Best Fall Destinations to Explore on a Budget

The best fall destinations can range from cities or U.S. national parks, to secluded islands. Traveling to some of these places during the fall is considered “off-season” by the travel industry, yet you can still catch great weather and enjoy the beach while saving on airfare and hotels.

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And when the kids are back in school and the adults are back at work — there is no better time to admire beautiful foliage. Whether you’re in in national parks or historic, quaint cities, you can enjoy the smaller crowds, comfortable temperatures and gorgeous scenery.

Mammoth Cave National Park (KY)

For nature lovers, Mammoth Cave National Park can be one of the best fall destinations. It’s hard to find a better time to hike, canoe down the river or explore the magnificent caves than when the eye-popping patches of red and gold start covering the trees. During the fall, most of the visitors are gone, but the weather is still beautiful.

If you are a camping type, you will likely be comfortable in the early fall weather, but there are also more upscale lodging options. You can reserve a spot at The Lodge at Mammoth Cave — the only hotel located inside the park — or stay at one of the many properties nearby.

Cape May (NJ)

Fall days in Cape May, New Jersey, can be fun. The weather becomes crisp in the evenings and beach days are almost over in September, but there are plenty of other things to enjoy.

Sample culinary delights and fine wine at the Cape May Food & Wine Celebration in September, try some craft beers at Octoberfest or attend the bird show and watch thousands of birds and butterflies during their fall migration. The New Jersey State Film Festival also takes place there in October.

Savannah (GA)

Among America’s quirkiest cities, Savannah, Georgia might top the list. There are haunted hotels, a City of the Dead tour and creepy graveyards — enough to entertain anyone who is into some spooky fun. But it’s also a lovely place to visit.

The Savannah Historic District is a must-see with its lovingly restored 18th- and 19th-century buildings and green spaces. If you visit Savannah in November, during the Savannah Food & Wine Festival, you will avoid the summer crowds and sweltering heat while enjoying nice weather, fantastic food and great views of the city’s beautiful fall foliage. With so much to offer, it’s easy to see why Savannah is one of the best fall destinations to visit without breaking the bank.

San Francisco (CA)

San Francisco is known as one of the best U.S. cities to visit during the fall, and for a couple good reasons: fewer tourists and great weather. San Franciscans themselves look forward to this particular time of the year to enjoy the “Indian summer” with the city’s reliably warm days. Farmers markets and wine harvest parties are held there, and nature lovers can enjoy whale-watching tours and numerous hikes along the coastal trails.

The world-famous free, non-commercial Hardly Strictly Bluegrass concert takes place on the first weekend of October, although keep in mind that this is a tremendously popular event, which roughly doubles the city’s population. So, off-season or not — expect crowds beyond belief.

Bald Head Island (NC)

Off-season means lower prices and smaller crowds in this wonderful fall destination. In addition, Bald Head Island is car-free, so you can enjoy not only the peace and quiet but also the absence of fuel exhaust.

The sand, the sea and the natural beauty are paired with relatively warm weather. The most popular cultural event of the fall, filled with live music, great Southern food, fine wine and craft beers is called Roast & Toast on the Coast (October 6–8, 2017).

As you can see, you don’t need to “go with the flow” — and the crowds — to have a killer vacation. In the fall, the weather can be nice, the water may still be warm and you don’t have to share the beaches, parks or city streets with swarms of other tourists. Better yet, you don’t have to strain your budget to go visit a beautiful location.

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