With the changing of the season comes a richly woven tapestry of beauty – trees in their brightly colored splendor. Around this time fall foliage tours pop up, boasting reasonable rates so you can explore them all. But a major obstacle for those of us with diet restrictions is the included meals and snacks of these wonderful autumn vacations. Believe it or not, these tours are becoming more and more accommodating! We chatted with 13 tour planners to get all the details on who offered gluten-free options so you could easily plan your 2015 fall foliage trip.
Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel, Northern Michigan with Vacationsbyrail.com
Hotels are the hub for many of the tours available, and this 8 day trail ride is no exception. A lot of the hotels you’ll stay at provide the meals for visitors. When asked about offering gluten-free diets, Vacation By Rails stated that the tour manager assigned to the particular tour would do everything in their power to make sure a safe and gluten free meal was provided. An already planned lobster bake for most trips, this one included, provides a succulent crustacean within an entirely gluten free meal.
New England Tour with Caravan.com
This 8 day loop tour feeds its guests via the hotels. All breakfasts are included and most are buffet style with buffet cross contamination concerns. The three dinners included are another story entirely. Clients from the tours are these hotel’s primary concerns this time of year. The manager at the Double Tree Hilton in Hyannis has had her own struggle with gluten, so their facility is particularly aware of the need to keep things separate, and to have gluten free foods available.
Smoky Mountain Fall Foliage and Country Music Tour by Wesco.com
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is the beginning and end point for this 3 night motorcoach tour. See autumn colors on a 5 hour guided tour of “The Great Smokey Mountains,” and then visit Cherokee, NC, the Dollywood Theme Park. You’ll also get a chance to shop in Gatlinburg and the Outlet Stores in Pigeon Forge. Three continental breakfasts at the hotels carry the usual pitfalls, and three dinners are also included in the tour price. Wesco is a smaller company and the owner is very approachable about dietery needs and the restaurants that are chosen for the dinners.
Colorado Railroads Tour by Heritage Tours
The unique element to this eight day tour is that travel is done in several ways. You’ll experience the Rocky Mountains in five different trains as well as go on a 4×4 adventure into mining country. All breakfasts and two lunches are included, while you strike out on your own for other lunches and all dinners during stops. The breakfasts are provided by the hotels you stay at. Thankfully, one of the lunches is served at the Garden of the Gods, who cater to gluten free guests since they have several employees who have celiac. Assistant director Penny Whalen assured us that they do their best to provide what’s needed. An example was a salad rather than a sandwich, with special attention to dressings. While they can’t offer a separate prep area due to small facilities, they try hard to keep things sanitized and separate as possible. If they know in advance, they’re also willing to stop at a local gluten free bakery and pick up cookies or breads for a small surcharge.
“It’s horrible to travel and not be able to eat right,” said Whalen. “We want you to enjoy the experience.”
Catskills Mountain Railroad in Kingston, New York
If you’d prefer a day trip for scenic view and happen to be near Kingston New York. The Heritage Catskills Mountain Railroad can give you a wonderful scenic trip without much worry about gluten, as they don’t serve meals and encourage guests to bring their own snacks or lunches depending on what time they catch the train. The fall schedule is still being planned so check back to their website periodically for more information or call (845) 688-7400 later this year.
Columbia River Fall Foliage Steamboat Cruise by Vacationstogo.com & American Queen Steamboats
A wonderful western US cruise for taking in the splendor of fall is this eight day trip between Portland, Oregon and Clarkston, Washington. It’s an all-inclusive cruise, with every meal being prepared onboard. An onboard restaurant is available, or you can enjoy prepared meals in the dining room. When you book your tour, an intensive form is filled out in regards to dietary restrictions and health issues. If Celiac is mentioned, a designated spot is set up in the kitchen and exemplary sanitation practices are followed by kitchen staff. They want their passengers to have the very best dining experience and their reassurances make this one of our top picks for our readers!
Northern Mississippi River Autumn Colors Steamboat Cruise by Vacationstogo.com and American Queen Steamboats
This is the second fall foliage vacation option we found through Vacations To Go. American Queen Steamboats made the same reassurances for this northern Mississippi trip, though their dining options are slightly different. They offer a buffet for all meals, as well as the dining room option. Again, every meal is provided, but you have the option to purchase a meal as you wander the port cities of Hannibal (MO), Clinton (IA), Dubuque (IA), and La Crosse (WI).
