There’s no getting around it: the summer sun is about to set. And don’t get us wrong, we’re more than a little bummed. Who doesn’t love a classic July or August road trip?
But as everyone’s favorite warm season fades into the rearview, its chillier, layer-wearing sister is growing ever closer on the horizon. And yes, she brought pumpkin spice with her.
As awesome as road tripping in the summer can be, fall road trips have their own special brand of magic. Traveling in autumn allows you the chance to see a different side of some of the most popular RVing destinations, or to explore some areas that you might have skipped out on during the summer entirely. The cooler weather makes many outdoor activities, from hiking to mountain biking, a lot more comfortable and fun. And let’s face it, what forest doesn’t look ten times better decked out in Technicolor reds and oranges than it does in even the loveliest shades of green?
So, you see, there’s no need to mourn the passing of summer. She’ll be back next year — and meanwhile, you’ve got some epic fall vacations to plan to keep you busy.
In this post, we’ll show you how to maximize your fall travel, from helpful hint for affordable fall road trips to listing some of the best autumn vacation spots. We’ll go over the most common activities and events fall travelers participate in and offer suggestions for ways to celebrate the fall holidays while you’re on the road. We’ve even broken down these fall destinations by month, so you’ll know exactly where to go no matter when your trip is scheduled.
So, ready to jump into it — just like that big pile of leaves in your yard?
The Best Fall Vacation Spots for Every Interest
Before we dive into all the specifics about the best places to visit in fall, let’s talk about what, exactly, you might be traveling for in the first place. From well-earned girls’ getaways (which are a lot more feasible now that the kids are back in school!) to harvest-themed fun for the whole family, there are plenty of reasons the road might call to you after August is over.
Here are just a few of the best reasons to take an autumn trip this year.
Leaf Peeping: Traveling to See Fall Foliage
Whether you head to a familiar destination or seek out a new one specifically for the purpose of seeing its true colors, one thing is for certain: the changing of the leaves makes fall scenery a one-of-a-kind experience. In fact, this aspect of autumn is so special that many people plan their travels around when and where the leaves are changing, and which spots boast the most stunning transformations.
Colloquially known as “leaf peeping,” traveling to check out the fall foliage is a fun way to enjoy a different side of your favorite road trip stops, or to draw you out to a new destination you’ve never been to before. After all, although most forests undergo at least a little bit of color change during autumn, some places are more renowned for their reds and yellows than others. (We can’t think of a better time for a trip through the northeast, for example!)
Celebrate the Season with Fall Festivals
Summer break may be over, but that doesn’t mean the kids can’t get a long weekend away from school once in a while. And if you’re looking for fun fall family vacations, there’s nothing better than a good, old-fashioned harvest festival.
From cranberries to pumpkins and everything in between, autumn is a time to celebrate the earth’s bounty — and there’s no better way than to partake in the goodness in person! It doesn’t get any fresher than right off the vine — and when you try some, we bet you’ll be bidding a fond farewell to summer in no time.
Even if you’re not much for fresh produce, there are plenty of other celebrations to enjoy during the fall season. Stargazers gather on Maine’s stunning coast for the annual Acadia Night Sky Festival in September, and Idahoans preserve their shepherding history each October during the Trailing of the Sheep. (We’ll point out some more fall festival destinations below, and have also written about some other options on the RVshare blog in the past — check out this post to see even more fun autumn celebrations to attend!)
Romantic Autumn Getaways
There’s something about layering up in cozy sweaters and tromping around in big piles of leaves that makes everything feel just a little bit more romantic. Plus, with the kids back in school, mom and dad can finally find some time for themselves.
Whether you venture into some top-of-the-line fall foliage, hit a fall festival celebration, or even take a beach vacation to escape the rapidly-cooling weather at home, there’s plenty of romance to be made during fall. (After all, you’d better start cuddling now: winter is coming!)
You Deserve a Break! Fun Fall Girls’ Trips
Some of the best fall trips are the ones taken with good friends. And with summer travel behind you and the holidays still a while away, you might even stand a chance of making everyone’s schedules line up for once!
