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Fall Road Trips

Galavante Confidential – Best Fall Road Trips
October 2, 2013
By , Executive Editor & Contributor

You know that moment when you realize you’re kind of turning into your parents? As in, your head hits the pillow before midnight on weeknights? And you non-ironically find yourself singing along to Hall & Oats? Right. So we have two words for you: fall foliage.

There’s a chance that one brisk afternoon this autumn, rather than sleeping off last night’s overindulgence or starting the party all over again with a build-your-own-bloody, you wake up yearning for something a little different. To get into nature, perhaps. Preferably from the comfort of a luxury automobile. So in honor of the season, we’ve compiled our favorite foliage destinations within a few hours of our fair city, where you can watch the leaves turn alongside a local meal, seasonal drink, or, if you just can’t bring yourself to turn back (it happens), an overnight stay.

So go on, take in that fresh country air and maybe an apple cider donut or two. Hell, stay the whole weekend if you want. You just might find that those generations of yore were onto something.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, New York

Since it’s just 30 miles north of the city, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t experience the culinary glory that is Blue Hill at Stone Barns. The elusive dinner reservation may require calling in a favor or two, but it’s worth it to partake in the $148–$208 tasting menus (not including wine, of course), a succession of small plates that include everything from miniature garden-fresh veggies to organic, raised-in-the-backyard meats. Like, literally – because Blue Hill at Stone Barns is much more than just a famed restaurant. Fall is the perfect time to tour their Hudson Valley farm, all 60 acres of it. That’s a lot of golden leaves. Don’t be intimidated. All we’re saying is that it’s about as farm-to-table as you can get, and a breezy little stroll among a happy gang of free-range pigs will make the succulent braised pork that follows at Blue Hill even more mind-blowing.

So go ahead – hop on the foraging bandwagon, and rest assured that your authentically rugged tour guide knows his stuff. (After all, they do call him “Wildman.”) On October 6, they’re hosting Harvest Fest, an annual fundraiser to improve the way America eats. Be a good samaritan and sign up. And throughout the fall, stock up on farm-fresh kale, eggs, and meat at their Sunday Farm Market. The trip is easily justifiable, if simply for an excuse to stop by the café for baked breads and pastries.

Topping Rose House, Bridgehampton, New York

So summer came and went, taking the Hamptons along with it. Some of us may be having a hard time coming to terms with that. Luckily, the fall months are some of the best in the Hamptons. Think picturesque pumpkin patches, wine tasting at Channing Daughters, waits of less than an hour to get into Nick & Toni’s, and none of the rookie summer riffraff.

While Montauk has been the epicenter of the Hamptons scene in recent years, the opening of the Topping Rose House last summer was a game changer. And not just because of five-star service. Upon arrival, your car is valeted and bags whisked to your room, leaving you with nothing to worry about except what to drink first from the gratis mini bar. And to think: all that without any awkward run-ins with a bearded innkeeper who makes you question the decade. Rooms are decorated to beach-house perfection, with thoughtful amenities like fresh popcorn from the local farm and apples picked just two miles down the road. What’s more is you won’t have to wait a month for Tom Colicchio’s roasted fluke (caught in Montauk – that morning). And we haven’t even gotten to the leaves! While gorgeous in their own right, it’s worth noting that the lushly landscaped homes of the rich and famous are even more beautiful (and visible) as the leaves change color and begin to fall.

Topping Rose House makes the weekend trip worth your while with three-night harvest- and wine-themed packages, which include a private tasting at Wolffer Estate, apple picking at the local orchard, a tour of Topping Rose Farm (yes, they grow their own food), dinner for two, and your own bottle of wine. Throw in Tom Colicchio’s favorite pantry items and his signed cookbook, and you’ve got yourself a quintessential fall experience.

If you head over October 5–6, they’ll be hosting Oktoberfest, with everything from pumpkin painting to caramel apple making and – our guess – a whole lot of really good food.

