Fall can be a polarizing season. In one camp, you have the people who refuse to accept that summer is over. In a different corner, you have those who start eating and drinking every pumpkin spice product available as soon as Labor Day passes. No matter what position you take on fall, everyone can agree on one thing: Weekend getaways are great any time of year.
If you wait until the leaves start turning, the air feels crisp and Halloween candy is on the shelves to book your autumnal adventures, it could be too late. From fun festivals to still-warm beaches and, of course, foliage, here are some fall weekend trips that you should start booking as soon as possible.
Adirondack Park, New York
Adirondack Park is a northern New York escape that just so happens to be one of the best American parks for leaf peeping in the fall, with almost 3 million acres of explorable land inside the park's boundaries. The bold foliage colors reflect off of the 3,000 lakes and 30,000 miles of rivers and streams. Sounds like a weekend getaway sure to clear any of those cityslicker troubles.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
If Albuquerque is an underrated America city that has been on your bucket list, fall is the perfect time to finally make the trip. That's because for nine days in October, the city is home to the world's largest balloon festival. If you're sick of hay bales and leaf talk, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta features balloon rodeos, twilight balloon glows, chainsaw carving and much more for a non-traditional fall experience.
Asheville, North Carolina
Tourists looking for a fall destination might just assume that it's New England or bust, but Asheville, North Carolina, has some of the most vibrant fall foliage in the country, with more than 100 species of trees. You're going to want to immerse yourself in the color of the Blue Ridge Mountains by foot on this trip because Asheville is one of the best foodie towns in America and best cities for beer lovers.
Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, Kentucky
Get a different perspective and experience your weekend getaway from 75 feet above a Kentucky forest floor. One of the great features of Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest is the Canopy Tree Walk that will leave visitors flying high. If heights aren't your thing, there's plenty to do on the ground too.
Brandywine Valley, Delaware
Fall and scenic byways go together like warm apple pie and vanilla ice cream. Rolling hills of orange and red await family roadtrippers along the 12.25 miles of the Brandywine Valley National Scenic Byway in Delaware. Other sights to see include covered bridges, museums, estates and the Brandywine River.
Brown County State Park, Indiana
Who would guess Brown County State Park in Indiana would be a great place to see color? The "Little Smokies" boast almost 16,000 acres to explore a spectrum of fall colors via tree-lined roads and scenic viewpoints throughout Indiana's largest park, making it one of the state's most popular autumn attractions.
Remember those fairweather fall friends of yours who would rather cling to beach days than wander a corn maze? Clearwater, Florida, is the trip for that crew. Not only are the temps a bit cooler than in the prime of summer, rental costs are down too. On top of extending the quality time you have with the sand and a drink in your hand past Labor Day, Clearwater also offers quite a few festivals throughout the season, including the Chalk Art Festival and Jazz Holiday.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Drop those buckeyes and head for the hills - err, valley. Cuyahoga Valley National Park deserves a shoutout for its fall attractions just as much as the larger, more popular national parks. Booming with bright colors, trails, a covered bridge and a 65-foot waterfall, Cuyahoga Valley National Park makes for a relaxing weekend escape. After a hike, nearby Szalay's Sweet Corn Farm and Market is home to fall favorites like a corn maze, pumpkins, gourds and fresh apple cider. You're also just a short trip away from a scenic tour of Stan Hywett in Akron, Ohio, which just so happens to be one of the biggest mansions in America.
DeSoto State Park, Alabama
DeSoto Falls is the best place in Alabama to get your autumn on. That will, of course, mean battling some crowds, but it's worth it to experience North Alabama's backdrop of yellow, red, orange and gold. Oh, you thought that was it? You'll also spot wildflowers and a waterfall. Since you'll want to do plenty of hiking, lodging options include motel rooms, cabins, chalets and campsites.
Forget hiking or driving, in Dubuque, Iowa, should go see your fall color on the world's shortest, steepest scenic railway or by river boat cruise. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Fenelon Place Elevator will lift you up to look down onto historic homes, the Mississippi River and three states. The next day, get a different perspective by sailing the river.
Garner State Park, Texas
Travel an hour and a half outside San Antonio and you can get to Garner State Parkin Texas. Red, orange and gold leaves pop off the Frio River during a casual stroll, or kick it up a notch with a hike up Old Baldy.
Door Peninsula, Wisconsin
There will be so much you want to do on your weekend escape to Door County, Wisconsin, that you may need a rest day after your vacation. Hiking, camping, driving or riding a bike or motorcycle are all ways to explore the exploding colors of this must-see heartland destination. The fall months also offer festivals, farmers markets, fishing, birding, apple picking and more classic fall activities.
Just because you're confined to a weekend timeframe for your vacation doesn't mean you have to stay within American borders. Leave the crisp air and cider behind and head to a city recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Oaxaca, Mexico, is a great destination for an authentic Day of the Dead celebration at the end of October. Experience parties, parades in the streets, face painting and an atmosphere unlike anything you'd find in the U.S.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
White-sand beaches, seafood and temperatures in the high 70s aren't just for the summer - at least if you're talking about exploring Gulf Shores, Alabama, in the fall. The only thing missing during the fall will be the hoards of sweaty tourists. Plan a getaway around the annual National Shrimp Festival that takes place each October for a shellfishly fun good time.
Laconia, New Hampshire
There are festivals with pumpkins, then there's the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival. More than 40,000 fans of the giant gourd gather in Laconia each October to star in awe at the 34-foot-tall tower of jack-o'-lanterns, bowl with pumpkins and walk like zombies in the Granite State. If it sounds like one of the best food festivals in America, then you are right. When you're not hopping onto a hayride, weekend warriors can peep the popping foliage and explore the local lakes.
