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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 input, 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 of the best fall vacations. (Note: Some of the below destinations may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State before traveling.)
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Asheville's proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachian Trail means the views of fall foliage are unparalleled. Visit the city 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 more than 20 breweries serving roughly 100 local brews. While you may not be able to sip it all, make the most of your time by signing up for a brewery tour of the city.
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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, which closes seasonally due to snow. 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 late September and mid-October. 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, which takes place at Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village from late October to early 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 through this South Carolina city in fall, too. During your visit, you can witness a water skiing competition and get a taste of culture at the Moja Arts Festival, both of which occur in September. 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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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 Oconaluftee 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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Once summer passes, visitors can enjoy a sense of peace and quiet on this rugged Hawaiian island. Fall is a great time to visit some of Kauai's main attractions – such as Waimea Canyon and Wailua River State Park – without crowds blocking your views of the breathtaking scenery. The island is warm year-round, so you'll still be able to bask in the rays on the shores of Ke'e Beach and Tunnels Beach in the fall months. But be sure to squeeze in your trip before the island's rainy season, which usually starts in November.
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The months of September, October and November in Montreal are filled with festivals and cool temperatures. First-time travelers must make time to explore charming Old Montreal and the expansive botanical garden, though you'll want to bundle up if you're visiting later in the season. To take in the colorful fall foliage, consider hiking Mount Royal or one of the area's various trails. Hotel rates are lower in fall than in the peak summer season, so you'll also get more bang for your buck.
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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). Yellowstone's animals are active in fall, so you may catch a glimpse of elk, eagles and even bears preparing for hibernation. Biking, 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 amenities in this Wyoming, Montana and Idaho park become more limited as the season progresses, and roads start closing for winter in mid-October.
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Though best known for its winter activities, Telluride, Colorado, offers plenty to do and see in 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 taking a ride on one of the town's famous gondolas – and it's the perfect way to snap pictures of Telluride's gorgeous fall foliage. 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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Autumn in Acadia National Park is nothing if not breathtaking. This national park on the coast of Maine attracts leaf peepers from across the country every year. The leaves are typically at their peak in mid-October, but the state offers a consistently updated foliage report to help you plan your scenic trip. Cooler temperatures will make the park's challenging hikes, such as the Precipice Trail and the Beehive Trail, more enjoyable. However, snow can fall as early as November in Acadia, so you'll want to check for trail closures before you arrive.
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Fall weather in Wyoming's Jackson Hole valley 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 "bugling" calls from male elk as they look for mates in September and October. Autumn also ushers in a few events – including the Grand Teton Music Festival and Frank's Fall Film Festival – 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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Travel to the Big Island in fall to take advantage of lower room rates, thinner crowds 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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Big Sur, California, is a hot destination for outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife lovers year-round, but fall offers some unique sights. Blue whales, humpback whales and orcas can be spotted in the Pacific Ocean in September, and hundreds of monarch butterflies return to Andrew Molera State Park around October to settle in for winter. A host of events make Big Sur lively this time of year, too, and the sunny weather (think: daytime temperatures in the 60s and 70s) is perfect for sightseeing.
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Fall festivals abound in Sante Fe, New Mexico. Foodies will love sampling the region's distinct flavors during the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta in September. Meanwhile, culture hounds can enjoy a dose of local culture when they attend the three-day Santa Fe Indigenous Peoples' Day Celebration, which takes place every October. To escape the crowds and admire the golden aspens that blanket the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, arrive in late November and take a ride on the Ski Santa Fe chairlift.
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Fall in this part of Canada is characterized by cool weather and a quiet atmosphere now that summer travelers have returned home. There's plenty to do both indoors and outdoors: The Butchart Gardens, the Inner Harbour, Craigdarroch Castle and the vineyards of the Cowichan Valley all beg to be explored. Plus, visitors will find numerous cideries in the area – most notably Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse. Although the weather will be crisp, with temperatures hovering between the 40s and 60s, the views from the top of Mount Work and the seaside trails will make a fall vacation worthwhile.
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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 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, including the Pacific Islander Festival, Pacific BeachFest, the San Diego International Film Festival and the Encinitas Holiday Street Fair.
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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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Napa, California, is all about wine and food – and the weather is just about perfect this time of year to enjoy both. Plan to winery hop throughout the region during the day, taking your time to admire the area's vibrant foliage while sipping some world-famous vino. At night, you can sit down for a decadent meal at one of Napa Valley's many Michelin-rated restaurants. Keep in mind, the fall months encompass harvest season, so restaurants will be crowded and lodging prices will be high.
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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 Vancouver 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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Prince Edward Island#20 in Best Fall Vacations
Crisp daytime temps that range from the mid-40s to the mid-60s are the hallmark of any fall visit to Prince Edward Island. Though it may be too chilly to enjoy the Canadian island's beaches, there are plenty of events to keep you busy, including the Prince Edward Island International Shellfish Festival in September and the PEI Fall Flavours Festival, which runs from late September to early October. 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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