Autumn’s crisp days and sunny skies make for fantastic travel opportunities and you’ll be getting out of town in no time with our 10 quick and easy fall getaways. Our list runs the gamut from crowd-free cities and autumn harvest bounties (think pumpkins and grape vines) to island beaches and theme park thrills – and, of course, sublime seasonal scenery. Best of all, our 10 picks are just a quick flight from many U.S. cities – we’ve even included information on how to get there to make your weekend jaunt as easy as possible.
While the risk of hurricanes keeps would-be beach bums away from much of the Caribbean come autumn, savvy travelers know that Aruba, with its southerly location that falls well below the most heavy-hit sections of the tropical storm belt, offers the best bet for year-long sunning on its white-sand beaches. Off the sand, visitors to this 20-mile-long island can expect iridescent waters full of sunken wrecks and an unspoiled desert-like coast (that’s a great playground for Jeep tours and ATVs). Come nightfall, renowned casinos, bars, and clubs spring to life, and can keep you out till dawn. Add on the frequent nonstop flights from the United States, and it’s little wonder why Aruba reigns among the Caribbean’s most popular fall getaways.
How to Get There: Nonstop flights to Aruba’s Queen Beatrix International Airport (AUA) depart from Charlotte (US Airways; 4 hours), New York (United, Delta, JetBlue; 4.5 hours), Philadelphia (US Airways; 4.5 hours), Miami (American; 3 hours) and more.
Black Hills, South Dakota
Bursting with enough autumnal color to brighten up the four stone-faced presidents chiseled into Mount Rushmore, South Dakota’s heavily forested Black Hills region also entices fall visitors with plenty of family-friendly diversions, like its giant two-level wooden maze, and grown-up pastimes, like saloon-style gambling in Deadwood – the famously untamed Old West gold-mining town where Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane once roamed. Late September also coincides with the region’s annual Buffalo Roundup and Arts Festival in Custer State Park, where a thunderous herd of buffalo is rounded up by cowboys on horseback.
How to Get There: Fly to Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP), which lies along the eastern slope of the Black Hills, from Chicago (United; 2 hours), Denver (United; 1 hour), Las Vegas (Allegiant Air; 2 hours), Minneapolis (Delta; 1.5 hours), and Salt Lake City (Delta; 1.5 hours).
The pride of New England, historic Boston really comes into its own in autumn, as students return to their university classrooms (and the local pubs), baseball fans head to Fenway for the last games of the season, and brilliant foliage frames the city’s storied buildings, parks, and gardens. Dubbed “The Walking City,” much of Beantown’s rich colonial character is easily explored on foot, while the crisp fall air and picturesque Charles River encourage water-based outings. While there’s already plenty enough to distract you in town, Boston is also well-placed for foliage outings into the surrounding New England countryside to round out one of our top urban fall getaways.
How to Get There: Fly to Logan International (BOS) from Chicago (American, United, US Airways; 2.5 hours), New York (American, Continental, Delta, JetBlue, United, US Airways; 1.5 hours), Atlanta (AirTran, Delta; 2.5 hours), and more.
Brimming with charming Victorian buildings, lodge-style bed-and-breakfasts, and sumptuous Southwestern eateries, this easygoing Colorado mountain town proposes the perfect autumnal escape. Nature enthusiasts can admire the distinctly seasonal sight of golden-leafed aspens while soaking in natural hot springs, cruising the scenic San Juan Skyway, or riding a steam locomotive through Cascade Canyon on special “Pumpkin Patch Express” trains. Plus, Durango’s proximity to Mesa Verde National Park’s fascinating pueblo cliff dwellings makes it easy to combine historic and outdoor pursuits in a single fall getaway.
How to Get There: Fly direct to Durango/La Plata County Airport (DRO) from Denver (Frontier; 1 hour) or Phoenix (US Airways; 1.5 hours).
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Tear yourself away from modern contraptions like TVs and video games and reconnect with your family in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, where old-fashioned activities like buggy rides and harvest festivals abound under the brilliant foliage of Lancaster County. Getting to know the resident Amish is a highlight of any visit here; you may well be invited to share in family-style meals finished off with shoofly pie (a local treat of sweet dough and molasses). If your sweet tooth (or need for adrenaline) demands more, drop by the turn-of-the-century town of Hershey, where chocolate aficionado Milton Hershey based his empire; as you might expect, it’s chock-full of cacao-themed attractions, including the thrilling Hersheypark that sweetens up one of our top fall getaways.
