22 Best Fall Vacations in the US That Will Make You See Red (and Yellow and Orange)

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The best fall vacations in the US offer many activities, excellent food and fantastic views of fall foliage. Getaways in autumn are often shorter, but that doesn’t have to mean they are less memorable!

Fall in New England

1. Stowe, Vermont

Stowe is a storybook New England village. Vermont’s highest peak, Stowe, overlooks this quaint small town covered in gorgeous fall colors   each autumn.

The fall foliage season in Vermont is the longest in the entire United States. It starts in early September and doesn’t end until around Halloween. Vermont is a fantastic place for a fall getaway to enjoy any outdoor activity.

Celebrate the season at the famous Plymouth Cheese & Harvest Festival and fill up on apples at Cold Hollow Cider Mill. Take a gondola to the top of Mount Mansfield (or drive up Summit Ridge) to enjoy the most stunning view of the leaves changing.

SheBuysTravel Tip: This fall foliage map tends to be a realistic reflection of when the colors will pop wherever you plan to go. 

2. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston is a terrific fall destination to see the leaves change colors and experience the urban vibe of one of America’s most historic cities. Find gorgeous fall colors in the middle of the urban sprawl in the Boston Public Gardens, a free botanical garden right next to Boston Commons. It is much more decorative than a typical park, built in the style of 19th-century European parkways and surrounded by a cast-iron fence. It features meandering paths, statues, fountains,  and a six-acre lake that offers iconic swan boats for visitors to ride.

If you love Halloween, plan a side trip to Salem, Massachusetts, the site of the infamous Salem Witch Trials. Halloween in Salem is a month-long extravaganza of haunted happenings, ghost stories, and witches everywhere.

The glorious update New York fall foliage matches the Lexus Performance Cars RS F.
The glorious update New York fall foliage matches the Lexus Performance Cars RS F. Photo: Judy Antell

Taking a scenic drive to see the changing leaves can be fun, but sitting in a chic cafe off 5th Avenue on a temperate early October day is fun too. And despite popular opinion, trees do grow in Brooklyn (and throughout New York City).

Central Park is a fantastic place to see the fall foliage turn from green to brilliant red, orange and yellow, with colors peaking in late October or early November typically.

A getaway to New York City should include a visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island to learn about the history of immigration in the US. The Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum, located on a decommissioned aircraft carrier, is another fabulous option. The interactive exhibits explore military and flight history and space technology. Head to the top of the Empire State Building or the Top Of The Rock to see the fall colors from thousands of feet in the sky.

4. Hudson Valley, New York

Take a road trip from busy, crowded New York City to the wide open spaces of the Hudson Valley. The apple picking, pumpkin patches, quaint fall festivals, enormous farmers markets and fabulous leaf peeping make the small towns in this area a haven for New Yorkers.

Most years, the Hudson Valley’s fall colors peak in the middle two weeks of October, but this can vary based on various circumstances. This autumn, take the Shawangunk Wine Trail to experience some of the best things the Hudson Valley offers. Region and also an excellent way to check out all the Hudson Valley Fall Foliage. About 60 miles from New York City, this scenic drive includes 15 wineries.  

In Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, leaves begin to change colors starting in mid-September and peak in early to mid-October. Lingering leaves mixed with autumn activities are celebrated at fun fall festivals and fall activities.

October is the perfect time to visit the Poconos. The weather is cool and crisp, yet not too cold yet. This time of year is ideal for hiking or biking the many hiking trails in the area or enjoying all the other outdoor activities the Poconos offers. October is also a great time to take in the autumn foliage.

6. Bar Harbor, Maine

Visit Bar Harbor for stunning fall foliage, native wildlife, outdoor activities and pricey posh lodging. Take the seasonal shuttle from Bar Harbor to many must-see attractions in Acadia National Park, one of Maine’s most famous tourist destinations.

There are many popular fall activities throughout the park, which covers an astounding 49,075 square acres. These include hiking, rock climbing, kayaking and fishing on the lakes, and taking tours off the coast. Visitors also flock to the park for horseback riding on the trails and fall foliage tours.

Fall in the Midwest

things to do in the fall in Michigan - trees bloom with color along the highways
The trees bloom with color during the fall months all throughout Michigan. Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen

Michigan has some of the best wineries in the Midwest, and autumn is a great time to visit them. There are more than 150 Michigan wineries across the state, making Michigan one of the top wine-producing states in the country. From award-winning reds and whites to sweet ice and sparkling wines, the variety of wines from Michigan is endless.

Fall is the season of splendor in Michigan’s lower peninsula. See the Fall colors from the lush hiking trails or take the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive within Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore or from the Old Mission Peninsula. Enjoy fresh local apples in September, explore a corn maze in October, and jump in some leaf piles in November.

