9 Best Autumn Trip Destinations for Scenery, Sunshine, and Savings
Fall is such an incredible time of year. The weather cools, the leaves turn, and harvest activities abound. It's honestly my favorite time of year, and I usually invest far too much in apple cider and pumpkin spice lattes.
But autumn is also a great time to travel! Whether you're looking to immerse yourself in the season or get away to a warmer climate, you'll find plenty of options available to you in the fall. However, these can be hard to find if you don't know what you're looking for. So, I've done the research for you and compiled a list of incredible destinations for you to consider!
I've divided my findings into three sections: one that focuses on seeing the fall colors, one on finding warmth and fun, and the final one on places that are inexpensive to visit during the fall.
Best Destinations for Autumn Views
1. Gatlinburg, Tennessee
If you're looking for extensive mountain views and foliage, you'll love the Smoky Mountain area surrounding Gatlinburg. Cabin accommodations abound in the area, so you can spend your trip immersed in the fall colors of the mountain forests or upgrade to a hotel or chalet. Because accommodations start at as little as $90, you can find something for every budget and family size. The area of Gatlinburg is full of fun shops, restaurants, and shows, which make it a popular tourist destination year-round. Plus, during the fall months, you can enjoy all the activities of the Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival, which includes everything from ghost walks to chili cookoffs!
This gorgeous park located in the upper peninsula of Michigan (Ontonagon to be exact), boasts a stunning display of fall colors across 60,000 acres of wilderness. Visitors can hike around over 90 miles of trails to view the scenery and stop at popular natural attractions like the Lake of Clouds or trek along the Presque Isle River. Campsites are available within the park, but you can also find plenty of scenic cabins and lodges in the area if you don't want to brave the cold weather at night.
For a casual road trip-style vacation, consider a drive down Livermore, New Hampshire's 100-mile scenic byway. The White Mountain Trail weaves throughout parts of the 800,000-mile White Mountain National Forest. Check out the website for a full tour, including fun stops like Santa's Village (complete with reindeer), Clark's Trading Post (they have trained bears!), and Story Land. Along the way, you'll also visit incredible 800-foot waterfalls, famous rock formations, covered bridges, and mysterious caves. When you're done for the day, book a stay at a local cabin, inn, or riverside cottage! It's relaxing, fun, and simply gorgeous.
Best Destinations to Escape the Autumn Chill
1. Lake Tahoe
If you prefer warmer weather for your activities, head out west and check out the Lake Tahoe region of Nevada and California. The weather tends to range from the mid-60s to 70s during September and October, and you can avoid the summer tourist rush as you explore the lake and mountain areas. You probably won't want to hop in the water at this point, but you'll find plenty of recreation in various boat tours and trails. For this trip, I highly recommend renting an Airbnb in the area! You'll find a wide range of cozy, scenic houses and apartments that you can rent out for less than a hotel room!
*Lake Tahoe was also on several lists for budget fall destinations!
2. Destin, Florida
As you may know from my recent blog post, I love Destin! Obviously, I was thrilled to find it on a top ten list for warm-weather trips and wondered why I hadn't thought of it immediately. You can read about some fun Destin activities in this blog post from a few weeks ago. But to summarize, you'll find gorgeous beaches, plenty of shopping, food, activities, and all the sunshine you can handle. The water will stay bearable through November; in fact, as of today, the water temperature is almost 83 degrees Fahrenheit! This opens up plenty of on-the-water activities for you to do from parasailing to jet skis.
I found several fascinating articles describing the beauty of Greece in the fall as well as the toasty 70-80 degree temperature averages. A couple of the most popular destinations included Mykonos and Kefalonia. In the fall, most of the tourists are gone, and life returns to its more authentic setting for the Grecian people. With the islands free of crowds, you'll be able to enjoy stunning beaches, markets, museums, and even kayaking and hiking at your leisure. Additionally, accommodation prices tend to drop along with the stream of tourists. Greece is certainly on my bucket list now!
Best Destinations for Autumn Savings
1. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
I turned to the beloved Travel & Leisure magazine for information on this fun fall location. According to them, the average round-trip ticket in October is $385 per person, and the average nightly hotel is only $89! In October, you'll find Oklahoma City's Myriad Botanical Gardens transformed into "Pumpkinville." This pumpkin wonderland features a vast array of fall activities, a carousel, arts, crafts, food, and even the Pumpkinville Express Train. You can also dive into the fall atmosphere with haunted river cruises, the Pumpkin Chomp & Stomp, parades, and a variety of festivals throughout the month. You can find a huge list of fall activities on the Oklahoma City website.
2. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
If you dread the crowds usually associated with beach towns, you'll love Myrtle Beach in Autumn. As the crowds thin out, you'll find easy access to the beaches, aquarium, and fun parks. Plus, the hotel rates drop during the offseason with the crowds, so you can stay in a snazzy 4-star hotel for $89-$99 a night! Average flights run about $380 round trip.
3. New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is yet another budget destination that appeared on multiple top ten lists. The city is highly crowded during the spring and summer season, but you'll have it mostly to yourself during September and October. If you want to avoid the out-of-control party-goers, fall is definitely the time to visit. Plus, the weather will still be nice and warm--just look out for hurricane season! The fall season brings a plethora of food festivals to the streets, and you can spend days exploring the city. Average flights run around $270 round-trip, and the average hotel rate is about $85!
I hope you enjoyed reading about these 9 great locations for fall trips! Even more, I hope it inspired your wanderlust a little. I added several locations to my personal bucket list while researching for this post!
Just a note: most of these photos came from the incredible photographers on Unsplash, so they get credit for making this post look pretty.
As always, thanks for reading, and be sure to join the Mandala Traveler community for weekly posts to inspire your wanderlust!