Before we begin, I’m giving you strict instructions to order yourself a pumpkin-spice latte to get into the fall spirit. Jumper on? Great.

Whatever you call it, fall, autumn, hibernation, it is one of the best times to travel. A magical season where Mother Nature paints her landscapes in hues of yellows, oranges, and reds, fall is the start of a cozy season – and oh boy, is it a breath of fresh air (literally).

Let’s be real: traveling in summer can be exhausting. Everything is overpriced, the weather is, well, hot and humid, and places are crowded. Forget chasing the sunshine, and say hello to crisp autumn air.

Other than woodburning fires and hot cocoa, traveling in fall brings adventure: hike through the Aspen trees in the town of the same name, explore vineyards in Tuscany, or wander through the leaf-covered alleys of Quebec. Finally, shoulder season lets you spread your wings, free of tourists.

If a fall vacation is on the cards, I’ve got you covered. Check out the FINEST places to travel to in fall.

An array of pumpkins of all different shapes and sizes laid out in the street of Amsterdam with the houses and a lantern behind.
Halloween season though.
Photo: @Lauramcblonde

Best Fall Destinations in the U.S

Whether you’re after scenic drives or fall foliage hikes, uncrowded cities or harvest-inspired festivals, these are some of the best places to travel in fall:

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    New England

    vermont mountain notch fall foliage road trip new england

    When it comes to fall foliage, New England is as good as it gets. Steaming apple cider flows like wine, and holiday cheer is at an unrivaled high. 

    The northeastern region of the country covers the six states of Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. Spread across more than seventy thousand square miles – there is a lot of ground to cover in the USA.

    Unsurprisingly, it is these forested northern regions of America that experience some of the most dramatic fall colors. The change of seasons brings a spectacle of vibrant tones, where emerald green leaves turn to burnt oranges, ambers, and bright yellows.

    Aside from its natural beauty, New England is famous for its Colonial past and historic charm. The hub of the pre-American Revolution, the region was one of the earliest English settlements in the New World. Today, New England is scattered with charming towns featuring historical architecture and rich cultural color.

    With so much to see and do, your best bet would be to rent a car and hit the road. As an example, the drive between Hartford to Augusta is only four hours long but packs in tons of beautiful towns along the way. Choose a few spots to stop and explore, from Newport to Rhode Island to Stowe or Vermont. 

    The more adventurous travelers might even choose to hike through the area. The iconic Appalachian Trail snakes through most of New England’s states, passing sites that were significant to founding the country. With over 150 miles worth of trails, Acadia National Park might be New England’s only park, but it sure does offer all the beautiful trails you could dream of.

    Aspen, Colorado

    Fall morning in the mountains Aspen

    One of the best places to travel in fall, Aspen is the stuff of fairy tales. While most tourists visit for the world-class ski slopes and buzzing winter scene, the shoulder season is one of the most beautiful times to spend in these mountains. Fall days are filled with sunshine, crisp air, and otherworldly scenery.

    With a town named after its most famous tree, Aspen’s green Aspen trees are replaced by orange and golden-hued leaves. Fun fact: Aspen groves are considered one single organism, which means all trees in a grove change color at the same time.

    Falling leaves cover the landscape like a carpet, with each level of elevation changing at its own pace. The result? A blanket of greens turned orange turned yellow – the higher you look up the mountain. 

    Throughout the seasons, Aspeners love to hike – no surprises here. However, with minimal crowds, crisp air, and burnt gold scenery, autumn is THE season to take on the USA’s best hikes

    Do yourself a favor and explore the American Lake and Cathedral Lake trails, passing picture-perfect alpine lakes along the way. The Ashcroft Ghost Town and Hunter Creek is another popular hiking area accessible from town. 

    Aspen’s food scene is seriously second to none. Sure, it’s not the cheapest, but what do you expect from the country’s premier ski town? 

    Restauranteers love to take advantage of the rich seasonal and regional produce. Maple syrup, pot roasts, mulled wine, and apple cider just scratch the surface.

    Unlike other seasonal ski resorts, Aspen’s Mountain and Snowmass Mountain gondola continue spinning through summer (although on a schedule). 

