Lake Erie is at its most beautiful in the fall, when the shallowest of the Great Lakes dig in its heels to prepare for blustery weather. Gray waves topped with frothy whitecaps chop against the shoreline, hearty encouragement to seek the cozy shelter of one of Ashtabula County's 20-some wineries.
This eastern-Ohio region features fertile farmland, the remnants of glacial beaches and a lake-induced microclimate that fosters 60 percent of the state's wine. Visitors can exit Interstate-90 on State-534 and set up base camp at the well-appointed Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake, then head south on 534 to explore the wineries clustered around Geneva and along the Grand River. Oenophiles will appreciate the intimacy of the local vineyards, where your bartender is also likely the owner.
Those interested in reliving the childhood fun of treasure maps can take two 70-mile self-guided driving tours to explore the county's 18 covered bridges (including the shortest and the longest in the nation), with ample opportunities for leaf-peeping along midsize rivers and trickling creeks. Head east from the Lodge along scenic State-531 to admire views of Lake Erie. Ashtabula, with its quaint, harborside downtown, offers a pit stop with plenty of shopping ops; farther east, Conneaut Harbor features some of the best bird-watching in the state.