Remember traveling? You know, that thing we used to do that involves moving ourselves to a new location and enjoying it? All right, maybe you’re already out there racking up the miles, but some of us might be a bit rusty when it comes to exercising the old travel muscles! Well, if you’re ready to dust off your suitcases and start adventuring again, but are unsure where you want to hit first, we’ve got some ideas to get you moving – and there’s no better time to do it than the fall. Many places have great weather, some are quieter, less touristy, or cheaper, and others are just plain spectacular, so check out your options and get ready to do some serious vacation planning!
We’ve broken down some great choices for autumnal vacations into different categories, but remember, some destinations might be cheaper, quieter, and at their most beautiful in the fall!
For Those Seeking Beauty Right Here in the U.S.
- North Adams, Massachusetts – The Berkshires have so much to offer year round, and the fall is an especially spectacular time to enjoy the natural beauty of this region. Take your car, or rent one, and drive the 63-mile Mohawk Trail, which culminates in North Adams, the “smallest city in the state.” Don’t be fooled by that name, though, this town has plenty to offer, including the country’s largest contemporary art museum, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
- West Virginia – While this state doesn’t often pop up on the world’s list of tourist destinations, there are parts of it that are absolutely beautiful in the fall, and the weather is still mild enough there to enjoy being outdoors. Consider, for example, checking out Fayetteville, where you can take part in outdoor activities like rafting, fishing, hiking, and biking, as well as see some amazing scenery and fall foliage at the New River Gorge. Another gorgeous option is Harpers Ferry National Park, which is just an hour from Washington D.C., and offers plenty of hiking and water sports, as well as unparalleled views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
- Moab, Utah – Foliage not your jam? Fall is the time to finally check the Southwestern U.S. off of your bucket list! Fall means milder weather (instead of the heat-stroke inducing weather in the summer!) and beautiful sunsets, and there’s no better time to take in the unreal rocky landscapes at places like Arches National Park. There’s plenty to do all around Moab, from checking out prehistoric sites to water sports, so you’ll be entertained visually and otherwise. Can’t get enough of the awe-inspiring Southwest? Other national parks to put on your list include Bryce, Zion, Canyonlands, Grand Canyon, and Antelope Canyon.
- Acadia National Park, Maine – Serious about your fall foliage? Then you need to head to this national park, which has some of the most amazing colors, and a beautiful, rugged coastline, as well as some great trails, kayaking, and paddling (if it’s not too chilly yet) – it even has a free bus that loops around it!
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee – While there’s hiking galore to be had here, this popular – and spectacularly colorful – national park also has foliage spotting for those who prefer to do it from a car window. You can drive the scenic six-mile Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, and, if you’re still in the less-outdoorsy mood, head over to Dolly Parton’s theme park, Dollywood!
For Those Seeking Deals
- Barbados – While you might be thinking, “Wait, the Caribbean in the fall? Isn’t that hurricane season?,” the island of Barbados is actually located at the Caribbean’s easternmost edge, so there is a lower risk of being hit with a major storm here, although you’ll probably get some passing showers each day. But that just means that Barbados is lusher and greener than islands like Aruba – and the best part is that prices are much lower than usual during the fall at most resorts here.
- Upper Peninsula, Michigan – New England’s got some spectacular fall foliage, but the towns there can often have spectacularly high prices to match. A great, probably quieter, and almost definitely cheaper, alternative is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which has beautiful foliage in early October, as well as lighthouses, 300 waterfalls, and 100 miles of trails and views. It also has casinos, if you’re into that kind of thing!
- Canada – If you head to parts of Canada, like Montreal, in the fall, you’ll find the beauty and charm of old-world Europe, with a much more budget-friendly price tag in this season than in the summer. Great museums, shopping, and parks await you there, but if you’re looking for something more rustic, consider Nova Scotia: taking a trip to Old Town Lunenburg feels like stepping back in time to an 18th century village, and you’ll enjoy some of the freshest seafood you could imagine. You’ll also find various Oktoberfests in this province, as well as beautiful fall foliage. If you’re closer to the West Coast, you can also consider a trip to Alberta – the weather there in the fall is very mild, and a mountain park like Waterton Lakes is a serene and beautiful place to soak up the autumn sights.
For Those Seeking Fewer Crowds
- Yosemite National Park, Wyoming – Have you always wanted to see the famous geyser, Old Faithful? Well, so have millions of other people! But if you skip the summer months, you’ll also beat the worst of the crowds and will actually get a look at all the fabulous geothermal features that this spectacular national park has to offer. You might also have a better chance of catching a glimpse of some of the nearly 70 species of mammals (like bison, moose, elk, bears, and wolves) that live here: the elk begin rutting in September, while bears and other animals start coming out as the season progresses. Here’s a tip: save some money by staying somewhere outside of the park.
