Looking to spend Labor Day somewhere exciting? September is the perfect time to find warm weather in North America and much of Europe, while in South America springtime begins. Another perk of traveling in September? It’s shoulder season in a lot of destinations that have bigger summer crowds. If you want to experience the grape harvest in California wine country, watch an innovative new play in Ireland, or simply escape the crowds and connect with nature, check out these 10 picks for September travel.
September is great for: adventurers
September is a perfect time to hike in Lebanon’s cedar forests and nature reserves, yet still warm enough to spend time at the beach. Plus, the summer crowds are gone, and harvest season—especially for grapes and olives—is in full swing.
Another reason to go? Accessibility. For years, it was virtually impossible to take more than a day trip beyond Beirut and Tripoli, Lebanon’s biggest cities, simply because there was no place to spend the night. Then entrepreneur Orphée Haddad launched L’Hôte Libanais, a collection of 22 small guesthouses in the capital and less-trafficked areas of the country, all owned and run by locals. Each of the homes is selected for its preservation of Lebanese design and architecture, and each offers travelers more intimate access to locals. For example, the home Zita Fidar, located near Byblos on the coast, regularly hosts art and music events; Dar Linda is owned by a historian with a large collection of Lebanese handicrafts; and at Beit Douma, in the Batroun mountains, cooks serve a traditional breakfast with produce plucked straight from the garden. L’Hôte’s success has inspired a new wave of independent guesthouses, such as Beit Trad, a family mountain home in Kfour; and My Stone Cellar, an early 20th-century home with period interiors, in the ancient hilltop village of Douma.
One-stop flights to Beirut are available from most international airports in the United States. Private guides are recommended for excursions and visits outside of Beirut. Or book a tour: Taste Lebanon leads fully guided one- to seven-day culinary trips. —Lindsey Tramuta, as seen in the January/February 2019 issue
September is great for: blueberry fans, solitude seekers
Newfoundland, an island in Canada’s most easterly province, is the September getaway you didn’t know you needed. Looking for sweeping coastline vistas or on a hunt for glaciers? Newfoundland’s got ’em. Want to pick your own fresh, wild blueberries? No problem—they’re all over the place in August and September. Hope to see a humpback whale? The biggest population in the world hangs out off the coast of Newfoundland until October, and it’s easy to hop on a tour with an outfitter like Trinity Eco-Tours for a chance to spot one leaping out of the water. You don’t have to go all the way to Iceland for puffins; until about the third week of September, they’re nesting (step aboard a tour with Gatherall’s to hit some of the best puffin-viewing places).
And if you’ve been fantasizing about a stay at the dreamy (and sustainably-focused) 29-room Fogo Island Inn, until September 9 it’ll be easier to reach the remote isle thanks to a new private air charter by Evas Air. If you go later in the month instead, catch a food and wine appreciation workshop from September 13 to 16 with acclaimed wine writer Ian D’Agata. —Sara Button
September is great for: oenophiles
September in Napa and Sonoma counties doesn’t just mean great weather—it’s also time for the “crush,” grape harvesting season. Communities celebrate with myriad festivals and events. For example, on September 8, the town of Calistoga will hold its sixth annual Harvest Table; visitors can dine on fare by 10 local restaurants and drink wine from more than 40 area wineries at tables stretching over 1,000 feet down the town’s main street. Tickets go on sale July 15. Want to do some actual grape stomping? Through September, guests can make their own I Love Lucy memories at Grgich Hills in Rutherford (starting at $35/person). Check here for a full list of Napa Valley crush events
Further north in Sonoma County, check out the Sonoma Harvest Music Festival, where for the weekends of September 14–15 and 21–22, you can enjoy food and wine of the harvest season while listening to performances by Lauryn Hill, Ceelo Green, and Death Cab for Cutie at B.R. Cohn Winery. For a full list of events in Sonoma County, check here. —Sara Button
September is great for: trendsetters, beer drinkers
Over the past few years, Hungary has lured more travelers than ever before. Budapest has been the main destination, with its Gothic spirals, neoclassical domes, and elegant thermal baths (some have been in use for more than 400 years). But the historic metropolis has a modern energy. Hotels are opening left and right, its theater and nightlife scenes are thriving, and an eager class of chefs is making its mark: Onyx, a glamorous restaurant in the heart of the city, recently earned the country its first two-star Michelin rating. All of these are likely reasons why AFAR readers voted it their favorite European city for 2019.
In September, what better way to toast idyllic end-of-summer weather and a city on the rise than with a local craft brew? The craft beer movement has exploded in Budapest with an overwhelming selection of pints by upstart brewers and established stalwarts, even revitalizing District 9 into a craft beer district. A great way to navigate it all is on the Craft Beer Walk offered by Taste Hungary, which educates groups on the history of Hungarian brewing and the development of the craft beer scene. Or, do your own thing and hit Élesztő (which means “yeast”), one of the first craft beer hubs to open in Budapest. Housed inside a former glassworks factory, this pub pours a rotating menu of tap brews from about 20 local Hungarian craft beers and offers unusual beer cocktails to try. —AFAR Editors
September is great for: thespians, whiskey drinkers
Home to lauded playwrights such as Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde, Dublin has long been a city for theatergoers. And from September 26 to October 13, 2019, the Dublin Theatre Festival takes place in venues across the city. Showcasing works by both Irish and international artists, the festival also holds free public events with writers, as well as shows for children. If you tire of plays, there are plenty of other options in Dublin to stay entertained. Go to a castle. Sip whiskey at the Teeling Whiskey Distillery, the city’s first new distillery in more than a century. Listen to live trad music daily in Smithfield at The Cobblestone, “a drinking pub with a music problem.” Or combine two of Dubliners’ favorite pastimes—drinking and writing—by nabbing tickets for the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl. On the 2.5-hour walking tour, two actors introduce some of the country’s greatest writers and act out scenes from their works between pubs. Travelers, especially those based in the United States, may have an easier time getting to Dublin through September, too, thanks to new nonstop seasonal flights from Dallas on American Airlines that run through the month. —Sara Button
September is great for: pride celebrants, island fans
The Dutch island of Curaçao hosts one of those rare, in the Caribbean, events—a gay Pride celebration, which takes place from September 25 to 29 this year. The five-day lineup includes parties each evening, and most of them are free. In lieu of a Pride March, there’s a short Pride Walk (Willemstad is, after all, a small city). The hour-long event starts at the Rif Fort on the Otrobanda side of Willemstad and makes its way over St. Anna Bay to Wilhelmina Park, which hosts the opening celebration with DJs and other live performances.
