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50 Off-Season Vacation Ideas
Times you should visit to enjoy off-peak rates, dwindling crowds and shorter lines at top attractions.
Travel during the shoulder seasons for thinner crowds and tempting prices.
If you don't want to contend with peak-season crowds – and prices – traveling to popular destinations in the fall and spring offers a short window to snap up enticing deals and take advantage of fewer tourists and still-pleasant temperatures. In the off-season, you can also find greater availability at popular restaurants and attractions, along with more authentic experiences at well-trodden tourist destinations. Sure, you may need to pack additional layers, but you'll be rewarded with immersive local experiences and discounted hotel and flight rates. With that in mind, we pinpointed top shoulder-season getaway ideas – from high-trafficked hot spots to off-the-beaten-track locales – that offer plenty of allures for visiting at underrated times.
While spring lures visitors to Savannah with its arts and music festivals and colorful azaleas across its Historic District, fall is a best-kept secret. From September to November, temperatures settle into the comfortable low 70s and mid-80s, the summer crowds have dwindled and hotel pricing dips. Plus, there are a variety of festivals worth checking out, including the Savannah Jazz Fest in September, the Savannah Film Festival at the end of October and the Savannah Food & Wine Festival in November. For a memorable experience, time your visit around Halloween, when you can delight in spine-tingling frights and delights such as ghost tours and moss-covered strolls through Bonaventure Cemetery.
Autumn in the Windy City brings sunny days, with daily highs hitting the 60s and 70s in September and October – a perfect window between the crowds of summer and the frigid temperatures of winter. Plus, fall is an ideal time to observe Chi-Town's diverse outdoor festivals and cultural and architectural treasures at The Field Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago. Aside from admiring the area's world-recognized skyscrapers, museums and shops along the Magnificent Mile, you can also attend a variety of seasonal events, including Oktoberfest Chicago and the Chicago Jazz Festival in September. Best of all, hotel room rates tend to drop at this time of year.
Fall is the perfect time to visit Marrakech, ushering in a break from the scorching triple-digit temperatures of summer, dispersed tourists and enticing airfares and hotel deals. In October and November, daily highs reach the low to high 70s, allowing for ideal conditions for checking out the city's kaleidoscope of colors, the eclectic sights, sounds and scents in Medina of Marrakech and its centerpiece, the Djemaa el Fna. You'll want to carve out some time to visit the area's renowned souks, fashionable cafes and world-renowned Moroccon textiles, rugs and architecture at La Mamounia. When you need a break from taking in the city's sights, retreat to Majorelle Garden.
Autumn is a prime time to visit the City by the Bay, when the weather is consistently warm and temperatures hover in the low 70s. While you'll want to pack a few extra layers to arm yourself against chilly breezes along the water, you can catch a variety of exciting outdoor festivals and seasonal events, including the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival at Ghirardelli Square in September and the Castro Street Fair in October. Even better, you'll be battling fewer tourists at can't-miss attractions, such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the Ferry Building Marketplace. For the best rates, visit from December to April, when you can enjoy reduced temperatures and hotel prices.
With the declining value of the pound following Brexit, there are still great deals to be had across the U.K., including London, says Alex Howard, managing editor of travel publisher Lonely Planet. If you don't mind wearing a few extra layers to guard against the chilly temperatures in the 40s and 50s, mid-September through November ushers in an ideal time to check out vibrant cultural events, admire colorful fall foliage and seize upon lower airfare and hotel rates. Don't skip the annual Totally Thames Festival throughout September, which includes exhibitions, concerts, parties and free events, or the EFG London Jazz Festival in November. And of course, don't skip checking out lively outdoor stalls at Borough Market or Notting Hill.
While Buenos Aires draws those craving a sunny getaway in winter, from September to November (spring in Argentina), you'll be rewarded with comfortable temperatures in the 60s and low 80s and the chance to see spectacular lilac jacaranda trees blooming across the city. Spring is prime time for taking in the blooming flowers at the Rose Garden Walk and scoring reasonable hotel rates. Best of all, you can also dodge the high-season tourist crowds of December to February, allowing for better conditions for catching street-side salsa performances and perusing vibrant barrios (districts) such as La Boca and San Telmo without battling swarms of visitors.
