Best Places to Visit in the Fall

Ah, fall time is my favorite time of the year! So of course, I had to write a post about the best places to visit in the fall. I’m talking quintessentially American fall cities. Sweater weather, pumpkin spice everything, college football, tailgating, apple picking, these cities better have it!

Four light pumpkins stacked on top of each other against a white wall with green ivy growing.

Every town on this list has something great to offer in the fall, but where can you go to get it all in one place? Let’s find the best places to visit so we can get all get that fall feeling and ready for the season.

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Cape May, New Jersey

Best Time To Visit: Mid-September to the end of October.

Best Place To Stay in Cape May: Icona Cape May

How to get to Cape May: There are many different ways to get to Cape May. It is located about 1.5 hours drive from Philadelphia and the closest airport Atlantic City which is only about 45 minutes driving. For more details on all the ways to get to Cape May, check out their local website here.

People walking through Cape May in the fall used to show one of the best places to visit in the fall.
Photo Credit: Cape May County

We are going to start our fall getaways in Cape May, New Jersey. This beautiful town sits on the southern tip of the Cape May peninsula. It is known as America’s original seaside resort. So naturally, this is the first town on our list.

Fall is known for chilly evenings and rainy days. Make sure to pack a light jacket like this one from Amazon so you can carry it with you all day. Make sure your jacket has a hood for when the rain starts.

Cape May is filled with fall festivities

So why is this one of the best places to visit in the fall? Cape May has so much to see and do in the fall, you will love it! First of all, did you know that Cape May is one of the most haunted towns in America? Talk about a great way to kick off your fall and Halloween season?! During the fall you can take haunted tours of the town, a walk through the town with a ghostwriter, and you can even have dinner with a ghost medium. Check out this link for all the events happening soon.

The crowning jewel of the haunted places in Cape May is the Physick Estate. This estate was built in the late 1800’s and is said to still be haunted by its original owner. You can tour the home daily and if you are lucky and brave enough you can win a lottery to spend the night in this haunted mansion.  

Old mansion White House with green trim.

Family fun in Cape May

If you are traveling with kids, or just want a more mild experience, Cape May also has a pumpkin festival every October. This is a family-friendly way to celebrate Halloween and it is the best places to visit in the fall. You can paint pumpkins, carve pumpkins, and enjoy some great food and drinks.

Also read The Best Road Trips in the USA for some great fall road trip ideas!

The Smoky Mountains

Best Time To Visit: Mid-October to early November

Best Place To Stay: Wears Valley, TN

How To Get To The Smoky Mountains: The closest airport is just outside of Knoxville, TN called McGee Tyson (TYS). If you are staying in Wears Valley, you will have about a 45-minute drive from the airport.

The Smoky Mountains have incredible fall colors

The Smoky Mountains put on the most amazing fall color show in the USA. As summer ends, the rolling hills turn bright red, orange, and yellow. It is a sight to see with your own eyes. Hike or drive through the mountains and breathe in the fresh cool air to get all the fall feels.

Mountain road surrounded by fall colorful trees used to show the best places to visit in the fall.

If you are looking for the best place to stay in the Smoky Mountains, look to Wears Valley in Tennessee. This quiet town has it’s own “secret” entrance into the national park. I love this entrance because it’s quieter than the other ones. You never have to wait in long lines to get into the National Park.

Old red truck decorated with pumpkin and hay for fall.
Photo Credit: Summit Cabin Rentals

I also love this spot in the Smoky Mountains because it is centrally located. The Smoky Mountains are huge and have a lot of ground to cover. So I love staying in Wears Valley which is right in the middle of all the best things to see. If you visit during the third week of October, you can catch the Wears Valley Fall Festival. The town comes alive with live music, drinks, and great food, and tons of activities for the kids to do!

Make sure to plan ahead

The Smoky Mountains have a lot to see and do, make sure to plan a few things you’d like to see while you are there. I love this guide book from Lonely Planet. It points out some of the best things to see in the Smoky Mountains and the best part is you can download it to your Kindle for free through Amazon!

