In addition to leaf-peeping, Thanksgiving and Halloween, fall brings another cornucopia -- a ton of local festivals, events and tours. September and October can be a real mixed bag but no matter where you're heading, there is sure to be something interesting to do.
NOT FOR SLEEPY HEADS
Ever wonder what zoo animals do at night?
Visitors to the Vienna Zoo at Schonbrunn Palace can peak into the nocturnal world of animals on a guided "Night Vision Tour." Participants are equipped with infrared binoculars and see a variety of zoo-residents -- including ghost-like Egyptian fruit bats -- during the 90-minute experience.
Home to more than 500 animals, from Siberian tigers to one-horned rhinos, Schonbrunn is not only the world's oldest zoo but also considered one of the world's best and most modern. The tour is offered daily but limited to 20 participants so it must be booked well in advance. Cost is 19 euros per person and participants must be 10 years or older. See zoovienna.at and click on the "choose your language tab."
CHOCOLATE -- YEE HAW
Texas -- cowboys, rodeos and chocolate? Dallas has the ultimate chocolate weekend planned for Oct. 24-27.
In addition to the Dallas Chocolate Conference and Festival at the Addison Conference Center (dallaschocolate.org), there is four-day lineup of sweet events such as Do Dallas by Chocolate tours, chocolate food pairings (cheese and chocolate anyone?), tastings, chocolate-making classes and more. The InterContinental Dallas even has an Eat, Stay, Love Chocolate weekend package (contact 972-386-6000 or icdallas.com for details).
ROCKIN' SEAFOOD FESTIVAL
In Florida, the Panama City Beach Seafood and Music Festival takes place Oct. 17-20. Signature events include the Bay County Restaurant Week, a sip and savour wine dinner, a craft beer and fine wine tasting as well as tasting stations and a vendor village at the Aaron Bessant Park Amphitheater near Pier Park. Musical headliners include Foreigner, Loverboy, Collective Soul and Better Than Ezra. See pcbseafoodfestival.com for details.
PARTY LIKE A LOCAL
Pack up some lawn chairs and a picnic basket and join the locals at the annual Creekside Festival, Oct. 12-13 in Flagler County, Fla. Family friendly events -- kayak and walking tours, arts and crafts fair vendors, bluegrass music, and games, projects and miniature horse rides for the kids -- take place along the shores of Pellicer Creek in the Princess Place Preserve. Admission is $5 per carload. See flaglerchamber.org.
FREE ANSEL ADAMS EXHIBIT
A free exhibit of work by legendary American photographer and environmentalist Ansel Adams, continues through Nov. 14 at the Martin Museum at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. The Ansel Adams: Distance and Detail show includes 29 images of dunes, lakes, trees, surf crashing on rocks, storms, sunsets and sunrises. Several related events are also free and open to the public. See baylor.edu/martinmuseum for details.
NEW WINERY IN THE OKANAGAN
Culmina Family Estate Winery has opened in British Columbia's South Okanagan Valley. Owned by one of Canada's most prominent wine families -- Don, Elaine and Sara Triggs -- and located on the "Golden Bench," Culmina provides unique and intimate visitor experiences.
Space is limited and visits are by appointment only. Guests can choose between a 1.5-hour vineyard and winery tour with by a sit-down tasting or a shorter 45-minute seated structured tasting. See culmina.ca.