My 7 Favorite Fall Getaways in the U.S.
Ladies and gents, it is officially fall. AND, I've already seen snow. What the heck? Early snowfalls aside, fall is many people's favorite season of the year. And for good reason. It's colorful, it's pleasant (typically), and there's a certain pumpkin spice aroma in the area (or maybe that's just the pile of empty pumpkin spice latte to-go cups on my floorboard). So then it only seemed appropriate then to share a few of my favorite fall getaways in the U.S. Fall may just be my favorite time of year to travel in the U.S. It's in the fall months that many of America's best destinations are most pleasant (albeit a little cool at night), most colorful, and least crowded. Best travel combo ever? It's exactly these traits that characterize many of my favorite fall getaways in the U.S. So without any further ado, I give you my favorite fall destinations in America.
7 Fall Getaways in the U.S.
Asheville, North Carolina. Growing up in North Carolina, and having spent many weekends (and my entire college career) in and around Asheville, the Great Smoky Mountains, and Blue Ridge Mountains, this is a no-brainer. Set amidst the Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains, and nearby Mount Mitchell, this is fall foliage at its best. Furthermore, Asheville and the surrounding area actually has one of the longest fall foliage seasons in America, thanks largely to elevation change of several thousand feet within a short distance. And that's without mentioning that Asheville is one of the coolest (and underrated) mountain cities in America, featuring scores of craft breweries, great restaurants, and a bohemian vibe that you'd expect in the Pacific Northwest. Among my favorite spots outside of Asheville are the summits of Mount Mitchell and Clingman's Dome, two of the tallest peaks on the east coast.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Due west from Asheville at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains is the small tourist town of Gatlinburg. It's hella quirky, lined with funky mountain-town shops and moonshine tasting rooms (yes, seriously), yet the backdrop can be beat. Within mere minutes of driving outside of town you'll be at the entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of my favorite national parks, where you'll be greeted with beautiful rolling hills, flowing streams (great for fly fishing), and winding roads under the cover of colorful fall foliage. While there are plenty of hikes just off the main roads around Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I recommend booking a hike with Smoky Mountain Guides, where you'll get access to hiking trails (and history) that you won't get from a self-guided tour of the Great Smokies. Make some time, too, to go atop the Gatlinburg Sky Lift, an 1,800-foot overlook of both Gatlinburg and the Great Smokies.
Breckenridge, Colorado. Breckenridge, Colorado is hands down my new favorite fall destination, having visited for the first time just last fall. I always considered it a winter destination, since it sits at the base of Breckenridge Ski Resort, one of Colorado's best ski resorts. However, what I found was that it was teeming with natural beauty that's all the more beautiful in fall, from hiking old mine ruins, to summiting 14,000-foot peaks (Quandary Peak), to exploring waterfalls (Continental Falls), to warm-weather dog sledding deep in the cut. Meanwhile, Boreas Pass, located high above Breckenridge, may just be one of the single most beautiful drives I've ever taken. Don't visit Breckenridge, however, without visiting Breckenridge Distillery, one of my favorite West Coast distilleries.
Branson, Missouri. Branson reminds me in many respects of a Midwest version of Gatlinburg. It's quirky, yet contrasts with beauty that surrounds the town. Within minutes of streets lined with music halls you can be atop rolling hills overlooking lakes and chateaus (really). For great views and a taste of nature that's accessible, there's Top of the Rock, which features a canyon, cave, and nature trails, all overlooking Table Rock Lake. For more proper nature, get out onto the scenic highways and byways of the Ozark Mountains, such as driving around Table Rock Lake, and visiting Dogwood Canyon, which is a nature park that features waterfalls, trails, horse stables, fly fishing, and nature park with buffalo and elk.
Leavenworth, Washington. Located a couple hours from Seattle, Leavenworth is the runaway for most kitschy destination on this list, since it's a Bavarian village after all. Leavenworth is its own slice of Germany, where charming streets lined with Bavarian shops sit at the foot of dramatic mountains. Naturally, being a German town as it is, Leavenworth has an Oktoberfest, which takes place the last weekend in September and first two weekends of October. Beyond the festival, you'll find great German food and drinks year-round, of which my favorite is Munchen Haus, one of my favorite German beer gardens I've ever visited. But what's fall without an Autumn Leaf Festival, which Leavenworth also has, taking place at the end of September every year.
San Francisco, California. That's right, San Francisco, California makes the top fall destination list, largely in part because the fall months are essentially San Francisco's summer, with the warmest temperatures of the year. As such, this is my favorite time of year for hitting San Francisco's urban parks, including Golden Gate Park, Buena Vista Park, Twin Peaks, and Dolores Park. This is also the best (and really only) time of year for spending time at some of San Francisco's best outdoor patio restaurants and bars, such as Biergarten (get there early!), Zeitgeist (bring cash), Foreign Cinema, the Ferry Building Marketplace, Waterbar, and Southern Pacific Brewing, just to name a few. Fall in San Francisco also brings some of my favorite festivals, including the Treasure Island Music Festival and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival.
Savannah, Georgia. Savannah, Georgia is easily on my top-three list of favorite cities on the East Coast. It's not anywhere, after all, where you can order to-go beers and cocktails and go for a stroll through town. What I love perhaps the most about fall in Savannah is that while winter is at the doorstep of many cities around America, it's still very summer-like in Savannah, with temperatures typically in the 70s and 80s, even in November. Like many of the other cities here, Savannah has great festivals, including Savannah Craft Brew Fest (Labor Day Weekend), Oktoberfest (early October), Savannah Food and Wine Festival, and Savannah Film Festival, one of my favorite film festivals. Additionally, Savannah has one of the best Halloween celebrations in America.
What are your favorite fall getaways in the U.S.?