27 Best Fall Vacations in the US

by | Sep 10, 2022 | Destinations, Family Adventures, USA

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Fall in Los Angeles these days is a bunch of crispy lawns as the lingering drought chokes off our water supply. This isn’t something we want as our kids’ only memory of the fall season. We want to share the beauty of every part of every season as often as possible. My favorite memory of fall is a road trip down the Alcan Highway when I moved from Fairbanks back to Los Angeles. I couldn’t stop pulling over every so often to take panoramic pictures of the stunning beauty. Truly I was speechless staring at the colors that ranged from poppies to rust to fire to mint. Raised in LA, I had never experienced the depth and intensity of fall.

I asked a few travel bloggers what parts of the United States were their favorites for family vacations during autumn. Here are their top 27 spots.

 

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Mountains Of Utah

New England may get all the love for fall colors, but the mountains of Utah have something they don’t – seas of quaking aspen that turn a vibrant yellow color in the fall. Not to mention the backdrop of the majestic mountains. There are many places within an hour’s drive of the Salt Lake City airport to witness this firsthand, but there are two that are worthy of inclusion on your Utah bucket list.

 

trees in yellow by road - best fall vacation in the usa

A long and lovely road ©

 

Option 1: Drive Guardsman Pass to Park City. You’ll start in Salt Lake City and drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon. Willow Lake Trail and Silver Lake Loop are both easy-to-moderate trails that are great for checking out the fall colors. From there, take the famous Guardsman Pass, which takes you up to about 10,000 feet elevation and down into Park City. Fall is the off-season for all the ski resorts, so Park City is an ideal place to spend a fall getaway. Luxury hotels like the Stein Eriksen Lodge or Montage Deer Valley are much cheaper than usual.

Option 2: Drive the Alpine Loop in Utah Valley. Start by driving up American Fork Canyon and heading towards Sundance Resort. There are multiple places to get out and walk around the groves and snap some photos. Once you get to Sundance, make sure to ride the ski lift to soak in the views of majestic Mount Timpanogos and enjoy a meal in the mountain-top lodge.

Whichever one you choose, it is sure to be an experience you won’t forget.

By JJ Haglund from The Minivan Bucket List

 

Acadia National Park in Maine

The Acadia National Park is located on Mount Desert Island, on the scenic coast of Maine, and it’s a great place for families to see the fall colors in New England!

There are many hiking trails in Acadia for all types and ages, and October is arguably the best month to visit. Some of the cliff hikes in Acadia can be difficult and dangerous to navigate, but most of the trails are family-friendly and easy. For a short and flat hike, you can circle the Jordan Pond, which also has nice autumn colors.

 

mountains reflected in lake - best fall vacations in the usa

A perfect fall view – ©

 

Jordan Pond is one of the best Acadia National Park hikes for kids, and on top of the great fall colors, there’s also a restaurant called the Jordan Pond House, which is famous for its popovers (rolls).

Another great family-friendly hike for kids is the Ocean Path, which is a flat, easy walk along the most scenic coastline of Acadia National Park, with several nice viewpoints to stop and take pictures along the way.

If you want to stay close to the park, the Asticou Inn is a classic lodge where you can experience a bit of history on your visit to Acadia. This is a historic hotel and restaurant that dates back to 1883, and it’s been restored and equipped with a heated swimming pool, tennis court, and other modern amenities.

For tours, you can do a historical walking tour in nearby Bar Harbor or a food-tasting tour. Both of these are great options!

By David & Intan at The World Travel Guy

 

Lake Champlain, VT

Lake Champlain, located in northern Vermont (aka: the Northern Kingdom), is known for its stunning nature. Visitors take advantage of Vermont’s scenic beauty in the fall by hiking its mountains, bike riding its backroads, visiting museums, and trying the local foods from farms.

The Shelburne Museum is a fantastic open-air museum for the entire family. This 45-acre hosts 39 buildings, including an 1871 lighthouse, the Ticonderoga steamboat, and historic houses. Families can wander and learn about life in New England. The highlight of this museum is the toy museum, where kids learn about what children played with. See the evolution of toys and children’s activities right before your eyes.

 

fall foliage around a barn - best fall vacations in the usa

Fall bloom – Photo by Venti Views on Unsplash

 

Depending on your budget and group size, there are many great places to stay in Vermont. You can select from a cozy and intimate Bed & Breakfast that is family-owned or rest at family-friendly chain hotels. The North Hero House Inn and Restaurant provide beautiful lakefront views and screened-in porches. Due to the popularity of visiting Lake Champlain in autumn, advanced reservations are strongly recommended.

The closest major airport to Lake Champlain is, Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (Canada), Albany International Airport (NY), and Boston’s Logan International Airport.  Via car, it is only a 1 hour and 30-minute drive from Montreal, a 2 hour and 30-minute drive from Albany International Airport, and a 5-hour drive from Boston. If you want to take a scenic route, passengers can take Amtrack’s Ethan Allen Express from New York City to Burlington, VT.

