Skip the overcrowded favorites like Finger Lakes and Newport, and check out these underrated, cozy fall destinations.
Some Northeastern U.S. towns traditionally tend to steal the spotlight when it comes to portraying an idyllic autumn escape. But for those seeking a less crowded Northern getaway, these 12 spots in New England and beyond offer access to awesome fall foliage, an atmosphere overflowing with quaintness, and ample opportunities to enjoy an adventure both indoors and out (without the multitude of visitors).
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Instead of Stowe, visit Burlington, Vermont
Many travelers think of Stowe when dreaming of fall color in Vermont, but visiting Burlington can offer a less crowded and thereby more enjoyable getaway. This city provides abundant autumn activities and attractions, like the pedestrian-friendly Church Street Marketplace. Plus, now Burlington is easily accessible by railway with a new Amtrak route that will run from New York City directly to the city’s waterfront. Enjoy the colors of the changing foliage via a scenic Bike & Brew Tour, which offers cyclists the chance to try everything from IPAs to sours at local top brew spots. Head to the sustainable 1,400-acre working farm, Shelburne Farm, to watch the cheesemaking process firsthand while indulging in cheddar cheese from the on-site herd of purebred Brown Swiss cows. Stay at cozy Hotel Vermont on the edge of picturesque Lake Champlain, which comes complete with a wood-burning fireplace, rustic furnishings, and local artwork.
Instead of Philadelphia, visit Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Visitors will find Pennsylvania’s Bethlehem to be far less crowded in the fall than other destinations like the cities of Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. Take in the fall scenery and fresh air with an authentic guide donning a period dress on the Old Bethlehem Walking Tour through the local National Historic Landmark District. Or, stroll back in time by admiring the Victorian and colonial architecture from 1741, alongside the gorgeous fall foliage—either way, it’s an unforgettable memory. There’s also a self-guided tour on the Heritage Trail following the creek through the Colonial Industrial Quarter, which is perfect for walkers, joggers, and cyclists to adventure solo. Stay at the Historic Hotel Bethlehem, which is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year and is located in a fabulous location directly next to the Historic District. Walk along the beautiful Main Street, which boasts dozens of standout niche specialty shops and restaurants made for exploring.
Instead of the Finger Lakes, visit Catskills, New York
There are technically four regions of New York’s Catskills, an enormous area encompassing almost 6,000 square miles of land. The region hosts rolling hills and wide-open fields, which offer seclusion and space compared to other New York fall getaway destinations. The Western Catskills is an outdoor lovers’ paradise with lush valleys, clear lakes, and stunning peaks. Livingston Manor is a small town hosting craft brews, tasty restaurants, and an abundance of arts and culture in the Southwest corner of the Catskill region. In the Eastern Catskills, visit the iconic arts colony of Woodstock or the waterfront town of Saugerties, a mecca for antiques. This is where AutoCamp Catskills is based, providing an opportunity to enjoy the finest glamping spot in the region. In the Great Northern Catskills of Greene County, paddleboard out to the historic Hudson-Athens Lighthouse or visit the mountaintop to hike the Catskill Park.
Instead of Salem, visit Boston, Massachusetts
Salem takes all the glory with fall festivities in Massachusetts, but Boston makes for less crowded autumn escapes on weekends, when many depart the city seeking solitude in more rural regions. Plus, in addition to being extremely walkable, Boston is one of the oldest cities in America; it’s overflowing with haunted mysteries and historic charm. As leaves turn, visitors can take a stroll through Boston’s many gardens, like the Boston Common and the Public Garden, to admire brilliant hues of reds and golds. Stay at W Boston, which is right across from these parks. This central location puts you in a prime spot to explore Boston’s other neighborhoods, including Back Bay, Beacon Hill, or to take a quick ride on “the T” paired with a short walk in the West End, North End, and the Waterfront.
Instead of Greenwich, visit New Haven, Connecticut
There’s nothing like the charm of Connecticut in Fall. And New Haven isn’t just home to Yale University—there are plenty of fall-focused activities to embark on here in autumn. Hear the dark tales of the city on a spirited Ghosts of New Haven tour, and, for those who feel especially brave, you can even book a private tour. For travelers seeking something less spooky, visit the Pumpkin Patch at the nearby Shoreline Trolley Museum in East Haven, go apple picking at Bishop’s Orchards, try hiking in Sleeping Giant State Park, or enjoy tailgating for a Yale football game. Spend the night at the brand-new Hotel Marcel—the first net-zero energy hotel in the country—for an environmentally friendly escape. Tailgating football fans can also “touch down” for a night at the Graduate New Haven, which is right at Yale’s doorstep.
Instead of Virginia Beach, visit Loudoun County, Virginia
Virginia Beach may be a paradise for summer beach lovers, but in the fall, those seeking a less crowded spot to spend time to admire the fall colors should head to Loudoun County. Enjoy the town of Middleburg by strolling along quaint tree-lined streets or toasting to fall at Mt. Defiance Cidery & Distillery or Lost Barrel Brewing, which each traditionally crafts fall special beverages (even though this region is already known for its impressive wine scene). Speaking of wine, Zephaniah Farm Vineyard is another top stop that features a tasting room located in an 1830s-era farmhouse and a family farm property in Leesburg dating back three centuries. Spend the night at Lansdowne Resort, just minutes from historic downtown Leesburg, which overlooks the Potomac River. This resort spans nearly 500 acres, offering plenty of open space to enjoy autumn’s crisp air.
