For globetrotters in the know, fall is a favorite time of year to hit the road. The crowds have left, temperatures have mellowed and fall festivals are underway. For some great autumn vacation ideas or quick inspiration for last-minute travel escapes, read what our inside tipsters say about a few wonderful American destinations.
Austin – The Cool Side of Texas
Fall in Austin is ideal. Average temperatures hover in the 70s (F) and nights feel cool. If you visit in October, get tickets to Austin City Limits, a two-weekend music festival some call the best in the country—it’s perfect for a fun weekend getaway.
Our insider tips for Austin:
Stay at the hip and centrally located Hotel San Jose, or recline under grand, chandelier-clad oaks at the Hotel Saint Cecilia, an artsy boutique hotel located in a secluded historic estate
Enjoy morning coffee, great people watching and homemade baked goods at Jo’s Coffee downtown.
Sip cocktails at The Driskill Bar to soak in the flavor of Texas as fashioned by a 19th-century oil magnate. For a taste of modern-day Tex-Mex with an island spin, drink margaritas on the waterfront at the Hula Hut.
Dine under the stars among pecan trees at Shady Grove, and enjoy live music on Thursday nights throughout the fall.
Catch a show at Esther’s Follies, where a cast of Austin’s best talent delivers fresh, intelligent and highly entertaining skits and musical numbers that change with current events—reserve tickets in advance for better seats.
Browse the boutiques on South Congress Ave. (SoCo) and stop by Allens, where you can find more than 4,000 cowboy boots for sale.
Finding Foliage in Camden, Maine
If you’re East Coast-bound for fall travel, by all means put Camden, Maine on your itinerary. Small, quaint and a leaf-peeper’s paradise, Camden ranks high on our list of charming seaside towns. Add it as part of a fall-foliage itinerary or just a quick weekend getaway. One way or the other, bring sweaters and a light jacket; typical fall weather in Camden ranges from about 65°F in late August to 50°F in October.
Stay at the Camden Harbour Inn. Located in an elegantly refurbished 1874 mansion overlooking Penobscot Bay, this inn balances high design with old-world charm. It’s been chosen by National Geographic Traveler as one of the best places to stay in the United States and lauded by Travel & Leisure as Main’s only truly “design-centric” inn. Bonus tip: The third-floor Bonaire room has the best views of the bay and nearby Mt. Battie.
Book a day trip to sail Penobscot Bay and the surrounding waters. As one local said, “Camden from the water is an incredibly beautiful sight.” Inquire at The Camden Harbour Inn for boat availability or walk to the harbor. There’s almost always a piloted boat available for tours.
Explore artfully at Camden’s Harbor Arts & Crafts Show. Held in early October, this juried art show features the work of established and emerging artists. There’s something to suit every budget from fine photography and paintings to handcrafted furniture and pottery.
Hike heroically to the top of Mount Battie (780 ft.) in Camden Hills State Park, or just drive. Either way, you’ll get grand scenic views over the harbor, coast and surrounding landscape topped with oaks, pines and sugar maples clad in vivid foliage.
Dine deliciously at Camden’s Francine Bistro. Gourmet magazine called it one of America’s best farm-to-table restaurants; our local source deems it friendly, relaxing and sophisticated. With only 25 tables, Francine’s feels intimate, and so does its menu—it offers four entrees, four appetizers, four desserts and varies daily. Not to miss: the specialty cocktails featuring local and seasonal ingredients like blueberries, pears and blood oranges; the soups, all of which have a vegetable base (better for you!); and the seafood, from lobsters to oysters to halibut, all exquisitely prepared and presented, and all locally caught.
Easy Adventure in Ely, Minnesota
Three great reasons to visit Ely in fall: No mosquitoes. No crowds. And nothing more to do than relax and enjoy what the late-journalist Charles Kuralt called one of his favorite places to vacation in America.
Ely is located in northern Minnesota along the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) Wilderness. One million acres of land with over 1,000 unspoiled lakes and 1,500 miles of canoe routes make this a great choice for a bit of American adventure travel. And while contacting an outfitter and getting out in a canoe—even for an afternoon—is a great way to experience this pristine paradise, you’ll also find plenty to explore in the town of Ely itself.
Our insider tips for Ely and the surrounding area:
Amble down Sheridan Street (aka Central Ave.) into small-town gift shops, bait shops, eateries and bars. Stop in at Chocolate Moose to savor fresh-baked pie and Wild Rice-Crusted Walleye.
Browse world-class nature photography by renowned National Geographic-photographer Jim Brandenburg at the Jim Brandenburg Gallery in Ely.
Travel down under. Guided tours of the Soudan Underground Mine take you ½ mile underground, where you can ride a mining car and learn the history of what was once the state’s richest iron-ore mine (operating from 1884 to 1963).
Book a massage at Evergeen Cottage spa and pick up some organic foods at Sonja’s Whole Foods Pantry downstairs.
Stay in a lake-facing room at the Grand Ely Lodge for sweeping views, or sleep with sophisticated serenity in a flawless log cabin at the historic Burntside Lodge, where TVs are replaced by great ambience and superb hospitality. Open May (Thursday before Memorial Day) through mid-September (two weekends after Labor Day).
Rough it with Moose Track Adventures. This friendly outfitter lets you decide your own level of adventure, be it in lakeside cabins or on a guided canoe-camping foray. Fly-fish, hike, paddle out into the waters or sit around a campfire with s’mores.
Check the weather before departing, and pack layers. Weather can vary this time of year. Average daytime temperatures from late August through early October range from 50°–75°F.
Bring a great book, relax lakeside and listen to the loons.