The Best Places to Visit in the USA in the Fall

The 15 Best Places to Visit in the US in the Fall

Traveling in the fall comes with several benefits. For starters, many people would agree that the leaves changing brings about another level of beauty. There’s a reason why leaf peeping is such a famous American pastime! 

But another benefit to traveling in the fall is the fact that, in many places, crowd levels are going down from their summer peak. Spots that are popular family destinations are some of the best places to vacation in the fall, as the kids have already gone back to school. 

Planning a fall trip in the US? We’ve compiled some of the best fall vacation ideas, from places where fall foliage is truly incredible to festival-filled cities. Pick a fall destination from this list, and you’re bound to experience one amazing autumn vacation. 

The 15 Incredible Fall Vacations in the USA

1. Acadia National Park

Places in the US to Visit in the Fall: Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is the only national park in the Northeast and is one of the best places to visit this fall. As the leaves change color, you’ll find many people flocking to this stunning park. Take a scenic drive on Park Loop Road to take in the fall foliage and see some of the best attractions in Acadia, like Sand Beach and Cadillac Mountain.

Cadillac Mountain is worth getting an early start so that you can see the sunrise. It’s the highest point on the Eastern Seaboard. After October 7, it’s actually the first place in the country where you can see the sun begin its climb into the sky. 

If you’d rather take in the beauty of the park without a car, you can take the carriage roads, which offer a motor-free byway to get around Acadia. You can hop on a bike to explore the 45 miles of carriage roads by yourself, or you can book a horse-drawn carriage ride from Wildwood Stables, a romantic way to relax while you take in the leaves changing. 

2. The Catskills, New York

Must See Places in USA during Fall: Catskills, New York

New York is one of the best states to visit in the fall, and one of the top destinations in the Empire State for fall vacations is the Catskills. The fall foliage here is truly a sight to behold, and you can behold it in a variety of ways.

Leaf peeping is a fall pastime for folks of this New York mountain belt, as the area turns into an artist’s palette of rich reds, golds, and oranges. There are plenty of scenic drives and family-friendly hikes here to immerse yourself in color. 

One of the best hikes will take you to Kaaterskill Falls, the highest cascading waterfall in the state. While the water flow won’t be as strong as in spring, it’s worth visiting in fall to see the water against all the brilliant colors.

Or you can take in the beauty of fall without having to work quite as hard. Enjoy going wine tasting at one of the Catskills’ many vineyards, like Bashakill Vineyards, which is found in a wetlands preserve. 

Sip and sample your way during a relaxing autumn afternoon as you take in the beauty of the region. Or enjoy apple picking and cider tasting at farms like Stone Ridge Orchard.

3. The Berkshires, Massachusetts

Best Places to Visit in the US during Fall: Berkshires, Massachusetts

The Berkshires are comprised of several different towns, each with something unique to offer, making them one of the best fall travel destinations. These quaint villages are filled with art and culture. Although they’re a famous summer destination, fall has plenty to offer as well, including the Berkshires’ stunning foliage. 

From May through November, you can drive to the top of Mount Greylock, the highest peak in all of Massachusetts, at Mount Greylock State Reservation. While it offers an incredible view at any time, as you can see as far as 90 miles from the summit, one of the best times to take this trek is in the fall. From the top and throughout the entire journey, you’ll see fall colors stretching out for miles.

You can also hike this trail if you’re up for the challenge. But if you’re looking for an easier hike, you’ll find that there are many trails for every level of hiking experience throughout the reservation, all offering amazing views. 

But there’s plenty more to do in the Berkshires during the fall. Over in Richmond, go cider tasting and indulge in fantastic apple cider donuts at Hilltop Orchards. In Stockbridge, you can enjoy the artistry of the Incredible Naumkeag Pumpkin Show at the historic Naumkeag estate. Or explore more historic sites, like author Edith Wharton’s famous home, The Mount, over in Lenox.

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4. Stowe, Vermont

Must See Places in USA during Fall: Stowe, Vermont

Stowe is one of the best places to visit in fall if you’re looking to do some leaf peeping. Over every hill and throughout the countryside, you’ll find vibrant colors dotting the land. 

