Looking for the best cities in the USA to visit during the fall? Look no further! This comprehensive guide has a list from all over the country with some of the best spots not to miss.
Whether you are looking for incredible fall foliage, National Parks, quaint towns, or even fall activities like apple picking, festivals, and pumpkin everything – you have come to right place.
Grab your camera, pack some layers and get to planning because the fall colors do not last long and you don’t want to miss the opportunity to see the foliage at its peak!
This article is written in collaboration with other incredible travel writers to give you the best of the best locations.
Best cities and towns to visit in the fall in the USA
If there is one place that you must visit in the fall, it is Stowe, Vermont. This sleepy town will instantly charm you with its rustic covered bridges, lovely mountain views, and, of course, vibrant fall foliage.
Some fun fall activities in Stowe include driving through Smugglers Notch to see the foliage, going on some lovely hikes up to Stowe Pinnacle and Sterling Pond, finding your way around the Percy Farm Corn Maze, and even taking a gondola ride to the top of Mt. Mansfield (Vermont’s highest peak) at Stowe Mountain Resort for amazing views!
Another thing you’ll certainly want to try while you’re there is the incredible cider at Stowe Cider as well as the world’s best beer: Heady Topper by The Alchemist Brewery.
In the spirit of autumn, you’ll certainly want to swing by Cold Hollow Cider Mill for some tasty apple cider and their perfectly delicious apple cider donuts. And for a romantic date night, head to the Trapp Family Lodge for dinner on their patio as you watch the dreamiest sunset over the Green Mountains.
Whether you are visiting Stowe on a Vermont fall road trip or for a romantic weekend getaway, you’ll easily fall in love with all this town has to offer!
World Wide Honeymoon
Wildly popular in the summer and winter months, the German-themed town of Leavenworth, Washington is also an excellent fall destination. With cooler temperatures and fewer crowds, autumn is the perfect time to explore the town and surrounding nature.
While the west coast doesn’t isn’t known for the multi-hued foliage that the east coast boasts, this region is home to another beautiful autumn sight — larches that turn gold in the early fall months. These conifers are native to mountainous regions in the Pacific Northwest, as well as other similar climates around the world. Hiking to see their vibrant yellow color in early autumn is known by outdoor enthusiasts as the “larch march”.
Just outside of Leavenworth, you’ll find some of the best hikes in Washington state, many of which are great spots to see the larches as they’ve turned a spectacular shade of gold. You’ll want to make sure you plan your trip right, as the larches only stay vibrant for a short period of time during the first half of October.
Once you’ve worked up your appetite exploring the great outdoors, head to town where you’ll find all sorts of local dining options. From hearty German dishes to locally-sourced farm-to-table fare, Leavenworth has a good variety of restaurants for a small town.
You can also toast to a beautiful getaway at one of the local breweries in town, like Icicle and Blewett. If you’re visiting in October, you might be lucky enough to be around for the annual Oktoberfest celebration. Be prepared that these weekends draw more crowds, so you’ll need to plan your trip earlier.
Go Wander Wild
Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
North Cascade Highway, Washington
When thinking of places to see fall colors, most people think of New England. However, there are some fantastic places to visit on the other side of the country and the North Cascade Highway in Washington state is one of them!
The best time to see fall foliage is late September through mid-October. However, weather has everything to do with this and can change prime viewing time by as much as two weeks. A heavy wind or rainstorm can also shorten the length of the season by causing the trees to lose their leaves early.
For colors, you’ll see bright yellow Aspen, red oak, red vine maple, and multi-colored Ash. These look particularly stunning up against the evergreens.
For many people, the drive itself is the adventure. For others, hiking the trails or staying in campgrounds gets them closer to the beautiful nature they came to see.
Those who choose to make the trip along the North Cascade Highway or in for a treat! There are so many amazing views, so be sure to go with your phone fully charged for taking pictures. Speaking of phones, be aware that there are some areas along the highway where no cell service is available.
Although the colors steal the show, there’s plenty more to see on this beautiful drive, part of which goes through North Cascade National Park. There are waterfalls, dams, emerald green lakes, and of course, the mountain pass itself, to name a few.
If you’re planning a day trip from Seattle, expect the drive to take about 10 hours, roundtrip. Winthrop is a great stopping point if you choose to make it an overnight trip. This fun little town attracts many visitors year-round.
Our Woven Journey
There are several great places to visit in New England during fall but one place that can not be missed is Kennebunkport, Maine. The coastal destination offers colorful foliage situated against the deep blue hues of the Atlantic Ocean and there are plenty of things to do in Kennebunkport to keep one occupied throughout the season.
A popular fall activity in Kennebunkport is kayaking or canoeing along the Kennebunk River. During the summer, the boat traffic is high but it reduces from September on and you will have a chance to head down the river and see the vibrant foliage while on the water. Canoes and kayaks can be rented at the marina.
