It’s that time of the year when outdoor scenery is at its peak, with an array of vibrant orange lining the outdoors. Before you tuck into winter hibernation, now’s the time to enjoy one last hoorah of outdoor serenity and exploration.
Traveling during the fall has its perks, too, as it is considered “out of season” for many tourist destinations. America’s favorite summer small-towns have cleared out and local businesses are lowering prices to attract out-of-season visitors. The perfect setting for a retreat!
So pack your bags and grab a jacket! Below is a list of suggested locations for the quintessential mix of outdoors, relaxation, charm, and history.
Jim Thorpe, PA
The quaint little town of Jim Thorpe is nestled in the Pocono Mountains. It oozes with the history of the industrial revolution as a major site of coal mining. The acclaimed movie The Molly Maguire’s was filmed here and represents the struggle between coal company owners and their disgruntled employees. Remnants of these mining practices remain in the town today and can be toured. The town’s blocks are lined with vintage shops and restaurants. If staying at a Victorian bed & breakfast in the middle of downtown activities is your thing, then this is the place for you. If not, don’t count out Jim Thorpe just yet. A quieter, more intimate stay can be had at local mountain houses just a couple miles away. A notable tourist attraction is the hilltop mansion built originally by Asa Packer, the founder of Lehigh University. Stop into town for a meal or two, and spend the rest of your days hiking next to the Glen Onoko waterfalls or strolling around the nearby lakes.
Cape May, NJ
Cape May is the southern tip of New Jersey’s coast. Although summer is considered the busy season, it is much more than a beach town and has a lot to offer year-round. One major attraction that sets Cape May apart is the abundance of palatial Victorian homes lining the Atlantic shoreline. The old-fashion architecture paired with the beach scenery creates a unique atmosphere. If this setting entices you, perhaps you’d also be interested in wandering down the Washington Street Mall, a strip of vintage shops and inviting restaurants. The Cape May Lighthouse, built in 1859, is also a very popular nearby tourist destination.
Oh, the southern charm! This harbor town is famous for its Civil War history and waterfront scenery. Between the cottages, inns, and B&Bs, you’ll have no trouble finding somewhere to stay. Getting a lay of the land is easy by taking a carriage ride tour around town. If you’re more interested in being on the water, you can explore the harbor on a relaxing boat ride. The refreshing fall breeze will make for a comfortable outdoor climate. Bird sanctuaries and tidal creeks are just a couple of the sightseeing destinations. Across the harbor is Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. If meandering around a colorful downtown is your cup of tea, the city streets are lined with homegrown cafes and boutiques. For you history buffs, make sure to tour the surrounding historic gardens and plantations that date back to the 18th century.
This quirky little place about 90 miles southeast of Tucson was once a prosperous mining town during the early 19th and late 20th centuries. The town runs narrated Jeep tours that take you through the desert hills and around nearby ghost towns and ranches. You can also ride a mine train and go underground, exploring an old copper mine. While embracing its history, Bisbee has also evolved into a free-spirited town that nurtures a heavy appreciation for the arts, especially music. Make sure to tip the street violinist as you do your antique shopping! Visitors have a variety of options when it comes to lodging – B&Bs, hotels, houses, and campgrounds. Pick your poison!
Situated in the Northern Rockies, Missoula is surrounded by mountain ranges, trails, and rivers, providing many scenic places to stay while visiting. Most of the activity, including dining and shopping, is concentrated in a downtown region along the Clark Fork River. Cara’s Park is a famous attraction, housing one of the premier merry-go-rounds in the northwest. While visiting Missoula, take a day trip about 20 miles east to the town of Garnet. Although the town is now abandoned, Garnet was once a busy gold mining town of 1,000+ minors back in the 1860s. The forest ghost town has been preserved by the state of Montana and an on-site forest ranger welcomes all visitors.
Guten tag! Welcome to Germany! I mean, uh, Washington. Modeled off of a traditional Bavarian village, Leavenworth’s mountain location and seasonal festivals attract many visitors and provide many lodging choices. For three weekends in the fall season, Leavenworth hosts its annual Oktoberfest. If you’re a beer lover and enjoy live music, this is the place for you! If not, don’t fret. Wine connoisseurs? Listen up! The village is surrounded by a multiple choice of wineries that offer tours and tastings. Leavenworth is also home of the famous Nutcracker Museum, which proudly displays over 6,000 nutcrackers. How nutty! While you’re out and around, visit a few on the many quaint in-town shops. Leavenworth has arguably one of the most attractive arrays of authentic German souvenirs. Homemade candles, specialty cheeses, imported holiday décor, boutique clothing – the treasures are endless!
Big Sur, CA
With the Pacific Ocean to the west and Saint Lucia Mountains to the east, Big Sur sits upon shoreline cliffs and abrupt mountains. Made up of one-lane windy backroads, it is certainly a destination to escape and admire the outdoors. The remote location makes for limited lodging options, consisting mostly of cabins and motels. You won’t find an endless array of restaurants and stores on city blocks because it simply doesn’t exist here. Hit the grocery store before your trip and stock up on your favorite foods! The campgrounds and landscape views are what draw in most visitors. If you’re a hiker, make sure to pack your boots and a backpack. If not, driving along Highway 1 will certainly take you on a scenic journey. Now that the blazing California sun is setting lower in the sky, a walk on the breezy beach might prove refreshing.
If an outdoor adventure is what you’re after, check out Jim Thorpe, Cape May, or Big Sur. Each spot offers its own unique aesthetic for your outdoorsy hiking, picnics on the beach, or even a little water rafting. The best news is it won’t break the budget. Those of you looking for a little more pampering should definitely consider Charleston and Leavenworth. Between the boutique shopping, fine dining, and wine tasting, you can’t go wrong. Whatever your preferred vibe, just because the summer is over doesn’t mean you have to put away your travel shoes. Happy Trails!
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