BEST FALL TRIPS 2012

Picture of hot air balloons at the International Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque

International Balloon Fiesta

Photograph by Danita Delimont, Alamy

Albuquerque, New Mexico

All eyes will be on the skies over New Mexico’s largest city October 6-14 for the 41st Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. More than 600 hot air balloons are expected to lift off in mass ascensions from launch fields spanning the equivalent of 54 football fields.

This fall also marks the final chance to join in New Mexico’s yearlong 100th birthday celebration. Special statehood centennial events include “Dinosaur Century: 100 Years of Discovery in New Mexico” at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. In October, the exhibit focuses on some of the state’s earliest and largest residents—giant dinosaurs.

Spend a weekend at Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm, located in the city’s pastoral North Valley. Designed in 1932 by John Gaw Meem, the “Father of Santa Fe Style,” the 20-room guesthouse combines luxurious lodging with field-to-fork dining. During your stay,

get a hands-on taste of farm life by working in the gardens or fields, or milking a goat and collecting eggs in the “Barnyard Animals 101” program.

Picture of men in Devil's Pool at Victoria Falls, Zambia 

Devil’s Pool at Victoria Falls

Photograph by Yvette Cardozo, Alamy

Livingstone, Zambia

Dry season (September to December) atop the world’s largest waterfall produces the rare opportunity to dunk in arguably the highest—and most dramatic—natural infinity pool on Earth.

At the lip of the 360-foot-high falls is Devil’s Pool, accessible via Livingstone Island on the Zambian side of the Zambezi River. (Most tourist viewing areas are on the Zimbabwe side.) In fall, when the river is at its lowest and slowest, a natural rock retaining wall allows swimmers to safely jump into the pool, float to the edge, and look over the falls without being swept down.

Stay within walking distance of the falls entrance at the luxurious Royal Livingstone Hotel, or stop by the colonial-style complex in the afternoon for a sumptuous high tea. End the day watching the sunset from the hotel’s Sun Deck, a restaurant and bar built over the Zambezi, or walking the rain forest trails to look for bushbuck and vervet monkeys.

Picture of a walker in a forest at sunset, Masuria, Poland

 

Great Masurian Lakes

Photograph by Edgar Rodtmann, laif/Redux

Northeastern Poland

Northeastern Poland’s Masuria region is a sparsely populated land of 2,000 lakes and thickly forested islands located about 170 miles from Warsaw. A network of rivers and canals makes it possible to lake-hop throughout the region via kayak, small yacht, or sailboat.

Summer is high season, and winter weather typically arrives early, so plan a September or October visit for a fall foliage bike ride or hike through Augustow Forest (home to European bison, elk, and boars) and Pisz Forest, part of Masurian Landscape Park. The park includes Luknajo Lake, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and mute swan breeding ground.

Several walking trails in surrounding villages and towns (including Elk, Ketrzyn, Gizycko, Mikolajki, Mragowo, Ryn, and Wegorzewo) connect visitors to Teutonic castles, baroque churches, World War II bunkers, and other historic sites.

Central Masuria—encompassing Lake Niegocin and Lake Sniardwy (the region’s largest)—has the most developed tourist infrastructure. Navigate the area with local, English-speaking guides on a private or small-group Stay Poland tour.

Picture of a kite surfer at La Jolla Cove, San Diego, California

San Diego

Photograph by Bill Morrow

San Diego County, California

Extend your summer vacation—without the vacation crowds—in the southwesternmost county in the United States. September and October (rainy season arrives in November) in San Diego County is still warm and sunny enough to snorkel among abundant sea life in La Jolla Cove, learn to kite surf (above) at Mission Bay Park, and hike down sandstone bluffs (via dirt access trails) to the surf and sand at San Onofre State Beach.

Sprawling San Diego County covers as much territory as the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined, and offers activity options to fit any age or interest. Rent a convertible and cruise historic Highway 101 along the Pacific coast from La Jolla (known as San Diego’s Beverly Hills) to Oceanside, site of California’s largest mission and the California Surf Museum.

During October, there’s free admission for kids ages 3-11 at the San Diego Zoo, and through November, guests of all ages can sign up to camp overnight at the zoo’s Safari Park through the popular Roar and Snore Safari program.