Fall is a wonderful time of year to travel, whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or something more. It often means fewer crowds to battle, mild weather and sometimes lower rates too. These family vacation ideas are sure to get you packing and taking advantage of this fabulous season.
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Black Hills, South Dakota
The Black Hills of western South Dakota are an ideal destination for a fall vacation, with a wealth of things to do for families. Throughout September and often well into October, the weather is perfect for hiking the scenic trails in Custer State Park or even taking a paddle boat out on Sylvan Lake. If it gets too cool, take a scenic drive on the legendary Needles Highway to view the remarkably unique rock formations, or travel the Wildlife Loop to see wild burros, bison, big horn sheep, mountain goats and elk. Just outside the park is Mount Rushmore, the sculpting feat honoring four presidents, and in Deadwood you’ll find all sorts of Old West entertainment. Just a few of the other options include the historic 1880 train in Hill City, cave tours, wildlife safaris and the Mammoth Site, an active paleontological dig site that’s home to the world’s largest concentration of mammoth remains.
San Francisco, California
If you’ve always wanted to visit San Francisco, fall is the time to go. The city typically experiences its Indian Summer at this time, with the weather often better than the actual summer season, while the hordes of tourists have departed. There are loads of family-friendly activities like hopping a ride on the famous cable cars, and visiting the fantastic wonderful Exploratorium. You can take the ferry over the Alcatraz for a fascinating tour, wander through San Francisco Zoo and Golden Gate Park, and hit the beaches too.
Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
The Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee not only offers brilliant fall foliage, but a host of family-friendly friendly things to do. Enjoy hikes in Smoky Mountain National Park, and thrilling rides at Zip Gatlinburg to view the color from above. Ripley’s Believe It or Not! features numerous attractions, including a haunted adventure, mini-golf, an aquarium and more. Dollywood over in Pigeon Forge is a must experience for families, with rides, shows and more – and, throughout October, you can check out all of the illuminated jack-o-lanterns too.
The Monterey Bay area on California’s Central Coast is home to a number of beautiful beaches perfect for building sandcastles, beach combing, or even sailing. Just a short drive north is Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk with everything from thrill rides to more gentle adventures for the little ones, while the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a must-visit. Watch playful sea otters from below or above the water, and marvel at the mysterious “jellies” that come in a wide array of colors and shapes, floating ethereally through the water. The outdoor decks offer gorgeous vistas of the bay and are ideal for watching the dolphins and whales that frequently pass by.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
If you want beautiful scenery, fascinating geology and an abundance of wildlife in your fall vacation, Yellowstone is hard to beat. The park is home to 67 species of mammals, like moose, bears, wolves, bison, elk, and more. In September, the elk have often begun rutting and can be seen around Mammoth Hot Springs, while bears and other animals become more visible as the fall moves forward. The mesmerizing geothermal features, including hot springs, mud spots and geysers are also impressive to view – watch the park’s most famous, Old Faithful, that skyrockets steam as high as 185 feet into the sky every 90 minutes, and be awed by the many other lesser known geysers as well as mud pots and brilliant multi-colored hot springs like Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the U.S.
The Aulani Resort offers the chance to enjoy both a Disney and Hawaiian vacation for the ultimate family getaway. The Aulani is set across a lush 642-acre property, where guests are greeted by Disney characters that wander the grounds looking to make the kids of all ages smile. There’s also a spectacular pool, a lazy river, a man-made reef and lagoon, and two water slides. Pool parties are even hosted and include appearances by Disney characters, as well as dancing, games, interactive activities and the chance to learn about surf culture. of course, you’ll also be able to spend time on all of those spectacular beaches, and snorkeling the crystal clear waters filled with colorful fish.
If an international escape is what you’re after, autumn is one of the best times of the year to visit Ireland. Everyone is sure to love exploring all of the castles, like 12th-century Trim Castle which played a starring role in the movie “Braveheart.” At the ruins of the Dominican Black Friary nearby, visitors can get a crash course in excavation and even start digging, recording their findings alongside geologists and archaeologists. Kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle, and be sure to check out the creepy dungeon at Bunratty Castle. This castle in the west also hosts a medieval banquet, complete with musicians in period costumes playing the harp and violin.
Colorado is renowned for its breathtaking display of Aspens that blanket mountains across the state with incredible hues of golden bronze and dazzling yellow in the fall, and there are few better places to experience it than in the state’s magnificent Rockies. Fall is also ideal for listening and watching the hundreds of elk in Rocky Mountain National Park, fishing the lakes and streams, and enjoying hikes on the miles and miles of trails. Near its eastern entrance in Estes Park, you can also visit the Family Amusement Park to ride the big slide, drive go-karts, play miniature golf or even bungee jump.