Gather your girls (or boys!) together and head out for some trail-hiking, cider-sipping, sweater-wearing fall fun. It doesn’t matter where you go so much as who you have along with you for company.
From Halloween to Thanksgiving: Holidays on the Road
Fancy spending Halloween in Salem? Or how about having your Thanksgiving meal in the same place the Pilgrims did?
Traveling during fall holidays can be a fun way to mix up your regular traditions, and to explore new ways to celebrate the season. If you’re after spooky ghost stories rooted in real-life history, ancient towns like Saint Augustine, Florida and Santa Fe, New Mexico might top your Halloween travel list. Or you might venture to pop-cultural creep zones, like Estes Park — home of the famous Stanley Hotel, which inspired Stephen King’s “The Shining.” (It’s also the gateway town for Rocky Mountain National Park, so you can’t go wrong even if you’re not hugely into hauntings.)
November travelers can take advantage of their RV’s kitchen facilities to host a fabulous Thanksgiving meal on the road. Yes, it’s possible even if you plan to have a lot of guests — here’s our guide to motorhome-based entertaining! You might also just enjoy the ability to travel to a distant relative’s neck of the woods without worrying about couch-crashing or shelling out for expensive hotel rooms. In our experience, nothing makes a family gathering better than just a little bit of added privacy… so long as you don’t pull a Cousin Eddie and dump your holding tanks into the street sewer in front of your loved one’s home. 🙂
Refreshing September Vacations
Looking for fun fall vacations you can take just as soon as the sun sets on summer?
Here’s where we’re headed this September.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Honestly, coastal Maine is a tough destination to beat, no matter what time of year you plan your visit. Granite peaks right up next to lighthouse-studded seascapes? Count us in, no matter the season.
But fall brings some special incentives to a spot that’s likely already on your bucket list. For one thing, early September sees the above-mentioned Acadia Night Sky Festival, one of the largest gatherings of star-gazers in the country (who enjoy some of the darkest, most pristine skies around). This year’s runs from September 5 – September 9, 2018, and marks the event’s 10th anniversary; events include starlit boat rides, musical performances, keynote speakers and more.
Of course, even early risers can enjoy all the beautiful foliage and outdoor fun Maine’s national park has to offer — and, of course, the culture and hospitality of the adorable gateway town of Bar Harbor. Head there just a little bit later for prime leaf-peeping: its fall foliage peaks around the second or third week of October.
You might think this Colorado mountain town is all about winter — after all, most people go there to ski.
But autumn travelers will be rewarded by seasonal revelry. For one thing, the town’s Oktoberfest actually hits the streets in early September… but you’ll soon be having so much fun, the apparent misnomer won’t bother you.
Just a few days later, the Breckenridge Wine Classic brings a touch of elegance (and deliciousness) to the city. Good timing, too; with the weather cooling and the days shortening, there’s no better time to find your go-to Cab or Merlot for winter.
Kancamagus Highway, Northern New Hampshire
Known by locals as “the Kanc,” this scenic route stretches 34 miles from Lincoln to Conway — and in late September and early October, it’ll be crowded with drivers. Seeing as it cuts directly through the White Mountain National Forest, one of the most famous fall foliage zones on the planet, driving the Kanc is just about as good as leaf-peeping gets.
The byway is business-free, so you won’t have any distractions from the surrounding beauty. And luckily for you RV travelers, there are six developed campgrounds along the road that do accept RVs and large vehicles. (Hookups and other amenities vary by location; check out this page for full details.)
Spooky October Vacations
Whether you’re a full-on Halloween junky or a ‘fraidy cat, the tenth month of the year is a great time to get out and go exploring. And hey, if you are after a daring trip filled with haunted evenings, there are plenty of options out there waiting for you!
Here are some of the best travel destinations in October.
Yes, you may have seen this before in some other list of places to go in October. But let’s face it: Salem is a classic for a reason. The site of the famous witch trials (and all the witchy activities that led up to them), there’s no better spot for the steadfast soul looking for some nail-chewing October holidays.
There’s more to the town that spooks, however; you can get a dose of non-haunted culture at the Peabody Essex Museum or the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. The town is also home to a bevy of well-loved restaurants, serving up everything from classic Italian to, of course, some stellar Massachusetts seafood.
