Wednesday, September 25, 2013

12 Ways to Enjoy Fall Foliage Across U.S.

Along with cooler temperatures and blustery winds comes the great American fall pastime of leaf peeping. Luxury hotels across America are offering unique perspectives for taking in the changing landscape -from zip-lining above the vibrant trees to enjoying the colorful autumn backdrop from a kayak.

Zipline Above the Fall Landscape at Omni Mount Washington Resort, NH
Take in the scenery from above the trees at the Omni Mount Washington Resort. Become engulfed in the area's colorful landscape as you soar hundreds of feet through the air past the tops of ancient hemlocks, spruces and white pine trees on the resort's Bretton Woods Canopy Tour. Guests can combine the adrenaline rush of a zip line with the beauty of New Hampshire's gorgeous foliage while on the 4,700-foot tour. As New Hampshire's longest zip line, the unique excursion is comprised of nine zip lines, two suspension bridges, hiking and even rappelling deep into the forests of Bretton Woods. Rates start at $229 per night.

Scenic Segway Trails at the Omni Bedford Springs Resort, PA
Nestled in the Allegheny Mountains of Bedford, PA, the Omni Bedford Springs Resort and Spa is the perfect place to enjoy the beauty of autumn with tree-lined trails, campfires and more.  Head to the resort via the Pennsylvania Turnpike and take in dramatic vistas as you drive through various valleys and mountain passes. While in Bedford, take in the local stops including the county's famous covered bridges. This year the resort is offering a unique way to view the change in season with new Segway trails.  The off-road Segways allow guests to enjoy scenic stop overs at Red Oak Lake and Naugle's Mill, which offer the perfect picture opportunity. Rates start at $299 per night. 

Cruise Carter's Creek at the Tides Inn, VA
Guests at the Tides Inn in Irvington, VA, can cruise Carter's Creek and witness the tree-lined banks that turn red and gold in the fall season with the resort's new partnership with local Norton Yachts. For those looking to stay close to the resort and still witness the stunning fall foliage, venture out in the creek with a paddle boat to see the leaves changing to deep reds and oranges. Rates start at $215 per night.

Fly Fish While you Leaf Peep at Omni Homestead Resort, VA
Enjoy an authentic Southern fall by surveying the famous Virginian foliage while fly fishing in the gorges at the historic Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia.  Situated between the mountain ridges of Virginia and West Virginia, the mountain retreat is one of the most spectacular fall settings, offering 2,000 acres of fun in the Virginia countryside. Take in the area's warm tones as you hike down to the gorge, a wonderful place to leaf peep and immerse yourself in one of fall's most sought-after locales. Rates start at $180 per night.

Kayak on Kiawah Island, SC
Enjoy Kiawah Island's magnificent foliage displays while kayaking through the creeks of the marsh.  Located just 21 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina, the island is a hidden gem with breathtaking views of beaches and marsh land.  During the fall, the marsh grasses change dramatically from the summer shades of soft greens to deep hues of amber and violet. While adventuring through the creeks, guests can also enjoy bird watching and a chance to spot bottle nose dolphins. Kiawah Island is a year-round destination with recreational activities for everyone to enjoy.

Sea Foliage at Chebeague Island Inn, ME
There is no better place to enjoy all of Autumn's glory than on the coast of Maine at Chebeague Island Inn. With the “Sea Foliage” package, guests can admire the fall foliage while touring the islands of Casco Bay with Captain Bryan Smith.  The “Sea Foliage” package includes: Two nights luxury lodging in a double occupancy room; gourmet breakfast daily; afternoon tea and house-made pastries daily; a two-hour cruise around the islands of Casco Bay; local & seasonal beers in room on arrival; House-made whoopie pies; Complimentary postcards to send to friends and family. Sea Foliage package begins at $377 per night (based on double occupancy, with a two-night minimum).

Paint the Landscape at La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa, NM
Tucked in Northern New Mexico between the desert and the Santa Fe National Forest, many fail to think of Santa Fe for a colorful fall weekend escape. To make the most of the season, head to La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa where your adobe casita complete with a viga fireplace will be your home base. Take in the lush garden and changing apricot trees, along with painter Kathleen Frank’s various landscapes adorning the walls throughout the resort. Pack an easel, blank canvases, paint and brushes and head to the Pecos Wilderness, the southernmost extension of the Rocky Mountains, to paint the changing colors and golden hues of the Aspen trees. Book the “Savor Santa Fe Bed & Breakfast” package to enjoy a Fireplace King Room and a delicious southwestern breakfast on the resort’s patio. Package rates start at $369 per night, based on double occupancy.

