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> go north
Princeton, N.J., is less than 150 miles from Baltimore, and that’s close enough for any autumnphile who wants to kick up piles of leaves while campus-jumping along the same streets Albert Einstein once roamed.  And while you’re getting your beautiful mind on, stay where he was known to eat, drink and be merry— the Peacock Inn.  Princeton is a serious place to study, and this is a place of serious luxury: Sferra blankets, Hollandia mattresses and Molton Brown bathroom amenities are just a few of the indulgences offered at the Peacock (guests get to take their pair of Frette slippers home with them!). The food is au gout perfection by chef Manuel Perez (formerly of New York’s Le Bernardin, Water Club and Nicholas).  http://www.peacockinn.com

On Oct. 23, head 30 minutes to 70 Wooden’s Lane in Lambertville to find the Howell Living Farm, where the owners take folks on horse-drawn hay-rides through nearby Pleasant Valley, under the red sugar maples and spreading oaks. Then head back to the farm for old-fashioned wheat threshing and bread baking (and eating!). http://www.howellfarm.org 

> go west
Head to Frederick and use the Hill House Bed and Breakfast as a base camp for your trip. Owned by Taylor and Damian Branson, the 1870s-era home offers a relief from the normal, kitschy quilted-doilie look of most Western Maryland B&Bs.  Sweet autumn colors inside complement the change of seasons out.  http://www.hillhousefrederick.com

Take advantage of this time of year with a Currier & Ives day by going on a self-guided historic covered-bridge tour (find directions via http://www.fredericktourism.org).  Eight covered bridges can be found in Maryland, and three of them are in Frederick County: Loy’s Station covered bridge (circa 1880); the Roddy Road covered bridge (circa 1856); and the Utica Mills covered bridge (circa 1850). The tour is only 30 miles round-trip, but these woods are so gorgeous, a picnic will be in order, so be sure to pack a basket.

If you want to spend the night under the trees, Camp Misty Mount at Catoctin Mountain Park in Thurmont has sparse (one ceiling light, one porch light and no electric outlets) but clean cabins that come with indoor fireplaces. They’re connected to a dining hall with a communal campfire, so do the s’mores thing at night, then take the Spicebush Nature Trail in the morning for a brilliant display of hardwood hues. On October weekends, take fall color walks with a park ranger (perfect for those who want to understand the science behind the color change). Afterward, follow the trails to Cunningham Falls (also known as McAfee Falls), to catch Maryland’s largest cascading waterfall (78 feet!). http://www.nps.gov/cato/index.htm

Poplar Springs The Inn> go south
Fall brings out the artist, sometimes the adventurer, often the romantic— and there is one place that brings them all together. The Piedmont region of Virginia offers up pastoral views, winding roads and quaint country inns nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. First stop is Poplar Springs The Inn resting peacefully in the hamlet of Casanova, a breeding ground for Virginia thoroughbreds. The rooms are luxurious retreats with sweet views of the countryside, and there are acres of quiet roads on which to walk and take in the smells and sounds of fall. Just in case the two-hour drive through D.C. traffic has you a bit tense, The Inn Spa provides excellent services, including massages and deluxe reflexology treatments with small heated river stones. Chef Howard Foer of the Manor House Restaurant cooks up amazing meals— try his roasted Virginia squab breast, foie gras gnocchi and braised fennel sugar apple with a roasted garlic paste on the patio if it’s a warm Indian summer evening, or take a table in front of the cozy fireplace indoors to take off the chill. http://www.poplarspringsinn.com
 
> go east
Most people don’t think of the Eastern Shore and autumn leaf peeping as two things that go hand in hand, but they blend very nicely together. Easton is a great jumping-off place for some of the best, easiest biking in Maryland, and there’s no better place to spend the night than The Inn at 202 Dover (innat202dover.com), a historic 1874 mansion, restored by hosts Shelby and Ron Mitchell. The rooms are huge, the jacuzzi bathtubs are inviting, and the location is a mere five blocks to Easton Cycle and Sport (eastoncycleandsport.com). Hit the rails-with-trails 2 1/2-mile path, or loop around the triangle of Easton, Oxford, and St. Michaels, because this is the time of year when the air is crisp and the colors of fall will make you want to stay outside all day. Oct 9-10, visit the Arts Marketplace, which presents a whopping 60 juried artists’ works of ceramics, fabric, glass, jewelry, furniture, paintings and more (academyartmuseum.org). http://www.eastonmd.org

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