The 30 Best Fall Weekend Getaways
Many of the activities of fall—pumpkin picking, apple cider sipping, leaf-peeping—are both adult and kid-friendly, making for a vacation you can all agree on. From New England to California and destinations in between, here are some ideas for your upcoming autumn excursion.
Leaf-peep by bicycle in Reno-Tahoe
Getting your children to sit still—no matter the season—is a tall order. So while you and your partner may subscribe to the idea of lounging hand-in-hand on a deck while you overlook the mountains, your kiddos might go stir-crazy in approximately five whole minutes. One stimulating and adventurous idea that doesn’t require too much effort is bicycling. When you visit the Tahoe area, one of the best places to spot fall foliage in America, rent bikes to make your way along the Truckee River. You’ll not only soak up the warm varieties of red, yellow, and orange among the trees, but your kids can race and play in the crisp fall air. For a tougher trek, explore the Mt. Rose Meadows Trail, or for a boozy solution, try the monthly Reno Wine Walk.
Ghost hunt in Charleston
The suffocating summer temperatures of the South have mellowed for mild autumn, so visitors can more comfortably explore the lovely city of Charleston, South Carolina. Plus, the town’s historic heritage is on full display for fall: Check out one of Charleston’s many ghost tours or horse-drawn carriage drives, or head to Boone Hall Plantation for family-friendly pumpkin patch activities. For older visitors, the plantation’s grounds transform into scary mayhem for Boone Hall Fright Nights. You can also explore the cobble-stoned city’s spirit-filled history with its Fall Tours of homes and gardens. For spooky accommodations, stay at the Francis Marion Hotel, one of the 24 most haunted hotels in America.
Pick pumpkins in upstate New York
In the Finger Lakes town of Aurora, your sunshine-filled autumn getaway offers your family the opportunity to visit local pumpkin patches, sample the many wineries in the area (dependent on your kids’ attention span, that is), and the chance to snuggle together by the fireplace. For accommodations, consider the Inns of Aurora, cozy, quaint lodging options that offer views of the nearby lake surrounded by a breathtaking rainbow of fall colors. If you’re a foodie at heart, book a table at Aurora Inn’s recently reopened restaurant, now the 1833 Kitchen & Bar. Even if your kids aren’t exactly exercising their critical taste buds yet, they’ll enjoy the crisp and often sweet flavors of fall on the menu.
Soak up culture in Boston
Make the journey to Beantown in early October before this beloved New England city becomes too cold. Not only are the stunning tones of the fall present throughout its many parks, but Boston offers plenty of frugal fall activities and entertainment for your curious kiddos. From exploring the Boston Public Garden and walking along the Charles River to booking a child-friendly show in the Theater District or touring the Museum of Fine Arts, your fall excursion can double as a learning opportunity. Stay at XV Beacon in a suite built for your family, complete with a rooftop view to toast your apple cider.
Get off the grid in Maine
As much as you (try!) to limit your children’s screen time, the hard truth is that sometimes, plopping them in front of the television is the only solution you have the energy for. Don’t guilt yourself over it when you’re home; instead, use a vacation to prompt your entire family to unplug. One perfect fall spot to do that is Chebeague Island in Maine, a seaside town with a unique take on the season. Here, you can see the autumn colors reflected on the ocean while walking through the picturesque town, sampling seasonal goodies. For a place to stay that’ll get you to step away from your iPhone and switch off the news, book your room at Chebeague Island Inn. Here, there are no TVs or phones. The property also offers L.L Bean bicycles to borrow, and nightly bonfires for roasting s’mores and telling Halloween ghost stories by the sea.
Go glamping beneath Mt. Rushmore
Once the summer crowds have dispersed from this iconic landmark, the Black Hills of South Dakota start to glow with fall colors. And there’s no better time to take in the affordable pricing, with under-$200 glamping not as expensive as you may think at the unique and buzz-worthy resort Under Canvas (open through September). The tents even include wood-burning stoves to keep you cozy at night. For indoor accommodations a bit later in the season, stay at K Bar S Lodge in Keystone, one of the 21 nicest small towns everyone should visit before they’re 50. Some rooms even have a view of Mt. Rushmore. For an authentic Native American experience, visitors are welcome at October’s Black Hills Powwow (He Sapa Wacipi).
