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Fall in the United States is more than just a season; it’s an experience. As the leaves change colors and the air turns crisp, each region unveils its unique charm and beauty.
Whether you’re seeking the vibrant hues of New England foliage, the cultural festivities of the Midwest, or the serene desert landscapes of the Southwest, there’s a fall destination waiting for you.
Our curated list of the 18 best fall vacations in the US is backed by insights from travel experts and bloggers who’ve traversed these destinations firsthand. They share their personal experiences, tips, and recommendations, ensuring you get the most out of your fall getaway.
Embark on a journey that takes you from the foggy coasts of San Francisco to the majestic peaks of the Adirondacks. Each destination offers a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and unforgettable experiences. Dive in and find your perfect fall escape.
San Francisco, California
Recommended by Haley from Haley Blackall Travels
Fog City is a perfect nickname for San Francisco for most of the year. This coastal harbor city is shrouded in fog for many months, but when September rolls around, sunshine breaks the clouds, and the high-season crowds head home, resulting in a beautiful and bright USA destination in the Fall.
September through November in San Francisco is chock full of great things to do. The famous Golden Gate Bridge is always at your beck and call. Rent a bicycle, ride the span of the glorious red bridge, and make your way to Sausalito, a small charming town on the other side. Grab yourself some ice cream and peruse the quaint shops.
Visit the Ferry Building, one of the city’s most popular historic indoor markets. Taste all of the offerings and walk off your treats down the promenade. Head up to the Mission District, grab a picnic blanket, and sit and admire the view of the city’s skyline at Dolores Park.
San Francisco hosts Fleet Week every year in October, a multi-day celebration of US naval and marine forces. The Blue Angels jets put on a spectacularly choreographed airshow that shouldn’t be missed, amongst other happenings around town during this week. If food is your jam, stroll the SF Street Food Festival and try local fare from some of the top culinary talents in the city.
Recommended by Sam from My Flying Leap
Phoenix, Arizona is a low desert city in the American Southwest. If you consider a vacation area to include cacti and palm trees, then you’re in luck! Phoenix has that and more!
The “Valley of the Sun” is a popular spot to visit in the fall. Once the summertime temperatures cool, you’ll find some of the best weather of the year. Locals celebrate the cooler weather taking their lives outdoors.
The mountain city parks in and around the city are filled with people enjoying the season. Some favorites are Piestewa Peak Park, South Mountain Park, the Superstitions, and Camelback Mountain.
Many restaurants are open to the outdoors to take advantage of the great fall weather. Some popular areas to go include downtown Phoenix and Old Town Scottsdale. Metro Phoenix is a haven for foodies, and you can find any kind of cuisine. Or, enjoy the local breweries and wineries that are plentiful.
With the cooler fall weather comes the start of the festival season in the valley. Favorites include Oktoberfest and the Arizona State Fair. There are also fall festivals including the Schnepf Farm Pumpkin and Chili Festival, Tolmachoff Farms Pumpkin Days and Corn Maze, and the Taco Festival.
For a local treat, check out the Desert Botanical Garden. It’s a great place to fall in love with the subtle beauty of the desert. Or, head to the Musical Instrument Museum, an incredible museum that celebrates global music. And if you want to learn more about the local Native American art, head to the Heard Museum.
There are a lot of fun things to do in Phoenix, and the fall is a great time to visit. Make sure you rent a car to visit, as you’ll need it to navigate the city. It’s really easy to get around as much of the city is grid-lined. So, what are you waiting for?
Napa Valley, California
Recommended by Dhara from Roadtripping California
Napa Valley is a fabulous fall destination in California, with beautiful scenery and great food and wine.
Fall peaks later in Napa Valley than in other parts of the country, so if you plan to visit mainly for fall color, plan to visit in early to mid-November. But starting as early as October, you will find some vineyards already turning color. Building up to the peak, the valley puts on a lovely leaf-peeping show, with vines changing color as well as trees.
