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The United States has some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world with its snowcapped mountains, rolling plains, pristine beaches and dusty deserts, but one of the most spectacular sights is the annual changing of the leaves. It’s a sight that can even be seen from space — NASA even has a webpage dedicated to this natural wonder — however, watching it from the ground is just as awe-inspiring. No matter where your travel nurse assignment has taken you, there are ample opportunities to see this yearly transformation of the trees.
1. Boston, MA
Just two and a half hours west of Boston lies the famous Berkshires, a hotspot of art, culture, cuisine and, of course, fall foliage — there’s even an annual Fall Foliage Festival in North Adams that brings together the local community and the many tourists in the region. The weeklong celebration, which culminates in a parade, hosts tons of activities for families, couples and children. The Berkshires comprise a range of the Appalachian Mountains, making it ideal for outdoor enthusiasts that love a little hiking through the hills — but that’s not all there is to do in the Berkshires. Once you’re done gazing at the colors, head to Lenox to check out the historical buildings of the area’s wealthy founders or travel to Stockbridge for a visit to the Normal Rockwell Museum.
2. Portland, OR
Drive an hour and a half east of Portland along the Columbia River to arrive at the one of the most spectacular locations for fall foliage on the West Coast. The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area boasts a waterfront location with a gorgeous view of the mountain scenery and waterfalls, including the Wah Gwin Gwin Falls. Make sure to visit of the many vineyards that dot the region, or attend the renowned Hood River Valley Harvest Fest to get a taste of locally grown produce and culinary delights.
3. Knoxville, TN
Head an hour south of Knoxville to arrive at the Great Smoky Mountains, a mountain range that is often said to be one of the best places in the south to see the changing leaves. The ever-present haze that hangs over the peaks only adds to its charm, making it an even more magical place. Spend the day in Gatlinburg, a mountain town whose month-long Craftsmen’s Fair is chock full of handmade goods as well as live music and a touch of that all-important southern charm. Nearby is Dollywood, one of Tennessee’s biggest attractions, where you can attend the annual Harvest Festival, which features gospel music, pumpkin carving and a lot of flashy fun.
4. Albuquerque, NM
While the desert landscape of the southwestern U.S. may not seem like it would be much of a place to see the changing of the seasons, the mountains of New Mexico actually offer far more fall foliage than you might think. An hour and half north of Albuquerque lies Taos, a small town that is packed with culture and colors — its name stems from the Taos word for “red willows,” after all! From Taos, you can drive the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway — it’s an 84-mile journey around Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s highest point, which showcases the range’s impressive covering of colorful aspens. While you’re on the road, stop at neighboring towns such as Red River, Eagle Nest and Angel Fire to soak in the small-town vibes, have a picnic and converse with the locals.
5. Middlebury, VT
Vermont is a fall fan’s paradise: it’s got apple orchards, maple syrup and that crisp, autumnal air. The state is a natural place to view the fall foliage, and there’s no shortage of sightseeing opportunities — but to narrow it down, start in Middlebury. It’s a central location that is the perfect launching pad for scenic drives around the state — head to Stowe to visit quaint shops and gaze at quintessential New England architecture — but the town offers its own charm and history.
The northeastern U.S. is known as one of the best places for fall foliage thanks to its dense forests and plentiful mountains, but there are opportunities throughout the country to see the leaves. Wherever you are on your next travel nurse assignment, take some time out in the fall to explore your new area and enjoy the season!