Fabulous Fall Getaways

Escaping from the everyday during fall is one of travel's greatest secret pleasures: the perfect climate, right ratio of visitors to locals, meals that celebrate the harvest bounty, and off season prices that make it truly affordable.

The harvest is also a good reminder that not every family is as fortunate. During September, you can help feed others with the Dine Out for No Kid Hungry campaign, which is collecting donations from more than 7,000 nationwide chain restaurants including Tommy Bahama, Baja Fresh, Arby's, Applebee's as well as local eateries. Using their online map, find a restaurant near home or on your travels which supports No Kid Hungry and dine there; remember even one dollar can provide 10 meals, and the map details exactly what the promotion is at every participating restaurant.

With frequent school and work breaks for the Jewish holidays, Columbus Day, Halloween, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving, there's plenty of opportunity to take advantage of resort, tour and airfare discounts. So, whether you take a break with the kids, plan a rejuvenating girlfriends getaway, or want to slip away with your partner for some "we" time, here are our favorite fall getaways, researched with TakingtheKids.com, to tempt you.
 



Fun Fall Festivals Celebrate the Change of Seasons

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Hilton Sandestin
Breckenridge Fall Festivals
Theme Park Tickets
Puerto Vallarta Vacations
Omni Hotel Savings
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Fall Camping Spots
Phoenix Resort
Family All-Inclusive
Howloween!
Visit the Space Coast
New York in Autumn
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September's the time to go apple picking and bring home a few bushels, so kids can learn healthy eating and invent new fruit and vegetable recipes. Hop on a hayride to search for just the right pumpkin in mid-October. It's easy to find a u-pick farm with our directory of orchards and pumpkin patches near you and make it an overnight adventure. 

Our ancestors began the tradition of free fall festivals around the country and we love them. When the aspen turns a pale gold, it's value season in the Rockies. Start celebrating early at the Breckenridge, Colorado Oktoberfest in mid-September, where Paulaner and local Breckenridge Brewery ales are served late into the nights. (Local families like to drop in Friday and Sunday afternoon.) September 18-21 marks the annual Breckenridge Festival of Film, with its own children's screenings. This year's program includes a fun short called, "I Need My Monster" created by the class of 2014 at the prestigious University of Colorado's Digital Animation Center. A few weeks later, there's a day devoted to the pre-Halloween Family Fun Fest (think caramel apples and pumpkin carving) in the Riverwalk Center. Put the kids away to join the very popular Craft Spirits Festival (October 24-26) held in many of the town's historic pubs; more Breck Festival info here.

Autumn is the time to harvest some of the many free festivals and discounted hotel rooms offered by small towns across America. For two weekends (September 20-21, October 4-5), the foothills of the Berkshires in Massachusetts and Litchfield County, Connecticut offer 50+ free, guided Housatonic Heritage tours that cover historic gardens and estates, canoeing on the Housatonic River, bike trails, behind the scenes at local farms and more. 

From short to long and rough to posh, there's something for everyone. Go to the Cranberry Festival September 26-28 on the island of NantucketTybee Island, a quirky beachtown off the coast of Savannah, Georgia that's considered one of the best beaches for kids on the east coast, goes full Pirate October 9-12 with a costumed Pirate Victory Parade, Little Matey's Cove, Thieves Market, and kids' activities such as a petting zoo and Ferris wheel; under 12s welcome free. That same weekend, Oceanside, California marks the annual Harbor Days with arts'n'craft exhibits, live music, a sand castle competition, beauty pageant, Tiki Swim and more.

The 15th annual North American Wife Carrying Championship (October 11) pits couples against each other on a 278-yard obstacle filled track at Sunday River, Maine's Fall Festival.The tranquil Mission San Luis Rey is the center of action on Dia de los Muertos celebrated October 26, 2014 in the Mexican tradition.