Taipei is a study in contrasts, with sleek skyscrapers and contemporary art exhibitions juxtaposed against treasured temples and historical gems at the National Palace Museum. While the official off-season kicks off in June, plan a trip from September to November for dry conditions, discounted hotel room rates and temperatures lingering around 70 and 80 degrees. In the brief shoulder-season window, you can comfortably explore Taipei's eclectic night markets, visit the Longshan Temple and pop into cutting-edge galleries. And of course you can't miss enjoying the city's incredible culinary specialties – including steamed soup dumplings and savory noodle bowls – without heavy tourist crowds at top foodie institutions like Din Tai Fung.
September to November is the perfect time to visit Istanbul, when the summer crowds have dispersed and daytime temperatures linger in the high 50s and 70s, creating perfect walking conditions. You can soak in must-see attractions and landmarks, including the Grand Bazaar, the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, and even secure lower airfares and hotel rates. Plus, fall is rife with festivals. You won't want to miss the Istanbul Biennial, an art exhibition which takes place every two years in September. Another must: Picking up ornate textiles, a rug or another keepsake from one of the city's colorful and chaotic bazaars.
Charleston, South Carolina
With its antebellum architecture, innovative low country cuisine and Spanish moss-blanketed trees, Charleston lures foodies, history buffs and the like. Plan a trip from September to November to enjoy perfect temperatures in the high 70s (and beat summer's uncomfortable humidity), and catch a variety of seasonal events. In September, the Greater Charleston Lowcountry Jazz Festival is not to be missed. And thanks to pleasant weather conditions, autumn is an excellent time to check out the city's beautiful gardens, like the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, or tag along organized walking tours. If securing reduced rates is a top priority, visit in winter, when temperatures dip into the 40s and 60s, and there are fewer tourists crowding into top hotels.
Often overshadowed by popular Mexico hot spots (think: Cozumel, Cancún), Tulum lures visitors with authentic cuisine, superlative beaches and a laid-back atmosphere. You can check out ancient Mayan ruins, stay at eco-friendly retreats, strike a yoga pose along the beach and even dine at rising farm-to-table institutions. While the rainiest conditions last from June to October, if you don't mind getting a little wet, from October to December you can take advantage of discounted room rates and temperatures hovering in the comfortable 70s and 80s. Best of all, other serenity-seekers haven't yet swarmed to Tulum to escape the winter doldrums during the peak season: January to March.
Lima, Peru's vibrant capital and gateway to Machu Picchu, attracts visitors with its diverse culinary offerings, modern art scenes and versatile landscapes – from the lush Amazon to the snow-covered Andes to the dramatic sea views along the Pacific. Because Lima is in the Southern Hemisphere, you can expect balmy temperatures and the wettest conditions in summer (December to May) and dry and cooler temperatures in winter (June to November). October, which falls at the end of the dry season, is an especially enticing time to visit, with dispersed crowds and festive events, including the annual Lord of Miracles celebration. At the end of October, you can also catch Mistura, a food festival that honors Peruvian chefs and cuisine.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
When it comes to enchanting Italian destinations, the Amalfi Coast, with its spectacular beaches, dreamy seaside towns and striking backdrops, is hard to match. And around mid-September, the summer tourists have come and gone and temperatures hover in the 60s and 80s through the end of October. Even better, you can snap up lower airfares and reasonable hotel rates thanks to lower demand at this time of year, especially in October. Don't skip taking in sweeping cliff and sea views, from Ravello's Villa in Rufolo to the ornate sculptures and gardens at Villa Cimbrone. Another must: soaking in Positano's colorful cliff-side villas, captivating beaches, famous ceramics and charming seaside restaurants.
Cartagena attracts visitors in winter with its romantic charm, from its enchanting courtyard cafes to its idyllic colonial mansions to its surreal backdrops renowned from Gabriel García Márquez's legendary "Love in the Time of Cholera." While October is an unpopular time to visit – in the height of the rainy season – those who don't detest light showers and are willing to make the pilgrimage are rewarded with warm temperatures, fewer crowds and a more authentic experience as they embrace the area's rich colonial treasures, street art and traditional cuisine – ceviche and arepas (savory corn dough) are a must. Exploring the Old City – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is another can't-miss activity, along with exploring vibrant neighborhoods like Getsemaní.
Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown, with its daredevil personality and adrenaline-pumping activities (bungee jumping, mountain biking or paragliding, anyone?) attracts thrill-seekers throughout the year, but in October and November – spring in the Southern Hemisphere – you can enjoy fewer crowds and colorful flowers, along with the snow-covered Southern Alps. If conditions allow, enjoy hiking along the legendary Routeburn and Milford tracks. When you need a break from all the activity, grab a bite at Fergburger or Botswana Butchery, or enjoy strolling through the lovely Queenstown Gardens. If you love wine, sample distinguished pinot noir varieties or nearby Gibbston Valley, which is known for its vineyards and wineries.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Picture avant-garde art, vibrant street markets, Gothic cathedrals and graceful adobe buildings. These are just a few of Santa Fe's charms. In autumn, you can enjoy a break from blazing summer temperatures, with daily highs in the 60s and 70s through October. Plus, there are a variety of festivals jockeying for your attention, from the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta at the tail end of September to the nearby Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in October. And no trip to Santa Fe is complete without strolling into the eclectic galleries along legendary Canyon Road or perusing the stands at the vibrant Santa Fe Farmers Market.
Rio de Janeiro
Rio, along with a variety of destinations across South America, is a great winter escape for those in the Northern Hemisphere, Howard says. In November (spring in Rio), you can still stake an umbrella in the sand and people-watch at Copacabana Beach thanks to average temperatures in the comfortable 70s and low 80s. Along with the chance to beat frosty temperatures and seasonal doldrums, you can score discounted hotel room rates and enjoy fewer crowds at must-see attractions, such as the Christ the Redeemer statue, the lush botanical gardens at Jardim Botânico and Sugarloaf Mountain, as well as vibrant neighborhoods such as Lapa and Santa Teresa.
Byron Bay, Australia
With its sun-washed shores, laid-back surf culture and bohemian vibes, Byron Bay has long attracted wave-riders and budget-minded globetrotters. And the end of January and February, following the summer rush in the the Southern Hemisphere, is an ideal time to escape the fray (and backpacking college students) and score a deal on accommodations. When you're not trying your hand at surfing or grabbing a bite at Folk or Top Shop, two Byron Bay culinary institutions, check out must-see attractions, such as the Byron Bay Lighthouse and Tallow Beach.
Virginia's historic capital city has been upping the cool factor in recent years with a burgeoning craft beer and culinary scene and forward-leaning art galleries. And fall marks an appealing time to visit if you love catching the changing leaves. Plan a road trip to take in postcard-perfect vistas on the nearby Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, where you can admire a mosaic of gold, amber and crimson shades dappling sassafras trees and sumacs. Back in Richmond, you can delight in seasonal events like the Richmond Folk Festival in October, before admiring the city's wealth of Civil War sites, grabbing a beer at Hardywood Park brewery or relaxing at the design-centric Quirk Hotel.
Napa Valley, California
As harvest season ends in California wine country in late October, you can take advantage of dispersed crowds, discounted pricing at high-end accommodations and spectacular fall foliage with exciting seasonal events across Napa and Sonoma. Pick up a set of wheels, and explore Napa's foliage-covered vineyards and wineries from behind two handlebars on the Napa Valley Vine Trail. In early November, you can even catch the Napa Valley Film Festival, which includes screenings for more than 100 independent films coupled with wine tastings and other experiences. And while the weather drops to the chilly 30s and 50s in November, you can warm up with an indulgent spa treatment and memorable meals at an award-winning restaurants.
The Crescent City is a cultural melting pot, with African, French, American and Spanish influences and a treasure trove of mystic charms, historical landmarks and blues bars. While spring entices visitors with Mardi Gras, arrive in fall and you'll rub shoulders with fewer tourists, beat the blazing summer heat and increase your odds of netting discounted lodging rates. In October, don’t miss the Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival. Another excellent off-peak time to go is December, thanks to plenty of seasonal events, "including caroling at Jackson Square, beautiful decorations and reveillon dinner – meals based on those that would have been served when NOLA was still a French colony," says Pauline Frommer, editorial director of Frommer's guidebooks and Frommers.com.
