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AAA Traveler Worldwise
Two of a Kind: Leaf-Peeping Locales


Pictured Above: Gatlinburg Skyline
Photo By Seanpavonephoto/

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Sitting on prime real estate at the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this lively mountain town is a leaf-peeping paradise—and then some.

Views of the Smoky Mountains stretch wide and history runs deep at the 1937 Historic Gatlinburg Inn, featuring 70 guest rooms with retro decor, a sprawling front porch and a celebrity-studded guest list. Want water with your mountain views? Bearskin Lodge on the River offers 96 rustic-chic guest rooms, including those with private balconies overlooking a mountain stream, and an outdoor pool with a lazy river. Reminiscent of the Adirondack Great Camps, the Lodge at Burberry Creek oozes luxury with 14 all-suite guest rooms featuring private balconies, soaking tubs and gas fireplaces. Opened in June 2018, the seven-story Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg brings the islands to the mountains with coastal décor, indoor and outdoor pools, a full-service spa, and a tropical-themed bar and restaurant.

Gatlinburg touts some of Tennessee’s best barbecue, and you’ll find plenty of it at local faves Bennett’s Pit BBQ, legendary for its hickorysmoked ribs; Delauders Smoky Mountain BBQ, which embraces its “dive kinda feel”; and Calhoun’s, boasting award-winning smoked meats and scratch-made sides. For breakfast, it doesn’t get better than Croquett’s Breakfast Camp, named for none other than David C. “Croquett” Maples, which has been serving up homecooked breakfasts for more than a century and is famous for its cinnamon rolls. At Three Jimmy’s Good Time Eatery, Southern comfort food (try the Gouda macaroni and cheese) is complemented by live music and karaoke nights.

Gatlinburg SkyLift Park
Courtesy of Gatlinburg SkyLift Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP)—the mostvisited national park in the US—puts on a jaw-dropping show of fall colors thanks to its diversity—some 100 species—of native deciduous trees. Take in the autumnal display via hiking trail or auto route. For an aerial view of fall foliage, head to Gatlinburg SkyLift Park, where you can take a chairlift ride on the SkyLift some 500 feet up Crockett Mountain. At the top, take in the sweeping scenery from the SkyDeck, or walk 680 feet across a deep valley on the SkyBridge, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America. Seattle isn’t the only place with a space needle; the Gatlinburg Space Needle ferries riders more than 400 feet via a glass elevator to an observation deck for 360-degree mountain views.

Mountains of fun await at Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park and Ski Area, where you can do everything from ski, snow-tube and ice skate to experience a wildlife encounter, take a scenic chairlift ride and enjoy a carousel and other amusement rides. Anakeesta outdoor theme park also delivers big on family fun with Chondola rides, a tree house-themed village, dueling ziplines, mountain coasters and more. Quirky can describe several local museums, including the Museum of Salt and Pepper Shakers, the Hollywood Star Cars Museum and the Gatlinburg Pinball Museum. And back in GSMNP, pick your adventure: hiking, biking, whitewater rafting, fishing, horseback riding, camping and the like.

Kent, Connecticut

A bucolic setting. A vibrant downtown. Historic attractions galore. This Litchfield County hill town provides the complete leaf-peeping package.

Even before Yankee Magazine named Kent the best fall-foliage town in New England in 2010, you’d need to book super-early to nab lodging reservations during leaf-peeping season. If you’re fortunate enough to snag one of the 13 country-quaint guest rooms at the pet-friendly Fife ’n Drum Inn, you’ll also enjoy proximity to the Kent Green. Built in 1741, The Inn at Kent Falls exudes character throughout its common living areas and six guest rooms, some with claw-foot bathtubs and candlelit fireplaces. Unconventional lodgings await in the converted post-andbeam barn, which sleeps six-plus, at The Spirit Horse Farm, home to rescue horses, doves and chickens. Set on a private lake, the 300-acre Club Getaway puts an all-inclusive spin on camping with three types of cabin accommodations, meals and adventure sports aplenty.

Farm-fresh ingredients star on area menus. Along with serving up traditional pub fare, Kingsley Tavern sources ingredients from local farms for such creative offerings as Locally Foraged Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms. Aged steaks and fresh seafood are the headliners at the Bull’s Bridge Inn, housed in a 200-year-old building, and the farm-focused food, including wood-fired pizzas, at Swyft follows seasonal flavors. At Fife ’n Drum Restaurant, house specialties Filet Mignon au Poivre and Roast Half Duck Flambe are prepared tableside, and live bands entertain on select nights. Cap off any meal with handmade chocolates and truffles or a flavored coffee from Kent Coffee & Chocolate Company.

Housatonic River
Photo By Tomaz Kunst/

Fall foliage dazzles in all its crimson and gold glory on a drive through the Litchfield Hills along scenic Route 7, paralleling the Housatonic River. The 2,300-acre Macedonia Brook State Park offers hiking trails for breathtaking views of the Catskill and Taconic Mountains. Nature and history converge at the 19th-century Bull’s Bridge, one of only a few such covered bridges in the state, where river hikes along the Housatonic reward with views of waterfalls. Dotting the downtown landscape are a handful of ogleworthy art galleries, including the Gallery at Kent Art Association and The Good Gallery, featuring established and emerging artists.

Immerse yourself in fall’s dazzling showcase of foliage with a hike along a five-mile portion of the Appalachian Trail, with easy access from town. Hikers, bikers, photographers, birdwatchers and more can absorb the beauty of the Kent Land Trust’s system of trails and nature preserves. Biking the Litchfield Hills is an adventure with the Bicycle Tour Company, offering guided excursions and rentals for self-guided tours. Interested in older machinery? The Connecticut Antique Machinery Association’s volunteer-run museum displays everything from locomotive engines to farming equipment. Farming takes a tasty turn at Kent Falls Brewing Co., Connecticut’s first farm brewery, where its beers contain ingredients sourced from its 52-acre farm. Try a brew in its tasting room, and savor the pastoral scenery that is quintessentially Kent.