6 of the Best Places To Visit in the USA in Fall
If you had to guess most Americans’ favorite season, what do you think it would be?
Summer seems like an obvious choice––have you ever seen an unhappy person at the beach? Winter, with all of its snowsports and hot cocoa, is also a strong contender. Neither, however, are the correct answer.
Fall is widely regarded as the United States’ most beloved season. At Autio, we think the reasons are obvious.
The changing of leaves to brilliant oranges and reds is a spectacle to behold. The weather is not too cold to prevent outdoor activity, but cold enough to justify a lazy day by the fire with a cup of tea. Plus, with the holidays approaching, everyone seems to be in a great mood.
Exploring the cultural and geographical diversity of the USA is our favorite pastime, and we think that fall is the best time to do it. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the amplified beauty of autumn, here are the best places to visit in the USA in the fall.
1. Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
In addition to holding the title of America’s most-visited national park, Great Smoky Mountains also sits among Autio’s favorite national parks.
How did it achieve such an honor? For one, it combines the beauty of vastly forested mountains with rich American history. In fact, more than 90 historical buildings remain in the park.
Great Smoky Mountains is among the best fall destinations in the world thanks to its dramatic changing of leaves. Nothing says fall like foliage, and more than 500,000 acres of dense forest turns from green to orange when autumn arrives in Tennessee.
From Clingmans Peak, the highest point in the park, you can witness an unmatched view of this unforgettable spectacle.
Great Smoky Mountains is among many East Coast locations that are perfect for a fall trip.
2. Upstate New York
One of the most underappreciated areas of the United States is upstate New York. While Manhattan and Montauk get a lot of credit, upstate blows them both out of the water once fall comes into fashion.
The best way to explore upstate New York is with a road trip through its gorgeous foliage, small farms, and plentiful town festivals.
A can’t miss stop along the Hudson River is Mohonk Mountain House. Seemingly out of a Wes Anderson movie, this isolated resort is nestled into the rocks in the pristine Hudson Valley.
The best way to spend a fall day here is to take a canoe out onto the waters. As you row down the lake, you will be surrounded on all sides by vibrantly orange trees. When you retire for the day, you can enjoy a cocktail beside a fire in the lodge or treat yourself to their luxurious spa.
Other upstate towns worth your attention include the bohemian township of Woodstock and the outdoor oasis of the Finger Lakes.
Don’t Neglect the City
While we like to encourage the exploration of the unknown, a visit to New York City is a perfect way to begin or end your upstate journey.
Fall is the perfect time to visit the Big Apple due to smaller crowds and less humid weather. There’s a reason so many romantic comedies are set in NYC’s fall chill.
Tourist attractions like the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty are musts, but also be sure to check out local spots like the Comedy Cellar, Katz’s Deli, and The Bitter End.
3. The Southern Sierras
When it comes to California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe take the bulk of the praise. However, the Sierras span nearly 40,000 square miles of natural bliss. There’s a lot more to explore, and the Southern Sierras is an ideal fall destination.
Mammoth Lakes is among the best mountain resorts in California (step aside, Tahoe). While the top-notch skiing won’t yet be in full swing, the bright yellow Aspen forests will be in peak form. Enjoy hiking through the changing leaves, mountain biking down the slopes, and kayaking through the multitude of lakes.
Further south is Sequoia National Park, one of the most underappreciated national parks in the country. While the titular sequoia trees don’t change with the seasons, there are a variety of other trees that change into bright yellows, oranges, and reds. There’s nothing like a rainbow of leaves to further boost the beauty of these majestic sequoias.
4. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Michigan doesn’t get enough credit for being a premier vacation destination, but trust us—it is!
The Great Lakes are a sight to behold, and Pictured Rocks are among Michigan’s most stunning locales.
Hugging the south shore of Lake Superior, this national lakeshore is renowned for its colorful cliffs, unique sandstone formations, white birch forests, and shipwrecks around the 19th-century Au Sable Point lighthouse.
Pictured Rocks get even more beautiful in the fall, though. The steep cliffs that surround the emerald-green water are then lined edge-to-edge by brilliantly-colored white birch trees. With the lake, cliffs, and trees, there are few other locations in the country with such a diverse vibrancy of colors.
5. Aspen, Colorado
Aspen is most known as one of the United States’ premier winter destinations. Don’t let that fool you, though. Aspen is the perfect combination of rugged exploration and pampered luxury year-round.
Honestly, we would argue that Aspen is at its best in the fall. This is especially true if you’re not a skier, as over one million skiers visit Aspen each winter. Want to enjoy Aspen without the crowds? Visit in the fall.
Aspen’s fall weather is actually quite nice, too. While the mornings and nights can get chilly, the days usually stay between 50 and 60 degrees. This is a perfect temperature for such activities as hiking the Sunnyside and Rio Grande trail.
On colder days, you have a perfect excuse to lounge in Aspen’s opulent spas.
6. Miami, Florida
Perhaps your ideal fall vacation is to get away from the forests and seek refuge under the sun. If you’re looking to extend your summer into fall, look no further than Miami.
Similar to many of the locations on this list, fall is an off-peak tourism season for Miami. That mean’s you’ll be avoiding the droves of summer tourists and spring breakers that flock to this beach city each year.
Still, that doesn’t mean you won’t get your fill of what Miami does best if you visit in the fall. Expect a daily average temperature of 83 degrees and activities like parasailing, scuba diving, and beach lounging—without thousands of other tourists clogging the shores. Why doesn’t everyone visit Miami in the fall?
Miami also has a lot going on in October, so you won’t have to worry about the city being dead (which it never is). The Water Lantern Festival—one of Miami’s most spiritual and romantic events of the year—occurs on the second of October.
Additionally, you can enjoy the annual Miami Harvest Festival. How often have you followed up a harvest festival with a dip into the ocean?
Jump Into the Leaves With HereHear
What makes fall such a great time to explore the United States? Beautiful scenery, fewer crowds, and milder weather should be enough to convince you.
That being said, there is no bad season to travel across the 50 states. The best time to begin your journey was yesterday—the second-best time is today.
No matter where you go next, make sure you have the right companions by your side.
Are you looking for something to listen to on your next national park road trip? Download Autio and explore what makes America’s national parks unique destinations for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs alike.
Our bite-sized stories are curated based on your interests, so you can learn about the things that you love as you journey across landscapes you’ll need to see to believe.
Among our favorite stories is the dramatic origins of Smokey the Bear’s national park set aside in his memory—check it out today, along with the rest of Autio’s road trip-ready library!