Best Fall Vacations
Fall is typically the time when kids go back to school and adults get back to work, meaning now is the time to find lower prices, fewer crowds and cooler temperatures at many popular vacation destinations. With the help of travel experts and reader votes, U.S. News pulled together a list of ideal travel spots for fall that are perfect for enjoying foliage and autumn activities. Vote for your favorite places below to help us determine next year's list.
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Travel to this Arizona national park in autumn to enjoy the same stunning natural scenery that wows year-round but with temperate weather, fewer people and lower room rates. The conditions are perfect for hiking, though you'll want to arrive before mid-October if you want to trek the popular North Rim Trail. For additional scenery, book a trip along the Grand Canyon Railway. As you ride north from Williams, Arizona, to the Grand Canyon, you'll be treated to views of a variety of animals and plants.
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Daytime temperatures in Sedona, Arizona, begin to drift from the high 80s to the more comfortable 60s come November. If you're hoping to catch a glimpse of the changing leaves on the area's sycamore, oak and maple trees, visit between mid-October and mid-November. These months are when spots like Baldwin Trail in the Village of Oak Creek and the Cookstove Trail in Oak Creek Canyon burst with color. Culture hounds won't want to miss the city's annual Day of the Dead celebration at Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, which takes place from late October to early November.
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Asheville, North Carolina's location along the Blue Ridge Parkway and proximity to the Appalachian Trail means the views of fall foliage are unparalleled. Visit between October and early November to see the most vibrant colors on the surrounding mountains. And you can't miss sampling the city's tasty craft beers: Asheville is home to roughly 100 breweries serving an array of local brews. While you may not be able to sip it all, make the most of your time there by signing up for a brewery tour of the city.
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Now void of camera-toting tourists, Yellowstone is ready for you to watch its beautiful transition from summer to fall without interruption (except by maybe a buffalo or two). Backpacking, fishing and ranger-led programs are great activities to enjoy in September and October, while hiking remains a popular pastime well into November. However, be aware that park amenities become more limited as the season progresses and roads start closing for winter in mid-October.
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Straddling the North Carolina-Tennessee border, this national park is home to multiple hiking trails, cascading waterfalls and all kinds of wildlife. As temperatures cool, the park becomes a perfect place for leaf peeping. Hike the Appalachian and Oconaleftee River trails to various lookout points for jaw-dropping vistas, or drive along Clingmans Dome Road or the Blue Ridge Parkway for a more relaxing but equally scenic excursion. You can also see the fall colors from above by hopping on the nearby Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
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Though best known for its winter activities, Telluride, Colorado, offers plenty to do and see in the fall. The town boasts trails for hikers of all abilities and perfect hiking conditions well into October. Plus, film fanatics can catch the Telluride Horror Show (a horror film festival) every October. No visit would be complete without snapping pictures of Telluride's gorgeous fall foliage from its gondola. Just remember to check the gondola's operating hours ahead of time since it closes for maintenance from mid-October to late November.
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Now that the humidity has dropped, strolling through the historic cobblestone streets of The Battery or sinking your toes in the sand at Folly Beach is even more enjoyable. Numerous events, fairs and festivals roll into this South Carolina town in the fall, too, offering everything from water sports to cultural activities to foodie experiences. If you'd rather participate in traditional fall activities like hayrides, picking pumpkins and treks through corn mazes, head to Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens in October.
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Fall weather in Jackson Hole is sublime, with average highs sliding from the low 70s into the high 30s. Animal lovers will want to stop by the National Elk Refuge to listen to the male elks' "bugling" as they look for mates in September and October. Autumn also ushers in a few festivals, plus plenty of opportunities to hike the mountains in nearby Grand Teton National Park or enjoy a relaxing soak in the Granite Hot Springs.
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The Adirondacks region of New York is filled with breathtaking scenery, from gorgeous mountains to pristine lakes. Throughout the month of October, vivid shades of red, orange and yellow are on display everywhere you turn. Plan a hike during your visit to admire the beautiful fall foliage, but remember to pack layers, as daytime temps can dip down into the 40s by the end of the season. On chillier days, spend some time perusing the Olympics-themed exhibits at the Lake Placid Olympic Museum.
