The crisp air of fall brings out a particular sort of wanderlust. It drives thousands of travelers to the mountains for leaf-peeping or, conversely, the deep south for some last hints of warm weather.
No matter what kind of autumn adventures you're craving, these 10 east coast destinations should be at the top of your list for 2021!
1. Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park can't be beaten for the ultimate combination of fall colors, hiking, biking, historic structures, and bird watching. There's plenty to see and do for everyone with nearly 50,000 acres of territory to explore by car, foot, or boat! For the best display of fall colors, be sure to start at the summit of Cadillac Mountain and enjoy the 33 miles of scenic roads.
2. Salem, Massachusetts
If creepy tours and seasons chills are more your fall style, Salem, Massachusetts, is a prime destination. Well-known for its part in the witch trials of the late 1600s, Salem's witchy past makes it's the perfect place for haunted tours interspersed with more New England leaf-peeping. Plus, the whole town gets into the "spirit" every October for a month-long Haunted Happenings celebration that will keep you on your toes!
3. Brattleboro to Whitingham, Vermont
If all you desire for a good autumn vacation is a long road trip and vibrant colors, this scenic Vermont loop fits the bill. You'll drive along one of Vermont's most beautiful scenic byways, Molly Stark Byway, and pass a plethora of fascinating towns and views. Be sure to pull over for a scenic chairlift ride at Mount Snow, the Adams Family Farm in Wilmington, and the circus school in Brattleboro!
4. Charlottesville, Virginia
Mountain views, orchards, and historic spots aplenty give Charlottesville, Virginia, an exceptionally cozy charm during the fall. Located right on the edge of Shenandoah National Park, some of the country's best leaf-peeping opportunities are just outside the town's boundaries. But there's plenty more to keep your attention in the area, including the University of Virginia, three presidential homes, and the delicacies at Carter Mountain Orchard.
5. Hendersonville, North Carolina
Located in the western North Carolina mountaintops, Hendersonville has some of the best apple orchards in the country—and all the ciders, apple butter, and desserts that come from them! Downtown Hendersonville is a historic gem with fun shops like an old-time general store and a 50's soda fountain, not to mention the many boutiques and local restaurants. And for those craving outdoor activities beyond the orchards, a hike to Triple Falls in Dupont State Forest is worth every step.
6. Savannah, Georgia
For warmer weather, head down south and enjoy Savannah, Georgia, in a milder climate. Some of the town's most beautiful and fascinating activities are outside, and autumn offers the ideal temperatures to explore them thoroughly. Tour historic homes and ghostly destinations to your heart's content, then snap a few shots at the iconic tree tunnel at Wormsloe Historic Site. Before you go, be sure to soak in the old-world vibes of the cobblestone streets and ferryboats chugging along the river.
7. Fairhope, Alabama
Few towns in the U.S. offer as much antebellum charm as Fairhope, Alabama. Its cobblestone streets, historic homes, and boutique shops offer a delightfully peaceful respite from the daily rush. The weather is perfect for exploring the Municipal Pier and garden and taking a hayride at Oak Hollow Farm in the fall. Or, take a day to drive 30 minutes over to Mobile and enjoy the gorgeous waters of the Gulf of Mexico without the summer crowds.
8. Nashville, Tennessee
Get your fill of music and fun while enjoying the cooler temperatures in Music City. The town has a long lineup of fall music festivals, plus a film festival and the month-long Artober Festival. And if the arts aren't your thing, that's okay because there's plenty more to see and do! Visit Andrew Jackson's Hermitage (ghost tours after dark!), tour the harvest-themed gardens at Cheekwood, or spend an afternoon at the Nashville Zoo!
9. Pensacola, Florida
It isn't too late to hit the beaches again when you're vacationing in Pensacola! The Gulf of Mexico stays warm late into the autumn season, and balmy temperatures offer more comfortable beach excursions than the summer. When you need a break from soaking up the sun, take a short drive to the Gulf Breeze Zoo or Gulfarium, explore Fort Barrancas, or spend an afternoon shopping and dining along the charming downtown district!
10. New Orleans, Louisiana
If you're not afraid of hurricane season, fall is the ideal time to explore NOLA. Along with the spooky October celebrations, New Orleans offers a full autumn lineup of food and music festivals. And temperatures in the '70s make touring the city by foot, bike, or streetcar incredibly enjoyable! Don't miss the French Quarter, the nearby Global Wildlife Center, and all the attractions at City Park!
What is JUST as exciting as planning that next budget-friendly vacation you've been waiting for this 2021? The days leading up to it! Start your travel countdown with the Vacation Countdown App!