Kate from Passports and Playgrounds

 

DON’T MISS! 6 Unforgettable Festivals In Autumn Around The United States

 

Ozarks, Missouri

The Ozarks is an awesome mountain range stretching over 220 miles. Found in the states of Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, it makes one of the best fall destinations in the US for kids
For the best activities for kids this fall in Missouri, head to the Lake of the Ozarks in Central Missouri. This is an incredible reservoir that is brimming with fun family activities for the fall. You’ll find The Cave Pumpkin Patch here, where you can try out water balloon shooting, pumpkin picking, wagon rides, and digging around the corn cribs. Next, check out The Apple Bash Demolition Derby before going on a hike to see some awesome fall foliage. 
lake with mountains reflected - best fall vacations in the usa
Typically, autumn hues reach their most beautiful around mid to late October. So, head to Ha Tonka State Park or Lake Of The Ozarks State Park for a picturesque hike through golden-hued forests. And if you’re feeling extra adventurous, explore the area’s extensive cave systems, including Stark’s Caverns and Jacob’s Cave. In particular, though, Bridal Cave is an excellent place to visit since a wealth of fun autumn-inspired activities are held in the area annually. 
Finally, grab the kids and relax by the large indoor pool at the Lodge of Four Seasons Golf Resort, Marina, and Spa
Not only are the accommodations elegant, but you’ll enjoy exceptional views of the lake and can enjoy dining at one of five family-friendly on-site restaurants.
By Linda of Midwest Explored

Asheville, North Carolina

Not sure what to do this fall with your kids? If so then take them to Asheville, North Carolina, and enjoy one of the best fall destinations in the US for kids. Asheville is an exciting place and you can easily start off your visit with a trip to Vanderbilt’s iconic Biltmore EstateAnd while your kids probably won’t enjoy the stunning architecture, they will love seeing the pool, bowling alley, and children’s nursery. Plus, there are expansive gardens and a number of hiking trails in the area too that easily make for some of the best things to do in Asheville, NCSo, your kids can burn off some excess energy here before embarking on a scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. 
water hole between rocky cliffs - best fall vacation in the usa
If you can, try and time your visit for the end of October when fall colors are at their best. 
Plus, as you’re driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway, be sure to stop at milepost 364 and explore the Craggy Gardens. No, the flowers won’t be in bloom but you can check out the cool scenery and exposed rocks that the region is known for before hiking to Linville Falls at milepost 316.  After all, this is a beautiful natural landmark that can be best enjoyed after hiking to the Plunge Basin Overlook. 
Whatever you do, though, don’t leave Asheville without breakfast at The Rhu. It’s a super chill cafe that serves amazing pastries, bread, coffee, and tea. 
You can also spend the night at the luxurious Omni Grove Park Inn and enjoy sweeping views of the awesome fall foliage that takes over the Blue Ridge Mountains at this time of year.
By Victoria of Southern Trippers

Florida Keys

Want to visit Florida with your family but hate intense crowds and ridiculously hot and humid weather? If so, try and plan a visit to the Florida Keys in autumn, one of the best fall destinations in the USA for kids. 
Not only is this season considered low-season in the Keys but temperatures are a bit milder since daily highs are only around 84 F while daily lows dip to 75 F. Just be aware that hurricane season extends from June through November. So, definitely purchase travel insurance and try and build as much flexibility into your trip as possible. 
Start your Florida Keys itinerary by taking the kids snorkeling at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. It was the first undersea park in the nation and is a great place for kids to see wildlife in its natural habitat. If you have young children, then you could always do an excursion in a glass-bottom boat instead. 
blue water around florida keys - best fall vacations in the usa
Next, learn about dolphins at the amazing Dolphin Plus Marine Mammal Responder. It’s a local facility where employees work together to rescue and rehabilitate local dolphins.  Another great place to bring the kids is the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center. So, after taking a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk, stop to admire local owls, pelicans, herons, hawks, and more. 
Additionally, you can also take the kids to see the Windley Key Fossil Reef State Park. Not only is admission reasonable at $2.50 a person, but you can do a self-guided tour of the quarry that Henry Flagler used to build his railroad. 
Then, book a stay at the incredible Baker’s Cay Resort in Key Largo. It’s an amazing place that features a wide variety of kid-friendly activities like nature walks, movie nights, scavenger hunts, and more.
By Victoria of Florida Trippers

White Mountains, NH

The White Mountains in New Hampshire are perhaps one of the best adventure destinations for families in the US! This region is home to some of the world’s most spectacular fall foliage, and it’s a veritable outdoor playground year-round.
There are lots of great places to base in the White Mountains — North Conway, Franconia, Mount Washington — but Lincoln makes a particularly good option for families. There are tons of things to do in Lincoln NH that appeal to kids and kids at heart.
Lost River Gorge and River Caves are a fantastic place to visit for both kids and kids at heart. In this narrow gorge, a wooden walkway leads you through verdant greenery and moss-covered rocks, the Lost River echoing beneath you.
A mile-long walk takes you past 11 caves that are part of the landscape, some of them perfectly sized for kids and all of them optional. See if you can fit into the Lemon Squeezer, and don’t miss the Judgment Hall of Pluto with its waterfall inside!
Other things to do in Lincoln include driving the Kancamagus Highway and exploring the nearby gorges and waterfalls, taking a walk through the Flume Gorge past Avalanche Falls, and taking the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway for views above the landscape. Don’t miss grabbing pancakes at Flapjacks!
The InnSeasons Resort at Pollard Brook is a terrific accommodation option for families in the Lincoln area. The family-focused suites have full kitchens, making them a good option for self-catering. The pool, basketball court, arcade, and game room are winners with kids of all ages!
By Kate McCulley of New Hampshire Way
 

Door County, WI

Fall in Door County is the best time to visit with your kids and relax. At this time, the trees start bursting into different colours and the atmosphere becomes more calming. Door County is one of the popular destinations in Wisconsin. It is a 70-mile peninsula with interesting streets, artsy museums, heart-winning natural beauty and local delicious food. There is a lot that can be discovered here if you are visiting with your kids.

