Stunning fall foliage, moderate temps, and low prices on travel make autumn a great time to see America. Whether you’re headed north to enjoy the changing leaves, or south for a little more summer fun, the U.S. has a perfect post-summer vacation destination for every type of traveler. Here are seven of the most popular locations across the States for your next fall getaway.
The Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
The best time for viewing the captivating fall foliage in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is usually from mid-October to early November. With over one hundred species of trees in this designated world ecosystem, including hickories, sugar maples, and scarlet oaks, spectacular colors of red, yellow, and gold blanket the ancient, rolling Smoky Mountains for over seven weeks every year. The park and surrounding area have many scenic drives that make it easy to enjoy its incredible natural beauty at any time of year. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, for example, has numerous scenic overlooks along its five-and-a-half-mile roadway. Each stop offers the perfect opportunity for a photo-op, a picnic, or wildlife viewing. As gateways to the national park, the small and vibrant towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge offer a vast array of attractions and family friendly fun. For the ultimate mountain experience, stay in one of the hundreds of Gatlinburg cabins nestled in the surrounding foothills.
Big Sur, California
Running ninety miles along part of the country’s most iconic coastline, the stretch known as Big Sur features stunning vistas, year-round moderate temperatures, and a sense of serenity often said to be unmatched by any other destination in the world. Big Sur weather peaks in the fall with sunshine and temperatures in the mid 70’s just about every day. The Big Sur landscape stays green throughout the year – but its spectacular views of the rugged coastline and the Pacific Ocean easily substitute for leaves turning color. Fall offers a unique opportunity for spotting blue whales, humpback whales, and orcas. October brings the return of monarch butterflies to Andrew Molera State Park, a sight not to be missed.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Located on the Atlantic coast adjacent to the little seaport town of Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park takes on a magical feel during the autumn months. Forty-five miles of carriage roads (27 of which are considered historic motor roads) and 158 miles of hiking trails make Acadia one of the country’s ten most visited national parks. Fall brings cooler temperatures that are perfect for hiking, biking, and even camping. The park’s northern location means shorter days, and gorgeous colors from as early as mid-September. The town of Bar Harbor, minutes from the park, has a unique mix of galleries, antique shops, and historic inns and bed & breakfasts.
Beyond the world-class skiing, the beautiful little town of Telluride, Colorado, appeals to visitors year-round. The colorful foliage and breathtaking mountain scenery bring vacationers in early to mid-fall. During this period, the many aspen groves throughout the San Juan Mountains change color from summer’s green to brilliant fall colors. The town runs a gondola (the ski lift in winter) that offers 360-degree views of the stunning mountains through the middle of October every year. Telluride also hosts musical, cultural, culinary and many other types of festivals throughout the year. And in the age of pandemic, where restrictions on visiting can apply everywhere you go, it may make sense to get an overnight rapid test from your local health provider of choice before you travel, so you can show up with a clean bill of health.
Cooperstown, New York
Located in central New York at the southern tip of Otsego Lake, the charming little town of Cooperstown draws visitors throughout the year. America’s Baseball Hall of Fame Museum is here, but Cooperstown also boasts one of the country’s most popular craft-beer makers, Brewery Ommegang. Constructed in 1869, the Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley Railroad weaves through the Susquehanna River Valley, allowing passengers to enjoy the area’s incredible autumn scenery from the inside of a historic railroad car. Cooler temperatures also make hiking, biking, and kayaking popular activities during the post-summer months in Cooperstown.
Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
Picturesque scenery, a mountain location, and Old World European architecture earned Jim Thorpe the title of “Switzerland of America.” Nestled in Pennsylvania’s scenic Lehigh Gorge, Jim Thorpe consistently ranks among the country’s top fall destinations. Its Main Street features several historic lodgings, lots of antique shops, and beautiful mountain views. Peak viewing for fall foliage usually takes place around the third week of October.
Newport, Rhode Island
Huge discounts on lodgings make Newport an excellent fall vacation destination. Historic Inns and B&Bs that cost a week’s pay in the summer become considerably more reasonable during the quieter autumn months. Newport’s historical attractions include mansions of the super wealthy, who congregated here in the late 19th century, Touro Synagogue (America’s oldest), and Saint Mary’s church, where John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier tied the knot. The Cliff Walk offers views of rugged cliffs contrasting with the eye-catching mansions from the Gilded Age. The World Tennis Hall of Fame makes its home year-round in Newport, while August of every year brings the world-famous Newport Jazz Festival. But the real fun is said to happen in October at the Bowen’s Wharf Seafood Festival. The event features fresh local seafood, including lobster rolls, fried calamari, fish tacos, and lots of cold beer.