Summer may have ended, but that doesn’t mean the time for a vacation is over, too. Fall is the ideal time for a quick trip to many locations in the Midwest—including Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee—thanks to the cooling weather, changing leaves and autumn flavors. In fact, fall fun is just a short car trip away.

An Arty Good Time

Brown County, Indiana, which started as an arts colony in the early 1900s, has become a destination for those who appreciate art and the beauty of the outdoors.

“We still have a lot of the art as far as like art galleries and handmade items all throughout downtown (Nashville),” says Aubrey Sitzman, public relations coordinator for the Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We also are a really big outdoor destination… We have Indiana’s largest state park, state forest and part of the national forest.”

This mix of art and nature can be enjoyed together during the Back Roads of Brown County Studio Tour Oct. 1-31. During this month-long event 19 local artists will open up their home studios to visitors.

“People can get out and drive around and stop by their different studios and houses and kind of talk with the artist face to face, a lot of times see them working. It’s a great way to kind of explore the whole county, see a lot of foliage (and) hit those back roads that you usually don’t see when you’re here,” says Sitzman.

And those back roads offer quite a sight. Sitzman says that the county is in the southernmost tip of the Maple Belt, which is why the region’s trees have such vibrant colors. “We have a lot of places like overlooks (and) vistas for people to park their car and go get pictures and admire. We have a lot of back roads kind of off the beaten path—places that people can just drive around and be surrounded with the leaves and everything,” she says.

When not taking in the trees, visitors can enjoy live music at the new Brown County Music Center, tastings and tours at Bear Wallow Distillery and Hard Truth Distilling Co. and visiting the 54 businesses that make up the Arts Village.

“It’s a fun place to come in the fall just because of all the leaves and the hustle and bustle. Everywhere you go there’s fall decoration, fall flavors, people having apple cider and pumpkin flavor everything,” adds Sitzman.

An Outdoor Adventure

Those looking to immerse themselves in the outdoors can head south to Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. The park’s 24,000 acres include land in Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee and feature 14,000 acres of managed wilderness, 85 miles of hiking trails and about 40 caves. The park is also historically significant to many Americans.

“Cumberland Gap is the very first doorway to the west. It’s the route that Daniel Boone and 300,000 pioneers journeyed through as they headed out west,” says Carol Borneman, chief of interpretation and education at the park. As a natural path in the Appalachian Mountains, migrating animals, Native Americans and westbound pioneers used the gap to safely cross the mountains. Later, the area’s minerals and resources were used to make charcoal and iron and Civil War soldiers traveled its path.

Today, the park continues to honor its history. For example, Oct. 18 and 19 the park will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Iron Furnace, the oldest manmade object in the park. In its heyday, the furnace produced three tons of iron a day, most of which was sent down the Tennessee River to Chattanooga to make iron goods. While no longer in use today, the park will be looking back at its impact on history with reenactments showing the lives of workers (who were mostly slaves), an actual iron pour and a charcoal making demonstration.

Cumberland Gap also gives visitors the chance to take in its natural beauty.

“What most people do is drive the 4-mile long road to the top of the mountain to the pinnacle overlook,” says Borneman. “That (Cumberland Gap) passageway is located right below the viewing platforms and on really clear days we can see the Smokies and North Carolina, so that’s a good 100-mile view.”

Through the end of September visitors can take guided tours of Gap Cave. “ (It’s) a cave that is still very much alive with a tremendous amount of water flowing through it. We see cave salamanders that are bright red with black spots and now as the days have become more cool bat sightings are starting to increase as they prepare for hibernation,” adds Borneman.

And on Oct. 26 visitors can take a guided hike to what are known as the White Rocks. The white rocks are a significant landmark located 3,500 feet above the valley floor. The white rocks signified to pioneers that they were only a day’s journey from the Cumberland Gap, she says. The hike will also stop by Sand Cave, a rock shelter that features a waterfall during rainy seasons.

A Family-Friendly Trip

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, families can enjoy the changing colors of the season while taking in events and attractions of a major city.

“Chattanooga is laid back but we have so many things happening and so many different things to do,” says Candace Litchfield, director of public relations and advocacy for the Chattanooga Convention & Visitors Bureau.

To take in the fall leaves visitors can walk around the city or across the Walnut Street Bridge, take a short trip out of the city to Signal Mountain or Missionary Ridge, cruise down the Tennessee River on the Southern Belle riverboat, or ride a train through the mountains at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. “It’s beautiful and you have a lot of different vantage points that you can see the colors,” adds Litchfield.

In town, visitors can take advantage of ChattaBOOga all October long. Families can enjoy the Chattanooga Zoo’s Boo in the Zoo, Lake Winnepesaukah’s WinnpeSPOOKah! and the Tennessee Aquarium’s ODDtober while those looking for something a bit scarier can take a Chattanooga Ghost Tour or visit Dread Hollow.

Chattanooga also hosts about 50 festivals in the fall, including the new Big Nine Roots Festival in the MLK District on Oct. 5. “MLK Boulevard used to be called Ninth Street. It’s where a lot of our musicians got their start, legendary musicians from Chattanooga. And that festival will be a daylong music festival for families, they’ll have food and it’s free to the public,” says Marissa Bell, public relations manager for the Chattanooga Convention & Visitors Bureau.

While the temperatures are dropping at home, destinations like Chattanooga, Brown County and Cumberland Gap National Historical Park are still offering plenty to do.

“It’s cooler weather, the colors are changing, the trees are changing color and just you know it’s stunning,” says Litchfield.


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