Kids like everything to start with good food and a happy stomach. Take yourself and your little ones to Savory Spoon Cooking School. Situated in Ellison Bay, this school offers cooking classes with local fall ingredients. You can learn how to make apple pie with your kids on the side and let them taste the delicacies. Do not forget to take your kids to restaurants like Chives as they master making fall-special dishes using locally harvested ingredients.

After that, treat yourself to a fall camping trip. It can be a refreshing experience as you can slowly take in the beauty of Door County and can wake early morning to enjoy the trees taking in the warmth of the sunrise. After that, you can take your kids to hike or a late-season paddle.

 

Door County - best fall destinations in the usa

 

Introduce your kids to some authentic art, they’d love to soak in the creativity. There are more than 100 art galleries and studios in Door County. You can meet artists and see their art at places like Sievers School of Fiber Arts, Peninsula Players Theatre and more. For the natural art, do not miss out on the colorful fall foliage by taking a drive through the Door County Coastal Byway. You can stop at Whitefish Dunes State Park and climb up the tallest sand dune in Wisconsin. Also, enjoy the views of Clark Lake and Lake Michigan.

Looking for something spooky? Witness some of the haunted hotels in Wisconsin and unravel the story behind them. Top among them is The Pfister  “Constructed in 1893, it is known to be one of the most haunted Wisconsin hotels, and is said to be frequented by its owner Charles Pfister’s ghost, who likes to keep an eye on his property.”

For a great stay, you can choose from top-rated hotels. One of them is Westwood Shores and Waterfront Resort.

 

By Paulina of Paulina On The Road

Stowe, VT

There are so many fun things to do in Stowe in the fall, especially for families. When it comes to any and everything fall-themed, Stowe has it all. There is the Percy Corn Maze to figure out together, ample sugar shacks for tasting maple syrup, the famous Cold Hollow Cider Mill nearby with its incredible apple cider and apple cider donuts, and you cannot forget the delightful fall foliage!

Frolick around the city of Stowe and admire the changing colors or go on family-friendly hikes up to Stowe Pinnacle or Sterling Pond. Or skip hiking and enjoy the vibrant foliage on a gondola ride up in the mountains at Stowe Mountain Resort.

Stowe, VT - best fall destinations in the usa

For older and more adventurous kids, try a zipline tour through the foliage at Arbortrek Canopy Adventures. There are many great opportunities to spot the changing colors of fall together as a family.

If you want to stay in the mountains on a resort with great hiking trails, opt for the Trapp Family Lodge. This Austrian lodge was where the von Trapp family settled in the US. There are several activities to partake in as a family at this lodge, including mountain biking, disc golf, hiking, carriage rides, and more!

Stowe, Vermont, is a family-friendly US destination, especially during the autumn.

By Katherine Butler of World Wide Honeymoon

Rocky Mountain National Park

If you want one of the best fall destinations in the US for kids, then grab the family and embark on an amazing trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. You’ll want to time your stay for visit in late September since this is when fall foliage colors are typically at their brightest.

Then, experience all the amazing things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park, like a drive along the scenic Trail Ridge Road. This stunning, 48-mile roadway takes you from Estes Park all the way to Grand Lake.

 

fall leaves - best fall destinations in usa

 

Along the way, you’ll climb more than 12,000 feet in the air and can enjoy stunning alpine views from lookouts at Rock Cut, Rainbow Curve, Deep Ridge Junction, Poudre Lake, Milner Pass, and more.

But, if your kids start to get a little antsy, just stop at the Alpine Visitor Center along the way before enjoying scenic but manageable hikes to Bear Lake, Lily Lake, Alberta Falls, and Sprague Lake.

And if you want to avoid the crowds, get up early, pack a breakfast picnic, and enjoy the crisp mountain area amidst stunning views at either Lily Lake or Sprague Lake.  After all, these are two of the best lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park that you do not want to miss.

And for the best visit possible trip, base yourself at The Silver Moon Inn in Estes Park. It’s a simple but lovely place to stay that is well-priced, features a  pool, includes breakfast, and is just 3 miles from Beaver Meadows Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park.

By Meg of Fox in the Forest

 

Yellowstone National Park

Stretching over three states (Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho), Yellowstone spans an entire area of 3,468.4 sq mi (8,983 km2)  and is an excellent fall destination for kids in the United States. Within the boundaries of the first national park, visitors will find stunning waterfalls, dramatic canyons, incredible geothermal features, and of course, lush hiking trails.

For kids, Yellowstone is the perfect place to learn about volcanic activities and everything that happens below ground. The park has many iconic geothermal features, such as the Old Faithful Geyser and Grand Prismatic Spring, the biggest hot spring in the United States. When you visit in autumn, you might find ranger-led programs that can help your kids discover the park on a deeper level.

