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Destination Ideas

Top 10 Fall Getaways to See the Leaves Change Colors

Posted 29 days ago

Ah, the first day of fall … it’s that time of year when you can finally break out your favorite boots and leggings, hit up the drive-thru for an afternoon pumpkin spice latte and cozy up on the porch to feel that crisp autumn air (or turn the A/C wayyyy down to make it feel like crisp autumn air). In celebration of the first day of fall, we’ve been dreaming of where to see the fall leaves change to vividly colored reds, oranges and yellows and to enjoy pumpkin-flavored everything.

If you, too, have been dreaming of plans for family travel in the fall, we’ve got all the cool-weather, leaf-viewing, fall travel inspo you’ll need. From mountain getaways and spooky stays to seasonal festivals and sip-worthy cideries, we’ve rounded up some of the best places to travel in the fall to see the leaves change colors (in no particular order) and get a true autumn-inspired experience.

(COVID-19 Tip: While the festivals mentioned below are typically annual events, be sure to check and see if they’re still happening this year before you plan your visit.)

1. Stowe, Vermont

Stowe and Stowe Cider
Cider photo courtesy of Stowe Cider

First up: Stowe, Vermont, which is aptly nicknamed “Fall’s Color Capital.” Just picture it: you’re strolling through the quiet streets of this quaint New England town that’s lined with the most brightly colored trees you’ve ever seen.

For the full fall travel experience, take a hike or ride your bike through Cady Hill Forest which is right smack dab in the middle of the village. And afterward? Treat yourself to some Stowe Cider, where fresh-pressed hard cider is always on tap.

For even more fall scenery, drive the Green Mountain Byway, which goes through Stowe and Waterbury, and features Vermont’s highest peak. While in Waterbury, be sure to grab some ice cream and take a tour of the Ben & Jerry’s factory.

  • When it’s best to go: Mid-September to mid-October
  • Cool places to stay:
    • The charming, historic and elegant Green Mountain Inn (which dates all the way back to 1833!)
    • The Austria-inspired Trapp Family Lodge, owned and operated by the von Trapp family (Sound familiar? It’s the family from The Sound of Music.)
    • A tranquil retreat in a spacious room at Mountainside Resort

2. The Berkshires Near Lenox, Massachusetts

A beautiful shot of an Oak n' Spruce Resort building with lush greenery in the foreground
“Fall” in love with our Oak n’ Spruce Resort

When you’re not busy hiking, skiing, boating, rafting or enjoying the dazzling fall leaves of Massachusetts, the Berkshires host plenty of autumn festivals to keep the fall fun going, like the Lenox Apple Squeeze and Berkshire Botanical Garden Harvest Festival.

For some of the best views of foliage, take a visit to Pleasant Valley Sanctuary, a 1,100-acre wildlife sanctuary along the slopes of Lenox Mountain that has seven miles of hiking trails.


3. Mount Ascutney State Park in Vermont

Mount Ascutney and pumpkin beer

Round out your Vermont trip with a visit to Windsor and Mt. Ascutney State Park. It’s one of Vermont’s first state parks and has over 12 miles of hiking trails for you to get an up-close and personal experience of the beautiful changing fall leaves. Or, ditch your hiking boots and enjoy a relaxing car ride on the nearby four-mile parkway along Route 44A that’s filled with loads of fall foliage.

Windsor is also home to Harpoon Brewery, and trust us: a full-bodied pumpkin beer pairs perfectly with stunning fall scenery.

  • When it’s best to go: Mid-September to mid-October
  • Cool places to stay:

4. The Catskill Mountains in New York

Catskills and apple pie

The Catskills offer 6,000 square miles of rivers, mountains and thickly wooded hills with vibrant hues of yellows, oranges and reds. And fall is the perfect time of year for visiting the many historic villages that host craft fairs, farmers markets and festivals, including the fall-favorite Taste of the Catskills.

Definitely don’t miss out on the quintessential fall family activity of plucking your own apples right from the tree (anyone else craving apple pie now?).

  • When it’s best to go: Late September to late-October
  • Cool places to stay:
    • The super eclectic Roxbury Hotel, which features several themed rooms, including “The Noir Boudoir” inspired by The Addams Family (Halloween’s right around the corner, after all…)
    • The centrally located Holiday Inn Express and Suites Kingston Ulster, the perfect home base for exploring the Hudson River

5. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Cherry pie and Tahquamenon Falls

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has a state forest system covering nearly 4 million acres, so you can take your pick of more than 20 state parks to see some gorgeous fall foliage. The vibrant reddish colors are all mirrored by the crystal-clear turquoise and dark navy waters of the three Great Lakes that surround them. It’s the perfect backdrop for a little fall photo shoot with the kids (dawning their cutest sweater vests and jean jackets, of course).