Oktoberfest Has Become a National Pastime

Everyone can enjoy Oktoberfest, that German ritual that dates to the 1810 wedding of Bavarian King Ludwig whose five-day party was such a hit that it was repeated for years afterward. In Germany, a whole month showcases local beers with Oktoberfest family events and community dinners where kids are always welcome.

Several towns with German heritage celebrate in the US, tops among them being Oktoberfest Zinzinnati (September 19-21) which draws 500,000 Samuel Adams fans to Cincinnati for the Running of the Weiners dachshund races. The 33rd annual New Ulm Oktoberfest Minnesota, which takes place in several venues over the first two weekends in October, features both local brews and wines.

Lots of Germans in Texas will join residents at the 33rd annual Galveston Island Oktoberfest, which is three packed days of family events, rodeo and 4H activities, beer sampling, ooompah bands and high steppin'.



Fall is for Watching Leaves Change, and Camping

Everyone loves to see the leaves change. Our state-by state directory of leaf peeper hotlines guarantees you'll find the peak colors and in states you never even thought of.
 
With kids, choose road trips within a day's drive of home and break up your trip with plenty of fun stops. Bring zip-loc bags so you can collect different leaf species, nuts and pine cones for art projects. Bring non-toxic Elmer's glue to press flowers and scrapbook any tourist brochures or menus you find. Have a scavenger hunt on a hike to see how many different kinds of leaves you can find.

Camping out is a great activity for fall weekends, and autumn means perfect weather for hiking and fishing.  Whether you're with friends or family, novices don't have to go far ó your nearest state park is a good bet. There's nothing like a bed of newly fallen leaves to make tent camping as comfy as home, but many of the more than 400 KOA campgrounds in the US and Canada also have RV space or rental cottages -- so you can go as rough or as rustic as you want. Campgrounds like the one in Lena, Illinois with its heated pool and rental tipi; and Buckeye Lake, Ohio with its own doggy playpark; have free Halloween activities including pumpkin painting, costume parties, and trick or treating each weekend in October. If you're taking a toddler, check out these tips for camping with little ones. We like printing out and carrying this guide to Wilderness Activities from the National Park Service because it keeps schoolage kids productive, too.
 
Fall is the ideal time of year to tour the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. With trails that are easily accessible to the very young and the less fit, and even some that accommodate wheelchairs, it's a great place to explore with three generations. Be sure to pack a flashlight for your peek into Cobb Cave.



Harvest the Tastes and Trails of Autumn

The towns of Gunnison and Crested Butte talk about the "Gold Rush" when autumn arrives because it's the favorite season for dining around town, and hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding on the trails of the Crested Butte ski mountain and surrounding areas. September Splendor in the Rockies is a month-long celebration for foodie couples, beginning September 20th with the Crested Butte Chili & Beer Festival, followed by the Vinotok Fall Harvest Festival. (You can work off all the calories.)  In addition to the Crested Butte Film Festival, there are First Friday of the month art walks, Sunday farmers' markets, and weekend stargazing at the Gunnison Valley Observatory, ideal for all ages.

Kick off the festival season September 13 just south of Houston, Texas at the annual Pearland International Festival, where the region's Mexican residents mix it up with the world in a fun Kids Zone, Jalapeno Eating Contest and Car Show -- accompanied of course by good food, music and shopping.  Still hungry? Head to Killen's BBQZagat's pick for 12th "Most Important Barbecue Joints in Texas."

Upstate New York is all about romance in fall. Set off fireworks with your partner (Friday and Sunday nights through November 30th) at a natural wonder like Niagara Falls before the winter freeze sets in. The 400 acres of Niagara Falls State Park are also a great vantage point for changing leaves and the huge waterfalls. Tour Niagara County's Wine Trail -- local vintages are best sipped and sampled with a Vino Visa Passport ($30) which guarantees free tastings, gifts and coupons. The Niagara region has many other free attractions, ranging from a Senecca Indian Reservation to a Jello Museum, working farms and more.
 
