There’s no season quite like fall. Summer may have the beaches and winter is great for skiing, but you can’t beat the autumn experience. I’m talking about sipping a cup of fresh cider and watching the leaves turn a kaleidoscope of beautiful colors while a cool breeze whispers through your hair. Want to know where to find the best fall destinations in the US? This blog post has you covered.
For many travelers (myself included), autumn is a magical time. As the seasons change, so too do the sights, sounds, and scents. Even if you’ve been someplace a thousand times before, it takes on a completely different character. For example, New England in the fall is simply not the same as New England in the spring, summer, or winter. It’s a whole new world worth exploring. And the best part? There are many best fall vacations in the US that cater to all different interests and budgets.
The months of September, October, and November offer stunning scenery and good times in equal amounts. In addition to leaf-peeping, there are numerous opportunities in the form of annual festivals and fairs. Whether you’re flying in the fall or driving, there is no shortage of places worth visiting this time of year. Here are some of my very favorites!
Quick tip on how to find cheap flights in the fall
Looking for cheap domestic flights during autumn? Before diving into my picks for the best fall destinations in the US, I want to share a quick tip on saving money on airfare.
I’ve used Scott’s Cheap Flights (now called Going) for over three years to get amazing flight deals. All you have to do is enter your home airport and where you want to go. From there, they’ll send mistake fares and other ridiculously cheap flight deals to top-rated destinations. And the best part? It’s 100% FREE! In 2022, I saved thousands of dollars just from their email alerts.
There’s a free and a premium version – the free one has everything you’ll need if you’re an occasional traveler. However, if you travel a lot every year, it’s worth upgrading to the paid version for $49 annually. In my experience, you’ll get your money back after finding just one discounted flight! I recommend signing up for the free trial (you can cancel anytime) to try it yourself. And if you like it, be sure to use my coupon code JON20 to save 20%!
The Best Fall Destinations in the US: 10 Autumn Adventures
Ready to go leaf-peeping in one of the ten best fall destinations in the US? Well then keep your peepers peeled as I reveal my favorite autumnal getaways below.
1. New England
For travelers around the world, this is one of the best fall vacations in the US, hands down!
Steeped in history and natural beauty, New England is emblematic of fall’s grandeur. Everywhere you look, vibrant fall foliage drapes the region, providing an ever-changing canvas. The kaleidoscope of warm shades, from deep amber to shimmering gold, paints not just the trees, but the very soul of this region. Driving New England’s winding roads flanked by fiery-red maples, and covered bridges add to the postcard-perfect scenery.
While visiting New England, you might choose to stay at a quaint Vermont village for a cozy bed-and-breakfast experience. Or you can sail along the Massachusetts coast with a backdrop of autumn hues. And if history beckons, Connecticut and Rhode Island present a tapestry of stories and colonial charm.
The legacy of New England’s fall stretches back for centuries, playing host to indigenous tribes, pilgrims, and countless souls who’ve wandered its trails. Events like the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival or the Maine Harvest Festival amplify this spirit. Local inns and eateries also contribute to the experience, where menus are tailored to include seasonal delights like cranberry relishes, pumpkin soups, and cinnamon-spiced desserts.
From apple orchards where families gather for apple-picking festivities to farmers’ markets brimming with fresh cider and handmade crafts, New England is a celebration of traditions.
2. Aspen, Colorado
While many associate Aspen with snow-capped peaks and winter festivities, it’s also one of the most beautiful places to visit in Colorado during autumn. Picture this: mountains draped in golden aspens shimmering under the sun, their reflections dancing on tranquil lakes. It’s a scene so serene, it seems to have been lifted straight out of a painting.
Of course, Aspen isn’t one of the best fall destinations in the US just because of its natural vistas. The town thrives in art and culture. Film festivals, art exhibitions, and musical performances provide a counterpoint to its outdoor attractions. Moreover, the town’s bustling streets, adorned with boutiques, galleries, and cafes, come alive with locals and tourists savoring the season’s delights.
As the Maroon Bells (arguably the most photographed peaks in North America) flaunt their autumnal dress, the town prepares for events like the Aspen Filmfest. Gourmet dining is an experience here, with menus showcasing game meats, local trout, and autumnal vegetables. Evenings in Aspen might lead you to a jazz concert, a theatrical performance, or perhaps a spontaneous gathering around a bonfire.
The mingling of golden aspen trees with this exhilarating blend of arts, culture, and culinary wonders makes Aspen’s fall an affair to remember. Is this one of the top places to visit in the US in the fall? Absolutely!
