Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.
Crisp, cool weather and brightly colored foliage make fall the perfect time to travel. Whether you head to the mountains to spot the changing leaves or flock to sunny shores to soak up a few more days on the beach before winter sets in, we’ve rounded up the best fall vacations for every type of traveler. Cooler temperatures and fewer tourists make destinations like New York City and Maui ideal for fall getaways, and outdoor adventures await near Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Flagstaff, Arizona, where you’ll be just a short drive from some of the country’s best national parks.
Travel restrictions and guidelines are changing as the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve, so be sure to check with any destinations, hotels, or attractions to ensure they’ll be open when you visit.
Here are the 10 best fall vacations for your next autumn getaway.
1. Asheville, North Carolina
Nestled in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville has everything you could want in a fall getaway. The quaint downtown area is filled with unique shops, galleries, breweries, and restaurants, and you’re almost guaranteed to see some local street performers as you wander around. Go for a hike in nearby Pisgah National Forest to spot beautiful waterfalls among the changing leaves, or take a scenic drive through part of the park to take in the beauty without working up a sweat. The Biltmore Estate is another popular Asheville attraction worth visiting; this Gilded Age mansion is the largest privately owned house in the U.S., complete with gardens and a winery. For private and cozy accommodations, opt to stay in a nearby tree house or cabin found on Airbnb.
2. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Located near some of the country’s best national parks and most popular ski areas, Jackson Hole is a great place to visit year-round, but fall is ideal if you want to avoid some of the crowds and see the colorful mountain foliage. The ski season typically starts at the end of November, so time your trip for early fall to enjoy milder weather without the summer season visitors. A short drive to both Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole is truly a gateway to autumnal outdoor adventure. Take a scenic drive (and watch out for moose and bears), go for a hike, or visit the National Museum of Wildlife Art. For a luxurious stay during your outdoorsy fall getaway, check out the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole.
3. New York City, New York
With the summer heat gone, fall is a perfect time to visit New York City. Although some popular attractions won’t be reopening for a while longer — Broadway is currently shut down until 2021 — there’s still plenty to see and do in New York City. Shopping and dining venues are open across the city, and some museums — like The Metropolitan Museum of Art — are slated to reopen at the end of August. Pick a hotel located along Central Park, like The Mark or JW Marriott Essex House, both of which offer park views, so you can enjoy the canopy of changing leaves from the comfort of your room. Of course, you’ll want to grab some coffee and stroll through the iconic park to soak in the skyline views amid colorful trees.
4. Berkshires, Massachusetts
If you want to escape to rolling hills of stunning fall foliage, head to the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. There are several charming towns to choose from, including Lenox, Stockbridge, and Pittsfield, and at this time of year, you can drive from town to town while enjoying views of the colorful changing leaves. Blantyre, a Relais & Châteaux resort in Lenox, Massachusetts, was built in 1902 as a Tudor-style mansion and estate; today, it offers luxury accommodations for guests looking for a perfect fall getaway.
5. Sonoma, California
Fall is an ideal time to visit California’s wine country. Wine lovers will want to tour the area’s vineyards and wineries – cloaked in beautiful red, orange, and yellow foliage at this time of year — or take a ride on the open-air Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley. Take a break from the wineries and go for an easy hike on the Bodega Head Trail for sweeping ocean and bay views, and be sure to grab some fresh seafood for lunch. Nearby Farmhouse Inn (voted one of Travel + Leisure’s top 15 resort hotels in California) offers guests a luxurious stay in wine country, complete with sommelier-led wine tours and a Michelin-starred restaurant.
6. Flagstaff, Arizona
Flagstaff is a nature lover’s dream in early fall. This Arizona city is surrounded by national forests, monuments, and parks, so there’s plenty to see and explore at this time of year. Learn about Native American history and culture at Wupatki National Monument, where you’ll find pueblos that were occupied 900 years ago, and visit the Petrified Forest National Park to see petrified wood and the hills of the Painted Desert. Grand Canyon National Park is just an hour and a half away, so you can easily take a day trip to this incredible national park and enjoy milder weather and fewer crowds compared to the summer months. If you visit in September or early October, you can go glamping at nearby Under Canvas Grand Canyon, which is open until Oct. 26.
7. Burlington, Vermont
Burlington, Vermont is covered in red, orange, and yellow hues as the leaves change every autumn, making it one of the best fall vacation destinations in the U.S. Spend a day picking your own apples at one of the many nearby orchards, visit a pumpkin patch, or take a scenic drive to check out the beautiful foliage. After a day spent exploring, enjoy a local beer or two at one of the craft breweries in town. Hotel Vermont offers charming accommodations in the heart of the city, near the Lake Champlain waterfront.
8. Telluride, Colorado
You might think of Telluride as a winter ski destination, but this Colorado town is beautiful all year round. Early fall is ideal if you’re looking for colorful foliage in a breathtaking mountain setting. Visit in September or early October to take full advantage of the season’s offerings. Go for a hike or bike ride, or take in 360-degree views of the mountains and valley from the gondola, which runs until the end of the summer season on Oct. 18, before pausing until the winter season begins. You could also opt to visit in early December to enjoy the first days of the ski season (which typically starts around Thanksgiving Day). The Madeline Hotel & Residences, Auberge Resorts Collection is a perfect basecamp for all your outdoor activities, with ski-in, ski-out access and close proximity to hiking trails.
9. Maui, Hawaii
Sure, brightly colored fall foliage is nice, but autumn is also the perfect time to head to beachy, tropical destinations. Maui was voted the top island in Hawaii by Travel + Leisure readers in the 2020 World’s Best Awards, and once you visit, you’ll see why. Here, you can lounge on beautiful beaches, go hiking in a rain forest, or just relax at one of the many stunning resorts on this island. Adults-only Hotel Wailea is perfect for a romantic getaway, while Montage Kapalua Bay offers Paintbox, a program for kids ages five to 12. This summer, Hawaii required all visitors to quarantine upon arrival, but soon, visitors may be able to avoid that if they show proof of a negative coronavirus test.
Escape cooler autumn temperatures for sunny Bermuda this fall. Bermuda reopened for international travel in July, and visitors have to follow a number of health and safety protocols, including showing a negative COVID-19 test taken up to one week before departure. Bars and restaurants have reopened, and beaches have physical distancing measures in place, so you can enjoy the island’s popular pink-sand beaches in peace. The Loren and the Hamilton Princess are among the popular luxury accommodations on the island.
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