- Cape Cod – Ever wonder how many human bodies you can fit on a beach? Just check out Cape Cod in the summer! But if you’re not a die-hard beach bum, why not check out this lovely area in the fall? Wander in peace along the Cape Cod National Shoreline, checking out its 60 beaches, cycle one of the many trails, or do a tour of the lighthouses, museums, or mansions dotting the landscape. Bonus: everything is cheaper in Cape Cod in the fall!
- Crested Butte, Colorado – When many people think of beautiful Colorado mountain towns, they think of Aspen – but when you think of Aspen, you should also think of big crowds and a huge price tag. Here’s an idea for a getaway that is definitely more relaxing, and probably a bit easier on the wallet: Crested Butte. This isolated town in the heart of the Rockies also happens to be stunningly beautiful in autumn and is a great place to enjoy hiking, mountain biking, and world-class fishing, if that’s your thing! A bonus is that the Ohio Pass, which takes you from Gunnison to Crested Butte, is one of the most colorful autumn routes in the state.
- Machu Picchu, Peru – No doubt this a real bucket list choice, but if you’ve been longing to get to this 15th-century Incan citadel, fall is actually the time to do it. Sure, it’s the rainy season, but you’ll find a lush landscape, as well as far, far fewer crowds and much cheaper rates. Just remember to check for availability on your visit to the site, as it does tend to book up year round.
For Those Seeking Ghostly Fun
- Sleepy Hollow, New York – If you love all things creepy, head to Sleepy Hollow, NY, the setting of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. This village really comes into its own around Halloween, when you can take lantern-lit tours of the cemetery, get really spooked by a full-on “haunted experience,” or take more family-friendly haunted hayrides.
- The Island of Janitzio, Mexico – The Day of the Dead (November 1) is celebrated all over Mexico, so you really can’t go wrong choosing any part of this country if you’re looking to get in on the festivities, but one of the most famous celebrations takes place on the small island of Janitzio in Lake Pátzcuaro, located in the Mexican state of Michoacán (directly west of Mexico City and below the state of Jalisco).
For Those Seeking a Far-Flung Getaway
- Bavaria, Southern Germany – For a true fairytale getaway (almost literally), jet off to Bavaria in southern Germany, famed for its Alpine forests (which make it like the Vermont of Europe in fall) and breathtaking castles (hence the fairytale aspect), like Neuschwanstein Castle, Linderhof Palace, Nuremberg Castle and the Burghausen Castle. If you’re looking for a more relaxed visit, skip the crazy crowds of Oktoberfest; many of the tourists will be drawn there, so the roughly 25 castles and Alpine trails will certainly be quieter than in the summer.
- Greece – Beautiful weather, smaller crowds, and wine and olive harvesting make fall the perfect time for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to either the mainland of Greece (the streets of Athens will be so much quieter!), or a beautiful island, where you can relax and swim in the Aegean Sea far into the season.
- Thingvellir National Park, Iceland – Iceland might sound frigid, but actually autumn in this part of the world is still relatively mild (although you’ll definitely needs to pack your sweaters), and the days are still long, and once you pass mid-September, you have the chance to see the spectacular aurora borealis dancing in the sky. While you can’t go wrong beauty-wise with any of part of Iceland, Thingvellir National Park is especially breathtaking, and is home to the largest natural lake in Iceland, Lake Thingvallavatn, as well as Gullfoss, also known as Golden Falls, sometimes referred to as Iceland’s version of Niagara Falls, and Strokkur geyser, which sits in the middle of a geothermal field surrounded by bubbling springs. Prices are also better at this time of year, and the flight is a relatively short 5 hours from New York.
- Northern U.K. – The weather will probably be pretty brisk in this part of the world, but parts of the United Kingdom, like the Scottish Highlands and Snowdonia National Park in Northern Wales offer stunning scenery in the fall. In the Scottish Highlands, the rivers and lochs reflect all the fabulous copper and gold hues of the hillsides – check out Perthshire for some wonderful walks, as well as the tallest hedge in the world! Snowdonia National Park includes Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, and is a popular destination for “ramblers.”
Well, we could absolutely go on and on – the list of amazing places to travel in arguably the loveliest of seasons is endless. But the above is a good start – there’s something there to please everyone – from castles to foliage to ghosts to geysers. It’s up to you to choose (good luck!) and get yourself back into that thing we call traveling – happy trails!