You should definitely visit Cades Cove while you are in the Smokey Mountains. This secluded valley is so peaceful and it makes for the best place to take a few pictures of the fall colors that cover the mountains around you. Take a drive around the Cades Cove loop and spend the day in the midst of the beautiful mountains.

The Smoky Mountains are the perfect place to relax in the fall. You can hike, fish, apple picking, and so much more. Trust me on staying in Wears Valley, you will get “secret” access to the park that will save you tons of time. It is the best spot in the Smoky Mountains.

Hocking Hills, Ohio

Best Time To Visit: End of September to end of October

Best Place To Stay: Hocking Hills Treehouse Cabins

How To Get To Hocking Hills: Hocking Hills is located one hour north of Columbus this is the closest airport. Its airport code is CMH.

Fall destination that dreams are made of

Hocking Hills Ohio is straight out of a movie, it is so beautiful in the fall. This amazing place lights up in the fall with colors that rival anywhere else in the world. Hocking Hills is a state park with endless spots for #nofilter Instagram pictures.

Not only does Hocking Hills have amazing fall colors, but it also is home to two awesome fall festivals. If you are visiting Hocking Hills in the middle of October you may be lucky enough to catch the annual Bob Evan’s fall festival. This festival is so much fun it easily makes Hocking Hills one of the best places to visit in the fall.

Collage of six images showing a fall festival.
Photo Credit: Hungry Happenings

As a mid-westerner at heart, I grew up eating at Bob Evans on a weekly basis. Their spaghetti and garlic toast were one of my favorite meals. So when I heard there was a Bob Evans fall festival, I was beyond excited. This festival is not to be missed. There is live entertainment, fun games, hayrides, and of course amazing food.

Unfortunately, it is canceled for 2020 due to covid. But if you are planning a visit for next year, make sure to check out their website here to plan an awesome adventure.

Another great Hocking Hills Festival

Hocking Hills does have another awesome festival that you can plan for 2021 as well. The Hocking Hills pumpkin festival is such a blast! They have fun and games, a giant pumpkin contest, parades, and a circus. It’s known as “The Greatest Free Show On Earth”. I forgot to mention the amazing local food vendors put on quite the show here as well. It’s an awesome sight for your eyes and your stomachs.

Large cabin with all inside lights in the middle of the forest.

Even if you can’t catch the awesome festivals, Hocking Hills is still the perfect fall destination. Check out the Hocking Hills Treehouse Cabins for a dreamy experience in the woods. Stay in a beautiful cabin built like a treehouse in the middle of the forest. This place alone is worth the trip to Hocking Hills.

What to pack for Hocking Hills

Hocking Hills does get chilly in the fall. Make sure to pack warm clothes and especially your sweaters. Another reason why fall is my favorite, sweater weather. I can’t wait to wear this chunky knit cardigan from Amazon this fall!

San Antonio, Texas

Best Time To Visit: Late September through November

Best Place To Stay: The Hotel Emma

How To Get To San Antonio: Flying directly into San Antonio’s airport is the easiest way to get to San Antonio. Their airport code is SAT.

Unique Fall Destination

When you think of fall colors and festivities you probably don’t think of Texas or the south, but San Antonio proves us wrong! The fall festivities in San Antonio rival with any other city in the US. Starting in September, San Antonio comes alive with festivals. If you are visiting in September, you will be able to catch countless local art festivals, but you will not want to miss the fall colors in the hills.

The best time to visit San Antonio is actually late October and November. The infamous riverwalk turns into a haunted experience during the month of October with live music, great food, dancing, activities for kids, and so much more.

Colorful umberalls over people eating on a river with a river boat passing.
Photo Credit: Road Scholar

You can also take a haunted boat ride down the San Antonio River for a spooky way to kick off the Halloween season. You can even go Trick or Treating on the riverwalk at the end of October every year.