Other things to do in the town during Maine are apple picking and riding the trolley at the pumpkin patch. You can head to Giles Family Farm or Spillers Farm nearby where you can pick local fruits, including apples, in a farm setting. Pumpkin picking can be done at the Seashore Trolley Museum and you can enjoy Halloween festivities (and haunted houses) along Summer Street in Kennebunk.
But, one thing that you can’t miss out on is a cup of chowder while you’re in Kennebunkport. There are several places along the water to enjoy it, such as The Boathouse Waterfront Hotel and Stripers at Breakwater Inn.
There are numerous hikes within the city limits to see the blazing colors. A hike up to the tower at Ethan Allen Park will give a panoramic outlook of the lake. Rent a bike on the Burlington bike path to pedal along Lake Champlain with incredible views of the Adirondack Mountains across the lake.
A perfect way to see the fall colors is to take a cruise on the Spirit of Ethan Allen with narration about the history and nature of the Lake Champlain Valley. Enjoy the exquisite foliage as the ship visits the bays and islands of the lake.
Stroll the pedestrian mall of Church Street to enjoy one-of-a-kind shops, al fresco dining, and street performers. Foodies will enjoy the many restaurants using locally sourced ingredients. With more breweries per capita than any other state, sampling craft beer in Burlington is a must. Local favorite Foam Brewery has views of the waterfront from its outdoor beer garden.
End your day in Burlington with a visit to Waterfront Park to see the spectacular sunsets on Lake Champlain. The golden light melting over the water as the sun disappears confirms that Burlington is a special place to visit in the fall.
Another cute small town to visit in the fall is Montpelier. Just 40 minutes outside the city and magical!
Outdoor Adventure Sampler
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
With incredible views of the Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole comes alive when the colors come out in the fall.
While the city is magical on its own, one of the best things to do while visiting Jackson Hole is to take a trip into Grand Teton National Park AND Yellowstone! These parks are blooming with colors you wont believe.
This top USA bucket list destination is a must in the fall.
Make sure and stop by the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar downtown for a drink. This place is an institution! If you want to get indoors, there is no shortage of shops and art galleries to see.
Bucket List Lists
Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
Are you considering spending fall in Wisconsin? Wisconsin is a great state for seeing fall colors, and the brilliant leaves are usually at their peak in early to mid-October.
Asheville, North Carolina
Fish Creek (Door County), WI
Fish Creek is a beautiful town located in Door County, Wisconsin. While its beauty is evident no matter what time of year you visit – fall is by far the best time to experience Fish Creek. The vibrant colors and proximity to fall events is not to be missed!
For those hoping to see the fall colors in Door County at their peak, plan to visit in mid-October. The best place to see the fall colors in Fish Creek is Peninsula State Park. This stunning state park is 3,776 acres and is home to many fun outdoor activities, from hiking to biking to kayaking, golfing, and more. The trails and lookout points are especially gorgeous at this time of year.
Fish Creek is also a great area to stay to enjoy the many fall activities in Door County. You’re a short drive from Marina Fest in Sturgeon Bay (Sept. 4-6.), the Autumnfest Classic Auto Show in Baileys Harbor (Sept. 25-26), The Pumpkin Patch Festival in Egg Harbor (Oct. 9-10) and the 75th Annual Sister Bay Fall Fest in Sister Bay (Oct. 15-17).
Fish Creek also has many wonderful family-owned shops, fantastic restaurants, and lovely bed & breakfasts that are all within walking distance of each other. Fall is also a great time to visit Edgewood Orchard Galleries – which sits just outside of the town. While the gallery itself is filled with beautiful art, the outdoor sculpture garden is especially neat to see – as the fall colors make for a stunning backdrop.
Have Clothes, Will Travel
Mammoth Lakes, California
A mountain town located in the Eastern Sierras, Mammoth Lakes offers stunning scenery in any season, but fall is especially gorgeous in this sub-alpine setting when the aspens, cottonwoods, and willows change into their fall finery. The colors begin to peek out in mid-September, but usually reach their peak in mid-October.
You can immerse yourself in the colorful foliage on one of the many amazing hikes in Mammoth. The trail to Sherman Lakes heads through a forest that explodes in saturated hues during autumn or try the hike to Heart Lake which showcases the fall colors in Mammoth Lakes Basin. You can also take a drive along Mammoth Lakes Scenic Drive for miles of leaf-peeping delights.
