Fall Getaways: 6 Trips For Seasonal Sightseeing

October 10, 2017

The best thing about fall? Hard to say. It could be the crisp morning air or the cinnamon-covered everything, but we have to hand it to the leaves. From golden elms to moody maples, it’s seriously scenic this time of year—and your backyard is just the beginning. Whether you’re looking to cozy up in a New England B&B or sip hot matcha in a Japanese teahouse, we have just the trip for you this autumn.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Escape the bustle of Washington, DC and head south for Shenandoah National Park, where miles of leaf-dappled hilltops stretch in every direction. The area has plenty of hiking trails, but consider hopping in the car to experience Skyline Drive, a 105-mile stretch of road that winds through the Blue Ridge Mountains.

ONCE YOU’RE THERE: Skyline Drive has a 35 mile-per-hour speed limit, so plan a long and leisurely playlist. And be sure to pack a picnic, as you’ll want to relax at one of its 75 breathtaking overlooks.

WHEN TO GO: Plan for a weekend trip in mid-October. Last year, the park reported its richest foliage on October 17.

WHAT TO PACK: Comfort is key with any road trip, so keep cozy in a pullover dress, ankle booties, and a denim jacket.

Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto may be best known for its spring cherry blossoms, but the Arashiyama district’s fall foliage is just as travel-worthy. An autumn visit here is a truly unique experience: You can watch the leaves change alongside wild macaques or stroll through winding bamboo forests that lead to temples with traditional Japanese gardens.

ONCE YOU’RE THERE: Take a trip to Okochi-Sanso Villa, a 21,000-square-foot garden estate complete with walking trails and a full view of the city. The price of admission includes a hot matcha tea and dessert.

WHEN TO GO: Though the leaves tend to shift for a full two months, you’ll find the brightest reds, yellows and oranges in mid-November.

WHAT TO PACK: Sneakers are a must for this amount of walking. Top your favorite joggers with an easy pullover and you’re good to go.

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Want to sip something a bit stronger than apple cider? Set your sights on Willamette Valley, the 150-mile stretch of farmlands between Portland and Eugene, Oregon. The area is home to 500 wineries and dedicates over 15,000 acres to Pinot Noir grapes. In fall, farmers and vintners celebrate the year’s bounty by hosting boozy harvest parties.

ONCE YOU’RE THERE: The valley is rich with farm-to-fork dining, and there’s no better way to indulge than the annual Wine Country Thanksgiving. Over the holiday weekend, more than 150 vineyards celebrate with special tastings, food pairings, live music, and other fall festivities.

WHEN TO GO: The harvest is in full swing from now through November, so take your pick of the long weekends.

WHAT TO PACK: A casual, long-sleeved midi is easily dressed up or down. And we love pairing a good rancher with our wine.

Bavarian Alps, Germany

After a quick stop in Munich for Oktoberfest, head to higher Bavarian grounds for a birds-eye view of Germany’s picturesque autumn. The Alps have inspired numerous fairy tales, and it’s easy to see why: In autumn, copper-tipped castles glisten among the rich forests.

ONCE YOU’RE THERE: Alpine scenery is breathtaking no matter your vantage point, but the summit of Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, offers unparalleled views. Hop in a window-paneled cable car and head skyward, where you’ll mingle amongst hikers, skiers, and sightseers at the beer garden on the mountain’s crest.

WHEN TO GO: Visit the Alps just as the season shifts. In late October, the weather is simply perfect.

WHAT TO PACK: Higher altitudes mean lower temps, so pack with layering in mind: long-sleeved tees, cozy knit pullovers, and a heavier jacket.

South Island, New Zealand

A South Island autumn offers long, sunny days with weather perfect for bicycling along the lakesides of Central Otago or for discovering the Art Deco architecture of Hawke’s Bay. You may not notice that summer has gone, but the bright, burnt orange leaves are a good indication that autumn has arrived. Rise along with the sun to see a different kind of fall hue, as the sky over New Zealand awakens with a palette of pinks.

ONCE YOU’RE THERE: Celebrate the arts in Wanaka at the Festival of Colour. This biennial event showcases the region’s best performers, visual artists, musicians, and more along the glowing golden shores of Lake Wanaka. The small town is also home to boutique wineries and vineyards.

WHEN TO GO: If you were to travel to South Island now, you’d be treated to budding green leaves and all the signs of spring. To enjoy fall in the southern hemisphere, plan a trip for mid-April.

WHAT TO PACK: Warmer weather means your tees and cropped jeans get one more outing before winter!

Route 100, Vermont

No fall foliage list is complete without a nod to New England. No matter where you visit in the Northeastern states, you’ll find maple-lined roadways and trails exploding with color. Travel along Vermont’s billboard-free Route 100 for the quintessential autumn experience complete with cider stands and country stores.

ONCE YOU’RE THERE: An 11-mile stretch connecting the towns of Waterbury and Stowe, the Green Mountain Byway is the must-see while passing through Vermont. Here, you’ll find apple picking farms, harvest markets, and three scenic state parks. If you’re feeling bold, try the nearly two-mile zip line that soars along Mount Mansfield for an up-close tour of the canopy.

WHEN TO GO: Mid- to late-October offers a full palette of autumnal hues, but keep an eye on Vermont’s fall foliage reports for updates.

WHAT TO PACK: Keep your layers simple and adventure-friendly: an anorak, denim, and your go-to sneaks.

Check out our packing guides for your fall getaway.