While we all are well aware that autumn is upon us, it is beneficial to stop for a moment and reflect on the beauty of our region and how magnificent the changing foliage really is. I know that I get caught up in the day-to-day tasks that distract me from taking in the scenery. For many, summer is the time when they get out and explore their local area. Not me. I prefer the sights and tastes of fall. With that, here are my Top Five Local Fall Favorites:
* Hikes - Fall is the absolute best time to hike. The temperature is actually preferable and the surroundings are breathtaking. Some of the best hiking trails in Williamstown can be found via the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation. WRLF maintains a number of great hiking trails and even offers a review of the trail (i.e. level of intensity, approximate hike time, etc.). Trail info can be found by visiting their website, wrlf.org.
* Apples, apples, apples - I say it thrice because they are the fruit of the season!
Whether you can pick your own, grab them at a local farm or make a visit to the Farmers Market, apples are in abundance. Picking my own apples is an annual tradition with my family. And from those great apples, you're likely to indulge in some cider (I prefer mine hot, maybe even with a splash of spiced rum) and cider donuts (hot with cinnamon and sugar).
* Fall Foods - Yes, apples are important enough to have their own mark in the Top Five Fall Faves, but the rest of the foods that come with the season are noteworthy mentions as well. Butternut squash, acorn squash, pumpkin! Oh my! And the things that we can create from them - soups, pies, breads! The Williamstown Farmers Market is still going strong. Stop by on Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., for the freshest local produce of the season. And if you'd like to enjoy having some local fall faves prepared for you, Wild Oats Market offers a great hot bar for lunch. Or, treat yourself to a fresh local meal at Mezze Bar + Bistro (mezzeinc.com) or Gala Steakhouse & Bistro at the Orchards (orchardshotel.com).
* Fall Foliage Festival - Our neighbors in North Adams sure do know how to "do" fall! They've been embracing the season for decades now (alright, a half-century really), with an array of activities that culminate on the day of the famous Fall Foliage Parade! Random fact: The winning prize on The Newlywed Game in the 1970s was a trip to North Adams to see the parade. True. But in all seriousness, this festival has so much going on: a leaf hunt with clues strategically placed, a craft fair, a 5k road race and a parade! The parade is great for spectators and participants alike. This year's parade, celebrating "Haunts, Legends, and Ghost Stories," will take place on Sunday, Oct. 6, at 1 p.m. But be sure to put your chair out early; spaces start to get reserved the evening prior. For info, visit (fallfoliageparade.com).
And the Top Fall Favorite is
* Mount Greylock Reservation - With its height, how could it not be the TOP? A leisurely drive (or hike, refer back to the first of the top five) up the highest peak in Massachusetts is absolutely gorgeous this time of year. Nothing else can take your breath away quite like reaching the peak of the mountain during the peak of foliage season! Atop the mountain, Bascom Lodge is in the midst of celebrating its 75th anniversary. They've got programs, entertainment and a great menu. Note: A nice way to unwind after work would surely be their Sunset Beverage Hour (Wednesday through Sunday, 5 to 7 p.m.). Check out the activities and menus at bascomlodge.net.
Well, we're almost at the peak of the season, but don't take my word for it. The folks at Yankee Magazine are the real experts. And they even have a map to show you at yankeefoliage.com. Enjoy the season in your neck of the woods - drive like a "leaf peeper"!
For information on how you can be a leaf peeper, contact the Chamber at 458-9077 or visit williamstownchamber.com.
Jennifer Civello is the executive director of the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce.