5 Small Towns to Visit This Fall
Some of the most quintessential autumn trips involve charming small towns around New England—particularly those with spooky local histories and Halloween-specific celebrations—or refreshing escapes to mountain villages in the Smokies during peak fall leaf season. While these locations get plenty of attention (and for good reasons!), they aren't the only small towns that travelers should consider when booking fall vacations. Below are five under-the-radar destinations that offer fun seasonal events.
For outdoor enthusiasts seeking a hidden gem in the South, look no further than Augusta, Georgia, nestled along the banks of the Savannah River. Known for its prestigious golf reputation, Augusta has evolved into an undiscovered outdoor destination with breathtaking natural beauty and adventure.
Explore the scenic beauty of Phinizy Center and Nature Park, where you can spot a wide variety of birds and wildlife including colorful migratory birds, elusive beavers, and maybe an alligator or two. Visitors can embark on birdwatching expeditions, wildlife photography adventures, or simply revel in the tranquility of nature's symphony at Phinizy. Check out the Forks Area Trail System, a series of loops through a thickly forested area provides a great mountain bike or hiking experience for all levels of riders and hikers. Some of the higher elevations provide panoramic views and the thick vegetation provides a home for many birds and animals. Augusta's River Region is the perfect place for a paddling adventure big or small. Take in the best city views from the Savannah River, float through history in the Augusta Canal, one of only three National Heritage Areas in Georgia, and get up close and personal to wildlife on the unique Stallings Island Tour.
Many also don't realize that another huge sporting event takes place in Augusta every fall that draws in different types of athletes from all over the world to compete. Founded in 2009, the IRONMAN® 70.3® Augusta consists of a 1.2-mile down-current swim in the Savannah River, a 56-mile bike ride, and finishes with a 13.1-mile run throughout downtown Augusta, adding up to 70.3 miles of total racing.
Estes Park, Colorado
Estes Park is a must-see destination in the fall, with peak fall colors emerging from late-September through the beginning of October and impossible-to-miss elk and other wildlife. The town itself hosts numerous festivals dedicated to fall, from the Autumn Gold Festival to Elk Fest, and more. YMCA of the Rockies, a beloved resort bordered by Rocky Mountain National Park on three sides, is the best place to stay while visiting the charming mountain town for a fun, active, and affordable fall getaway.
Given its prime location between the town and the park, YMCA of the Rockies is an idyllic hub to experience all that the area has to offer in the fall. The resort features year-round activity offerings, which include guided hikes, a challenge course, axe throwing, campfires, a craft center, and more, as well as several special programs in autumn. It's Fall Break-themed programming throughout October includes adventure activities, fall crafts, hay rides and more - and the Halloween Spooktacular, where guests are invited to don their Halloween best, participate in spooky activities and explore the family-friendly haunted forest. Accommodations here range from multi-bedroom, private cabins perfect for a romantic retreat or family getaway, to affordable, hotel-style lodge rooms.
The area is home to the second largest herd of elk in North America, and it’s not uncommon to see elk roaming the town and hear their “bugling” (mating calls) throughout September. Try an exclusive workshop to view and learn about the majestic creatures.
Montclair, New Jersey
Just 12 miles from New York City, Montclair amazingly combines the urban buzz of a city with the serenity of a suburb. Artists, film lovers, students and foodies flock to this lively college town year-round. Stop by the Montclair Farmer’s Market at Walnut Street Station on Saturdays to stock up on homegrown fruits and veggies, tasty baked goods, local honey, fresh flowers, Jersey wines and cheese.
Explore the historic Van Vleck House & Gardens, a gorgeous property that where three generations of the Van Vleck family lived, before the family gave it to the Montclair Foundation. Visitors can explore the property daily free of cost. Admire fall foliage along the Lenape Trail in Brookdale Park. While the section here in the park isn't much over one mile, the entire trail connects multiple towns and parks in Essex County, New Jersey for roughly 36 miles.
Just over two hours from the Washington, DC, this small town is situated in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. Visitors will find easy access to mountain hikes, scenic drives, museums, and small shops, as well as one of its most popular attractions: a vast underground cave network known as Luray Caverns. The largest caverns in the eastern US, the caverns can be explored on tours that follow lighted, paved pathways through cathedral-sized rooms (some with ceilings the equivalent of 10 stories high) and towering natural wonders.
Guests can book accommodations at the recently-reopened Luray RV Resort on Shenandoah River (previously known as Outlanders River Camp). With an increase in campsites from 73 to a total of 350, the resort now features a range of community-centered amenities, including an amphitheater, a resort-style pool, cabanas, a recreational center offering pickleball, basketball, a mountain bike track, cornhole, and an RC car track. In addition to pet friendly, full hookup, back-in RV sites, there are also brand-new Airstream rentals and loft cottages. Additionally, guests can unwind and enjoy an evening under the stars on the furnished patio. Situated along three quarters of a mile of the Shenandoah frontage, Luray RV Resort boasts abundant wildlife and scenic mountain views in every direction.
Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
Autumn is an unexpectedly delightful time at Taos Ski Valley, with creative events, fun ways to see fall foliage, and intimate mountain surroundings. This location in New Mexico features the best of Western fall foliage—aspens interspersed with pine trees for a gold and green mountain-scape surrounding the entire resort, making it an intriguing spot to visit even when the winter ski season has yet to begin.
There are a variety of fall events, including Oktoberfest from September 16th to 17th, featuring a live Schuhplattler band, authentic German food and beer, activities and crafts for kids, and much more. Movies in the Mountains features free outdoor screenings of cult classics and crowd favorite movies on Friday nights through September 15th. There's also the annual Bull of the Woods Half/Full Marathon race. The full marathon summits two peaks, showing the full beauty of the valley along the way. This year, the event will be held on September 9th.
Those interested in spectacular mountain views will want to look into the Via Ferrata. Situated at 11,500 feet, the Via Ferrata features beginner through advanced guided course options, allowing both novice and skilled climbers alike to soak in the whole valley’s worth of stunning fall vistas. The route also features a 100-foot skybridge and double-cabled catwalk. If climbing or marathon-running isn't your thing, soak in spectacular views of the Sangre de Cristos on a relaxing lift ride. Enjoy a picnic at the top and hike down among the aspens, or ride the lift down for a relaxing return to base.
Boost Your Mood with Native Birdsong at These Scenic Destinations
For those in search of simple ways to practice self-scare and boost their mental wellbeing, birdsong may be the answer. According to recent studies, seeing or hearing birds can provide a myriad of mood-boosting benefits. Below are seven scenic resort properties surrounded by natural beauty and filled with birdsong—sure to help lift visitors’ spirits. The Equinox Golf Resort & Spa (Manchester Village, Vermont) A Northern cardinal perches on a branch in the snow by Ray Hennessy - Unsplash This elegant New England property is steeped in history and sheltered amongst the tranquil beauty of Vermont’s Green Mountains. As they wander the property’s landscaped grounds and outdoor trails within the Equinox Preserve, explorers will hear the healing songs of Northeastern birds including Northern cardinals, Eastern bluebirds and American robins. Hawks Cay Resort (Duck Key, Florida) Brown pelicans in Florida by The Tampa Bay Estuary Program - Unsplash Centrally located between Miami and Key West, yet tucked away on the secluded island of Duck Key, Hawks Cay Resort is a Floridian paradise – boasting clear turquoise waters, endless sunshine and a relaxing, tropical atmosphere. While they soak in the sun, travelers will hear the distant calls of aquatic and wading birds such as seagulls, pelicans and herons. La Cantera Resort & Spa (San Antonio, Texas) Positioned just minutes outside of San Antonio, La Cantera Resort & Spa is situated on a tranquil 550-acre oasis. As visitors explore the property’s scenic trails winding across the rolling slopes and lush landscape of Texas Hill Country, they may be able to hear the calls of the native black-capped vireo and golden-cheeked warbler. Sanderling Resort (Duck, North Carolina) A father and daughter walk along the beach in Duck, North Carolina by Emotionary App - Unsplash This quintessential beachfront escape is ideally located in the Outer Banks – a string of islands commonly recognized as one of the best birding locations on the East Coast. While they stroll along the sand, bird enthusiasts can look for native waterfowl and listen for the cheerful songs of mainland birds such as the purple martin. Spruce Point Inn Resort & Spa (Boothbay Harbor, Maine) Perfectly poised on 55 acres of scenic shoreline, woodlands, gardens and trails, this picturesque oceanfront destination offers an iconic costal Maine experience. Here, visitors can soak in the soothing sounds of seabirds such as the Atlantic puffin, black guillemot and common eider. Stonewall Resort (Roanoke, West Virginia) Situated on 1,900 acres of park grounds, Stonewall Resort offers immaculate views of West Virginia’s rolling Blue Ridge Mountains and tranquil lake waters. As they relax at this lakeside resort, guests can listen for a variety of local songbirds including the Northern mockingjay and hooded warbler. The Wigwam (Litchfield Park, Arizona) A roadrunner in the desert brush by Carrie Borden - Unsplash A lush, 440-acre oasis, The Wigwam is located just 20 miles west of Phoenix. Here, guests can enjoy the stunning Sonoran Desert landscape and listen to the sounds of native birds such as roadrunners, wrens and woodpeckers.
3 Ways to Savor the End of Summer in Florida
Labor Day has come and gone, and fall is on its way. For most this means cooler temperatures are just around the corner, if not already here, but those in Florida have sunshine and warm days for the foreseeable future. Vacation crowds have begun to dwindle as most people settle into the new academic year, but there is still plenty of fun to be had for those that want to keep the summer rolling. Here are three ways to enjoy September in this tropical state. Explore this new Martin County eco-trail Pelicans in Jensen Beach, Florida by David Morgan - Unsplash Earlier this year, the Martin County Office of Tourism & Marketing launched their award-winning ecotourism program, Explore Natural Martin. Developed in official partnership with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, the program focuses on promoting environmental stewardship and responsible tourism through free, educational eco-tours and activities. Now, there's a new way to explore Martin County, Florida's beautiful natural areas and attractions. This free, self-guided eco-trail includes beautiful outdoor areas, world-class attractions, and eco-friendly certified hotels. This mobile-exclusive trail is a new, interactive component of the ecotourism program and highlights more than 20 outdoor wonders and points of interest, including state and local parks, beaches, nature preserves, museums, and more. The mobile pass is also GPS-enabled, so participants can “check-in” and earn points at each stop along the trail which can be redeemed for three tiers of unique prizes, including branded bandanas, five-liter dry bags, solar-powered waterproof lanterns, sun protection shirts, and limited edition eco-themed stickers. Pass-holders will earn the highest allotment of points for attending official Explore Natural Martin programs (advance registration required) and visitors can even earn bonus points for overnight stays at one the Florida Green Lodging Program-certified properties. “Martin County is an undeniably special place, home to stunning natural areas, incredibly biodiverse ecosystems, and countless wildlife species,” says Ian Centrone, Martin County Tourism Program Manager. “We hope visitors and residents alike use the Explore Natural Martin EcoTrail to discover the incredible sites in our own backyard while also learning how we can all better protect our paradise for generations to come.” Encounter natural beauty in Fort Lauderdale A bird at the Flamingo Gardens in Davie, Florida by Keila Diaz - Unsplash The summer isn't over (yet) in Fort Lauderdale, which has been running a "101 Days of Summer" campaign featuring 101 ways to experience the area's best offerings. Map out your summer staycation with the help of this curated list, which is chock-full of local unforgettable experiences. Visitors and residents can also take advantage of discounts with the South Florida Adventure Pass (good through September 30th) which offers unlimited entry to four major attractions in the area. These passes are $55 for adults and $45 for ages 3-12, and existing Adventure Pass subscribers can renew at a discounted rate of $45 for adults and $35 for children. The passes include access to: Sawgrass Recreation Park in Weston, which features majestic airboat rides in the Everglades;Flamingo Gardens in Davie, with botanical gardens and a wildlife sanctuary;the interactive exhibits and outdoor science park of the Museum of Discovery & Science in Fort Lauderdale; and,Explore Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, with aviaries that are filled with 20,000 exotic butterflies and tropical birds! Attend concerts all month long in St. Augustine Pier on St. Augustine Beach, Florida by Kristin Wilson - Unsplash Introduced in 2016, Sing Out Loud Festival is an annual celebration of live music throughout Florida's Historic Coast. The multi-weekend festival features various artists at locales throughout St. Augustine and St. Johns County, Florida. This year, the festival welcomes headliners The Black Keys, Mumford & Sons, Lord Huron, Maggie Rogers, Yola, War Hippies, Elle King, Amos Lee, S.G. Goodman, Yonder Mountain String Band, Railroad Earth, Keller & Keels, and many other great performances. The festival also features free "Local Showcases" throughout the month featuring performers that are based locally. On Saturday, September 16, the festival's newest event, Lincolnville Porch Fest, celebrates the unique history of one of St. Augustine's most historically and culturally significant neighborhoods. Featuring twenty-five local musical acts performing on five porches against the backdrop of the Lincolnville neighborhood, Porch Fest takes place from noon to 5 pm, culminating with a finale at Colonial Oak Music Park later in the evening. Tuesday, September 19, artisan shopping and live music take center stage at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre Night Market. This free event takes place from 5 to 9 p.m. and features live music, handmade arts, crafts and goods, and local food trucks. The Sing Out Loud Festival main event, The Francis Field Showcase, takes place Friday, September 22 and Saturday, September 23 at Francis Field in downtown St. Augustine. Two-day tickets include General Admission for $235 each, General Admission+ for $395 each, and Platinum for $760 each. One-day tickets can be purchased at $125 for Friday and $155 for Saturday. Tickets are available online only. Following the main event, music lovers can expand their collections at the St. Augustine Record Fair. This free event takes place on Sunday, September 24 at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre and is one of the area's largest fairs featuring limited-edition vinyl, 90's tour posters, vintage rock t-shirts, and even cassette tapes and record players. Finally, on Friday, September 29 through Sunday, October 1, the St. Augustine Songwriters Festival celebrates the craft of songwriting. Top-notch country songwriters will perform their hits throughout the St. Augustine's historic city, accented with the stories and anecdotes behind the hits. These free concerts occur at the Colonial Oak Music Park, Trade Winds Lounge, Prohibition Kitchen, and the St. Augustine Distillery.
Beyond Music City: 10 Unique Outdoor Music Venues in Tennessee
Nashville draws tourists from all over the country to experience the country music history, culture, and vibrant nightlife that makes up Music City—but it isn't the only town in the state with great venues. Tennessee, renowned for its rich musical heritage, is now stepping beyond traditional concert halls and indoor arenas to embrace the open air. Whether you're a country music lover, a blues aficionado or simply someone seeking an unparalleled musical experience, Tennessee's outdoor venues promise to captivate hearts and ears alike. Plan a trip to one of the venues below just in time to enjoy some of the best fall weather. The Caverns Located in Pelham in Grundy County, and nestled underground within a captivating cave system, The Caverns transform into an acoustic wonderland that hosts a diverse range of artists. Experience music amidst awe-inspiring rock formations that create a natural amphitheater, enhancing the sound experience. Upcoming performances include The Glitch Mob, 100 Gecs and Darrel Scott. Arrington Vineyards Arrington Vineyards offer concerts with its series Music in the Vines. Jazz, bluegrass and country rise into the air at Arrington Vineyards. This Middle Tennessee vineyard, started by Kix Brooks of the country duo Brooks & Dunn, hosts the music series every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from April through November. Guests can enjoy the vineyard grounds, award-winning wines and music from local, rising stars. Brushy Mountain Step into a unique blend of music, history and intrigue at the Brushy Mountain Concert Series, hosted within the confines of Historic Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. Situated in Petros, this concert series offers an unparalleled experience that unites the power of live music with the mystique of a former prison setting. As the sun sets behind the rugged hills, the stage comes alive with performances that resonate through the cells and corridors, creating an atmosphere that's both captivating and hauntingly memorable. Greenway Farms The waterfront in Chattanooga by David Sager - Unsplash Located in Chattanooga, Greenway Farms hosts Fireside, a free outdoor concert series that takes place every Thursday from 7-9 PM in October. Guests are invited to bring blankets and chairs, marshmallow roasting sticks and dancing shoes. Attendees are also encouraged to bring a picnic. Performances this year include Lou Wamp & the Bluetastics, The New Quintet, Randy Steele and the Stringer's Ridge Band. Ascend Amphitheater Ascend Amphitheater is an open-air venue located on the Cumberland River in Nashville. The venue provides a beautiful view of the city skyline. It seats 2,300 people in fixed seating and 4,500 on the lawn. Upcoming concerts include Jordan Davis, Arctic Monkeys, Odeza, Hozier, Darius Rucker and Hozier. World's Fair Park Aerial view of the Knoxville skyline by Stephen Ellis - Unsplash Knoxville brings music and entertainment throughout the year to World's Fair Park. The iconic area is known for the Sunsphere, but also has an amphitheater open for concerts, special events and theatrical performances. It was constructed for the 1982 World's Fair and renovated in 2007. There's also a performance lawn and a festival lawn that hosts concerts and festivals. FirstBank Amphitheater This venue is located at the back of 150 acres in a reclaimed rock quarry rich in local history in Franklin. From all nearby roads you won't see an amphitheater. What you will see are abundant green spaces including ponds, trees, fields and wildlife – essentially all the natural beauty of outdoor Tennessee. Upcoming concerts include the Goo Goo Dolls, 5 Seconds of Summer and Smashing Pumpkins. Overton Park Shell Beginning every March, Overton Park Shell hosts more than 50 concerts, providing free music to their diverse audiences. From jazz to rock, soul and blues, the concerts emulate the "Soundtrack of America, Made in Tennessee." Located in the heart of Memphis, visitors are invited to bring a chair or blanket to enjoy the open-air facility. Dogs on a leash are welcome in the designated Puppy Bar, a brand-new dog-friendly social spot. Century Farm Winery The Century Farm Wineryy's outdoor venue provides an idyllic backdrop for music enthusiasts and wine connoisseurs alike in Jackson. From now through October, they host Voices in the Vineyards, a free outdoor concert series. The rolling vineyards, sprawling greenery and charming rustic architecture create an atmosphere that is both inviting and captivating. As the sun sets and the stars emerge, the winery's stage becomes a platform for artists to engage with their audience in a uniquely intimate setting. Amphitheater at the Market In the heart of Jackson, the Amphitheater at the Market is an outdoor facility that hosts a range of music events. The venue connects locals and travelers alike to Memphis' Beale Street and Nashville's Honky Tonk Highway by providing an amazing concert experience. The 2023 AMP Concert Series runs from April through September. Bring a picnic, blankets and lawn chairs for nights filled with music. Upcoming shows include Tyler Goodson and Bryan Moffitt.
Backroads recently announced the launch of Women's Adventures, a new offer exclusively for women travelers. Set in some of the world's most beautiful places, these new vacations feature some of the company's most popular Walking & Hiking itineraries in bucket-list destinations. While the all-women trips will naturally have a different dynamic than other Backroads' trips, they will offer the same commitment to excellence, flexible itineraries and exceptional Trip Leaders for which the company is known. "As part of the Hale family business, I've been lucky enough to take many Backroads trips, several of them with women only to destinations like Argentina, Vietnam/Cambodia and the California Wine Country," said Liz Hale, Backroads' Director of Community Partnerships. "There's nothing like traveling with a group of women. The shared experience on and off the trail, the sense of adventure, the deep connections and conversations, easy laughter and the joy of sisterhood that forms and strengthens as we create new lifelong memories.” Women seeking outdoor and cultural travel experiences in combination with stylish creature comforts—whether traveling solo or with female friends or family members—has been a growing trend over the years. Backroads has seen an increase in select travel dates becoming all-women trips, often as Private Trips. These Walking & Hiking tours are crafted to offer travelers an unfiltered and genuine connection to the culture, landscapes, people and natural beauty of the region they are exploring. With over 30 years of experience designing and leading Walking & Hiking trips across the globe, launching Women's Adventures that feature some of the company's top hiking itineraries is an exciting evolution of the Backroads trip collection. “There's a special magic and connection that often happens when women gather,” said Backroads Executive Vice President, Avery Hale Smith. “I've experienced this firsthand on the girls trips I've participated in over the years, and we've heard it repeatedly from guests who have traveled privately on all-women Backroads trips. We're excited to offer women the opportunity to connect, learn and be immersed in the local culture and community while discovering these amazing destinations together.” While the trips include locations from all over the world, there are several North American-based itineraries, including the selected trips below, that are more accessible and budget-friendly when adding in the costs of flights or other transportation. Banff to Yoho (Alberta, Canada) A 6-day getaway to the soaring peaks and emerald lakes of Banff, Lake Louise & Yoho National Park. Book here. Hike scenic trails in three Canadian national parks with dramatic vistas, beautiful lakes and lush landscapesWalk through evergreen forests and flowering meadows to sensational glaciers, magnificent waterfalls and towering peaksAdmire mountain reflections on Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, then hike to famous Plain of Six Glaciers TeahouseLook for mountain goats, pikas and marmots—perhaps come face-to-face with one of them! Palm Springs & Joshua Tree (California) Desert vegetation in Joshua Tree, California by Ben Karpinski - Unsplash A 4-day trip to this national park wonderland of rocks and desert oases. Book here. Hike Joshua Tree National Park's remarkable landscape strewn with gigantic boulders and shady palm oases Marvel at the desert's distinctive beauty—from Joshua trees to unique wildlife like roadrunners and desert bighorn sheep Admire the mid-century architecture and old Hollywood glamour of Palm Springs’ Las Palmas neighborhoodHike a section of the famous Pacific Crest Trail, taking in impressive views of San Gorgonio Mountain Yosemite (California) A waterfall in Yosemite National Park by Mick Haupt - Unsplash A 6-day excursion to explore this iconic national park's dramatic half dome and waterfalls. Book here. Experience spectacular hikes to alpine meadows, waterfalls and jaw-dropping panoramas Gaze skyward on a walk through a grove of giant sequoias, Yosemite's ancient trees Explore the endless trails of Tuolumne Meadows, a glacier-carved area over two miles long Discover the impressive rock formations for which Yosemite is known, including world-famous Half Dome Crate Lake & Cascades (Oregon) Crater Lake by Steven Coffey - Unsplash A 6-day adventure in the Pacific Northwest. Book here. Delight in Oregon's varied geology as you adventure on foot to the edge of the world-famous Crater LakeExplore the vibrant city of Bend, Oregon's lively and picturesque hub of outdoor adventure and craft brewingHike amid the grandeur of Oregon's Central Cascades, including a section of the famed Pacific Crest TrailAdmire Crater Lake's breathtakingly clear sapphire waters from some of the very best vantage points Sedona (Arizona) The red rocks of Sedona, Arizona by Edmundo Mendez, Jr - Unsplash A 4-day getaway to explore the red rocks and desert magic of Arizona. Book here. Hike among jagged peaks and vast canyons, and along trails blossoming with cacti, manzanita and agave plantsMarvel at the ever-changing colors of the landscape as the sun passes through the day, leaving behind a dazzling indigo sky full of starsWander in and out of art galleries and shops filled with jewelry and crafts made by local artists at Sedona’s Tlaquepaque villageRelish Southwestern cuisine and luxuriate in our quiet abode surrounded by red mesas and rugged cliffs Yellowstone & Tetons (Wyoming) Sunlight illuminates the peaks of the Teton mountain range by Toan Chu - Unsplash A 6-day trip to discover the geology, wildlife and peaks of these national parks. Book here. Observe the famous bubbling and churning geologic features of Yellowstone—including Old Faithful, of course Hike through gorgeous valley landscapes while gazing up to catch sight of the spectacular Teton peaks Photograph the wondrous Yellowstone wildlife you're bound to encounter—from elk to eagles and bison to bears Raft the Snake River with expert river runners, enjoying the views and abundant wildlife sightings —For more Women's Walking & Hiking trip itineraries, head to Backroads Women's Adventures.