With its staggered pagodas, ancient temples and pristine beaches, Bali offers a year-round escape-it-all appeal for serenity-seekers. But for a short window in September and October, you can enjoy a dip in crowds and prices following the seasonal rush in July and August. Plus, the dry season – from April to October – translates to ideal conditions for exploring the Indonesian island's tucked-away shrines, iconic temples, such as the Pura Luhur Uluwatu, Tirta Empul and Tanah Lot, and admiring Sumatran elephants at Elephant Safari Park in Kuta. For more adventure, strap on a pair of hiking boots and explore Bali's lush Jatiluwih rice terraces.
Otherworldly landscapes, magnificent glaciers, geothermal pools and other natural splendors such as the Blue Lagoon and Golden Circle's Golden Falls all add to Iceland's allure. In autumn, you can embrace fewer crowds and even have the chance to catch the northern lights on clear nights. And while Iceland has grown in popularity and earned a firm place on every worldly traveler's map, there are still plenty of low-cost and convenient flights and budget-friendly accommodation options at this time of year, along with seasonal festivals. Just make sure to pack some layers; temperatures linger in the mid-30s and low 50s in September and October.
If you're dreaming of a big-game safari, fall is the perfect time to visit Botswana. While you'll run the risk of facing scorching 90-degree temperatures in the dry season – October to February – at the start of the season you can catch sight of baby animals and enjoy reduced rates at high-end lodges. If your heart is set on catching sight of magnificent animals – think: lions, zebras, giraffes and elephants – the Okavango Delta's flood plains features a high wildlife population and is the place to go. Consider visiting Makgadikgadi Pans National Park for prime viewing. Mashatu Game Reserve and Chobe National Park are other coveted viewing areas.
Santa Barbara, California
For an outside-the-box wine trip, consider hitting Santa Barbara's still-undiscovered vineyard trail in Los Alamos (off legendary U.S. Route 101) in early spring. Though you may encounter a few showers, you can secure affordable lodging rates. Plus, daytime temperatures in Santa Barbara hit the 60s from March to May, yielding ideal conditions for checking out must-see attractions such as the botanical gardens and the Santa Barbara Zoo. In spring, you can also catch a variety of seasonal events, including the Santa Barbara International Orchid Festival in March and the Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend & Festival in April. Even better, you'll dodge the heavy traffic of the July and August, when the area sees an influx of tourists.
In fall, the Hawaiian Islands see a drop in tourists, yet the weather is consistently pleasant year-round, Frommer says. With the end of whale-watching season and the kids back in school, "often there will be good deals on hotels and/or rentals in the fall, and better deals than usual on airfares," she says. Her secret for securing bargain-friendly plane tickets is flexibility. "Sometimes, flying through a West Coast gateway you might not have considered, like Seattle or Portland, can yield savings," she explains. Howard also highlights Hawaii as an enticing fall getaway thanks to the short but sweet window before winter, when you can snap up flight deals.
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Autumn ushers in the perfect time for a Colorado getaway – before the powder hounds have arrived and temperatures are still in the 60- to 70-degree range at the start of the season. In September, you can catch golden aspens. And if you're craving adventure, the Hanging Lake Trail in nearby Glenwood Canyon is an ideal place to soak in the scenery. After a thrilling day outdoors, soothe any muscle aches in the area's renowned mineral hot springs. And at this time of year, unlike the popular peak winter season, you're likely to land discounted hotel room rates, and you can partake in a variety of outdoor activities, including horseback riding, biking and fly-fishing.
With red-and-orange tiled roofs, storied landmarks and aquamarine waters, this seaside city on the Dalmatian Coast swarms with cruise-goers, "Game of Thrones" fans and sun-seekers from May to August, translating to high price tags and heavy crowds. Visit in September or October, after the crowds have dispersed, when it's easier to clinch reasonable hotel rates following the summer's peak tourism season. Fall is also a prime time for embracing Croatia's grape and olive harvest season and exploring top areas, such as Lokrum and the nearby island of Korčula.
