Fall Getaways: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
12 spectacular places to spend a long weekend.
IT'S TRUE: SUMMER'S WINDING DOWN. But look on the bright side: solar deficit disorder offers all the more reason to escape the gray as winter approaches with an extended weekend elsewhere (to say nothing of the screaming shoulder-season deals to be had this month). From high alpine adventures in sunny Central Oregon to culinary explorations in the ray-baked Wenatchee Valley, we’ve picked a dozen destinations worth burning a few vacation days on. All you have to do is choose the weekend and the way you get there.
Go By: Plane
Direct-from-PDX destinations worth your frequent-flier miles
Pedal-pushing and leaf-peeping in a rugged western town
“LES BOIS! LES BOIS—voyez les bois (The woods, the woods—see the woods!)” French explorers reportedly exclaimed in 1833 when they first spied the site of present-day Boise, where the Boise River gently weaves through thick stands of cottonwoods. That’s still sound advice today. Each fall this arbor-rich outpost in the foothills of the Rockies is awash in a breeze-blown blaze lit with yellowing aspens, orange-leafed maples, and crimson-tinged sweetgums, all swaying amid a backdrop of rippling, golden hills.
The best way to take in the leafy scenery? By bike. Nicknamed the “The City of Trees,” Boise could also lay claim to the title of “Singletrack, USA.” Fat-tire riders fan out along the high-climbing Boise Foothills on a vast, 130-mile-plus network known as the Ridge to Rivers Trails, to enjoy sweeping valley vistas and snowy peaks, while the cruiser-bike set plies more than 200 miles of in-town paths, the most popular of which is the Boise River Greenbelt. Stretching more than 20 miles, this mellow, mostly paved trail syncs up a dozen spacious parks, including attraction-packed Julia Davis Park, home to the decidedly modern Boise Art Museum, the kid-friendly Idaho State Historical Museum, Zoo Boise, and sun-dappled rose gardens.
At the hub of Boise’s two-wheel culture is the hip Hyde Park neighborhood. Nestled at the north end of town, at the base of the foothills trails, this inviting enclave buzzes with funky antique stores, coffee shops, and restaurants such as SunRay Cafe, where you can fuel up for your ride with hand-tossed wheat crust pizzas.
And don’t worry if you didn’t check your ride at PDX. Idaho Mountain Touring rents carbon-framed road cycles, full-suspension mountain bikes ($35), and city cruisers ($15). Pedaling among locals, with the sunbeams filtered by a kaleidoscope of leaves, you’ll find it hard not to sing this town’s praises, too. Perhaps even in French. Your first verse: “Vive les bois.” —Brian Barker
Sidle up to 39 regional beers and über-local eats like smoked Idaho trout and grass-fed beef at Bittercreek Alehouse. At Boise Fry Company, get a gourmet spud fix with peanut-oil-fried purple, russet, sweet, yam, and Yukon gold taters laced with alder-smoked sea salt and house-made blueberry ketchup.
Boise’s new boutique Hotel 43 (from $139) is a finely appointed charmer with a hoppin’ steak house. Once a 1960s Travelodge, the Modern Hotel and Bar (from $99) now sports swanky walk-in showers and midcentury mod furniture.
Take the 16-mile spin up a sagebrush-scented mountain road to Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area, where the views are anything but.
Resort to lavish indulgence
Since its birth, amid a torrid race for gold in nearby Virginia City, Tahoe has been linked to wealth. After the gold rush departed this alpine landscape, the tourism rush began: wealthy vacationers from California and Nevada built palatial homes along the state-straddling lake’s picturesque shores, several of which still stand. Today, Tahoe is a place where, as one Nevada resident jokes, “the billionaires have kicked out the millionaires.” Translation: lavish restaurants, spas, and resorts ripe for the plumbing.
Headquarter your weekend of luxury on Tahoe’s North Shore. Less than an hour from the Reno airport, the North Shore holds the lion’s share of Tahoe’s mountain resorts, including the renowned Resort at Squaw Creek (from $179), an extravagant 405-room hotel that received a $53 million face-lift in 2007 and is regularly tapped as one of the top ski resorts in North America. Get some body work of your own in Squaw Valley, where the muscle maestros at Trilogy Spa erase any remnant travel tension. By the end of the signature Lomi Pohaku stone massage, the only thing more tender than you might be the sustainably raised Durham Ranch beef rib eye at nearby PlumpJack Cafe.
