Fall is a great time to explore America the Beautiful, where shoulder season often means fewer crowds and less-expensive travel than during the summer months. National parks brighten with incredible fall colors, beaches see more mild temperatures and many towns get festive with harvest and holiday celebrations.
Whether you're looking to get away for a week, a weekend or just a seasonal day trip, autumn is a great time to escape the chilly weather for a warmer destination or to take advantage of everything the season has to offer. If you're looking for the perfect fall destination, look no further than these 50 American towns.
Abingdon is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the 35-mile Virginia Creeper Trail, an all-purpose rail trail, runs from here through forest and the Appalachian Trail to Whitetop. Bike and hike past river views and lakes, and see if you can catch a glimpse of some llamas.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
With a rich Spanish and Native American history, Albuquerque is an underrated American destination, and fall is the perfect time to visit. Not only is the Southwestern climate warmer, but also in October, the city hosts the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the world's largest balloon festival, featuring hot air balloon rides, twilight balloon glows, balloon rodeos and more.
Asheville, North Carolina
The perfect destination for a family-friendly weekend trip, Asheville is nestled between the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains, and a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway will give you a spectacular view of the impressive fall foliage. Known for the Biltmore Estate, the largest mansion in America, Asheville is also home to a large collection of Art Deco structures and a charming downtown.
Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor is a picturesque port town where you can enjoy both land and sea, with easy access to Acadia National Park. The park is home to some beautiful views, particularly from Cadillac Mountain, and it's a great spot to go hiking, biking, bird watching or mountain climbing among the autumn leaves.
Part of Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley region, Bethlehem has plenty of shopping and restaurants as well as historic churches and other buildings. In the fall, however, this charming town also has 40 parks you can visit to enjoy the crisp air and autumn leaves, as well as a Harvest Festival held every October.
Blowing Rock, North Carolina
The small town of Blowing Rock, located on the crest of western North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains, is perfectly charming in the fall as well as especially affordable in October. Its cute and colorful main street is made even more so by the fall leaves and crisp autumn air, and it's the perfect setting to check out the many charming shops that sell goods such as specialty handmade candles, fudge, spices and more. Enjoy the season from the comfort of a cabin, and go for a hike on the nearby nature trails to get a fantastic view from the rock formation the village gets its name from.
Branson is situated in the Ozark Mountains, the perfect place to appreciate fall foliage in the American heartland. Hike the mountains and enjoy one of the city's lakes, or have some indoor fun at a dinner show or at museums such as the World's Largest Toy Museum and the Hollywood Wax Museum.
A popular skiing destination in the winter, Breckenridge has more than 50 miles of trails throughout its rugged landscape that are especially breathtaking in the fall. Cyclists of all abilities can follow the area's bike trails, and anyone can try their hand at some fall fly fishing. Fall in Breckenridge also sees the town host an Oktoberfest celebration, as well as the annual Breckenridge Craft Spirits Festival.
The Wine Country destination of Calistoga feels like a European destination, with a charming and rustic vibe and numerous wineries, including one in a 13th century-style Tuscan castle. You'll find fall colors here not only in the trees, but also in the vineyards' grape leaves as well.
Located at the foot of the Camden Hills, the harbor town of Camden has gorgeous views that you can enjoy by bike, on foot or by setting sail. Fall brings color to the harbor, which is marked by the picturesque Curtis Island Lighthouse, as well as to the town's multiple parks.
Chester, New Jersey
The beautiful northern New Jersey town of Chester is close to different state parks, such as Hacklebarney State Park and Black River County Park, which offer great spots for picnicking and hiking as well as gorgeous fall foliage. Willowwood Arboretum in nearby Far Hills has 131 acres of trails, meadows and gardens with about 3,500 different types of plants, some quite rare.
Visit Clearwater in the fall when hotel rates and flight tickets are cheaper and the weather is even more pleasant. Clearwater hosts multiple festivals in the autumn, such as the Clearwater Jazz Holiday and Turkey Trot, and it's also home to the best beach in America.