Another one of the awesome experiences in Mammoth Lakes is watching the sunset from Minaret Vista. At this viewpoint, you can watch the sky change colors to complement the golds, oranges, and reds of the fall foliage against a backdrop of the mountain peaks of the Minarets
Beyond the fall colors, a bonus to visiting Mammoth Lakes in the fall is that you’ll avoid the massive crowds that flock to this mountain town during the summer and winter. You definitely should put a trip to Mammoth Lakes at the top of your fall dream vacation list!
She Dreams of Alpine
New Haven, Connecticut
New Haven, Connecticut is a charming town at any time of year, but it is at its most beautiful in the fall! Like most of New England fall is the best time of year to visit because of the spectacular fall foliage.
The best place in New Haven to get a spectacular view of the autumn colors is atop East Rock Park. The park offers walking trails as well as paved roads to get to the summit.
The top of East Rock is known for having some of the best views in New Haven. The view from atop East Rock overlooks most of Connecticut’s coastline. On a clear day you can even see Long Island Sound from up there!
After enjoying the view you might be ready to check out some of the beautiful streets you saw from above. The best way to explore New Haven is by taking a FREE architectural tour of Yale.
After your tour head over Pepe’s pizza to get the most delicious pizza in America! Pepe’s uses seasonal toppings so you can get a great taste of fall as well. The fresh clam pizza is by far the most popular.
A great way to finish the day is by stopping for ice cream at Arethusa Dairy. Arethusa offers huge scoops of fall flavors like ginger and pumpkin during the fall season! You won’t be disappointed with a single flavor they offer.
No matter how you spend your day in New Haven, you are sure to enjoy the crisp cool autumn air and the firelike fall colors.
Travels With The Crew
Acadia National Park, Maine
Fall is one of the best times to visit Acadia national Park when it is brimming with the foliage colors.
One of the best things to do in Acadia National Park is driving on the 27-mile Park Loop road that will give you a glimpse into the colorful beauty that is spread across the park. Acadia National Park has a diverse terrain of ponds, rocky cliffs, mountains, beaches, oceans making it a memorable drive. During fall the color of the leaves ranges from yellow to crimson to orange. It is a sight to behold.
Another great way to explore the fall foliage is to hike the trails across the park. Hike or drive at the summit of Cadillac mountain to get a breathtaking view of the park, the lakes and the mountains in colors of red, yellow and orange .
The Jordon Pond offers some spectacular sight of the colorful trees around the pond. Savor a scrumptious meal at the Jordon House restaurant amidst the scenic vistas.
And if you can splurge, then don’t miss taking a scenic flight over the park. It is truly worth it to see the fall colors from bird’s eye view.
The magic begins to unveil in early September and gains peak by mid-October. The weather is crisp and fewer crowds as compared to summer. Do carry jackets and winter wear.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
One of the best towns in the Midwest to experience the fall is Mackinac Island in Michigan. During the fall, mostly October, this charming storybook town BLOOMS in shades of oranges, reds and yellows. It is sheer magic what happens.
What is unique about this island is that no cars are allowed, so one must take the ferry over (about 40 minutes) and you walk, bike or take a horse and carriage to get around.
Some of the top bucket list things to do on the island are: visit Arch Rock, bike the 8 miles around the island, eat your weight in fudge, see a sunrise from the lawn of Mission Point Resort, do a bar crawl, see the sunset in the West Bluff, and eat whitefish anything!
Estes Park, Colorado
The golden glow of aspen trees surround Estes Park Colorado in the fall creating one of the top places to enjoy fall color.
Unlike the reds and oranges common across the United States, the Rockies turn to pure aspen gold. Each September Estes Park celebrates its unique fall color with the Autumn Gold Festival a weekend of beer, brats and bands.
Nearby, fall color in Rocky Mountain National Park is exploding. As the gateway city, Estes Park is the perfect home base for National Park adventures.
A scenic drive along Trail Ridge Road will take you to gorgeous overlooks where you’ll see valleys of gold. Or even better, take a day hike from one of the trailheads in the Bear Lake Corridor and walk among the aspen.
Fall in Estes Park also means the elk are in rut, the fall mating season. Over 600 elk live in RMNP, while a small herd camps right in Estes Park city. Don’t be surprised if you find one napping on your hotel lawn!
Rut means the large mature males (bulls) emerge from deep in the forest to woo the females. You’ll hear the bulls bugling their deep bellowing call that warns other males to stay away from their girls.
And if you are lucky you might catch bulls sparing with their large horns to claim dominance. Estes Park hosts Elk Fest in early October, a family friendly weekend of entertainment and food dedicated to observing the elk.
Lovely hotels, quaint cabins and charming rental properties are abundant in Estes Park, including the famous Stanley Hotel from the movie “The Shining”. Known for amazing breakfasts of cinnamon rolls and local grown cherry dishes, the city is home to great restaurants, wineries and breweries.
Estes Park in fall is truly a golden experience!
Walking the Parks
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