While you can drive around the valley to see the colors, adventurous visitors can also try ballooning over Napa Valley, to view the colors from above. For a fun experience with a gourmet meal, the Napa Valley Wine Train is another option.
Foodies and wine lovers will also find fall a wonderful time to visit. Napa Valley is known for its farm-to-table food offerings, and fall menus feature the best of the season, from pumpkin spice lattes and squash delicacies to special Thanksgiving menus. Fall is crush season, and harvest time is a lively time to visit the valley, although you may find accommodation prices higher. Book well in advance if you are planning a crush visit. Later in the fall is the start of the Cabernet season, which runs from November to April.
Pro Tip: For a lower-key fall vacation in Napa Valley, late fall is perfect. At this time, accommodation prices will likely be better, and it will be easier to find tables at popular restaurants.
Adirondacks, New York
Recommended by Danila from Travelling Dany
The Adirondack Park was created in 1892 and it’s one of the first Forever Wild Forest Preserves in the US.
Planning a scenic road trip through the Adirondacks from New York City is easy and it can also be a great budget getaway.
The best time to visit the Adirondacks is autumn. Fall foliage in the Adirondacks is in fact one of the most brilliant and breathtaking in the world. And it lasts longer than any other park in the US!
Autumn is also when you can get some delicious maple syrup. In the Adirondack region, they make everything you can think of. Maple syrup pancakes, sweets, candy, cakes and so much more!
September and October are pretty popular due to the fact that you can ride a hot air balloon over the mountains in the full fall foliage in the Lake George Region.
This is the perfect place to go for couples who are looking for a romantic and unique fall date.
Families will love the corn mazes and the chance to go apple picking.
Head over to Lake Champlain to visit Fort Ticonderoga, where you’ll get to challenge the Heroic Corn Maze. Another great one is The Great Adirondack Corn Maze at Tucker Farms in Gabriels: it changes every year!
Apple cider is a staple of fall. It kicks the warm, fuzzy feelings up a notch. The Adirondack Coast Region is full of wineries and cideries that offer great taste tours.
Make sure you eat some apple cider donuts Upstate NY: they’re the best fall treat ever. While there are a number of orchards and bakeries up and down the Adirondack Coast, the locals swear that Gunnison Orchards in the Lake Champlain Region have the fluffiest ones!
Door County, Wisconsin
Recommended by Paulina from Paulina on the Road
Door County starts to be alive during the fall and the months of October and November. It offers fall foliage and many family activities, sporting events, arts, and more. It is the perfect time to spend a day or more in Door County.
Between October to November, Door City starts to celebrate a number of festivals like the Turkey Trot. It is the month of turkey when travelers can enjoy the fun-filled food gathering and mid-afternoon naps. The festival also features a 4, 2, 1, and 0.5-mile run. This festival generally happens in the first week of November.
This month is also perfect to see the fall leaves of Door County on a bike or through hiking. The most popular stretch to explore is County Road 42 from the ferry landing in Northport. A beautiful two-mile hiking trail in the Peninsula State Park is all worth the walk. Exploring the Eagle Trail is a one-of-a-kind experience.
Travelers can also visit the best wineries in Door County that also offer tours and tastings. The peninsula has a total of eight wineries on the Door County Wine Trail.
The Maritime Festival of Trees and the Thanksgiving Day Parade are other things to enjoy in November.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Recommended by James Ian from Parks Collecting
Grand Teton National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks in the USA. The park is centered around the Teton Range, a line of jagged mountains that rise up from the valley floor. Near the base of the mountain are several alpine lakes, and in front of them is the appropriately named Snake River.
Fall is a great time to visit Grand Teton National Park for several reasons. One of the highlights of visiting the park is to enjoy the stunning mountain scenery, and there are several lookouts with breathtaking views of the mountains which are even more beautiful in the fall when groves of aspen trees turn a gorgeous golden color.
