A $25 Train Ride is the Best Way to See the East Coast's Fall Foliage


If you want to catch a peek at the best fall foliage that New England and New York state have to offer this year, now is the time. And you can ditch your car keys. Continuing its annual fall tradition, Amtrak is running vintage train cars that offer panoramic views on certain East Coast lines, as Thrillist reports.

The double-decker Great Dome Car debuted in 1955, and was originally run on the Great Northern Railway’s Chicago-Seattle route. The only remaining Great Dome Car in service was retired from daily use in 1994, but still makes an appearance for special services like these. Its upper level features a glass dome top, giving you a 180° view of the areas on each side and above you.

The service is starting out along Amtrak’s Downeaster line, which runs from Maine to Massachusetts. Downeaster riders can experience the leaf-changing magic until September 24. Later in the month, the Great Dome Car will be transferred to the Adirondack line from Albany to Montreal. (Those dates haven’t been released yet, but in 2016, they ran from September 29 to November 1).


It might be the cheapest way to do a fall foliage trip, with tickets from Brunswick, Maine to Boston priced at as little as $25. It doesn’t cost extra money to sit in the vintage observatory car, but it's only available on certain trains throughout the day, so don't buy tickets without checking to make sure you'll be on a train with the Great Dome Car attached. Amtrak encourages passengers to move through the car during the journey, allowing as many people as possible to get a glimpse of the great views.

Not sure when to head out? Check out this fall foliage prediction map to get a better idea of when the changing of the leaves will peak. And if you can’t make it to the East Coast, fear not: There are plenty of scenic drives you can take to see fall colors elsewhere.

[h/t Thrillist]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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Florence’s Plague-Era Wine Windows Are Back in Business

A wine window in Florence's Via Santo Spirito.
A wine window in Florence's Via Santo Spirito.

Many bars and restaurants have started selling takeout cocktails and other alcoholic beverages to stay in business—and keep customers safe—during the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, 17th-century Florentines are surely applauding from their front-row seats in the afterlife.

As Insider reports, a number of buildings in Florence had been constructed with small “wine windows,” or buchette del vino, through which vendors sold wine directly to less affluent customers. When the city suffered an outbreak of plague in the 1630s, business owners recognized the value of these windows as a way to serve people without spreading germs. They even exchanged money on a metal tray that was sanitized with vinegar.

Wine not?sailko, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Things eventually went back to normal, and the windows slowly fell out of fashion altogether as commerce laws evolved. This year, however, they’ve made a comeback. According to Food & Wine, there are currently at least four in operation around Florence. Osteria delle Brache in Piazza Peruzzi is using its window to deliver wine and cocktails, for example, and the Vivoli ice cream shop, a go-to dessert spot since 1929, is handing out sweet scoops and coffee through its formerly dormant aperture.

Apart from the recent resurgence of interest, the wine windows often go unnoticed by tourists drawn to the grandeur of attractions like the Uffizi Gallery and the Florence Cathedral. So in 2015, locals Matteo Faglia, Diletta Corsini, and Mary Christine Forrest established the Wine Window Association to generate some buzz. In addition to researching the history of the windows, they also keep a running list of all the ones they know of. Florence has roughly 150, and there are another 100 or so in other parts of Tuscany.

They’re hoping to affix a plaque near each window to promote their stories and discourage people from defacing them. And if you want to support their work, you can even become a member of the organization for €25 (about $29).

[h/t Insider]