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3. The Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
The Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee are an amazing sight to see any time of year, but they truly come alive during the fall. It’s a symphony of colors, with elevations high and low playing their parts. Early in the season, the higher terrains blush with colors, slowly whispering their hues to the valleys below. Over weeks, the entire region transforms into a vibrant tapestry, its vast expanses dotted with vantage points that offer panoramic views.
Beyond the visuals, the Smokies have a heart and soul that resonate with stories and songs of Appalachian culture. This rustic mountain culture, teeming with tales of old and traditions passed down generations, adds depth to the natural beauty. Cades Cove, a verdant valley cradled by the mountains, is more than just a scenic spot. It’s a journey back in time.
Here, historic buildings stand as silent witnesses to the lives and struggles of early settlers. Every cabin, church, and mill has a story. As the Smokies come alive with color, another spectacle captures the heart: the annual elk rut in the park’s meadows. Their haunting bugles echo amidst the hills, adding another layer to the park’s allure.
Cultural events, like the Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival, blend the region’s crafts, music, and foods, inviting visitors to immerse themselves fully. It’s one of the best things to do when visiting the Smoky Mountains. Traditional dances, bluegrass music sessions, and workshops on crafting form a bridge between the present and the past
In the Smokies, every mountain, stream, and trail sings the ballad of nature and tradition. All that and more make it one of the very best fall destinations in the US, bar none.
4. Door County, Wisconsin
Imagine a place where waters meet woods, where tranquility is a way of life, and where fall paints every view. Welcome to Door County. Nestled between the expanse of Green Bay and the vastness of Lake Michigan, this peninsula offers a unique blend of natural beauty and Midwestern charm.
The lake, with its shimmering blues and greens, contrasts beautifully with the russet and gold of the forests. Activities in Door County have a leisurely pace. Sailboats glide gracefully on the waters. Artists capture the scenery on canvas. Locals celebrate the harvest with festivals and fairs. It’s a refreshing change from modern life.
At the heart of this haven is Peninsula State Park, a sprawling expanse of dense woods, bluffs, and beaches. The park’s vistas, especially during fall, are truly a sight to behold. Whether it’s a family picnic, a hike amidst fall foliage, or just a quiet moment by the water, Door County provides an escape from the hustle and bustle.
Autumn in Door County also heralds the time for cherries, apples, and other orchard delights. Local farms transform into hubs of activity, with hayrides, corn mazes, and pumpkin patches drawing families and visitors. The Fall Fest in Sister Bay becomes a centerpiece event, featuring a parade, arts and crafts, and a classic car show. As evening sets, local theaters stage performances ranging from drama to comedy, capturing the essence of Midwest storytelling.
Door County, with its lakeside serenity and vibrant community spirit, crafts an autumnal experience that’s both restful and rejuvenating. Is this one of the best fall vacations in America? You bet!
5. Sonoma County, California
When looking at the best fall destination in the US West Coast region, Sonoma County can’t be beat. As vine leaves take on hues of burgundy and gold, the grapes reach their peak, signaling the start of the harvest season. It’s a time when the entire region comes alive with activity and anticipation. California’s wineries, from boutique establishments to sprawling estates, open their doors to visitors eager to partake in the wine-making tradition.
Sonoma’s culinary scene is a testament to the region’s rich produce. Seasonal dishes, crafted from freshly harvested ingredients, offer a gastronomic delight. The views of rolling vineyards, bathed in autumn sunlight, provide the perfect backdrop for meals. The Sonoma County Harvest Fair is a culmination of these experiences – a celebration of wine, food, and the bounties of nature. For those seeking a blend of epicurean delights and natural beauty, visiting Sonoma is definitely one of the best things to do in Northern California.
The magic of Sonoma lies not just in its wines, but in the stories behind them. Every winemaker has a tale, every vineyard a history. Fall becomes the season to narrate these tales, with winery tours elucidating the nuances of viticulture and the passion behind every bottle.
As vineyards get busy with grape stomping events, the air fills with the sweet aroma of fermenting grapes. Local artisans, inspired by the season, showcase their crafts in galleries and markets, offering unique souvenirs. Bike tours through the wine region are popular, too, allowing visitors to experience the county’s beauty at a leisurely pace.
Sonoma, with its fusion of age-old wine traditions and the vibrant energy of harvest, encapsulates the essence of autumn’s bounty.
6. Savannah, Georgia
With its historic streets lined with live oaks and Spanish moss, Savannah, becomes a romantic Georgia getaway in the fall. The mild temperature adds a pleasant touch to outdoor activities like ghost tours, river cruises, or architectural exploration, making the city’s rich history come alive.