Girlfriends can support each other in reaching new heights on a hot air balloon ride, or an organized bike, horseback or canoe trip in the California wine country. After their surprise earthquake in August, Napa County especially welcomes visitors.  The Sonoma County Harvest fair running October 3-5 promises plenty of wine and microbrew tastings. Prices are significantly lower than in summer and children are able to tour vineyards and wineries everywhere. Borrow some gear from the boys, or rent what you need from REI to take off on foot or mountain bikes or on a memorable road trip tour of the vineyards during harvest time. 

Talk about the harvest season, you haven't seen bounty till you've toured Champaign, Illinois, an aggie enclave  just two hours from Chicago but a world away from city life.  At the Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, goat-keepers raise adorable kids, whip up goat's milk gelato and tailor farm tours to ages 3 and up. At the Curtis Orchard & Pumpkin Patch, there's apple cider donuts, fresh lunch and pie served daily till Halloween; and seasonal corn mazes, pony rides, face painting and more family fun. Before the snow falls, nearby Hardy's Reindeer Ranch hosts a 10-acre corn maze where you can get lost by moonlight. Enjoy reindeer feeding (they like graham crackers) from November 15 through the holidays. Throughout the year, the University of Illinois runs a Pollinatarium that explains the role of bees, and on October 5th, holds a free Veterinary Medicine Open House where visitors (and prospective students) can watch animals being cared for.



Breathe Deep, Get Fit at Mountain Resorts Before Snow Falls

Travelers who love the mountain resorts when there's no snow on the ground will appreciate all the fit fun in the Rockies, whether you're with kids, gal pals, those frat buddies or a significant other.

From September 18-21 in Aspen, Colorado, join the 47th annual Ruggerfest, the world's only all-age, full-contact rugby tournament. Be there on the 27th for the famous Golden Leaf Half Marathon from Snowmass Village to Aspen, cited by Trail Runner magazine as one of the most beautiful in the country. Luckily for kids with shorter legs, the Aspen Mountain Gondola to the peak provides access to great food, great views and a disc golf course at an altitude of 11,212 feet, every weekend through October 5. Three nights for the price of two specials give you time to hike to views of the Maroon Bells, Cathedral Lake and Crater Lake; learn to fly fish, or drive Maroon Creek Road, Castle Creek Road and Independence Pass for the peak leaf peeping.

Outdoor adventurers love the Angel Fire mountain resort in New Mexico because of its awesome Bike Park, whose summit chair lift takes mountain bikers (and spectators) above the glimmering aspen in late September. Through October 12, get 2.5 hours of prime foliage viewing via their Canopy Zipline Tour -- if you can keep your eyes open!

Sugarbush Resort in Warren, Vermont is a popular snowsports resort that takes advantage of the Green Mountains’ famous foliage pre-snow. In addition to fine dining, you can play golf on a course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., try disc golf, hike with your dog on as much of the Long Trail as you want and, on weekends and holidays through Columbus Day, hop a chairlift to the top of Gadd Peak (also the goal of mountain bikers.) Fall family activities include free culinary demonstrations, ziplining, an inflatable obstacle course, Family Oktoberfest October 12, and a Glow Golf Halloween Party.

Take 30% off this fall at a historic mountain resort like the Omni Mount Washington (or the more romantic Omni Bretton Arms Inn) in New Hampshire, or at one of 60 other mountain, beach or city Omni hotels. As part of its Healthy Traveler initiative, Omni's brand nutritionist Chef Forberg (also on NBC's "The Biggest Loser") suggests that travelers pack high-protein trail mix or whole grain cereals for the journey, and look for an apple with a cheese stick, or a turkey sandwich, if you need takeout meals for the whole family. Even with young kids, make a fitness plan for each day and take advantage of your hotel's workout or pool facilities. These resorts have easy access to Bretton Woods, the state's largest ski area, with foliage watching, hiking, mountain biking and trout fishing in the White Mountains.