How to Get There: Lancaster County is within a 2-hour drive of both Baltimore and Philadelphia, and within 3 hours of Washington, DC.
Among the many jewels strung along the central coast of California, the town of Monterey and its celebrated bay, part of the 6,094-square-mile Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, shimmers most brilliantly, especially after summer’s cool fog rolls away and the peninsula’s sunny autumn weather takes hold. But if kayaking alongside frisky seals, navigating the famously twisting 17-Mile Drive past cypress groves and the world-renowned Pebble Beach golf course, and marveling at diverse species of fish at the town’s first-rate aquarium doesn’t sound appealing enough for one of the best West Coast fall getaways, get into the groove with the three-day Monterey Jazz Festival in mid-September. At more than 50 years in the making, it’s the world’s longest-running jazz fest, attracting upward of 50,000 visitors annually.
How to Get There: Monterey is a 5-hour drive from Los Angeles and 2 hours from San Francisco. If you’re not coming by car, fly to the Monterey Peninsula Airport (MRY) from Denver (United; 2.5 hours), Las Vegas (Allegiant; 1.5 hours), Los Angeles (American Eagle, United; 1.5 hours), Phoenix (US Airways; 1.5 hours), and San Francisco (United; 40 minutes).
Sure, the “happiest place on earth” is a kid magnet, but even grown-ups know this Florida destination isn’t just for the little ones. And with fall ushering the younger set back into the classrooms, you won’t have to share the adrenaline-pumping rides at Walt Disney World, the marine life magic of SeaWorld, or special autumnal events like Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights. What’s more, you won’t have to dig too deep into the piggy bank for the privilege either, thanks to the discounted resort rates common at this time of year. The one catch? While sunny temps abound, early fall can be affected by hurricane season, although its landlocked status usually spares Orlando the brunt of the big storms and leaves it a prime pick for fall getaways.
How to Get There: Fly nonstop to Orlando International Airport (MCO) from more than 70 U.S. cities including Dallas/Fort Worth (AirTran, American; 2.5 hours), Los Angeles (American, Delta, United, US Airways; 5 hours), and New York (American, Continental, Delta, JetBlue; 3 hours).
The “Fiesta City” of South Texas gets travelers fixin’ for a fall fling, thanks to its reputation for fun, festivals, and fantastic attractions like the Alamo, Franciscan and Spanish missions, and Mexican marketplaces. But while summer attracts most of San Antonio’s crowds, fall clears out the masses – and the humidity – allowing prime access to the city’s bustling shop-and-café-lined River Walk, top-rated museums, and atmospheric historic districts with Native American, Spanish colonial, German, and Mexican influences. To this palette, autumn also adds colorful cultural festivals like Día De Los Muertos and Oktoberfest, making it an unbeatable pick for fall getaways.
How to Get There: San Antonio International Airport (SAT) is extremely well served with nonstop service operated from some 40 markets, including Atlanta (AirTran, Delta; 2.5 hours), Chicago (United; 3 hours), Los Angeles (Southwest, United; 3 hours), and New York (Continental; 4.5 hours).
British Columbia’s largest city is heralded for its culture, cuisine, and proximity to the region’s spectacular natural surroundings. Surrounded by water on three sides and boasting more than 200 parks, fall getaways are prime for nature lovers in Vancouver, when the great outdoors are met by lovely foliage and mild temps (although the rainy season does close in around mid-October). Autumn also signals the start of a bustling cultural calendar, with the launch of the theater, opera, symphony, and NHL Hockey seasons.
How to Get There: Fly direct to Vancouver International Airport (YVR) from Chicago (United; 4 hours), Phoenix (US Airways; 3.5 hours), San Francisco (Air Canada; 2.5 hours), Seattle (Air Canada, Alaska, United; 50 minutes); and more.
Walla Walla, Washington
Avoid the rush of oenophiles pouring to California’s Wine Country to partake of the annual harvest crush and head 750 miles north instead, to Washington’s Walla Walla region. Here, 1,500 acres of rolling vineyards host over 100 wineries replete with quality Syrahs, Merlots, Sauvignon Blancs, and Chardonnays. This happening viticultural area, with its tasting rooms, restaurants, boutiques, and deluxe inns, makes a great alternative to fall getaways in popular Napa, at a fraction of the cost, to boot.
How to Get There: Walla Walla is easily accessible by car from Portland (4 hours), Seattle (about 4 hours), or Spokane (3 hours). Fly direct to Walla Walla Regional Airport (ALW) from Seattle (Horizon Air; 1 hour).