The best spots to snack on a yummy cherry pie (the state fruit of Michigan) and sip on some warm apple cider include the viewing platform at Kitch-iti-kipi, the waterfall at Tahquamenon Falls and stops along the scenic Brockway Mountain Drive.


6. Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Orange and yellow fall leaves surrounding the roadway at Shenandoah National Park
Photo courtesy of Shenandoah National Park

Winding along the crest of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, Skyline Drive was named one of “America’s Best Fall Color Drives” by Travel+Leisure Magazine. As you drive along this byway and roll down the windows to feel the cool autumn air, be sure to stop at one of its 70 overlooks to take some stunning photos.

Since fall leaves can be a bit unpredictable from year to year, check out the scene before you leave home with these live webcams.

  • When it’s best to go: Mid-October to mid-November
  • Cool places to stay:

7. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Cades Cove and a latte

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the absolute best places to visit in October, especially for fall foliage viewing. While the park straddles both Tennessee and North Carolina, we’re partial to the Gatlinburg, Tennessee, area.

In the fall, Gatlinburg’s got cool temperatures that make it perfect for outdoor adventures like hiking, fishing and exploring the four historical districts in the park. The Clingmans Dome observation tower is the tippy top highest peak with the most scenic views of the misty mountains. (Pro tip: Check out these top day trips near Gatlinburg for more help planning your mountain getaway.)

Another great thing about Gatlinburg in the fall is how the area truly embraces autumn with festivals and fairs. The town celebrates with the annual Taste of Autumn, followed by Oktoberbest at Ober, Ripley’s Fright Nights and more.

  • When it’s best to go: Late September at higher elevations, mid-October to late-November in lower elevations
  • Cool places to stay:

8. The United States National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., during fall

A fall trip to D.C. isn’t complete without seeing the National Arboretum’s 446 acres of colorful foliage! This spot is the best for taking those Insta-worthy family photos for your next holiday card. You can tour by foot, car, bicycle or by taking the narrated tram ride. You might just love D.C.’s fall leaves even more than their quintessential springtime cherry blossoms!


9. Aspen, Colorado

Yellow, gold and green fall foliage with snow-capped mountains in the background at Maroon Bells in Aspen, Colorado

We could not write a fall article without including one of Colorado’s most gorgeous landscapes. Here, instead of oranges and reds, the landscape literally turns to a golden yellow. It doesn’t get more picture-perfect than that.

Some of the best places to see these stunning Aspen views include Maroon Bells, the chairlifts at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass, Castle Creek Road and Independence Pass. If you tap into your adventurous side, you can even take a paragliding flight right into the sea of gold. And for something spoOoky to do with the kids, explore the historic, paranormal buildings in Ashcroft Ghost Town.

  • When it’s best to go: Mid-September to early October
  • Cool places to stay:

10. Lake Tahoe National Scenic Byway in Nevada

Tahoe and wine
Vino with a view! Wine photo courtesy of @aronpalooza8576

Experience the fall season in all its golden glory by stopping along the Lake Tahoe National Scenic Byway, known as “The Most Beautiful Drive in America.” You’ll see why with its dramatic views of this alpine lake and all the rich, vibrant colors surrounding it.

In this area, October really brings out the festive spirit in Lake Tahoe with events like Camp Richardson Oktoberfest, the Fall Fish Fest at Taylor Creek (where you can watch the spawning salmon) and the South Lake Tahoe Food & Wine Festival.

(COVID-19 Update: The Fall Fish Fest at Taylor Creek and the South Lake Tahoe Food & Wine Festival have been canceled for 2020. Please be sure to check if other festivals are still happening before your trip.)

One other thing you won’t want to miss? Emerald Bay Lookout. It’s one of the most photographed places in the world (guaranteed to get plenty of “likes”).

  • When it’s best to go: October
  • Cool places to stay:
    • A spacious villa at Tahoe Ridge Resort, which has 15 (!) indoor and outdoor hot tubs, full kitchens, mountain overlooks and spectacular views
    • An ultra-modern room at the Staybridge Suites in Carson City



Tahoe path

Well, there you have it: a glimpse into some of the best places to travel in the fall to see those stunning fall leaves change colors. So go ahead, pick the destination that’s calling your name, pack up the car, put on some of our vacation-inspired Spotify playlist tunes and hit the road for a fantastic fall getaway (and maybe stop for another pumpkin spice latte along the way…) Your family and your Instagram feed will thank you.


All information is subject to change. This article is a curated guide and is neither sponsored nor considered an official endorsement. Please be sure to check information directly with any/all tours, guides or companies for the most up-to-date and direct details.

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Jessica Salina & Tori Ferrante

Jess and Tori are both key contributors to the Checking In travel blog. Jess serves as our go-to expert on all there is to know about Walt Disney World Theme Parks (her top favorite park being Epcot), and Tori specializes in finding those hidden gem adventures and travel spots during couples’ getaways with her husband. Tori and Jess both stay energized through running, lots of coffee and being outside in the great outdoors.