Twin Farms, Barnard, Vermont

Twin Farms’ vast, 300-acre backdrop is prime leaf-peeping territory. But as the story goes: If you give a New Yorker some fresh air and pretty leaves, he’ll ask for a glass of wine. And if you give him a glass of wine, he’ll probably ask for a rack of juicy short ribs. And a roaring fire. And a cozy bed in one of ten freestanding cottages. Day trip be damned. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

The grounds of this 5-star luxury resort, the former residence of Sinclair Lewis, pretty much provides you with the requisite checklist for a romantic weekend. Rolling hills? Check. Supreme meals and service? Check. Rooms rustically decorated with four-poster beds, wood-burning stone fireplaces, and Jacuzzi tubs so lavishly comfortable you’ll never want to leave? Triple check. When it comes to New England inns, Twin Farms’ luxurious simplicity will no doubt inspire you to park your passport for awhile and embrace the road trip.

If you’re here Oct 25–27, partake in Twin Farms’ Craft Beer weekend, which brings together The Alchemist brewery and Lake Placid Lodge’s Executive Chef Nathan Rich for a weekend of beer, bluegrass, and barbecue.

White Barn Inn, Kennebunk Beach, Maine

If the number of Presidents who have vacationed in the area is any indication, Kennebunkport is about as Americana as it gets. With its stunning coastline and abundance of crustaceans, Maine is not just a summer destination. Fall explodes in full color. It’s prime season to pick apples, sip cider, and eat donuts to your heart’s content. Throw in antique shops, quaint nearby towns, and perhaps the last of the lobsters in pot pie form, and you have yourself a weekend getaway. 

As far as inns go, the White Barn Inn has major cred – we could simply say Relais & Chateaux and let that distinction speak for itself. But let us elaborate. With over 125 years under its belt, the White Barn Inn has more history than many towns in the U.S. Rest assured – there is plenty of running water, electricity, and high-thread-count sheets. The hotel, while historically charming, has all your creature comforts: luxurious rooms, WiFi, flatscreen TVs. Splurge and upgrade to a room with fireplace and Jacuzzi tub, then cozy up until dinnertime. Speaking of dinner, the food itself is reason enough to make the trip. With a lineage of chefs who cut their teeth with the French culinary greats, this is probably the only time you’ll experience a grand tasting menu from inside a fully restored barn. Cooking classes are also a highlight, so save room for more than dessert. 

Every Sunday until the end of October, Chef Jonathan Cartwright leads guests on a foliage-heavy Crustacean Crawl – a six-mile bike ride through lobster country, to all of his favorite non-touristy haunts. The ride ends in a 4- or 9-course dinner at the White Barn restaurant where Chef Cartwright prepares your very own hand-picked lobster. Be sure to book two weeks in advance.

Mohonk Mountain House, Hudson Valley, NY

We’re sure you know people (not yourself, of course) who rarely leave the borough of Manhattan. But there is actually a whole territory within a two-hour drive of the city that’s worthy of a day trip, and it’s called the Hudson Valley. Where do you think local truffle butter and foie gras come from?

As you drive towards the Catskills this October, there is really no area that’s not prime fall foliage served up on a silver platter. No wonder the Rockefellers put down roots here. Forget Gatsby – a visit to their estate, Kykuit, shows you what real oil money bought back in the day. Impromptu stops at roadside farms and quaint small towns will satisfy the nature and history buffs among us. (Kids included.) A tour through 100-year-old casks at the Brotherhood Winery, America’s oldest winery, is another great way to experience the country’s history. (Kids not included.) Or head further north to Huguenot Street in New Paltz, where you can explore the preserved houses of the first French settlers.

We must warn you: Traipsing through this area becomes so addictive that you may start to crave an overnight stay. A family-friendly option, and one that won’t break the bank, is the Mohonk Mountain House. Full of history and activities, there are plenty of ambitious ways to view the leaves a-changin’, from horseback riding to mountain biking to golf. If all the touring leaves you wanting something a little more relaxing, you’ll have equally epic views from the windows of their (award-winning) spa. A perk of an overnight stay: You can head off-site, grab an (award-winning) lager at Gilded Otter Brewery before pulling your connections for dinner at the Sleepy Hollow Country Club, previously owned by the Rockefellers. And that may be the greatest award of all. 

(Photos courtesy of Topping Rose House, Twin Farms, and White Barn Inn)