Some Areas in the United States to Enjoy Fall Foliage

The end of September is when fall foliage starts to appear in the eastern states in the US, beginning in the more northern states and moving down south as time passes. If you can plan a visit to the New England states for the upcoming weeks, you should be able to see some of the colorful leaves before they fall off the trees for the winter. As you might imagine, some places fill up quickly in the autumn months, so make your plans now while there’s still time.

Growing up in West Virginia, I always loved when the trees turned from green to wonderful shades of yellow, red, and orange, but on the flip side, I somewhat dreaded it because that meant winter was coming. Nonetheless, regardless about how I feel about winter, West Virginia is a perfect place to enjoy the fall foliage. Many people flock to Bridge Day, which is West Virginia’s largest festival held on one day and one of the largest extreme sports events in the world. Bridge day is held every year on the third Saturday in October on the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayette County, coinciding with peak fall foliage in the area. Thousands of people come to this festival to watch as BASE jumpers from around the world jump off the bridge and rappellers go up and down the catwalk. There’s also plenty of things for spectators to do including run a 5k starting on the bridge and ending in Fayetteville. This is just one of many areas in West Virginia you can visit in the fall to experience fall foliage. Others include Huntington, Charleston, or one of the state parks would be a great option as well!

20171104_130941
This was taken in Huntington, WV, when I ran a half marathon there in the fall.

North Carolina also has plenty of places to visit if you want to see some gorgeous fall foliage. For those of you that don’t know, North Carolina can be divided into three basic parts:  the mountains on the west, the central area known as the Piedmont with the capital of Raleigh, and the coastal region on the east. Most people that want to see fall foliage will focus on the mountains in the western part of North Carolina. Western North Carolina is an outdoor-lover’s paradise, with many fun cities to go camping, hiking, fishing, and whitewater rafting. Some of my favorite cities in western North Carolina are Asheville (see my posts:  Camping in Asheville, North Carolina;and Christmas at Biltmore Estate and Exploring Asheville, North Carolina), Boone, and Blowing Rock.

IMG_20181102_155526
Gorgeous fall foliage in North Carolina

I’ve visited all of the New England states for half marathons, and I have been to three states in the fall, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. I was in a small town about an hour outside Boston, called Newburyport and loved that part of Massachusetts. The nice thing is you can still do plenty of things in Boston and easily pop over to the quieter areas like Newburyport when you want a break from the traffic and congestion. Rhode Island is one of my favorite states I’ve ever been to and I feel like it’s one of the most under-rated states. I went to Newport and we drove all over that area, stopping in some tiny towns to visit art galleries or local shops. There are also mansions such as The Breakers and Marblehouse that you can tour plus gorgeous beaches all around that area (although it’s definitely not peak beach season there in the fall but that just means they aren’t as crowded). We were in some tiny towns in New Hampshire for the half marathon that most people wouldn’t come to visit, so I can’t speak as much about that, but if you’re in the northern part of the state like I was, it’s a short drive over the Canadian border to Montreal, which I absolutely loved (see my post:  Montreal, a City Unlike Any Other).

dsc01732
Yellow leaves everywhere (and a little orange) in Newburyport, Massachusetts

Some other states you might not think of when you think of fall foliage are Indiana and Arkansas. I visited both of these states in the fall when I was running a half marathon there, and found I enjoyed both places more than I expected I would. Most people think of Indianapolis when they think of Indiana, home of the famous Indy 500 races, but I was in a small town on the border with Kentucky and the Ohio River called Evansville. The Evansville Half Marathon perfectly coincides with the West Side Nut Club Festival, now in its 98th year (!) and also more recently a taco festival and music festival also occur around the same time in October. Here are links for more information:  Evansville Half Marathon and Nut Club Fall Festival.

IMG_3494
The race start at the Evansville Half Marathon with the fall foliage all around

For my half marathon in Arkansas, I ran the Cotter River Half Marathon, which I absolutely raved about. This was in November, which is a perfect time to enjoy the fall foliage in Arkansas. Although there are some options for things to do and places to stay in the Cotter area, I decided to drive to Hot Springs after the race and spend a few days there. Hot Springs can be a bit touristy in parts, which I usually don’t like, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Hot Springs much more than I thought I would. My family and I went to one of the local bath houses and had several extremely affordable treatments done and we hiked all around the National Park there. For more on the race, see my post, White River Half Marathon, Cotter, Arkansas-44th state and for more on Hot Springs, see my post, Hiking, Bathing, and Admiring Holiday Lights in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

IMG_1656
The back of some of the bathhouses in Hot Springs, Arkansas

I know I left off some places to enjoy fall foliage in the United States because that would be way too long and I haven’t been everywhere, so now your turn, where are some of your favorite, perhaps off-the-beaten path places to enjoy fall foliage that I didn’t mention here? Do you live in a state where there is no substantial fall foliage? Do you travel to see fall foliage?