Denver is the ultimate destination for the outdoorsman who still wants to enjoy some of the city life. The city typically doesn't get too cold, so you can comfortably enjoy the surrounding mountains and their fall foliage. Explore trails such as the Cherry Creek Bike Path, which starts downtown and ends after 40 miles of weaving through Cherry Creek State Park and other scenic stops. There are also many parks inside city limits, such as the popular and centrally located Washington Park.
Every October, the small town of Ellijay hosts the Georgia Apple Festival, so fall really is the best time for apple lovers to enjoy the harvest in what's been called the "Apple Capital of Georgia." There are also miles of trails, rivers and vineyards to explore, especially if you're looking for some fall foliage.
Estes Park, Colorado
Fall is a great time to visit Estes Park, both because the tourist crowds are gone and because the surrounding Rockies burst into full color. The area is a top spot for camping, with campgrounds that have beautiful clubhouses and plenty of opportunities for biking, birding, fishing, hiking, horse riding, mountain climbing and rafting.
A visit to the small town of Galena, Illinois, is like stepping into a history book. The fall leaves only add to Galena's charm as you visit its nationally registered historic district, stroll down Main Street overlooking the Galena River or go for a scenic drive through the town's rolling hills.
The severely underrated small town of Gatlinburg has all the charm and cuisine of the South along with access to the Great Smoky Mountains, the most visited national park in the country and the perfect spot for fall foliage. Try biking, hiking or even zip lining in the Smokies or trying your hand at mountain golf.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
A visit to the subtropical Gulf Shores, Alabama, in the fall will give you pleasant weather and white sand beaches without the crowds. Known for its party scene, Gulf Shores has great nightlife and frequent concerts throughout the year as well as great Southern cuisine. You can fully enjoy the local seafood if you visit in October when the city hosts its annual National Shrimp Festival.
Hanover, New Hampshire
Home to Dartmouth College, Hanover sits on the western side of New Hampshire in the scenic Upper Connecticut River Valley. The Appalachian Trail crosses through the town, which sees bright and stunning fall foliage and has a lot of chances to go rock climbing, bouldering or hiking.
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Situated in the upper Shenandoah Valley, Harpers Ferry, the easternmost town in West Virginia, is known for its natural beauty and Civil War history. Home to less than 300 people, part of the town makes up Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, an underrated park with picturesque scenery during the fall.
Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
A relatively undiscovered gem, Jim Thorpe is a charming town in the Lehigh Gorge of eastern Pennsylvania known as the "Switzerland of America" because of its scenery and architecture. Because of its location, it's also called the "Gateway to the Poconos," offering a great base for adventures in the mountain range, which is especially beautiful in the fall. Hike the Glen Onoko Falls in Lehigh Gorge State Park, camp and canoe at Mauch Chunk Lake Park or bike the local trails before going for a stroll through the Victorian-style downtown.
A photogenic destination that's popular in the summer, Kennebunkport is arguably even more beautiful in the fall. The town's 3 miles of scenic coastline are lined with color-changing trees, and it has plenty of restaurants and antique shops overlooking its secluded beaches and fishing spots.
Located on the New York border, Kent is a lovely New England town in the Berkshire Mountains. In the western part of town, you'll find part of the Appalachian trail and Macedonia State Park, which has campgrounds, a small lake and trails with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. Kent is also home to Kent Falls State Park, where you'll find picturesque waterfalls.
Lake Placid, New York
One of the most beautiful towns in America, Lake Placid is situated in the Adirondacks which sees an explosion of red, orange and yellow in the fall. Go camping or hiking among the high peaks, enjoy the food and shopping downtown, stay in a cozy cabin and spend some time by the lake the village is named after.
Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada
Lake Tahoe is a top winter destination that's still a great place to spend the summer. However, fall doesn't see as many tourists here despite the fact that the beauty of the Sierra Mountains is elevated by fall foliage and a visit is more affordable. If you're not up for a hike, it's also a great time to ride a hot air balloon to enjoy the scenery.
