As the temperatures begin to drop, the children head back to school, and everything begins to taste like pumpkin spice; there’s no denying that fall is upon us. So, like us, you’re probably thinking it’s the best time to plan for the next vacation. And there’s no better place to go than America’s East Coast in the fall.
If you’re looking for fall vacation ideas, you’re in the right place! In this guide, we look at seven of the best places to visit in the fall on the East Coast.
You’ll find fall vacations on the East Coast have everything like National Parks, harvest festivals, and of course, fall foliage drives, including a whole section on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is arguably the best driving route for fall foliage in the country.
Best Places to Visit in the Fall on the East Coast
Acadia National Park & Bar Harbor, Maine
Starting this list of the best places to visit in the fall on the East Coast is the wonderful Acadia National Park. As one of the best National Parks on the East Coast, Acadia has unmatched sweeping landscapes.
Visiting Acadia in the fall is the ideal time. It’s when you will find fewer crowds and lower temperatures. The impressive foliage is the major draw for visiting Acadia in the fall. Ranked as one of the best places to see the fall colors in the country, Acadia is one not to miss.
You can choose to hike or drive through this magnificent park, or better yet, do both. The Acadia Scenic Byway (Route 3) takes you around Mt Desert Island and into the quaint Bar Harbor. Driving up Cadillac Mountain is also a must-do for any New England fall bucket list.
Where to Stay: Bar Harbor is the perfect place to stay when visiting Acadia National Park. The proximity is perfect for adventures in nature. It’s also the best place to wind down or take a break, with tons of cute little shops and places to eat.
Pro Tip: The season winds to a close in Acadia in about mid-October. So, if you want to make this fall East Coast getaway, it’s recommended to visit in September or early October.
There’s no better place to experience fall on the East Coast than Boston. As the leaves begin to change and the temperatures start to drop, the city takes on a magical feel.
In the city of Boston, there’s so much to do, making it one of the best places to visit in the fall on the East Coast. You can’t go wrong with filling the itinerary with classic Boston landmarks. Places like Quincy Market, Boston Commons, and walking the Freedom Trail take on a whole new feel surrounded by fall colors.
Autumn in the Boston area is festival time. There are so many to check out, like the South Boston Street Festival and the Greek Fest in Brookline.
As the second largest producer of cranberries, Massachusetts helps us all put the Thanksgiving staple on our tables each year. So why not get into the cranberry pride at the Harwich Cranberry & Arts Festival?
If you’re in the Boston area during the Halloween season, visiting Salem is an absolute must. This notorious town celebrates its notorious past with its annual Haunted Happenings, a series of Halloween-themed events the whole family will love.
Pro Tip: Driving around the Boston area, you’ll be able to see the fall colors abound. But, if you want to really get into it, there are a number of scenic fall East Coast drives in Mass that will have you oohing and ahhing every mile.
With the start of the new school year, many families find a great fall getaway waiting for them in Philadelphia. Steeped in American history, kids and adults alike love learning about the country’s past in the city of brotherly love.
There’s nothing quite like seeing their history books come to life at the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in Philadelphia. No wonder Philadelphia is one of the great fall vacation ideas for families.
Animal lovers will have the most fun visiting the Philadelphia Zoo and the city’s Adventure Aquarium. If you’re worried about what to do on a day when the weather isn’t the greatest, don’t worry! Places like the Please Touch Museum (perfect for kids 0-8 years old) and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University are perfect solutions for the entire family.
Where to Stay: There are a bunch of places to stay right in the heart of Philly, making it one of the best places to visit in the fall on the East Coast:
Pro Tip: No tickets are required to see the Liberty Bell, but they are required for Independence Hall but buying tickets online in advance is easy.
Visiting the nation’s capital is one of the best places to visit in the fall, especially if you’re traveling with kids.
From September through November, you’ll avoid the scorching temps DC experiences in the summertime. Instead, the weather will be pleasant and cool, making it easy to stroll from one monument to the next.
There are so many things to see and do throughout the entire city. One of the best places to start is the National Mall. Here you’ll find a bunch of museums where admission is free, and no tickets are required. Definitely check out the National Gallery of Art, National Museum of American History, and the National Museum of the American Indian.
The city is bustling with energy, restaurants, and nightlife. You can enjoy eating and shopping in the historic Georgetown neighborhood, or head to U Street for some of the coolest places around.
