We're the first to admit it: We play favorites.
Our Travel staff hits the road this time of year, looking for scenery to admire and air so crisp you can hear it snap when the wind rustles. Each of us has a place of the soul, a place where we return to celebrate the season.
We hope you find the magic of your own discovery along the roads of the South this autumn. Here are a few of ours.
Chesapeake Bay and Virginia's Eastern Shore
People here love the beauty of the season--autumn glowing on the wooded fringes of the Bay around the old Maryland towns of Annapolis and St. Michaels--but they're not the only ones around. In fields of tawny grasses at Assateague Island National Seashore on Virginia's Eastern Shore, I love to breathe the salt air and watch wild horses toss their heads and race the wind. --Les Thomas
New River Gorge Bridge, Fayetteville, West Virginia
If I'm lucky enough, I schedule myself here for Bridge Day (October 20 this year). The day includes the chance to walk the bridge by foot (this one day of the year only), the daring to peek over the edge to glimpse river rafters far below (876 feet, to be exact), and a paint-box panorama of hues on mountains that hug you on all sides like a mama. Perhaps one year I'll ride those waters with the river runners, just to see the scene from the opposite angle. For now, the view from the top is just that--tops. --Carolanne Griffith Roberts
When the fires of autumn blaze across the mountains, I return to Staunton. Known as the "Queen City of the Shenandoah," this small town provides the perfect placeto base any exploration of the valley. It sits at the crossroads of I-81 and I-64, halfway between Winchester and Roanoke and less than an hour from Skyline Drive. I love to snuggle at the newly restored Stonewall Jackson Hotel & Conference Center and dine at delightful hometown restaurants. And when it's too dark to admire nature's art, I head to the American Shakespeare Center for performances that would make the bard himself burn with pride. --Cassandra M. Vanhooser
Flat Rock, North Carolina
Truth be told, I return for the goats.
Yes, fiery hardwoods line the mountain roads winding through this tiny village. Yes, my smile betrays a giddy thrill the moment the Flat Rock Playhouse lights begin to burn. But my spirit is sated only after hiking up a hill to Connemara, the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site spreading over 264 acres. As a language lover, I'm blissfully lost in the titles of this famous poet's 10,000-book collection. As a nature lover, I find sure centering in this pastoral setting, accompanied by the primal bleating by the descendents of his wife's prize-winning Chikaming dairy goats. --Tanner C. Latham
Dawson County, Georgia
The thousands of plump pumpkins look like bright orange litters of VW Beetle babies resting in a field. The place is Burt's Farm in Dawsonville--and it speaks of fall. I wonder how many pumpkins I can actually squeeze into the backseat of my car. Or maybe I'll simply take a photograph of them. Traveling light, I can cross the highway to nearby Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge for a short stroll under the towering golden tulip poplars and to feel the cold mist spray from the 729-foot waterfall. What a season. --Annette Thompson
Leipers Fork, Tennessee
I find fall color creeping into Leipers Fork, spreading across the town much like a country song making its way to the Grand Ole Opry: with God's grace and guided steps. In this haven 20 minutes from Nashville, the wind belts out a breezy chorus and ruffles clusters of copper leaves (some people call them autumn's wind chimes). If I'm lucky I'll catch some live music at Green's Grocery, a stop where country tunes resonate from an intimate stage. --Farrah Austin
There's no particular fall color, but my personal chase for the season's splendor always peaks here. Fall especially shines in town at a gallery that features Andy Warhol's work. With its own palette of hues, it highlights endless roads that wander into picture-perfect sunsets. I followed one of those rambling roads on a cloudy afternoon to find a rainbow. A sweet surprise on an autumn day. --Farrah Austin
A NOTE TO OUR READERS:
"Find the Season's Best Color" is from the October 2007 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.