Special events like the Savannah Film Festival offer a glimpse into the city’s vibrant cultural scene. Whether strolling through the historic squares or dining in a riverside cafe, Savannah’s blend of elegance and hospitality is unmatched. Savannah’s southern charm, captivating history, and cultural richness make it a destination that offers more than just sightseeing; it provides an experience that resonates with the heart and soul.
When the air in Savannah becomes crisp and the days grow shorter, this historical town awakens into a canvas of golden hues. At its heart lies Forsyth Park, where the trees form a canopy overhead, sprinkling the sidewalks with amber, orange, and rust-colored leaves. Savannah’s history, intertwined with tales of southern aristocracy, Revolutionary and Civil War stories, and haunted lore, forms the bedrock of its allure.
Join a walking tour through the Bonaventure Cemetery, where sculptures, epitaphs, and Spanish moss create an ethereal ambiance. The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) amplifies the city’s vibrant culture, hosting art shows, theater productions, and lectures. Enhancing the experience are the city’s boutique hotels, each with its own tale, making every stay unique.
In essence, Savannah is a melange of history, art, and nature that resonates deeply, offering visitors an immersive southern experience. It’s both one of the most beautiful places in Georgia and one of the best fall destinations in the US.
7. The Ozarks, Missouri
Looking for more places to travel in the US in the fall? Offering a rustic and raw beauty, Missouri’s Ozarks are breathtaking during the fall. The rugged landscape, characterized by steep hills, caves, and dense forests, becomes a kaleidoscope of colors as the seasons shift. Activities such as fishing in crystal clear streams, hiking through colorful woodlands, and cave exploration make this region a paradise for adventure seekers.
Specific spots like Lake of the Ozarks offer unique opportunities for lakeside leisure, such as boating and fishing amidst scenic vistas. This part of the country has a charm that’s distinctly untamed and unspoiled. In that way, the Ozarks embody the untouched essence of America’s heartland.
Fall in the Ozarks is not just a visual treat, but also an experience for the senses. As you drive through the scenic byways, the aroma of pine, cedar, and burning wood fills the air. The Ozarks Folk Center hosts craftsmen and women who showcase the region’s rich traditions, from pottery and weaving to folk music. Branson, dubbed the “Live Entertainment Capital of the World,” sees its theaters come alive with fall-themed shows, adding a modern touch to the rustic surroundings.
Likewise, farmers’ markets flourish, offering freshly harvested apples, pumpkins, and fall produce. Meanwhile, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways beckon visitors for canoeing and kayaking, where the water’s clear reflections mirror the fall foliage. In its entirety, the Ozarks offer a soulful experience, echoing the rhythms of nature and traditions. WIth so much to see and do, the Ozarks are among the top fall getaways in America.
8. Hudson Valley, New York
Nestled along the Hudson River in New York State, the Hudson Valley is renowned for its rich cultural and artistic heritage. Fall adds a touch of elegance to this region, making it the perfect time for museum visits, historical tours, and indulging in culinary experiences at local farms.
The region offers a blend of modern culture and historical depth, hosting events like the Hudson Valley Art & Wine Festival. The combination of art galleries, farm-to-table restaurants, and picturesque landscapes creates an ambiance that’s both sophisticated and relaxed. In summary, the Hudson Valley stands out as a cultural getaway, offering a rich and rewarding experience that combines the beauty of nature with artistic refinement.
In the Hudson Valley, fall is a season of harvest and celebration. Orchards invite families for apple picking and cider tasting. Historic estates, such as the Vanderbilt Mansion and Kykuit, showcase architecture from the Gilded Age against a backdrop of autumnal colors. The Valley’s literary history, with legends like Washington Irving, is celebrated with readings and themed events, especially around the legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Wine trails become particularly popular as vineyards unveil their new vintages. Art studios open their doors during the “Open Studio” weekends, giving visitors insights into the creative processes of local artists. The Hudson Valley, with its rich tapestry of nature, culture, and history, promises a fall experience that’s both enriching and invigorating.
9. Acadia National Park, Maine
This is one of my favorite places to visit in the US in the fall, hands down. With its vivid fall colors and rugged coastline, Acadia National Park is a breathtaking destination that should be on everyone’s New England road trip itinerary. The autumn leaves set against rocky shores and mountains create a dramatic scenery that’s unique to this park.
