Eight Great States for Fall Travel Assignments
Add some fall color and seasonal fun to your next travel nursing assignment
By E'Louise Ondash, RN, contributor
Ask any seasoned traveler about their favorite time of year and they are likely to say that it's autumn. Once Labor Day has come and gone, the crowds dwindle, the air is sweet and crisp, and best of all, Mother Nature stages a colorful extravaganza. Cities, towns and villages all across the country celebrate the change of seasons with festivals and events. No matter where your next travel assignment, you probably won't be far from the fall color and the fun.
Recruiters report that the following states have a wealth of travel nursing assignments, so find your favorite, talk to your recruiter and get packing for an autumn adventure!
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When you think about California and fall color, think altitude. Unlike in the East, where the trees change as you travel south, nature displays its autumn finery throughout the Golden State first at 9,000 feet, then progresses down the mountains at the rate of about 500 feet to 1,000 feet per week.
September and October are the best months to visit San Francisco. The fog clears and the views are spectacular. Head across the Golden Gate Bridge to magical Muir Woods and the giant redwoods. Continue north to wine-lovers' paradise--the Napa and Sonoma valleys. It's time for the Big Crush and dozens of related special events with grape harvest themes. Be glad if your days off are during the week because weekends in wine country can be crowded. Or for an alternative, drive another hour north to quainter, quieter Healdsburg. Find more destinations in California.
The fall color show in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is like a progressive dinner party. The extravaganza starts in mid-September at 4,000 feet and lasts for at least seven weeks or more. Find great views and hiking at Newfound Gap Road from Alum Cave Trailhead to Kephart Prong Trailhead; the Blue Ridge Parkway; and Heintooga Ridge Road to Balsam Mountain Campground. Great trails include Rich Mountain Loop, Chestnut Top Trail and Smokemont Loop. If you love arts and crafts, don’t miss the Gatlinburg Craftsmen's Fair (Oct. 6–Oct. 23).
Who knew that East Texas is the place to see a brilliant show of autumn colors? Or that that the million-year-old canyon in Palo Duro Canyon State Park near Amarillo is the country's second largest? The locals do, of course. They also can tell you about Lost Maples State Natural Area, 90 miles northwest of San Antonio, and the 10.6-mile River Road Drive, a scenic route in Hill Country that crosses the Guadalupe River four times. Check out Texas Less Traveled.
Although in the Deep South, Georgia has a wealth of places to explore for fall hues. Saffron-colored oaks and Scarlet Maples are found on the trails in Tallulah Gorge State Park. Kayakers flock to the region in November for the biannual whitewater releases. Not an expert kayaker? Just watching is a thrill. For tamer action, see the autumnal splendor from a historic railroad car on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. The 26-mile, four-hour roundtrip begins in the village of the same name.
If it's antiques you fancy, Blue Ridge in the verdant Chattahoochee National Forest is the place to linger. A town of less than 1,300 (90 minutes north of Atlanta), it offers shops, galleries, family restaurants and plenty of ice cream for everyone.
While you rarely hear the words Florida and fall uttered in the same sentence, the Sunshine State has its own version of autumn. When all the leaves are dead and gone in the Northeast, the show is just beginning down South. Look to Central and North Florida for fall foliage. The cooler the days, the better the display. And yes, the weather does start to cool down in the fall, allowing travelers to enjoy a vast array of outdoor activities. The state’s beaches and theme parts are also less crowded this time of year, with school back in session.
History-heavy Massachusetts is a superb place to celebrate autumn, and what could be more fun than visiting the Witch Museum and the Witch House in Salem in October? The quaint, picturesque, pedestrian-friendly town goes all out for harvest time and Halloween. The rest of the state is just as enthusiastic about the season. For festivals, haunted happenings, ghost tours, hayrides, art festivals, mega-mazes and foliage conditions throughout Massachusetts, visit the Office of Travel and Tourism’s idea board.
The Empire State has a huge array of destinations that draw autumn travelers, so regardless of your travel assignment, you won't be far from any of them.
For the full-on fall experience, head to the Hudson River Valley. The area has the history, color and ambience that will put you in the mood for the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze at Croton on Hudson, where thousands of intricately carved pumpkins are assembled into dinosaurs, castles, Loch Ness monsters and the Headless Horseman. And speaking of that decapitated equestrian, Ulster Park, N.Y., stages multiple chilling events that celebrate all-things-Mr.-Horseman during September, October and November. For other destinations and activities, visit I Love N.Y.
All those berry bushes in Washington State make for an extra punch of deep color when autumn hits the Northwest. Cooler weather and shorter days also energize wildlife that are busy gathering food and packing on the pounds for their long winter's naps. For great scenery and hiking throughout the state, visit the Washington Trails Association site. For a different kind of spectacular scenery, don’t miss the orca whale watching from the San Juan Islands through November.
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