Travel
4 min

Great fall getaways

From leaf peeping to Oktoberfest celebrations: a host of ways to postpone the cold

The fall colours of Quebec.  Credit: Aefa Mulholland

As fall turns the leaves to a riotous range of colours, nighttime temperatures slither downward and scarves and gloves get dug out of storage, a wee trip can brighten the shortening days. Opt for scenery, sun or suds and make the most of autumn.

Leaves

New England is famed for its foliage and rightly so; the kaleidoscopic array of russets, oranges and reds has visitors to the northeastern corner of the US dazzled by the turning trees from late September through mid-October. Vermont’s Green Mountains, New Hampshire’s White Mountains, Massachusetts’s Berkshires and the Connecticut River Valley are particularly lovely locations for leaf peepers.

North of the border, leaves turn a tiny bit sooner but are most dramatic in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. In Quebec, the Laurentians give visitors the most vibrant views, while the forests of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick’s Fundy coast and Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton boast the best Atlantic arrays. Ontario’s finest foliage can be found in Algonquin Park, the Agawa Canyon (best admired from the Algoma Central Railroad, north from Sault Ste-Marie), the Bruce Peninsula and the Niagara Parkway.

If you want to see the leaves of New England and Canada in the company of LGBT folks, take your friends or book a berth as part of the LGBT group sailing on the Gay Canada Cruise on board Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Gem from Oct 11, with prices from $710. The cruise sails from New York to Halifax, St John, Bar Harbor, Boston and Newport.

Lederhosen

If you prefer libations to leaves, the autumn months promise a slew of Oktoberfests. The biggest brewfest is, of course, the Bavarian fest in Munich from Sept 20 to the final gun salute on Oct 5. Rosa Wiesn is the gay component, taking place at various venues throughout the celebrations, but the big day is the first Sunday, Sept 21, when the Bräurosl beer tent is packed with upward of 8,000 cheerful LGBT folks in lederhosen and dirndl outfits.

Back on the other side of the Atlantic, there’s plenty of beer and bratwurst to brag about. It might not attract the six million who slosh their way through steins in Munich, but Kitchener-Waterloo’s Oktoberfest enthusiastically celebrates its German roots from Oct 10 to 18 this year. Billed as Canada’s greatest Bavarian festival, it boasts a five-kilometre run, a ball, a parade and kegs aplenty, plus 19 beer halls and plenty of gemuetlichkeit.

Ottawa also throws a beer-themed extravaganza, Oct 3 to 5, at Clarke Fields, Barrhaven, and Quebec can get in on the oompah at the annual celebration in Ladysmith, Oct 3 to 5. Meanwhile, Atlantic Canada can stock up on schnitzel on Sept 26 and 27 at Tatamagouche’s 30-year-old North Shore Oktoberfest.

German-Americans make up the largest ancestral group in the US, with a particularly noticeable cluster of Teutonic types and resulting German festivals, Oktoberfests and deliciously doughty fare in the Midwestern cities of Indianapolis, Minneapolis and Milwaukee. Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati attracts more than half a million people for three days of revelry, beer and concerts, the world’s largest kazoo band and the world’s largest chicken dance. This year’s festival runs Sept 19 through 21.

Sun-loungers

Perhaps you find trips that don’t feature tankards and tent-loads of intoxicated people more tantalizing? In that case, something sunny and southern might fit the bill. The southernmost spot in the continental United States, Key West, never fails to delight. This long-loved LGBT haven is on the very tip of the glorious Florida Keys, at the end of a stunning drive down across keys, cays, islets and 42 bridges that leapfrog land masses. The focus in The Conch Republic is more bar than beach. In fact, many folks spend their whole vacations between their gay guesthouse and the famed Bourbon Street bar complex and its neighbours along Duval Street, but there are fabulous snorkeling, swimming and sailing options on offer, plus day trips out to the remote Dry Tortugas islands in the glimmering turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

You’ll find Puerto Rico bobbing between the Dominican Republic and the US and British Virgin Islands. A three-hour flight from Miami or four hours from New York, this LGBT favourite wins admirers for its charming colonial architecture, its stunning Caribbean scenery and its vibrant nightlife. Add to that an ever-improving constellation of eateries and accommodations and this 160-by-56-kilometre island is near irresistible. Ceded to the United States in 1898, the island is home to almost four million people and to some spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Sites in gorgeous, colonial Old San Juan. Gay-friendly El Convento is a magnificent, converted 17th-century convent that now houses a modern boutique hotel. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s idyllic island Vieques is an off-the-radar gay secret. The gay-owned Abreeze Apartments offer opportunities to explore this peaceful paradise.

Southwest is another superb direction to head to postpone looming winter. Desert hot spot Phoenix offers a sunny escape amidst the cacti. The fifth largest city in the US is a sizzling destination with 325 days of sunshine annually. Within this scintillating spread (Greater Phoenix contains more than 20 separate cities), there are seemingly endless options. Stay at the sumptuous Sanctuary on Camelback in swishy Scottsdale if upscale eateries and boutiques are top of your itinerary. Opt for urban chic at The Clarendon, a perfect base for exploring downtown Phoenix’s club, bar and art scene on foot. Spend days at the Heard Museum of American Indian History and Art, early first Friday evenings on the First Friday Art Walk and nights at hip bars like the mixed lesbian and gay haunt Kobalt. Or, for something a little different, catch the convenient light rail from Phoenix Sky Harbor airport to college town Tempe and take a cliff-side room at the dramatic Phoenix Marriott Tempe at The Buttes and make forays to Phoenix’s Desert Botanic Garden and the fun, hokey, one-horse (and six-person) town of Tortilla Flat. Alternatively, 15 minutes’ drive from Sky Harbor, on Pima and Maricopa tribal lands, pamper yourself at the stunning Wild Horse Pass Resort, with its five-diamond restaurant Kai, sumptuous Aji Spa and early-morning views of wild broncos galloping across the landscape, backdropped by the rugged Sierra Estrella and South Mountains.