8. Door County, Wisconsin

Not to be outdone, Michigan’s neighbor across Lake Michigan also produces wine and shockingly beautiful fall foliage. Door County juts into Lake Michigan and has been a quick getaway destination for Chicagoans for years. Unlike posh Lake Geneva, Door County is relaxed and rustic.

Fall colors peak in late September, but there is apple picking throughout the season. Authentic pumpkin patches and corn mazes are open in September and October typically. The hot apple cider is delicious, as is the kind spiked with brandy! And squeaky-fresh cheese curds taste good in any season.

The fall colors of the Midwest as seen through the dramatic rock formations at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois.
The fall colors of the Midwest as seen through the dramatic rock formations at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois. Photo courtesy of Starved Rock State Park

One of the best places to see fall colors in the Midwest, Starved Rock State Park is an easy day trip west of Chicago. The hiking trails take you through the park’s sandstone canyons and you arrive at a lovely overlook along the Illinois River for a panoramic view of the gorgeous fall colors.

Extend your trip with an overnight stay at the historic Starved Rock Lodge or, if you’re visiting with kids, head to Grand Bear Resort at Starved Rock for its indoor waterpark.

10. Parke County, Indiana

This spot about an hour west of Indianapolis is the home of the famous Covered Bridge Festival. Each fall, tourists arrive to road trip around this southern Indiana area to see the 31 covered bridges scattered throughout the heavily wooded county.

The festival takes place each year at the height of fall color season.

Fall in the Western USA

Visiting the Pacific Northwest to see the colors is one of the best fall vacations in the US
Stunning colors are found during Fall in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Maria Smith

11. Seattle, Washington

Washington may be called the Evergreen State, but the state offers many places to view colorful fall foliage. An excellent destination for a vacation year-round, Seattle  is especially fun in the fall. The trees offer dramatic displays of vibrant red, orange and gold leaves. The weather is usually still warm, with highs in the 70s and the rainy season doesn’t start until late October.  

Seattle’s best fall colors are during the last week of September and the first week of October. In the foothills and mountain areas, foliage peaks about one to two weeks later than at lower elevations.

Seattle has excellent food options and many farm-to-table restaurants.

12. Joseph, Oregon

For an authentic small town in the Pacific Northwest, Joseph Oregon, is the place to be. Located in northeastern Oregon at the base of the Wallowa Mountains, it is the gateway to the Eagle Cap Wilderness and the home of Wallowa Lake. Look for the best fall foliage in early October driving the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway.

Joseph offers incredible mountain views, charming storefronts and plenty of outdoor adventures year round. It was named one of the most beautiful small towns in the country.

13. Santa Fe, New Mexico

October is one of the best months to visit Santa Fe. The temperatures drop to more moderate levels and the crowds dissipate at the area attractions, trails and hotels. This “secret season” allows visitors to enjoy a quieter, more relaxed city.

Along with delightful weather, there’s plenty to do in New Mexico including outdoor activities, outstanding food and drink, authentic Native American and Spanish art and culture, or simple relaxation by a pool!

Wild bison roaming Yellowstone National Park, one of the national parks in Montana
Wild bison roaming Yellowstone National Park Photo credit: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

 Yellowstone National Park is a fantastic fall vacation spot. It is known for its natural wonders, like waterfalls, geysers and hot springs, and is a beautiful place to experience nature. Be sure to see Old Faithful erupt and enjoy the colorful pools of water at the Grand Prismatic Spring.

Take one (or more!) of the hiking trails available throughout the 3,471 square miles of Yellowstone. In addition to its geological wonders, the park is home to wildlife, including bison, elk, wolves, and bears.

15. Park City, Utah

The vistas in Park City, Utah are unbelievable. While most people only think of this city as a winter getaway, fall is a beautiful time to visit. Leaves transform into a kaleidoscope of fall colors and the town is full of opportunities for outdoor recreation overlooking a stunning natural backdrop. The area’s fall foliage is dominated by towering golden aspens and reddish scrub oak.

The cool, crisp weather during fall in Utah is perfect for traipsing through the mountains or strolling Historic Main Street. Enjoy the beautiful views while hiking, mountain biking, or taking an old-school scenic drive. Autumn months are a great time to take a hot air balloon ride over the Kamas Valley for a birds-eye view of the stunning fall foliage.

16. Flagstaff, Arizona

Flagstaff, Arizona is a jewel of a town found about two hours north of Phoenix, the state’s biggest city. Unlike the dry, hot desert found in the south of the state, Flagstaff has a more temperate climate. The fall foliage season usually starts in late September and lasts throughout October. South of the city, closer to Sedona, this colorful season can extend through the middle of November.