For a truly exquisite dining experience, climb 7,000 feet to Manzanita, the Ritz-Carlton’s restaurant, where James Beard Award winner and Iron Chef champ Traci Des Jardins serves up impeccably executed dishes like red wine–braised short ribs. (And if you’re here during Tahoe’s Restaurant Week, October 2–9, you can score a prix fixe supper at Manzanita and many other local restaurants for $20–40.)
Feeling a bit overindulgent? Pack a picnic from Tahoe House Bakery & Gourmet and hit the Tahoe Rim Trail, a 165-mile-long trail circumnavigating the lake and with eye-popping views of the cerulean water reflecting the Sierra Nevadas. Besieged by such beauty, you’ll have no trouble understanding why San Francisco’s legendary tycoon George Whittell built his waterfront estate, Thunderbird Lodge, here in 1939. You can still see it for yourself on a tour (Tuesday–Saturday), which includes a 600-foot subterranean trek from the main house through a tunnel to Whittell’s infamous Card House, site of many high-stakes poker games. Of course, seated at the edge of the spectacular scene—the lagoon stretching toward golden shores and snow-dusted summits—you’ll feel like you’ve already won. —KC
Specializing in California cuisine tinged with French techniques and lakefront seats, Christy Hill has been a Tahoe City favorite for a quarter-century. Warmly lit and always packed, cozy Moody’s, in Truckee, delivers locally sourced dishes to your table and live jazz music to your ears.
It doesn’t get much more luxurious than the two-year-old Ritz-Carlton (from $199) in Northstar. Unless, of course you count the jaw-dropping $8,000-a-night properties for rent at tluxp.com. (Don’t worry: there’s plenty of luxe lodging for under $300, too.)
Forget the paddle boats. See (and feel) what a million bucks is like on a cruise aboard the Tahoe Bleu Wave, a million-dollar restored 1966 yacht. Stocked with hundreds of nearby Napa labels, The Pour House, a beloved Truckee wine shop, could turn a quick tasting stop into an all-day affair.
A historic city ablaze in autumn hues
Yes, there are the quaint, brownstone-lined streets, the bustling harbor, the hot dogs and beers at Fenway Park, and the texture of colonial history lurking in every nook and cranny. But as September blurs into October, the city of Boston takes on a distinctly autumnal identity. At its core is the kind of fall foliage you can find only in New England—crisp, luminous, and everywhere.
Seeking out the best stashes of leaves in our sister city (Portland was, after all, just a coin toss away from being named New Boston) is a simple matter of following the trees—namely within Frederick Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace, a 1,100-acre chain of nine parks linked by greenspace and waterways. Make your way down Tremont Street, one of Boston’s original bustling thoroughfares (trying not to get distracted by chic boutiques and sidewalk cafés), to Boston Common, where an impressive variety of deciduous wonders puts on a bright display. Founded in 1634 as a public space for grazing cows, this is America’s oldest park, and the anchor of the Emerald Necklace. In the 1800s, trees, fountains, and statuary replaced the park’s ambling bovines, and the common has since become the city’s favorite patch of green (and, this month, red, orange, and yellow). Do your own grazing at nearby No. 9 Park, where James Beard Award–winning chef Barbara Lynch blends New England’s seasonal bounty with elegant preparations in the shadow of the statehouse.
If a tranquil escape is more your speed, you can do no better than the Mount Auburn Cemetery, which straddles Cambridge and Watertown. Its meticulously maintained collection of more than 5,000 trees and countless plant species unfolds over 175 acres of rolling hills, woodlands, and ponds, all ablaze with autumn’s arrival. Or, for a more aquatic perspective on the city’s fall palette, pick out a waterborne chariot at one of Charles River Canoe & Kayak’s five locations. Flanked on both sides by a tree-lined bike path, the Charles cuts a watery, northeasterly swath through the city, its shimmering waters reflecting—and sometimes carrying—Boston’s kaleidoscope of colors all way to the Atlantic. —Rachel Ritchie
Dive headlong into the flavorful, locally sourced world of Mediterranean fare at Oleana, where Armenian basturma shares menu space with tamarind-glazed short ribs and chicken with za’atar in an intimate Cambridge dining room. Follow the South End’s hip crowd to Stella for an indulgent Sunday brunch featuring duck confit omelets, linguini carbonara, and eggs Benedict with prosciutto.
