Fall is a great time to take in some gorgeous autumn color and visit places that are too crowded (or too pricey) to fully enjoy in the hotter summer months. If you’re not ready for summer to end, you can find plenty of spots with the warmth of a sunny beach or the allure of a tropical breeze.Here are our picks for the top fall travel destinations that can help you embrace — or escape — the season.
For stunning fall foliage
If you’re inspired by the reds and golds of blazing autumn trees, your fall travel should definitely include these fall fan favorites.
California Wine Country
From scenic vineyards to farm-to-table eateries, Napa Valley and Sonoma County come alive in autumn. Enjoy stunning sunset views of the changing leaves on the Mayacamas Mountains while you sip fine vino and enjoy the freshest fare at one of the many wineries. If you’re not into wine, we’ve rounded up 10 other fun things to do in Napa Valley.
If there’s any destination where fall is practically legendary, it’s Burlington, Vermont. From the fiery red and gold mountainsides to its cozy sweater weather, Burlington is a must-visit if you want a genuinely autumnal experience. Shelburne Farms offers walking trails, hayrides and cheesemaking, and you can pick apples at Shelburne Orchards. Other top attractions include a variety of craft breweries, the ZipTour Adventure at Stowe Mountain and the Island Line Bike Trail that will take you along the shore of Lake Champlain.
If you prefer a big city vibe for your fall travel but you still want plenty of autumn color, plan a stop in Boston. Enjoy one of the best views of the city from atop historic Bunker Hill, or see the city from the water on a sunset dinner cruise. Visit one of Boston’s many historic graveyards like Copp’s Hill or Granary Burying Ground, then drive about an hour to check out the Salem Witch Museum. For less spooky seasonal fun, try the Connors Farm corn maze or stroll the tree-lined streets near Harvard.
When school is in session, these popular travel destinations should be a little quieter and more peaceful than they are from June to August.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
As temperatures begin to cool in the Grand Canyon, the crowds start to thin at this popular destination, and you’ll have more breathing room to take in one of the seven natural wonders of the world. You’ll also find lower room rates, but visitor services start to taper off near the end of October. Take a hike through the Inner Canyon Trails of the South Rim, and be sure to bring extra layers to deal with the inevitable chill in the air.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Another tourist magnet during the summer months, Yellowstone is quieter during autumn, but no less majestic. In fact, you’ll see more wildlife activity because it’s mating season for elk, and other critters are preparing for hibernation. Most of the park is covered in evergreen trees, but in early fall you’ll see gorgeous golden leaves on the aspens. Autumn is also a great time for fishing in Yellowstone, with 600 lakes and ponds, and 1,000 rivers and streams. Access to certain areas of the park starts to close near the end of October to prepare for winter weather, so plan ahead.
Zion National Park, Utah
Are you catching the national park theme when it comes to fewer crowds in fall? Zion National Park in Utah is no exception. Summer brings triple-digit temperatures, but fall temps in Zion range between the 40s and 70s. Despite its reputation for stark sandstone cliffs and red rock formations, Zion has pretty spectacular fall foliage that provides a vibrant contrast to the natural rocky outcroppings. Take a hike on the Canyon Overlook Trail, and be sure to bring your camera to capture the picturesque views.
For an extended summer
Bask in the sunshine a little longer by visiting these summer-like destinations.
Island of Hawaii, Hawaii
The “Big Island” of Hawaii is an ideal destination when you're not quite ready to leave behind the carefree days of summer. Temperatures in September and October are much the same as summer, and only cool slightly in November. The off-peak season also provides the same sunny beaches with less expensive lodging, and you’ll be more likely to be able to book island adventures like snorkeling and helicopter tours without a lot of competition from other island visitors. While on the island, be sure to check out Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and Rainbow Falls.
San Francisco, California
It might be located in “sunny California,” but oddly enough, San Francisco isn’t particularly sunny until fall. Autumn brings warmer temperatures to this coastal city, along with less wind and clearer skies (bye-bye fog!), making it the perfect time of year to enjoy The Golden City. Take a boat to Alcatraz to tour the historic prison, or visit Marin Headlands in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area for hiking and views of the bay. Fall events in San Francisco include cultural favorites like the Autumn Moon Festival in Chinatown and Fleet Week along the waterfront.
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