Best Places to Visit in September
With fall just settling in and the hassles associated with summer travel dwindling, September is the perfect time for a getaway. By this time, most tourists will have made their way out of popular destinations, and airfare and hotel rates will start to slide, making room for bargains left and right. U.S. News took into account these factors and more, including expert analysis and traveler sentiment, to come up with the best places to visit in September. Whether you're an adventure traveler looking for that next great trail, an urbanite looking for a new city to buzz about or someone seeking that small-town feeling, we've got a destination for you. Have a favorite? Vote below to have a say in next year's list. (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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Visiting Arizona's Grand Canyon during its peak travel season can be dangerous (high daytime desert temperatures and steep hikes don't mix well). September not only offers a cooler climate but fewer crowds to contend with now that the kids will be back in school. The park's South Rim, which is usually bustling with tourists in summer, sees fewer visitors come September, making it a great time for hiking traveler-approved paths like the Rim Trail. What's more, the highly underrated North Rim is still open throughout the month.
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Occupying about 90 miles of the California coast, Big Sur draws travelers with its dramatic cliffs and picturesque beaches. Visit in September to take advantage of the warm, dry weather lingering from summer without dealing with the peak season's crowds. Must-do activities here include hiking through state parks like Julia Pfeiffer Burns and Andrew Molera, snapping pics of Pfieffer Beach's impressive rock formations and surfing at Sand Dollar Beach. September is also an ideal time for whale watching, so keep an eye out for migrating blue whales, humpback whales and orcas.
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Oahu is Hawaii's most-visited island and Waikiki is considered one of America's most popular beaches, so if you want ample room to spread out on its famous shores, visiting during the fall shoulder season is your best bet. In September, the island sees fewer tourists but still offers hot, dry weather and warm water ideal for swimming and surfing. The discounted rates in September will also make your vacation that much more relaxing, and you'll be able to experience one of the island's biggest cultural events, the Aloha Festivals.
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When this South Carolina city's small-town charm comes in contact with the seasonal splendor of autumn, magic happens. Greenville offers soothing green spaces and a hefty helping of Southern hospitality. While foliage doesn't reach its peak until October, travelers will be treated to sunny days without oppressive summer heat, perfect for outdoor hiking and biking adventures. Visitors can peddle their way down the 22-mile-long Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail or spend a day exploring the 15 miles of trails in Paris Mountain State Park.
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Vacationing in Prague is like stepping into a fairy tale, no matter what time of year you visit. While snow-capped Prague is magical and summer is perfectly pleasant temperature-wise, September is the sweet travel spot, especially for those looking to sightsee. Not only will you beat freezing winter weather, but you will also encounter fewer tourists at normally crowded attractions, such as Old Town Square (where you'll find impressive historical sights like the Prague Astronomical Clock) and the Charles Bridge (which is lined with statues honoring 30 saints).
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Vancouver's abundance of outdoor attractions makes September the best time to admire its Pacific Northwestern topography. A walk through leafy Stanley Park – which features 1,000 acres, more than 16 miles of forest trails and the longest uninterrupted waterfront path in the world – or across famous Capilano Suspension Bridge – an architectural marvel that sits 230 feet above the ground – will no doubt yield awe over Canada's natural beauty. Not only that, but daytime temperatures in the 60s will be perfect for hiking through Vancouver's surrounding mountains, including Grouse Mountain (a traveler favorite).
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Unlike most Northern Hemisphere destinations, Santiago, Chile, transitions from winter to spring in September. The weather starts warming up (daytime highs hover between the 60s and 70s) and the dampness and smog of winter begin easing up, making September an ideal time for checking out top attractions like the Plaza de Armas and hiking to the top of San Cristóbal Hill. Plus, September is when Chile's largest celebration – Fiestas Patrias – takes place. Time your visit around this holiday commemorating the country's independence to enjoy rodeos, empanadas, barbecued meats, folk music and traditional dancing.
