14 Fabulous Fall Getaways

In a season book-ended by carefree summer fun and the busyness of the holidays, we love to get away for a few days to savor our kids, our closest friends and our mates. Here are 14 favorite fall getaways -- with input from girlfriends at Family Travel Forum and Traveling Mom. Many thanks to by Eileen Ogintz, columnist at TakingtheKids.com for sharing her insights on autumn vacations.

If you prefer, open up our new Fall Getaways e-zine and leaf through the pages till you find your dream getaway!  

 

1.    Go for a Free Fall Festival

 
With preschoolers, go apple picking or on a hayride. It's easy to find a u-pick farm with our directory of orchards and pumpkin patches near you. As the First Lady explains in my exclusive interview, kids who understand where their food comes from become better and healthier eaters for life.
 
With girlfriends, sample local foods and brews.  In Vermont, the Killington Brewfest Sept 28-30 and others across the countrycommemorate Oktoberfest.  Weekend events in Seattle, San Francisco, Dallas, New York and other fun cities spotlight microbreweries and fall ales.
 
Couples get the chance to get away somewhere new, stay in a romantic Bed & Breakfast and share a memorable experience.   How about watching hot air balloons? There’s the Snowmass Balloon Festival in Colorado Sept 14-16 and the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Oct 6-14.
 
You could head to North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Maine, Vermont or California.  Autumn is the time to harvest some of the many free festivals and discounted hotel rooms offered by small towns across America.  How about Bayfield, Wisconsin or the Wooly Worm Festival in Banner Elk, North Carolina?  Half Moon Bay, California is known for their pumpkin fields and its pumpkin fest.  Here’s what I wrote about a visit to Half Moon Bay.
 
See what Family Travel Forum says about free fall festivals around the country. And check out TravelingMom's most popular feature, Free in the 50 States.
 

2.    Go Leaf Peeking on an Autumn Road Trip

 
With kids, choose road trips within a day’s drive of home.  Family Travel Forum has a state-by state directory of leaf peeper hotlines. It’s not just about looking at the leaves!  Let preschoolers jump in them and make leaf scrapbooks and acorn or pine cone sculptures for school.
 
Girlfriends and couples should follow Audubon to exit the highway and discover beautiful nature destinations in more than 60 cities featured at Exit The Highway.com. Girlfriends can catch up during the road trip; end by a B&B fireplace with a glass of mulled cider. Couples can relax with no set itinerary, lingering over a farm-to-table meal, perusing local galleries and museums.
 
TravelingMom has the scoop on where to find fall colors in the Midwest along with a listing of the best state park lodges in the Midwest.
 

3.    Visit a Mountain Resort: Get in shape before the Snow falls

 
You’ll find lots to do and lodging bargains, making it a great choice whether you're with kids, best buddies or just you two looking for a romantic getaway.
 
Park City, Utah boasts great eats and lodging prices that drop as much as half. Unique activities in fall include rides on the bobsled track used in the 2002 Olympics and aerial ski shows at the Utah Olympic Park.

Check out the Alpine Coaster rides at Park City Mountain Resort. Park City is also the first and only destination to be named a Gold Ride Centerby the International Mountain Biking Association. Here’s what I wrote about learning Park City History.
 
Aspen, Colorado is the place to hike, mountain bike, fly fish and indulge at a spa when hotel rates are as much as 50% off. 

Check out the guided hikes at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, enjoy Yoga on Aspen Mountain and relax with an artisan cocktail at local hot spots like Justin Snow’s. Go for a hike outside of Aspen and reward yourself with lunch at Pine Creek Cookhouse.  Explore the spectacular Maroon Bells hiking trails or the locals’ fave -- Hunter Creek Trail.  Read what I wrote about learning to fly fish recently in Aspen.  
 
Stowe is my favorite Vermont town with the chance to do everything from visit a farmer’s market to Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory, to bike or in-line skate on the 5.3 mile Recreation Path, ride the Alpine Slide, play golf, mini-golf and hike along the Appalachian Trail.  You can stay anywhere from a luxury hotel to a condo to a kid-friendly Bed & Breakfast or a farm.  Burlington is nearby with its terrific Pedestrian Mall and the chance to cruise on Lake Champlain. 

Every autumn during September and October, the super-family-friendly condo complex at Smuggler's Notch offers complimentary family activities for children 6-weeks to 5-years-old, as part of the annual AutumnFest package.

Whether you're thinking Utah, Colorado or Vermont for fall, plan ahead to hit the slopes come winter. For more than 40 years, the team at Ski.com has been helping families, friends and couples find the best values in lodging, lift ticket and equipment rental packages.

Early birds save up to 50% when booking by October 1st.
 
 

4.    Off Season Orlando is at its Best

 
Come fall, score a better hotel deal and avoid the crowds. Check Visit Orlando for the latest deals. The Magicard offers discounts on everything from attractions to accommodations and restaurants. So if you promised the kids a vacation but didn't have the budget this summer, make their wishes come true now.
 
