The World’s 12 Best Destinations for a Fall Vacation

See recent posts by Jane Reynolds

Photo: Kimberly Vardeman

Photo: Kimberly Vardeman

While you lounge poolside or on the sand with cocktail in hand, you may be dreading the (fast-approaching) days of cooler temperatures and decreasing sunlight hours. But there are so many wonderful things to love about fall; after all, it's really winter -- like the insufferably long months of January through March -- thatyou hate, right?! 

With the autumnal season comes cable-knit sweaters and apple cider, pumpkin-picking and leaf-peeping. And while we truly embrace the season no matter our location, we gotta be honest -- some spots just do it better than others. Today we're bringing you the best destinations for fall fun this year. Some make the list every time, others are newcomers...but they all are great spots to get in the fall-time spirit.


Truly, no list on fall foliage can exclude Vermont. Nearly every city in the state provides the ideal lookout for leaf peepers, and destinations such as Burlington, along the shores of Lake Champlain, and Stowe, tucked among the mountains and aptly self-named “Fall’s Color Capitol,” are particularly popular. The leaves are at their most vibrant from mid September to mid October, although leaf-peeping season last till early November.

Stay: Smugglers’ Notch Resort (pictured)

With hundreds of apartments spread across five communities in Vermont’s Green Mountains, Smugglers’ Notch Resort is a mid-range, village-style resort popular with families. Every unit includes a full kitchen and some have fireplaces for cozying up post-sundown.

Napa Valley, CA

Although this year is shaping up to be an early harvest, the season generally starts in Napa Valley sometime in September, and lasts through the end of October’s crush season. But thanks to the warmer California climate, the leaves don’t start to turn till early November, making it a lovely time to visit Napa — the crowds of harvest have largely left, and many argue that the scenery is most beautiful at this time of year. Cozy up with a California cab and enjoy the view!

Stay: Bardessono (pictured)

Swank yet eco-friendly, this 62-room resort opened in 2009 with a mission of sustainability and luxury. The modern rooms are plush and the bathrooms are spa-like, complete with a pullout massage table in each one.

Cumbria, England

Straight out of Beatrix Potter’s storybooks, Cumbria has a fairytale vibe that’s only intensified come autumn, when the Lake District’s waterside woodlands are filled with red, copper, yellow, and golden foliage. Though the region’s population is below 50,000, Cumbria attracts over 15 million visitors annually, with fall being peak season. Considering that Beatrix Potter tours and hiking are the most popular pastimes, and must-eats include gingerbread, sticky toffee pudding, and cumberland sausages, it’s no surprise that Cumbria is one of the world’s top spot for a fall getaway.

Stay: Cragwood Country House Hotel (pictured)

The 23-room Cragwood Country House Hotel is a secluded Edwardian estate on 22 acres near scenic Lake Windermere. It features sitting areas on sprawling lawns that overlook the lake, three lounges with log fireplaces, a dining room, and a contemporary bar. 

Boston, MA


View of Boston from the Banks of the Charles River

For those who want to take in the fall foliage, while still enjoying the perks of a lively metropolis, Boston is a great pick. Replete with gardens, the city has plenty of wide open spaces for taking in the scenery — or visitors can opt to mosey along the banks of the Charles River, or soak up the autumnal colors during a Swan Boat tour. Like in Vermont, optimal leaf-peeping takes place from mid September to mid October.

Stay: Taj Boston

One of the city’s grande dames, the Taj borders the Public Garden and swank boutiques along Newbury Street. Luxe perks include chenille bathrobes and free rides in the house Jaguar.

Bavaria, Germany

Set in Southern Germany, Bavaria may be one of the country’s most beautiful and diverse regions. There are gorgeous wineries, historic castles amid the lush hills, and of course, Munich — home to the infamous Oktoberfest, which kicks off on September 19 this year and lasts through October 4. The festival conveniently coincides with the prime time for leaf-peeping as well.

Stay: Bayerischer Hof Hotel (pictured)

The Bayerischer Hof Hotel first opened in 1841 to accommodate King Ludwig I’s esteemed guests. Today, it’s still one of the city’s top luxury hotels, and attracts royalty, politicians, and celebrities (former guests include Michael Jackson and Martin Scorcese.) Lovely city and scenery views can be had at the hotel’s rooftop pool and restaurant.

Gatlinburg, TN

Leaf-peeping in the U.S. isn’t reserved exclusively for New England. The South does a pretty good job of it too, especially Tennessee’s Gatlinburg set in the forested Smoky Mountains. Thanks to warmer temps, the colors are at their peak from mid October to early November, although the wooded trails are truly gorgeous year-round, and visitors can partake in fall-friendly activities like hiking, fishing, and rafting.