Happy travels!

Donna

 

 

 

 

 

Newport Marathon, Rhode Island- 26th State

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Rhode Island was my 26th state.

After I went to Vermont and fell in love with the New England states, I was very much looking forward to going to Rhode Island for the 2012 Newport Half Marathon. I had heard that fall is the best time to visit the New England states because of the foliage and the race is held in October so I thought the timing would be perfect. Along with Vermont, Rhode Island is one of the top 10 least-visited states in the United States, yet these were two of my favorite states I’ve visited (of the roughly 40 states I’ve been to so far). I guess the word isn’t out yet.

I knew almost nothing about Rhode Island before planning my vacation there but I was not disappointed upon arrival. There’s so much to do in this tiny state just in the Newport area alone, from visiting mansions, walking along Cliff Walk, visiting Fort Adams, relaxing at the beaches, and shopping in the unique little towns outside Newport. There are loads of great restaurants as well.

At race packet pickup I got a black technical material long-sleeve shirt that was available in unisex and women’s sizes (a nice perk, often not offered at races) along with my bib. My husband and I drove the course the evening before the race as we almost always do before a race. He and I both agreed this would not be an easy half marathon because of all of the hills.

A storm blew in the morning of the race and it rained some at the beginning but the worst was the winds- up to 25 mph. It was crowded along most of the course and I felt like there should have been wave starts with corrals. The course was along historic downtown Newport, Fort Adams, Ocean Drive (for beautiful blue water views), and past huge Bellevue Avenue mansions with a finish at Easton Beach. While not a very flat course, with many hills scattered throughout the course, this was only compounded by the strong winds when I ran the race.

Although I wanted to finish in 2:02, I was happy with my finish time of 2:03:54 considering the wind and hills. After the race I received a link to high resolution photos taken by Gameface Media that were taken on the course that I could download for free.

Would I recommend this race? Absolutely, despite the wind and hills, and you must stay for at least a couple of nights after the race as well to check out the area. Rhode Island is a hidden gem!

According to the race website (shown below), the race now starts at 7:30 am and has a wave start in three waves starting minutes apart based on predicted pace and finish times. This definitely helps the course not get so congested especially in the first few miles like often happens at races with a lot of runners. When I ran the race I felt like they should have had a wave start because the course was so crowded. I guess others complained and the race director listened and made changes.

Logistics of getting here:  Boston Logan International Airport is pretty much your option for flying into Rhode Island unless you have your own airplane (and if any of you do, I’d love to hear about it!). From Logan it is about a 2 hour drive to Newport. If you will be spending some time in Boston, I don’t advise renting a car until you are leaving the area. Parking is at a steep premium in Boston and it is a very walkable city with decent options for public transportation. My family and I walked to everything we did in Boston and picked up the rental car just as we were leaving. Another piece of advice is to pick up the rental from a site outside of the airport since you can save a lot of money by avoiding the extra fees charged by the airport.

DSC00578
Finish at Easton’s Beach was nice

Newport Marathon

 

Stratton Faxon Half Marathon, Connecticut-12th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Connecticut was my 12th state.

The Stratton Faxon Half Marathon in Fairfield, Connecticut was Runner’s World magazine’s race of the month for June 2008. That just so happens to be when I ran it. Given this and the fact that I had already been to Vermont and absolutely loved it, I had high expectations for this race and coming to Connecticut for the first time.

I know not all of the New England states are exactly the same, but still I was excited about going to Connecticut. While this part of Connecticut is beautiful, I didn’t find the same draw that I did to Vermont.

For the race, we ran past some stately homes in nice neighborhoods and along the water (Long Island Sound) with a finish at Jennings Beach, but in general I didn’t find the course very interesting and there were a lot of hills as well. There wasn’t really anything that made it stand out from other races other than the fire trucks at the end.

This race was also a hot one, which I didn’t expect. Since it’s so far north, I expected it to be cooler but not only was it really hot, it was also very humid, also unexpected. Given the heat and humidity, I was surprised to have finished in the time I did:  2:00:36. Food at the finish was typical bananas, oranges, bagels.

For pre-race accommodations, the Fairfield Circle Inn is close to the race start, as is the Hotel Hi Ho. We stayed at the Fairfield Circle Inn and it was fine, has an outdoor pool (always a bonus if you have children), and late check-out for runners. Before and after the race we flew into/out of New York City, which is only about an hour away by car. We spent some time in Fairfield but it is small so there’s not a ton of things to do. I recommend going to Lake Mohegan Recreation Area if you have the time. This is a race where it’s easy to tack on a mini-vacation to New York City after the race, too.

IMG_3248

Fairfield Half Marathon