Montreal melds its Canadian splendor with European charm complete with lovely French bistros, storybook 18th-century buildings in the Vieux-Montréal and the vibrant Jean-Talon Market. Late September to November, as the leaves start to change color and the air turns crisp, marks an ideal time to visit. And while temperatures drop into 20s by November, you'll find greater room availability and excellent accommodation deals at this time of year. When you need a break from chillier temperatures, explore the shops and museums in the Underground City. And if you love leaf peeping, you'll also want to check out the foliage at Mount Royal Park, where smoldering maples and elms blanket the area in bold crimson shades.
When frosty November temperatures tempt you to steal away to a sunny locale, consider Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula, the cool, laid-back surf destination along the northwest coast with an 80-mile shoreline flanked by charming towns and trendy hotels and eateries. Temperatures stay in the 60s and 70s in November – the end of the rainy season, but if you arrive at this time of year, you'll beat the rush of tourists that swarm the area in December to enjoy wildlife-spotting and sunbathing during the dry season.
If you didn't plan a summer getaway to this coastal retreat – just 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod – you can still check out charming cobblestone streets, striking dunes and superlative sea views during the sweet shoulder season from September to October. During this brief window following the height of the peak summer tourism season, crowds and hotel prices dwindle, but the island's top attractions and restaurants remain open. The island also hosts a variety of festive seasonal events at this time of year, including the Nantucket Arts Festival and Cranberry Festival in October. Just remember to pack a jacket, as temperatures can dip into the 40s by the end of October.
Powder hounds looking to take advantage of alpine scenery and slopes without steep price tags should set their sights on Zermatt. In spring, you can nab reduced rates at a chalet or apartment rental, take in jaw-dropping views of the legendary Matterhorn, enjoy spring hikes and try your hand at skiing and snowboarding. Another draw for a Swiss Alps vacation: While Switzerland is known for its expensive prices, a variety of cost-effective bed-and-breakfasts and budget-priced rentals have popped up in recent years, making Zermatt in reach for the bargain-hunter.
Palm Springs, California
If you time your visit right to this Southern California desert escape, you'll circumvent the Coachella festival-goers (read: sky-high room rates) of spring and dodge blazing triple-digit temperatures of summer. Arrive in October, November or December – before sun-seekers have descended upon the desert beginning in April – and you'll find temperatures in the pleasant 60s to 80s, reasonable room rates and a variety of lively festivals. In November, check out the Props & Hops Craft Beer Festival, and in December take in a dazzling light display at the annual Palm Springs Festival of Lights Parade. If you're craving outdoor activity, check out nearby Joshua Tree National Park or Indian Canyons.
While most tourists flock to Tokyo when a canopy of pink cherry blossoms blanket the city in late March or early April, arrive from September to November to enjoy comfortable temperatures ranging from the 40s to 70s and rub elbows with fewer crowds at top attractions. Plus, you'll find vibrant autumn foliage brightening the city streets. For optimal leaf chasing, check out the Rikugien Garden, Showa Kinen Park and Ueno Park. And other must-see attractions worth exploring include Tsukiji Fish Market, the Imperial Palace and the Meiji Shrine.
Skip visiting Amsterdam during the peak tulip-viewing and summer season (April to September), and you'll be rewarded with advantageous room rates, extra breathing room at must-see attractions and dazzling fall foliage along the city's charming canals and green spaces. Another perk for culture lovers: Museum Night in November affords the chance to explore world-renowned collections after dark and includes a host of special workshops and tours. Just make sure to stay prepared by packing extra layers, as temperatures can shift from the high 30s to the mid-50s in October and November. If you don't mind frosty temperatures, consider visiting in winter to optimize savings.
The Danish capital draws travelers year-round with world-renowned Michelin-starred dining institutions, distinguished palaces and an idyllic harbor filled with graceful wooden ships and brightly painted homes. But if you opt to skip the tourist-heavy summer season and arrive earlier in March, when temperatures hover around a frosty 30- to 40-degree range, you'll discover fewer crowds and enticing hotel and airfare prices. During your visit, don't miss strolling along Strøget, a lively pedestrian-only thoroughfare filled with an eclectic mix of boutiques and high-end brand shops, touring the National Museum of Denmark or admiring the crown jewels and other treasures on display at Rosenborg Castle.
