Great Cities to Visit in the Fall
Summertime gets a lot of the travel glory. But when it comes to stellar travel times, fall is a bit of a hidden gem.
From high-spirited harvest festivals to flamboyant foliage, there’s all manner of reasons to take a trip this autumn—and if you’re looking for some inspiration, you’re in luck.
Top Picks for Fantastic Fall Destinations
Here are some of the best cities to visit in the fall, no matter what corner of the world you’ve got your eye on.
1. Munich, Germany
If you want to get familiar with this sought-after European destination, there’s no better time than the fall. The town is decked out in gold-leafed finery and the weather is crisp, typically temperatures fall around 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also home to one of the most famous autumn festivals in history.
That’s right, Munich is home to the original Oktoberfest . Dating all the way back to 1810, it’s no surprise this party is one of the rowdiest in the world, not to mention one of the biggest. In 2018, more than 6 million people attended… and with a reported 2 million gallons of beer sold.
2. Flagstaff, Arizona (and the Grand Canyon)
If there’s one place you probably don’t want to be in high summer, it’s Arizona. It’s beautiful, for sure… but that triple-digit heat is definitely miserable and potentially dangerous.
But come fall, both the temperatures and the numbers of tourists are dropping, making it the perfect time to explore this gem of a college town tucked in the center of the state.
Along with an array of museums and breweries, Flagstaff is also the gateway city for none other than Grand Canyon National Park, one of the most famous federally-managed wildernesses in the register. It’s going to be crowded almost anytime you go, but visiting in fall will take the edge off… and at least you won’t be sweating while you’re elbowing your way to the rim for that perfect Instagram shot.
3. Tokyo, Japan
Spring might be the time to see Tokyo’s famous cherry blossoms, but the city looks just as good in red and yellow as it does in pink and white—and thanks to its many maple trees, there’s no shortage of splendor. If you can swing a trip in early December, you’ll also observe its iconic gingko trees shedding its summer greens in favor of gold.
4. Ashville, North Carolina
If you’re outdoorsy but still into urban adventuring, too, there are few destinations that can match Asheville. An artsy town tucked into the crook of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s the kind of place where every corner has both a brewery and a yoga studio.
Come fall, the high summer heat and humidity drop a fair amount, making for much more pleasant hiking. Arrive in mid-to-late September, and you’ll get to watch the changing foliage put on its show.
5. Portland, Maine
If you’re into leaf-peeping, New England is probably already at the top of your fall travel bucket list. But if you want to double down on your autumn adventure, consider Portland: not only is it home to dramatic fall foliage and a vibrant downtown, but it’s also the host of the annual Harvest on the Harbor festival.
Held each year in late October—the peak of Maine’s leaf change display—Harvest on the Harbor is a celebration of the area’s renowned restaurant scene, which has made it a kind of northeastern Mecca for foodies. The organization is committed to showcasing local entrepreneurs and ingredients, and a portion of ticket sales are used to support local Maine nonprofits.
6. Barcelona, Spain
This magical capital of Catalonia is top of our list of European cities to visit in the fall—or honestly, anytime. But once the summer ends, the crowds thin out slightly, giving you a better chance of experiencing this mega-popular destination like a local.
What’s more, fall is high time for food festivals, including the annual Mercat de Mercats, when vendors of all varieties take over the public square in front of the Barcelona Cathedral.
Even if you miss the Mercat, you can still taste roasted castanyes—chestnuts—which are sold by street vendors on every corner. Halloween celebrations have become more popular across Europe. Barcelona’s spirited celebrations combine modern traditions, like trick-or-treating, with All Saints Day observations passed down over generations.
7. Santa Fe, New Mexico
When listing the best U.S. cities to visit in the fall, you’d be forgiven for favoring the northeast over the southwest. The desert isn’t exactly known for its tree cover.
But that line of thinking forgets about Santa Fe, whose high-altitude location in northern New Mexico means it’s home to aspen as well as cacti.
Aside from plain old stunning views, especially from the 10,000-plus-foot peaks of the Santa Fe ski bowl, this capital city also hosts the annual Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta , a five-day long weekend in late September filled with all the spice and sips you can handle.
Can’t make it until October? No problem: just an hour south in Albuquerque, you can participate in the International Balloon Fiesta , widely believed to be the most photographed event on Earth. And for good reason: there’s no spectacle that quite matches the sight of hundreds of balloons ascending at dawn from the mountain-ringed mesa.
You’re Ready to Go—But Are Your Finances?
Even the most frugal vacation costs more than staying home. From food to fuel to fun, there’s always something to pay for while you’re traveling.
But with a little bit of planning and the right tools in your pocket, you can plan your trip and take it, too. Without breaking your budget.
It often starts with building up a travel fund ahead of time. Then, you can tackle other financial travel preparations, like calling your bank and setting a vacation notification. That way, your card won’t get declined at an inopportune moment.
Before you jet off, you’ll also want to double check that you’ll have access to your cash wherever you may travel.
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