But perhaps the biggest reason why you want to visit Yellowstone in the fall is for its wildlife-watching opportunities. September in Yellowstone is rut season for the elks, and visitors can have the chance to witness this once-in-a-year phenomenon. Autumn has the highest level of wildlife activity because all of the animals are preparing for the winter.

If you are lucky, you might even see one of the bears foraging to prepare for hibernation! If there is one thing that kids love, it is seeing all of the animals in their natural habitat.

 

plains - best fall destinations in the usa

 

The best place to observe wildlife in the park is Lamar Valley. Drive through the valley at dawn and dusk to increase your odds of seeing some wildlife. Don’t forget to bring a pair of binoculars.

If you are visiting Yellowstone National park, try your best to stay inside the park. Old Faithful Inn is one of the best and most historic lodges in the park. If you want to stay some money, staying in West Yellowstone is a great option. There are a lot more amenities there and visitors will find plenty of things to do in West Yellowstone when they are not exploring the park.

 

By Sean Lau of LivingOutLau

Telluride, CO

The former mining town of Telluride Colorado is awash in history but is probably better known today for the Conde Nast’s award winning ski resort, making it a wonderful autumn destination for families too.

The town was designated as a National Historic Landmark due to the role it played in settling the American West.   Modern day visitors to Telluride are treated to a glimpse of history in the vibrant clapboard shopfronts and stately Victorian-era homes mixed with luxury hotels and gourmet restaurants.

It’s easy to spend an entire fall afternoon wandering through the cute shops, unique boutiques and abundant art galleries in Telluride.  Although Telluride attracts millionaire vacationers for the outdoor sports, there are also great things for an average family to also do there.

A fall trip to Telluride would be incomplete without a gondola ride through the bright golden Aspens.  The free gondola connects downtown Telluride and the mountaintop resort area known as Mountain Village.     Visitors can also drive directly to the resort area but there is no reason to miss the 13 minute gondola ride.   The Telluride gondola is the only free public transportation system in the United States of it’s kind.

 

Telluride gondola - best destination in fall in usa

 

The best Telluride hotel for families is the New Sheridan Hotel.  It is located only 3 blocks from the lift. The restored redbrick building from 1895 has a rooftop bar, ski storage and all of the modern luxuries expected.

Additionally if time allows, consider also taking a day trip to nearby Ouray.

Ouray is known as the Switzerland of America and is worth visiting while in Telluride for the area’s natural beauty.  The one hour drive across the Dallas Divide Pass between Telluride and Ouray offers sweeping views of the Colorado Rocky Mountains in all of their fall glory.  Visitors are treated to exceptional views while hiking in autumn on the Ouray Perimeter Trail.

Finally, if you’re looking for a more laid back Colorado vibe, check out the amazing, small mountain town of Nederland nestled between Boulder and Denver.

By Kara Metcalf of Trying To Unwind

 

Boston, MA

Boston, Massachusetts, is a great family-friendly destination that appeals to all ages—but the city truly shines in the fall when the leaves change. The weather offers a cool, crisp, refreshing environment to explore the city. 

During the fall, one of the best ways to explore Boston with kids is to walk the Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile trail throughout the city that leads visitors past 16 significant buildings, landmarks, or locations from the American Revolution. During the fall, the trail is also peppered with colorful leaves, making it an excellent opportunity for an educational experience and leaf peeping in Boston.

boston - best fall destination in usa

Some top sights along the Freedom Trail include the Boston Common, Old South Meeting House, Faneuil Hall, Old North Church, and Paul Revere’s House. Kids will have the opportunity to learn about important events in the American Revolution, like the Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party, while seeing where these famous events took place. You can also take the official tour from the Freedom Trail Foundation, to explore half of the Freedom Trail with a costumed guide playing a character from the American Revolution, like John Hancock! The Freedom Trail Foundation tour is just shy of two hours.

Depending on how engaged your kids are in the experience, walking Freedom Trail on your own can take anywhere from 3 hours to an entire day. Starting early to avoid the crowds and walking the Freedom Trail backward (starting at Bunker Hill instead of the Boston Common) are just a few of the Freedom Trail tips that can help your experience go as smoothly as possible—especially with kids in tow! 

Staying in a hotel near several attractions on the Freedom Trail, like the Boston Omni Parker House, makes it easier to access the Freedom Trail and take breaks throughout the day if needed. 

By Brittany Sawyer of Travel By Brit

 

Shenandoah National Park, VA

Shenandoah National Park in Virginia is a perfect destination for the whole family. The national park lies along the top of a mountain ridge with the famous Skyline Drive stretching the length of the park. It is one of the best places in the country to see fall color and there are over 75 viewpoints along Skyline Drive over the surrounding countryside. The colors along the drive start to change mid-October, typically peaking mid-late October. The colors down the side of the mountain turn a little later. 

There are also plenty of kid-friendly hikes. Older kids will love the rock scramble on the Bearfence Trail. The scramble is fun and the views from the top sensational. Kids will also love the hike down to Dark Hollow Falls. Be warned though – the hike back up can be challenging if you’re not used to uphill hiking. Another popular hike, suitable for kids of all ages, is the relatively short trail to the Little Stony Man Overlook, where there are more incredible views of the stunning fall color.  