Enter a stylish world of sleek chaises and platform beds at the Ames Hotel (from $300), opened in 2009 inside an 1889 building in the heart of downtown Boston. The small, homey Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro (from $285) combines modernity and history on gas lamp–lined Charles Street, complete with delicious French food served in the ground-floor bistro.
With its riot of showy flowers, meandering paths, and signature Swan Boats, Boston’s Public Garden, another jewel within the Emerald Necklace, makes for prime territory to absorb the season. Or take in the visual riches at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a 15th-century-Venetian-style palace of galleries packed with more than 2,500 paintings, sculptures, tapestries, and furniture pieces.
Ride the rails to the best of the West
Eat your way through an ?international culinary hot spot
The other Vancouver is easier to get to than you think, courtesy of the Amtrak Cascades, which steams out of Portland every day at 2:50 p.m. With no lengthy stopovers, you’ll make the run to the border, along the pristine Puget Sound waters, in about eight hours. It’ll be close to 11 p.m. when you arrive at the Vancouver depot. Fortunately, it’s only a 10-minute cab ride to many of Vancouver’s best downtown eating and drinking spots, which stay open—and serving—until 3 a.m.
An enormous cluster of gleaming skyscrapers ringed by the northern Cascades and expansive bay (part of the Salish Sea), Vancouver is not only one of the most beautiful cities on the West Coast but also one of the most edible. Thanks to the province’s lax immigration laws, thousands of newcomers, largely from Asia (20 percent of Vancouver’s inhabitants are of Chinese ancestry), have settled here since the 1990s, giving Vancouver’s culinary scene a truly international flavor. And October is the ideal time to eat your way through this maritime majesty—just after the height of the summer tourist season but before the rain begins. The best part? Vancouver’s foodie hot spots are all easily accessible by foot. (The blocks are much longer than Portland’s, though, so you’ll want to pack a sturdy pair of walking shoes.)
Start your gastro-adventure by checking in to the 17-story Fairmont Waterfront perched high above Coal Harbour, and then make the short walk down Cordova Street to the city’s oldest section, Gastown. This 125-year-old neighborhood houses one of the world’s only steam-powered clocks—it blows its whistle every 15 minutes—and has served as an epicenter for imbibing, at places like the six-tap Pourhouse, since the Great Depression.
For a more sophisticated experience, squeeze into the always-buzzing Bao Bei in Chinatown. This cozy brasserie serves plates of Chinese-inspired beef tartare and Manila clams in ginger sauce; just show up before the hunger pangs hit, because they don’t take reservations. Or check out the burgeoning and heavily Asian-influenced food-cart scene scattered throughout downtown, where Cartel Taco churns out its famous bulgogi tacos. Also not to be missed: the Japa Dog stand, a purveyor of thick brats piled high with Japanese condiments like seaweed, edamame, and grated radishes. Eat your grub on the go, or head over to Stanley Park for a picnic in the 1,000-acre urban forest. By the time you’ve finished exploring the 14 miles of crisscrossing walking paths, dotted by lakeside benches and ocean scenes, you’ll have worked up an appetite for your next course. —Martin Patail
Pre-dinner cocktails don’t get much better than at Boneta, where acclaimed bar manager Simon Kaulbeck mixes up classics and originals in a sleek Gastown space. Nearby, at L’Abattoir, chef Lee Cooper serves French-inspired fare from a converted slaughterhouse.
Newly renovated in July, the luxury Rosewood Hotel Georgia (from $217) has welcomed everyone from Elvis to Katharine Hepburn. For smaller, more modern surroundings, check in to the boutique Opus Hotel (from $222) in Yaletown.
Hop aboard a shuttle at one of several downtown pickup locations for a vertigo-inducing skyride up to Grouse Mountain to get a bird’s-eye view of the city.