Fall for Tropical Resorts or Go Tropical Close to Home 

Maybe you aren't ready to give up summer. You'll find top values, music festivals on the major Caribbean islands, and cheaper flights in the shoulder season between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. Take the whole family for a long weekend in Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands -- no passports are required, saving you over $100 per person right there. Fall is cheaper, but it is also the height of the Caribbean hurricane season. Make sure to get travel insurance to cover non-refundable airfare, and check what kind of hurricane safety plan the hotel has in place. 

 

At Beaches Resorts in the Caribbean, they're celebrating the 10th anniversary of a wonderful partnership with Sesame Street with an autumnfull of special kids events. Little ones can join Bert and Ernie for Puppet Making, dance at Glow Band Beach Parties, and watch as visiting artists from the Sesame Street Arts Workshop do chalk drawings of everyone's favorite characters on the resort's sidewalks. With three locations in Turks & Caicos and Jamaica (coming to Barbados and Antigua), these classy all-inclusives keep everyone in the family busy: waterparks, video gaming, Scratch DJ Academy and teen nightclub, kids camps, certified nannies for baby, a spa and butler service for you. Save up to 65% off and receive up to $355 in instant air credit with Beaches fall packages.

The resort of Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico's Pacific coast, surrounds a gold sand beach and calm, pristine bay, but there's much more to do than just flop n'drop. Families can take advantage of the autumn shoulder season to study Spanish together (at the local Spanish Abroad Inc), take cooking classes, make Mexican crafts (at the Centro Cultural Cuale and the Westin Hotel's kids program) or explore eco-friendly activities. Assist with the local Sea Turtle Release Program, help stray pets at the SPCA Puerto Vallarta, encounter sea lions on a boat tour, and zipline through the tropical canopy at Las Caletas. The great nightlife and food scene also make it a romantic getaway for couples. On September 16, join us for a #discoverPV Twitter Party and enter to win a three-night family vacation at the Costa Sur Resort & Spa.

But you really don't need to go that far to feel tropical.

You can play at the pool, day and night, at the dozen Great Wolf Lodge indoor waterpark resorts, even if snow is piling up outside. Year-round, kids will have a blast at the pajama-clad story time, crafts activities, in the North Woods themed Cub Den suites and play rooms. Special for fall, the not- so-scary Howloween during October features a Trick- or-Treat Trail, costume parades and spooky evening stories starring the mascot Wiley the Wolf. The New England Great Wolf Lodge in Massachusetts, their newest, is the perfect place to enjoy the foliage too.

We hosted our annual TMS Family Travel Summit in Phoenix, Arizona where autumn brings warm sunny days and cool starry nights - perfect for introducing baby to the outdoors. We found the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort a great family choice because all rooms are suites (many connect), and right on site are easy hiking trails, a four-acre waterpark with lazy river, a minigolf course and a few good restaurants. Close your eyes and it could Jamaica! Weekends there's lots going on, from hoedowns to camp fires, and rates for their Fall Family Special begin at $169/night.



Summer Never Ends during Florida's Autumn Season

The towns throughout Florida, the most visited state in the Union according to D.K. Shifflet, have many different personalities, but they all have in common great weather.

Pack your bathing suits for the sugar white sands and emerald waters of the Hilton Sandestin on Florida's Panhandle Gulf coast. The Sunset to Summer Package is valid September 1-October 31. With a two-night minimum stay, families (or just the two of you) can take advantage of four championship golf courses, the resort's seven restaurants, spa and, if you've got the kids, family suites. For $301/night (a $75 savings) you'll get a daily beach setup, breakfast at their Sandcastles Restaurant (kids 5 and under eat free) and free WiFi; call 800/559-1805 and mention code "P5" to book.

For an unforgettable ecotourism encounter, head north to Homosassa Springs for the chance to swim with manatees or study them up close in a special aquarium.  These "sea cows" as the enormous, gentle creates are known, live in the Springs' unusual mix of salt and fresh water, in an area protected by the state's Department of Environmental Conservation. They are most numerous from the late fall through February so plan a visit before the snowbirds arrive.

