In case you haven’t heard, the Pumpkin Spice Latte is back at Starbucks, and we all know what that means: It’s officially fall. With Labor Day behind us, we look forward to the crisp, cool fall days that lie ahead and all the seasonal activities that go along with them.
There’s simply so much to love about fall! It’s the season to go apple picking, make pumpkin pie, see the foliage, have a harvest feast, put on your flannel shirt, and sip on your favorite fall brew. No matter where you are in the country, there’s something you can do in the fall that you can’t do any other time of year. Still, some cities are absolutely enchanting in the fall, and you’ve got ample autumn holidays and three-day weekends to explore them. My favorite places to visit in the fall are New England, San Francisco, and Chicago because of all of the fabulous fall attractions.
New England is probably the most popular fall destination, and for good reason. Boston and its surrounding areas seem like they’re made for fall. So what Boston fall attractions should you visit? I hardly know where to start!
In the fall, New England is full of leaf-peepers coming to see the stunning foliage as the many deciduous trees catch fire with red, yellow, and orange leaves. Whether you hang around Boston and stroll through the Arboretum and the Boston Common or head out further from the city, the colors of autumn are everywhere. Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket are also great places to visit in fall. The autumn scenery collides with the coastal landscape and festivals, fairs, and farmers markets are bountiful. So take a Provincetown Ferry out to the Cape’s most beloved town, enjoy the freedom of a Cape Cod bike rental, or hop on board the boat to Nantucket.
Back in the city, there’s no shortage of Boston fall attractions to fill your itinerary. Take a tour of Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, during playoff season, see what happens behind the scenes at Sam Adam’s Brewery (and take home some of their infamous Octoberfest craft beers), or discover Boston’s Freedom Trail during the city’s best season for walking tours.
Have Halloween on the mind? Head outside the Hub to the city of Salem, Massachusetts, known for the witch trials of 1692. With sights like the Salem Witch Museum and the House of the Seven Gables, the town has become quite the tourist attraction. Come here in October and you’ll see that no one does Halloween like Salem.
Then, come November, take a trip back in time with a visit to Plimoth Plantation, a 100-acre re-created community of American colonial civilization and Native American life. When Thanksgiving rolls around, you can even enjoy a feast (complete with colonial-era meal offerings and costumed period actors) just like the first settlers did. After dinner, stroll over to the Wampanoag Huts and learn the real history of the Native Americans of Massachusetts from descendants of the Wampanoag tribe.
Without a doubt, autumn is the best time to visit San Francisco. The fog of the summer has rolled on through (along with the crowds), but the days are warm, sunny, and clear. It’s the perfect time of year for outdoor recreation, walking tours, and, of course, to experience the delicious fall harvest (wine tour, anyone?).
San Francisco fall attractions are many and varied. Take a your of the city on one of the famed San Francisco trolley cars, and enjoy the many sights, which include Pier 41, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, Little Italy, and the Golden Gate Bridge (just to name a few). While we’re on the topic, take advantage of autumn’s decrease in tourists to explore the Golden Gate Bridge up close. Cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge with a San Francisco bike rental, or enjoy the view from the water on the Golden Gate Bay Cruise.
Discover the paradise that awaits in Napa Valley and Sonoma with a Wine Country Tour just as the grape harvest begins in September and October. Winery tours and complimentary tastings are part of the experience, and the idyllic wine country scenery will have you wondering why you’d ever leave!
Like New England, Chicago’s foliage is a sight to be seen—from neighborhood to neighborhood, the fall leaves seem to transform with the backdrop, so wherever you go it’s like you’re seeing something completely new! For some of the best scenery, head to the Chicago Botanical Garden or take a stroll around Millennium Park.
Fall in Chicago is respite between the sweltering hot summers and brutally cold winters, which means it’s also the best time be outdoors. It’s your last chance for the season to enjoy the Architectural River Cruise along the Chicago River or a Skyline Lake Tour with stunning views of the skyline. And before Navy Pier shuts down its seasonal attractions, take a ride on the Ferris wheel or an old fashioned swing ride at the Navy Pier Amusement Park.
Looking for more Chicago fall attractions? Don’t you worry: Fall is Chicago’s favorite season for fairs and festivals. From pumpkin decorating to day drinking, fall festivals in Chicago have something for everyone. Oktoberfest is huge in Chicago, and as a tribute to the city’s German-American immigrant heritage, dozens of Oktoberfest events span the months of September and October. Many of the events are quite family friendly, so bring the kids along!