The 15 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 Utah and destinations in between, here are some ideas for your upcoming autumn excursion.
Pick apples in Wisconsin
You might think of apple picking as a New England thing, but there are actually orchards all around the country. For a Midwestern fall farm experience, travel to southeastern Wisconsin, in 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. Book a room at Country Inn & Suites by Radisson to stay close without paying city prices. These are the reasons fall is the cheapest, easiest, and best time to travel.
Go ghost hunting 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. Stay at an official Colonial Williamsburg property such as the family-friendly and affordable Woodlands Hotels & Suites. Here are more of the most haunted places in America.
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. 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. Check out more cozy inns to book during peak fall foliage season.
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. Check out these other 10 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 and ghost excursions, and for adults, wine and craft beer tastings. Stay at the nearby Fairfield Inn & Suites Indianapolis Noblesville. For more travel inspiration, check out more of the most stunning pictures of fall across America.
Cheer for college football in Pennsylvania
Richard Paul Kane/Shutterstock
State College, Pennsylvania, may have a generic-sounding name, but this charming college town is anything but. 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. Here are 41 more mini family vacations that won’t break the bank.
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, north of Palm Beach and away from some of the more crowded South Florida beach towns—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. Check out more of the 11 best off-season travel destinations.
Gaze into canyons in Utah
James Marvin Phelps/Shutterstock
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. Two trails suitable for kids include lower and middle Emerald Pools, and the out-of-this-world Canyon Overlook. Stay at the border of the park at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort, with accommodation ranging from camping to cabins. Don’t miss these other 15 national parks that look even more beautiful in fall.
Chill in Central Park
How can you beat “Autumn in New York”? When Billie Holiday has written 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 to the west side of Central Park for dinosaur fossils, rocks and minerals, and a giant blue whale at the American Museum of National History. The Empire Hotel is centrally located to both. Also, check out the 14 best Airbnbs to book for fall foliage views.
Go fly fishing in Wyoming
Visit the rugged mountain country of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, during the fall to avoid the crowds (and prices) of summer and ski season. 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. Here are more of the most majestic mountain towns in America.
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 and said to be the most photographed event on earth. 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—and you might even be able to score a spot on your very own balloon ride. The Nativo Lodge Albuquerque is a popular choice for visitors. Read about more iconic adventures in each of the 50 states.
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. The area has many guest ranches to stay at, including Hill Country Equestrian Lodge 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. Short on time? Here are the best last-minute getaways in every state.
Whale watch in Big Sur
The Pacific Coast Highway, which runs along this majestic coastal region of central California, recently reopened after a massive landslide forced its closure for 18 months, so now’s the perfect time for a fall road trip. Enjoy the stunning vistas off the bluffs of Big Sur, and fall is also a great time to see migrating humpback whales—the best part is you don’t even have to get out of your car, as the panoramic viewing pullovers give you a great view of 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. Find out more road trips that showcase stunning fall foliage you need to take this autumn.
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 music history, from Graceland to Beale Street. 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 tree house-like rooms overlooking an indoor swamp. Like food? Check out the fall food festivals in America you have to try this season.
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. Here are more of the best (and most popular) destinations for fall.
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Reader’s Digest editors, who aim to highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we may get a small share of revenue from our partners, such as Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We welcome your feedback. Have something you think we should know about? Email us at [email protected].