Even beach lovers have a thing for fall. Depending on where you live, you may be experiencing changing leaves, cooler temperatures, and even (dare we say it?) snow. Before winter and the holiday craziness set in for good, get a strong dose of sun in 10 of our favorite fall destinations.
#1 Grand Canyon (Arizona)
Winter brings snow in the Grand Canyon and summer can be unbearably hot, so that makes fall one of the best times to visit this popular national park. Not only does it come with jaw-dropping red-orange scenery of a different variety (rock walls and cliffs instead of fall leaves), this destination also boasts 266 sunny days a year.
What to do: Hiking, backpacking, and helicopter tours are the best ways to snag the best views. Be sure to visit before the first snowfall, when the North Rim closes and services are slim.
#2 Anna Maria Island (Florida)
Warm waters and more temperate days with lower humidity make Florida in fall particularly inviting, and Anna Maria Island’s Old Florida vibe is a great place to experience the season. Kids and adults alike will love digging their toes in the sugar-white sands of Anna Maria Island’s coastline.
What to do: Go to the beach, of course. Holmes, Coquina and Bean Point are just some of the top spots. Ride the free island trolley (for fun or transportation), try parasailing or learn about native species at Leffis Key Preserve.
#3 Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina & Tennessee)
This much-loved national park in black bear country straddles the North Carolina and Tennessee borders. Fall is the perfect time to visit for both sun and changing leaves, and mild temps mean you can spend your days enjoying everything the park has to offer.
What to do: Enjoy world-class views from hiking trails (such as Abrams or Rainbow Falls) or a scenic drive along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Stop by the Cades Cove Visitor Center to learn the history of the park and see the 18th- and 19th-century cabins and working grist mill.
#4 San Francisco (California)
Fall is the ideal season for a fall getaway to the Bay Area. September to November brings some of the city’s warmest temperatures, the promise of sunny afternoons, and fewer crowds. There are also plenty of fall festivals and fairs throughout the area, and you’re close to wine country, as well.
What to do: Stop in at one of the dozens of outdoor events, including Halloween parties, cruises and kids’ activities. Night tours are also a great way to experience some of San Francisco’s famous attractions, from Alcatraz to a double decker bus tour to a ghost hunt.
#5 Telluride (Colorado)
Colorado happens to be one of the country’s sunniest states, so it’s a great spot for a fall vacation. Telluride is an old mining town tucked into a lush box canyon in the San Juan mountains, full of colorful Victorian-era buildings, galleries, and gourmet restaurants.
What to do: October conditions are perfect for outdoor activities like hiking, golfing and mountain biking. A gondola ride offers the best vantage point to take in fall colors, and conditions are ideal for other activities like hiking, golfing, and mountain biking.
#6 Big Sur (California)
Big Sur is 90 rugged-and-remote miles on the central California coast, and October (when summer crowds are gone) is high time for a weekend getaway to this inspiring place. It’s known for dramatic cliffs, peaceful coves, wildflowers, wildlife, and more than one state park.
What to do: See redwood groves at Limekiln State Park, take in a sunset at Pfeiffer Beach, search for sand dollars at Sand Dollar Beach or hike to waterfalls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. There are also plenty of galleries and amazing restaurants.
#7 Cape Charles (Virginia)
This coastal town offers a different kind of beach. Virginia’s Eastern Chesapeake Shores, where Victotrian-era Cape Charles is located, are beautiful in the fall and are some of the top-rated (but not crowded) beaches on the Chesapeake Bay.
What to do: Check out the Cape Charles Historic District, watch for hawks and osprey at Kiptopeke State Park, or go kayaking or jet skiing. You can also explore lighthouses and finish the day with local seafood and brews.
#8 Santa Fe (New Mexico)
This sunshine-filled spot also features golden aspens this time of year, for the best of all worlds. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains light up with fall color, and in town, you can take advantage of fewer crowds and plenty of cultural activities and architecture.
What to do: Pop into the local galleries to see works from area artists, tour the city’s many museums and old churches, or head to the mountains for horseback riding, hiking or biking.
#9 Padre Island National Seashore (Texas)
In the spring, this spot is known for hordes of vacationing college students. But come in October and you’ll have a much different experience with the largest undeveloped barrier island in the world. This national seashore features more than 130,000 acres of dunes, grasslands and beaches.
What to do: Just enjoy nature, including the white sand beaches and scenic dunes. Almost all your favorite beach activities are available here: swimming, beachcombing, windsurfing, birdwatching and fishing.
#10 Greenville (South Carolina)
Greenville, in South Carolina’s Upstate, is full of fall fun, with music- and ale-soaked festivals under sunny skies. A number of state parks nearby are also full of opportunities to scope out fall foliage.
What to do: For great local food, brews and music, don’t miss Oktoberfest, the Hagood Mill Native American Celebration, or the Albino Skunk Festival. Spectacular foliage is on view a short drive away at Table Rock State Park and Swamp Rabbit Trail.Ready for fall travel? Find all the getaway gear and sun essentials you’ll need right here at Panama Jack.