By Katie Jackson
Call it fall, autumn or Indian Summer, but whatever you call it, don’t call it boring. For travelers, the months of September through November can be affordable, less crowded and full of fun events. Obviously, leaf peeping is a bucket list item in the New England states, but other states should not be overlooked for what they have to offer. Here are a handful of destinations from coast to coast that will be especially worth experiencing this fall.
Even though the world famous Indianapolis 500 is a springtime event, there are plenty of reasons to visit Indiana this fall. It’s the state’s bicentennial so celebratory events can be found from border to border. (There are way too many to list!) In the north, travelers can find 15 miles of sandy Lake Michigan beach and pose next to bison sculptures as part of the Bison-tennial Public Art Project at Indiana Dunes. Central Indiana has beautiful fall foliage and unique aerial viewing opportunities including from the new Connor Prairie Treetop Outpost and hot air balloon, Koteewi Aerial Adventure Park and the Go Ape zipline at Indianapolis’ Eagle Creek Park.
With its mild temperatures, North Carolina is a great shoulder season destination. The average water temperature at Cape Hatteras in September is in the mid-70s and air temperatures are in the high 70s. In addition to swimming and bird watching, visitors to the Outer Banks can take part in the 5th annual seafood festival on October 15. Further inland, Mount Airy hosts its annual Mayberry Days at the end of September. The festival features guest appearances from actors who appeared on The Andy Griffith Show. The town is also celebrating its 50th Annual Autumn Leaves Festival from October 14-16 where travelers can enjoy street food and live bands representing the best of the Carolinas’ culture.
Devoted theater fans flock to New York City every fall to catch the openings of new shows on Broadway. In the Hudson Valley, it’s apple and pumpkin-picking season and there’s no scarier place to spend Halloween than Sleepy Hollow. Further upstate, Niagara Falls attracts millions of visitors and the Adirondacks are a hub for outdoor activities. Travelers can watch fireworks explode over Lake George during Labor Day Weekend or watch the sky fill with color during the Adirondack Balloon Festival September 22-25. For leaf peepers, there are plenty of scenic foliage rides to choose from. September is also a safer bet, traffic-wise and room availability— for visiting the exclusive Hamptons on Long Island.
Boasting the largest Oktoberfest celebration in the Rocky Mountains, Breckenridge is the perfect place to enjoy nature (those yellow aspens trees) and a craft brew this fall. Also in September, wine aficionados can attend the first ever Breckenridge Wine Classic. Known as the “city of festivals” Telluride also has a lot going on. In October, travelers can celebrate Halloween early at the Telluride Horror Show—the state’s longest running horror film festival. November is an ideal time to visit Denver. Nearby ski hills are opening for the season, and downtown, many museums offer free admission during Denver Arts Week.
California is definitely a year round destination. Still, if your plans include Napa Valley or Sonoma County, your most worthwhile experiences await in fall. September through November is harvest season and the world-class vineyards come alive with music, dancing and events. Southern California is just as lively. The LA County Fair, one of the largest in the country, starts Labor Day Weekend and lasts for four weeks. California’s other beloved city, San Francisco, also goes all out in September. The city’s calendar includes one of the largest architecture and design festivals in the country, the 105th opening of the San Francisco Symphony, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival and even an international dragon boat race.