Guess what?! It’s officially fall, the best season ever, and that is a scientific fact.
Brisk autumn weather, colorful leaves swirling around your feet, and the excuse to finally dig your favorite leather boots out of storage.
Best of all, the prices, crowds, and temperatures have now dropped at the popular summer destinations, which makes this the perfect time for a fall getaway. You can enjoy the scenic foliage and autumn activities without breaking the bank.
As soon as I start seeing ads for pumpkin spice lattes I want to throw on my Uggs & head to a cabin in the mountains. A crackling fire will cast a warm glow throughout the room while I snuggle in my over-sized sweater and clack away on my typewriter. I’ll sip apple cider while relaxing in a hot tub on a balcony…
Sorry, I might have gotten carried away there. Fantasy over.
(Yes, I’m aware that I am, in fact, a basic white girl.)
Europe may be hot in the spring and summer months, but here in the U.S. we do fall like no one else
14 Best Fall Getaways in the US:
(Okay, I’m also a fan of Europe in the fall, but for the purpose of keeping this a reasonably-sized list, I’m sticking to the continental US for now.)
1. Rocky Mountains, Colorado
Ever since I splashed in the Colorado River on my cross-country drive, the Rocky Mountains have topped my list of places I want to live someday. Watching the leaves change from a cabin nestled away in the snow-capped mountains is pretty much my idea of paradise.
Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Florissant, and Estes Park are all especially picturesque in the autumn and offer cabin rentals ranging from rustic to luxury. Airbnb also has a fantastic selection of vacation & cabin rentals in Colorado.
2. Lake Michigan, Michigan
If you live anywhere in the Midwest US, you’ve probably heard the ads for Pure Michigan, but their claim to being the perfect place to watch “the colors of autumn crescendo into a flurry of vibrant reds, oranges and yellows” is no idle boast.
With 200 miles of shoreline on the western side of Lake Michigan and 19 million acres of woodland, Michigan is prime fall getaway material. See when the autumn leaves peak and book a Fall Colors Tour at Pure Michigan.
3. Gatlinburg, Tennessee
The scenic backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains make Gatlinburg an amazing place to curl up in a cozy cabin with a glass of wine and enjoy the perfect autumn weather. The Riverwalk and Smoky Mountain National Park offer easy and scenic hiking opportunities. You can also take the two-person Sky Lift to the mountaintop if you’d rather not walk.
I can personally vouch for Gatlinburg Getaway Log Home, in Black Bear Falls Resort, as I’ve been lucky enough to spend 5 days in this luxury cabin.
4. Ozark Mountains, Missouri
If you’ve never been to Branson, Missouri, you’re seriously missing out. Fall is the ideal time to check out the Vegas-style shows, dinner theater, and lumberjack challenges that Branson has to offer. Best of all, you can easily book a secluded cabin a few miles out of town to get your dose of nature in as well.
If the Branson activity doesn’t strike your fancy, Table Rock Lake and Lake of the Ozarks are also incredible vacation spots in the fall.
5. Mount Rainier, Washington
Mount Rainier is an active composite volcano about 54 miles southeast of Seattle, but that doesn’t begin to describe its awe-inspiring beauty. According to VisitRainier.com, “as the season turns to fall, Reflection Lake becomes a mirror of autumn colors with magnificent Mt. Rainier reflecting in its still waters.”
Hunt for huckleberries, hike the colorful Skyline Trail, or take an Elk Bugling Tour (yep, bugling is the sound made by mating elks) for a unique fall getaway. For the more romantically-inclined, the fall wine tasting event in the mountain community of Ashford is incredible.
6. Chicago, Illinois
Oh, Chicago, you will forever have my heart. Sure, summers get all the hype, but there is something magical about Chicago in the fall. I highly recommend taking a River Architecture Tour, but be sure to bundle up unless you go on a particularly warm day – it does get a little chilly on the river.
I know, you probably want to stay at the Drake (okay, if you must) but I would save your money and take advantage of other great hotel deals you can find anytime after August.
Now, you may not think Chicago belongs on a list of stunningly beautiful destinations, but as someone who has seen the city from the top of the ferris wheel at Navy Pier, I beg to differ. Check out The Bean at Millennium Park if you will (the reflections are kind of cool) but be sure to head up north and amble along the miles of beaches stretching along Lake Michigan as well.
If you visit in October, do NOT miss ‘Chicago, I Love You,’ an incredible 10-day celebration of the Windy City’s art, music, photography, film, literature, and comedy. Best part? It’s free, and will take you to some of my favorite venues, like the Green Mill, Lilly’s, and The Underground Lounge.
7. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Although Wyoming remains one of the only US states I’ve never set foot in, Jackson Hole is high on the bucket list. Despite a recent surge in tourism, this off-the-beaten-path destination still remains relatively isolated. Surrounded by Grand Teton National Park and miles of national forest, you could easily bunker down in a secluded cabin and enjoy unspoiled nature at its finest.
You could also get in touch with your inner cowgirl/boy by visiting one of the local ranches or logging operations. You might even spot Harrison Ford, who owns a ranch there, but don’t be a paparazzo. That’s just tacky.
8. Vancouver, BC
Vancouver may not technically be in the US, but I’m willing to make an exception for one of my favorite cities ever. Why? Because Vancouver in the fall is the place to be for writers and cinephiles. Get your dose of culture at the Writer’s Fest and International Film Festival or stroll through Stanley Park to take in the changing leaves.
Or, plan your trip around Halloween, which is a big deal in Vancouver. Second only to Christmas in the sheer amount of events and activities, you can enjoy parties and haunted houses, attractions like Fright Nights at the PNE, the Stanley Park Ghost Train and much more.
9. Yellowstone National Park, Montana
Yellowstone is on any avid camper’s bucket list, and autumn is a great time to pitch your tent. With the camera-toting tourists gone for the season, you’ll be able to watch the beautiful transition from summer to fall without interruption, except the occasional buffalo. (Don’t worry, they’re friendly…for the most part).
Whether you’re up for a challenging day hike or just want to sit and watch the sunset, there’s an adventure for anyone.
10. Savannah, Georgia
Jazz and film festivals bring Savannah to life in the fall. Few cities can boast more distinctive architecture and HELLO, comfort food. Seriously, your life probably won’t be complete unless you eat home-style Southern cooking at least once.
There are no shortage of amazing, historic guesthouses & B&B’s to stay in, and you can expect prices to be lower than they were during the peak summer months.
Be sure to take a haunted tour to get in the spirit of the season. If a simple ghost tour doesn’t seem creepy enough, you can actually take one in a hearse. You can also stroll through Bonaventure, a hauntingly beautiful cemetery with impressive tombs and statues.
11. Acadia National Park, Maine
Sprawling across the eastern coast of Maine, Acadia National Park is full of outdoor opportunities to admire the kaleidoscopic foliage. Hike, bike, or stroll along Cadillac Mountain, Precipice Trail or along the Carriage Roads. Wake up early and you can enjoy “the first sunrise in America.”
No trip to Maine is complete without seeing a lighthouse. Bass Harbor Head, located on the southern end of Mount Desert Island, does not disappoint. Standing 56 feet above water, it’s open to the public all year round.
You can also stop into Jordon Pond House, a teahouse from the 1800’s, for homemade ice cream, or drive the 20-mile Park Loop Road to take in breathtaking views of the ocean, mountains and forests.
12. Boston, Massachusetts
Boston is another city I’m absolutely in love with. It practically oozes history from its pores, and a walk down the Freedom Trail is even better with a little chill in the air. Grab that pumpkin spice latte and head over to the Paul Revere House or Boston Common.
I’m only slightly ashamed to admit that National Treasure is one of my top 10 favorite movies, so obviously I have to tell you to check out the Old North Church. My bad taste in movies aside, the church (officially named Christ Church) really is full of beautiful relics, including the oldest running clock in the US.
13. Big Bear Lake, California
Located only 2 hours east of LA (and hey, it takes 2 hours to get anywhere in LA) Big Bear Lake proves that Southern California is much more than botoxed actresses. The area is popular with photographers looking to capture the brilliant amber, yellow and pumpkin-colored leaves.
True to Southern CA style, there is no shortage of activities at this scenic destination. You can take a horseback ride through the forest, rent a mountain bike, or try ziplining. Check out the Beauty of Colors in Southern California at Big Bear Lake for more ideas.
14. Asheville, North Carolina
Ending this list on a high note (mountains – high note….see what I did there?), picturesque Asheville has been named one of the top 100 cities to live in by Relocate-America for a few years running. It’s also a prime cabin vacation destination with plenty of outdoor activities.
The fall colors in Asheville are among the most dramatic displays in the world. More than 100 species of leaf-shedding trees at extreme elevations give the Blue Ridge Mountains one of the longest and most vibrant leaf seasons in the country.
Driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway as scatterings of effervescent orange blow across the highway is one of the most enchanted experiences in the world. If you don’t believe me, check out this cool 3D satellite flyover showing the color progression in the mountains.
So where is your favorite fall getaway? What have I left out that should be included?