“What’s great about southern Vermont is access,” says Gerry McFarland, director of marketing for The Equinox, a Luxury Collection Golf Resort & Spa in Manchester, Vermont. Slightly more than three hours by car separate this picturesque town from several major cities, including New York and Boston. McFarland advocates hiking and driving to take in the foliage, but his favorite vantage points are on the resort’s golf course, where you can see fall colors popping on the Green and Taconic Mountains. For those who don’t tee off, he recommends cozying up around the fire pit at the Falcon Bar. As for a happy-hour order, try the Equinox Ale, created for the resort by The Otter Creek Brewing Company in neighboring Middlebury, Vermont.
Where to stay: The Equinox, a Luxury Collection Golf Resort & Spa, Vermont
“Everywhere you go in the Vail Valley at the end of September is beautiful,” says Heidi Johnson, concierge team leader at the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain. Autumn descends upon the region from the second week of September to the second week of October. The aspens turn golden at higher elevations first, so depending on when you visit, the concierge team will guide you to hikes and drives to maximize the foliage experience. On property, Johnson recommends warming up at the fire pits on the terrace at Maya, a Mexican restaurant with a modern twist.
Where to stay: The Westin Riverfront Mountain Villas and Sheraton Mountain Vista
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The train departs Tambo del Inka, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, every morning at 6:50 a.m., bound for the Incan wonder that is Machu Picchu. September offers what is perhaps the most ideal weather for visiting. “It’s not rainy — you have clear skies that make this the best time of year for photos,” says Korina Gomez, concierge operator at the resort. If possible, she recommends visiting on a Monday or Tuesday, when fewer people make the journey. As for the site itself, she recommends finding a quiet place away from other guests. The Incans revered the rocks, which they believed to be alive. Says Gomez, “As soon as you put your hands on the stones, you feel an energy that’s hard to describe.”
Where to stay: Tambo del Inka, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Valle Sagrado
“In September and October, the weather is still warm and theme-park tickets are often discounted," says Lisa Chase, senior guest services manager at Sheraton Vistana Resort. Plus there are special Halloween events. For kids, Chase suggests Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom® Park. The evening event requires a separate ticket from regular park entry, and includes trick-or-treating and Mickey’s “Boo-to-You” Halloween Parade. Universal Orlando® Resort’s Halloween Horror Nights® (also requires a separate ticket) is best suited for older guests and features several haunted houses.
Where to stay: Sheraton Vistana Resort and Sheraton Vistana Villages
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Aloft Asheville Downtown’s rooftop, also known as the Air Level, offers an outdoor pool and cabanas with views overlooking the town’s treetops — and stretching 35 miles to Mount Pisgah. That’s a lot of fall color to enjoy from a single perch. It’s here you’ll also find a fire pit and lounge seating, ideal come sunset. The Air Level is also a full-service bar with eight local brews on tap, plus a menu of small-plate dishes, including a burger with house-made bacon jam. When you're ready to explore, the concierge can steer you toward their favorite overlooks, such as Craggy Gardens along the Blue Ridge Parkway, as well as hikes that yield the best vistas. One top pick is Mt. Mitchell to the north; from the peak, you can see the city of Charlotte.
Where to stay: Aloft Asheville Downtown
"Fall for Napa is our peak season because it’s harvest time," says Don Shindle, general manager of the Westin Verasa Napa. “It’s so busy, you can smell the fermentation in the air,” he says. Guests who rise early can witness the harvest, and later in the day, observe crushes. During the fall, Shindle recommends guests visit Napa during the week, when crowds are thinner and roads less congested. Throughout the season, the colors keep changing. “The vines change colors — reds, oranges, yellows — and every varietal changes differently,” he says. “You get the golden browns of the slope-side grasses, the greens of the olive and deciduous trees and the vineyards turning colors. It’s a pretty phenomenal place in autumn.”
Where to stay: The Westin Verasa Napa
Maui is a pretty perfect destination all year-round, but in the fall shoulder season, the island tends to be less crowded than summer and winter. Try to time a trip around Halloween, which is a pretty big deal in Lahaina. For the keiki (children), The Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas hosts a children’s parade on property, followed by a costume contest. The all-night soiree takes place on Front Street in Lahaina, so revelers enjoy both views of the Pacific and the over-the-top costumes. The resort provides a shuttle to the festivities throughout the night and the concierge team can assist with last-minute get-ups.
Where to stay: The Westin Ka‘anapali Ocean Resort Villas
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The Mamanuca chain of isles extends like a kite tail to the north of Viti Levu, Fiji's main island. Among them is Tokoriki Island, home of the new Sheraton Resort & Spa, Tokoriki Island, opened June 2014. And while schools are back in session stateside, they’re also swarming the reefs. September is an ideal time for visiting Fiji as it’s before the rainy season, and water clarity is at its highest — good news for snorkelers and scuba divers. Water temperatures are in the low 80s, so you don’t need a wetsuit as you float above giant clams, clownfish and corals in a rainbow of electric hues. The reefs may be buzzing with activity, but the white sand beaches are at their quietest, making it a perfect time to take a lesson in relaxation.
Where to stay: Sheraton Resort & Spa, Tokoriki Island, Fiji
“The glow of hundreds of hot-air balloons in the sky at night is amazing,” says Gigi Melgarejo of The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico, held early October every year. The sales manager of the Sheraton Albuquerque Uptown says that handlers add lights, making the whole balloon visible — plus each balloon is unique, like floats in a parade. Melgarejo, who loves the event because it’s so family oriented, says her favorite balloons are the two shaped like bees holding hands. From the Sheraton, guests can take advantage of city-organized buses to the event, where something is always happening, from blowing up each ride to the send off of dozens. Says Melgarejo, “It’s like a carnival.”
Where to stay: Sheraton Albuquerque Uptown
North America’s fall is springtime in South Africa, and Cape Town is in full bloom. Hike or take the aerial cableway to the top of iconic Table Mountain to take in the scenery. If you want to spot big game, The Westin Cape Town concierge team can arrange safari day trips to the nearby Aquila Game Reserve, where you may spot zebras, lions, giraffes and rhinos. But the big-animal action isn’t happening just on safari — it’s also just offshore. Southern right whales, a species spanning up to 50 feet, migrate past the city, making sightings easy from an area known as Hermanus. The concierge can also arrange whale-watching day trips, or steer you toward prime viewing spots if you simply want to venture out on your own in a rental car.
Where to stay: The Westin Cape Town
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