2. SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK, Northwestern Virginia
For the first hints of foliage, look up -- way up! The leaves near the top of the 4,051-foot Blue Ridge Mountains change first, then the color moves down as the season progresses.
Take a hike!
When you walk the Rose River Loop -- a 4-mile trail deep in the woods -- you'll come across waterfall after waterfall, and a million moments that will tempt you to wade into the water to get a good shot.
Skyline Drive, a 105-mile road that begins in the city of Front Royal, offers sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley -- plus black bear spottings.
Within the park, the Pollock Dining Room at Skyland Resort (41.7 Skyline Drive) serves up seasonal local fare (Virginia rainbow trout with country spoon bread, for example), but the real draw is the view from the dining room, where you sit 3,680 feet above the foliage of the Shenandoah Valley.
Don't expect frills at the Skyland Resort (rooms from $111) there are no phones or Wi-Fi in the rooms. But the views from its location at the highest point of Skyline Drive can't be beat.