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The Magic of Fall

Sometimes, you don’t know how special something is until you miss it.

In the fall of 2000, I was beginning my sophomore year in college and kicked things off by spending a semester on a study-abroad program in Morelia, a gem of a colonial town in the mountains of central Mexico. I spent three months caught up in all of the fascination of life in a foreign country: climbing pyramids, hiking through rain forests, attending street fiestas, hanging out in cafes and indulging in local food. It was the most amazing experience of my life to that point, and I still look back on it with a lot of fond memories.

Like many students who spend time abroad, I was so focused on my time in Mexico that I didn’t think much about what was going on at home, save for the hotly contested presidential election of that year. It wasn’t until I returned a few days before Christmas and saw all the bare trees around me that it dawned on me: For the first time in my life, I had completely missed fall in Kentucky.

That realization hit me surprisingly hard. Fall is my favorite time of year for a lot of reasons. It brings football, chili cook-offs and cross-country races. I love the crisp, cool air, the gorgeous fall foliage and the satisfying sense that the cycle of life is moving along. And while I had been busy running around in Mexico, I had missed it all.

I decided that year never to take fall for granted again, and since then I’ve greeted each Kentucky autumn with a sense of wonder and appreciation. Whether it’s a Saturday afternoon at the local orchard or a road race in nearby horse country, I always try to do something to immerse myself in the season.

In the years since college, fall has also come to mean a busy travel time. Editorial research trips have taken me all over the country and even abroad during September, October and November. These trips have introduced me to other spectacular autumn experiences. I’ll never forget the amazing scenery I encountered during a fall trip to Door County, Wisconsin, or the week I spent touring New England during the height of foliage season.

Sometimes, my professional travels have taken me to destinations far removed from the feel of an American autumn. I remember touring Jordan during November years ago, floating in the Dead Sea during a time that would be much too cool for swimming at home. And a recent tour of the Bahamas took me to the tropics at the height of the fall season.

If you’re like me, you probably travel often in the fall. With beautiful foliage, mild weather and favorable lodging prices, the season is ideal for group travel. North America is full of great autumn destinations, and we’ve highlighted some great autumn festivals for your group to attend in our story “Passion Fruits” on page 14.

I look forward to exploring more of the country during fall trips for years to come. But one thing is for sure: No matter where I go, I’ll always be grateful to come back home to fall in Kentucky.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.