It may be the first day of September and the kids may be back in school, but now is a great time to start thinking about a fall getaway. September and October, also know as “shoulder season,” are great months for families to travel while enjoying fewer crowds and lower prices on hotels and attractions.
As a bonus, the weather is still quite nice, so there are lots of good travel options. From driving around New England to explore the fall foliage to flying to the Caribbean for one last beach getaway, you and your kids deserve one last escape before the weather cools down and the winter holidays approach.
Here are my picks for eight fall family getaways that are easy to plan and perfectly fantastic.
1. Lancaster County, PA
Take a 45-minute train ride on the Strasburg Railroad to enjoy the views of the Amish farms before spending the afternoon navigating the maize maze and meeting baby animals at nearby Cherry Crest Adventure Farm. As a bonus, you can buy discounted farm tickets at the train station ticket window. Train lovers will also want to make stops at the National Toy Train Museum and the Choo Choo Barn.
Go on a guided farmhouse tour and explore the grounds of the Amish Village in Lancaster or take a ride in an authentic Amish buggy. Then, it’s all about rides, games and fun at Dutch Wonderland (open weekends through Nov. 1). Book a stay at the Red Caboose Motel where you can sleep in a train car or stay at Verdant View Farm where kids can milk cows and bottle feed calves.
2. Vancouver, Canada
Enjoy seasonal colors from the Skyride at Grouse Mountain Resort. It’s one mile to the top of the mountain where you can have lunch at The Observatory or take a tour of a honeybee hive (through Sept. 14). Then, head back down to take on the mountain ziplines, play 18-holes of disc golf or hike along trails as a family. Stay nearby at the Westin Bayshore in Vancouver.
In the fall, it’s also a must to sign the kids up for a behind-the-scenes tour of Maplewood Farm. Children will love collecting eggs, grooming the animals and exploring the special “staff only” areas of the farm. If you have time, try the Whistler Sea to Sky Climb, a half-day train journey between North Vancouver and Whistler, which offers fantastic views. You can also add on an overnight stay in Whistler.
3. Chicago, IL
Now is a great time to book a getaway to Chicago. For one, airfares from a number of cities are very low, like less than $100 round-trip from Atlanta, Baltimore and Boston. Spend time at Millennium Park and Grant Park, including the new Maggie Daley Park. Kids will love the rock climbing walls, mini golf and massive playground. Have lunch at The Plaza at Park Grill, which is very kid-friendly.
Visit with lions, tigers and bears at the Lincoln Park Zoo or ride the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier. Before you go, purchase a Chicago CityPASS for each member of your family to save on admissions to must-see attractions, like Shedd Aquarium and SkyDeck Chicago. Book a stay at the centrally-located Comfort Suites Chicago on Michigan Avenue or at several other family-friendly hotels in Chicago.
The ABCs of the Caribbean (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) are top island picks during hurricane season. For water parks and slides, spend time at De Palm Island in Aruba. The tropical-themed water park features a colorful water playground for tiny tots along with plenty of kid-friendly slides, dumping buckets and dancing fountains.
In Bonaire, go snorkeling with the kids during your stay at the Harbour Village Beach Club. As a bonus, look for resort activities, like geocaching, photography and trips to the Butterfly Farm, which are part of the Kids Great Adventures program. In Curacao, go kayaking or simply relax on one of two private beaches at the Hilton Curacao. Take the shuttle to Willemstad to explore this historic Dutch town.
5. Williamsburg, VA
There’s a lot to do in the fall in Williamsburg. From walking in the treetops and flying down ziplines at Go Ape to hunting for fossils at York River State Park, it’s a must to be outside for fall fun. Brushing up on Virginia history is also a must-do when in Williamsburg whether dressing up in period costume, climbing aboard replicas of colonial ships or exploring nearby battlefields.
There’s mini golf aplenty in Williamsburg too, like Gold Rush Mini Golf. Of course, you’ll also want to make time for rides and shows at Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens (runs Sept. 12-Nov. 1). Book a stay at nearby Kingsmill Resort or DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Williamsburg. On your way out of town, stop at one of a number of pancake houses, like Old Mill Pancakes and Capitol Pancake House.
6. U.S. National Parks
We went to a bunch of national parks over the summer, including Yellowstone and Grand Canyon. Of course, these are two of the most popular national parks, so crowds are to be expected. However, now that the kids have gone back to school, it’s time for a weekend (even better, a long weekend) at one of our national parks. As a bonus, enjoy cooler temps at parks like Bryce Canyon and Sequoia.
Beyond fewer crowds and cooler weather, look for great deals and packages at hotels and resorts just outside the parks. For example, Tenaya Lodge near Yosemite National Park is offering a 125th Anniversary Package that’s priced 25% less than summer rates. As a bonus, the Every Kid in a Park program kicked off today, enabling every fourth grader and their families free access to all national parks.
7. New England
During prime leaf peeping season, New England is a must as the leaves change colors. Check in with Amtrak for a ride in the “Great Dome” car, which is available to passengers traveling select days on the Adirondack line between Albany and Montreal (Sept. 25–Nov. 3). You and your kids will love taking in panoramic views of the colorful leaves and Lake Champlain.
Family festivals abound in the fall and you’ll find quite a few, like the 48th Annual Fall Foliage Festival in Boothbay, ME (Oct. 10-11), which celebrates the changing leaves and lovely fall colors. Another to check out is the week-long Fall Foliage Festival in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts (Sept. 25–Oct. 4). Look for a parade with floats, marching bands and a leaf hunt.
8. Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World is a great place to visit in the fall. It’s considered value season and there are loads of special offers to help you save money on a stay on-property. It’s also one of the best times to visit the parks. The crowds have thinned, it’s easier to get dinner reservations and the weather is better than it is during the summer.
As a bonus, the popular Free Disney Dining Plan is available during a variety of dates in the fall, including Aug. 28–Oct. 2 and Oct. 25-29. The Free Disney Dining Plan allows for free meals when you book a stay at select resorts across Walt Disney World. For park tickets, book through Best of Orlando to save money on base tickets and park hopper passes.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. However, the views and opinions expressed here are my own.