Oxbow Bend, where a wide bend of the Snake River frequently forms a perfect mirror to reflect the mountains, is one such place. When the trees lining the bend turn yellow, the view is even more breathtaking. Snake River Overlook, made famous by the photographer Ansel Adams, is another spot that is even better in the fall. The scene captures golden aspens in the foreground with the Snake River below and more stunning mountain views in the background.
Fall is also a great time to see wildlife. Elk come down from the higher places they spend the summer and pass through the national park in the fall. Elk and moose are especially active in fall during their rutting season. Other animals like black bears are stocking up for winter and can frequently be seen gorging on autumn berries throughout the park.
Whether you are hiking, enjoying a scenic drive, or spending time on the shores of a lake, you will love fall in Grand Teton National Park.
Fall does come early though, and the best time for fall foliage is typically late September.
Recommended by Nicole from Go Far Grow Close
Chicago is an amazing place to visit any time of year, but the fall is especially good. Summer weather can be very hot and humid. It is also a very busy time with tourists exploring the city. The downtown core is in some respects spread out, but when it comes to tourist attractions, such as the shopping district, museums and art galleries, and Millenium Park, it can get busy and crowded.
That is not the case in the fall. The weather cools and the crowds subside.
Chicago is a fantastic walking city. It is flat and has many fantastic attractions that are easy to reach. Take a stroll down the Magnificent Mile for wallet-cleansing shopping. Then, head over to Navy Pier to watch a live theatre production, take a boat tour on Lake Michigan, or hop on a Ferris wheel or carousel ride. If you are in the mood for a museum or art, explore the extraordinary Field Museum or the Chicago Art Institute, one of the oldest and largest art museums in the USA.
If you don’t like flying, you can also find out whether Chicago can be reached by train from your location.
Do not rent a car in Chicago. Parking is ridiculously expensive. Taxis, Uber, Lyft, and mass public transportation are readily available.
Hood River, Oregon
Recommended by Katie Zweber from Go Wander Wild
Perched on the shores of the mighty Columbia River, the small town of Hood River, Oregon makes an excellent destination for those looking for pleasant temperatures and fall harvest festivities. The charming downtown has plenty of boutiques, art galleries, and cafes to occupy a lazy afternoon. If you’re up for a fall hike, there are plenty of trails for all levels in the area as well. But the real draw of the area lies just outside town in the surrounding valley, which is home to several fruit orchards.
During the summer and fall months, visitors and locals alike can travel the “Fruit Loop” and stop by the orchards, vineyards, and country stores along the way to sample the season’s specialties.
In the fall, it’s possible to pick apples and pumpkins before relaxing at one of the many Hood River wineries along the loop. Most of the vineyards in the area have sweeping views of the lush valley, Mount Hood, and Mount Adams. One of the region’s specialties is Pinot Noir, which is perfect for sipping on an outdoor patio on a crisp autumn day. Alternatively, if you’re a bigger fan of beer than wine, you’re in luck because Hood River is home to a handful of excellent craft breweries.
Hudson Valley, New York
Recommended by James Ian from Travel Collecting
The Hudson Valley is a wide valley in New York State on either side of the Hudson River as it travels from the state capital Albany in the north down to New York City in the south. The valley has hills such as the Shawangunk Mountains ridge, woods, and farms open for agritourism, making the Hudson Valley an ideal place in the fall.
One of the main fall activities is leaf-peeping and you can do this on a scenic drive or a hike. There are thousands of sugar maples everywhere, which turn stunning reds, oranges, and yellows. Minnewaska State Park is a popular place to see the fall foliage – though it does get very crowded, so be sure to arrive early in order to get a parking space. Another place to see great fall colors is Ashokan Reservoir.
Another popular thing to do is to visit one of the historic houses or mansions that line the river. Built in the Gilded Age, today several mansions are open for house tours. However, it is their grounds that are the main attraction in the fall, as there are lots of trails through the beautiful fall foliage.