Activities such as hiking on trails that overlook the Atlantic, bird-watching during migratory seasons, and stargazing on the top of Cadillac Mountain offer exceptional experiences. The park’s natural wonders and distinctive geology make it an unparalleled destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
A gleaming gem of the East Coast, Acadia shines even brighter during the fall. The famous Park Loop Road offers stunning vistas, with viewpoints like the Thunder Hole and Otter Cliffs. But it’s not just about sightseeing; it’s about immersion. Join ranger-led programs that delve into the park’s ecology, history, and geology.
Meanwhile, the Jordan Pond House, a century-old tradition, offers afternoon tea and popovers, a delightful experience with views of the Penobscot Mountains and the pristine Jordan Pond. The nearby Bar Harbor, with its quaint shops, seafood joints, and festivals, complements the Acadia experience. As nights fall, starry skies come alive, with the park being one of the best fall destinations in the US, especially after dark.
10. Charleston, South Carolina
The best fall vacations in the US for foliage views come in all shapes and sizes, and this is among the best!
The city of Charleston is synonymous with grace, charm, and history. Its cobblestone streets, antebellum architecture, and waterfront dining come alive during fall, offering an experience that’s both nostalgic and vibrant. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful place in South Carolina today.
Activities like carriage rides through historic neighborhoods, plantation tours rich in history, and dining at renowned seafood restaurants offer a taste of Southern elegance. Events like the Charleston Arts Festival add to the city’s lively cultural scene.
Charleston in the fall is like stepping into a historical romance novel. The French Quarter, with its gas lamp-lit streets, invites evening strolls. The city’s Slave Mart Museum, old plantations, and historic homes narrate tales of its colonial past and Civil War history. The waterfront Battery and White Point Garden come alive with picnickers and artists, capturing the autumn scenes.
For foodies, Charleston’s culinary scene is a revelation. From shrimp and grits to she-crab soup, the city’s gastronomy is a testament to its rich cultural tapestry. Special cooking classes and food tours introduce visitors to Lowcountry cuisine.
With its art walks, harbor sunset cruises, and artisan markets, Charleston offers a curated blend of history, culture, and culinary delights. It’s not just a destination; it’s an elegant journey through time.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the best fall destinations in the US
Interested in learning more about the best fall destinations in the US? In this next section, I’ll share my answer to some of the most frequently asked questions I receive on this topic. Armed with this information, you’re sure to have an exciting autumn adventure!
Where is the best place to be in the fall?
The best place to be in the fall can vary depending on individual preferences. For many, New England stands out for its iconic autumnal landscapes. States like Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine offer vast forests that turn into blazing canvases of reds, oranges, and yellows. This region is famed for its charming towns, picturesque drives, and festivals that celebrate the harvest season.
However, if one prefers mountainous terrains, the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and the White Mountains in New Hampshire are hard to beat. Alternatively, for those wanting a mix of cultural experiences with natural beauty, areas like the Hudson Valley in New York or Sonoma County in California combine wine, arts, and fall foliage.
Ultimately, the best place in the fall depends on whether you’re seeking scenic beauty, cultural events, outdoor activities, or a combination thereof.
Is it cheaper to travel to the best fall destinations in the US?
Fall, particularly the period between the end of summer vacations and the start of the holiday season, is often termed the “shoulder season” in the travel industry.
During this time, many destinations experience fewer tourists, which can lead to reduced prices for accommodations, flights, and some attractions. Children are back in school, which means family travel is less frequent. Consequently, many hotels and airlines lower their rates to attract travelers.
Furthermore, fall offers many local harvest festivals and events that are not only culturally enriching but also cost-effective. However, the cost can vary depending on the destination. For instance, popular fall foliage spots in New England might see higher prices due to demand. It’s always a good idea to research specific destinations and compare prices.
What states are home to the best fall destinations in the US?
Determining which state has the “nicest” fall is subjective, as it depends on individual preferences. However, when most people think of picturesque fall foliage, Vermont often comes to mind. It’s renowned for its dense hardwood forests that transform into a riot of colors. Small towns like Stowe, Woodstock, and Montpelier offer quintessential New England charm amidst breathtaking landscapes.
New Hampshire’s White Mountains and Maine’s coastal regions are also top contenders. Outside of New England, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee are celebrated for their vibrant autumn hues. Each state offers its unique blend of scenery, activities, and cultural events, making the fall experience distinct and memorable.
What cities have the prettiest fall?
Many cities across the United States are renowned for their beautiful fall scenery, offering vibrant foliage, crisp weather, and seasonal activities. Here’s a list of some cities with stunning autumn landscapes:
- Asheville, North Carolina: Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville provides breathtaking fall foliage and access to the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway.