Leavenworth is a charming, Bavarian-inspired town located in Washington's Cascade Mountains, and it's perfect for a fall visit. Sitting between a beautiful mountain range and covered in Alpine-style buildings, you'll feel as though you've been transported to scenic Germany. The beautiful trees changing color make a perfect backdrop for horseback riding. Try to visit in late September to early October when the Autumn Leaf Festival and Oktoberfest are both held, the latter celebrating the season with the best German cuisine, brews and music.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
Embark on a romantic adventure at Mackinac Island, known for its Victorian architecture and island-wide motor vehicle ban. Insulation from the Great Lakes causes the foliage to begin to change colors in late September and last until late October, making for a beautiful scene as you bike through town or travel by horse-drawn carriage. Fall is the best time to enjoy the island's horseback riding and hiking, and it's also home to some of America's best fudge shops.
The least populous state capital in the U.S., Montpelier has that charming small town vibe that makes it a great place to go for a walk. Explore its downtown or visit one of its three city nature centers: Hubbard Park, Mill Pond Park and North Branch Park.
Mount Shasta, California
Located in the Shasta Cascade area of Northern California, Mount Shasta is a popular spot for mountain climbing, skiing, trout fishing, biking and hiking. You'll find serene streams, lakes and waterfalls in the mountainous terrain year-round, but the autumn months see a long and very colorful fall foliage season.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
A popular destination for families in the summer, Myrtle Beach can be enjoyed even more in the fall when the high season crowds are gone and sunrise brings moderate temperatures and a quiet shore. Enjoy the nightlife, restaurants, shops and more on Myrtle Beach's boardwalk as well as the many variety shows and concerts held here.
Nashville, Indiana, is home to just 300 people and three traffic lights. Natural beauty and art draw tourists here; most residents are artists and Nashville is home to many antique, craft and specialty shops as well as music and theater venues. Stay at a bed-and-breakfast or cottage and enjoy the beautiful fall leaves throughout town and in Brown County State Park.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Both the crowds and the humidity thin out in the Big Easy during the fall, which is still just as festive as any other time of year. In addition to the exuberant support for Saints football that takes over the city every season, fall also brings the New Orleans Burlesque Festival in September, the Voodoo Music Experience in October and the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival in September. If that isn't enough local culture for you, get into the seasonal spirit with a ghost tour or a visit to one of the many cemeteries and historic buildings that have earned New Orleans a reputation for being one of the most haunted cities in North America.
Surrounded by the Porcupine Mountains, the village of Ontonagon is a great place for an adventurous outdoor getaway. Its rugged, scenic terrain and mountains offer stunning panoramas of color-changing forests, streams, waterfalls and inland lakes.
Park City, Utah
The prettiest town in Utah, Park City is a haven for outdoor adventurers due to its internationally recognizing hiking and biking trails. Check out the city's mountains, reservoirs and hot springs, and hop on the ski lifts for some next-level leaf-peeping.
Fall is quite enchanting in the Berkshires, and in Pittsfield, you can enjoy the geography,historic architecture and art scene of the region. Explore Shaker life and history in the Hancock Shaker Village, a former commune with 20 historic buildings and a working heritage farm.
Port Townsend, Washington
Port Townsend is one of the best coastal towns in America, and its picturesque Victorian buildings and waterfront locale is only enhanced by the colors of fall. In addition to a strong maritime culture, you'll find many exciting events here in the fall such as theater performances, dance parties and even a film festival.
Providence, Rhode Island
Enjoy all the benefits of a city with a small town vibe, the perfect combination for a fall getaway, in Providence. City foliage can be appreciated during the day, whereas night time brings with it the utterly romantic WaterFire, a series of bonfires where you can warm up by the river through October. Providence also hosts the Vortex Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror Film Festival every October as well as Rhode Island Comic Con every November.
One of the oldest American cities, Richmond is the capital of Virginia and the perfect place to enjoy fall, leaves and all. The season in the River City sees multiple festivals, such as VA PrideFest, Richmond Folk Festival and Fire, Flour and Fork, a delicious food festival with four days of more than 30 food and drink events.
There's no better place to enjoy the Halloween season than Salem, a historically spooky town known for the infamous Salem witch trials of 1692. Take a ghost tour and visit the many museums, including the Salem Witch Museum, Witch Dungeon Museum and Witch History Museum. The entire month of October sees more than 100 events in Salem, known as the "Haunted Happenings," which are worth seeing at least once in your lifetime.