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Those interested in leaf peeping will love visiting Flagstaff in September. This Arizona city is considered one of the state's top places to see fall foliage, especially toward the end of the month. Head to the Arizona Snowbowl, a popular skiing and snowboarding destination, in fall to hike or drive past trees displaying vivid shades of red, orange and yellow. Or, gaze at the colorful trees lining Flagstaff's Historic Downtown and Railroad District. Daytime temperatures in September commonly sit in the 70s, providing comfortable conditions for checking out downtown's shops, art galleries and breweries.
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Although the transition from summer to fall usually brings cooler weather, September is one of San Francisco's warmest, driest months. During this month, visitors and locals alike can take advantage of this Bay Area city's sunny, fog-free skies and warmer temperatures at stretches of sand like Baker Beach and Ocean Beach. September is also a terrific time to go whale watching, so keep an eye out for migrating blue and humpback whales. Travelers with a passion for music should time their visit to coincide with the San Francisco Fringe Festival, which occurs in the middle of the month.
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With summer mostly crowds gone and a number of festivals popping up throughout the month, September is a fun time to visit the Windy City. You'll enjoy more elbow room at can't-miss attractions like Millennium Park (where you can snap a pic in front of the iconic Cloud Gate sculpture) and Grant Park (a sprawling green space that houses Buckingham Fountain and the Art Institute of Chicago). Plus, some of Chicago's most popular events – including the Chicago Jazz Festival and Oktoberfest Chicago – take place in September, offering you several opportunities to enjoy top-notch music and food.
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In South Africa's Kruger National Park, you'll find nearly 150 kinds of mammals, ranging from lions to hippos to giraffes, making it a superb place to go on safari. Visit in September to improve your chances of seeing many of these animals, as the month falls at the end of Kruger's dry season when the scarcity of vegetation and lack of rain causes fewer viewing obstructions. Plus, mosquitoes will be less of a nuisance during daytime bush walks and game drives.
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Fiordland National Park#12 in Best Places to Visit in September
Located on New Zealand's South Island, Fiordland National Park draws travelers with its stunning yet dramatic scenery. While the weather in the park can be unpredictable in September (a spring month in the Southern Hemisphere), Fiordland typically sees daytime temperatures hover in the 60s. These cool but comfortable days are when Fiordland's marine life, including penguins, fur seals and dolphins, tend to be most active, so be on the lookout while cruising or kayaking through jaw-dropping Milford Sound. Also save time for hiking one of the park's three Fiordland Great Walks trails.
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September may fall within Antigua's hurricane season, but with a little luck and proper planning (consider purchasing travel insurance to safeguard your investment), you can still visit the Caribbean island this time of year. Spend your vacation lounging on one of Antigua's 365 beaches. Dickenson Bay offers an easily accessible location, a wealth of amenities and countless water sports activities, while Half Moon Bay features a more secluded atmosphere ideal for relaxing. Regardless of where on Antigua you choose to spend the bulk of your vacation, you'll likely find few people and affordable room rates.
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This mountainous area of western Massachusetts offers a mix of outdoor activities and cultural attractions. September brings crisp fall weather to the Berkshires that is perfect for touring the grounds of the region's museums and historical sites. Plus, the pleasant temps make it possible to comfortably hike Mount Greylock or Monument Mountain's trails, which offer an up-close look at the beautiful fall foliage that starts appearing in September. This time of year also features fun seasonal events like the Housatonic Heritage Walks and the Lenox Apple Squeeze.
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Huatulco#15 in Best Places to Visit in September
If you don't mind a little rain and heat, September is a terrific time to visit Huatulco. This month falls within Huatulco's rainy season and sees average daytime highs in the upper 80s and low 90s, but the rain rarely lasts all day, so you can cool off in the city's nine bays and at its 36 beaches between showers. What's more, the rain makes Huatulco's lowland jungle appear particularly lush in September, providing a picturesque setting for hikes through Huatulco National Park and nearby Hagia Sofia Eco Adventure Park.