Fall proves a prime time to vacation
By LaTrina White
(CNN) -- Many vacationers fall for the foliage during autumn. But summer's caboose has more to offer than honey-hued leaves, and travel experts predict an uptick in the number of families who plan to take advantage of all that the change of season has to offer.
"We are seeing lots of anecdotal signs that the industry is getting stronger," said Dexter Koehl of the Travel Industry Association (TIA). "Fall continues to be strong and has become the second largest [vacation season] in terms of percent and volume."
Tia Gordon of the American Hotel and Lodging Association says that the organization expects its industry's numbers to be up about 2 to 3 percent.
With cooler temperatures and less highway traffic, the fall travel season -- which runs from September through November -- is popular for tourists as a good time to take a short weekend trip and enjoy a nearby state.
In fact, fall is when 24 percent of the people who are planning to vacation choose to take their leisure trips, according to the TIA. In summer, 32 percent of that population travels.
In the fall, some traditional vacations take on a new spin.
"When people visit Connecticut in the fall, they tend to stay a few days -- three or four days on average -- and you really get out to experience what there is to see and do," said Barbara Cieplak of the Connecticut Office of Tourism.
For example, instead of heading to Napa Valley for a wine-savoring experience, Cieplak recommends trying it New England style. "Vineyards ... are bearing their fruit ... so there are some wonderful wine tours," said Cieplak.
Connecticut has 12 wineries and breweries to choose from, including Stonington Vineyards, a 58-acre vineyard that offers free wine tasting and an art gallery, to Heritage Trail Vineyards, which resides on an 18th century farm and offers tours of the wine fields and shopping.
Some vacationers choose to cruise. With itineraries unique to fall, cruising can prove prime for those who want to roam the seas.
"There are fall repositioning cruises, where a cruise line will take a ship and move it from its summer sailing home base to its winter sailing home base," said Cheryl Fenske, spokeswoman for Cruise Line International Association. "And usually those kinds of cruises, while may be a little longer, visit different ports that they won't visit the rest of the year."
A repositioning cruise, which Fenske says offers good deals, can take you across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal or around the Caribbean.
For leaf lovers, a leisure cruise offers a twist to the routine.
"You can actually get on boats and see the foliage along the shore [with] narrated tours," said Cieplak. "[The Connecticut River] is really a very unspoiled waterway with beautiful scenic vistas as well as small, quaint towns."
But even if you're not in the mood to cruise, fall is fabulous for most outdoor activities, said Diane Konardy, spokeswoman for Vermont's tourism department.
"There are a lot of fall festivals," Konardy said. "There are concerts and dances and suppers and all types of performance arts. ... We're a beautiful state with wonderful farm and historic village landscapes."
Connecticut also offers a variety of outdoor activities for autumn's outdoor types.
"The Connecticut River has become very well known for its bird-watching opportunities," said Cieplak. "During the fall ... we have migratory birds coming down from Canada heading south. ... We have an annual fall bird walk at one of our state parks right along Long Island Sound."
Jeepers, it's about the peepers
Vermont is no slouch when it comes to showing off its fall colors.
"We consistently have good to great foliage," said Konardy. "About 60 percent of our trees are maples, which contribute a lot of the brightest reds and oranges."
Southern states claim equally captivating scenery. "The Asheville area [in North Carolina] boasts a range of microclimates that create the longest [autumn] season in the country," said Angela Velasquez, the public relations manager for Asheville's convention and visitor's bureau.
If you are wondering what the best time is to travel to catch the changing leaves, Connecticut's Cieplak says, "Don't worry if you've missed the peak time."
"Fall foliage lasts through the second week of November even though southern New England is at peak color around Columbus Day weekend [October 11-13]."