Adventure Through the Great Outdoors at Hotel Madeline Telluride, CO
This fall, experience leaf-peeping from approximately 9,500 feet above sea level with Hotel Madeline Telluride in Telluride, Colorado. As the summer festival season comes to a close with the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival September 14-16, 2012, enjoy a mountain-biking adventure through forests full of sun-gold Aspens and blonde meadows. Hotel Madeline’s prime location in Mountain Village offers unobstructed views of 14,000 foot peaks, immediate access to the best trails, and an “Adventure Valet” to arrange your bike rental and any tours. Book this luxury hotel’s “Experience the Great Outdoors” package to receive a half-day 15-mile Mountain Bike Tour and skill building clinic, along with a half-day Fly Fishing expedition along San Miguel river, and a 50 dollar resort credit. Package rates start at $299 per night, based on double occupancy.

Charter a Boat and Take In the California Fall at Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa
For Southern California residents seeking a fall foliage getaway close to home, head to Lake Arrowhead—a pristine private lake nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains, a 1.5 hour drive from downtown Los Angeles. Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa is the only resort that offers visitors lake access. Chartered boat tours will take you around the lake to view the beautiful, celebrity-owned mansions, along with the gold and red shades of the surrounding pacific dogwood and California black oak trees. The boat can also be used for private fishing excursions and picnics on the lake. End the day with board games and s’mores by the fireplace in the renovated resort’s alpine-themed lobby, or viewing the orange-hued sunset from the perch of your room’s balcony. Room rates start at $240 per night for as king room.

Cycling and Cocktails at Hotel Vermont
The recently opened and eco-friendly Hotel Vermont is the first independent hotel to join the quaint town of Burlington and will celebrate the famous Vermont maples at their peak foliage with seasonal cocktails blending local flavors like Vermont Gold Vodka, Maple Sapling, Apple Cider, White Wine, and Cinnamon, to give guests a "taste" of Vermont in October. Enjoy the stunning views of red and orange leaves dancing in the wind from the 7,500 square foot outdoor terrace with open fire pit overlooking the scenery of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains. Those that want a closer look at the leaves can ride through the action on complimentary bike rentals from Old Spokes Home, a local alternative bike shop. Rates start at $229 per night.

Take in Fall and History at XV Beacon, Boston
The luxurious XV Beacon located in the historic Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston offers guests a bird's eye view of the famed New England fall foliage from their rooftop deck overlooking historic architecture and the famous Charles River. Hop on a swan ferry at Boston Common public park or hike the Freedom Trail to take in the scenery in action. End your trip at the Faneuil Hall Marketplace to taste the season with freshly harvested apples and a warm cup of cider. Experience Boston in its entire splendor with the Fall into Fifteen package available September 22 through December 21. Rates start at $400 per night.

Sip a Sunset Cocktail Amid Fall Scenery at the Omni Grove Park Inn, NC
This fall, The Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC, invites guests to view beautiful fall foliage from its new Sunset Cocktail Terrace. Asheville is an ideal destination for leaf peeping, and the outdoor terrace offers guests a chance to observe the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains dressed in hues of orange, red and yellow, in a relaxed environment. While admiring the stunning fall scenery, guests can sip on a Grove Park Inn Centennial Cocktail and indulge in food from the terrace’s small plates menu. A premier destination for those seeking solitude and serenity, the acclaimed The Grove Park Inn has maintained its status as a luxury retreat since opening its doors in 1913.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Worst Travel Scams (and How to Avoid Them)

Every season is scam season and the upcoming holiday vacation season is THE prime time for vacationers to let down their guard and become victims of travel scams. The Getaway Girl®, Casey Wohl, shares some of the worst travel scams out there (and how you can avoid them).

Vacation rental scams

Many people rent vacation homes online through various legitimate websites. Unfortunately, there
are many phony ads on legitimate websites. Scam artists often copy ads for legitimate homes and get unwary vacationers to send money for a home that the scammer doesn't own.

·      The best way to avoid this scam is to merely go online to the tax assessor’s office for the name and address of the owner of the particular property and if they do not match the person to whom you are sending the money, you have a scam.
·      Use Search Engines –With tools like Google Maps, it's easy to find photos of a property and check out the neighborhood.

·      Don't Send Money - Don't pay by money transfer systems like Western Union, or wire money to someone's bank account. Be sure to pay by credit card or PayPal, which enable you to dispute fraudulent charges.

·      Make Some Calls - Before you officially decide to book, give the owner or property manager a call and have a simple conversation with them. Be sure to ask them for references and contact those previous renters to make sure they were pleased with the property or check out reviews linked to Facebook, so a prospective renter is capable checking out reviews from a past renter.

