Travel Destinations

The Ultimate USA Fall Travel Guide

The Ultimate USA Fall Travel Guide
Written by Duke Stewart

Seeing the words “Fall Travel” puts an immediate smile on my face because it’s the best concept. And that’s why we decided to create this guide, but we couldn’t have done it without the help of some pretty awesome people. We reached out to experts and the result is this—the ultimate USA fall travel guide that will help you plan that perfect getaway this year, next year, and beyond.

The Ultimate USA Fall Travel Guide

Blue Ridge Parkway

Linville Fall Foilage Photo by Travel Through Life

Words and Photo by Travel Through Life

The Blue Ridge Parkway stretches from Great Smoky Mountain National Park on the North CarolinaTennessee border all the way up to Rockfish Gap, Virginia, twisting and turning for 469 miles in between. The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the best places to visit in October because the beautiful mixes of greens turn to varying degrees of orange and red. There are numerous overlooks along the way where you can sit and relax when it’s not too crowded, or hang out and listen to others marvel at the fall foliage and the blue ridge mountains out in the distance. Among the more prominent stops along the way, our favorite has to be Linville Falls. You can take a short hike to a couple of overlooks or embark on the more difficult Plunge Basin Hike. Crowds will come from all around, driving the Blue Ridge Parkway but if you can get out early, you should be able to pull off some people- and car-less photos of those beautiful tree-covered roads and walkways.

California

Julian 

Julian California Apple Pie Photo by Alexa of 52 Perfect Days

Words and Photo By Alexa, 52 Perfect Days

Head one hour east of San Diego to Julian, in the Cuyamaca mountains. It is my favorite Southern California town to visit in fall. The town’s history is tied to the 1870s gold rush and today it continues to celebrate these roots. This is a small town with an old fashioned feel; you’ll find an Alpaca on the corner waiting for parents to let their kids take a ride and a local theater company called Desperados that put on a bank-robber gun show/play. While in Julian you can take a gold mine tour, enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride and visit the many stores that dot Main StreetIn fall, you can’t visit Julian without enjoying a slice of apple pie. The town is famous for apple pies and apple cider. There are many apple pie shops in town all making their delicious desserts from apples grown in nearby orchards. If you have time and the appetite, enjoy a slice of pie from different locations and try as many as possible!     

Florida

Autumn Kayaking in Florida Photo by Charles McCool

Words and Photo By Charles McCool, McCool Travel

Much of the USA is wonderful to visit in autumn—crowds are light, the weather is cooler, and fall festivals are everywhere. It is one of my favorite times of the year to visit Florida. Days are still hot/warm but evenings and early mornings are coolish. Hurricane season is over and snowbird season is a few months away. Skeeters are nonexistent. It is a fun time to visit! One year in mid-November we did a family vacation to a theme park and rode a popular ride over and over and OVER again with no wait. A much better experience than in the summer!

Dunedin

Dunedin Florida Photo by Melody Pittman

Words and Photo By Melody Pittman, Wherever I May Roam

Florida isn’t all theme parks & beaches; we actually have four distinct sunny travel seasons. In fall, I visit Dunedin, a cute little town on the Gulf Coast, and sister city to Stirling, ScotlandDunedin boasts an adorable downtown with boutiques & local eateries, while the Pinellas Trail (cycling and walking.) runs through it. When we aren’t eating, drinking, or photographing this beautiful city, we attend the Art Harvest Show & Sale (juried art) in November or drive to Tampa for an NFL football game. Kayaking to Honeymoon or Caladesi Island State Parks is a must. Nearby Safety Harbor & Clearwater are fun day trips.