A fall activity that is a little different is picking seasonal fruit. Plenty of farms are open for apple and pear picking and some even have pumpkin patches, where you can find the perfect Halloween Jack o’Lantern just waiting to be carved. Some also offer hayrides and corn mazes for kids of all ages to enjoy and explore.
Because the valley aligns north-south and because there are different elevations, there is always somewhere with fall color from the start of October into early November. So, if it is too early or late where you are, head north or south or up or down and you’ll be sure to find the perfect fall color.
Recommended by Rebecca from Whatever Packs Your Bag
Portland Oregon is the most populated city in Oregon, located in Northwestern Oregon where the Willamette and Columbia rivers meet. It is beautiful to visit and the Fall is one of the best seasons to explore. The peak time to go and see gorgeous fall foliage is mid-to-late October. There are so many things to do in Portland, and if you go in October you can also go mushroom foraging. The weather can be rainy so bring your raincoat and hat.
There are so many things to do in Portland in the fall. The first is to visit the Portland Japanese Garden. It is beautiful all year round, but the leaves light the place up in the fall. The second amazing spot to visit is Mt. Tabor Park, the views from the top of this volcano are incredible, especially in fall. The Portland Saturday Market is open on Saturday and Sunday and is the perfect spot to get some local charm and something to bring back to remember the trip.
There are lots of waterfalls in the area, but the best by far is Multnomah Falls, it is just a 20-minute drive from Portland and well worth the drive to see the amazing view. The leaves light up the view in the fall but try to get there early so you don’t have to wait for the iconic picture.
If you are getting hungry, the best place for some yummy breakfast options is Sweedeedee. They have amazing baked goods, I tried one of everything and they were all so good!
Happy Valley, Pennsylvania
Recommended by Susan from Gen X Traveler
Landscapes of patchwork rural farmland and mountainsides ablaze in autumn hues make Central Pennsylvania, the perfect fall destination. This region known as Happy Valley is situated in the true center of the state and is within 4 hours’ drive of NYC, Washington DC, and Philadelphia.
Because Happy Valley is home to Penn State University in the small city of State College, it offers some of the great features of much larger cities. Throughout State College and on the Penn State campus you will find at least five museums, multiple performing arts venues, sports arenas, cultural and historic sites, fine dining, shopping, and more.
Step away from campus and outdoor activities abound. The crisp cool air associated with the season makes it the perfect time to experience all the outdoor adventure the region offers.
Happy Valley has become well-known in the off-road bicycling community. Gravel riders will want to hit up Tussey Mountain for a challenging ride. For an easier gravel experience head to Fisherman’s Paradise. This is a beautiful 10-mile ride along a tranquil stream popular for fly fishing.
Every reasonably fit person should consider hiking to the Mike Lynch Overlook of Mount Nittany. This trek ascends over 600 feet in roughly a half-mile proving to be quite a challenge. But the views of the Penn State campus, Beaver Stadium, and the surrounding valley are spectacular.
And of course, what could be a more seasonal activity than tailgating and cheering on the Nittany Lions at a Penn State home game? When in Happy Valley everyone becomes a Nittany Lion fan.
Recommended by Lori from Naples Florida Travel Guide
Nowhere else on earth is there anything like the Everglades in Florida, and Fall is the perfect time of year to visit. This is the time of year when South Florida is transitioning from the wet season to dry, which means fewer showers and lower temperatures and humidity.
This is a great time for birdwatchers and nature lovers. As some migratory birds of southwest Florida depart, others migrate into the Glades for the winter, and there are always full-time residents to be seen like bald eagles, cormorants anhingas, and ospreys.
To spot the critters that the Everglades is famous for — alligators and manatees — take a guided airboat tour. This is a great time of year for one of the Everglades’ most popular activities.
For a quieter experience, rent a kayak or canoe and paddle along the calm waterways and through mangrove tunnels.