In Florida’s Space Coast, the 72 miles of beach that is home to Kennedy Space Center, the surfers in Cocoa Beach and cruise ships at Port Canaveral, visitors have lots of reasons to leave their beach towels. Explore the more than 250 square miles of wildlife refuge by airboat; paddleboard past bird and sea turtle nesting areas; canoe or zipline over mangrove. During the fall festival season, hotel rooms start at only $59/night. October 4-5, the Melbourne International Airport hosts the Air Force Thunderbirds and other civilian air acts, while the Arts & Algorithms digital arts fest (October 3-12) illuminates Titusville. After Thanksgiving, admire the KSC International Space Station-themed Christmas tree and start your holiday season at infinity and beyond.

With preschoolers, friends and significant others, fall is a great time of year to head east to Orlando. During the Magical Deal month of September, more than 150 hotel, themepark, attraction and restaurant offers become available -- many at up to 50% off. Follow what's new on Visit Orlando or at #magicaldeals on twitter. Eileen Ogintz' Kid's Guide to Orlando suggests that fall is still warm enough for hotel pools. Adults and older kids love the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, when tasting samples are served at 25 global marketplaces and there are nightly concerts. Epcot draws a much more sophisticated crowd between September 19th and November 10th, making it a great option with grown kids.



Fall for City Getaways and Urban Short Breaks

Now's the time to explore city neighborhoods, see a new museum exhibit or a new play, check out the hottest restaurants or shop till you drop at pre-Black Friday sales. Trouble is, a lot of people agree with you and can drive hotel prices up. The world's top hotel price comparison site, trivago, searches more than 200 sites to find the best rates at over 700,000 hotels around the world. These big data nerds have a great online Hotel Price Index (tHPI) that shows the average overnight accommodation prices for the most popular American and foreign cities - for each month of the year - giving vacation planners a reliable indicator of rates for an upcoming trip.

Tampa, Florida is one of those cities with so many family attractions and watersports that it feels more like a vacation destination than a busy hub of health care, finance and agriculture. In fact at one of our favorite restaurants, Elevage in the Epicurean Hotel, kids can see lettuce and tomatoes grow on the lobby greenwall. Use the newest Tampa Bay CityPASS, a discounted ticket book, to explore the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and catch a show of Winter's sequel,"Dolphin Tale 2" and "Friends of Winter & Hope Testimonials/Stories Friends of Winter & Hope." Tampa's other top family attractions are covered by CityPASS at 39% off the regular admission: the sophisticated African animal collection at Busch Gardens Tampa (don't miss seeing how Howl-o-Scream transforms Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay and Williamsburg, Virginia), the very impressive Florida Aquarium, Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo where kids can visit a manatee hospital, and your choice of the Chihuly Collection presented by the Morean Arts Center or the fun Museum of Science & Industry. 

Some big cities don't have that big city feel, especially if you have to sightsee by car. But that shouldn't stop you from taking the kids to San Jose, California. This fall, the epicenter of the tech industry is the place to base yourselves for our Top 10 Places in Silicon Valley geek tour. If this vacation doesn't  inspire young engineers, it may prompt you to change careers. And there are always lots of festivals and free events, including those at the UC San Jose campus.

Girlfriends and couples seeking fine art, fine food, superb spas and an intense arts scene should check out Santa Fe with its wonderful galleries, history (it's over 400 years old) and  20 spas to choose from. After the hot summer winds die down New Mexico becomes the ideal road trip destination, with chili pepper harvest, Native American reservations and high desert trails around every bend in the road.