Where to Stay: There are tons of places to choose from when it comes to spending the night in DC. The city’s Metro makes it easy to hop around town no matter where you choose to be even if it’s in the surrounding towns like Arlington, VA or Silver Spring, MD.
Colonial Williamsburg, VA
A visit to Colonial Williamsburg is one of the most memorable events for Americans. There’s no better time to experience this historic town than in the fall. It’s when the summer heat has subsided and fun harvest festivities are in full swing.
It’s so much fun to step back in time in Colonial Williamsburg. Everyone will love interacting with the interpreters and seeing how things were made in the 18th century. You can even eat food made from recipes of the time. Yum!
November is American Indian Heritage Month and it’s a special time in Colonial Williamsburg. You’ll learn about American Indians in Williamsburg and how they influenced the community.
On both Constitution Day and Veterans Weekend, Colonial Williamsburg hosts special events and performances, making it one of the best places to visit in the fall on the East Coast.
If you loved your time in Colonial Williamsburg and are looking for even more historical fun, consider visiting Jamestown and Yorktown too. The 23-mile Colonia Parkway connecting the Historic Triangle is one of the scenic fall drives in Virginia.
Pro Tip: If you’re planning to visit Colonial Williamsburg for more than just one day, consider getting a multi-day ticket–a major money saver.
Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina
Beginning at the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, this special road takes one of the most scenic fall drives all the way down to the Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Covering 469 miles, it may seem like a long drive. But in the fall, it’s worth every mile.
True, the beauty is in the drive along the majestic mountains, but you should schedule some time in each of the two national parks. Each has so much to offer a family in the way of outdoor adventure, historical sights, and natural beauty.
Leaf-peepers love the Blue Ridge Parkway because the fall foliage season is extraordinarily long. That’s right, because of the elevation changes, you’re likely to see colors from mid-September well into November.
Everyone in the family will love the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are so many opportunities to venture into the wilderness on hikes, explore quaint towns like Little Switzerland and simply pull off at an overlook to take in the view. Don’t miss walking the Mile High Swinging Bridge at Grandfather Mountain or hike the Humpback Rocks.
Asheville, NC is a favorite of any fall vacation on the East Coast. Lucky for us, it’s part of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Where to Stay: All along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll find places to stay from campsites like Mt. Pisgah Campground, to quaint bed and breakfasts such as the Fox Hill B&B in Fairfield, VA. Better yet, get the full Blue Ridge Parkway Experience by staying at the historic Little Switzerland Inn.
Pro Tip: Shenandoah National Park requires everyone to have an Entrance Pass. If you want to hike Old Rag make sure to get your Day-Use ticket for that too. It’s easy to buy both before your trip on the nps.gov website.
Pro Tip: Although no entrance pass is required for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a new Parking Fee Program began on March 1, 2023.
Coastal Highway (Route 17), Virginia to Florida
One of the absolute best fall vacations on the East Coast is driving Coastal Highway (Route 17), stretching from Virginia to Florida. Now, you may not be up for traveling the entire 1,200+ miles of the road. But you can pick different sections of the Coastal Highway that make for some of the best fall getaways on the East Coast.
You’ll love exploring the southern shores of the East Coast in the fall on the Coastal Highway. With cooler temperatures, it’s easy to spend the day walking the sandy beaches, exploring the coastal towns, and enjoying the wildlife in parks and refuges. It also means you’ll avoid the summer’s massive crowds.
The Coastal Highway runs through major destinations like Myrtle Beach and Charleston in South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. In Florida, Route 17 connects with Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and even Orlando inland.
As you can imagine, there are endless possibilities along the Coastal Highway. Your entire family will agree it’s one of the best places to visit in the fall on the East Coast.
Top Tips For Places to Visit in the Fall on the East Coast
- Seeing the leaves change color is a key to some of the best places to visit in the fall.
- Individual states in New England post their own yearly foliage maps, like New Hampshire, and Virginia while others are done by region, like Blue Ridge Mountains.
- The Farmers Almanac uses historical data to predict the foliage schedule
- If a National Park is part of your plan for one of the fall getaways on the East Coast, make sure to keep up-to-date on alerts and conditions on the NPS.gov website. An example is this one for the Shenandoah National Park.
- No matter where you’re headed on the East Coast in the fall, it’s important to stay up to date on road conditions. Here are some to help ensure your fall East Coast drives are hassle-free:
- Fall on the East Coast is also hurricane season in the southern states. Running through the end of November, it’s important to keep an eye on any potential disruptions to your fall vacation on the East Coast.
© Family Road Trip