Great Fall Getaways

Great Fall Getaways

Fall travel is full of rejuvenating experiences. And what better way to beat summer’s heat than by planning a fall vacation? Whether you plan to travel in September, October or November, check out this fall travel destination guide to some of the best vacation spots for each month of the season.

Best Places to Travel in September

Top Recommendation: Niagara Region, Ontario, Canada

  • Average daily temperatures in September range from 54 to 70 degrees

Drive across the border or fly straight into Ontario, Canada, where you’ll discover one of the best places to visit in September — the Niagara Region. September marks the beginning of the region’s shoulder season, the time between traditional peak and off-peak travel. This means fewer crowds just in time for prime fall colors from mid-September through mid-October. Here on the border of the United States and Canada, you’ll discover the three waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls. Every second, 3,160 tons of water flow through these more than 12,000-year-old falls. Journey Behind the Falls for a unique perspective on the thundering falls — one-fifth of the world’s fresh water. Wear your souvenir poncho as you descend 150 feet and venture through tunnels more than 130 years old.

Admire the sight and sound as tons of water spill over Niagara Falls at 32 feet per second.

Next, drive about 15 miles north to Niagara-on-the-Lake, a quaint 19th-century village in Ontario’s wine country. Each September, the town hosts its annual 2 1/2-week Niagara Grape & Wine Festival, featuring local food vendors and more than 100 events, including cellar door experiences, wine tastings, parades and concerts. In town, explore local wineries, go antiquing and stay at The Butler House, a romantic bed-and-breakfast dating back to the late 1780s. The house was thought to have been used as a secret militia meeting place by Col. John Butler and Butler’s Rangers, a loyalist regiment fighting for Britain during the American Revolution.

Insider Tip: Make time for an afternoon cruise down Niagara Parkway for what Winston Churchill described as “the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world.” Easily accessible from Niagara-on-the-Lake, this Ontario parkway, which divides the U.S. and Canada, winds drivers along the Niagara River and offers spectacular views of fall colors during late September and early October.

Getting There

Also Consider: Portland, Maine

  • Average daily temperatures in September range from 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Leaf peepers need only drive about 20 miles northeast from Portland to reach Bradbury Mountain State Park, frequently noted as one of the best places to see fall colors. By September, Portland’s peak summer tourism season has passed, which makes it less crowded and often less expensive to visit than in summer. Much like the rest of New England, the Portland area hosts several fall festivals, from Family Harvest Days to Ales for Tails. September visitors can also stop by one of Portland’s many brewpubs, like local favorite Bissell Brothers. Sample seasonals such as its Baby Genius, a hoppy session beer available through early October, or year-round, rotating pours such as its Bucolia amber ale.

Best Places to Travel in October

Top Recommendation: Chicago, Illinois

  • Average daily temperatures in October range from 42 to 62 degrees

Chicago takes full advantage of October’s pleasant weather as scarves come out, autumnal colors burst and pumpkin patches pop up, such as Sonny Acres in West Chicago. The city hosts more events than you could possibly choose from in October, such as the Chicago International Film Festival, Fall Bulb Festival and even a Halloween parade for dogs.

This time of year also beckons travelers to the Chicago Botanic Garden, where Japanese maples transform into shades of fiery red. Or drive to Millennium Park to snap a family photo with the park’s beautiful foliage and the city’s skyline in the background. During your fall getaway, Lake Shore Drive will connect you to popular, year-round Chicago attractions like Navy Pier, Shedd Aquarium and Soldier Field, which hosts the Chicago Bacon and Beer Classic every fall and features more than 50 Midwest beers and dozens of bacon-infused dishes.

As the Chicago Botanic Garden's trees and harvest reach peak autumnal colors, stroll past the Skokie Lagoons (above), or go on an October Fall-Color Tree Walk.

Insider Tip: For more fall fresh air, take an arboretum tree tour in the historic Graceland Cemetery and Arboretum, which dates back to 1860. A local hidden treasure, Graceland is filled with black walnuts, sycamores, red oaks and Ohio buckeyes among the myriad trees that sprinkle this quiet, peaceful spot with memorable fall colors. On colder days, stay inside your rental car to discover the interesting stories behind people buried in the cemetery during a self-guided audio tour.

Getting There

Also Consider: Albuquerque, New Mexico

  • Average daily temperatures in October range from 46 to 69 degrees Fahrenheit.

Not only does Albuquerque light up with autumnal golden-yellow hues, thanks to its cottonwoods and black willows changing color, but this top fall destination also hosts an awe-inspiring event: the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Watch as more than 500 hot air balloons are released into the New Mexico sky and float over the Sandia Mountains during the nine-day festival, the largest of its type in the world.

Best Places to Travel in November

Top Recommendation: Savannah, Georgia

  • Average daily temperatures in November range from 48 to 71 degrees

Leave your peacoat behind and get ready to be charmed by more than just this Southern town’s fall weather during shoulder season. Savannah’s sweltering humidity and summer crowds are gone while holiday tourists have yet to arrive, which means off-peak prices, fewer crowds and more lodging options for November travelers. Savannah invites visitors to stroll past its Colonial-style homes and streets lined with Spanish moss, through its historic squares — all 22 of them — and enjoy its Southern hospitality. To get a true taste of that Southern goodness, head to the Savannah Food and Wine Festival for a week packed full of culinary events. Pick up a souvenir glass and take a River Street Stroll, a festival event where you can sample wines, spirits and Belgian beer as you walk down River Street. Or attend the Taste of Savannah, where you can savor creations made by the city’s finest chefs, take cooking classes and more.

Savannah’s Spanish moss-draped Forsyth Park—the largest park in the city’s historic district—invites visitors to meander, read or relax within its 30 acres.

There’s more than just food-filled events in fall, too. In mid-November, art lovers can head into historical downtown for the annual Telfair Art Fair, featuring 80 artists, entertainment and kids’ activities. Meanwhile, at the annual Savannah Children’s Book Festival, you may encounter some of your favorite story characters in costume. Later in the month, the annual Boat Parade of Lights will delight Georgia visitors with exactly what its name advertises — a parade of lighted boats, plus a tree-lighting ceremony and live music.

Insider Tip: Built on top of Native American burial grounds, Savannah is said to be haunted. Get a dose of history in autumnal style by going on a Grave Tales Tour. Suitable for families, this tour will take you to some of Savannah’s most haunted houses, mansions and cemeteries and discuss the events and founders who shaped the town.

Getting There

Also Consider: Gatlinburg, Tennessee

  • Average daily temperatures in November range from 34 to 61 degrees Fahrenheit.

Still showing its fall colors without the October crowds, Gatlinburg is another one of the best places to visit in November. Located on the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway — one of America’s most scenic drives — Gatlinburg also provides easy access to Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a picturesque autumn adventure. As the holidays draw near in late November, Gatlinburg’s annual Festival of Trees puts Tennessee travelers in a seasonal spirit. Jump-start the holiday season amid hundreds of decorated trees, take photos with Santa and knock out some holiday shopping at the festival’s crafts market.

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About the Author

Lisa Zimmermann is a Washington, D.C.-based writer and has previously written for Boston magazine, Boston HomeBoston WeddingsThe Dallas Morning NewsThe Jersey JournalNew England Travel and Atlas Magazine. Every autumn, she loves nothing more than shooting fall foliage photos. Follow her on Twitter @lisazimm or Instagram @lzloveslife.