Georgia

The North Georgia Mountains

Fall foliage North Georgia Photo by Karon Warren

Words and Photo By Karon Warren, This Girl Travels

The North Georgia Mountains offer many activities to enjoy during the fall season. For instance, head to Ellijay in Gilmer County—also known as the “Apple Capital of Georgia”—to pick your own apples. In Dawsonville, see if you can find your way through Uncle Shucks Corn Maze, or enjoy a hayride at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm before choosing a pumpkin for your jack-o’-lantern. Try some of the local wines in Dahlonega, or shop for holiday gifts at the annual Gold Rush Days Festival. No matter where you roam in the North Georgia Mountains, you’re sure to enjoy the gorgeous fall colors dressing up the trees.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon in Fall Photo by Bella of Whisper Wanderlust

Words and Photo By Bella, Whisper Wanderlust

After admiring it in so many American films, I decided to visit the Grand Canyon and enjoy its enormity and uniqueness in real life, as well. Therefore, I had to include it in the itinerary of a 10-day trip to the West Coast of the US in the fall. When I saw the place where the geological processes have made a unique combination of sizes, colors, and structures, I was left speechless. The beginning of autumn seems to me the perfect season to visit The Grand Canyon, due to the beautiful harmony of the colors of the vegetation and the rocks, as well as for the perfect temperatures, ideal for exploring the long, beautiful trails.

Massachusetts

Ipswich

Fall ApplePicking in Ipswich Massachusetts Photo by Izzy of The Next Somewhere

Words and Photo By Izzy, The Next Somewhere

Nothing proclaims the advent of fall more than a trip to the apple orchards in Massachusetts to pick your own apples! There’s something about the rustic red farm surrounded by piles of hay bales and the rickety pickup trucks carting families to the vast expanses of orchards that have trees brimming with succulent Galas, tart Honeycrips, and lip-smacking Granny Smith apples that are just so… autumn. Russell Orchards in Ipswich is my go-to orchard as they have over ten different varieties to choose from and you can even go home with apple wines and ciders and apple cider doughnuts pulled fresh from the fryer!

Michigan

Traverse City

Traverse City Road Trip Food Travelist

Words and Photo By Sue Reddel, Food Travelist

Not only is Traverse City, Michigan a terrific place to see the beautiful changing fall colors it’s also a destination that is a food traveler’s dream. Whether it’s fine dining or more casual fare that suits your fancy they have it all. Don’t forget to try the sweets from the Grand Traverse City Pie Company and top-rated Moomer’s Ice Cream. Area wineries, craft brewers, and local meaderies are also abundant and delicious. While you’re there be sure to check out the nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. Beautiful spot for nature walks, bird watching and just enjoying the scenery.

Minnesota

The Boundary Waters

Boundary-Waters-Minnesota-Photo-by-Flickr-User-J-Stimp

Photo by Flickr User J Stimp

Words By Cassie Dufon, Wandering With Coffee

The Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota has got to be the best kept Autumn secret. This area is mostly reserved for camping with only a few lodges to stay in, so bring your tent and your gear and stay to soak in the best part of autumn! Minnesota, in general, boasts an incredible fall experience, with cooler weather perfect for sweaters and pumpkin spice lattes, as well as vibrant trees across the state. The Boundary Waters are the perfect place to stay if you want an adventurous and outdoorsy Autumn experience. My recommendation is to visit Front Porch Coffee & Tea to pick up a warm coffee before wandering amongst the trees for the rest of your visit.

New Hampshire

White Mountains

White Mountains in Fall Photo by Nothing But New England

Words and Photo By Frank Parrott, Nothing but New England

Fall in the White Mountains of New England is a wonderful myriad of colors.  With the leaves of the numerous variety of trees changing from their summer green to everything from vivid yellows to fire engine reds,  it is no wonder why these mountains of New Hampshire are so popular.  Hikers, bikers, and families on day trip drives all have the ability to see Mother Nature work her magic. Of course being a hiker, I am a little biased and will say that hiking the White Mountains in the fall is the best.  The cool crisp air makes for perfect hiking conditions.  Reach a summit of one of the 48 four thousand foot mountains, and you will be treated to views you just can’t get from driving in a car.