Stowe is a true all-seasons town. Though it’s considered the Ski Capital of the East, there are plenty of reasons to visit this charming village outside of the ski season as well. If you’re looking for fall foliage, you don’t have to look too hard. You can take in an array of fall colors from many hiking trails and scenic drives. 

But there are even more unique ways to take in the fall beauty. Take to the trees themselves at ArborTrek Canopy Adventures, where you can soar through the air on a zipline and get an aerial view of the fall foliage. Or take the Gondola SkyRide, which runs through mid-October, to the top of Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest mountain, for some of the best views in the state.

You can also get an aerial view with Above Reality Hot Air Balloon Rides in nearby Essex Junction. When you take one of their balloon flights, you’ll take in spectacular views of Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains and a perfect panorama of fall colors.

5. Portland, Oregon

Best USA Destinations to Visit in the Fall: Portland, Oregon

You will likely have to contend with some rainy days during your autumn trip to Portland, but a little rain doesn’t stop this city from being one of the best places to vacation in the fall. Although the Northeast is often considered the place to go to see fall foliage, the Northwest has some beautiful sights of its own, particularly in the nearby Columbia River Gorge. Here, you can take in the changing leaves while you hike around and look for the area’s more than 90 waterfalls.

Portland is also chock-full of fun events all fall long, many of which showcase the unique arts and culture of this famously weird city. Sample your way down 82nd Avenue with Around the World in 82 Dishes, one of the best foodie events in the city. Meanwhile, book lovers will find their clan at the Portland Book Festival

You’ll also find multiple other cultural festivals, like the Greek Festival, and film festivals, like the QDoc Film Festival, the only film festival in the US dedicated to queer documentaries. But if you’re a lover of all things strange, you’ll likely be drawn to the Portland Oddities and Curiosities Expo.

6. Salem, Massachusetts

Must Visit Places in the US during Fall: Salem, Massachusetts

October is one of the best times to visit Salem, which is famous for its haunted history. This fall destination has a dark past, having been the site of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials, a point in history that’s often debated and widely misunderstood. When you visit Salem, you can learn more about its past, as well as the witches that call it home today, at the Salem Witch Museum.

Salem greatly embraces its status as one of the most haunted places in the US, which is why thousands flock to the city in October during their Haunted Happenings events. Throughout the month, guests can scream their way through tons of haunted houses, attend parties like costume balls, and much more. 

But even if you attend Salem after the Haunted Happenings come to a close, there are still plenty of spooky and spirited things to do in Witch City, even if Halloween is over. Get a love reading by the famous psychic Lorelei, explore the haunted spots along Essex Street, or take a Midnight Prowl with Black Cat Tour, which is best left to those who don’t scare easily.

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7. Newport, Rhode Island

Places in the US to Visit in the Fall: Newport, Rhode Island

Newport is known as a top summer destination, but it’s also one of the best places to visit in the fall. The summer crowds begin to dwindle as the crisp autumn air arrives, meaning that you’ll be able to partake in the city’s many attractions with fewer people around.

But Newport also has many offerings that are quintessentially fall that you’re not going to want to miss, in addition to their year-round activities. This historic town is a perfect spot for those who like things a little spooky. Take a ghost tour around Newport’s Gilded Age landmarks, and you just might spot a spirit or two. 

Best USA Destinations to Visit in the Fall: Newport, Rhode Island

For another unique tour, hop on a pedal-powered rail bike, which runs along abandoned railroad tracks, to take in the fall foliage. You can enjoy several types of tours, including a sunset ride, a ride by lantern light, or a tour that will lead you to the perfect location to roast some marshmallows. 

You’ll also find several spots to take part in some traditional fall activities. Over at Trinity Church, you can pick your own pumpkin at the annual pumpkin patch. Or head to Newport Vineyards at the end of October to take part in the Harvest Festival, where there will be grape stomping, pie eating, and tons of food and cocktails from local vendors.

8. Bainbridge Island, Washington

What Places to Visit in USA during Fall: Bainbridge, Washington

All it takes is a ferry ride from Seattle to get to one of the best fall destinations, Bainbridge Island. This charming island offers such a quintessential fall experience, with pumpkin patches and changing leaves and the weather just right for a cozy sweater.