Cape Town, South Africa
Cosmopolitan, culture-filled and surrounded by gorgeous mountainous and beach backdrops, Cape Town has it all. Arrive in fall (April to June in Cape Town), to check out the wine harvest at nearby vineyards like Constantia. Aside from autumnal shades and excellent wine, you can enjoy discounted off-season room rates dropping in advance of the low season starting in mid-June. Temperatures linger in the 60s and 70s, yielding excellent conditions for sightseeing can't-miss attractions such as Robben Island, Boulders Beach and Table Mountain. Other highlights include hiking in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve and enjoying wine at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.
Iguazú Falls, Brazil and Argentina
Forget Niagara Falls. These 275 waterfalls on the Brazil-Argentina border are absolutely awe-inspiring. But in order to take in the cascading falls in their prime, you'll want to plan a trip during the rainy season (December to February). During the height of tourism season, the gushing water tends to dwindle, so you'll want to time your visit strategically. The only caveat with the wetter months, of course, are rainy conditions, so pack accordingly. You'll find excellent vantage points on both the Brazilian and Argentinean sides of the falls. From Rio, head to Foz do Iguaçu, which is northwest of the falls and offers an easy launching pad to Iguaçu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Whistler, British Columbia
With its snow-covered peaks, scenic hiking trails and supreme skiing terrain, Whistler appeals to outdoorsy types, especially those looking to shred powder on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. December to February attracts avid skiers (and nonskiers craving other cold-weather pastimes on a snowy getaway) to Whistler's storybook setting. But you can still take advantage of fresh powder through early May, with the added bonus of fewer crowds on the slopes. Arrive in spring, and you can also catch the World Ski & Snowboard Festival, which includes free outdoor concerts, along with pro competitions and even an art exhibition. What's more, you can often land discounted accommodation prices at this less popular time of year.
While you can score bargain-friendly rates on accommodations in winter, arrive after the crowds have left in March to enjoy pleasant temperatures lingering in the 60s and 70s paired with attractive accommodation deals. Carve out some time for taking in sweeping views from Alfama, exploring the area's fairy tale-esque castles of Sintra and admiring the intricate ceramic tiles on display at the National Tile Museum. Other enticements include vibrant festivals, like Lisbon Fish & Flavours at the end of March, when iconic local and international chefs showcase their fish-focused culinary specialties. What's more, spring is the perfect time to savor leisurely meals at open-air cafes and take in Portugal's legendary fado music.
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
For dry conditions, you'll want to plan a trip from December to April, but if you don’t mind getting wet, consider visiting this vibrant Vietnamese city in at the end of the rainy season in October to rub shoulders with fewer visitors at top markets, temples and other attractions. Don't miss exploring trendy cafes (hat tip: L'Usine in District 1), perusing the stands at the vibrant Ben Thanh Market, admiring the Saigon Opera House or checking out the Jade Emperor Pagoda. Other can't-miss city gems include Van Thanh Park and the Saigon Central Post Office, which was designed by the Gustave Eiffel and serves as a stark reminder of the city's French colonial heritage.
Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao
While it may seem counterintuitive in the wake of Hurricane Irma, there are idyllic Caribbean destinations outside the hurricane belt that don't pose the same risks and are safe to visit, even in fall, Frommer says. For example, you can land a great deal, encounter few crowds and enjoy comfortable conditions without worrying about a hurricane in the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao), located north of the equator, she explains. While tourists tend to stay away in the fall, the reality is, generally, these destinations are at little threat of severe storms at any time of year.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Dodge spikes in crowds and hotel rates by planning a trip in early April or May, the end of the peak winter ski season and a prime time for wildlife-viewing. By visiting in spring, you can avoid the sky-high rates of summer due to the throngs of tourists visiting nearby Yellowstone and Grand Teton. In spring, you run the risk of wetter conditions, but if you're willing to pack extra layers and rain gear, you can enjoy top spots such as the National Elk Refuge – and check out Elkfest in May – and the Granite Hot Springs without dealing with heavy crowds and attraction lines. As an added bonus, you can secure enticing deals and packages at top-tier hotels like Spring Creek Ranch in the off-season.
From barbecue to bourbon to rock 'n' roll, Memphis offers a little bit of history, blues and Southern charm rolled into one. And if you visit between April and May, you can experience the best of the city without enduring sky-high temperatures (and humidity). Check out exciting springtime traditions such as the Beale Street Music Festival and the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest in May, and don't skip city highlights such as Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. Even better, penny-wise visitors can check out an abundance of free attractions, from the daily duck march at the Peabody Hotel to free city walking tours.