    In a 15-minute ride to the summit, you’ll be able to take advantage of summer hiking trails, restaurants, and activities like lawn games, disc golf, yoga classes, and live music events. You know what they say: Visit Aspen for the winter and end up staying for the summer.

    Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

    Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains

    Close you’re eyes and imagine quintessential fall views. Done? Right, well, the closest you’ll get to this ideal vision is in Shenandoah National Park. 

    This exquisite Virginian national park offers five hundred miles of trails, including a large stretch of the Appalachian Trail. As some of the most coveted hiking trails in the country, they pass through a protected wilderness with cascading waterfalls and panoramic viewpoints. Throw some fall foliage into the mix, and we have ourselves one of the best places to travel in fall.

    Peak fall foliage at the park’s highest elevations is in the first week of October, while lower elevations see the most striking colors throughout the month. Since the most vibrant foliage only lasts four or so weeks, the natural beauty comes with a price – yea, we’re talking about crowds. 

    Fall is the park’s busiest season of the year. My advice? Try to visit during the week and avoid weekends. You’ll thank me later.

    If hiking isn’t your idea of a good time (no judgment here), there are plenty of scenic road stretches that snake their way through the park. Grab a spiced chai or apple cider to go and get comfortable.

    From the Skyline Drive to the Jewell Hollow Overlook to the Eastward View Pinnacles Overlook, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Oh, and there are 70 more viewpoints and overlooks where those came from.

    Along these routes and trails, black bears are one of the most common animals in the park. I am talking between one and four bears per square mile, which means you’ll have a pretty good chance of setting your eyes on a wild bear.

    Door County, Wisconsin

    Gills Rock Village Door County

    As the busy summer season draws to a close, the crowds dissipate, and the energy winds down, fall is a time of cozy fun and relaxation in Door County. Late September to mid-October is prime fall foliage time when Mother Nature exchanges her green leaves for orange ones. Spend your days browsing the fresh fall produce at the local farmers market, go bird-watching from your Wisconsin vacation cabin, or tour the scenic lighthouses that illuminate the coastline. 

    Door County also has a buzzing dining scene, with plenty of breweries, wineries, and restaurants serving local and seasonal food. As the cold weather settles in, there’s no reason to stay home and cook in this top place to travel in fall!

    If you’re prepared to go one step further than a meal out, attend a fall festival. The country’s festival circuit livens up during the season, with fall festivals, plays, group walks, outdoor events, and live music shows stacking up the calendar.

    Apple picking is an activity not to be missed in Door County. In fact, with hundreds of orchards dotted across the region, it’s one of the most popular fall activities. There is nothing cozier than digging into a homebaked apple pie with apples you picked yourself.

    Another favorite fall activity is harvest decorating. While you might not have a home to decorate in the county, take yourself off to the pumpkin, gourd, and harvest markets to see what the rave is about! Heck, you could even explore the corn maze and grab a steaming cup of cocoa to level up the experience.

    Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

    Great Smoky Mountains Fall

    Straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennesee, staying in the Great Smoky Mountains offers exquisite scenery in every season. The mountains are some of the oldest on the planet. I’m talking about a time when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

    Paired with a diverse population of plants and animals and a history steeped in southern Appalachian mountain culture, we have ourselves one of the best places to travel in fall. Spanning more than five hundred thousand acres, the park is a sanctuary for hundreds of species of trees. In fact, 95% of the park is covered by forests – naturally, it’s a big show-off in terms of fall foliage.

    When the park is overtaken by fall colors, the best thing to do is hike. There are plenty of trails and routes throughout the region, with some of my favorites being the Clingman’s Dome Hike and the Charlies Bunion Hike. Both of these are moderately tough treks with an average elevation gain.

    For a tougher incline, the Mount LeConte hike reaches an elevation gain of 2900 feet over an eleven-mile trek. Of course, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views at the summit.

    Make the most of your relaxing fall vacations with a stay in a rustic cabin. After a day in the mountains, there is nothing better than lighting up a wood-burning fire and cozying up with a home-cooked meal. Most cabins can be found in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Bryson City, with some more off-the-beaten-track properties available in Waynesville.

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    Best Autumn Destinations Outside the U.S

    The U.S. isn’t the only place to catch the golden hues of fall. These northern territories across Asia, Canada, and Europe also put on a spectacular show for autumn.