Sari Marissa G./Yelp
Lincoln City, Oregon
Imagine the lifelong memories the family will make at the Fall Kite Festival held in Lincoln City, Oregon, in October. These aren't just your average store-bought kites, either. Giant whales wiggle through the sky and jellyfish jiggle by during the two-day event.
Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, Connecticut, offers a picture-perfect fall day in New England filled with pick-you-own adventures. The bounty in September offers not only apples, but also peaches and pears. Pick your own pumpkin in October, or hit the links on the golf course. Just try to not be distracted by the smell of freshly baked apple cider doughnuts coming from the Apple Barrel store.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state may be a great destination for winter chasers as it could snow in the park as early as October. But that's thinking too far ahead because October also presents some stunning fall colors, particularly along Chinook Pass, Reflection Lakes and Grove of the Patriarchs. Bench and Snow Lakes, about 2.5 miles roundtrip, offer a great autumn alpine adventure.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
What is a typical "off season" for many popular summer destinations should turn a lightbulb on for fall travelers. The average temperature in Myrtle Beach will still hover around 85 degrees in September and only drop to the 70s and high 60s in October and November. These more moderate temperatures are perfect for biking, festivals, fishing and more.
Ozark National Forest, Arkansas
Fall colors begin to pop in Arkansas' Ozark National Forest a few weeks into October, with peak foliage appearing around the mid-to-late part of the month. The pop of color and comfortable temps set the perfect scene for exploring the tallest mountain in Arkansas, Mount Magazine or Blanchard Springs Caverns.
Quebec is another doable international weekend hop. Since the summer and winter weather can be pretty drastic, fall is a great time to visit this eastern Canada provence to experience hiking, cycling, a romantic getaway, the cranberry harvest and a number of cultural festivals including Journées de la Culture.
Spring Grove, Illinois
You'll probably need your entire weekend to find your way out of the corn maze at Richardson Farm in Spring Grove, Illinois. Almost 10 miles of trails wind through 28 acres of live corn pose quite the challenge. But don't worry, there's cider at the end. Rest up because your trip could also include pumpkin picking, a 50-foot observation tower, wagon rides, animals and even campfire rentals to keep the fun going into the night.
When talking about fall destinations, October in particular, there needs to be at least one spooky historic option. Salem, Massachusetts, has buildings dating back to the late 1600s and is one of the most haunted places in America. Post up at an old bar to see if you can spot something supernatural or take a walking tour to soak in every bit of mystery and history at your fingertips. All that exploration is sure to work up an appetite, and there's nothing haunting about the amazing local food and drink you'll fill up with.
A hot summer day in Sedona, Arizona, could hit over 100 degrees, but in October, the desert town could sit at a cool 80, the perfect opportunity to experience Red Rock Country. Dare to cross Devil's Bridge or conquer Cathedral Rock over your weekend excursion.Keep a lookout for wildlife like elk and deer as well.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Shenandoah National Park is home to not one, but two of the most beautiful places in America's state and national parks. Adventurers can stand atop Hawksbill Mountain and look down upon the colorful canopy below, or let your wheels do the work with a ride through the amazing vistas of Skyline Drive.
Coeur D'Alene, Idaho
In the northern part of Idaho, just an hour outside of Spokane, Washington, sits the intriguing city of Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, where you don't have to choose between water views and fall colors. Get active on the lake and in the forest, or check out an art walks and indulge in fine dining - it's all on the docket in this city of 50,000. This isn't just one of the best fall weekend trips, it's one of the absolute best weekend getaways in America.
Vino lovers can take a dream vacation to wine country any time of year, but early September through mid-November is extra special. Fall is harvest season in Sonoma, California, and besides those famous grapes, farmers are also harvesting squash, apples, pumpkins and more. On top of that, your full-bodied bottle of bliss is enjoyed with the backdrop of gold and red along the vineyards. Plan a trip in early October and check out the Sonoma County Harvest Fair in Santa Rosa to indulge in tastings from more than 100 wineries, food pairings and seminars.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Colorado differs from many other fall destinations because at an altitude of more than 6,000 feet above sea level, it's all about the Aspens. Yellow, yellow and more bright yellow trees tower over mountain bikers soaring down Buffalo Pass or revelers cheersing during Oktoberwest in September. No matter what the chosen activity, it should all wrap with a soak in Strawberry Park Hot Springs.
While it's an added bonus that the Ben & Jerry's factory is in Waterbury, Vermont, a fall adventure here is based off of much, much more than Chunky Monkey. Trade that carton of ice cream for a gallon of cider with a trip to the Cold Hollow Cider Mill. You could try to list all of the fall treats you could score on this excursion, but you'd soon find yourself in winter. Maple Apple Drizzle, cider jelly and cider doughnuts are just a sampling of all you'll indulge in before heading out on your vibrant leaf peeping adventure through Little River State Park.
West Glacier, Montana
Shoulder season could quite possibly be the best time to visit a national park because you get to avoid the crowds (if you're prepared to fend for yourself without some in-park lodging and concessions). At Glacier National Park in the fall, the trees turn vibrant hues and the animals will be roaming free from too many tourists. Optional activities include wildlife watching, cruising Going-to-the-Sun Road and enjoying quiet campgrounds. Those are just a few of the reasons why Glacier is one of the 50 most underrated parks in America.
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