 

Shenandoah - best fall destinations in usa

 

Another activity that kids will love is just outside the national park. Venture down the mountain to the nearby Luray Caverns. This is the largest cave system in the eastern United States and the limestone stalactites and stalagmites create an eerie, other-worldly environment. Highlights include a huge cathedrallike room, a lake that perfectly reflects the ceiling so it looks like something from an alien land, and an organ that makes sound by striking different sized stalactites.  

A great place to stay is Big Meadows, one of the two lodges along Skyline Drive. They have cabins that are perfect for families. And if the night is clear, the nearby Big Meadows that give the lodge its name, are famous for incredible star gazing. 

James Ian from Parks Collecting 

 

Twin Cities, MN

With fall festivals, apple orchards, haunted houses, pumpkin patches, and more, you’ll have plenty of fall-time fun in Twin Cities, Minnesota. One of the best places for families to visit in Autumn is Pinehaven Farm in Wyoming. Just 30 minutes from the center of Minneapolis, this locally-owned farm is perfect for a day spent outside.

fall leaves - best fall destinations in usa

First, take a trolley and spend some time in their pumpkin patch to choose the perfect one to bring home for carving into a Jack-O-Lantern. Next, have a go at the corn maze and see how fast you and the littles can make it through this not-so-spooky puzzle. Then let the kiddos have fun in all of their other attractions including a corn pit, zip lines, and more. Before heading home, let the big kids have a little fun at the Dead End Hayride haunted house, right next door.

For even more fall-time fun in the Twin Cities, make your way to the Twin Cities Harvest Festival in Brooklyn Park. Here you’ll find the biggest corn maze in the state along with many other activities to keep the kiddos busy. Watching their pumpkin trebuchet is a great treat as you watch it sling 150 yards across a field.

Other fun family-friendly things to do in the Twin Cities in fall include picking apples at an orchard, visiting a haunted house, and picking pumpkins from the many patches. There are plenty of each to go around, making for a great fall in Minnesota.

When you’re ready to call it a night, head to The Chambers Hotel for beautiful rooms and a nice place to rest, right in Minneapolis.

By Kassidy of kassidysjourney.com

 

Chicago, IL

The blistering summer heat has cooled by fall and the cold snowy weather has not yet arrived, making Chicago a fantastic destination to visit in the United States with kids in the fall. In addition, there is so much to do in Chicago for families whether you like to walk, explore parks or the lakefront, or visit one of the internationally renowned museums.
If you are looking for some fun and excitement, head to Navy Pier where you will find over 3/4 of a mile of small shops, restaurants, gardens and attractions right on Lake Michigan. This includes Chicago Children’s Museum and an amusement park rides such as a giant ferris wheel.
If museums are more your style, consider two of the best – the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry.
planes - best fall destinations in usa

Photo by Museum of Science and Industry

In the Natural History Museum, you can walk up and inside a three-story replica of a tomb from Ancient Egypt or “shrink down” to 1/100th of your actual size so that you can explore the underground world of bugs and creatures.
The Museum of Science and Industry is over 400,000 square feet and is jammed packed with interactive exhibits that will stimulate every child. It even has an underground mine and an U-505 German submarine from WW2 on display that you can tour. 

One of the best hotels for families is Hyatt Place Chicago River North. These large rooms with two queen size beds and a pull out couch are located in a fantastic central location walking distance to all the popular attractions.

By Nicole Hunter of Go Far Grow Close

Hudson Valley, NY

Kids will love visiting New York State’s Hudson Valley in the fall. There are several farms that have loads of family activities.  A couple of top picks include Hurds Family Farm and Kelder’s Farm. You can take a hayride around the farm, try your hand (mouth?) at apple bobbing, jump up and down on a giant bouncy castle, snack on freshly made apple cider donuts, and get lost in a corn maze.

These are many other farms also have u-pick apple and pear picking.  Some, like Jenkins Leukins, also have pumpkin patches where kids can pick out their own pumpkin to carve into a Halloween Jack o’Lantern. 

 

pumpkin patch - best fall destinations in the usa

 

If you want to see already carved Jack o’Lanterns, head to the Great Jack o’Lantern Blaze at the historic Van Cortland Manor.  From mid-September to late November, you can see over 7,000 hand-carved pumpkins arranged in elaborate tableaus and sculptures.  Imagine a fire truck, carousel, Statue of Liberty and more all made out of glowing Jack o’Lanterns.  Kids and adults alike will be amazed.

The Hudson Valley is also a prime place to see spectacular fall foliage.  Minnewaska State Park is a popular destination for leaf peeping (so it’s best to get there early to secure a parking spot).  There are hikes suitable for kids of all ages, from the easy walk around Minnewaska Lake that younger kids can do, to the more challenging Gertude’s Nose, which is suitable for older kids.

A wonderful place to stay is Mohonk Mountain House.  The hotel is a higgly piggly conglomerate of a fantastical buildings that look like something out of a Harry Potter movie.  It’s set right on a lake, and they offer loads of fun activities for the whole family.