Day of the Dead celebration

The Day of the Dead festival is one of the most unique ways to celebrate fall in the US. It is held every year just after Halloween. I love celebrating the Day of the Dead because it makes the fall season even longer!

Two women dressed as skeletons for the Day of the Dead celebration in San Antonio. Showing that San Antonio is one of the best places to visit in the fall.
Photo Credit: San Antonio Heron

Dia de los Muertos also known as the Day of The Dead is typically celebrated from October 27 through November 3rd. This is a time when we remember and celebrate our family members that have passed on. In San Antonio, there is a different event every day. From a 5k to face painting, live music, a river boat parade and so much more. Check out the Day of the Dead’s calendar for all the live events happening this year.

San Antonio’s Fall Weather

It is warmer in San Antonio in the fall than our other destinations. Typically the weather in October is still in the low 80s and it drops down to the low 70’s during November. I love that San Antonio is still warm enough to get outside but the nights cool off enough (to the 50’s) to remind you that it’s fall!

You call still see fall foliage in San Antonio

If you visit San Antonia in late October or November, you will still be able to see beautiful fall colors. Just a short drive outside of San Antonio, head towards Hill Country to catch some of the most beautiful fall colors show in the US.

Up close of a tree's roots with a green river in the background and yellow trees lining the river.

Hill Country is magnificent during the fall. You can take a day trip there from San Antonio. Make sure to stop at one of the many wineries, Texas Hill Country is also known as Texas Wine Country. Check Tripadvisor for the 10 best wineries in Hill Country. While you’re in Hill Country you can also explore many of the stunning caverns. Or you can just take a leisurely drive through the beautiful fall air.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Best Time To Visit: Late September to Early November

Best Place To Stay: The Perry Hotel

How To Get To Salt Lake City: You can easily fly directly into Salt Lake’s International Airport. Their airport code is SLC, downtown Salt Lake is only about 15 minutes from the airport.

The Best Mountainous Destination

Salt Lake City is nestled in the valley of the Wasatch mountains. When you fly into Salt Lake, you will see the mountains lit up with color. The best part of Salt Lake City in the fall is that you can enjoy warm weather in the valley or head up the mountains and breathe in the cool fresh air.

Red fall trees with green mountains in the background.
Photo Credit: Trek Earth

The best place to stay in Salt Lake City for an excellent haunted experience is the Peery Hotel downtown Salt Lake. This hotel is said to be haunted during the day and at night. This hotel has been known for the elevators going up and down on their own, shadows of children running through the halls, and sounds of a woman moaning through all the main hallways of the hotel.

The hotel is located in downtown Salt Lake City. Making it convenient to local shopping, restaurants, and bars. It’s the perfect location to maximize your time in Salt Lake City.

Oktoberfest at Snowbird

There is more to Salt Lake than just the mountains, there are tons of festivals during the fall. The first festival you should check out is Oktoberfest held at every local’s favorite ski resort, Snowbird. Voted one of America’s 10 Best Oktoberfests by Men’s Journal Magazine. Snowbird’s Annual Oktoberfest attracts over 60,000 visitors and has grown to become one of the largest festivals in Utah and one of the best fall festivals in the United States.

Up close of a mug of beer with blurred background of people sitting on the grass with mountains in the background.
Photo Credit: Visit Salt Lake

This festival has grown in popularity over the last few years and is now the largest festival in the state. It is held every weekend from the end of August till the end of October. This awesome festival offers 50 different types of beer and a variety of delicious German foods. As well as live music, yodeling contests, and other live events.

Family fun fall festival

If you’re looking for an awesome family fun fall festival, you can stop here! Head south of Salt Lake City to one of the best family festivals in the US. At Thanksgiving Point in Lehi is the annual Cornbelly’s festival. This festival has it all. During the day it is filled with family fun including apple blasters where you shoot apples from an air gun. A giant corn maze. A beach to play in made of corn, a giant game of cornball, rides, fire pits to roast s’ mores and so much more.

Pink John Deere tractor with a little girl on it and a scarecrow next to it surrounded by haystacks. Used to show the best places to visit in the fall.

