Who says the South has no change of seasons? When nights turn cold, leaves turn butternut yellow and raging red. In fields and woodlands sumac turns to ruby, sourwood burns bright crimson and wild dogwoods produce clusters of scarlet drupes.
When it comes to autumn color, Tennessee shines. In the Smoky Mountains, rustic rental cabins make for fireside evenings. By day, sunny porches look out over technicolor trees. You might also cruise the Tennessee River Gorge, known by some as the Grand Canyon of the Tennessee. Steep, forested river banks turn to jewel boxes of color by mid-September.
Here are just some of the ways to toast Tennessee in autumn.
Take a train trip with Vacations by Rail. Packages include overnight stays in Atlanta, Asheville, the Great Smoky Mountains and Nashville. The trip can also be extended to Chicago, with two nights at the Conrad Hilton hotel.
From Chattanooga, cruise the Tennessee River in a sightseeing, dinner or nature cruise. Excursion boats that make the trip out of Chattanooga include the Southern Belle Riverboat, the Blue Moon and the Tennessee Aquarium's River Gorge Explorer. From the city you can also take 40-mile train trip on the Autumn Leaf Special. Lunch is served in the dining car.
The curvy roads of the Chattanooga area are also popular with motorcycle riders, mountain bikers and other highway sightseers. Find 13 detailed routes with maps at http://www.bikersdozen.com.
Fall is festival time throughout the Volunteer State. Gatlinburg's Taste of Autumn food festival is September 27. The Smoky Mountain Woodcarving Festival is held in Townsend October 6 and 7 and the Museum of Appalachia celebrates Fall Homecoming in Clinton the weekend of October 12-14. That's just sample of the dozens of harvest festivals, hayrides and homecomings held when autumn colors are at their best.
Dollywood in Pigeon Forge is one of the liveliest theme parks in the nation, alive with music, song, foods, rides and wholesome hospitality. Joyous, foot-stomping fun reigns there this fall at the National Southern Gospel and Heritage Festival to be held October 3 to November 3. _http://www.dollywood.com/themepark/festivals/National-Southern-Gospel-Harvest-Celebration.aspx.
Tennessee insiders reveal that one of the best spots for leaf peeping in the Smokies is the observation deck atop the new Hollywood Wax Museum on the Parkway in Pigeon Forge. Inside the museum see lifelike wax figures of countless celebrities including Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin and John Wayne.
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Photos by Gatlinburg CVB
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