James Ian from Travel Collecting

 

Grand Canyon, AZ

The changing leaves and cooler temperatures of the Grand Canyon make it a great time to visit in the fall. It also tends to have smaller crowds, so it’s easier to ride the shuttle buses or take a bicycle tour to get around the national park.
Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. Every year, millions of people visit the park to experience its breathtaking views and unique geological history. The Grand Canyon is truly a sight to behold, and there are several different ways to explore it.
One of the best ways to see the Grand Canyon is from one of the many viewpoints scattered throughout the park. Mather Point, Yavapai Observation Station, and Lipan Point are all great places to get a panoramic view of the canyon. Another way to explore the Grand Canyon is by hiking one of its many trails. Hiking is a great way to see some of the more remote parts of the canyon that are inaccessible by car.
There are trails for all skill levels, including kids. No matter how you choose to experience it, a visit to Grand Canyon National Park is sure to be an unforgettable experience.
There are also plenty of accommodations and activities available for families, especially on the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park. The El Tovar is a great hotel for families to stay in. It is located right on the edge of the canyon and has plenty of activities for kids nearby, including a nature center, hiking trails, and an on-site restaurant serving reasonably priced American food.
Families can also head over to the Yavapai lodge to see the geology museum and walk the trail of time. If you plan far enough in advance, you can also take a mule ride to the bottom of the canyon and stay overnight at the base!
By Brodi Cole of Our Off Beat Life

Sandusky, OH

Located in northern Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie, Sandusky has a small town feel but is home to a huge amusement park making it a great fall family travel destination.
Cedar Point, “America’s Roller Coast,” transforms from its typical summertime escape into a Halloween-themed park to celebrate its annual Halloweekends.
Open Thursday to Sunday from mid-September through October, the entire park is decked out in intricate Halloween decorations. You’ll find beautiful walls of pumpkins as well as spooky graveyards and zombies. In addition to live entertainment and food trucks, a variety of Halloween-themed rides and attractions are set up for the few weeks of this special event.
For young children, visit during the day to take part in trick-or-treating in Kiddie Kingdom! Pick up your map and bag and stop at about 10 different booths to receive a special treat at each. Kids will love to choose a miniature pumpkin for decorating with stickers and markers!
Little ones can enjoy plenty of fun fall activities at Planet Snoopy, including pedal cars and hay mazes! Don’t forget to stop at the Magical House on Boo Hill for a kid-friendly walk-through.
jack o' lanterns in crates with woman holding child in front - best fall destinations in the US
As night approaches, Cedar Point gets a bit more spooky and is best for older kids and teens who appreciate a scare!
Ride your favorite roller coasters in the dark and walk through several haunted houses. The lines get long quickly after dark, so plan your rides and attractions accordingly.
After a late night, retire to Hotel Breakers, Cedar Point’s onsite hotel for some rest before another fun-filled day! Enjoy views of beautiful Lake Erie, walk the boardwalk by the beach or dine at one of the hotel’s restaurants.
Sandusky, Ohio is the perfect fall family travel destination and Halloweekends at Cedar Point should be at the top of your list.
By Aimee Mielke at babiesandbeaches.com

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park sits in the rugged mountains of northwestern Wyoming. The park has so many awesome activities for families of all ages, including driving to scenic overlooks, family-friendly hikes and trails, and an abundance of wildlife to see. A great option for families visiting the Tetons is to take a Guided Wildlife Tour, where guides will safely show visitors the best places to spot the most elusive of animals, such as moose, elk, and even bears!

 

mountains - best fall destinations in us

 

Heading into the neighboring town of Jackson provides old-time candy shops and ice cream parlors, restaurants, boutique toy stores and gift shops. Visitors should also plan a visit to Dornan’s Ranch, a tourist icon located right next to the Grand Teton National Park. Dornan’s is in the perfect location for a cabin close to the park, plus they offer a pizza and pasta parlor, Chuckwagon restaurant, and a coffee and ice cream cart!

The Tetons in the fall are breathtaking. Not only is the weather beginning to cool and bring a slight nip in the air, but the haze of summer begins to clear and most days lead to bright blue-bird skies. The crowds of people all begin to dissipate, and it almost feels like you have the whole park to yourself. The moose, elk, and bison are all out in abundance in the fall, gearing up for winter. The aspen trees turn brilliant golds, yellows, and oranges and light up the mountain landscape. Wildflowers along the trails are still present in the fall before certain trails and hikes are shut down for winter. Fall in Grand Teton is magical!

Erin at Super Simple Salty Life

Rock City

One of the best fall destinations in the US for kids can be found at Rock City in Georgia. This hidden gem place is located at the top of Lookout Mountain in a tiny town that shares the same name. Not many people have heard of Lookout Mountain, Georgia, but your kids are sure to love it!

There’s so much to do in Rock City for families. The attraction consists of a fairytale garden, a hall of rainbows, a cave full of fairies, and unique passageways through moss-covered boulders that ultimately lead to a suspension bridge and a pretty waterfall. The waterfall is the best thing to see in the entire park, and it looks absolutely amazing when it’s painted in the vibrant colors of fall! There’s a viewing platform located above the falls, and you can see seven US states from it when you look out towards the horizon.

 

waterfalls on mountain - best fall destination in us

Rock City | Photo by Adventure Dragon

 

During the fall, Rock City hosts a special festival called Rocktoberfest. There’s pumpkin painting, geode-digging, music, food, and dancing. Ik the Troll King tells fairy tales to kids, and the Fall Fairy arrives to bring colorful leaves to the mountain.