Pick pumpkins at Suyematsu Farms, which has been a staple of the island since 1928. You’ll also find dahlias available for you to pick yourself, as well as pre-arranged bouquets that just scream autumn. It’s a perfect place to spend an autumn afternoon, especially if you’re traveling with the whole family.

Best Places to Visit in the US during Fall: Bainbridge, Washington

For more pumpkin-y fun, stop by Bainbridge Gardens to see their annual Pumpkin Walk. Going into its 30th year, this trail is lined with hundreds of decorated pumpkins and even full scenes with even more decorations, all family-friendly. There are also more activities for little ones.

But for more adult-themed fun, check out the island’s wineries, like Bainbridge Vineyards, one of only two wineries that grow their grapes on the island. You can enjoy the beauty of their seven-acre farmland as you sip in their outdoor tasting room.

9. Taos, New Mexico

Must See Places in USA during Fall: Taos, Mexico

Taos is one of the best fall vacations in the US on the West Coast, thanks to its truly epic fall foliage. In fact, many would say that fall is the best season to visit Taos. In addition to the beautiful array of colors, the weather is also mild, making for the perfect time to get out and explore nature.

One of the best ways to see the foliage is by taking the Enchanted Circle scenic route. You’ll travel through the villages of Questa, Red River, Eagle Nest, and Angel Fire, taking in the mountains, lakes, and changing forests. You could easily spend a whole day on this route as you stop to take in the different personalities of each village.

Must Visit Places in the US during Fall: Taos, New Mexico

Or you can enjoy the warm weather and experience the many outdoor adventures Taos has to offer. Give whitewater rafting down the Rio Grande a try with adventure tour companies like Los Rios River Runners. Or take to the sky with hot air balloon tours like those offered by Rio Grande Balloons. Whether you’re exploring Tao by land, water, or air, you’re guaranteed to enjoy spectacular sights.

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10. Fairbanks, Alaska

Places in the US to Visit in the Fall: Fairbanks, Alaska

Fall in Fairbanks is too often an ignored season, but those who choose to skip taking a fall trip to this Alaskan town are missing out. But that’s better for you since you’ll have lower crowd levels to contend with. 

Just keep in mind that Fairbanks doesn’t experience fall the same way many other locations on this list do. Although you’ll spot fall foliage and enjoy beautiful golden hills in early fall, winter weather starts to arrive by mid-October.

For more fall feelings, aim to arrive in September, when you can spot the leaves changing. One of the best ways to do some leaf peeping is by hopping on the Alaska Railroad, especially if you can grab tickets to the HooDoo Choo Choo, an event train that happens in late September that allows you to sample craft beer and delicious food while you enjoy the sights.

But whether you arrive in September or later, there’s another sight you won’t want to miss: the aurora borealis. Many people think you need to come in the dead of winter to see these stunning lights, but it’s simply not true. 

The Northern Lights are visible in Fairbanks from the end of August to the end of April. Take a tour with a knowledgeable guide, like those offered by 1st Alaska Outdoor School, to increase your chances of seeing this phenomenon. 

11. Glacier National Park

What Places to Visit in USA during Fall: Glacier National Park

While the summer crowds return home, Glacier National Park truly comes to life, making it one of the best places to vacation in the fall. Though much of the park stays green thanks to the coniferous forests, that green becomes interspersed with patches of red, orange, and gold in autumn. 

One way to take in the beauty is by hiking the many trails of the park. Throughout fall, the temperatures begin to drop, creating the perfect climate to go exploring. Or you can take a scenic drive, like the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road, where you can take in expanses of the Montana wilderness as it changes color.

You can also take in the beauty of the park on horseback with Swan Mountain Outfitters. Even if you’re a beginner, you can participate in rides around several different areas of the national park.

12. Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Places in the US to Visit in the Fall: Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

The historic mining towns of Durango and Silverton make for one of the best fall trips. Start in Durango, where you can go for a soak in the Durango Hot Springs, take in an aerial view of the fall foliage from Purgatory Resort’s Scenic Chairlift, or enjoy hiking one of the many trails around the town.

