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Fall Foliage Trips That Won't Bore You

By: Sarah Marcantonio

Pumpkin-spice lattes. College football. Fall foliage trips—ahh autumn's overrated glories. But hold on there. Before you start grumbling about backed-up Berkshire lanes and overpriced, doily and crumbly scone-stuffed Vermont B&B’s, we've got news: There are plenty of other places to see the kaleidoscopic colors of fall—and those places just happen to have activities beyond peeping at leaves. Here are a few of our favorite autumn alternatives.

Sedona, Arizona

Head out to Sedona this fall, when temperatures have cooled down a bit and the trees are beginning to blend in with the red rocks. If you’re driving along 89A from Flagstaff to Sedona, look for the changing willows, box elders, velvet ash and maples along the road. Where to stay? Sedona Rouge Resort & Spa, you’ll be grateful for their sprawling spa after a mellow, but still 6-mile, leaf-peeping hike along West Fork Trail.

Munich, Germany

Oktoberfest is why many people head to Bavaria in the fall, but you can’t spend all day comparing Paulaner to Löwenbräu (can you?). Munich’s Englischer Garten is one of the world’s largest urban parks, and starting in September, the trees around the park’s beer gardens light up in auburn, gold, and warm fiery reds. Stay downtown at The Charles, a spacious, art-filled hotel run by the Rocco Forte group, located just across from the old botanical garden. Fancy a drive on one of Germany’s famously speedy highways? Enter: Lake Sylvenstein. Just over an hour’s leaf-peeping drive from Munich, the manmade lake is a favorite of fotografen.

Charlotte, North Carolina

The Blue Ridge Mountains are nearly as popular among leaf-aficionados as New England, but you don’t have to trudge along the Blue Ridge Parkway to see the colors. Even the I-40 highway between Charlotte and the Blue Ridge Mountains has red dogwoods, bright yellow tulip-trees and orange sassafras. With all the trees around, don’t worry about the smoke you see in the distance: It’s barbecue—ideally from Sweetfire BBQ, where you can stop en route to the mountains. Stay just outside Charlotte at the grand Ballantyne, A Luxury Collection Hotel, where the 18-hole golf course and miles of groomed lawns create their own stunning foliage scene.

Lake Como, Italy

It’s not just for summer anymore. The accommodating staff at Grand Hotel Tremezzo will be ready to pamper you like George and Amal—even if it’s a bit too chilly to dip in the floating pool. Step away from the fondue at L'Escale Trattoria and hike the Lake Como Greenway—the crimson, yellow and bronze leaves look amazing reflected on the lake’s sun-dappled surface or have the concierge arrange a guided hike up to San Martino church, dramatically perched on the top of rocky outcrop.

Montreal, Canada

New England’s Northern neighbor has more to offer than maple syrup and the best French food this side of the Atlantic. Visit Bois-de-Liesse Park, one of Montreal’s best-kept secrets, in September or October for colors that rival your go-to New England spots and from September 8 until October 31, the city’s popular lantern festival will light up the Botanical Garden. After walking amongst the 500 red ash trees and 200 American elms, stay for the evening and enjoy the festivities. The Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth is the best host, recently reopened after a massive renovation.

Seoul, South Korea

Have a flexible schedule and want to take a longer autumn vacation? Check out Seoul. Stay at The Shilla Seoul, a minimalist hotel that’ll put you in the heart of the city so you can witness what locals call “foliage play”. Locals and tourists alike flock to The Seosan Chrysanthemum Festival from October 28 through November 6 to see one the most popular autumn flowers in action. Also in the city, visit Bukhansan Mountains to see decadent colors from over 1300 types of trees. There’s a 2-hour train that connects to Namiseom Island, a micronation that’s home to one of South Korea’s most photographed paths: the Metasequoia. The fabled path changes color seasonally: bright green in the summer, white in the winter, pink and yellow in the spring and brilliant red, orange and yellow in the fall.