Snuggling into a warm sweater, dancing under multicolored leaves, biting into a crisp apple—these moments signal autumn has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere. Whether you’re craving a fall road trip through small-town America or looking to escape to where the weather’s still warm, here’s what to see and do in September. (Here are the most beautiful U.S. autumn adventures.)
Why go now: Chinese Moon Festival begins September 13
A vibrant megacity offering an endless range of daring architecture, trendy fashion, and delectable bites, Shanghai teems with adventure. It’s also one of the best places to celebrate the moon and unite with loved ones at the three-millennium-old Chinese Moon Festival, where dragons come alive in a fiery dance, red lanterns are lit, and moon cakes are shared with family and friends.
Why go now: Bauhaus Museum opens September 8
Lush parks and vibrant landscapes surround the city made famous by renowned architect Walter Gropius, who brought the Bauhaus School to Dessau in 1926. Follow the Bauhaus Trail to explore a massive collection of textiles, furniture, and wallpaper on display at the new Bauhaus Museum Dessau, opening as part of a yearlong centennial celebration of the pivotal artists’ movement. (Fall in love with Germany’s historic heartland.)
Why go now: Kentucky Bourbon Festival rolls out September 18-22
After exploring Louisville’s Museum Row on Main—which features highlights including the Muhammad Ali Center and the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory—drive under an hour to Bardstown, a neighboring small town that packs a punch of spirited, Southern charm. In the fall, bourbon connoisseurs gather on the Great Lawn to celebrate the Kentucky Bourbon Festival with tastings, free live music, and artisanal vendors. (Experience the ultimate southern adventure.)
Wellington, New Zealand
Why go now: World of WearableArt festival runs from September 26 to October 13
The world’s southernmost capital, Wellington is a quirky, creative city hugged by breathtaking nature. In September, designers from around the world flock to the city to treat the human body as a canvas at the World of WearableArt (WOW) design competition. Audience members watch in awe as models strut the runway in a theatrical spectacle. (Discover New Zealand on this epic road trip.)
Why go now: Denver takes on Oktoberfest from September 20-22 and September 27-29
Denver is bursting with offbeat neighborhoods, snow-capped peaks, and a treasure trove of hidden gems. After sampling the city’s foodie scene and biking around the Lower Downtown area, swing by Larimer Street for Oktoberfest, a bustling festival of keg bowling, stein hoisting, and—of course—a nearly endless flow of beer.
Starlight Williams is an editorial researcher and writer at National Geographic. Follow her on Twitter @star_lightw and Instagram @starlightwilliams