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If you want to enjoy some warm weather this autumn, consider vacationing in the central Mexican city of Oaxaca. Temperatures hover around the high 70s, and hotel prices are generally affordable. Plus, Oaxaca offers heaps of history and culture, especially during its annual Day of the Dead celebrations in late October. When you're not exploring the city's bustling markets, attending a parade or admiring intricately decorated altars, listen to live music as you sip a drink at a sidewalk cafe in the Zócalo.
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Fall is a prime time to visit the City by the Bay. You'll rub elbows with fewer people while strolling down crooked Lombard Street or across the Golden Gate Bridge than you would during the peak summer season. Plus, you'll have access to all kinds of festivals, including ones focused on films, food, music and literature. In autumn, average highs typically sit in the 60s, making this time of year perfect for long walks through one of San Francisco's parks or nearby Muir Woods National Monument.
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Although spotting fall foliage in this California national park can be tricky since the majority of its trees are evergreens, leaf peeping here is possible if you know where to look. The trees and shrubs in Yosemite Valley's southern section, Glacier Point and Tuolumne Meadows (among other areas) turn vivid hues of yellow, red and orange as the weather cools. Admire the changing leaves on your own while hiking or biking, or during a guided outing with Yosemite Conservancy. If you're not set on seeing fall foliage, consider visiting in September to avoid snow-related road closures.
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Prince Edward Island#13 in Best Fall Vacations
Crisp daytime temps that range from the mid-40s to the high 60s are the hallmark of any fall visit to Prince Edward Island. Though it may be too chilly to enjoy the island's beaches, there are plenty of events to keep you busy, including the Prince Edward Island International Shellfish Festival and the PEI Fall Flavours Festival. After filling up on tasty local fare, take a walk around one of the island's trails to see stunning fall foliage. The island's trees are generally most colorful between mid-September and late October.
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Travel to the Big Island in the fall to take advantage of lower room rates and stellar weather. A popular destination for those looking for an adventure, this Hawaiian island offers impressive hiking trails past waterfalls and molten lava, as well as pristine beaches where visitors can try water sports activities like snorkeling and paddleboarding. For even more of an adrenaline rush, travelers can sign up for a helicopter tour of the island.
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An autumn vacation in San Diego will include plenty of outdoor pursuits since average highs hover in the 70s. Travelers can stroll through the massive Balboa Park, soak up some sun on the beach or head north to hike the trails at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. Visitors would be remiss to leave without taking advantage of the series of events and festivals that crop up nearly every weekend from September through November.
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The main reason to visit Boston in the fall is to leaf peep. The Boston Public Garden and Boston Common are two prime spots for admiring fall foliage, but there are also plenty of tours that depart from Boston for the colorful New England countryside. Plus, this is the season for events like the Head of the Charles Regatta and the Boston Arts Festival. After exploring outside, duck into one of Beantown's excellent North End restaurants to refuel with warm, hearty Italian food.
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Admire Santa Fe, New Mexico's golden aspens that blanket the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from the Ski Santa Fe chairlift, and sample the region's distinct flavors during the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta. For a dose of local culture, arrive in October for the three-day Santa Fe Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration. This month is also when the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta occurs in nearby Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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Traveling to Seattle in the fall comes with a few perks: You'll enjoy comfortable temperatures (average highs sit in the 50s, 60s and 70s), thinner crowds at select attractions and beautiful scenery. For the best fall foliage, visit one of Seattle's gardens or take a daytrip to Mount Rainer National Park, where crisp red, yellow and orange leaves are front and center from mid-October through November. If you decide to leaf peep in November, make sure your trip coincides with the Northwest Chocolate Festival.
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While a stroll through Larimer Square or Washington Park is pleasant in the fall, autumn in the Mile High City is all about attending festivals and events. In September, the city hosts the Denver Food and Wine Festival and Oktoberfest Denver. October brings the Great American Beer Festival, a Halloween-themed parade and the start of the Denver Film Festival. Meanwhile, November is when Denver Arts Week, Denver Fashion Week and several holiday markets take place.
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The leaves and temps aren't the only things falling this time of year: Vancouver, British Columbia's hotel rates also take a dive in autumn. In September and October, locals flock to various events like the Vancouver International Film Festival and the Halloween Parade & Expo. Plus, fall is the time to stroll through Stanley Park to spot the changing leaves. To see the autumn leaves from high above, walk across the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver's oldest tourist attraction.
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