·      Book Direct - To completely avoid scams, it's best to shy away from Craigslist and check out properties from vacation home rental sites like, which has over 50,000 reviews written by real guests. Also, the company's Happy Rental Guarantee protects you for up to $10,000 if the home has been foreclosed or is in bankruptcy, if the owner double-books the property, or the property is misrepresented.
·      Suspicious Behavior - Take notice of bad grammar in emails, foreign phone numbers, or if the owner/property manager is not responding to emails. These can all be warning signs.

Third Party Securing Your Credit Card Number
1) Hotel Pizza

You find a flier under your hotel or motel door with an ad for a local pizza restaurant that will deliver
sounds tempting. Unfortunately, it can also be phony and if you provide your credit card number over the phone, you will have just provided your credit card to an identity thief.
Solution: Check out any such offer with the local yellow pages or business directory before considering responding to such ads.

2) Front desk call

You receive a telephone call from the front desk indicating that there was a minor problem with your credit card and that they need to run it again, but that all you need to do is give them the information over the phone. The call is not from the front desk, it is from an identity thief who has checked into the hotel and is making a room to room call (or two).
Solution: Never give this information over the phone because you can never be sure of to whom you are speaking.

Taxi Drivers Scams
Probably the most ubiquitous scams all over the globe. These ripoffs cover
a wide-range of kinds of ripoffs: exorbitant unstated charges; more than
the required time and distance; incorrect change returned, and so on.
Solution: negotiate, negotiate, and negotiate BEFORE you get in the car and have some idea of where you are going (ask concierge) so that you don’t seem like a total tourist.  If possible, ask your hotel to help you book your ground transportation.

Mobile Phone International Roaming Fees
It's no secret that taking your phone overseas can be an expensive decision…I found out the hard way after a trip to Mexico. If you're not careful, you could easily end up with a bill in the thousands of dollars. Even simple voice calls can run upward of $5 a minute when you head out of your home networks.
·      Use Skype
·      Avoid Roaming Charges: When you're headed abroad by all means, bring your phone, just lose the SIM card before you leave. When you get to your destination, pick up a local SIM card for a fraction of the price you'd pay in roaming charges.  Must be able to unlock your phone.
·      Alternatives – have your regular cell # transferred to a local phone.
·      Got stuck with a huge roaming fee bill?  Most companies will allow you to retroactively purchase an international plan. You'll pay a little out of pocket, but the roaming charges will be reduced or erased.  Call your phone provider and explain situation.  If they still don’t budge on the fees, ask to cancel your account.  That usually gets their attention.

Pick Pockets
If it hasn’t happened to you, chances are you have heard stories of thieves pick pocketing
unsuspecting travelers…knowing that travelers are carrying credit cards, money and other important information like passports.
Solution: Clever
Travel Companion's travel clothing
with built in secret pockets that help travelers avoid thefts, loss and
being pick pocketed.
Basically, instead of wearing a (to professional thieves) very visible
fanny pack, neck pouch or money belt, with the Clever Travel Companion's
 gear a travel hides his passport, credit cards and money in a zippered
pocket in their t-shirt, tank top or underwear. That way no pick pocket can
never access their valuables.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Awesome American Road Trips

When you think of great American Road Trips, some iconic drives come to mind: the Pacific Coast Highway, Blue Ridge Parkway and Route 66.   But America is filled with awesome American Road Trips you may not even know about.  Here are a few ideas:

Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway (Virginia/Pennsylvania)
·      Designated by Congress as the 99th national scenic byway, this 180-mile swath of land is Where America Happened. From Gettysburg, PA to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Charlottesville, VA, this corridor contains more American History than any other region.
·      The byway serves as the artery to lots of destinations, including:

o   For History Buffs, Nine Presidential Sites and More Civil War Battlefields than any other part of the country (in addition to the African American, Native American, Colonial, and other historic sites located along the road)

o   For Outdoor Enthusiasts, 13 National Parks are located here that allow for hiking, biking, canoeing, fishing and much more (including the Appalachian Trail)

o   For Culinary Afficianados, over 100 wineries, craft breweries, and distilleries blanket the bucolic countryside. Not to mention the unique and wonderful downtowns that host award-winning restaurants (including James Beard finalists and a current Top Chef Masters contender)
o   November marks the 150th anniversary of one of the most famous American speeches, President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and 2014 marks the 200th anniversary of the National Anthem (written by Francis Scott Key, who is from and buried within our National Heritage Area).