- Stowe, Vermont: Often referred to as the “Fall’s Color Capital,” Stowe is famous for its vibrant autumn colors, charming village, and covered bridges.
- Portsmouth, New Hampshire: This coastal town offers a mix of seaside beauty and colorful fall foliage, with historic sites and festivals adding to its charm.
- Bar Harbor, Maine: The gateway to Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor offers stunning coastal and forest views, especially during the fall.
- Salem, Massachusetts: Known for its Halloween festivities, Salem also offers beautiful fall scenery and a rich historical atmosphere.
- New York City, New York: Central Park in the fall is iconic, with colorful leaves contrasting against the city skyline.
- Nashville, Tennessee: The rolling hills around Nashville provide a beautiful backdrop for fall colors, and the city’s music scene keeps things lively.
- Charlottesville, Virginia: Home to historic sites like Monticello, Charlottesville offers beautiful fall landscapes, especially along the nearby Skyline Drive.
- Traverse City, Michigan: Located on Lake Michigan, Traverse City is known for its vineyards and vibrant fall foliage.
- Leavenworth, Washington: This Bavarian-themed town is surrounded by mountains that come alive with color in the fall.
Which of the best fall destinations in the US have the best weather?
October weather varies widely across the United States, but for mild temperatures and consistently pleasant conditions, many turn to states like North Carolina and Virginia. These states experience a moderate climate in October, with comfortable temperatures perfect for outdoor activities, and they also benefit from the beauty of fall foliage.
California, particularly its coastal regions, offers a Mediterranean climate with warm days and cooler nights. For those who prefer a touch of crispness without extreme cold, states in the Pacific Northwest, like Oregon and Washington, can be ideal. They provide cooler temperatures, fewer rainy days than in November, and stunning autumnal landscapes.
What month is the fall in America?
In the United States, the fall season, also known as autumn, typically begins with the autumnal equinox and spans the following months:
- September: Fall begins around September 22nd or 23rd with the autumnal equinox.
- October: This entire month is considered part of the fall season.
- November: Fall continues through November, leading up to the winter season.
The exact dates can vary slightly depending on the year and specific location within the U.S., especially since weather patterns and climate can differ widely across the country. In general, though, fall in the United States encompasses September, October, and November.
What are the best US cities to visit in October?
October is a versatile month for travel in the US, with various cities offering unique attractions. In addition to the best fall destinations in the US as mentioned in this guide, the following cities offer exceptional tourist experiences in the month of October:
Salem, Massachusetts: Known for its historic witch trials, Salem goes all out for Halloween with a month full of spooky events and festivals.
Asheville, North Carolina: Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s a great base for leaf-peeping, hiking, and enjoying the arts.
Santa Fe, New Mexico: October is a time for colorful balloon festivals and a blend of Native American and Hispanic cultural celebrations.
San Francisco, California: The city offers mild weather and the Fleet Week celebration in October, which includes airshows and naval ship tours.
New York City, New York: While known for its urban appeal, Central Park in fall is a spectacle of colors. The city also hosts various October events like the New York Film Festival.
Which state has the nicest fall?
Here are some US states that are most beautiful to visit during the fall months:
- Vermont: Known for its vibrant fall foliage, Vermont’s landscape is filled with brilliant red, orange, and yellow hues. The state’s small towns, covered bridges, and maple syrup festivals add to its autumn charm.
- New Hampshire: The White Mountains and scenic byways offer breathtaking fall views. The state is famous for its apple orchards and harvest festivals.
- Maine: Coastal views combined with colorful forests make Maine a popular fall destination. Acadia National Park is a highlight for leaf-peeping.
- New York: Upstate New York, particularly the Adirondacks and Catskills, offers stunning fall foliage. New York City also has beautiful autumn scenes in Central Park.
- Michigan: The Great Lakes State offers beautiful fall colors, especially in the Upper Peninsula and along the shores of Lake Michigan.
- Virginia: The Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive provides a spectacular vantage point for viewing fall colors.
- North Carolina: The Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina is famous for its fall scenery, with a mix of vibrant leaves and mountain views.
- Colorado: The Rocky Mountains provide a stunning backdrop for fall colors, especially the golden aspen trees.
- Tennessee: The Smoky Mountains come alive with color in the fall, and the area hosts various autumn festivals.
- Oregon: The Columbia River Gorge and Willamette Valley offer beautiful fall landscapes, with opportunities for wine tasting and pumpkin picking.
Each of these states has its unique appeal, and the “nicest” fall may depend on what you value most, whether it’s the brilliance of fall foliage, the charm of small-town festivals, outdoor recreational opportunities, or a combination of these elements.