Big Cypress National Preserve and Fakahatchie Strand State Park in the western Everglades make up a large portion of the Everglades and are an easy day trip from any of the popular destinations on the southwest coast. Hiking here is a popular thing to do, along elevated boardwalks that wind through tall bald cypress trees, or on established grassy trails that are beginning to dry.
The Everglades is easily accessible from points throughout southeastern and southwest Florida. Remember your camera and binoculars for an awesome Fall experience in the Everglades.
Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains, California
Recommended by Carol from California Crossings
From a distance, California’s Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains don’t look particularly leafy. Highway 395 runs north/south through this region and it’s a demarcation line between the rugged Sierra Nevada mountains and Nevada’s desert. This is the dry side of the Sierras, but it’s positively stuffed with pine forest and deciduous trees that really pop in the fall.
It’s certainly one of the best places in the US to see fall color in October.
There are lovely alpine lakes and steep canyons along the western edge of the Highway 395 corridor. These lakes and streams feed a large population of aspen, willow, and cottonwood trees. Starting in late September, the lakes and creeks explode with fall color in the Eastern Sierras.
This region also provides a long and varied leaf-peeping season. The canyon elevations range from 4,100-9,600 feet. This means that if you go in the early season, you can choose a higher elevation for fall color. If you hit it later, you can still find turning leaves at the lower elevations.
The best fall color spots are in the 105-mile range between Bridgeport California and Bishop California. Look for turning leaves at Virginia Lakes, Rock Creek Canyon, Lobdell Lakes, Convict Lake, and the June Lake Loop. You can even find nice fall colors in the towns of Bishop and Mammoth Lakes.
While in the area, you should also take time to visit the area’s many hot springs, quirky museums, and ghost towns.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Recommended by Erin Gifford from Go Hike Virginia
For dramatic fall colors, motor along 105-mile Skyline Drive at Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park in October and November for vibrant splashes of persimmon, amber, and golden yellow.
As you travel along the winding stretch of scenic byway, break for breathtaking overlooks, like Range View (milepost 17.1) and Big Run (milepost 81.2). More than 75 overlooks urge leaf-peepers to stop to admire the stunning landscape.
Plan to lace up your hiking boots to enjoy some of the best hikes in Shenandoah National Park. Scramble to the top of Bearfence Mountain for panoramic 360-degree views of spectacular fall foliage. Waterfall-watchers, revel in vibrantly colored scenery as you hike to Dark Hollow Falls or Doyles River Falls.
Stop in visitor centers on Skyline Drive, including Dickey Ridge Visitor Center and Byrd Visitor Center. Watch a short park film and take in historic photos and artifacts. For kids, pick up a Junior Ranger activity booklet to earn a badge as a freshly sworn-in Junior Ranger.
Book a horseback trail ride at Skyland Stables to see the Shenandoah Valley from atop a horse as you trot across forested trails. The more adventurous may want to consider rappelling or rock climbing in the park with Shenandoah Mountain Guides.
Stay the weekend in the park in a cabin or guest room at Skyland or Big Meadows Lodge. Both comfortable stays boast a full-service restaurant, outdoor terraces, and menus that feature the park’s signature mile-high blackberry ice cream pie. Yum-o.
New York City, New York
Recommended by Sam Opp from Find Love & Travel
New York City is another top place to visit during the fall. Not only will you get to enjoy fewer tourists during the fall months, but you will also experience fall colors etched around New York’s iconic skyscrapers. New York is one of those cities that take part in being very festive so you are likely to find tons of fall decorations and fall seasoned foods and drinks on the menu.
With a visit to NYC during the fall, one of the best and free NYC attractions to do is taking a stroll through Central Park. Enjoy incredible fall colors through the 843 acres this iconic park has to offer. Some of the top sites to explore around Central Park include The Mall, Bow Bridge, Gapstow Bridge, and Strawberry Fields.