    Kyoto, Japan

    girl smiles for photo at a famous shrine in Kyoto, Japan
    Iconic – Autumn in Japan.
    Photo: @audyscala

    At any given time of the year, Japan’s Kyoto is an exceptionally beautiful place to visit. Spring reveals the country’s famous pink and white cherry blossoms, summer drapes the city in lush greens, and winter dusts the forests with snow. But we’re here for the autumn hues, and truth be told, this might be the most beautiful place to travel in fall.

    As Japan’s oldest city, Kyoto is known for its impressive Buddhist temples and Japanese-style shrines, tea houses, gardens, and bridges set against a backdrop of natural scenery. 

    The leaves start changing around October, with peak fall foliage in mid-November. The Kodai-ji Temple has to be one of the most beautiful places to view the spectacle. From late November to early December, this classic Japanese temple is shrouded by red leaves reflecting in the quaint temple ponds.

    The Eikando Temple, with its sprawling gardens and stone-arched bridges, is another spot to view the reddened Japanese maple leaves in their prime.

    The historical Kyoto Graden, which is home to rows of fancy estates built in the 1600s, is now scattered with maple leaves and ginkgo trees. Combining historical buildings and temples with classic Japanese fall foliage, this scenery just hits differently.

    Aside from aesthetic splendor, one thing Japan knows is tea. Staying in Kyoto will simply not be complete without joining a traditional tea ceremony. Intersperse your autumn foliage viewings with sips of Japanese tea for the ultimate cultural experience.

    Tuscany, Italy

    Vineyard Tuscany

    If you haven’t had the privilege of visiting Tuscany, I have no doubt you’ve heard travelers in Italy gush about the fabulous Italian countryside. And let me tell you, they have good reason to. 

    Tuscany is a countryside-lovers dreamscape with rolling hills, age-old chateaus, and crumbling ruins. It’s here where some of the world’s premier wine and olive oil is grown. Naturally, the most iconic trees in the valleys are cypress, olive groves, umbrella pines, and fig trees, but you can expect to find just about every fruit tree within the fertile landscape. 

    Come autumn, this lush region becomes a wonderland of greens and golden hues. Autumn in Tuscany is also harvest season, with the scent of ripe grapes wafting throughout the crisp air, making this one of the most beautiful places to travel in fall.

    Tuscany’s grape harvest, known as the vendemmia, takes place between September and October and is my favorite time to stay in the valley. As you might expect, wine farms start pouring their favorite blends, and wine-tasting season is in full fling – it’s all part of the process, right?

    Towards the end of November, it’s olive harvest season! Italian olive oil is in a league of its own, and if you visit during fall, you could take part in the harvest process yourself. From picking the olives to pressing them to dipping fresh ciabatta into the fresh oil, the entire process is enough to make any foodie swoon.

    As the shoulder season, there are much fewer crowds visiting in autumn. Do yourself a favor and visit the iconic Tuscan city of Florence for a taste of Italy’s history and heritage. With minimal crowds, traffic, and tourist traps, this is my fave time to visit.

    The Cotswolds, England

    Castle Combe Cotswolds

    Wedged between the heat of summer and winter’s chill, autumn brings with it a breathtaking canvas of fiery colors and rustic charm. Nestled in the heart of the United Kingdom, The Cotswolds extend across more than two thousand kilometers of the English countryside.

    Outdoor adventure peak for those willing to find it. If you’re prepared for some shit weather, traveling the UK in fall has so many gifts to offer. 

    The Cotswolds, in particular, are known for their English market towns, charming villages, and quaint architecture. Yes, the pace is slow, and retirees love it here.

    While the countryside is carpeted with honey-hued leaves falling away from the trees, it’s the quaint villages that will grab your attention as one of the best places to travel in fall in the UK. Stone cottages and manor houses line the narrow cobblestone streets, each one decorated with hanging baskets and a reddening ivy-clad facade.

    Got a notepad on you? Take down the names of these villages and palaces in The Cotswolds and thank me later:

    Stroll along the leaf-covered pathways of Bourton-on-the-Water, passing over the five stone bridges dating back to the 1600s. It’s not called ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’ for no reason. 