Alaska’s Seward Highway
·      127-mile highway connects Anchorage and Seward, Alaska, and is designated a
Forest Scenic Byway, All-American Road and Alaska Scenic Byway.
·      Provides access to world-class skiing in winter and downhill mountain
biking in summer at Alyeska Ski Resort, the town of Girdwood, 2.5 mile Anton 
Anderson Memorial Tunnel to Whittier, Kenai Fjords National park and some of
the best fishing an angler will ever experience.
·      General sites along the Seward Highway include kitesurfers, beluga whales, dall sheep & moose daily.
·      Access by side road to the 2.5 mile Anton Anderson tunnel to Whittier, which is shared with the railroad. Vehicle wheels actually straddle the train tracks.
·      Access to amazing halibut fishing in the world as well as sightseeing (glaciers, whales, sea lions etc) boat tours complete with fresh seafood smorgasbords out of Seward.
·      World class skiing at Alyeska and/or downhill mountain biking.

Civil Rights Road Trip (Alabama)
·      Includes Montgomery and Birmingham, Alabama with side trips to Selma and Tuskegee.

 This trip is mainly on Interstate 65 and uses Montgomery, AL as the overnight hub from which Birmingham, Selma and Tuskegee can all be reached within about an hour or less. 
Travelers on the Civil Rights Road Trip will see/experience:
a.     The home where Martin Luther King, Jr. lived from 1954 – 1960, during which he led the Montgomery Bus Boycotts
b.     Where Rosa Parks boarded the bus then tour the Rosa Parks Museum which is located in the place where she was arrested. In the museum the story of the boycott is further explored and archives of this important early protest are kept.
c.     Walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in the footsteps of the brave civil rights foot soldiers of Bloody Sunday
d.     Visit the airfield where the Tuskegee Airmen were trained to fly
e.     Go inside the 16th Street Baptist church, the site of horrific bombing that killed four girls.
f.     Enjoy fresh, regional cuisine & vibrant nightlife in Montgomery’s walkable entertainment District.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Girls Getaway to New Brunswick - Fredericton

Fredericton was our last stop, where we spoke to an up-and-coming chef, Shane Bauer, who has Blue Door, where he aims to cook comfortable food with Maritime flavor. With his pastry background, Shane’s new desserts like yuzu steamed pudding with lemon curd and blueberries and chocolate truffle cake were outstanding. Make sure to save room for sweets, which is easier said than done when the entrée is confit braised lamb shoulder with pea mint risotto and local goat cheese. 
just taken over at

The most conveniently located hotel in town is the Crowne Plaza, right on the St. John River, next to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and across the street from the local theater, The Fredericton Playhouse. Before dashing off to the airport the next morning, I had breakfast at Fredericton Farmer’s Market, the most impressive market I visited in New Brunswick. The whole town of 55,000 seemed to be milling about and supporting local farmers, bakers and artisans. I tried tiny wild blueberries, handcrafted dark chocolate bonbons and a great lobster roll for a well-rounded morning meal.

New Brunswick is great for a road trip, since the drive from town to town is easy, with lots to see along the way. For artsy ladies, there’s the Fundy Studio Tour, where you can visit artist galleries’ and even stay at their studios. Perhaps the expansive seaside landscape will inspire your own artwork. I can see myself coming back for an extended stay at St. Andrews, maybe once the Algonquin is renovated! I had a chance to tour the under construction hotel, and we are already looking forward to the luxurious room, champagne sunset receptions and spa treatments using local honey and sea salt. The resort’s soft opening is in October with a full opening in spring 2014 and it’s the only all-inclusive resort in town.

Author Amber Gibson is a Food/Travel Writer, Model & Actress from Chicago. To find out more about Amber, visit

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Girls Getaway to New Brunswick - St. Andrews

St. Andrews was our next stop, and the small town of 2,000 is the most picturesque seaside landscape. It may be small but there was so much to do. From sea kayaking with Eastern Outdoors to whale watching with Island Quest Marine, there’s plenty for the more adventurous nature lovers. Local shopping, including a Thursday morning farmer’s marke and relaxing on the waterfront, are options for a more leisurely stay. We spent a couple nights at the Treadwell Inn, a bed and breakfast on the historic main street in town. Gourmet food shop St. Croix Olive Oil is attached to the inn, with more than 60 specialty olive oils and balsamic vinegars to choose from.

The Kingsbrae Garden is one of my favorite attractions in town. From the children’s fantasy
garden and a sculpture garden to the scents and sensitivity garden for the visually impaired, there is something for everyone. I munched on blackberries and rose hips in the edible garden, and discovered a new fruit – arctic kiwi. These thimble sized green fruit from Siberia and Northern China look just like kiwi on the inside and taste like their larger counterparts too.

