"And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields"

Wonderful leaf peeping can take place in many spots in North America. Fall is a great time for vacation. If you have school aged children this limits you to weekend trips but it makes for off season rates for those who can stay during the weekdays. The New England states probably hold the most well known venues but all the North East coastal zones, the Catskill Mountains, the Appalachian Mountains' Blue Ridge Parkway and the AT, the Great Smokey Mountains, Shenandoah National Park, The Great Lakes Region, the St. Lawrence River and the Thousand Islands all offer wonderful fall seasons and tourist flock to them all. Even my home, Washington, DC has a lovely fall season. There are, of course, many other areas that I'm not familiar with.

Peak color varies year to year and place to place in both timing and quality. The amount of color varies with sunlight, temperature, water and frosts. "Basically dry, sunny days with cool but not freezing nighttime temperatures are the most conducive to spectacular leaf color. During the warm days, the leaf can produce a lot of sugar. During the cool nights, the sugars are trapped in the leaves and eventually produce the colors of autumn. Late springs, dry summers or a very warm spell in fall will reduce fall coloration. When frost comes early, the colorful display may not occur at all." That quote was from here.

Guides and reports for North America peak color times are very common. Using toll free numbers or internet websites one can find out the prime season for leaf peeping. In areas where tourism is popular reservations are often required long ahead of time so current condition reports may not be that helpful for last minute trips but a combination of research on peak color time in previous years and weather watching can land one in the right spot at the right time. Luckily, "peak color" is not the only attractive time. There are weeks before and after the peak that are also great. I actually prefer a bit past peak color as the leaves are mixed on the ground and in the trees, allowing leaf kicking, crunching and pile jumping plus birds and other wildlife are easier to spot.

Great summaries of resources are available at http://www.usatoday.com/life/travel/leisure/1998/t0914ap7.htm and at http://directory.google.com/Top/Recreation/Travel/Specialty_Travel/Ecotourism/Fall_Foliage/

Bed and Breakfasts are really the way to go (personal opinion). Once past the Autumn Equinox when day and night share the hours equally we usually have cooler days when leaf peeping can be supplemented with various festivals (crafts, sheep, wine, cider), photography, horse back riding, hiking, biking, river cruises, train rides, kayaking if not too cold, and birding. Then we have those lovely long nights just crying out for romance, massages, sleeping in, first fires, warm sweat suits and fuzzy blankets, reading time, scented candles, hot tubs, hard cider or hot toddies with popcorn and DVDs.

Not every place has fall foliage color. In fact, world wide it is relatively rare. Fall leaves preserved in silica gel are a wonderful gift for those unfortunate enough to not experience seasonal changes. I like to send them to my mom in Florida by mid October so they can be used for Halloween and Thanksgiving displays. This usually means preserving them a year ahead of time in my location. I use leaves I pick off the trees. If I'm going to all that trouble I want to get prime specimans. Once the leaf drops it begins browning but silica gel holds the fresh from the tree color wonderfully.

Not only trees, but grasses, weeds and shrubbery change colors in the fall. Certain flowers are at their best in the fall. Gardening to emphasize and enjoy fall color and blooms and eventually putting the garden to bed for the winter is also fun. I love to rake leaves and make compost after the piles have been well used for jumping and kicking and general lollygagging about. I like to tour gardens on fall vacations - because they are beautiful but also to steal ideas for my own.

Lastly, this is the time of year when mold allergies kick in so be prepared if you suffer from them. There are some great medications that really help and don't make you too sleepy for fun.
My favorite online leef peeping quide can be found here

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