Salt Lake City, Utah
The capital of Utah is a beautiful city surrounded by mountains and known for its opportunities for outdoor adventures. A center of Mormon religion and culture, the city's historic architecture, such as the impressive Salt Lake Temple and Salt Lake Tabernacle, are fit to be on a postcard when against a backdrop of yellow, orange, red and green trees. Natural beauty surrounds the city and can be found in spots such as Sugar House Park or Dimple Dell Regional Nature Park, and the Great Salt Lake and its marinas offer boating year-round.
Saranac Lake, New York
Nestled in the Adirondacks, the village of Saranac Lake is surrounded by forest that blooms in technicolor every fall. Much of the village lies along Lake Flower, and the area is perfect for hiking and biking. If you can, consider a stay at The Point Resort, the best hotel in the state.
The romantic city of Savannah becomes even more enchanting as the fall leaves change along with the season, but it can also be quite spooky if you know where to look. Visit terrifying spots like the Bonaventure Cemetery, take a ghost tour, stay at a haunted hotel or go on a haunted pub crawl. Fall also brings multiple festivals to Savannah, such as the Savannah Jazz Festival, Savannah Pride, Oktoberfest, Autumn Gardenfest, Savannah Food & Wine Festival and the Savannah Film Festival.
Sister Bay, Wisconsin
The village of Sister Bay lies in Wisconsin's Door County, the perfect destination for a fall weekend getaway. Home to just over 900 people, Sister Bay has 1,900 feet of public waterfront that looks especially breathtaking against a backdrop of reds, yellows, browns and oranges. Enjoy the area's many parks and activities, such as biking, hiking, shopping, eating, drinking and simply enjoying yourself on the water.
Spring Grove, Illinois
Richardson Adventure Farm in Spring Grove claims to have the world's largest corn maze, nearly 10 miles of trail winding through 28 acres of corn with cider at the end for you to get into the fall spirit. You can also pick pumpkins, rent out a campfire spot or go for a wagon ride.
Known as "The Ski Capital of the East," Stowe is a northern Vermont town nestled in the Green Mountains. Go for a walk or a scenic drive on the back roads to Mount Mansfield, the state's highest peak, and make sure you check out the town's great food scene.
Sun Valley, Idaho
A resort city within the Wood River valley of central Idaho, Sun Valley has a population close to 1,400 and is most well-known as a ski destination. During the fall, however, it's just as lovely and sees warmer days and fewer crowds. Celebrate the migration of sheep to their winter pastures when Sun Valley hosts the Trailing of the Sheep Festival in October, just before its jazz and music festival. The area also has plenty of fall foliage that you can enjoy while cycling or hiking the hundreds of miles of trails in the area, as well as fly fishing, golfing or horseback riding.
The magical mountaintop town of Vail serves as a lively base village for a bustling ski resort in the winter. Its mountainous terrain is just as stunning and enjoyable in the fall, with plenty of trails to explore the wonderfully colorful aspen trees, as well as a fantastic restaurant scene.
Located in north-central Pennsylvania, Wellsboro is an old-fashioned town that still has authentic gas street lamps and historic buildings from the early 1900s as well as horse-drawn carriage tours. Its location in the wilderness makes it even more of a beautiful getaway from modern life, and visitors can explore the Pine Creek Gorge, also known as "the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania," through visits to the Pine Creek Trail Trail, Colton Point State Park and Leonard Harrison State Park.
Whitefish is a wonderful place to relax in the great outdoors, especially in the fall when the nearby Glacier National Park - perfect for camping, biking, hiking or paddling - is filled with fall colors dotting its expansive northwestern scenery. For something beautiful to look at indoors, check out the Sunti World Art Gallery, commemorating Native American culture and history with impressive works of art.
Woodstock is a picturesque town with agricultural landscapes and historic buildings, as well as the serene Ottauquechee River running through it. Visit in October when The Billings Farm and Museum hosts its annual Harvest Weekend featuring 19th century harvest activities, and consider a stay at the Woodstock Inn & Resort, one of the oldest hotels in America.
More from The Active Times:
50 Places You Need to See in Your Lifetime
The Most Beautiful College Campuses in America
How to Explore Any City Like a Local
51 Roadside Attractions You Need to See to Believe