want to enjoy some of the hot springwater yourself – try the baths and steam cave at Quapaw Baths & Spa. Unlike most hot springs, the springwater here is potable. Sip the elixir for free from a park fountain, or try it in beer-form at Superior Bathhouse Brewery. For pizza also made with the springwater, don’t miss Deluca’s Pizzeria.

Lodi, California

Lodi, near Sacramento, is one of California’s wine grape production centers. Until recently, they’ve mostly supplied other regions like Napa and Sonoma, but now produce fine wines locally. Visit the area’s 85 boutique wineries in between leaf-peeping. Admire the turning foliage in the Japanese Garden or, for a unique view, from a kayak on Lodi Lake.

Stay at Wine & Roses, a plush hotel and spa on seven acres of landscaped grounds that are especially beautiful in the autumn. Its Towne House Restaurant hosts wine events, cooking classes, and exceptional dining. It, like many of the area’s restaurants, focuses on organic and sustainably harvested ingredients from the area, and, of course, local wines. Try Fenix and Pietro’s Trattoria, too. Pick up some culinary gifts at Cheese Central and look for dark purple olives at Cecchetti Olive Oil Farm.

Seattle, Washington

The markets at Pike Place sell everything delicious the region has to offer, but smaller farmers’ markets aren’t nearly as crowded and touristy. Head to Seattle Southside – a neighborhood close to the Pacific Ocean and the airport – and check out the Des Moines Waterfront Farmers’ Market. Admire the autumn plantings at Highline SeaTac Botanical Gardens. A nearby stay at Cedarbrook Lodge offers the sight of changing colors from your hotel balcony. The resort is on 18 acres of gardens, walking paths and treed wetland. Their Copperleaf Restaurant focuses on sustainable ingredients from local providers.

Save time for a tour at Seattle Chocolates where you’ll learn how chocolate is made and, of course, sample the goods. The shop donates a meal to someone in need for every purchase of its culinary-focused “jcoco” brand bars.

Madison, Wisconsin

Don’t miss Madison’s Dane County Farmers’ Market, the largest producers-only market in the country and a leader in the Dane Buy Local initiative. Sample cheese curds, popcorn and produce at the hundreds of stalls circling the Capitol Building. Madison has a large number of farm-to-table restaurants, like Everly and Graze, which rely on the quality and variety of foods grown in the area. Sujeo, serving Asian cuisine, takes advantage of the unique produce of the many Lao farmers in the area. Madison Sourdough mills its own flour and Bos Meadery uses local honey to brew a variety of meads.

Madison’s northerly location means lots of reds in their fall foliage. Cave of the Mounds is connected to Madison’s bike trail system and has gardens above and below ground. The large trees at the 106-year-old Henry Vilas Zoo provide color and shade, and entry is free (donations welcomed). The grounds of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin, 30 minutes from Spring Green, have gorgeous colors to set off the stunning buildings.