Saint Augustine, Florida
Its name might not have the same spine-chilling power as Salem’s, but given that this is the oldest city in the country, it probably should. From the Old Jail to the Castillo de San Marcos, many of St. Augustine’s buildings have been featured on a variety of ghost-hunting programs. (The verdict: they are, indeed, very haunted.)
Even if you’re not searching for spooks, St. Augustine is a lovely place to while away a weekend. Take a romantic horse-drawn carriage tour and enjoy some delicious cocktails at The Ice Plant. The weather will likely be temperate and lovely… which is not something you can say during the summer! Of course, the Florida sun’s still shining all the way through Halloween (and well beyond), which makes this seaside town a great spot for those after October beach vacations.
If you happen to be staying for a while, it might be worth the hour’s drive north to check out the Veterans Day Parade in Jacksonville. With over 4,000 participants, it’s one of the grandest in the country, and certainly in the state of Florida.
When it comes to Cali coastlines, Big Sur gets all the glory. But if you’re looking for something a little bit further off the beaten path, we recommend Eureka. The seat of the foggy, oh-so-fall-feeling Humboldt County (which is also home to the Redwood National and State Parks), this little town boasts some major charm, including the not-to-be-missed Carson Mansion.
Plus, northern California is notorious for its finicky weather. While the rest of the country is enjoying the bright sunshine of summer, NoCal is commonly under dense, chilly cloud cover. But head there in September and October, and you’ll enjoy bright sunshine and mild temperatures. (And, of course, the stunning scenery.)
Charleston, South Carolina
Palmetto palms and pastel-painted row houses might not scream “creepy” on the surface… but let’s not forget that Charleston is one of the oldest cities in the country, nor how prominently it figured in the bloody Civil War. That makes this southern gem a great fall destination — not just because it’s haunted, but also for those after a southern spin on leaf-peeping. The nearby town of Goose Creek actually landed on TripAdvisor’s list of not-to-be-missed fall foliage destinations; go in late October or the first week of November for the very best colors.
Charleston is also home to some of the finest dining establishments and cultural sites in the world, especially for those interested in American history. If you’ve got the kids with you, don’t miss a trip out to Charles Towne Landing. The site of the original 1670 settlement is today a park filled with fun interpretive exhibits and entertainment.
If you’re looking for an urban getaway, it’s hard to do better than Nashville in October. With average daytime temperatures hovering in the 60s, the weather’s perfect for exploring the town’s thrift shops and restaurants by day; just remember to add a few layers before you head out bar-hopping once the sun goes down.
Bringing the kids along? Stay at the nearby Jellystone Park. With a wide range of amenities like laser tag or mini golf and fun, organized events like color wars or arts and crafts, staying at a Jellystone location is a great way to ensure the whole family stays entertained for the duration of your trip. (Plus, this one also happens to be the closest campground to the Grand Ole Opry.)
Cozy November Vacations
Some of the very best fall vacations are the ones you take when the season’s almost at a close, and winter’s about to take over. From celebrating Veterans Day to Thanksgiving vacations to gather the family with the added benefit of comfort and privacy your RV adds to the journey, here’s where you might catch us camping this November.
How can you do better than celebrating Turkey Day at the original spot? While you can certainly prepare your bird and all the fixin’s in your camper (or, let’s be real, in an outdoor deep-fryer), the site of America’s first-ever Thanksgiving meal obviously has some pre-organized options for you to choose from.
Historical park Plimoth Plantation is a great place to head on the big day, with two ways to go about your dining. The “Story of Thanksgiving” Dinner includes all your favorite dishes, as well as historical reenactors who will entertain and educate you during the meal, while the Homestyle Buffet allows you to get your chow on without interruption.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Let’s get one thing settled right away: If you’re after an unforgettable girls’ weekend away, there’s just no place like Vegas. And we don’t even necessarily mean in a “what happens there stays there” kind of way — though there’s certainly plenty of opportunity to get into some mischief!