Located near the base of Arizona Snowbowl, the scenic byway loop around Flagstaff will surely show visitors the most impeccable fall colors. For a fun, yet easy way to witness the scenery, consider hiking the Aspen Nature Loop.

17. Aspen, Colorado

Aspen is not just for skiing! Visit in fall for sunshine-filled days and crisp, cool nights. It is truly one of the most spectacular times of the year in Colorado. Throughout September and into early October, the valleys full of aspen trees turn shades of gold, made even more vivid against the clear blue sky. For the picture-perfect view, ride up the Silver Queen Gondola from downtown Aspen (while leaving the skis behind).

Enjoy moderate temperatures, smaller crowds and more affordable prices during fall, which make Aspen an even more attractive option. The area is teeming with stunning natural beauty, with the Rocky Mountains and the White River National Forest nearby.

18. San Francisco, California

The trees around San Francisco, California, are primarily evergreen, not deciduous, meaning they always stay green. However, this Pacific Coast city is still a fabulous destination in fall. Take advantage of moderate temperatures (ranging from 64 to 71 degrees) and sunny, dry days to experience this California city.

A fall getaway to San Francisco boasts fewer tourists at the city’s top attractions and more affordable hotel costs. Walk over the Golden Gate Bridge, ride a cable car or take a tour of Alcatraz.

19. San Diego, California

Autumn in San Diego means clear blue skies, sultry Santa Ana winds and price discounts on local hotels. The days stay warm and sunny into October, and it is significantly less crowded at top attractions and area beaches. Take advantage of the reduced crowds at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, PETCO stadium, the Fleet Science Center or Knott’s Berry Farm theme park.

Though many people don’t realize it, there are lots of places near San Diego to see leaves changing colors. In October, visit Old Town San Diego State Park or Border Field State Park to view the leaves of San Diego’s Black Oak trees transition to vivid golds and oranges.

And the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has Autumn Festivities for the entire family to enjoy!  

Southern USA

Woman posing by trees covered in red leaves - checking out the fall colors is one of the best fall vacations in the US
I love the crisp, warmer weather of fall in the South. Photo credit: Maria Smith

20. Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville is a hidden gem of the south. It is hip and chic, yet remains a relaxed mountain town. Famous for the gentile Biltmore Estate, which is now a luxury resort, Asheville was once a playground for the uber-wealthy.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic drive from metropolitan cities in Tennessee and Georgia and goes through  Asheville. The parkway is America’s longest linear park and links Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Asheville, North Carolina, makes the perfect home base for a day trip to the North Carolina Smokies. It is within a two hour drive (or less) of five entrances to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

21. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Spanning 73 miles in Virginia and West Virginia, the Shenandoah Mountain is a steep, narrow, sandstone-capped mountain ridge that offers Instagram-worthy photo opportunities, especially in fall. The best times to visit Shenandoah National Park are September through November when the park is at its prettiest. October ushers in stunning shades of red, orange and gold, adding to the park’s panoramic views. At the highest elevations, the peak foliage season is in early October, while mid and low elevations see the prime Fall colors during the last three weeks of the month.

The Skyline Drive runs the ridge’s length, and boasts a network of trails for hikers, including a section of the epic Appalachian Trail. The park is mostly forested though visitors can also find wetlands, waterfalls and rocky peaks. Shenandoah is home to many bird species, deer, and the elusive black bear.

22. Knoxville, Tennessee

Knoxville, Tennessee is nestled at the base of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are few better places to soak up the fall season than in a national forest. The mild temperatures and clear blue skies of East Tennessee allows for plenty of opportunities for visitors to be immersed in the spectacular colors of nature.

However, orange is not just found on the trees during fall in Knoxville. It will be seen everywhere, especially on Saturdays when over 100,000 University of Tennessee fans crowd around Neyland Stadium. Even casual sports enthusiasts will get caught up in the Volunteer spirit.

More Fall Events

Another outdoor autumn event in the area is Knoxville Brewers Jam. Breweries of all sizes gather at Worlds Fair Park and provide unlimited samples of dozens of varieties of craft beer. Alongside the beverages, the event also has delicious food and rollicking live music.

When is the best time of year to see fall colors?

It depends on the destination. From California to Maine, the longitude, elevation and weather all impact when fall arrives. Hiking trails in New England may be snow-covered by early November. National parks in Florida may still be sweltering in mid-October.

Maria Smith is a wife and on-the-go stay at home mom to four children. Maria lives in Atlanta and blogs at MamaliciousMaria.com. A former Oprah Winfrey Show producer, she is now a freelance writer and editor. When not writing, Maria can be found on the tennis courts, savoring a book, or traveling the world with her family.
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