    The small village of Bibury – AKA the most beautiful village in England – is known for its stone buildings set along the River Coln. Throw in some fall foliage, and we have ourselves a winning combo!

    Castle Combe is famous for its 1440 castle of King Henry VI and the interesting local history that goes with it. We’re straight out of time, but Sudeley Castle and Blenheim Palace are also highly worth adding to a Cotswold Road trip on an autumn visit.

    Bavaria, Germany

    2 women posing at the camera in warm clothes front of the Rathaus in Munich
    Feeling that cold weather.
    Photo: @Lauramcblonde

    As summer fades into memory and autumn starts to show face… Germany’s iconic Alps. Topping the list of the most beautiful places in Germany, forests come to life with autumnal tones. 

    Without hesitating, autumn is one of the best times to visit Bavaria. Whether you’re coming for the foliage-packed hikes, the fairy-tale-esque castles, the local folk and cultural festivals, or the ideal temperatures, there is something for every type of traveler in Bavaria in the fall.

    First stop on your adventure: admire the fall foliage. Honestly, you won’t need to make many missions for this one since the German Alps really explode with color during this season. However, if you’re big on planning like me, head to Munich, Passau, or Nuremberg for the most striking color changes. 

    With perfectly cool temperatures, Tegernsee in the Alps, Wendelstein, or the Allagu region are some of the most beautiful hiking places to travel in fall. 

    Second on the list: You can’t visit Bavaria without experiencing the original Oktoberfest. Running over the month of September, this festival is one of the best in the world (especially its Munich celebrations). 

    That said, if beers the size of your face aren’t for you, you could attend a local Volkfest rather. While beer and bratwurst will be flowing just about everywhere, these festivals also hold space for carnival rides, street food, and local music. 

    Last but not least, the southern castle of Neuschwanstein, arguably Germany’s most beautiful castle famous for inspiring THE Disney Palace, is an attraction that is almost too beautiful to comprehend. Set against a backdrop of golden orange trees and an eerie mist, this is easily one of the most gorgeous autumn viewpoints.

    Quebec City, Canada

    Quebec city Canada

    Want to know why Quebec City is so popular during fall? I’ll show you just why:

    As the season starts to change, Canada’s European city comes alive in a blaze of fall colors. At the top of your itinerary, you’re going to want to hit some of the best places to view the fall foliage. The Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier is a haven for hikers and wildlife fans, with over sixty miles worth of trails to explore.

    Covered by water, the Marais du Nord wetlands are one of the best places to travel in fall in the world for bird watchers, with over a hundred and sixty species to be spotted. For the classic fall landscapes, you’ll want to head to Mont-Sainte-Anne and admire the views across the St. Lawrence River. This one’s a real show-stopper.

    Once you’ve lapped up your dose of burnt orange leaves, treat yourself to a harvest-style meal in the city. Quebec City’s chefs thrive on using seasonal and local ingredients, serving up delicious feasts with a French flair.

    With a full tummy, walk off your meal on the quaint cobblestone streets of the city. Packed with European charm, unique architecture, and steep hills, there are some beautiful neighborhoods in Quebec City to explore. My advice? Start in Limoilou and make your way to Montcalm for a taste of the trendy inner city.

    Just like in the USA, fall festivities are big in Canada. Check if your dates align with Le Massif Fall Colourfest, Fall Rhapsody, or the Sommet Saint-Sauveur Fun Fest, and book your tickets ASAP.

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    Final Thoughts

    Exquisite landscapes and foliage, cozy cabins, crisp air, and hearty meals – what’s not to love about fall? In fact, it’s one of my favorite seasons. With the change in temperature comes an entirely new landscape – and, of course, a change in atmosphere, too. 

    Explore the exquisite fall countryside, from New England’s apple orchards to the rolling hills in Tuscany. With its traditional English villages and charming surroundings, you can’t go wrong with a good-ol visit to The Cotswolds.

    Whether you’re looking for a place within the U.S. or want to explore further abroad, go ahead and add a few of these top places to travel to in fall to your bucket list. Pack your flannel and beanies, and let’s explore!

    A bridge over a stream in a forest in autumn
    Take me home.
    Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

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