Photograph by Tracey Whitefoot, Alamy Stock Photo
Read Caption
Autumn in Central Park in New York City, New York
Photograph by Tracey Whitefoot, Alamy Stock Photo

Best Fall Escapes in the United States

From coast to coast and all the places in between, check out these key destinations this fall.

See Fall Foliage in New York

WHY GO: The wooded areas of New York—as small as the urban oasis of Central Park or as vast as the backwoods of the Catskills—explode into a mosaic of autumn colors as the leaves change in the fall.

WHAT TO EAT: Start in New York City with breakfast at Sarabeth’s—the coconut waffles with rum butter and fresh mango are fabulous—on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, near Central Park. Head north for a drive out of the city. For dinner, enjoy the wine selection and French cuisine at Bistro LeRoux on Lake George, or get the prime rib at J Rocco’s Steakhouse and Speakeasy near Shandaken in the Catskills.

PRACTICAL TIP: The cool weather makes this a perfect time for camping in upstate New York.

FUN FACT: The massive Adirondack Park accounts for about 85 percent of all wilderness in the northeastern United States.

Follow the Maine Beer Trail

WHY GO: Whether you are sipping a Gruit brew on the funky streets of Portland or at Pennesseewassee Brewing in the far-flung Western Maine Mountains, sample delicious craft brews while exploring the state’s the stunning natural beauty and quaint towns.

WHAT TO EAT: Lobster! Stop in at Bagaduce Lunch in Penobscot, Holbrooks Lobster Wharf in Harpswell, or Maine Lobster Now in South Portland. When you’ve had enough seafood, visit Otto Portland for a butternut squash, ricotta, and cranberry pizza or Duckfat (also in Portland) for poutine with a sunny-side up egg.

PRACTICAL TIP: Try a guided tour, like the The Maine Brew Bus, so no one has to worry about driving.

FUN FACT: Maine’s Quoddy Head State Park in Lubec is the closest point in the United States to Africa.

Relax in Wyoming

WHY GO: Work through built-up stress by getting out of town and into nature. Get your heart rate up with morning fly-fishing or horseback riding before settling into a relaxing fall afternoon at a spa, like Brush Creek Ranch near Saratoga or Spring Creek Ranch in Jackson Hole.

WHAT TO EAT: Eat local at Spur, at Teton Mountain Lodge. Grab a pastry at the beloved Persephone Bakery in Jackson Hole.

PRACTICAL TIP: Save nearby Yellowstone National Park for another time and enjoy the wilderness the rest of Wyoming has to offer.

FUN FACT: With a relatively sparse population and therefore lower light pollution, Wyoming has some of the best stargazing in the U.S.

Take to the Skies in Albuquerque

WHY GO: Take in the gorgeous New Mexico landscape and delicious New Mexican cuisine while enjoying the spectacle of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which takes places every year in October.

WHAT TO EAT: Get the red chile pork ribs at El Pinto. For a classic chile relleno, visit Mary and Tito’s Café.

PRACTICAL TIP: Most New Mexican restaurants will ask whether you want red or green, for which kind of chili you want. To get both, just say Christmas.

FUN FACT: The Albuquerque balloon festival is the largest hot-air balloon festival on Earth.

View Images

Hot-air balloons take to the sky at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico.

Get Active in Seattle

WHY GO: Known as the Emerald City, Seattle is a bustling urban environment with opportunities to hike and bike in the great outdoors nearby, like Evans Creek Preserve. Or set sail right from the downtown waterfront with Emerald City Charters.

WHAT TO EAT: For seafood try the Walrus and the Carpenter, or enjoy a vast whiskey selection to accompany Lebanese lamb with slow-roasted beets in tahini at Café Munir.

PRACTICAL TIP: Try to find a few of Seattle’s 149 secret beaches. The beaches are public land because they exist where city streets dead-end at a waterfront, so break out your city map and start exploring.

FUN FACT: Home to rock legends like Jimi Hendrix and beloved indie bands like Fleet Foxes, Seattle has one of the most vibrant live music scenes in the country.

Kayak in Southern California

WHY GO: Channel Islands National Park in Southern California offers an abundance of sea caves and hidden coves to explore by kayak.

WHAT TO EAT: Grab fish tacos at Harbor Cove Café in Ventura before crossing into the park.

PRACTICAL TIP: Pack a snack for later; there are no restaurants on the islands.

FUN FACT: Home to more than 150 unique species, the islands have earned their reputation as the Galápagos of North America.

Get Cultured in Chicago

WHY GO: Chicago’s vibrant arts scene kicks it up a notch in October, with the city’s International Film Festival and museum week.

WHAT TO EAT: Sink your teeth into a classic Chicago deep-dish slice at Pequods Pizza. Get The Royale breakfast sandwich at Lula Café.

PRACTICAL TIP: Visit the Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the oldest public zoos in the United States.

FUN FACT: Chicago is home to the largest collection of Impressionist paintings outside of Paris.

View Images

A polar swims at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

Visit Oktoberfest in Colorado

WHY GO: Denver has one of the largest Oktoberfest celebrations in the world. Go for beer and brats while watching keg bowling and stein-hoisting competitions.

WHAT TO EAT: Embrace the spirit of the festival, and set a good foundation for beer drinking, by chowing down on bratwurst and a warm pretzel.

PRACTICAL TIP: Be extra careful not to overindulge—the effects of alcohol feel exaggerated at higher altitudes, including the Mile High City.

FUN FACT: Denver’s Oktoberfest is a pet-friendly event, unless your pet is a snake. “We hate snakes,” reads the event’s website.

Eat Your Way Through Southern Louisiana

WHY GO: Witness the unique culture of Cajun country by touring southern Louisiana’s quaint towns.

WHAT TO EAT: Go to Prejean’s Restaurant in Lafayette for gumbo. Stop by the St. John Restaurant in the cute town of St. Martinville—known as the birthplace of Cajun culture—for some steak and seafood with a kick.

PRACTICAL TIP: Cajun food can be spicy. If you overdo it on hot sauce, drink a cold beer or a glass of milk. Capsaicin—the spicy chemical in hot sauce—is soluble in alcohol and fat.

FUN FACT: All of the Tabasco hot sauce in the world is bottled on Avery Island, a plantation in the Cajun swamplands south of New Iberia.