Another must in St. Andrews is whale watching. There are several operators in town, but I liked Island Quest Marine for their knowledgeable and friendly guides. We were lucky enough to see the first North Atlantic Right Whales of the season. This species is endangered – there are only 400 of them left – and I had a chance to see a mother and her calf. The following day, I went kayaking for the first time and became fast friends with my guide, Charlotte. We saw a fishing weir (a big net fishermen use to catch herring and mackerel) as well as seals around Navy Island.

Before dinner at Niger Reef Tea House, we took a guided tour via bike with Kurt Gumushel, I loved biking in a kilt and as a St. Andrews native, Kurt provided fabulous insight on how the town has evolved over recent decades. 

Niger Reef Tea House served some of the best and freshest haddock I’ve had in my life, and it’s the perfect gemütlich neighborhood spot. The following evening, we dined at Rossmount Inn, which bills itself as a “culinary inn set between the forest and the sea,” and it lives up to this storybook description. Chef Chris Aerni and his wife, Graziella, made me feel right at home, while serving delectable dishes like caramelized scallops with summer ratatouille and hazelnut chocolate feuilleté cake.

The following day, we visited King’s Landing Historical Settlement, the most impressive
historical village I’ve ever been to. We had a chance to learn the art of hearth cooking, a home-style cooking school from the 1820s. Evelyn taught me how to make buttermilk biscuits and gingerbread in a Dutch oven with butter she churned herself. Guests here can do everything from spin wool to forge nails and split logs.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Girls Getaway to New Brunswick - Saint John

The next day I was introduced to a savory version of Acadian poutine, poutine râpée, at L’Idylle
Bistro. The Acadians first came to Canada from rural France in the 17th century and their food was simple and hearty. Traditionally this dish is a simple potato dumpling with pork. Chef Emmanuel Charretier gives the classic a sophisticated twist with a thin crisp layer of golden-brown potato enveloping a soft and creamy potato dumpling with chunks of lamb. He serves the poutine with wild cranberry sauce and orange marmalade, both homemade.

Then we were off to Saint John, with a scenic drive along the Bay of Fundy, stopping at the Hopewell Rocks and Cape Enrage on the way.  At The Hopewell Rocks, Paul Gaudet taught me a
lot about the New Brunswick tides and how they mold the rock formations. The tides here can reach more than 50 feet and highest and lowest tides occur at the new moon, when the gravitational pull of the moon is strongest. Hundreds of years ago, French sailors called the rocks “Les Demoiselles” or “the maidens,” because they thought the formations looked like aristocratic French women wearing hats. Maybe they had been away from home for too long, but I can see it if I squint.

After settling in at our hotel, the Hilton Saint John, I checked out the Saint John City Market  before dinner. The market is the oldest in North America, dating from 1785, and open year-round. There’s an eclectic mix of prepared foods to local produce, seafood and meat and even imported Asian snacks. However, I was headed to dinner at East Coast Bistro shortly after, so I didn’t want to spoil my appetite. Instead, I waited to enjoy Malpeque oysters with hibiscus mignonette and bouillabaisse with mussels, prawns, cod and salmon at the newly opened restaurant.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Girls Getaway to New Brunswick - Moncton

New Brunswick is an overlooked gem for girlfriends and foodies in Canada. It’s just an
eight-hour drive from Boston, so a great road trip for New Englanders. From Chicago, I hopped on a short flight to Toronto, then transferred to Moncton and took a road trip around the charming province.

Upon arrival at the Delta Beausejour Hotel in Moncton, we sipped on a refreshing glass of blueberry and grapefruit-infused water before heading up to the spacious penthouse suite. The hotel has a contemporary design, featuring vibrant artwork from local artists, but the building’s Acadian roots are on display at The Windjammer, a Four Diamond restaurant modeled after a ship captain’s dining room, where I had the pleasure of enjoying a multi-course seafood dinner. Chef Stefan Müller (pictured at right with me) was kind enough to show me his rooftop garden, along with his beehives (approach from the back to avoid being stung!) before we sat down to a feast. 

Chef Müller is known for his locavore menu, featuring fresh seafood and produce within a 100-mile radius of Moncton. Smoky mushroom chowder with honey-toasted barley and a trio of Poutine à trou was another of the Acadian desserts I tried, and so different from the “poutine” most Americans know, fries smothered in cheese and gravy from Quebec. This poutine (French for pudding) was like a mini pie, filled with tart cranberries, raisins and apples, and then the hole on top was filled with maple syrup for a sweet and sour delight.  Acadian desserts (pictured at right), including a sugar pie that is better than Momofuku Milk Bar’s crack pie, were highlights.