Outdoorsy types and culture vultures alike flock to Vancouver, dubbed Hollywood North, to check out its mix of natural attractions, from Kitsilano Beach to Stanley Park, and eclectic art-centric spots, from Vancouver Art Gallery to Granville Island. In fall, deal-chasers can benefit from bargain-friendly hotel rates, comfortable temperatures hovering in the 40s and 60s through November and thin tourist crowds. You can also partake in a variety of seasonal festivals and events at this time of year, including the Vancouver International Film Festival, which begins at the end of September, and the Vancouver Halloween Parade & Expo in October.
The Maldives' chain of 26 atolls teems with coral reefs, fascinating underwater creatures and unique overwater bungalows. If that's not enough of a selling point, perhaps the high-end resorts, dreamy sunsets and pristine beaches will entice you. Though the prices at the Maldives luxurious resorts are steep year-round, if you visit in the off-season, from May to November, you can land discounted lodging rates, take advantage of excellent surfing and snorkeling conditions and still-comfortable 80-degree temperatures. With that said, visiting during the off-season comes with major trade-off: the risk of showers and monsoon season. For milder and more predictable conditions, consider visiting in April, the tail end of the dry season.
Paris is always a good idea, but in October and November you can dodge heavy crowds, peak-season room rates and long wait times at top attractions and restaurants. While you'll want to sport extra layers, with temperatures in the City of Light dipping into the 40s and 50s in October, you can enjoy blazing fall colors at the Jardin du Tuileries and Palais-Royal Gardens, and seize upon shorter lines at iconic attractions, such as the Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower. Best of all, the brief window marks an ideal time to secure discounts on flights and hotel rooms before the holiday rush and after the prime summer travel season.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Grand Canyon's grandeur and scale is awe-inspiring at any time of year, but Howard suggests visiting in September, as the temperatures start to dip and the park is easier to get around. In fall and winter, you can also take advantage of shorter days, translating to more opportunities to catch the sunrise and sunset during your visit, he adds. Plus, with the kids back in school, you can enjoy scenic lookouts and trails without heavy tourist crowds at your side. The only downside: Some business operators shut their doors in the off-season. The North Rim, for example, closes from mid-October to mid-May because of road closures and inclement weather, so check advisories prior to your trip.
Yellowstone National Park
With its surreal geological wonders, such as Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring, fascinating wildlife (think: bighorn sheep and bison) and ample opportunities to embrace the great outdoors, Yellowstone offers plenty of enticements for planning a trip. But with more than 4 million annual visitors, timing is key. From September through November, the crowds have dispersed, campsites and hotel rooms offer greater availability and temperatures linger in the mid-30s to 60s. There is one trade-off, however: Since the weather can be fickle, some main roads may be closed during the off-season, so make sure to check current advisories ahead of your trip.
Atacama Desert, Chile
The Atacama enchants visitors with its ethereal backdrops, filled with sand dunes, salt lagoons and volcanic rock structures, among other natural splendors. November and December offer a sweet spot between the frosty winter months in the Southern Hemisphere (June to September) and the hot summer months (January to March). When you're not checking out showstoppers, such as Coyote Lookout, the El Tatio geysers or the wind-whipped sand dunes in Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley), take in star-speckled skies at night or enjoy your surroundings in luxury at Explora, which offers all-inclusive rates covering meals, lodging, transportation, park entry fees and a variety of excursions, from horseback riding to guided hikes.
While you will need to pack additional layers to stay prepared for temperatures ranging from the high 30s to 70s, September to November marks an enticing time to visit Florence and admire its myriad architectural and historical gems, not to mention its cosmopolitan fashion and dining scenes. Though you'll contend with heavy tourist crowds through mid-October, in November you can secure lower accommodation rates and catch the end of harvest season. Autumn is also an ideal time to watch the changing colors at Boboli Gardens and take advantage of shorter queues at the Uffizi Gallery. What's more, you can easily tack on a side trip through the rolling hills of Tuscany to catch a spectrum of harvest-season colors.
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