Beautiful, fun September day in Julian, California

The town of Julian is a small mountain hamlet (can I say hamlet?) about 40 miles east of Escondido. The geography surrounding Julian is simply gorgeous. It’s a picture of pine- and oak-covered rolling hills, curving two-lane highways, unique shops, cool eateries and colorful characters with many stories to tell.

 

We had the chance to pick our own apples, taste a sampling of specialty hard ciders at Julian Hard Cider, shop for homemade goods, dine at a country cafe for lunch.

We made the trip to Julian on a Monday which allowed for much less tourists, but also some businesses seemed to be closed. Something to check on before you go.

Apple picking? Sure! I guess just about anything grows in California, right? The apple trees in Julian are just right for the picking. No tall ladders needed at this orchard.

 

The apple pie at Julian Pie Company was unbelievably good! Take it from a non-pie-eater. I thought I would sample a fork-full of my husband’s piece, and I think I finished most of it, much to his dismay.

Don’t miss the chance to pick your own apples at one of the area’s orchards. We gathered a couple of bags at Volcan Valley Apple Farm. The apple picking is finished for this season but if you’re planning a trip to the San Diego area, make a point to save some apple-picking time for next September!

 

Harborside at Atlantis Resort: off-season stay advantages

waterfall

You have your own waterfall at Atlantis Resort in the off-season

 

Two major downsides prevent many vacationers from booking a late summer or early fall stay at a Caribbean or southern Atlantic resort. And granted, they are important ones: hurricane warnings and lack of activities. Unless you’re extremely worried about hurricane possibilities or you focus ALL activity on the ocean, most vacationing families will find enjoyable off-season stays are worth every dime — saved from reduced airfares, hotel or condo rates, restaurant charges and tour fees. Some off-season advantages we found while spending a September week’s stay at Harborside Resort at Atlantis on The Bahamas’ Paradise Island are:

Reduced lodging rates

Harborside Resort at Atlantis is one of 20 resorts in the Starwood Vacation Ownership collection. Using our Starwood points exchange program called StarOptions, we were able to trade our home resort week in Cancun to book a one-bedroom condo week during September at Harborside. Although it’s not actually part of the main Atlantis Resort, the adjacent Harborside Villas are just a five-minute walk or short complimentary shuttle ride around the yacht marinas to Atlantis. These nicely appointed condo units book up quickly for spring breaks, early summer vacations and winter holiday seasons. Even if you don’t own a timeshare you still may be able to find a deal through owners who rent out their week. Check sites such as Craigslist or Redweek.com. Or find lower nightly rates at Atlantis’ family-friendly Beach Tower or Coral Tower.

Harborside Resort

Harborside at Atlantis Resort, view from Atlantis Marina

 

More time for perusing art and architecture

If you’ve been to Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, you’ve seen artist Dale Chihuly’s Desert Towers, located just outside the admissions building. At Atlantis Resort’s casino, each room opens to a large Chihuly glass sculpture, either suspending from the ceiling or sprouting out of a cashier’s kiosk. In the off-season, since there’s an increased chance of cloudy, windy days, you may as well be spending additional time in the casino anyway. Right? Why not take the time – in between rounds of blackjack – to admire these wonderful works?  You also can stroll around the hallways of the convention and entertainment wings and gaze upon Atlantis’ mythological metal works and massive architectural designs.

Chihuly scupture

Glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly on display Atlantis Resort Casino

 

Less waiting time in line for water rides and slides

Some resorts and water parks have numerous water features but none can hold a candle to Atlantis. In the off-season, you’ll find shorter wait lines and less chance of body bumping or traffic jamming along the Lazy River or The Current, a mechanical surf wave which propels inner-tubing kids of all ages through a canal around the waterfall grottos. More people will be dominating the famous water slides, but even these lines also move quickly. Tip: be sure your inner tube is fully inflated before riding down Power Tower slides.

The Current

Atlantis Resort’s ‘The Current’ is no lazy river

 

No hustling and bustling to get your towel on a beach chair at 5 a.m.

