By Kristin Dillon
While crowds flock to the picturesque towns of New England for fall vacations, international cities unwind a notch to render local character (and cheap hotel rates). From the Salon du Chocolat in Paris to fall foliage in Central Park, see what the harvest yields among the panoply of peep in London, Paris and New York City.
1. London, England
Best time to go: October through November
What to see: For that classic autumnal scenery (knobby trees, ponds and wildlife) head to Hampstead Heath, a giant parkoutside the historically posh St. John’s Wood. There, you’ll stroll among the acres complete with wool-capped lads, spotted dogs and young trendies in gum boots. But if watching bucks thrash their antlers as they rival for affection gets your leaf-peepers popping, Richmond Park is rife with deer, swans and pastoral scenery. During the month of November, Kew Gardens also hosts free walks trumpeting the best spots to view the canopy of yellows, reds and umbers. Craving a regal twist? Hyde Park Stables offers horseback rides through miles of leafy bridleways along Serpentine Lake.
Where to stay: For a quintessential English experience, stay at the Renaissance St. Pancras London Hotel, home to The Gilbert Scott which serves proper Olde English grub such as quail, Yorkshire puddings and marmalades. The Rubens at the Palace Hotel London is steps from Buckingham Palace, and a scenic stroll to the RHS London Autumn Harvest Show (Oct. 4-5).
2. Paris, France
Best time to go: October
What to see: Gothic cathedrals. Voluptuous rues laced in cafés. That glittering Eiffel Tower. Just when you think Paris vacations couldn’t be more romantic, the City of Light wows and woos in October when beech, London plane and sycamore trees are kissed by hues of gold. Crunch your way through the très scenic Jardin des Tuileries, steps from the Louvre, where sprawling fountains, chestnut trees and the magical Arc du Triomphe ornament your path. Put a little muscle into your leaf-peeping in Parc des Buttes Chaumont, the steepest park in Paris, where serene nooks, a hilltop temple and cascading waterfall offer tranquil respite. French mystique graces the enigmatic Père Lachaise Cemetery, where you’ll amble leafy cobblestone paths immortalized by Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison and the lipstick-covered grave of Oscar Wilde.
For a perfect tie-in to your walking, buy tickets to Salon du Chocolat (Oct. 20-24) and indulge in string of chocolate affairs: Meet cocoa growers, watch chefs whip up gooey recipes, and ogle the runway during the Chocolate Dresses Fashion Show. Le bonus: A bevy of children’s workshops where petit artistes can make their own edible creations.
Where to stay: For a prime location in central Paris, the Saint James Albany Hotel Spa, which overlooks Jardin des Tuileries, is steps from the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay. And if you’re visiting during the Montmartre Harvest Festival, thecharming Villa Eugenie hotel is just a short drive away.
3. New York City, NY
When to go: Late September to early November
What to see: Beyond the concrete and skyscrapers, New York City is a fall foliage siren known for its pretty peep. Visit the undeniably autumnal Central Park in late October when trails and cycling paths are swathed in yellows, oranges and crimsons. Watch colors pop along the Lower Hudson River Valley aboard the New York Water Taxi’s Fall Foliage Cruise (Oct. 23, 30 & Nov. 6). On your sojourn, you’ll coast past acres of red maples, flowering dogwoods and yellow birch.
Explore further afield in Brooklyn, where Fort Greene Park boasts a brilliant display of ginkgos, oaks andelms. Another great spot is Prospect Park, a procession of rolling lawns, and woodsy-trail wanders under a kaleidoscopic canopy of hardwoods. Bask in exotic autumn splendor at the New York Botanical Gardens, and keep up the peeping pace with kiku (think: punk-rock chrysanthemums), toad lilies, camellias and more at the Fall Flowers of Japan exhibit.
Where to stay: Super hip The Marcel at Gramercy Hotel is a crisp walk to Union Square Greenmarket, where you can score apple cider, donuts and fresh produce most weekdays. Beyond Manhattan, the chic Aloft Brooklyn is just a few colorful steps from Fort GreenePark.
Kristin Dillon is an Editor at Orbitz Worldwide. On a recent tripto London, she became smitten with both Richmond Park and Hampstead Heath.