With preschoolers, fall is a great time of year to go -- still warm enough for hotel pools and not nearly as many kids waiting to meet and great characters. Be among the first to experience the Magic Kingdom’s expanding Fantasyland. Check out my new "Kid’s Guide to Orlando" that will be published this fall. 
 
There's a hang gliding adventure for grown-ups (although you can bring the older kids). Girlfriends love Orlando for spas (here’s what I wrote about the Orlando Grande Lakes Ritz Carlton Spa) and shopping, while couples might leave the kids at home and ride the thrillers you can’t do with them.

September is Magical Dining Month which means many of Orlando’s hottest restaurants offer three-course dinner menus for just $30. Many love the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Sept 28-Nov 12.
 
Every Orlando park has new attractions—the water park at LEGOLAND Florida, new parades, shows and the Despicable Me attraction at Universal Orlando, expanded Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World and TurtleTrek at SeaWorld. Here’s what I just wrote about the Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld's TurtleTrek .
 
TravelingMom has a full page of tips for making the most of a family vacation in Orlando and another page that lists free things to do in Orlando.
 

5.    Visit the Caribbean in Fall, before High Season

 
You'll find top values, music festivals, and cheaper flights in shoulder season. Take the whole family for a cultural weekend in Trinidad, Dominican Republic, Jamaica or even Mexico during one of many autumn music and culture festivals. Here’s what Family Travel Forum said about Caribbean fall festivals.
 
With preschoolers, take advantage of special weeks at the Beaches Resorts and other top all-inclusives where the little ones can play in a kids club while adults hit the links, the spa, the courts or the surf.
 
At the all-inclusive Grand Palladium Bavaro in Punta Cana, you can arrange ahead to have diapers and whatever you need waiting for you. In Punta Cana, there are three Grand Palladium resorts that share a new kids’ club that is the largest in the Caribbean.

Girlfriends and couples (and of course teens) will love ATLANTIS. The gargantuan (3,500-room) Paradise Island resort boasts everything from a teen club CRUSH to cooking lessons for kids to interactions with dolphins and sea lions and an expansive Aquaventure Waterpark.

Take advantage of Atlantis' locally sourced wellness and spa treatments (for kids as well as parents), some 40 restaurants and lounges, casinos and the elegant nightlife. Here’s what I wrote about Atlantis.

Instead of taking the kids, opt for a parents getaway or one just for the girls. I’m going to Anguilla with old girlfriends this fall.  Fall is also the height of the Caribbean hurricane season. Don't let that ruin your family vacation plans.

There's a TravelingMom story about how to plan a family vacation around a hurricane and another that lists what to include in a hurricane survival kit
 

6.    Head to Mexico's Top Value Tropical Resorts

You’ll find great deals at Mexico all-inclusives in and around Cancun and along the Riviera Maya, which is still considered a safe place to vacation. Check out the luxe all-inclusive Palace Resorts that offer a $1500 resort credit good for anything like spa treatments, upgraded rooms, tours, golf or more.   They’ve also got a new Family Connections program designed to deliver unique experiences.
 
Those who like history and archeology will be fascinated by visits to ancient Mayan towns, such as Tulum or Coba.  Head to eco-cultural nature and water parks, Xcaret and Xel-Ha, where you can swim with dolphins, drift on crystal-clear underground rivers or enjoy various shows by Mayan performers.

Adventure lovers will enjoy zip-lining, ATV driving or horseback riding in the jungle, and snorkeling or diving in the Caribbean Sea that boasts the world’s second largest coral reef. Here’s what I wrote about the Riviera Maya and Oaxaca.
 

7.    Get outdoors - with or without the kids - in Autumn

 
With preschoolers, being in the great outdoors for even one night is a big adventure. Camping out is great for family weekends, and autumn means perfect weather for hiking and fishing. You don’t have to go far -- your nearest state park is a good bet. 
 
The Appalachian Mountain Club has a variety of kids play and stay and eat free programs at their Cardigan Lodge in New Hampshire, where you can also stay in huts along the Appalachian Trail, giving kids a taste of back packing without lugging all the gear.

Go to Farm Stay U.S. for a directory with over 975 working farms and ranches in all 50 states and U.S. Territories.  Here’s what I wrote about learning sustainability and eating healthy at the Inn at Valley Farms in Walpole, New Hampshire.
 
Grab the tent and go camping for a long weekend or longer. It’s less crowded, cheaper, not so hot as summer. National Public Lands Day is a fee-free entrance day at many federal public lands, including national parks, and this year it takes place September 29th. If you're taking a toddler, check out these tips for camping with little ones.
 
Girlfriends can support each other in reaching new heights; rent the gear you need from REI and take off on foot or mountain bikes.  Couples may want to divide their time between the outdoors and a rustic indoors retreat from Maine (Migis Lodge-- here’s what I wrote about it) to Minnesota (Ludlow’s Island Resort is a family favorite of ours) to California (Montecito Sequoia Lodge with daily kids’ activities.)
 

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