Twelve pools, seven water slides, three beaches, two rivers, one lagoon will be at your disposal without crowds. I lost count of all the waterfalls and fountains. Maybe someone can get back to me on that. Crescent-shaped Cove Beach is the most protected — best for quiet wading. We also enjoyed our long morning strolls along Atlantis Beach and Paradise Beach. Tip: bring your entire days’ gear to the water park and stow snack lunches, water, change of clothes, money, etc. in hospitality lockers.

Cove Beach

More space for your sand castle if you visit during off-season

 

More photo opportunities of aquarium marine life

During peak times of day during the off-season, crowds will gather at feeding time around the underwater viewing windows. Feeding and times when fish are more active seem to attract schools of tourists. You will have more opportunity to return to the exhibit tunnels during other times of day and then have entire viewing window to yourself while you snap photos of manta rays, hammerhead sharks, seahorses, moon jellyfish, moray eels and many other species. Tip: don’t forget to turn off the camera flash when shooting through the window.

eels

Eels in one of many subterranean marine life exhibits

 

No reservations – no problem

We enjoyed several of the restaurants, both near the main casino area and on the resort perimeter without long waits. Atlantis has a wide variety of dining options – there’s something pleasing for every kind of palate and pocketbook. A few places required reservations, but when we arrived, few tables were filled or reserved. And shopping, too, actually was pleasant. Window-shopping at high-end designer shops in the Crystal Court and Marina Village makes for wishful daydreaming. Or visit nearby souvenir and craft shops — just a short walk away from the resort.

Marina Village

Pastel, Colonial-style shops, cafes and bistros at the Marina Village

 

Best thing about traveling to The Bahamas during off-season? It’s the same time as fall break for many of Arizona’s school districts — perfect time for a family getaway!

Royal Baths Pool

During the off-season, have the Royal Baths Pool all to yourself — almost

Try a new Arizona fall foliage tour this year

Yep, fall is here. The days are shorter. The nights are cooler. It’s time for football games and freak shows (Halloween). It’s one of the best times to travel and explore around Arizona. And about this time every year, the local news media fill their time and space with suggestions for high country trips to see the wide array of autumn colors. Photos of yellow and gold leaves plastered against a backdrop of Arizona blue skies make for great front page color as well as pleasant road trip memories.

I'm hoping in the next couple of weeks, I can travel beyond the MS clipart site for a closer look at red maple leaves

Having spent my childhood in Ohio, I would always enjoy a variety of autumn colors: reds, oranges, yellows, golds, browns. Some leaves had splashes of many colors. Without sounding too trite, now these sights really give me and other transplant-desert dwellers a sense of changing seasons, which is necessary when our Phoenix-area daytime high temps continue to hover around 100 degrees in late September.

But sometimes I feel the need to see some variety beyond the typical cottonwoods, aspen and oak. Sometimes I would like to drive or hike beyond Oak Creek Canyon and Hart Prairie. Maybe, for one October Saturday or Sunday, I’d like to explore a little farther — to see more of the elusive thick clusters of the less common reds and oranges. This year I’d like to seek out the bright red maple leaves.

Tree leaves don’t really turn red; rather the leaves just lose their green color with the loss of chlorophyll. Maples “turn” various shades of red and orange, depending on how much glucose remains stored in the leaves after photosynthesis stops.

The best time to catch fall colors around Arizona is late-September to mid-October. After doing a little checking around online, I found some destinations which I think are worth considering as possibilities for seeing the “reds.” As always, please first check local road and trail conditions online before starting your fall foliage tour. Start on these websites for road conditions and fire restrictions: ADOT, state fire information, national forests, plus check your destination’s local county and municipal websites. These locations may require off-road or higher clearance vehicles. If you want to see maples in a more accessible environment, visit a nearby Arizona arboretum: The Arboretum at Flagstaff or Boyce Thompson Arboretum.

Here’s my suggestions, kind of a fall foliage “bucket list,” with their respective links:

Madera Canyon

Cave Creek Canyon in the Chiricahua Wilderness

Boynton Canyon

Barbershop Trail

Coronado Trail

For general Arizona fall foliage exploring:

Payson Rim Country

Coconino National Forest

About.com

Finally, I found this newly-launched Forest Service site to see fall color opportunities nationwide.