New Jersey

The Jersey Shore 

Jersey Shore Photo by Erin 10 Miles Behind Me

Words and Photo By Erin, 10 Miles Behind Me

Summer may be ending, but it’s the perfect time of year to head to the Jersey Shore. The crowds are gone and the beach is your own, for much lower home rental prices than during the busy summer season, or for free if you’re just taking a day trip. Most recommended are the beach towns of the southernmost county in NJ—Cape May County: Ocean City, Sea Isle, Stone Harbor, Avalon, and the town of Cape May itself. Visit Cape May Brewery, climb the Cape May Lighthouse, tour Margate’s Lucy the Elephant, rent a bike to ride on the boardwalks, or relax with a novel on the beach—even if you have to wear long-sleeves. Check restaurant hours in the fall as some will shut down for the season or be open solely on weekends when winter gets closer.

New Mexico

Santa Fe

Santa Fe in Fall Golden aspens photo by Steve Collins

Photo by Steve Collins

Words By Billie Frank, Santa Fe Travelers

After spending most of my life in the Northeastern United States where fall is a riot of glorious colors, fall in the Southwest took some getting used to. The aspen, Northern New Mexico’s most common native deciduous tree, turns yellow in fall giving the hills above Santa Fe a glorious golden mantle. Lots of people drive up Hyde Park Road to view and photograph the mountain foliage in the Santa Fe National Forest. Finding a parking place can be challenging, but it’s well-worth the effort. If you want to see the foliage from above, ride the chairlift at Ski Santa Fe. Peak viewing season is early to mid-October.

New York

The Finger Lakes

Fall in Finger Lakes Photo by Karen of Wanderlustingk

Words and Photo By Karen, Wanderlustingk

The Finger Lakes in Upstate New York are one of my favorite fall destinations. It’s a five-hour drive from New York City to Ithaca, however, the Finger Lakes are the perfect weekend road trip to enjoy the beautiful leaves turning! The Finger Lakes are not surprisingly shaped like fingers, but they’re surrounded by lush forest and rolling hills.  In the rolling hills, a wine tour of this region is a must for Riesling lovers as this region produces New York’s best wine. There’s nothing like enjoying the stunning views of the lakes and the changing colors with a glass of wine!

North Carolina

Jockeys Ridge State Park North Carolina

Words and Photo by Travel Through Life

Many people will come to North Carolina to see the Blue Ridge Parkway and the mountains, but there are some pretty fun things to do on the coast, especially in the Outer Banks. Grab some Duck Donuts and hang out at one of the many beaches nearby, soaking in some sun and having a dip or two in the beautiful water. Hopefully, you get a chance to witness the sunset from somewhere nice, and my personal favorite place has to be Jockey’s Ridge State Park, where you can watch from one of its beautiful sand dunes.

Ohio

Southern Ohio

Southern Ohio in Fall by Hallie Bradley The Seoul of Soul

Words and Photo By Hallie Bradley, The Soul of Seoul

Growing up in Ohio, I didn’t really appreciate how beautiful autumn there is but, then again, I didn’t have much to compare it to. Having been up, down and all around the world now, I can undoubtedly say that Autumns should ONLY be spent in Ohio if you want to see true fall beauty. The leaves change colors that you didn’t think possible and the corn stalks that have browned are turned into mazes to run through. Pumpkin fields are open for autumn hunts and bonfire aromas waft down the avenues. Ohio is what you picture when you picture a quintessential autumn.

Oregon

Cannon Beach Oregon in Fall Photo by Sarah and Nathan Discover the PNW

Words and Photo Sarah & Nathan, Discover the Pacific Northwest

With a year-round temperate climate and an abundance of natural beauty, the state of Oregon in the Pacific Northwest is a great destination almost year round. The mostly gray and rainy months of January and February being the exception. However, our personal favorite time to visit Oregon is in September and October. When you think of the beach you probably think summertime, but Oregon’s spectacular coastline is actually best in the fall months as they usually experience a gloriously warm and dry Indian Summer. If you head to north and central Oregon you will be treated to scenic drives which take you past impressive waterfalls with a backdrop of fall colors. For wine lovers fall in the Willamette Valley is heaven. Experience the excitement of harvest time while tasting some of the best wines in the world produced in over 500 wineries.