Stay: The Lodge at Buckberry Creek (pictured)

Designed like a luxury retreat from a bygone era, this hotel is the real deal in Gatlinburg, offering an authentic mountain lodge experience without sacrificing any comforts. It’s an ideal location for travelers who want rustic seclusion while remaining close to downtown Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

Lake Geneva, WI

Only about a two-hour drive from Chicago, Lake Geneva originally became a popular Midwestern fall getaway in the late 1800s, when wealthy vacationers sought out land perfectly positioned for enjoying the fall foliage. Lasting from early September to November, leaf-peeping season here is luxuriously long and can be enjoyed numerous ways — by foot, car, boat…even hot-air balloon!

Stay: Grand Geneva Resort & Spa

The four-pearl Grand Geneva Resort is the jewel in the crown of Lake Geneva’s hotels. It was originally built as a Playboy Resort, but after a period of decline in the 1980s, the property was restored and polished back to its original luster. 

Tuscany, Italy

Like in Napa, harvest in Tuscany takes place from mid September through October, and the season is celebrated with Sagre (harvest festivals) across the region. Locals and visitors congregate to feast on everything from chestnuts to grapes to pumpkins, all while taking in the stunning natural landscape (rich with red, yellow, and copper foliage) and — of course — imbibing plenty of vino. Grape harvest is followed closely by truffle season and olive harvest, so really any month in the fall is a wonderful time to visit!

Stay: Agriturismo Fattoria Lavacchio (pictured)

The mid-range Agriturismo Fattoria Lavacchio provides a quintessential Tuscany retreat with vineyards, olive groves, a windmill, a winery, horse stalls, and a ceramics workshop. 

Asheville, NC

Asheville provides stunning views of numerous mountaintops, include Black Mountain, the Appalachian Mountains, and particularly the Blue Ridge Mountains. Peak leaf-peeping season runs from mid October to late October, and the season is kicked off by the annual LEAF Festival, which celebrates the fall foliage with various musical events. 

Stay: The Omni Grove Park Inn (pictured)

This upscale 513-room hotel is spectacularly beautiful inside and out; built from stacked stones and dating back more than 100 years, it is surrounded by one of the most revered golf courses in the area, and comes equipped with an enormous spa and several restaurants and bars. Guest rooms are elegant and cozy, with period Arts and Crafts furnishings and views of the mountains or courtyard through lovely, wood-trimmed windows. 

Wicklow, Ireland

Wicklow, dubbed the Garden of Ireland, is nestled between Brown Mountain and Cushbawn Mountain in the country’s picturesque southeast. The region’s rolling hills and mountains are hugely popular during the autumn months, when international travelers and Dubliners (the capital is an hour-and-a-half’s drive away) come to hike through the beautiful scenery, accented by the changing leaves. The area also has some gorgeous waterfalls.

Stay: BrookLodge & Wells Spa (pictured)

The 86-room BrookLodge & Wells Spa is a destination hotel in the truest sense, being set in a self-contained village resort offering everything guests might want during their stay. There’s a real emphasis on green living, and the property offers organic and largely locally-grown produce as part of the dining experience.

North Conway, NH

Another New England hot spot among leaf peepers, North Conway sits along New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. While hiking is a popular pastime, most hardcore leaf peepers would suggest taking in the views via the Kancamagus Highway, with 26 miles of scenic roads. The entire fall season here is stunning, but prime leaf-changing occurs from late September to mid October.

Stay: Adventure Suites (pictured)

Adventure Suites is a truly one-of-a-kind upscale property. All of the hotel’s 17 suites are unique, and completely decked out according to their themes, which range from a romantic wine cellar, to a treehouse for the family. 

Bruges, Belgium

Characterized by cobblestone streets lining historic canals, and vine-covered buildings, Bruges is one of Europe’s quaintest cities throughout the year. But we’d argue it’s at its most adorable and picturesque in the fall, when the trees along the canals turn yellow, red, and orange, as do the vines crawling up the brick walls and historic homes. While mid October may be the most ideal time to visit — picture foliage at its peak and moderate temperatures — the city’s lovely open-air markets generally stay open through November.

Stay: Hotel Ter Brughe (pictured)

Housed in a medieval warehouse that dates back to the 15th century, the Hotel Ter Brughe is an intimate, sedate hotel overlooking one of Bruges’s oldest canals. 

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