You know fall is on its way when leaves change color, the air is crisp and thoughts of apples and pumpkin pie fill your mind. If you need a place to get away, try these 10 family-friendly fall destinations for the quintessential autumnal experience.
Covering 6 million acres of land, the Adirondacks are the largest park in the contiguous United States. Having the longest fall foliage season in the Northeast, the Adirondacks are the perfect place for leaf-peepers to enjoy the changing colors via any of the area’s 14 scenic byways, all with different scenic, natural, recreational, cultural, historical or archaeological themes. After exploring the outdoors, stop by one of the Adirondacks many festivals, including hot air balloon festivals, harvest festivals, arts and crafts festivals, and even a cream cheese festival. You’ll be able to find an activity in this park to please all ages.
The Blue Ridge Parkway runs from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia through the mountains of North Carolina to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. The fall foliage along this path is at its peak in mid- to late-October; for the best views, stop at Blowing Rock, North Carolina for panoramic (although windy) views of the mountains and hills below. You can hike throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains, stopping at a 20-story natural stone bridge in Virginia or at Linville Gorge or Chimney Rock in North Carolina. If you’re driving through North Carolina, stop in Asheville, a town with a thriving artistic community as well as access to beautiful hikes and delicious restaurants. Kids can fill out activity sheets throughout their journey to become Blue Ridge Parkway Junior Rangers, keeping them occupied on long drives.
Boston combines beautiful fall foliage with historic experiences. Fall weather is normally perfect for walking around the city; you can take a walking tour along the Freedom Trail and see historic sites, such as the Paul Revere House, while experiencing the changing colors of the leaves. If the weather is a little too cold for outdoor exploration, Boston has some of the best children’s museums in the country, including the Boston Children’s Museum (the second oldest in the country) and the Museum of Science. Outdoor concerts and shows abound, and you can pick up some food for lunch at a local farmer’s market. Opportunities for both outdoor and urban activities give you numerous options for children with varying tastes.
Branson is located in the Ozark Mountains, close to the center of the United States. For about one-third of Americans, it is less than a day’s drive away, making it a perfect destination for a weekend trip over fall break. Branson has something for everyone, with multiple lakes, more than 50 live performance theaters, a theme park, multiple museums and a historic shopping district. From mid-September through November, you can participate in activities amidst a background of red, yellow and orange leaves. Throughout the fall, there are craft and music festivals. You can explore caves underneath the Ozark Mountains, or visit one of Branson’s many craft and music festivals. Kids looking for thrills can go to Branson’s award-winning theme park, Silver Dollar City.
With pleasant days and cool nights as well as less traffic and cheaper lodgings than you’ll find in the summer, fall is the perfect time to visit Cape Cod. Although a little cool for swimming, the weather (with temperatures between 40 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit) is perfect for walking around town and exploring Cape Cod’s beaches. Fall for the Arts is a festival held in October that showcases local art with live performances, open houses at museum and theaters, and children’s art activities. Other festivals in this area include the cranberry harvest celebration, a seaside festival, the lighting of the pilgrim monument, and a hometown Thanksgiving celebration. Another kid-friendly area destination is Plimoth Plantation (pictured), a living museum that recreates the original pilgrim settlement of Plymouth.
The Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile-long trail going from Maryland to Pennsylvania, is perfect for families looking for an active fall trip. The weather is perfect in autumn to bike, hike or horseback ride along this trail. The trail is fairly level and has a packed crushed limestone surface, making it easy for even younger kids to walk or bike along. The trail begins in Cumberland, Maryland, which is known for its transportation and industrial heritage. Ohiopyle, Penn., about halfway through the trail, is the most visited trail town and has some of the best whitewater rafting in the eastern United States. At the trail’s end, you can visit Pittsburgh, where you can learn more about the industrial history of the town once known as the “Gateway to the West.”
Indianapolis is home to the largest children’s museum in the country. The museum’s attractions include the Dinosphere, which displays life-size skeletons and simulated fossil digs, a ride-able antique carousel and a variety of rotating touring exhibits. You can picnic in White River State Park, America’s only cultural urban state park, and enjoy the changing colors of the trees along with cultural attractions such as the Indianapolis Zoo, the NCAA Hall of Champions and an outdoor concert venue. The fall weather provides a perfect opportunity to walk around the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s 100-Acre Park, a large garden with a lake and multiple art installations. When you’re done exploring the city, you can go to Indianapolis’ Oktoberfest and Germanfest. These festive fall events have authentic German food, music, and dancing as well as activities like hayrides, pumpkin picking, farm games, and even a wiener dog race.
Fall activities abound in this 2400-square-mile region in northeast Pennsylvania. With more than 127 varieties of trees, shrubs and plants, the Poconos have a wide variety of fall foliage. For a hassle-free place to stay, look for a family-friendly resort; many of the ones in the Poconos offer children’s programs and often have discounted fall prices. Families can explore the mountains, go horseback riding, play paintball, or take an old-fashioned train ride. If the weather is bad, you can go to an indoor water park, visit the children’s museum or go shopping in one of several boutique toy stores. The Great Pocono Pumpkin Festival, the Animal Park (with daily animal shows), and zip line and tree top adventure courses round off all of the fall family fun the Poconos offer.
Portland is known as an artistic, environmentally friendly city with plenty of opportunities for shopping, outdoor fun and cultural events. Portland has a wide range of arts organizations, including the Portland Saturday Market, the nation’s largest weekly open-air arts and crafts market. After you find a unique souvenir at this market, you can wander into one of Portland’s many independent coffee shops or local restaurants for a quick meal. Hike or bike along some of Oregon’s scenic trails that are sure to be resplendent with fall colors, and finish your visit by going to see one of Portland’s many high-quality plays.
Begin your exploration of this quiet Southern city by taking a narrated trolley tour through the historic downtown district. Afterwards, you can further explore Savannah’s cobblestone streets and ante bellum architecture or, if the weather is still warm, walk along the beach at Tybee Island. Kids will enjoy visiting the Tybee Island Lighthouse and Museum or going on a Riverboat Cruise. Add a Halloween twist to your visit by taking a ghost tour of what is called “the most haunted city in America.”
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