While Central Park may be the most popular park to visit, you can also go leaf-peeping at Prospect Park, The Brooklyn Botanical Garden, and Bryant Park.
There are also a ton of Fall events happening in NYC. From the Halloween parade, the Famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the Feast of San Gennaro parade to name a few!
Additionally, if you visit during the end of fall (after Thanksgiving), you also have the opportunity to see some holiday decorations. Most years the Rockefeller tree will be up, Radio City Music Hall is decorated, and the Saks 5th Ave. Lightshow.
Saguaro National Park, Arizona
Recommended by Ale from Sea Salt & Fog
Located in Tucson, Arizona, Saguaro National Park is one of the best-kept secrets of the national parks system.
The park gets its name from the giant saguaro cactus – the tall one, with outstretched arms almost resembling a person and a symbol of the west. Because this is a desert park, the weather is harsh most of the year.
But if you visit in the fall you’re in for a treat. The weather is perfect for exploring the desert – not too hot, not too cold.
The best thing to do in Saguaro is to see and photograph the cacti. You’ll spot the saguaros immediately, starting at the Desert Discovery Trail in Saguaro West.
This is a super short trail located near the visitor center, with plenty of signs to learn about the plants and animals that call this park home. Up for a scenic drive down a dusty desert wash? The Bajada Loop Drive is another must-do in the park and will take you to stunning vistas (like the Valley View Overlook and the Signal Hill petroglyphs.)
And you can’t leave the park without experiencing a desert sunset. The Gould Mine / Kings Canyon Loop is a little challenging hike, but worth the sunset views and photos.
When visiting, bring plenty of water, and a hat, and dress in layers (nights in the desert can get chilly!)
Los Angeles, California
Recommended by Victoria from Guide Your Travel
The fall in Los Angeles, California is from mid-September to mid-December and invites many tourists to enjoy the colorful fall foliage all around the city.
LA is known for its warm temperatures all year round, but temperatures can vary between 20 and 29 degrees Celsius. During fall and winter, temperatures can be as low as 10 degrees Celsius at night; that is why you should pack at least some longer clothes if you’re visiting during this time.
One of the best places to observe the course of nature is in one of the Los Angeles Botanical Gardens.
Another activity that is also very popular among locals is pumpkin harvesting. Look for posters in town advertising such an activity; especially children will enjoy a day at the pumpkin patch where they can ride a tractor, watch chickens, and participate in a pumpkin hollowing workshop, among other things.
Furthermore, you should not miss the Oktoberfest in Los Angeles, where you can taste many traditional German specialties like Bavarian sausages, pretzels, and schnitzel, and do not forget to taste the variety of popular German beers there.
And if you have children, consider visiting Disneyland for a day. It’s a lot of fun and gets some autumn-themed decor at this time of the year.
Asheville, North Carolina
Nestled into the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina is the charming city of Asheville. This popular destination is great year-round, but it really comes alive in the fall when the mountain air turns crisp and the leaves turn golden colors.
To take in all the fall splendor it has to offer, you’ll want to spend at least one weekend in Asheville. This will give you time to catch the highlights, including getting out into nature on the endless trails that surround the city. They’ll take you to beautiful vistas and thundering waterfalls, all brought to life with the brilliant colors of leaf-peeping season. You won’t want to miss Graveyard Fields or the Craggy Gardens trails this time of year!
If hiking isn’t up your alley, you can still experience some of the best of fall in the area by driving the famous Blue Ridge Parkway. This scenic roadway comes straight through Asheville and offers dozens of overlooks where you can admire the beauty of fall from the comfort of your car.
To make your trip to Asheville even more memorable, stop at the Biltmore Estate to visit America’s Largest Home and then make your way to the River Arts District to explore hundreds of art galleries. You can then round out your evenings by grabbing a beer or two from one of the 48 breweries in the area, many of which feature fire pits in the fall!
Not convinced yet? Try visiting Asheville for yourself. It will keep you coming back time and time again.