Do Fall Travel Smart and Learn Something

Are you an emptynester with extra time and funds to travel, or parents of a recent grad who will begin their own lives soon? This fall is your time for a great adventure, perhaps a small ship cruise where you can learn something about the world, make new friends and scratch that travel itch. We like the portfolio at Adventuresmith Explorations because they focus on small ships heading to wonderful places. During the fall shoulder season - if you book early -- you can save up to 25% on end of year Antarctica routes, Galapagos discoveries, and a variety of intriguing itineraries in little known areas of the Amazon, Sea of Cortez, Hawaii, Mekong and the Pacific Northwest. Best yet for last minute planners, they keep an eye on cancellations for Christmas-New Year holiday cruises and may have space for you and yours.

Since 1975, Road Scholar has been leading travelers 50+ on learning adventures, with 5,500 escorted tours to every state and 150 countries. Some are just for seniors, some are multigenerational, all are top value and highly rated because of Elderhostel's dedication to learning through travel.  Solo travelers may appreciate a Bridge Playing Tour instead of a rugged hike up the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu; if grandparents are leading, the new cultural trips to Cuba may be more your style. Check out RoadScholar.org for more information on their huge variety of tours for all tastes.

Want kids to enjoy learning vacations without being in the "back to school" mindset? Take advantage of the off-season to plan a mid fall break at the national parks, after the crowds are gone. You certainly will have an easier time getting a room at Yellowstone or Yosemite than in mid-summer, but there are 395 more national parks to choose from, and there's something special about each of them, especially if you're traveling with kids. NPS runs a terrific Junior Ranger program at almost every park, enabling 800,000 kids (mostly ages 5-13) to take tours, complete assignments and get badges last year. 

If your children have chosen a gap year in their education, or if you've got willing pals, a special companion or want to go it alone, there's no better opportunity for a volunteer vacation. Ways to give back range from wildlife tracking to guided archeological digs, to house building in every corner of the world or right near home. You can clear hiking trails, ride the sloop Clearwater to test the water quality in the Hudson River, or volunteer to help children in South Africa or Thailand or Cambodia learn to read.
 

Big Kids Back to School: Campus Visits & College Touring

Like the sound of historic attractions, major sports and great music, but "urban getaway" sounding too rigorous? Head to a college town, the place for one-on-one time with your high school junior or senior or an all-in-the-family multigenerational affair. If you're the aunt or uncle who takes a teen for campus tours, the good news is that there are lots of fun things to do whether you are heading to a small college town or a major university hub.

Start by booking college tours, then do your homework about fun local events. Don't assume your kids would never be interested in a certain school; resources like UniGo help kids find the right fit with directories like "Never Lock Your Door," "Best Bang for your Buck," "No Last Call" or "The New Ivies." Trust us, they'll have an opinion!

Did you know more than a quarter of New York State tourism occurs during the fall? That's because the state's wide variety of microclimates provide great leaf peeking and harvest activities. If you go to the 42nd floor observatory at the Corning Tower in Albany, you can see the fall foliage in four states, as well as the campuses of nine colleges and Rennselaer Polytech - easily toured with a simple what's-near-this-college online tool.  Base yourselves in Albany, where the New York State Museum has permanent displays on the New York City subway, 9/11, and a historic carousel; the comprehensive show, "Shakers, America's Quiet Revolutionaries" arrives in November. Albany boasts the historic Jack's Oyster House (order Lobster Newburg) in the center of downtown's renaissance, and is a great base to explore the Adirondacks and Cooperstown when you're done with the college business at hand.

We like Bloomington, where Indiana University has 45,000 students tucked into an 1,800-acre campus. There's always a local arts event like the Lotus World Arts & Music Festival (September 18-21), when artists from all over come to town to share free live performances or shows at the Artists Village. At any time, bundle up your teens and hop the great public transit system to visit Kirkwood Avenue and the Entertainment District so they get a sense of the extra-curricular scene. Stay in the heart of campus at the charming Biddle Hotel in the Indiana Memorial Union, a huge student center with shops, theaters and restaurants. Economy doubles start at $95 per night, but there are many chain motels from $45.
 
Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, is also a great town to visit at any time of year. If your family is drawn to arts and culture, Ann Arbor is home to several terrific museums (two on the university campus are excellent and free of charge), dozens of galleries plus a rich offering of performing arts. If you are a sports enthusiast, you can watch a football game at "the Big House," the largest college stadium in the country. Not to mention dining at Blimpy Burger or touring the Jiffy Mix plant in Chelsea, nearby.  

Remember, don't try to cram too many schools in to one visit ó and certainly no more than two a day. Ask your teen to keep notes or shoot some video on their phone or tablet; otherwise, they all start to look the same.



Families with Special Challenges have Custom-Made Options

 If you thought you couldn't travel because someone in your family has special challenges, think again. Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports, New England Disabled Sports at Loon Mountain, New Hampshire; The National Ability Center in Park City, Utah; and in Colorado, Challenge Aspen, Breckenridge Outdoor Education and the National Sports Center for the Disabled, design many different outdoors programs for children with special challenges and their families. Summer programs such as kayaking and hiking continue through fall and, thanks to the work of so many volunteers, fees are usually on a sliding scale to accommodate a family's budget.

Physical disabilities don't have to hamper fall fun. In Janesville, Wisconsin, historic home of the Parker Pen company where more than 20% of the buildings are on the National Historic Register, the Camden Playground in Palmer Park is a fully accessible funland with a wading pool, set among 164 acres of trails. Everyone in the family will like this cute town's free, weekend Historic Walking Tours which morph into eerie Cemetery Tours in October. Show the kids gravestones dating back to the 1700s and how to use a divining rod to find unmarked graves. Every Saturday, the Haunted Train puffs back to life; after dark it's an adults only ride of terror.  

Los Cabos Adventures runs deep sea fishing charters and boating excursions in Baja California on a fully accessible boat designed for those in wheelchairs.

Autism on the Seas helps arrange vacations on land and sea for families with Autism, Aspergers Syndrome and other developmental disabilities. Despite the controversy about recent changes in its policy towards guests on the autism spectrumWalt Disney World and Disneyland make many accommodations for those with disabilities. If you're coping with dietary needs or food allergies, Family Travel Forum's guide to Dining at Theme Parks shows you the healthy alternatives.



Haunted Houses and Halloween Festivities

Halloween has morphed into one of the year's biggest holiday periods, with families traveling near and far to experience haunted houses, spooky festivals and gruesome gourmet delights. Whether you want to parade in your neighborhodd, enjoy (suffer through?) an evening of fright at a theme park, go trick or treating at your zoo, or a stay at a haunted B&B there are lots of Halloween options, many close to home and some across the country.

Local attractions like the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, Utah and the over 200-year-old Destrehan Plantation outside New Orleans, Louisiana use Halloween to highlight their history. Our family took the fascinating tour at this sugar plantation owned by a French nobleman who became a New Orleans political figure, and besides teaching the kids about the Louisiana Purchase and the manor's ghosts, your admission goes towards their preservation.
 
Perhaps there's no greater Halloween action than at theme parks. While fall may be a less busy time of year, there's never enough time in any mom's day. While fall may be a less busy time at themeparks, there’s never enough time in any mom’s day. That’s why we love this ticket discounter who claims they can save us 4 hours with their new Undercover Tourist website. We can buy tickets online quickly and save a half hour waiting in line at the Orlando and California parks. Check. We can read their tips on how to make the lines seem shorter and that saves at least a half hour of anxiety. Their really helpful Crowd Calendars can save another 2 hours per park day. And if we use their Wait Times App that can easily save another hour; I’m convinced that this is really the way to go, especially for the Halloween events. Getting up to 50% off car rental rates is cool, too.

Orlando has you covered with big discounts at seven Downtown Disney hotels where rates begin at $69/night during the season of DisneyWorld's Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party on select nights September 1-October 31 at Magic Kingdom Park; the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival September 19-November 10 with its Eat To The Beat Concert Series, and of course the giggly-spooky-in-the-dark Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster now open at Magic Kingdom Park.



