Fall started on September 22 in the Northern Hemisphere this year, so in the United States, the fall season is well underway. Fall happens to be a great time to travel in many places around the U.S. The leaves are changing and the weather is crisp, mild, and pleasantly cool, making for a perfect atmosphere to complement your travels.
Fall is also ideal for travelers looking for a low-key getaway. The summer vacation tourists have left by now, and the winter holiday travelers have yet to arrive, so you can benefit from lighter crowds and lower hotel rates in many areas.
Airport travel should be lighter, and the roads should be a little emptier as well. A road trip is a wonderful way to see the countryside during the fall, where you can take in all of the gorgeous fall colors and changing foliage. Many travelers opt for a van rental for a road trip, as it saves their personal vehicle from wear and tear, and provides a spacious and convenient vehicle for long trips.
All of the major cities around the U.S. have a lot to offer in terms of attractions, events, and sights to see during this season. This season, we’ll focus on 5 of the best cities in the United States to visit during the fall and provide a couple of helpful fall travel tips along the way.
Chicago is easily one of the best American cities to visit during the fall season. The city has a plethora of autumn-themed festivals throughout the season, and there are plenty of chances to eat great food and drink great beer. With Oktoberfest in full swing, you can find a huge selection of delicious seasonal beers in Chicago. This is a great time to taste some authentic Midwestern brews, and you will have your pick of rich dark stouts, oaky barrel-aged beers, spicy pumpkin ales, and much more. The gastronomic culture in Chicago is very strong and dynamic, so prepare yourself for a lot of delicious and creative foods.
If you want to see the famous changing fall foliage that the Midwest has to offer, Chicago has numerous parks and gardens to visit. Plus, the state of Illinois has countless spectacular spots for fall viewing, which are a short drive out of the city. Grab a van rental for a road trip and really spend some time out in the countryside for the best results.
The Chicago Botanic Garden is a must see with its vibrant perennials and bright red Japanese maples. Filigreed sumacs are another major attraction in this park, which change into a mix of orange, green, and red leaves during the season.
Millenium Park is a famous stop in Chicago and a wonderful place to visit during the fall. Here you can appreciate the bright changing leaves against the backdrop of the city. Douglass Park is another great venue to visit, especially if you want to stay active. In addition to its gorgeous surroundings, the park has gyms, tennis courts, stadiums, and pools. Other memorable parks include Garfield Park Conservatory, Graceland Cemetery, Humboldt Park, Jackson Park, Lincoln Park, and the spectacular Morton Arboretum.
Chicago has plenty else to do while you’re deep in the city. The Art Institute of Chicago and Chicago’s Museum Campus will both provide you with a dose of culture, and Chicago’s famous bike trails will give you fantastic views of Lake Michigan, which is a must in the crisp fall weather.
Finally, a Chicago River cruise is a memorable way to see the city, and the Architecture Cruise ensures that you get unbeatable views of the city’s most iconic buildings. Just make sure you bundle up! It gets cool on the water, and they don’t call Chicago the “Windy City” for nothing.
If you are looking for the ultimate outdoorsy destination, Denver serves as an ideal gateway to some of Colorado’s most memorable sites for viewing fall foliage. In fact, Denver has one of the longest seasons for viewing fall colors in the country, as the city is only a two-hour drive from five different climate zones.
Here is another place that is convenient to get a van rental for a road trip, and then take your time in the countryside. You can visit high elevation mountainous regions like Guanella Pass and the Rocky Mountain National Park for breathtaking hikes and stunning views of the Colorado aspen groves, which offer incredible fall color changes.
Not far are Colorado’s famous resort towns like Vail, Keystone, Beaver Creek, and Winter Park, all of which offer amazing views of the colorful aspen groves. In the foothills, you can find old mining towns like Central City, Black Hawk, and Idaho Springs, which have their share of beautiful fall colors. Golden Gate Canyon State Park is a great place for fall foliage, and here there are amazing views of the Rocky Mountains.
Back in the city are phenomenal bike trails like the Cherry Creek Bike Trail and the South Platte River Bike Trail, where you can bike or walk among vibrant fall colors. The Highline Canal is a great place to visit to see the bright yellow Cottonwood trees. Denver also has over 200 beautiful parks, including the wonderful Washington Park.
After you are done viewing the changing fall foliage, you can get your full dose of culture with the Denver Film Festival, the Denver International Wine Festival, the Denver Arts Week, and numerous other festivals and events. Denver Arts Week is a large multi-event attraction that takes place in early November and features vibrant art walks and free museum viewings. Denver Arts Week also includes the Denver Film Festival, which is a great opportunity to see independent and commercial films from talented filmmakers all over the world. The Denver International Wine Festival is held in early November, and it is a must for wine lovers and foodies.
The nice thing about Portland is that it serves as a convenient mixture between the Denver and Chicago fall travel experiences. Like Denver, Portland is within driving distance of some of the country’s most scenic forests and parks, and the Oregon countryside is the perfect destination for nature-lovers looking to view the changing fall colors.
