Summer may not be over yet, but now is the time to start planning your fall getaways. Airfares and hotel prices are starting to drop for the autumn months, even though that’s when the weather is at its best in many areas. Fall is a radiant time of year, and this year will be no exception: There's a wide variety of events worth making a trip for, from a wine harvest festival in California to the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. If you’re itching to pack a bag and explore the world, here are our top 10 destinations to visit before winter rolls around.
by Kathleen Squires
A serial traveler who often lets a country's cuisine dictate her itineraries, New York City-based writer Kathleen Squires has visited all 7 continents and over 60 countries, with stints living in London, Tokyo, and Buenos Aires. Her work also appears in The Wall Street Journal, Saveur, Cooking Light and National Geographic Traveler.
It's Dylan Thomas's 100th birthday this fall, and though the Welsh have been celebrating all year, the party culminates in his hometown of Swansea during the Dylan Thomas Festival. Beginning October 27 (Thomas's birth date) through November 9 (the anniversary of his death), the city's Dylan Thomas Centre will host special seminars, readings, and celebrations along with its permanent exhibit about Thomas's life. Take the opportunity to toast the poet, as it also happens to coincide with Swansea's annual Cider Weekend and Autumn Fayre (October 18-19).
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Wales Guide
The first casino hotel to open on the strip in five years, SLS Las Vegas officially debuts on Labor Day weekend with more than 1600 rooms designed by Philippe Starck; nine restaurants including the long-awaited Bazaar Meat by Jose Andres; and seven day-and-nightlife venues. It's poised to become the next patiers' paradise, introducing a whole new cool to the casino scene. The addition of rooms comes in handy for kickboxing fans flooding in on September 6 for the World Heavyweight Kickboxing Tournament.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Las Vegas Guide
Germany's capital celebrates the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9), and the country's reunification, with events all season long. Not to be missed: the elaborate light installation set up along the former footprint of the Wall made of thousands of illuminated helium balloons, stretching over seven miles through the city. Autumn also signals Berliner Oktoberfest (September 19 – October 5) and the Berlin Marathon dashes off on September 28.
Where to Stay: Set in the building that once held the Communist Party archives, stylish Soho House Berlin offers all of the perks of its private members club. The Radisson Blu's design includes the largest cylindrical aquarium in the world.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Berlin Guide
This fall re-initiates three landmark hotels to the City of Light. The former Hotel Majestic, set in a breathtaking Belle Epoque building, becomes The Peninsula Paris, after six years and a $600-million renovation. Two hundred rooms blend 19th-century grandeur with 21st-century convenience. The Hilton Paris Opera comes back on the scene after $50 million in renovations, including a new, majestically frescoed and chandeliered entrance hall. The hotel will also feature a new bar inspired by French fashion designer Christian Lacroix. Finally, the Hotel Plaza Athenee returns after a year-long renovation, along with its revamped Alain Ducasse restaurant. Another restored gem unveiling in September: Le Train Bleu, the magnificent, turn-of-the-century restaurant within the Gare de Lyon, celebrating the grand old days of train travel.
Where to Stay: Any, or all, of the above.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Paris Guide
The historic town of Puno on the banks of Lake Titicaca celebrates its founding with a week full of events, including traditional dance, music, fireworks, military parades, and recreations of Incan myths, beginning November 4. Known as Peru's “folkloric” town, the surrounding area also offers plenty of sightseeing, including the island of Taquile, situated in the middle of the lake, revered for its textile arts—a prime spot to pick up some souvenirs, and also a great place to marvel at Incan ruins.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Peru Guide
October 21 marks the beginning of India's five-day Hindu New Year celebration, Diwali. Jaipur, “the pink city” is the center of it all for the occasion, drawing visitors far and wide for its stunning festival of lights, in which homes, buildings, shops, and markets go all-out in illumination decoration. It's the time of year when the night sky is booming with fireworks and the agreeable weather—sunny days, cool nights—provides the perfect setting to explore the bazaars and gem dealers within the old walled town.
Where to Stay: The luxurious Amanbagh offers every amenity within a serene location removed from the urban bustle. The small and welcoming Pearl Palace Heritage is elaborately decorated with lovely stone carvings.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's India Guide
During the month of October, Salem becomes the spookiest city in the U.S., as it celebrates Halloween the entire month of October. This is the time of year the New England city reenacts its infamous witch trials, with performances based on historic transcripts at the landmarked House of the Seven Gables. The town also comes alive with jack-o-lantern parades, haunted street fairs, ghostly storytellings, authentic séances, a carnival, plenty of fireworks, and some trick-or-treating, of course.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Massachusetts Guide
Fall kicks off with the Live Arts Festival, through September 6, with 25 works by artists in visual arts, dance, theatre, music, architecture, and literature. Cape Town's main draw as 2014 comes to a close, however, is the culmination of the city as the World Design Capital 2014, with exhibitions such as the Lynedoch EcoVillage, South Africa's first socially-mixed ecologically-designed sustainable community, and “Too Good to Waste,” a series of workshops about recycling and using waste creatively.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Cape Town Guide
Phobjikha Valley, Bhutan
The first day of October welcomes one of Asia's most colorful festivals, Gangtey Drubchen and Tsechu, with a slew of religious ceremonies at the area's famous monastery. Then, from November 7-15, Bhutan celebrates the migration of hundreds of black-necked cranes during the annual Black-Necked Crane Festival, with days and nights of folkloric song and dancing, many themed around the bird. The cranes themselves offer a wondrous spectacle alone.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Bhutan Guide
Watch, or participate in, The World Championship Grape Stomp, which will this fall run for three days (instead of the traditional two) October 3-5 as teams of “stompers” and “swabbies” compete for a grand prize of $1500. It's like an episode of I Love Lucy come to life, equally hilarious and with wine, beer, and cider tastings; chef demos; food and wine workshops and seminars; pumpkin tossing and grape spitting all adding to the fun. Expect local wineries to be abuzz with fascinating activity during harvest and restaurant menus refreshed with the season’s bounty.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Napa and Sonoma Guide