12 Hidden Travel Gems That Are Way Cheaper in the Fall
Summer seems to get all of the vacation glory, and also all the big crowds and high prices. Wiggle your vacation out a month or two, though, and you'll discover a new world of delightful destinations waiting to be discovered.
Discover the natural beauty and rugged coastline of one of Maine’s most picturesque beaches in the hidden gem beach town of Ogunquit. The charming streets are best enjoyed after the crowds of August have left; in September, the average temperature is 55 to 68, making it the perfect time for long walks on the beach, rounds of golf, seasonal spa treatments, lobster rolls, and hot toddies by the firepit. October is leaf-peeping season and the southern coast of Maine is usually at peak mid to late October. Stroll along the scenic Marginal Way (free) and gaze at the millennia-old Bald Head Cliff on your way to check-in at the 150-year-old Cliff House in Ogunquit. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic, you’ll pay top dollar for an overnight at the hotel, which recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation, in July and August (prices peak at $769 for Labor Day weekend). In September and October, nightly rates are cut up to 50 percent, and by early November you can snag a room for just $209.
Woodstock, New York
It’s been 50 years since the Summer of Love, and although the festival spotlight is no longer on this quiet corner of New York State’s Catskills Region, it’s still the perfect area to visit in the fall, after the summer vacationers head home and before the area ski resorts pick up. Base yourself at the stylish Emerson Resort and Spa in nearby Mt. Tremper. Located only two hours north of New York City, the sybaritic resort features a variety of free hiking and walking trails on-site along the Esopus Creek, as well as Catskills-themed outdoor activities nearby for nature enthusiasts. Emerson has mid-week “Leaf Peeping” to immerse you in the dazzling fall foliage; a three-night stay starts at around $225 a night (a more than 30 percent savings) and includes a $100 resort credit. New York is also where you’ll find the cleanest hotels in the country.
Atlantic City, New Jersey
The Jersey Shore might not have been on your radar for a fall list of must-visits, but that’s about to change. The warm autumn months are the perfect time to take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean (although note that lifeguards will no longer be on duty, so swim with care). Kids are in school, so you’ll have the four-mile-long boardwalk, and six-mile-long beach of the newly rejuvenated Atlantic City pretty much all to yourself. Easily accessible from the New York and Philadelphia metro areas, the city is within driving distance of one-third of the country’s population. Check into the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, which just celebrated its one year anniversary. The super cool hotel features amazing headline entertainment, live music (for free) every day in the lounge, an incredible array of dining options, and rooms for just $69 a night through most of the fall (down from a high of $469 on Labor Day weekend).
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Island retreats see prices rise through the fall until they hit peak levels of expensiveness by the holidays. But you can enjoy the same warm waters, golden sands, and unique history of culture of Old San Juan in the nearly empty fall months. Ramble along the cobblestone streets, watch the sunset from the centuries-old walls of the old city, and explore the fort of El Morro (part of the U.S. National Parks system); then check into the beachfront San Juan Marriott Resort where you can enjoy a pina colada on the beach and dip your toes in the turquoise water for around $225 a night, less than half of what it would cost in prime season. And since Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States, you don’t need to pay to exchange money, bring a passport, or run up expensive cell phone bills since you won’t be roaming. Speaking of the Caribbean, check out these resorts that are actually affordable.
Beaver Creek, Colorado
Tucked into the Rockies just past better-known Vail, Beaver Creek is a charming community with myriad outdoor activities. Winter is prime season here, with a variety of snow-covered slopes drawing ski and boarding enthusiasts, but the pre-ski season in fall is technically the off-season for Beaver Creek, and yet no less beautiful. With Aspens transforming into golden bowers; crisp fall temperatures; biking and hiking trails almost all to yourself; and great deals to be had at restaurants, shops, and hotels, it might become your favorite mountain season. Even during prime leaf-peeping weeks in September, rates at this chic Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, right at the epicenter of Beaver Creek village, start at $254, and in October they drop well under $200. By comparison, prices soar to $900 a night at the height of the holiday ski season.
Bowling Green, Kentucky
Located an hour north of Nashville, Bowling Green is a quieter, more outdoorsy alternative to the Music City. With turning leaves and cooler weather, the city is a fall destination steeped in Southern charm for an affordable price. While you’re here, you can experience a bit of entertainment for just a little cash. The National Corvette Museum is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a range of festivities, and admission is only $12. The annual Bourbon and Brewfest on October 26, offers the opportunity to sip on Kentucky bourbon in a cool fall breeze; tickets cost only $35. Check out the longest underground cave system in the world at nearby Mammoth Cave National Park (entrance is free), with acres of fall foliage and numerous cave trails. Book a stay at the boutique Kentucky Grand Hotel & Spa, with eight suites overlooking downtown Bowling Green and a brand-new restaurant, the Bluegrass; hotel rates start at $195 per night in the fall, nearly a 50 percent savings from peak summer prices.
