Arts and Culture

Best Cities for Fall Travel

Filed Under: Fall, United States

As summer winds down, most folks put away their suitcases, patiently waiting for the following summer's vacation. Poor people. Why sulk in sadness when you can plan an autumn road trip instead? Fall can be a blissful time to visit many cities; crowds diminish, temperatures are comfortably cool (but not cold), and autumn- and Halloween-themed festivals keep locals and travelers occupied. Seasonal sports, like football and hockey, also kick into high gear in the fall, luring fans into stadiums and sports bars in cities where passions run high. It's also the season of spookiness, with ghost tours celebrating Halloween horrors. So start prepping for cool weather fun with our picks for America's best cities for fall travel.

Boston
Boat Tours, World-Class Rowing Race
New England takes the nation's prize for most glorious autumn leaf-peeping opportunities, especially in Boston. Hop aboard one of the many bus or boat tours in downtown Boston to explore nearby New England towns and regions like Cape Cod or New Hampshire. Or simply take a stroll along the Charles River, where colorful autumn leaves line the river banks.

Every October, you can also see rowers cut through the waters in slender skiffs. One of Boston's most popular events, the Head of the Charles Regatta draws more than 8,000 athletes to the city to compete in what is the world’s largest 2-day rowing race. In the autumn, Boston's football, hockey and basketball teams start to heat up, too, as students return to the dozens of metro area colleges. Grab tickets to a Patriots or Bruins game -- football and hockey reign supreme this time of year. And make sure to plan a visit to coincide with Columbus Day; Boston’s Italian North End neighborhood puts on a massive celebration, with a parade, live music and family activities.
Andrew Ciscel, Flickr
Savannah, Georgia
Creepy Tours, Fall Festivals
Who wouldn't want to visit one of America's most haunted cities in autumn? Savannah's spooky factor and popular ghost tours are reason enough to visit this historic city any time of year, but the town's aura feels even more ominous with Halloween on the horizon. Fall also brings a medley of events and festivals to Savannah, such as Oktoberfest, the Savannah Folk Music Festival and the Savannah Film Festival.

Because Savannah is known for its genteel gardens, squares and mansions, plan to spend a fair share of time outside. A good bet is to explore the city via a Savannah Tour of Homes and Gardens walking tour, which takes visitors through many of the city's gorgeous historic homes. Set the creepy mood on a Blue Orb Tours walking ghost tour. Or get close to the dead with a visit to the Bonaventure Cemetery, the setting for the famed book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The moss-covered graves are the final resting places of Confederate soldiers, generals, plantation owners and scions of wealthy families.
purosapian, Flickr
Nashville, Tennessee
Fall Music Festival Season
Nashville takes its music very seriously -- hey, it's didn't earn the nickname "Music City" for nothin' -- and fall amps up the sounds of the city with a full array of music festivals. Grab your cowboy hat and boots, and kick up your heels at the season’s best events: the popular Next BIG Nashville Soundland festival, the International Bluegrass Association's World of Bluegrass festival (which is held at the historic Ryman Auditorium), the Americana Music Festival, and the biggest party in town, the CMA Awards. From mid-September through mid-October, visitors can also catch Live on the Green, a 6-week series of outdoor concerts featuring up-and-coming local artists, held on Thursday nights.

Once you've gotten your music fill, wrap your head around Nashville's awesome autumn-themed offerings, such as ghost tours, haunted houses, corn mazes and scarecrow exhibits. The Nashville area is home to a fair share of spook-tacular hauntings, such as the abusive Bell Witch, the Body Farm, and even a few alleged spirits at the Grand Ole Opry House, where apparently not all former country stars go gently into that good night.
Getty Images
New Orleans
Voodoo, Blues and More
New Orleans' intrigue snaps into high gear come fall, as heat and humidity drop and the city's ghoulish past rises to the forefront thanks to spooky tours and events. Plan your visit around Halloween and be sure to attend the Voodoo Music Experience, a 3-day festival of music, underground arts and culture, and unusual crafts. Family-friendly Halloween-themed events include Boo at the Zoo, featuring games, a haunted house, a ghost train and trick-or-treating; Crawloween at the Insectarium, and Museum Mash at the Louisiana Children's Museum. Other memorable events include the Vampire Ball and Ghostly Galavant walking tour. Of course, for less kid-friendly fun, grab your sassiest costume and head to Bourbon Street to celebrate in creeptastic style.

Still, NoLa's spooky side isn't the only autumn draw to this incredible city. Festivals fill the calendar in October, including Crescent City Blues and BBQ, free, weekly Wednesday concerts in Lafayette Square and the New Orleans Film Festival. Finally, for the sports-minded traveler, check out a New Orleans Saints game at the famed Superdome; 'tis the season.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
San Diego
Snorkel, Surf, Hike
The gods of weather have graced San Diego with the perfect climate: comfortably warm, dry and typically sunny without ever being unbearably scorching. Autumn is no different in this city by the sea, but what does change is the departure of the summer crowds, leaving San Diego and its attractions quieter and more convenient to visit. Visitors might be tempted to forget that seasons have changed; it's still possible to snorkel in La Jolla Cove, surf at Mission Bay Park and take a hike at Palomar Mountain State Park well into October. Families should take advantage of October's free admission for kids 3 to 11 at the unparalleled San Diego Zoo, which also allows guests to camp overnight at the zoo through November by signing up for the Roar and Snore Safari program.

Autumn festivals include the Old Town San Diego Art Festival, La Jolla Art and Wine Festival and the Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival. To get into the Halloween spirit, head to the Haunted Trail of Terror in Balboa Park, when the urban park is transformed into a maze-like spookfest filled with frightful ghouls and spirits.

About the Author

Valerie Conners is a freelance writer, editor and producer who has worked with the Travel Channel for more than 14 years, specializing in travel topics including the world's best beaches, outdoor travel and romantic getaways. Her work also appears in many online and print publications including, Aol Travel, Discovery Channel, World Hum, Frommer's Travel Guides, the Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun and Philadelphia Inquirer. She's happiest when eating spicy Thai food, snorkeling with sea turtles in Indonesia and bargaining for bangles in Indian markets. She blogs about her travels at PassengerConners.com.

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