Little Kids and Faint of Heart Halloween Fun

The Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Disneyland's Mickey's Halloween party are both bigger than ever before, with many of these special-ticket evening parties going on between September and Halloween. In Orlando, the lovable Mickey's Boo-To-You Halloween Parade and extra villainous characters will be on call; in Anaheim, California families can join the Monsters U Dance Party and learn the traditions of Dia de los Muertos.
 
SeaWorld's Spooktacular in Orlando and San Diego runs weekends from late September to Halloween, with special Halloween shows, photo ops with weird sea creatures, and the chance for little ones to show off their costumes. while dancing with life-sized, but not-too-scary, sea creatures. In Orlando, come early for the Sesame Street Count's Spooktacular Breakfast; an extra fee event.

Every weekend in October, at Legoland Florida, you can encourage kids to explore the Brick-or-Treat Trail and hunt for special commemorative LEGO bricks, delicious treats and other surprises. There are scavenger hunts in Miniland, costume contests divided into three age groupings 0-12, and lots of time to work on building an 8-foot-tall LEGO ghost. Don't miss selfies with the world's largest all-brick pumpkin.



Terrifying Halloween Frights for the Brave

Masters of the crafts of special effects makeup, lighting and visual effects, it's no wonder the Universal team put on Halloween Horror Nights like no other. Especially disturbing at the Universal Orlando park in Florida, and at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, are the Walking Dead who will populate the backlot attractions. The Black Sabbath 3D Maze and El Cucuy: the Boogeyman are among the many special ticket haunted happenings for this year.  Keep everyone under 13 safely at home!

Howl-o-Scream converts SeaWorld San Antonio in Texas into a deliciously adult event, where autumn nights feature Pain Lane, haunted houses, 13 evils, special libations, menu attractions and more wicked fun, for an extra fee. Friend four-packs are the best offer after 6pm; during the day the parks host a Halloween themed day of kids' fun.
 
The 18 Six Flags parks in the US, Mexico and Canada put on a Fright Fest unlike any of the events they do all year. Imagine your local themepark packed with family-friendly thrills by day, with nightfall bringing more scare zones, terror trails, haunted mazes plus nearly 200 zombies out to play. Fright Fest kicks up September 27 and runs weekends through November 1 with dozens of Halloween-themed shows and attractions.



Autumn Bargains Make it Possible to Cruise from Home 

So terrifying it makes you want to sail away? Opt for a cruise on a luxury liner instead of a driving trip to see the best of the fall foliage. At this time of year, many of the major cruise lines sail special New England to Canada itineraries, an ideal escape whether you're looking for an adult getaway, a babymoon, or you'll bring preschoolers.

The adventurous should check out the five-day autumn cruises aboard a classic wooden schooner from Victoria, B.C. Canada to the Gulf Islands National Park. The mild climate and Sailish Sea shoreline are packed with seals and sea lions. Guided excursions to Portland Island; whale, porpoise and seabird watching in Haro Strait; and sea kayaking make these trips unforgettable bonding adventures. Scheduled sailings depart October 15, 20 and 25, 2014.
 
Alternatively, sail off aboard a Windjammer and help crew as you enjoy the coast of Maine at its finest, as leaves change and rates fall in local B&Bs. Rockford, Maine, with its charming old B&Bs and fine farm-or-sea-to-table restaurants is a great choice for a girlfriends or couples' weekend away.

During the fall season you have some 30 different "home ports" to choose from if you want to cruise with a major line somewhere else. Families, couples, friends, reunion groups - all will find a good reason to cruise for a long weekend or a week, to Bermuda from New Jersey, up to Canada from Boston or New York, to the Caribbean from Galveston or Florida, or to the Pacific coast of Mexico from California.  Check out our Family Cruise Guide to decide what ship is best for your family. Shoulder season deals are everywhere and you might still be able to snare one for Thanksgiving or Christmas if you book ahead now.

And don't forget to share your favorite fall adventures so we can include them in next year's Fall Getaways roundup.

 

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