This is another great jumping-off point if you are planning on a van rental for a road trip. There are countless beautiful destinations surrounding this city. Mt. Hood isn’t much more than 2 hours outside of Portland. The Mt. Hood scenic loop, which conveniently takes you from Portland to Mt. Hood and back, offers amazing views of the fall colors in the Columbia River Gorge. The Deschutes River Trail, a favorite among hikers and bikers, is sure to provide you with your fill of fall foliage.
Silver Falls State Park is only an hour outside of Portland. This park has red alder and vine maple trees everywhere, and all the beautiful fall colors are bordering majestic waterfalls. Turning to Portland itself, the city’s Washington Park contains attractions like Hoyt Arboretum, Portland Japanese Garden, and Pittock Mansion, which have exquisitely maintained gardens with dazzling colors and shapes. In addition to these locations, there are plenty more parks to see fall colors in Oregon.
Portland is similar to Chicago in that the city has a rich gastronomic culture, complete with amazing breweries on just about every corner. There are fall brews so unique that you’ll only find them in Portland, and if you are a fan of cider, you’ll find plenty to like in Portland’s autumn cider scene. Portland has a huge offering of fall events, so don’t be afraid to explore and have fun!
California’s capital city has quite a bit to see and do during the fall. For the history buff, Sacramento is chock full of historic sites of interest, and you can tour the California State Capitol and Museum to witness the state’s political epicenter. There are also plenty of other museums such as the California State Railroad Museum, the Crocker Art Museum, the Sacramento History Museum, and more. If you are looking for a good time, Old Town Sacramento has plenty of great shops, bars, restaurants, ice cream parlors, candy stores, and more.
If you are looking for fall colors, there are plenty of excellent parks in Sacramento where you can find the changing foliage colors of autumn. William Land Park and Southside Park in Sacramento are both incredibly popular for their bright reds, yellows, and oranges.
If you go to any parks in Northern California, you have to make it a priority to go to Yosemite National Park. Yosemite is only about 3 hours outside of Sacramento, and it is well worth the journey. Yosemite has some of the most beautiful vistas in the world, and the fall season is a great time to pass through. Yosemite is mostly evergreen, but it does have big-leaf maples, black oaks, Pacific dogwoods, and other deciduous trees that show their colors in the fall season. Yosemite gets pretty crowded in the summer, so a fall visit will reward you with some peace and quiet while you explore the park’s magnificent attractions.
If you’re considering a van rental for a road trip and traveling with your family and you are looking for a family-friendly fall destination, it doesn’t get much better than Indianapolis. Sure the kids will enjoy the fall foliage for a bit, but eventually, they’re probably going to want a little more stimulation. When the kids start getting antsy, you can bring them to the huge Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, where they can play in the interactive Dinosphere, or you can cart them over to the Rhythm! Discovery Center, where they can bang on some drums all day.
The Dallara IndyCar Factory has racing simulators, and you can ride in a street-legal IndyCar or watch an IndyCar chassis being crafted. There are many other interactive museums, parks, theaters, art centers, zoos, sports centers, and adventure playgrounds, so your kids will never get tired of your fall travels.
For the adults, there are some great beer festivals in the fall, such as the CANvitational festival which celebrates canned beer, the Traders Point Creamery Oktoberfest, and the Annual Original and Fabulous GermanFest and Beer Games. Celebrate Halloween at the Irvington Halloween Festival, which your whole family will love, and don’t miss the Indy Jazz Fest! There are also plenty of great music festivals, film festivals, arts festivals, and much more.
Grab a van rental for a road trip and pile in your family, because there are spectacular fall color destinations all over Indiana. The largest state park in Indiana, Brown County State Park, is just an hour outside of Indianapolis and features amazing fall colors, hiking trails, horse rides, mountain bike trails, and more.
Indiana Dunes State Park is another destination of interest, just 3 hours from Indianapolis. This gorgeous location sits on the south shore of Lake Michigan and features lush, sandy landscapes, beautiful beaches, and stunning fall colors. West Beach is a great spot to hit in Indiana Dunes, and is known for its colorful fall trees.
The University of Notre Dame is a little under 3 hours outside of Indianapolis, and the campus is particularly beautiful during the fall. Guided tours are available, and afterward, you can enjoy the college town restaurants surrounding the campus.
Fall is a time when many Americans are traveling for work, leisure, or to see their family and friends. While seeing the beauty of changing foliage across the country may be reason enough to explore this great nation, let’s not forget all those great fall festivals, delicious foods, and irresistible autumn brews. By visiting the cities and regions that we’ve described, you’ll be able to take advantage of the season’s natural beauty and tour some of the most beautiful places in the world at the perfect time of year.
These locations and fall travel tips are not exhaustive of course, but if you want the perfect combination of outdoor adventure and big city thrill, you can’t go wrong with locations like Chicago, Denver, Portland, Sacramento, and Indianapolis. Fall is also a great time to secure a van rental for a road trip and explore the regions outside of these wonderful cities. Whatever you decide to do, be safe and enjoy the natural splendors of the fall season!
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