From Durango, hop on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, one of the most scenic train rides in the US. And the ride only gets better with the addition of fall foliage. This historic train will take you up into the Rocky Mountains as you travel alongside the Animas River toward Silverton. You can choose to sit inside or grab a seat in an open-air gondola.

Over in Silverton, you can stroll down Main Street, taking in the historic Victorian-era buildings from a bygone time. You can also explore the area’s history with a mine tour or a visit to the nearby ghost town of Animas Forks.

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13. Aspen, Colorado

Must Visit Places in the US during Fall: Aspen, Colorado

Aspen is considered one of the best places to go skiing in the nation, but it’s also one of the best fall trips in the US. All around the city, the trees are changing color and creating something that looks like it popped out of a painting.

This effect is especially apparent at the nearby Maroon Bells, iconic landmarks that are some of the most photographed mountains in the country. With a stunning reflective lake for North and South Maroon Peak to tower over, this area is a must-see. 

Hiking trails in White River National Forest offer prime locations to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the mountains, which are surrounded by seas of wildflowers and rich golds and auburns dotting the land.

14. Joshua Tree National Park

Best USA Destinations to Visit in the Fall: Joshua Tree National Park

You might not imagine that the California desert would be one of the best fall travel destinations, but fall is one of the best times to visit Joshua Tree National Park. While you won’t be seeing much changing foliage on this fall trip, the beauty of the desert, Joshua Tree’s rare namesake trees, and incredible rock formations more than make up for it.

In the summer, it’s not unusual for temperatures to soar over 90 degrees Fahrenheit and even into the triple digits. As fall goes on, these temperatures begin to drop, making it much more manageable to explore the desert ecosystem. Thanks to the cooler temps, you can enjoy more of the incredible hiking this national park has to offer.

Joshua Tree also offers some of the best stargazing in the world, thanks to its remote location. With little light pollution to spoil the fun, this national park is where many visitors get to see the Milky Way for the first time. While stargazing is one of the best things to do in the national park all year round, fall brings about the annual Night Sky Festival, which is filled with fun activities for the whole family. 

15. Orlando, Florida

Must See Places in USA during Fall: Orlando, Florida

While traveling to Orlando in the fall will have you overlap with the rainy season, which lasts through October, an Orlando vacation is still one of the best fall vacations in the US for several reasons. The first is the fact that Orlando does the spooky season exceptionally well.

If you’re here for thrills and chills, you’ll want to head over to Universal Orlando for Halloween Horror Nights. Filled with scare zones galore and terrifying haunted houses, there’s a reason why these frightening events advise you never to go alone. 

But if you’re planning a family-friendly trip around the spooky season, you may want to head to Walt Disney World instead, where you’ll find the aptly named Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. With fireworks, musical extravaganzas, parades, spooky ride overlays, and a candy trail that even the adults can take part in, this party is perfect if you’re looking for fall vacation ideas for little ones. 

However, the biggest reason to visit Orlando in the fall isn’t its cool Halloween scene. If you’ve been to Orlando in the summer, you’ll know that it’s packed with people. As the theme parks in this city are top family vacation destinations, they tend to fill up fast when children are not in school. In the fall, you’ll typically see a significant decline in guests as more kids are back in the classroom. 

If you’re interested in a Disney or Universal vacation and you have the ability to travel in the fall, take the opportunity. You’ll be rewarded with shorter lines, smaller crowds, and just as much fun, if not more fun, than if you’d gone in the summer.

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There you have it! The 15 best fall vacations in the US. What’s your favorite fall travel destination? Let us know in the comments!

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About the Author:

  • Jacqueline Gualtieri

    Jacqueline is a writer and editor pursuing the freelance life to explore the world. Born and raised in New Jersey, she spent her college years in Boston before settling down with her partner and puppy in Monterey, California.

    When she’s not writing, you can often find her planning her next trip. Road trips are her favorite, whether it’s driving across the country or simply exploring a new city in her own backyard. She loves uncovering the history of every new place she goes.

    Jacqueline has a restless passion for learning and makes it a goal to pick up a new skill every year. She’s picked up embroidery, crocheting, knitting, and cross-stitching, but she’s hoping to master more languages to help her in her travels. She’s also a published author, with short stories and poetry appearing in several anthologies.

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