Sip on beer in Vermont
Gone are the days when you and your main squeeze could spontaneously take off for the weekend, packing only a small backpack for your romantic escape. But just because you’re parents now doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a little alone time after the kids are worn out from leaf peeping and pumpkin picking. In Burlington, Vermont, book your stay at Hotel Vermont, which features the nation’s first beer concierge. Here, experts will take you through the hops and malts of the region, including Hill Farmstead, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Heady Topper, and more. You can even order alcohol-free apple cider so your kiddo won’t feel left out between sips. Check out our list of the best craft beer by state.
Zip-line through the forest in New Hampshire
Forget walking or biking: Your family is made of endless courage, with a need for speed and adventure. To keep everyone’s heart racing, head to Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. It’s just a few hours away from many New England cities including Boston and Burlington, Vermont, and offers a mountain escape from the stresses of your overbooked schedule. Stay at the Omni Mount Washington Resort, where you’ll see the changing tones of the White Mountains’ fall leaves from afar; your family definitely can’t wait to explore, so go zip-lining through all of the colors.
Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina
Winding through one of the most celebrated mountain ranges on the East Coast, the Blue Ridge Parkway attracts thousands of peepers each season. It’s truly one of the 25 best road trips in America, offering plenty of driving time with captivating autumn views and overlooks. The cultural hot spot of Asheville, North Carolina might be your best bet as a base for your Blue Ridge getaway. You can book the “America’s Favorite Drive Package” at the Omni Grove Park Inn, which includes a guidebook, accommodations, parking, and daily breakfast. It doesn’t hurt that the historical hotel is also set upon a hill, giving you yet another Instagram-worthy photo opportunity.
Enjoy free activities in Baltimore
Charm City is even more charming in autumn with over 200 free arts and cultural events during its month-long Free Fall program. Visitors can enjoy concerts, dance and theater performances, art exhibits, and tons of family-friendly activities throughout the city. Plus, fall is peak seafood season in Maryland, with events including Baltimore Seafood Festival and Oysterfest 13. Fans of the macabre looking for spooky fall fun can check out the International Edgar Allan Poe Festival and Awards in the author’s hometown. For an amazing location and views over the Inner Harbor, stay at the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court Baltimore.
Enjoy campfire s’mores in Colorado
Set your sights on Telluride, Colorado, not just for winter skiing but to tick off your fall bucket list ideas as well. Your family will enjoy exploring the nearby San Juan Mountain Range as it happily changes colors throughout the season, complete with countless hiking trails of every skill level. For a once-in-a-lifetime ride your curious children will never forget, stay at the Madeline Hotel and Residences, which offer Jeep tours along mountainous roads such as the Imogene Pass. To lower your heart rate from all the excitement, your family can settle into the evening, counting stars and cuddling with wool blankets at the hotel’s fire pits. Don’t forget to order s’mores!
Pick apples in Wisconsin
You might think of apple picking as a New England thing, but there are actually orchards all around the country—check out our list of the best places to go apple picking in every state. For a Midwestern fall farm experience, travel to southeastern Wisconsin, an easy driving distance from Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison. The area is home to several outstanding apple orchards including the popular Apple Holler, which also features a country restaurant, and Apple Barn Orchard & Winery, which also has a wine-tasting lounge. Afterward, retire to a lovely view over Lake Michigan at the DoubleTree by Hilton Racine Harbourwalk.
Stomp grapes in Sonoma
Gary C. Tognoni/Shutterstock
Fall is harvest season in northern California’s wine country. Wineries and festivals in Sonoma Valley beckon visitors to sample its finest wines and cuisine, hear live music, and even participate in the harvest by stomping some grapes themselves. Check out the Sonoma Harvest Music Festival, the family-friendly Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival, and the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, which features the World Championship Grape Stomp. Although fall is peak tourist season, some hotel deals can be found, especially mid-week: Try the quaint Sonoma Creek Inn.
Get artsy in Michigan
Although the small town of Saugatuck is known for its gorgeous Oval Beach on Lake Michigan, its appeal lingers well past summer. Fall brings amazing foliage seen from hiking and biking trails, or even from a boat ride on the water. In addition, this former artists’ colony and home of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Ox-Bow School remains a hub for creative types, with numerous galleries, exhibitions, and artists’ residences, as well as music and theater performances. Autumn visitors can check out the annual Gallery Stroll, featuring artist receptions, demonstrations, and refreshments. Vintage roadside motels abound in Saugatuck: Stay at the charming and affordable Saugatuck Retro Resort Motel, one of the 17 most charming retro hotels in America.