Smoky Mountain Fall Foliage Tour with Alki Tours
While the above Smoky Mountain tour is a September special, this one takes place later in October when the colors are at their peak. You’ll also discover historic parts of Memphis, Tennessee and Nashville. The seven included breakfasts are provided by the hotels you’ll be staying at and your tour manager can handle those details. Three dinners are also included. You’ll create your own at the New Orleans School of Cooking, where they have a separately designated set of food and cooking gear to avoid cross contamination. You’ll feast on self-made gumbo and shrimp or chicken creole. Another of these dinners takes place at Bubba Gump’s in Gatlinberg (TN), where there’s a limited gluten-free menu and a designated space in the kitchen where food is prepared. The final dinner provided on this tour is a step into music history at the Blues City Café. It’s not very gluten free, so make sure to talk with Alki Tours about an alternative.
Leaf Peepers Dream Washington State Day Tour by Alki Tours
The Cascades of Washington await you on this wonderful day tour! Unfortunately, the included lunch takes place at local pasta joint. Though they have some non-gluten dishes, the cross contamination is something to consider. Bringing your own lunch and requesting a discount might be the best tactic.
Jeep Fall Foliage Tour with Red River Offroad
Most people don’t think of New Mexico when they think of changing fall leaves, but the aspens of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range are photographic. No meals are included, but guests are welcome to bring their own snacks and drinks.
Colorado Fall Foliage and Wildlife Tour by Reefs to Rockies
This more intimate Colorado tour only has seven in the group, four days of travel, and offers more outdoor time than many of the others on our list. Hikes give you the opportunity for some wonderful picture taking and emergence into local autumn scenery. Breakfasts and lunches included in the tour price are picnic style and dinners are at local restaurants on the tour route. For those requiring gluten free, the picnics include such things as hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter, hummus, cheeses, fresh fruits and vegetables in addition to gluten-free bread, all from unopened containers to minimize contamination. For restaurant dinners, they choose restaurants with gluten-free options on the menu but can’t guarantee a separate area in which things are prepared. However, when the tour is booked they have a form and are willing to do some additional digging in regards to the restaurants they choose.
Discover Glacier National Park, Hells Canyon, and Washington Wine Country Tour with Globus Journey
Spend ten days round trip from Seattle among some of the most iconic northwestern US landscapes. Glacier National Park of Montana is one of the most lively and naturally painted autumn experiences you’ll have. As with many of these tours, breakfasts are provided by the hotels you stay in, while lunches and dinners are at restaurants en route to your next scenic stop. Globus Journey makes sure each restaurant has some gluten free options, though limited, on the menu, but aren’t aware of all the practices within the kitchen to keep cross contamination down. One employee that goes on these tours also must eat gluten free, and she stated she lets them know her diet ahead of time and brings some of her own snacks just in case.
Alaska Fall Foliage Tour 2016 with Alaskan Tour Guides
Sadly, the 2015 Fall Foliage tour has already filled up this season, but if you’re planning something for next year, consider this great and more rare option. The tour price gets you meals at local restaurants along the tour route chosen by the driver. The executive shuttle holds 13 people and they must accomidate for everyone’s preferences to the best of their ability while still taking into account Alaska’s rural pit stops. Due to the limited options, the tour company encouraged anyone with gluten free needs to stock up on edible foods at a grocery store in Anchorage prior to departure.
If you book a private tour, the options widen somewhat. Alaskan Tours recommends simply foregoing restaurant meals and instead will arrange for a hotel room each night with a kitchenette. Use the money saved to buy own foods and prepare meals in the hotel room can help keep guests with Celiac safer.
Preparation and Communication are Key
As you can see, each tour has its pitfalls but it’s encouraging to hear some of the restaurants and tour guides making efforts to accommodate for dietary needs so that their guests have the best experience imaginable. As always, be sure to express what you need to those setting up your Fall Foliage Tour to protect yourself. But also pick the tour you feel most comfortable with, relax, and enjoy your vacation!
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