15 Relaxing Fall Getaways

As autumn rolls in, it’s the ideal time to get away. From California’s majestic redwoods to the quiet shores of North Carolina, here are a few serene destinations perfect for the cooler weather.
By: Amanda DiGiondomenico
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Bald Head Island, N.C.

Come September, the already quiet island off the shore of Wilmington, N.C., becomes nearly deserted except for the 160 people who call the island home year round. With no cars on the island, you’ll find a peaceful silence that’s hard to find anywhere else. While the weather gets a little chilly, the water is still warm. But for those who would rather stay dry, the world-class golf course, the conservatory’s bird walks and Old Baldy lighthouse round out a relaxing getaway.

Katy Trail, Missouri

The 225-mile Katy Trail runs along the Missouri River for much of the way and cuts right through the state’s wine country. In the 1800s, this area is also where German immigrants settled, bringing their wine-making traditions along with them. There are plenty of adorable B&Bs situated along the trail if you need a rest from a long day of biking or hiking through the dense forests and limestone bluffs.

Cape May, N.J.

Cape May is great in the summer, but it’s magical in the fall. Autumn is when monarch butterflies converge upon this beach town for a few charmed weeks during their migration. Stop for brunch at the Blue Pig Tavern in Congress Hall hotel (one of President Ulysses S. Grant's favorite places to stay) before doing some serious shopping along Washington Street or bike riding along Beach Avenue.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Dutch Country, better known as Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is an idyllic place to visit during the harvest season. There are apple orchards ripe for the picking, corn mazes that hearken back to a simpler time and farmers markets bursting with homemade baked goods and fresh produce. And just 30 minutes northeast, you’ll find “Antiques Capital, U.S.A.” in Adamstown, home to over 3,000 antique dealers, traditional Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine and, of course, that Amish charm.

Leavenworth, Washington

Oktoberfest in Leavenworth is one of the most extravagant Oktoberfests in the U.S. For three weekends in October, visitors descend upon the foothills of the Cascade Mountains to explore the traditional Bavarian village and get their fill of authentic cuisine and imported beer. But even if it’s not October, there’s still much to love about this town, from the Bavarian architecture to the Maipole in the town square.

Boston, Massachusetts

In the fall, Boston is the destination for crisp weather, history and excitement. Hop across the Charles River to explore Cambridge and sit in Harvard Yard for excellent people watching, then recharge in one of the many independent coffee shops, expand your mind in the 84-year-old Harvard Book Store and finally, grab a cleverly named, famous burger from Mr. Bartley’s. We recommend The Big Papi with a side of sweet potato fries.

Mackinac Island, Michigan

Located in Lake Huron, this island resort is not only a National Historic Landmark, but it is also a portal back in time to when Victorian architecture was prominent and the only modes of transportation were foot, bicycle or horse. Mackinac Island is known for its opulent fall foliage in October, and it is also famous for its fudge. In fact, many of the island’s confectioners have been making fudge for more than a century.

Mill Valley, California

Head beyond San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge, to the sublime setting of Marin County. This is a prime spot for outdoor enthusiasts, who will never want to go indoors. Take a winding drive into the region’s mountains to visit Muir Woods National Monument. An easy hike through towering redwoods -- that range in age from 400-800 years old -- will leave you breathless. Afterwards, head back down the mountains into Mill Valley, where quaint shops and first-rate cuisine await.

San Antonio, Texas

You can’t go wrong with a stroll (or a cruise) along San Antonio’s famous River Walk in the fall. Tucked just below street level, the River Walk features some of the city’s best restaurants, shops and galleries -- all just steps away from The Alamo. And the Natural Bridge Caverns are only a 30-minute drive away if you’re up for a little amateur spelunking. Take a tour 180 feet underground to see stunning natural formations or head over to Bracken Cave to see one of the world’s largest bat colonies.

Sedona, Arizona

With its surprisingly moderate climate and otherworldly terrain, Sedona is a town full of surprises. The town is considered a spiritual mecca because it’s considered home to a series of vortexes and whirlpools of energy that are believed to facilitate mediation and healing. Whether you believe this or not, stop in one of the many spiritual gift shops for the chance to get your aura read. Or just take a Jeep tour high into the red rocks for a surreal adventure.

Shenandoah Valley

Shenandoah Valley’s Skyline Drive offers 105 miles of scenic byway surrounded by stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. Whether you tackle the sloping, winding road by bike or car, you’ll encounter plenty of quaint Virginian towns along the way. Stop in Staunton’s Red Brick District to check out the arts scene or visit Waynesboro for world-class fishing.

The Great Smoky Mountains

Visit the Great Smoky Mountains for a relaxing getaway. Head to Blackberry Farm, nestled in the foothills, for a luxurious stay that’s not to be missed. For travelers looking for adventure, there’s hiking, fly-fishing and horseback riding aplenty in these iconic mountains.

Walla Walla, Washington

If you’re looking for a scenic wine tour to kick off the autumn season, skip the tourists of Napa and head straight for Walla Walla, a hot, new destination for wine connoisseurs. Not only is the region home to more than 100 wineries, but Walla Walla was also named “Friendliest Small Town” by both USA Today and Rand McNally. Head to Maryhill Winery to indulge in wine tasting and live music in the vineyard’s gorge, surrounded by breathtaking scenery.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Many people have "see the Grand Tetons" on their bucket list, but they probably never thought they could see them like this. The Jackson Hole Aerial Tram takes you 4,136 vertical feet above Snake River Valley, Grand Teton National Park and the Gros Ventre Range. Did we mention the 360-degree views? But once you’ve recovered from the shock and awe of the amazing views, explore the topnotch restaurants, quirky shops and luxury resorts in town.

Tybee Island, Georgia

There’s never a bad time to visit Savannah, Georgia, and if you head just 30 minutes east to the shore, you’ll find the secret treasure that is Tybee Island. If you’re lucky enough to be on the Island in October, you should experience the annual Pirate Fest when the island transforms into a pirate village. During your stay, climb to the top of Tybee Lighthouse to watch the sun set, but make sure you keep an eye out for incoming scallywags.