South Carolina

Charleston

Charleston Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens Travel Through Life

Words and Photo by Travel Through Life

I’d definitely recommend visiting Charleston, South Carolina at any time of year. Fall is the best for beach lovers because temps are still pretty warm even through the end of September. I’m a big fan of the city’s historic district and plantation homes, too, and think they’re worth a visit throughout the year. Be on the lookout for Bill Murray, because he lives there and likes to mingle in various local hotspots and he’s part owner of the Minor League Charleston Riverdogs. I still haven’t found him and use that chase as another excuse to continue revisiting Charleston, if not for the awesome food (think shrimp n’ grits), laid back vibes, and everything else that makes this place so great for an October holiday and beyond for a fall vacation.

Vermont

Fall in Vermont Photo by Tara Schatz

Words and Photo By Tara Schatz, Back Road Ramblers

If you’re a back road traveler, you won’t want to miss October in Vermont. Leaf peeping is a serious activity in these parts, enticing visitors from near and far to come witness the car-crashingly beautiful colors that paint the mountains and valleys across the state. Actually, the whole of New England is pretty gorgeous through October, but I’m partial to my home turf. In fact, as much as I love to traverse around the country, you will always find me in Vermont in October.  The main attraction is Mother Nature, but towns, villages, cities, and rural communities go all out as well. As you travel Vermont’s back roads, you’ll find fresh cider doughnuts, colorful farm stands, autumn festivals, craft breweries, and live music. This is, after all, our last big hurrah before winter sets in. Early October is the best time to see color in the mountains, followed by a stunning show in the valleys a week or two later. I’m partial to Southern Vermont, particularly the towns of Bennington, Manchester, and Wilmington. Here’s a weekend road trip that will turn you into an official leaf peeper, and make you fall in love with the not-so-green mountains of Vermont.

Virginia

Shenandoah National Park

Fall Shenandoah National Park Julie McCool

Words and Photo By Julie McCool, Fun in Fairfax VA

October is the month to visit Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, as Fall foliage emerges and cooler temps replace summer humidity. The park is ideal for both active hikers and folks who prefer easier access to nature. Visitors can soak in forest and mountain views from 75 overlooks along the winding 105-mile long Skyline Drive. Hikers will find even more dramatic vistas on short trails or a long stretch of the Appalachian Trail. Skyline Drive can get busy with Fall leaf-peepers, so plan to slow down and take your time. Happily, that’s the best way to spot deer, bears, and other wildlife too.

West Virginia

Huntington

Huntington West Virginia Marshall University

Words and Photo by Travel Through Life

Although we moved away after many years living in West Virginia, Christina and I occasionally go back to our former home and back to Huntington. It’s a small town that’s filled with wonderful people. There are also cool places to go here in the fall, including Ritter Park, Beech Fork State Park near Lavalette, and the campus of Marshall University (Go Herd!)—sorry, WVU fans. I could also go back just to have a meal or twenty at Fat Patty’s, Black Sheep, or any of Huntington’s other culinary options that keep cropping up. Driving out of the city is another great adventure because there are so many worthwhile state parks and roads filled with color as fall colors start to peak before the cold winter settles in.

Wisconsin

Northern Wisconsin

Northern Wisconsin Getting Stamped

Words and Photo by Hannah Lukaszewicz, Getting Stamped

If you ever find yourself in Wisconsin and have checked out all the Milwaukee attractions already just head north on US Highway 41. We love going to the cabin in Minocqua, it’s a great place to escape the city for a long weekend in the fall. In the fall it’s amazing to see all the trees changing color, the fresh air, refreshing temperatures, caramel apples, and microbrewery pumpkin beer. There are a ton of lakes in northern Wisconsin it’s a great place to go for a long scenic drive or get out on the water yourself. 

Our Thoughts and Yours

I’m so excited for fall travel in the USA now! There were quite a few places that we hadn’t even thought about visiting but thanks to our friends who contributed, the list just got a lot longer. I’m sure there are more places to explore in the USA during fall. That’s where you come in.

Did we leave out a USA fall travel destination that you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear about it!

About the author

Duke Stewart

I'm a writer and recovering American expat who shares my family's travels through life. Follow our adventures here and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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