Ah, September. It marks the beginning of our favorite season: fall. It’s the time of year we can finally don our favorite flannel shirts, pull out our coziest throws and eagerly await the changing of the leaves.
While some of us would rather snuggle up indoors during these months, what many may not realize is September and October are actually some of the best times of the year to travel. Yes, January is typically the best month to fly, offering some of the lowest flight fares, but fall marks the end of peak travel season — what with summer wrapped up and kids back to school — meaning more vacation deals and less traffic if you’re traveling by car.
“Once September hits, most destination spots are in ‘low season,’ so you can find some great deals, not to mention the great weather that comes along with September,” Rachel Cruze, coauthor of Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money told US News.
To help you narrow it down, we’ve gathered the best trips to take this fall, including cities and parks with the most stunning fall foliage and best fall attractions.
The Grand Canyon
No other attraction in the U.S. is quite as awe-inspiring and majestic as the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and the fall season is the perfect time to visit. (Just be sure to visit in September or early October if you plan to visit the North Rim Trail, as it closes Oct. 15.)
If you take a quick glance at TripAdvisor, you'll notice many deals on helicopter, balloon and other air tours. Walk up to the canyon at either sunset or sunrise for the best sights, and don't forget to pack a light jacket — the weather is much cooler at this time of the year.
As the name of the town suggests, here you'll find truly stunning aspen trees glittering in autumn. Explore the area by foot on one of the many hiking or biking trails or by water via kayak or, if you're adventurous enough, by air via paragliding. You can also ride the Silver Queen Gondola, which will take you to the top of Aspen Mountain to get a bird's-eye view of the fall foliage.
Napa Valley, California
Wine, food and more wine: It's what Napa Valley's all about. So why not do both in cooler temps? As far as events go, the calendar is packed: In September, you can hit up Ciderfest at CIA at Copia, visit the farmers market, take a cooking class or go on a music crawl across over 30 venues in the area. If fall foliage is what you're after, though, the trees change in November, so plan to visit then.
Ozark National Forest, Arkansas
The Ozark National Forest in Arkansas in the fall is 1.2 million acres of red- and golden-hued trees. Here stands the tallest mountain in the state too, Mount Magazine. You can also head down into Blanchard Springs Caverns, an underground cave.
In the fall, Savannah, Georgia waves goodbye to the humidity and heat and embraces lower temps with a party — actually, make that many parties. From September through November, Savannah hosts food festivals and plenty of concerts, including the Savannah Jazz Festival and the Savannah Philharmonic's Picnic in the Park. Or take a ghost tour (it is the most haunted city in America, after all).
Outdoorsy folk can visit the beach, which isn't off limits in the fall. Head to Tybee Island for fireworks on Labor Day or go kayaking at Ebenezer Creek.
In September and October, Stowe, Vermont, literally shines — its fall foliage is unrivaled. Take it all in on a drive down Mount Mansfield Auto Toll Road or go on a hot air balloon ride to get a view from the very top. Stowe also hosts plenty of events in the fall, including Oktoberfest, the Foliage Arts Festival and Restaurant Week.
San Francisco, California
From exploring the Muir Woods (and its giant redwoods) to sailing to Alcatraz Island, there's no shortage of things to do in San Francisco. What makes fall the best time to visit is that it's simply cheaper to do so and you'll have fewer crowds to deal with while taking a stroll down Pier 39 or Fisherman's Wharf.
Multnomah Falls, Oregon
A mere 30 minutes outside Portland is a waterfall that'll stop you dead in your tracks. Multnomah Falls is 611 feet tall, and you can take a short hike up to Benson Bridge to get even closer to it. If you're scared of heights, though, don't look down! It's a 69-foot drop. Visit the waterfall in fall and you'll be surrounded by orange- and gold-hued trees.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Sure, you can visit New Orleans in the fall for its burlesque festival, is po' boy festival or its music festival (Voodoo Music Experience). But we're taking a road trip there this year for one reason and one reason only: Lafayette Cemetery. (OK, fine, we lied; Café Du Monde and its beignets are also on the list!). With Halloween coming up, what better time to visit a historic 19th-century cemetery complete with above-ground tombs?
Eastern Shore, Maryland
First up to do in Maryland: eat crabs. That you can do year-round. In the fall season, though, come to the Eastern Shore, specifically Elk Neck State Park, which sits along Chesapeake Bay, for its fall foliage. As far as events go, attend one of the many jazz festivals and art walks taking place during those months.
Denver not only boasts vibrant fall colors in autumn (especially at Red Rocks Amphitheater and Park), but it also hosts plenty of must-attend events, from the Great American Beer Festival to Oktoberfest. Plus, there are plenty of bike trails and hiking trails for outdoor enthusiasts. Our No. 1 recommendation, though? The 14,000-foot peaks of Maroon Bells, which reflect so beautifully off Maroon Lake.
Visitors flock to Sedona for Oak Creek Canyon and its numerous swimming holes, spirit quests (it's true), hikes among the magnificent red rock formations and stargazing. And you can do most of these things in the fall months (skip a dip in the creeks and swimming holes, as they may be too cold at this time). Hiking is just as if not more beautiful as you watch the leaves change along the creek. If you have time for it, drive the switchbacks, where the trees are even more stunning.
Catskills, New York
In autumn, New Yorkers flock to the Catskills for its fall foliage. Some of the best fall hikes in the Catskills include Pratt Rock (also known as "New York's Mount Rushmore"), North Point and North Mountain Ledge, Huckleberry Point, Yankee Smith Trail (where you'll spot waterfalls) and Four-Mile Point Preserve (which is located in Coxsackie).
Poconos Mountains, Pennsylvania
Here's a fun fact for you: Pocono means "the stream between two mountains." Here at Poconos Mountains, you'll have 2,400 square miles of lakes, rivers and woodlands. Hike, bike, fish, go zip-lining, have a picnic at Big Pocono State Park, go on an adventure to find Bushkill Falls — basically spend all your time outdoors. It'll be worth it, especially in the fall.
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