Glacier glimpsing and high-country ?adventure in a classic mountain town
This ride shows off the Amtrak Empire Builder line’s most impressive stretch. You’ll pull out of Portland at 4:45 p.m. and spend the evening watching Eastern Washington’s infinite plains roll by. Doze through the night (and through Spokane and northern Idaho) in one of the Superliner sleeper cars, which can include a private bathroom. Just be sure to rise early to see dawn break over Glacier National Park’s mind-bending mountains. When you step off at Whitefish’s vintage train depot at 7:26 a.m., you’ll find yourself in the ultimate Rockies town.
Far enough from major cities to avoid overcrowding, yet close enough to Glacier National Park to sniff the pristine alpine air, Whitefish promises soggy Portlanders a quintessential mountain escape to the other place that calls itself Stumptown—minus the fog more typical of our autumn. (October sees highs in the 50s or 60s and regular sunny skies.)
If Amtrak sticks to its morning schedule, hit the excellent Montana Coffee Traders for a house-roasted espresso that could hold its own in Portland. Then strike out to explore Whitefish’s low-rise downtown, just a few blocks south of the station. The false-fronted shops lining Whitefish’s Central Avenue (really, its only avenue) give the place a Wild West feel, albeit one with a chic streak. Exhibit A: Tupelo Grille, where locals flock to scarf upscale Cajun grub. If you’d prefer to indulge your inner Grizzly Adams, duck into the Bulldog Saloon, where the century-old frontier architecture, huge burgers, and beer-and-a-shot vibe may inspire you to talk like a Deadwood extra.
Beyond this quaint Flathead Valley town, where tamaracks and aspen trees give the surrounding mountains a seasonal gild, adventure beckons. Grouse Mountain Lodge (from $109) runs a Glacier shuttle for guests looking to explore the 101-year-old park’s stunningly clear lakes, soaring peaks, and gushing, glacier-fed, ?emerald-green creeks. Or leg it yourself on the brand-new Whitefish Trail, which starts just three miles north of town and loops up to Whitefish Lake and more mountain views. —Zach Dundas
It’s actually illegal to visit Montana without drinking beer (we think), so check out the fine micros at Great Northern Brewery. Or hit the Craggy Range Bar and Grille and tuck into the $22 prime rib—that’s called going native.
Whitefish Mountain Resort (from $120) is a ski mecca turned all-season recreation paradise, with a huge mountain biking and hiking trail network. The cute, B&B-ish Garden Wall Inn (from $145) in downtown Whitefish is just six blocks south of the train station.
Glacier Cyclery rents mountain bike starting at $30 per day, and their knowledgeable staff can direct you to the nearby Spencer Mountain trails, which include deep woods, great vistas, and serious singletrack challenges with names like “Malice in Plunderland.” Nice, but tough: Montana in a nutshell.
Road trips with drives as dazzling as the destinations
Take the scenic route through a 922,650-acre national treasure
Reason to Rev
Thrusting up, almost violently, directly from the sea, it seems impossible that the sharp-toothed Olympic Mountains tick only 7,900 feet. What seems more likely, as explorer John Meares first noted when he named Mount Olympus in 1788, is that these majestic, glacier-capped peaks house some kind of deity. In fact, by official standards, the breathtaking landscape is sacred indeed: the cluster of eight major summits, surrounding rain forest, and 62 miles of undeveloped beach have been protected as a national park since 1938. Even better, Olympic National Park is just about three hours’ drive from Portland, making a fall pilgrimage (when the park’s lodge rates drop) easy. So load up the car, adjust your mirrors, and head for park-looping Highway 101, where soul-stirring experiences may be far closer than they appear.
»Carved by a glacier and fed by them, too, Lake Quinault sits in the middle of the Quinault Valley, which holds one of the park’s three temperate coniferous rain forests. Watch the god rays filter through the firs and spy on Roosevelt elk, black-tailed deer, and woodpeckers on one of the south side’s moderate trails. If some of the valley’s 12 feet of annual precipitation dampens your hiking plans, drive the 31-mile loop around the lake, pausing to admire roadside cascades like Merriman and Bunch Falls, and the world’s largest red cedar and Sitka spruce trees.
»Stationed 20 miles down a partly gravel road, Lake Ozette isn’t arrived at by accident. And yet the 7,787-acre lake continues to be one of the most frequented camping spots in Olympic National Park, no doubt owing to the unique Cape Alava trail, a 3.1-mile stroll on a raised boardwalk through coastal woods and prairie to the edge of the ocean.