Then at night, this family-friendly festival turns into a haunted experience. They have haunted houses, a haunted corn maze, and more. It’s the perfect evening to celebrate Halloween. People have said this is like going to the Disneyland of Halloween. These are just a few reasons why Salt Lake City one of the best places to visit in the fall.

Also read our article on the best travel gear for kids so you don’t forget a thing on your fall adventure.

Portland, Oregon

Best Time To Visit: October

Best Place To Stay: The Kimpton RiverPlace Hotel

How To Get To Portland: You can fly directly into Portland’s international airport. Their airport code is PDX.

Stunning Fall Colors

If you are looking for fall colors, Portland is the best place for you. The best place to see the fall colors is in Hoyt Arboretum. This Arboretum contains over 2,000 species of trees and shrubs that turn all the fall colors of your dreams. You can easily stroll through the park’s 21 acres and take in all the fall colors.

Up close fall leaves with bright red, orange, and green colors.
Photo Credit: Oregon Travel Daily

This Arboretum has more species of trees and shrubs than anywhere else in the country. This is why this is the best place to see all the fall colors of your dreams.

Fun Ways To Celebrate Halloween

Portland has some really fun ways to celebrate Halloween. Starting with the annual West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta where you race giant pumpkins carved into boats. Try to win this race across the Tualatin Commons lake paddling in a giant pumpkin across the lake. Even if you don’t want to paddle your way across a lake, this is a fun competition to watch.

Just outside of Portland, you will find another fun way to celebrate Halloween. In St. Helens Oregon, they go big when it comes to Halloween. They do this every year in celebration of the movie Halloween Town that was filmed in St. Helens. The Spirit of Halloweentown is celebrated every October in St. Helens. The entire town is decorating with Halloween decorations straight out of a movie. Check out their Facebook page here for all the live events that will be happening this October.

Up close of a silver pumpkin craved into a face for Halloween, a spooky house is in the background. Used to show St. Helens is one of the best places to visit in the fall.
Photo Credit: Wide Open Country

Also read about a great road trip you could take along the Oregon Coast here.

Wrap up on the best places to visit in the fall

Fall is by far my favorite season. I love everything about fall, the harvests, the colors, Halloween. It doesn’t get any better than fall in the US. We’ve talk about the best places to visit in the fall and I can’t wait to hit the road to celebrate this fall.

Happy fall y’all!

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August 31, 2020 at 10:26 pm

Goodness! I want to just go on a massive road trip and visit all of these places. What a great list!

September 1, 2020 at 2:12 am

The Smoky Mountains in Tennessee is usually our go to place to see the changing leaves and the beautiful sites.

September 1, 2020 at 2:15 pm

I’m so grateful to live in a state that really experiences the most beautiful autumn season. The mountains in Virginia are spectacular during autumn, and if I go up to West Virginia, I get Blackwater Falls to enjoy as well. Cozy cabins and such. I also LOVE the New England states in the fall!

September 5, 2020 at 3:41 pm

What a fun list! And as someone who lives in Portland, I can confirm this is a great place to visit in the fall. There are also a million pumpkin patches, apple orchards and other farms around the city so are great to visit, too.

Rhonda Albom
September 5, 2020 at 7:42 pm

This is so much fun. I forgot how much I miss the US in Autumn, with all the orange pumpkins and changing leaves.

September 6, 2020 at 12:23 pm

I love fall also! Thank you for all of the fabulous recommendations. I have to add the Smokey Mountains to my list. It looks absolutely beautiful this time of year!!

September 6, 2020 at 7:29 pm

I would love to visit the Smoky Mountains! You’re so right about Portland Oregon, the colors are incredible and it’s such a lovely city to visit.

September 7, 2020 at 11:23 pm

I’ve heard so many great things about Cape May but never had a chance to make it out there when I was living in NJ! I’d love to go to the Smoky Mountains in the fall sometime though! Portland would be gorgeous too! *-*

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