With most of the official activities in the evening, you’ll have days free to explore the island—or to sleep in followed by some time poolside. On the final day, Sunday, September 29, an afternoon catamaran cruise sails from Willemstad to Fuik Beach, at the island’s southern tip ($65, including drinks and snacks). If you are concerned about traveling in the Caribbean during hurricane season, know that Curaçao sits safely south of the path followed by most tropical storms. It makes Curaçao the perfect place for one final weekend of summer fun—paired with a celebration of pride, island-style. —John Newton
September is great for: gregarious lager lovers
Did you know that Munich’s signature Oktoberfest actually begins in September? The world’s biggest beer party (called the Wiesn by locals due to its location on Theresienwiese) will run from September 21 to October 6. Roughly 6 million visitors will drink approximately 7 million liters of beer over those 17 days. It’s massively popular with Germans and visitors alike, so if you want to stay in the city, plan well in advance for local accommodation. Because Munich is easily accessible by train, you can search for lodging outside the city, too.
The action happens on a large open field in the city, where breweries set up big tents and serve beer, wine, and traditional Bavarian fare to thousands of people a day. Each has its own atmosphere—upmarket, rowdy, touristy—but most of them have oompah bands, and all of them are festive. Locals and visitors often wear traditional costumes to the drinking orgy. Come early on weekends—it gets packed with people by noon—and be aware that eventually someone will spill beer on you (and you’ll likely do the same). For more tips and planning help, download the official app or check out our recommendations for experiencing Oktoberfest like a local. —AFAR Editors
September is great for: outdoorsy folks
Patagonia, the alluring region of southern Chile and Argentina, is home to a diversity of South American landscapes: the towering Andes Mountains, the arid Patagonian Steppe, green grasslands that go on for thousands of miles. September brings spring and, along with it, colorful blooms and a chance of glimpsing the first penguins arriving in southern Patagonia to mate, as well as perhaps some roving pumas in Torres del Paine National Park. Because it’s so early in the tourist season, some hotels may not be open yet and fewer tours will be running—but that means you also get the magnificent views without the crowds. If you happen to be passing through Chile on September 18, the country’s Independence Day, you’ll get to celebrate with the locals during their festivities, which include plenty of music, cueca dancing, pisco drinking, and empanada munching. —Sara Button
September is great for: street art, cocktail-crazed travelers
There’s a new energy in Denver, sparked by the arrival of young entrepreneurs who have moved to the city for its booming job market, high quality of life, and cool creative scene. At the center is the River North Art District (RiNo), where more than two dozen galleries have opened in former warehouses. Visit in September, when average temperatures range from the 70s to the low 80s. It’s also the month for Crush Walls, a weeklong annual urban art festival September 2–8, when local and international graffiti artists use the area’s buildings as their canvases.
After viewing street art, check out new bars and distilleries, such as Ironton Distillery & Crafthouse, which serve locally made beer and spirits, and boutiques selling handmade home goods. Among a slew of new restaurants, Julep stands out for its homey Southern fare, and Call (recently joined by sister restaurant Beckon) offers a Scandinavian take on café treats. An influx of hotels has also turned RiNo into an ideal base for exploring the city. The 50-room Ramble Hotel features three bars, all run by the cocktail mavens behind New York City’s Death & Co. For travelers looking to mix business with leisure, the new Source Hotel is attached to an artisan market hall with communal spaces (and free Wi-Fi).
Denver International Airport (DEN) is a United hub. The airline expanded service to more than 20 domestic cities last year, bringing its total number of domestic direct flight destinations to more than 150. In 2019, it will add nonstop flights to Charleston and Fairbanks. In November, the Denver Central Market food hall opened in DEN with offshoots of several popular Denver restaurants. —Sara Button, as seen in the January/February 2019 issue
September is great for: art and architecture aficionados
In September, the tourist crowds start to thin in Istanbul, the only city that spans two continents. Travelers expecting ancient palaces and solemn mosques can also delight in the varied types of art becoming more widespread throughout this city of 15 million residents. This September, Contemporary Istanbul, an annual art fair dedicated to connecting contemporary art galleries, artists, and collectors, takes place at the fairgrounds in the Sisli district from September 12 to 15. Starting September 14, the 16th Istanbul Biennial will run through November 10 under the title “The Seventh Continent.” Named for the 7 million tons of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean, this year’s works will explore the effects humans have had on the Earth. If you’re more into architecture, the city is your playground, but don’t miss the Fatih district to admire the impressive Byzantine and Ottoman structures still standing. For even more background, book a private tour with an outfitter like Context Travel. —AFAR Editors
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