»Just down the road from Cape Flattery, the northwesterly-?most tip of the contiguous United States, Shi Shi beach is well worth the extra road miles required to reach it. It’s an easy, albeit sometimes mucky, two-mile trek through Sitka spruce to the bluff above Shi Shi, where a steep descent lands you at two miles of pristine beach, protected at the southern end by a photogenic mile-long string of sea stacks. Reach them with an easy amble along the surf, transfixed, perhaps, by the lapping of the incoming sea whispering across the sands to the thick curtain of trees.
»You can see as far as 60 feet into Lake Crescent’s 600-foot depths in some places, and you might even catch sight of the protected, only-found-here Beardslee and Crescenti trout. Or, thanks to the wall of shore-facing windows in Lake Crescent Lodge’s (from $105) sunroom, you can enjoy the splendor of the mountain-lined lake while sipping a glass of Lake Crescent’s reserve chardonnay.
»One of the best views on all of the Olympic Peninsula requires hardly any legwork at all, except pushing the accelerator. Just outside of Port Angeles, the overlook at Hurricane Ridge offers a mile-high perspective on the Olympics’ rocky, snowcapped spine. Camera setting: panorama. —KC
Facing the peak-rimmed shoreline, Lake Quinault Lodge’s (olympic?nationalparks.com; from $79) dining room and the Adirondack chairs on the immaculately manicured lawn are prime places to savor cedar-planked salmon and watercolor skies as you watch the sun sink below the Olympics.
The rock fireplaces in the period-perfect 1926 cabins at Lochaerie Resort (from $145), on Lake Quinault’s northern shore, provide a welcome antidote to autumn’s evening chill. The Lost Resort’s (from $65) three small cabins are the only noncamping option at Lake Ozette.
A seashell’s throw from Whidbey Island, Port Townsend’s quaint Victorian streetscape invites an afternoon of exploration—one best capped with a walk along the waterfront, relishing a coneful of homemade ice cream from Water Street’s Elevated Ice Cream.—KC
A farm-to-fork escape in the heart of Washington
Reason to Rev
Planted smack in Washington’s geographic center, the Wenatchee Valley, with its prodigious orchards, verdant farms, and 300 days of sunshine, also sits at the heart of the state’s culinary scene. Popular Seattle restaurants like Tilth and the Herbfarm source their menus from this lush valley where, flanked by the Eastern Cascades, even the Columbia River slows down to admire the striking landscape. Self-reliant citizens baking their own bread, pressing cider, and tending fertile backyard gardens aren’t mere Little House on the Prairie–inspired fantasies here. It’s just the way things have always been done. And Wenatchee’s crisp fall days are an ideal time to sample the bounty of the harvest. Sure, the five-hour drive here is nothing to sniff at: fortunately, the dramatic mountain passes en route give plenty of opportunity for distraction. And, trust us, once you’ve arrived at this gastronomical gem, your stomach—and your Flickr account—will thank us.
»Four miles off of I-90, the thunderous 270-foot Snoqualmie Falls promises a postcard-worthy place to stretch your legs before the push over stunning Snoqualmie Pass.
»Learn the secrets of cheese mongering in a hands-on class ($80) from Vermont-born Catha Link, who has been churning out handmade raw-milk sheep cheese from her picturesque Alpine Lakes Cheese farm for 10 years.
»Richard Kitos spent 20 years chefing in LA before opening the IvyWild Inn with his wife in 2006. You’ll taste Kitos’s experience each morning in heavenly shirred eggs and impossibly fluffy omelets stuffed with chicken and mozzarella. Better yet, learn how to make your own mouthwatering meals at his bimonthly Tuesday cooking classes.
»Tucked into a tiny space on N Mission Street, Farmhouse Table is a feast for the eyes—and soul. Initiated four years ago, this indoor farmers market of sorts sells fresh fruit and produce from local farmers, like Tiny’s Organic Farm in East Wenatchee (private tours available), five days a week.
»Wake up your appetite and your senses with a cup of locally roasted Caffe Mela coffee and a fresh-baked scone at Pretiola Bakery. Situated on the banks of the Columbia, this snug space bakes its organic goodies fresh every day and recently started serving dinner.
