The mellowest time of the year
Relax! The crowds are gone. Here are 7 great places for a late-fall getaway.
© Beth Gauper
A horse-drawn carriage takes tourists around Lake Geneva.
It was the first Friday of November in Lake Geneva, and tourists were so happy to be there they were almost giddy.
Only a few leaves clung to trees, but the sun shone, and the air was balmy. Downtown, gaggles of shoppers walked briskly down streets lined with corn shocks and pots of mums, and horse-drawn carriages clopped past the beach.
At the bistro, harried city folks pushed through the doors with that “Whew! Just-arrived-ready-to-relax'' look.
I walked to dinner at sunset, following the famous lake path and picking my way around pulled-in docks. Winter was on the way, but there was a spring in my step.
Late fall – when crowds ease and hotel deals appear – is one of my favorite times for a getaway. More often than not, the weather still is gorgeous, and you have the delicious feeling that you've gotten a last-minute reprieve.
Here are seven great places for a getaway once the fall-color rush is over.
There's plenty of good shopping, but my favorite thing to do here is walk the lakeshore path, which passes through the front yards of Gilded Age mansions.
On Saturday morning, plenty of people were walking it, including Missy Isely-Poltrock of Salem, Wis., who was training for a charity walk with two friends.
“Everybody picks a house, pretending it's just for when we retire,'' she said, smiling. They'd already passed the Expect a Miracle mansion: “I rang the bell for a cure for breast cancer,'' she said.
Women always have loved Lake Geneva. Self-made transportation tycoon Carolyn Gable, a former waitress, owns the house where a
brass bell instructs lake-path walkers to "ring for a miracle,'' and painted flowers and inspirational sayings cover a white
In the 19th century, six Chicago society ladies had such a good time they commissioned a statue of three goddesses for Flat Iron Park: “In Memory of Good Friends at Lake Geneva.''
© Beth Gauper
In Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood, Oz Park still is bright over Halloween weekend.
There are plenty of cozy places to dig into when the sun goes down. I had a feast of fall comfort food at Sopra Bistro: braised lamb shank with saffron gnocchi and grilled asparagus and a salad of roasted golden beets and goat cheese. The restaurant even had my favorite beer, the limited-edition Hop Whore from Tyranena.
Stay in one of the inns on Geneva Lake (watch for specials) or hedge your bets with a stay at the Grand Geneva Resort or, if you have kids, its Timber Ridge Lodge, which has a small but nice indoor water park. The resort also offers a corn maze, haunted hay rides and trail rides from its stables.
If you're on a budget, you can get a nice deal at the Lake Geneva Motel, just around the corner from downtown and the lakeshore path.
This is another classic girlfriend-getaway destination. You can barely find a room in September and early October, when the town holds several big festivals, but crowds ease later on.
There's still a lot going on, especially over Halloween, when there's a parade, and for Nouveau Wine Weekend in November.
And late fall is a good time to drive in the countryside, especially the ridges east of town, which are lined with oaks that retain their leaves well into November.
Big cities always are great to visit in late fall, when their cultural seasons are in high gear. I first visited Milwaukee in
early November, when willows along the lakeshore still were bright gold.
People thronged the sidewalks, along Jefferson Street near Cathedral Square, in the Historic Third Ward, around the Milwaukee
Bucks arena and on Old World Third Street.
Downtown, people were converging on the gold doors of the Pabst Theater and at the Riverside Theater. I wanted to hear the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra play Beethoven’s Ninth at the Marcus Center, but it was sold out.
Milwaukee was just like a little Chicago — except it was easy to find free or cheap parking.
© Beth Gauper
In Lake Geneva's Flat Iron Park, trees keep their color into November.
There are also many fun places in the countryside between Milwaukee and Lake Geneva to visit in late fall: Mukwonago and East
Troy, for rides on the East Troy Electric Railroad, Old World Wisconsin near Eagle; and
Ten Chimneys in Genessee Depot.
Like Milwaukee, Chicago is on Lake Michigan, whose waters keep the cities warm for a few weeks longer than the rest of the region.
Hotel rates drop precipitously after the Chicago Marathon in early October, but watch for big conventions that goose the
Thanks to Badgers football, the very air of this college town pulses with excitement on fall weekends. Hotel rates skyrocket for home games, however, so you may want to avoid those weekends if you're not going to the game.
It's a great town for shopping, in the museum shops and offbeat stores on State Street and in the global boutiques along
Monroe Street. There's always a concert, play or traveling Broadway show at the Overture Center.
Dane County Farmers Markets on Capitol Square run through early November, then move into Monona Terrace for the Winter
© Beth Gauper
Every Nov. 10, Split Rock Lighthouse on Minnesota's North Shore commemorates the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
This college town is much quieter, though the St. Olaf-Carlton football game generates some excitement. Carlton's stadium is right next to its Arboretum, a lovely place to hike in late fall, when the gnarled branches of oaks show black against the sky.
There's a nice selection of small, independent shops on Division Street downtown. And there's always a free recital to attend
at St. Olaf College, which is world-renowned for its music program.
This part of Lake Superior is beloved year-round, almost too much during summer and peak fall color. But certain people love
it just as much in late fall, when skies turn threatening and the gales of November whip giant waves against the shore.
That's when you'll want to rent a cozy cabin with a big stone fireplace and a picture window.
Since most of the Superior Hiking Trail is closed for the firearms deer season the first half of November, we like to go the last weekend in October and at the end of November, especially for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Last updated on January 11, 2013
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