Instead of the Jersey Shore, visit Cape May, New Jersey
While technically still a part of the Jersey Shore, Cape May sits at the southern most end of the state. And standing against more chaotic beach spots of New Jersey like Atlantic City and Brigantine, it might just be one of the most underrated beach towns. Visitors can beat the crowds in the fall and traverse this historic Victorian town, which remains a National Historic Landmark. Spend time on the stunning beaches, cozying up next to wood fireplaces, or visit the beloved Beach Plum Farm during harvest season for a real treat. This property is set on 62 acres, less than two miles away from the center of Cape May, and grows many of the ingredients for several local restaurants. Stay at Congress Hall, America’s oldest seaside resort (established in 1816) and advertised as a nostalgic “cottage by the sea” spot just minutes from the town’s many iconic attractions.
Instead of Washington D.C., visit St. Michaels, Maryland
Maryland’s small town of St. Michaels town oozes historic character and charm—it’s a marine lover’s dream located on the Miles River hosting the freshest local seafood such as Maryland crabs and oysters. The slower pace of life is made for a laid-back, relaxing vacation in autumn. Visitors can stroll down Talbot Street to feel as if they’re stepping back in time amongst the historic homes that have hardly changed since the 1600s. Visit the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, which is right in town, or stop by the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, which is just a short drive away. Even though the wedding season will have come to a close in fall, those who want to extend that summer feeling can stay at the Inn at Perry Cabin, which is where the iconic movie The Wedding Crashers was filmed.
Instead of Newport, visit Westerly, Rhode Island
Rhode Island’s Westerly is a charming, small New England town with less than 18,000 residents. It’s typically known as a popular summer destination for its scenic beaches and proximity to Boston and New York City, but when autumn arrives, the number of warm weather visitors drops. Westerly is the perfect spot for enjoying New England’s foliage. Embark on a brisk hike, go apple picking, or take a vineyard tour at Tapped Apple Cidery & Winery—one of Rhode Island’s oldest orchards, where apples transform into adult beverages that embody the essence of fall. Spend the night at Weekapaug Inn to enjoy quintessentially New England accommodations, located on the Rhode Island shoreline overlooking Quonochontaug Pond and the Atlantic Ocean.
Instead of Charleston, visit Thomas & Davis, West Virginia
The neighboring mountain villages of Thomas & Davis (located just a few miles apart) combine for the perfect small town autumn escape. These destinations are known for their eclectic shops, tasty local eateries (Hellbender’s Burrito and Sirianni’s Pizza are local favorites), and two iconic breweries, Stumptown Ales and Mountain State Brewing Company. Thomas & Davis are perched on the edge of the Monongahela National Forest, which means these towns are surrounded by amazing scenery and landscapes. Come fall, stunning foliage can be found nearby at state parks like Blackwater Falls, known for its iconic waterfalls and vistas. Dolly Sods Wilderness is also a must-visit as well to see the changing colors. The area also boosts cozy mountain lodging, perfect for the fall season. Davis even hosts the Leaf Peepers Festival yearly to celebrate the fall colors and season.
Instead of Portland, visit Camden, Maine
Autumn in Camden, Maine, is nothing short of stunning. Leaves change to vibrant shades of orange and red contrasting against a bright blue sky, and the crisp air of the Pine Tree State seems to offer a sense of freedom and opportunity. One of the best ways to experience a famous Northeast fall is to conquer a local hiking trail. The 1,200-foot Bald Mountain Trail offers a challenge or, for those who would prefer to explore on four wheels, a classic Maine fall foliage drive via US 1 from Portland to Camden. Take a tour of one (or all) of the four local vineyards during harvest season while enjoying a sip and savoring the scenery. Stay at Camden Harbour Inn, which hosts several seasonal activities such as sailing the harbor, kayaking a nearby lake, or a half-day bike rental to explore the town.
Instead of Hampton Beach, visit Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Portsmouth is one of New Hampshire’s first four original cities, emitting traditional vibes of the idyllic New England mindset, perfect for an autumn escape. Visit the Strawbery Banke Museum, which brings over 300 years of American history to life through an immersive outdoor experience across 10 acres of land with guided tours and scenic gardens. Hike the Harbour Trail and stroll along the water while enjoying the bright shades of autumn reflecting off the water. New Hampshire’s fantastic craft beer scene also comes to life in the fall, when new seasonal craft beers and ciders at Portsmouth Brewery are released. There’s plenty to eat, too — particularly showcasing New Hampshire’s famous seafood scene. Local favorites include The Black Trumpet and Surf. Stay at the Ale House Inn, an 1871 brewing company originally used as a warehouse for fermentation that has since been transformed into a unique hotel.