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Great Places to Fly this Fall

With autumn here, we share some great places to fly to experience the beauty of the season. This year, we expand our list to include nationwide destinations with great suggestions from

For many pilots, autumn offers the best flying of the year thanks to falling temperatures, better engine performance, fewer thunderstorms, less wind, and less turbulence.

If you haven’t done so already, a 500 foot flight across the tops of trees bursting with colorful foliage is a breathtaking experience. Find a winding river or a country road and simply follow wherever it leads. If safety allows, turn off the GPS and radio — and don’t forget to bring a camera!

Here are some places to find your fall flying adventure, courtesy of

Bar Harbor, Maine
Head toward Bar Harbor, Maine on Mount Desert Island for spectacular autumn foliage and outdoor adventures. This quintessential New England fishing port is filled with specialty stores, cozy cafes, and historic “cottages.”

Immerse yourself in the rugged beauty of Acadia National Park with its spectacular shoreline, 120 miles of hiking trails, and glacier-carved ponds and lakes. Bike 45 miles of gently graded carriage paths that John D. Rockefeller, Jr. built to escape the “horseless carriage” — an early name for the automobile.

From the summit of Cadillac Mountain watch the first rays of sunlight strike the country and at the end of the day, retreat to an upscale inn where you’ll drift off to sleep with the murmur of water just outside your window.

Columbus, Ohio
In the fall, Columbus, home of the Ohio State Buckeyes, is all about Big 10 football, and game days always bring huge crowds into town. But there’s more to Columbus than just college football. Explore fine old neighborhoods with vibrant communities, and the campus of Ohio State University, which is one of the largest and most diverse in American academia. There you’ll find one of the largest contemporary arts centers in the country, the Wexner Center for the Arts.

Kemah, Texas
Each October, the Wings Over Houston Airshow comes to Ellington Field, located near Kemah, Texas. The Johnson Space Center is a fascinating stop, as well. But Kemah offers much more for the rest of the family. Just 28 miles south of Houston, Kemah sits at the mouth of Clear Lake, an inlet of Galveston Bay, and is one of America’s top recreational boating areas, with around 10,000 slips!

The boardwalk with its amusement park is open year-round. Get up-close and personal with the occupants of Stingray Reef and stay in a quaint bed & breakfast cottage with street-legal golf carts. Shopping, live music and dancing in the evenings, beautiful gardens, and excellent restaurants make this a fun destination for the whole family.

Lexington, Kentucky
Mention Kentucky and two things quickly spring to mind: horse racing and fine bourbon. As author Fran Severn-Levy explains, after you land at Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport, it’s just a short hop to Keeneland Race Course, where one of two yearly horse race meetings takes place in October. Get up early to take in the horses’ early morning workouts, and then have breakfast with some of the regulars, before the bugle announces it’s race time.

Right at the airport, the Aviation Museum of Kentucky features vintage aircraft and honors aviation pioneers. Don’t miss the Buffalo Trace Distillery, operating since 1770, and one of only four that were allowed to remain open during Prohibition. Tours and tastings are “on the house.” Historic sites, an eclectic arts scene, and great shopping complete the itinerary.

Newport, Rhode Island
Remember the fabulous mansions you saw in The Great Gatsby? These Gilded Age mansions really do exist, and you can visit them now in lovely Newport, R.I. Sail on a real 12-meter America’s Cup racing yacht or take a bay tour in a historic high-speed hooch-runner from the Prohibition era and view the mansions and lighthouses from the water. Walk along the famous Cliff Walk or go bird watching in a nearby wildlife refuge. Enjoy beer and rum tasting at a local brewery, or dig into some local clam chowder, clams, and lobster at a variety of seaside shacks and restaurants.

Newport has plenty of fine dining as well. You can enjoy an incredible sunset on the lawn of a bluff-top mansion, then dine inside at a restaurant complete with white tablecloths, an extensive wine list, and expansive ocean views. You can sleep in one of these mansions as well, or pull up the covers inside a luxurious stateroom onboard an 80-foot motor yacht.

Williamsburg, Virginia
Fall is the best time of year to visit the Colonial Capitol: summer crowds have gone home, the fresh air is pleasantly cool, and, of course, the maples are draped in their autumnal glory. In October, “General Washington” and his troops march through town to “lay siege” on nearby Yorktown.

On Veteran’s Day in November, veterans march with the Williamsburg militia to the sound of fife and drum, culminating in a ceremony punctuated by musket and cannon fire. The living history sites of Jamestown and Yorktown Victory Center are considered life-list destinations for many Americans, and they’re made even more exciting by special events from October through the end of the year.

Pilots will certainly want to visit the Virginia Air and Space Center, and golfers already know that the area, with more than a dozen award-winning courses, was named one of the Top 25 Golf Destinations in the World by Golf Digest.

Stay at the elegant Williamsburg Inn, built by the Rockefellers, who also restored many of the town’s historic buildings. It’s furnished with custom-made period furniture, and decorated lavishly for the holidays. Or stay in a colonial house or a hotel near the marina. Sample foods and recipes popular in the 18th century, and even try George Washington’s favorite menu item. Don’t forget to visit the period taverns for a nightcap.

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