Go back in time in Colonial Williamsburg
Something about fall seems to hark back to the “olden days,” and what better place to revel in the past than Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia? The entire town is a living history museum, where families can experience life as it was at our nation’s beginnings. Plus, this season presents another way to explore the old city: through the many ghost tours that introduce visitors of all ages to colonial spirits that never left, making Williamsburg one of the most haunted places in America. Stay at an official Colonial Williamsburg property such as the family-friendly and affordable Woodlands Hotels & Suites.
Get away from it all in Georgia
Indulge in a family-friendly destination resort among the charming small towns of northwest Georgia’s Historic High Country. The gorgeous, 3,000-acre Barnsley Resort is built on an old southern estate an hour and 40 minutes from Atlanta and two and a half hours from Birmingham, Alabama—but it feels like you’ve really gone off the beaten path into the tranquil countryside. Plus, it’s one of the best cozy inns to book during peak fall foliage season. Outdoor opportunities for family bonding during the cooler fall season include miles of hiking and biking trails, lawn games, disc golf, friendly farm animals, fishing, and s’mores by the fire at night. There are also onsite restaurants, a beer garden, and a spa.
Raft and kayak in Sedona
Yes, the leaves do change color in Arizona, although the temperatures remain mild—perfect for a rafting or kayaking trip down the Verde River to enjoy the scenery of the vibrant trees and red rock formations. Some outdoor companies also offer “Water to Wine” tours that culminate with a wine tasting of fall’s bounty at a riverside winery. After the outdoor adventure, get some culture in Sedona’s thriving art scene, especially with October’s Sedona Arts Festival. Family-friendly hotels abound, including the Red Agave Resort. Sedona is also one of the breathtaking destinations that are better (and cheaper) to visit in the fall.
Ride the rails in Indiana
What better way to see the changing of the leaves than by train? The newly restored Nickel Plate Express, a 1950s-era diesel locomotive, offers railroad lovers of all ages a jaunt along 12 miles of track through the Indiana countryside of Hamilton County, just north of Indianapolis. Fall brings themed pumpkin excursions, harvest dinners, and a “Wizard Express,” complete with butterbeer. You may even snap one of the most stunning pictures of fall across America. Stay at the nearby Prairie Guest House.
Cheer for college football in Pennsylvania
State College, Pennsylvania, may have a generic-sounding name, but this charming college town is anything but—and it’s actually a great option for mini family vacations that won’t break the bank. Home to Penn State University, it’s the perfect place to enjoy football with a weekend game and family-friendly tailgating. Before or after the game, check out Berkey Creamery for ice cream, and downtown State College for restaurants and shopping. The surrounding area also features wonderful fall scenery, hiking trails, caves, and a nature center. Stay close to campus and downtown at the Nittany Lion Inn.
Keep summer going in Florida
Even if you love fall, it’s tempting to get away for one last glimpse of summer before winter sets in. The Sunshine State’s weather stays hot into autumn, so you can still have plenty of beach time. Check out Jupiter Beach, one of the best off-season travel destinations. It’s north of Palm Beach and away from some of the more crowded South Florida towns, so in the off-season, you’ll practically have the beach to yourself. Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa offers the only oceanfront hotel in town, so visitors don’t waste any time getting to the sand and sea on a short getaway. Plus, sea turtle nesting season runs through October, so be on the lookout for hatchlings.
Gaze into canyons in Utah
Fall is the perfect season to visit the spectacular Zion National Park as the unbearable summer heat gives way to more comfortable temperatures. The stunning sight of blazing red, orange, and yellow trees against red canyons highlighted by soft autumn light isn’t bad either—it’s one of the national parks that look even more beautiful in fall. Two trails suitable for kids include lower Emerald Pools and the out-of-this-world Canyon Overlook. Stay at the border of the park at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort, with accommodations ranging from camping to cabins.
Chill in Central Park
How can you beat “Autumn in New York”? When Billie Holiday has sung a song about it, you know it’s got to be special. New York City in the fall is magical, especially as you walk through the paths and bridges of Central Park, where the trees turn magnificent colors. From the zoo to the Alice in Wonderland statue, the park offers plenty of exploration opportunities for kids. Then, head to the Upper West Side overlooking Central Park for dinosaur fossils, meteorites, and a giant blue whale at the American Museum of National History. The Empire Hotel is centrally located to both. Or, choose an Airbnb: Check out the 14 best Airbnbs to book for fall foliage views.