There’s a restaurant situated at the top of the mountain, so when you get hungry, you won’t have to go far to eat. The Chanticleer Inn Bed and Breakfast is located directly across the street from the Rock City walking trail, so it’s the best place to stay to be near all the top attractions. If you’re looking for a great place to spend fall with your family, definitely consider Rock City for your next trip!

By Jillian Michelle from Adventure Dragon

One of the best fall destinations in the US for kids is Big Sur, California. Located just south of Monterey, Big Sur offers plenty of opportunities for adventure for families. Driving the Pacific Coast Highway up and down the coast provides amazing views of the undeveloped coast and the Pacific Ocean! Kids will love all the activities in the area, too.

Fall is a great time to visit Big Sur because the common marine fog that brings in cooler temperatures with reduced coastal views typically lifts in the fall. That means sunshine for your beach days!

 

Bixby Bridge and the coast - best fall destination in us

 

While in Big Sur, families must visit Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Located between Carmel and the undeveloped area of Big Sur, this reserve along the coast is a haven for wildlife. It’s a spectacular spot to see seals, whales, sea otters and a variety of birds. Kids will love the easy hiking paths and spotting wildlife!

Some of the other things to do in Big Sur include visiting the Bixby Creek Bridge, seeing the purple sand at Pfeiffer Beach and swimming at Sand Dollar Beach. Be sure to stop at COAST Big Sur for an ice cream cone or sweet treat, too!

You can stay in Monterey or Carmel and drive to Big Sur, or opt to stay in one of the few hotels along this gorgeous coastline. The Big Sur River Inn is a historic hotel with lots of amenities right in the heart of Big Sur. While you can visit Big Sur over a weekend, a week would allow plenty of time to explore the hiking trails and waterfalls in the area, or even venture into Carmel or Monterey.

By Nikki of Inspired Routes

 

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe in the fall is the perfect vacation to take with kids. With mild weather and beautiful scenery, everyone is sure to be delighted with all the activities available.

Weather will range from highs in the low 50s to mid-70s depending on which month you visit. Early fall in Tahoe has beautiful, warm days and later in the season brings a chance of the first snowfall.

The cooler weather makes it the perfect time of year to explore all of the hikes in the area. There are many easy hikes in Lake Tahoe, with Eagle Rock and Eagle Falls being two great choices.

 

fall tree by lake - best fall destinations in us

 

A tour of the bay on the M.S. Dixie II is another fun way to see more of the lake. Allowing children of all ages, the daytime scenic cruise is a great choice. Departing from Zephyr Cove, the beach here is great for a short (and chilly!) swim if you happen to visit on a warm day and it has wonderful sand for hours of play.

If you are ready for a treat, don’t miss the bear and lake-shaped sugar cookies from Tahoe Bakery in Tahoe City. They are the cutest!

One of the spots that you just can’t miss in Lake Tahoe is the East Shore Bike Trail. Bring your own bikes, rent them from Vista Trail Bikes, or take to the path on foot. No matter your mode of transportation, you will enjoy every minute spent on this beautiful path that lines the edge of the lake.

South Lake Tahoe offers many places to dine and shop, with welcome fire pits to sit around in the evenings. If you wish to stay on the South Shore, the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel is an excellent choice of accommodations for a family. It offers suites with a separate bedroom, a breakfast buffet, and plenty of restaurants within walking distance.

Just a short drive from South Lake Tahoe is Apple Hill. Made up of several ranches, the area is filled with nature trails, apple cider donuts, pumpkin patches, children’s play areas, homemade fudge, and so much more. Apple Hill is sure to be one of your favorite activities in Lake Tahoe this fall!

By Sierra Schmidt islandandalpine.com

 

Hood River, OR

Nestled along the stunning Columbia River Gorge and sitting in the shadow of Mount Hood, Hood River, Oregon, is a great option for a destination full of fun activities for the kids come autumn. This small town is conveniently located just an hour east of Portland.

There’s tons of things to do in Hood River, but one of the most famous attractions is the adorably named Fruit Loop, a 35-mile scenic drive where you’ll pass almost 30 orchards, fruit stands, wineries, and breweries. While a scenic drive may not sound super kid-friendly, the Fruit Loop definitely is, thanks to the plethora of bucolic farms that spring to life in the fall.

Try your hand at a U-pick apple or pear orchard, wander through a field of pumpkins, and get lost in a corn maze. Certain farms, like Packer Farm Place, go all out in the fall, offering hay rides and all the apple cider donuts you can handle.

If you want to burn some energy, there are plenty of family-friendly hikes in the Mount Hood area, like Trillium Lake, a flat and easy boardwalk around a shimmering lake that provides a perfect reflection of the behemoth mountain on still mornings. For the older kids, check out Tamanawas Falls, a fun hike with a bit of easy rock scrambling to see an incredible waterfall cascade dramatically over a basalt cliff- and the mist coming off the falls is pretty fun to run through, too, if you’re visiting on an unseasonably warm autumn day!

water fall - best fall destination in us

If you don’t want to drive around, the city hosts the Hood River Valley Harvest Festival on the first or second weekend of October. While the festival is fun for adults, with beer tastings and local artisans, there are plenty of activities for the kids, like craft stations, games, and live music.

