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The 11 Best U.S. Destinations to Visit During the Fall Off-Season

When the summer crowds leave, these destinations really shine.

Autumn is traditionally a time that falls between peak and off-peak seasons for travel when summer tourism crowds dwindle, and there’s a respite between the rush of warm weather travel and winter holidays. This time of year can be a fantastic (and more affordable) time to plan a trip, especially to certain destinations that are primarily known for hosting hoards of summer or winter visitors. These spots across the U.S. might just shine even brighter when the leaves of mountain towns transform into vibrant hues of reds, oranges, and yellows.

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Mammoth Lakes

WHERE: California

Outside temperatures in Mammoth Lakes might start to cool down in the fall, but when the color of the leaves heats up, and there’s a break between summer and winter crowds, it’s a perfectly peaceful time to hike, bike, or float on a local lake and admire the scenery. Check out the weekly Mammoth Lakes fall color update to get the most out of the autumn colors. Prepare for a day of outdoor adventure at the local shop Bleu Market & Kitchen to pick up gourmet trail snack goodies like nuts, dried fruits, and cured meats. Take a drive to Reds Meadow and Devils Postpile to admire the fall scenery on foot. After a day on the trails, refuel with food and a brew at Mammoth Brewing Company or Distant Brewing Co. and spend the night at one of the dozens of diverse lodging options in town.

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Greater Sun Valley

WHERE: Idaho

Fall in the Sun Valley region of Idaho ushers in crisp, fresh air and leaves of bright reds, oranges, and yellows—perfect weather for exploring the outdoors. Grab a bike, and wind through town along the leafy Wood River Trail, which connects the Wood River Valley towns of Bellevue, Hailey, Ketchum, and Sun Valley. Dine at one of the locally owned and operated restaurants or breweries sprinkled throughout downtown Ketchum. Those who want to plan an exceptionally unforgettable experience in the region can attend the annual Trailing of the Sheep festival. Each October, this five-day festival honors the 150+ year tradition of moving sheep down to lower altitudes for winter. There’s a Sheep Folklife Fair, championship Sheepdog Trials, and a bucket list experience, the “Big Sheep Parade,”—in which 1,500-plus sheep herd down the middle of Main Street in Ketchum. Stay at the appropriately sheep-themed Hotel Ketchum located downtown.

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Lake Tahoe

WHERE: California and Nevada

Fall in Lake Tahoe might not be the best swimming or skiing season, but it’s still the opportunity to “harvest” some seriously fun adventures enjoying the sand and sunset as the summer crowds disappear. Admire the marvelous colors of Mother Nature’s autumn creations as the aspens, grand cottonwoods, and willows transform into a spectacular show with the cooling temperatures. Take in the vibrant hues of gold, crimson, and auburn color on a hike through the rugged mountain terrain of Desolation Wilderness or on a mountain bike ride through the forest before winter snow blankets the ground. Enjoy a post-trail reward on the Lake Tahoe Beer Trail, which boasts the creative crafts of nine local breweries. Stay at the newly opened eco-luxury micro resort, Desolation Hotel, which is offering a special Fall promotional discount to encourage longer lengths of stays so guests can fully immerse themselves in the autumn magic.

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Sundance Mountain Resort


Through mid-October, Sundance offers 25 miles of lift-serviced mountain biking trails and 10-plus miles of alpine trails for hiking. Through the end of October, embark on a horseback ride through the beauty of the mountain terrain with Sundance Stables. Enjoy a Halloween Lift Ride—a family-friendly (spooky!) experience offered evenings from October 20-31 — or a special Full Moon Lift Rides + Zip tour to feel the magic of a starlit sky with a Lift Ride or Zip tour ride under the full moon. Venture on a creative journey at the Sundance Art Studio, tucked underneath Mount Timpanogos and hosting a wide array of activities and classes. Dine at Sundance Mountain Resort: The Tree Room, which dates back to 1970 and lives in a cabin constructed around an actual tree. Spend the night at one of Sundance Mountain Resort’s multiple lodging options, which offers access to the myriad of fall-themed activities around town.

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Myrtle Beach

WHERE: South Carolina

Myrtle Beach boasts 60 beautiful miles of oceanfront coastline and sandy beaches with an abundance of enjoyable activities during autumn. Culinary enthusiasts can enjoy the area’s famously fresh seafood offerings at one of many local seafood restaurants featuring live entertainment waterfront views. Go kayaking to enjoy an eco-tourism experience led by a team of experienced guides. Walk around Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach to explore the seemingly endless variety of shopping and restaurants with a backdrop of the Intracoastal Waterway. Try wine tasting at Duplin Winery, which has an impressive tank capacity of over 1.8 million gallons and sells over 500,000 cases of wine annually. Stay at Anderson Ocean Club and Spa by Oceana Resorts, which is located directly on the shore but is just five minutes drive from central Myrtle Beach and boasts two outdoor pools, a lazy river, and a full-service day spa.