Fly-fish in Wyoming
Visit rugged Jackson Hole, Wyoming, one of the most majestic mountain towns in America, during the fall to avoid the crowds (and prices) of summer and ski season. Plus, the fall offers some of the best fly-fishing of the year in the area, so whether you are an experienced angler, are eager to learn, or would love to teach your kids, this is a great time to go. Guided trips with outfitters can make your trip easier to plan and enjoy. Also, listen for the haunting sound of a bull elk “bugle” as he vies for mates during fall rut season. For convenient, family-friendly accommodations, try the Snake River Lodge and Spa.
Watch ballooning in Albuquerque
The perfect family event has to be the sight of nearly 600 hot-air balloons being launched into the sky. It happens every October at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the largest ballooning event in the world, said to be the most photographed event on earth, and New Mexico’s entry in the iconic adventures in each of the 50 states. The myriad happenings include nighttime festivities to watch glowing balloons rise up into the night sky; visitors can also enjoy food, music, and children’s entertainment. You might even be able to score a spot on your very own balloon ride. The Nativo Lodge Albuquerque is a popular choice for accommodations.
Go horseback riding in Texas
Let out your inner cowboy with a rustic horseback riding weekend in the crisp fall air of Texas Hill Country, one of the best last-minute getaways in every state. The area has many guest ranches to stay at, including Twin Elm Guest Ranch in Bandera, the “Cowboy Capital of the World.” Learn to ride or perfect your horsemanship skills with lessons as well as trail rides. Stop off at nearby Lost Maples State Natural Area, which offers spectacular fall foliage from its abundance of maple trees.
Whale watch in Big Sur
The Pacific Coast Highway, which runs along this majestic coastal region of central California, is the perfect setting for a fall road trip. Enjoy the stunning vistas from the bluffs of Big Sur, which enjoys warmer temps and fewer crowds in fall; it’s also a great time to see migrating humpback whales in the area. The best part is you don’t even have to get out of your car, as the panoramic viewing pullovers give you a great vantage point over the water. You can also look out for other wildlife, including mountain lions, California condors, elephant seals, and sea otters. Camp along the way at rustic locations like Limekiln State Park, or opt for the cozy cottages of Carmel River Inn. Although Big Sur tends to stay green-ish, you can also check out road trips that showcase stunning fall foliage.
Eat BBQ in Memphis
Fall in Memphis, Tennessee, offers a dry and sunny respite from the hot and humid summer season before the colder winter weather sets in. The city is renowned for its music scene and history, from Beale Street to Graceland, one of the most famous houses in every state. But you can’t go to Memphis without sampling the delicious barbecue—try local spots like Central BBQ, Cozy Corner Restaurant, or Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous. For a unique family-friendly hotel, check out Big Cypress Lodge inside the Bass Pro Shops Memphis Pyramid, with treehouse-like rooms overlooking an indoor swamp.
Explore the woods in Washington
On the eastern side of the Cascade Range (commonly known as the Cascades), just 80 miles from rainy Seattle, you’ll find an outdoor fall paradise that’s a noticeably drier and sunnier part of the Pacific Northwest. Outside of Cle Elum, the wilderness beckons—explore the region while staying at Suncadia Resort, near the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The resort’s property boasts miles of hiking and biking trails, including 1,000 Steps, a trail with 21 flights of stairs that lead to the Cle Elum River. Fall also welcomes Suncadia’s Harvest Festival, with seasonal activities such as a hay maze and pumpkin archery.
Venture through a cave in Kentucky
To get a bit of leaf-peeping and a lot of unique activities, head south to Bowling Green, Kentucky, one of 12 hidden gems that are way cheaper in the fall. Though you might not first think of the state as a place for autumn adventuring, this town is only four hours away from Indianapolis in the heart of South Central Kentucky’s Cave Country. Here, you can get your heap of leaves, and then take your children to explore the world’s longest-known cave system, Mammoth Cave National Park. In the area, you can also book a number of hiking, equestrian, and biking adventures, all with ideal 60 to 70-degree temperatures.
Go international in England
It’s not just the United States that offers an ideal backdrop for fall exploration. If you’re up for the task of trekking across the pond, consider the English countryside as your vacation destination. On the border of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, and less than an hour from London, explore Cliveden, a National Trust park that offers miles of woodland paths and breathtaking views. The rolling hills and plethora of walking trails will make for a getaway an outdoorsy family will always treasure. For a bit of a splurge that’ll give you the R&R you’ve definitely earned, consider staying at the five-star Relais & Chateaux country manor Cliveden House, right in the middle of the park—and also the hotel where Meghan Markle stayed the night before her wedding to Prince Harry. The budding writer or bookworm in your family might also enjoy fall’s Cliveden Literary Festival, which celebrates great writers throughout history.
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