»A different kind of dessert awaits at the top of the steep 1.5-mile climb to Saddle Rock in the Wenatchee Foothills: a 360-degree vista of the laconic Columbia River S-curving through the valley while the white-capped triangle tops of the Cascades guard the western horizon.
»The kitchy Bavarian town of Leavenworth registers as one of central Washington’s weirdest tourist attractions, but you’ll want to pull over for pure novelty’s sake. And to pick up some of the decadent chocolates handmade at Schocolat.
»Three waterfalls dot the northern route (Highway 2) back to I-5. Your best bet: Wallace Falls, where the 2.75-mile trek (one-way) to a three-tiered torrent will help burn off some of those vacation calories. —KC
If Lemolo Café and Deli’s (509-664-6576) sunshine-yellow exterior doesn’t draw you in, the scent of fresh-baked bread and the locally grown ingredients they pack between slices certainly will. Two blocks away, the upscale Shakti’s pairs its hand-cut meats and seafood dishes with produce sourced largely from Farmhouse Table and an extensive local wine list.
Five miles from Wenatchee and a mere seven from Mission Ridge Ski Resort, Past Thyme Farm’s (from $225) four-bedroom house presents the perfect marriage of town and country, especially if you opt for one of its farm stays, where you’ll help owner Tony with the chores required to keep this organic, self-sustaining farm going.
Embrace your inner Dionysus at Château Faire le Pont, during a one-day crash course seminar in winemaking ($25). Or sample how the experts do it at Tastebuds, a café and wine shop with an extensive collection of local labels, including many of the 20 or so wineries in close proximity to downtown.
Find serenity among Central Oregon’s forested peaks
Reason to Rev
Winding its way along jagged lava fields, over windswept mountain passes, and through lush forests brimming with old growth and tall, mossy waterfalls, the 82-mile McKenzie-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway links just about every kind of natural wonder Oregon has to offer, one microclimate blending into the next like the strokes of a watercolor painting. Come November, McKenzie Pass is closed to automobiles, but in October the byway’s plentiful maple trees ignite in vivid splashes of red and gold.
»Launch your loop in Sisters, where Oregon’s cowboy spirit lives on at the feet of hulking volcanoes. Mosey along the storefronts of Cascade Avenue and check out the impressive collection of locally carved juniper at Sisters Log Furniture. Really get into the Sisters swing by picking up a Stetson hat or Lucchese cowboy boots at Leavitt’s Western Wear.
»From Sisters, climb through the Deschutes National Forest up to the Dee Wright Observatory at McKenzie Pass. Built from lava rock during the Great Depression, the observatory sits in the middle of a 65-square-mile lava field at 5,187 feet, affording knockout views of Oregon’s greatest volcanic hits: Mounts Hood, Jefferson, and Washington; Three Fingered Jack; and North and Middle Sisters.
»Continue flanking the ancient lava flow on Highway 242 as you descend into the Willamette National Forest’s towering firs. Take a right on Forest Road 260 to Scott Lake, an idyllic, glassy lake fringed by wispy grasses under the glow of the Three Sisters. Camp on its shores ($5), or just rinse off the road grime with a quick, exhilarating dip.
»An increasingly dense forest engulfs Highway 242 as it snakes through a series of hairpin turns. During this stretch, you’ll pass a trailhead for the 1.5-mile loop hike to secluded Proxy Falls, and later, on Highway 126, for the dramatic Koosah Falls, cascading 82 feet over a wide basalt ledge into an expansive pool. —RR
Nested on the shores of Suttle Lake, the Boathouse Restaurant serves up three squares a day, from veggie-stuffed omelets to charbroiled burgers and fresh-caught lake trout. In Sisters, Sisters SnoCap Ice Cream (541-549-6151) is a must for old-fashioned, homemade ice cream and milkshakes.
Enjoy a peaceful lakeside slumber, access to canoes and kayaks, and a menu of muscle-melting massages at the well-appointed Lodge at Suttle Lake (from $149), or settle in at one of Camp Sherman’s rustic Metolius River Lodges (from $100), serenaded by the rush of the spring-fed river.
While summiting the surrounding mountains seems daunting, the more moderate 1.9-mile hike to the top of Black Butte delivers panoramic views as it winds its way to the top of the 3,000-foot cinder cone.