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WHERE: New York

It’s no surprise that Cooperstown, New York, is nicknamed “America’s Most Perfect Village”—this quaint town is nestled into the foothills of the Catskills, boasting some of the region’s best autumn attractions to enjoy. Explore the local businesses and shops along picturesque Main Street (there are no chain businesses in this town!), where charming brick buildings line the road. Traverse the Cooperstown Beverage Trail, or explore a different type of trail on the local Otsego County hiking routes, which wander through river valleys, roam through wooded forests, and cross glacier-carved rocky pathways featuring sweeping scenic views. Visit the sandy shores of Otsego Lake at Glimmerglass State Park for a fall beach day. On weekends in September and October, head to Fly Creek Valley Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch, which hosts a five-acre corn maze, pumpkin picking, and ample family-friendly fall fun.

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Pocono Mountains

WHERE: Pennsylvania

The Pocono Mountains are a four-county region, home to numerous charming towns to explore in the fall. Check out Hawley, which is connected to Honesdale by the Lackawaxen River and the Stourbridge Line railroad, and which features numerous historic buildings, quaint shops, a downtown hub, and a beautiful public park. There’s also Honesdale, which features stunning architecture, restaurants, brew pubs, murals, and cute alleys to explore in addition to a myriad of educational museums. In Stroudsburg—the Heart of the Poconos—discover the charming, historic buildings and shops downtown, bustling with eateries and cultural stops. Finally, in Jim Thorpe, traverse the rail trail, and feel the town’s European look and layout while scouting the historic architecture and picturesque views of the Lehigh River.

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Cape Cod

WHERE: Massachusetts

Take an autumn trip to Chatham, Massachusetts, at the southeastern tip of Cape Cod, and experience an array of special fall happenings on the enchanting New England coast. It’s perfect timing for animal lovers, as September and early October are when the whales make their annual migration south. In mid-October, Wellfleet Oysterfest (one of the most well-known annual Cape festivals!) features music, oyster-shucking competitions, local craft vendors, and plenty of food and drink paying homage to the town’s celebrated oyster industry. Take a trip to Lighthouse Beach, one of the most scenic coastlines in Chatham, to explore the historic Chatham Lighthouse. Dine at Cuvée at Chatham Inn, which serves a seasonally inspired menu, currently offers a generous selection of fall harvest dishes made of fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

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Taos Ski Valley

WHERE: New Mexico

Taos Ski Valley in autumn allows for the opportunity to explore various adventurous outdoor activities plus, the fall foliage in town is exceptionally stunning this time of year. Visit the expanded mountain bike park, which features new trails for all levels, or book a private mountain bike lesson for personalized instruction. Book a tour on the one-of-a-kind Via Ferrata climbing experience, where those feeling brave can see the sights of the valley from up to 11,500 feet. Embark on a scenic chairlift ride with a picnic at the top would be an idyllic fall experience, or go for a hike on one of the many mountain trails in Carson National Forest. Stay at The Blake Hotel, where most rooms feature private patios—perfect for savoring a cup of coffee on a crisp mountain morning or a cozy glass of wine at sunset.


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San Francisco

WHERE: California

While summer brings foggy days and cooler temperatures, fall in San Francisco means a mild climate, made for spending time outdoors like at October’s annual San Francisco Fleet Week event. Bike or stroll the Golden Gate Bridge. Hop on the Powell / Hyde cable line, which takes riders from the Union Square area to the historic Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 area to gawk at the hoards of barking sea lions. Mosey down The Embarcadero, which runs along the city next to the water, and admire the sights of the Bay Bridge. Stop in for a cocktail at the upscale bayfront restaurant Waterbar at sunset for unmatched views of when the lights of the Bay Bridge come to life after dark. Art lovers should stay at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Downtown SoMa, which boasts a partnership with the Academy of Art University and features local artwork of students and alumni.

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The National Parks

WHERE: Across the United States

Autumn is a fantastic time to traverse some of the country’s most celebrated national parks when the crowds dissipate, and the foliage proudly puts on a  fiery show. Dauntingly heated destinations like Death Valley National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, and Joshua Tree National Park become more easily traversable with cooler temperatures. Colors at Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Yosemite National Park light up, making fantastic hiking and backpacking opportunities into a full immersion of spectacular scenery. Foliage-filled parks like Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park are dry enough to trek before winter rain and snow blanket the trails. One of the most exciting ways to explore numerous parks in a single trip is on an extended van life adventure with a company like Cabana, which offers travelers the luxury of an ultimate outdoor experience while not worrying about finding lodging.