Stay at Inn At The Gorge for a luxury bed and breakfast experience.

By Jessica Schmit of Uprooted Traveler

 

Long Island, NY

Long Island, New York, is an incredible place to visit during the fall. Long Island is a suburb of New York City. Since many tourists do not leave the Manhattan area, you will have the opportunity to feel like a real local in New York while enjoying the autumn season!
One of the best things to do on Long Island during the fall with the family is visiting Old Westbury Gardens to see the fall foliage. This stunning gold coast mansion and grounds are lovely and perfect for exploring on a fall day. You will be able to see fall foliage all around Long Island, but another great park to take the family to is the Planting Fields Arboretum. They have greenhouses, tons of stunning gardens, and large lawns which are perfect for picnics and family fun.
fall gardens - best fall destinations in us
You must also check out the Rise of the Jack O’Lantern in Wheatley Heights! There are over 5,000 hand-carved pumpkins for all the fall and Halloween vibes. They light them all up at night and put the Jack O’lanterns in fun designs.
If you love pumpkins, Long Island is also full of farms to go pumpkin picking. Many of the farms also have fun corn mazes and even apple picking to enjoy!

When exploring Long Island, it is best to rent a car. Garden City is a great neighborhood to stay in while on Long Island. There are a lot of great areas to eat, including the Roosevelt Field Mall, and they are relatively close to major highways. For a hotel, look no further than the Garden City Hotel.

By Sam Opp of Find Love & Travel

Orcas Island, WA

One of the best fall travel destinations to visit with families is Orcas Island, located off the coast of Washington State. Orcas is considered one of the best places to visit in the San Juan Islands, and for good reason. The largest of the San Juans, it also is home to the third largest state park in Washington.
In the fall, the area lights up with color as the leaves begin to change. The weather stays drier than much of the rest of the Washington coast so those in Seattle often come to Orcas to escape the rain. Temperatures are cool, but the island has many great activities for the entire family.
water view from kayak - best fall destinations in us
The best things to do on Orcas island include whale watching, hiking, biking, kayaking on both lakes and protected beaches, and enjoying the variety of restaurants and stores in the picturesque downtown called East Sound. Take a drive up the road to the top of Mt. Constitution to reach the peak of the highest mountain in the San Juan Islands. You will find a lookout tower with 360-degree views of the islands and the surrounding landscape.
For the best place to stay for families on Orcas, Orcas Hotel near Eastsound is a fabulous vacation rental perfect for a family. It can sleep up to 9 guests and offers a fresh vegetable garden to pick from and a game room with a ping pong table for the kids.

Woodstock, VT

There is a reason that celebrities like Martha Stewart love this quintessential New England town. It is picture perfect with a quaint downtown, historic inns, a town information stand, and covered bridges. But in the fall, it is in its glory as a rainbow of colored trees surrounds it.  This area is fantastic for hiking, especially at nearby Quechee Gorge or one of the many hiking trails. Or you can enjoy antique shopping, a fall festival, apple picking, or pumpkin picking.
covered bridge - best fall destinations in us
Nearby, Billings Farm has an annual apple and pumpkin festival. It typically includes on-site cider pressing, pumpkin and apple games, and taste testing of delicious apple treats.  It’s also a great place to “pick your own” apples and pumpkin, a quintessential fall New England activity.  You can also check out some of the nearby Vermont ski resorts, which often host Harvest festivals or at least offer you a chance to ride the ski lifts to see the fall foliage from above.  And certainly remember to try a delicious Vermont breakfast with local maple syrup, as Vermonters take their food seriously.  There are many inns and bed and breakfasts in Woodstock, but be sure to check out Woodstock Inn and Resort, which is right in the heart of town.  Not only is it historic and beautiful, but you will be centrally located to enjoy all that Woodstock has to offer.

Bend, Oregon

Fall is the perfect time to visit Bend, Oregon with the family. In September, the cooler temperatures and smaller crowds are a welcome respite from hot summer days. It’s still warm enough to have fun at Bend Whitewater Park – a small class I rapid on the Deschutes river in the center of town. Another great water activity is stand up paddle boarding or kayaking at Sparks Lake.

As the leaves change colors in October, a visit to one of the many parks around Bend is in order. Shevlin Park, Pioneer Park, Riley Ranch Nature Reserve, and Drake Park are all exploding with fall color. Have a picnic at Mirror Pond in Drake Park or walk along the Tumalo Creek Trail and then head up to Tumalo Falls for an incredibly beautiful waterfall.

lake with mountain in background - best fall destinations in us

One of the best ways to experience Bend in the fall is to attend the Tenth Month festivities. Bend Oktoberfest features Weiner dog racing, beer gardens, and live music. Another fun event is the Great Fall Festival, which includes a kids harvest run and pumpkin painting.

Don’t miss the High Desert Museum, which exhibits the natural and cultural history of Bend that the kids will love. Another fascinating spot is the Lava River Cave,

The perfect place to stay is The Loge, where they have hammocks hanging in every room in addition to kids’ bunk beds and a large grassy area that’s perfect for running around or roasting marshmallows by the fire. If you prefer to stay closer to downtown, there are some other great boutique hotels in Bend. So plan a fall trip to Bend, Oregon and enjoy all that this idyllic town has to offer.

By Jenifer ofThe Evolista

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