Campers interested in outdoor sports will love the ample hiking and biking opportunities of the desert; world-class climber Alex Honnold lives nearby specifically because of how amazing the local rock-climbing scene is. And let’s not forget that alongside all those huge casinos are equally-huge, lavish restaurants: buffets, ethnic cuisine, you name it.
Looking to bring some patriotism to your journey? Las Vegas’s Veterans Day Parade proclaims itself the largest west of the Mississippi. And besides, what could be more American than a place as free (and yet totally capitalistic) as the Strip?
Tips and Tricks for Affordable Fall Vacations
With the winter holidays coming up quick and summer’s indulgences just behind you, your travel budget may be feeling a little strained during the fall season.
But there are plenty of ways to make a trip feel epic, even if your wallet is a little thin as of late — and that’s especially true when you’re traveling in a camper. Here are a few quick fall travel tips to help you enjoy a getaway on a dime.
Stick close to home.
It’s true that RVs aren’t exactly well-known for their fuel efficiency.
But it’s also true that when you’re camping, you have total control over your itinerary. And by choosing locations close to home, you can seriously minimize your total gas expenditure.
The best part is, during the fall, pretty much every spot in the country is experiencing some splendor. So sit down with your local map and pick a state park within a 50 mile radius. Chances are, there’s at least one gem in your backyard — and possibly one you’ve never even visited before!
Make your own meals.
Restaurant meals are fun and all, but even fine dining gets old after a while — and it doesn’t take very long at all to start draining your coffers.
One of the best parts of RV camping is the opportunity to cook the majority of your meals for yourself. Aside from saving heaps of money, you’ll also be more able to stick to your healthy lifestyle while you’re on the road. (That way, you can save your New Year’s resolution for something more creative than weight loss!)
Looking for some inspiration in the camping kitchen? Check out the following RVshare posts:
- Tasty and Easy Meals to Whip Up In Your RV
- Tips for Storing and Keeping Food Fresh on your RV
- Maximizing RV Kitchen Space for your Favorite Winter Recipes
- The Grillmaster’s Guide to RV Cooking
Sign up for Passport America.
There are a lot of discount camping clubs out there to choose from, and figuring out which ones are actually worth it can feel downright overwhelming.
But trust us on this one: Passport America is a foregone conclusion. It’s the only discount camping club that gets you 50% off your campsite accommodation fees at almost 1900 campgrounds across the country. Yes, 1900 — that’s not a typo!
What’s more, these are often high-end, developed campgrounds with full hookups and tons of amenities, in some of the most sought-after destinations in the country. (And some locations in Mexico and Canada, too, if we’re being specific.) A full year’s membership costs you less than $50… which can easily pay for itself in just one stay. Seriously — if you have a trip planned in the near future, you should sign up for Passport America today. It’s one of the easiest ways we know for campers to save money!
Quick Trips: Fall Weekend Getaways
With school in session, fall getaways can’t always be the long, luxurious weeks on the road that summer trips can.
But as it turns out, weekend trips can be just as much fun as their lengthier counterparts. In fact, sometimes, a couple of days is the perfect amount of time to recharge and get a taste of a new destination.
Packing for a weekend versus a longer trip takes some skill, though, as does planning your route. Fortunately, we’ve written about all that before right here at RVshare! Check out the following posts to help you upgrade your upcoming Friday, Saturday and Sunday:
- Wanna Get Out of Here? Quick Weekend Getaway Ideas
- Here’s Your Perfect RV Weekend Getaway Checklist
- How to Make the Most of a Weekend RV Trip
Find Even More Fun — Search for “Fall Festivals Near Me”
While we’ve listed some pretty amazing destinations and events in this post, we could honestly go on forever. All across America, autumn brings some pretty incredible travel opportunities; there would be no way to list all of them!
Fortunately, in the digital age, it’s super easy to find some amazing reason to travel. Don’t believe us? Just run a quick search to see what fall festivities are going on in your area (or in the area surrounding your go-to camping destination). Chances are some kind of fall revelry will be taking place, and you and your trailer or motorhome have a prime opportunity to go and participate.
Not, of course, that you need any reason to take a fall trip other than the call of the wide-open road. Enjoy yourselves, campers!
This post may contain affiliate links.