Shasta County, California
Yosemite and the Redwoods get most of the outdoor attention, and crowds in California, but there are other amazing hidden gem natural wonders to explore, including in Shasta County. You will want to stop and soak in the view at Burney Falls, a massive 129-foot tall, fern-draped waterfall within McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. This spectacular waterfall is one of the most beautiful in the state and flows year-round to offer endless views and photo options no matter what time of year you visit. Nicknamed the “eighth wonder of the world” by President Theodore Roosevelt and declared a National Natural Landmark in 1954, the falls are a hidden outdoor gem. And you can stay for bargain prices at the nearby Gaia Hotel & Spa in Redding for $120 a night (save even more at camping sites near the park, too.)
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Miami gets all the attention for super stylish hotels and a hopping nightlife scene, but just an hour up the coast is Southern Florida’s hidden style-star gem, Fort Lauderdale. Before holiday season kicks up, fall in Florida is a great time to find incredible savings at your favorite hotels. The Dalmar, Fort Lauderdale’s newest design-driven hotel is offering rates as low as $129 a night to experience its 1950s and 1960s golden age of travel vibe, Sparrow at the Dalmar, the 25th floor rooftop bar (the only one in the city), and the hopping lobby lounge where live music kicks it up on the weekends. Additionally, if you can make to Fort Lauderdale in September, Fort Lauderdale’s Restaurant Month is taking place, where diners can experience some of the city’s best restaurants with $35 three-course gourmet dinners.
St Michaels, Maryland
Maryland’s bayside Eastern Shore nautical gem is vastly popular in the summer when boats are the preferred method of transportation to enjoy the natural beauty along the coast. Prices soar in July and August, but come the fall you can enjoy all the picturesque beauty for a fraction of the cost. Nestled along the river is the Inn at Perry Cabin (the party setting in Wedding Crashers), the ultimate place to relax and play. Since prices in the late fall drop to 50 percent of what they are in peak summer season, you can afford to play a round at the Links at Perry Cabin, pick up a racket to hit on the clay courts, hit the waves on one of the Inn’s sailboats and yachts, decompress at the spa, then dine on a regional specialty, Maryland crabs and freshly caught rockfish, at Stars at Perry Cabin.
Taos, New Mexico
Despite its 1,000-year-old history, Taos has a modern art scene that draws a savvy creative crowd to this hidden New Mexico gem. Over the past few years, Taos has become a place where you can view and appreciate centuries-old pieces, while also experiencing the future of art in the same day. Not bad for a small town with a population of 5,000. Come in September to experience The PASEO; the interactive arts festival brings projection, installation, and performance art to Taos and is completely free. And you can stay at the El Monte Sagrado for 20 percent off during the fall, too.
Although Portland draws the crowds, Central Oregon is where to find the state’s hidden-gem town of Bend, a regional cultural center on the doorstep of the gorgeous Cascade Lakes. Fall is a fantastic time of year to visit with relatively mild and dry weather through October and often into November and plenty of affordable fall specials at local hotels including Huntington Lodge at Pronghorn just outside of Bend and the funky and fun The Oxford and Old St. Francis School Hotel – McMenamins right in the heart of town.
You don’t just have to stay in the United States to enjoy hidden travel gems for a great price in the fall. Here’s one bucket list tick you can make: The Galapagos Islands have a lot to offer during the fall. There are fewer crowds, less noise, and greater opportunities to see wildlife. And the natural wonders here are magical in the fall: Whales and dolphins cross over to Fernandina Island almost guaranteeing a spotting or two; sea lion pups are more developed and likely to play; giant Galapagos tortoises lay their eggs along popular hiking trails; and sea penguins and blue-footed boobies are at their most active. Snorkelers are also in luck as the Humboldt Current is strong, meaning more active marine life due to an abundance of nutrients in the water. See it all with Quasar Expeditions, which offers a 15 percent savings deal and $500 off sailings from September through December. Guests of Quasar’s M/V Evolution also receive a free stay in either Quito or Guayaquil before their trip. Here are more bucket list trips that won’t break the bank.
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