8 U.S. Cities That Are Even Better in the Fall

With fewer crowds, more comfortable temperatures, and new events, fall is a great time to discover some of America’s cities. Here are eight places we love this time of year.

Central Park with fall foliage in New York City

New York City is at its prime during the fall months.

Photo by Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

The best places to visit in the fall have a few things in common: outdoor adventure (with a side of leaf viewing), scenic drives through small towns, plenty of overlooks and vistas (particularly over changing leaves), and maybe a spooky vibe or two. There’s something about the fall season that brings out the deep craving for a cozy road trip—places with year-round sunshine and warm temps like Southern California are great, but the seasonal transition is a compelling reason to head out for a fall getaway.

To help whittle down your options, we pulled together some of our favorite fall destinations that are best experienced September through November. Whether it’s for their scenic byways, festivals, hiking trails, wineries, autumn activities (apple picking or pumpkin patches, anyone?), or painterly displays of foliage, these are eight of the best U.S. cities to visit in the fall.

A dog in a Staten Island ferry costume

A dog in costume is seen during the 31st Annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade in Tompkins Square Park in New York in 2021.

Photo by Gordon Donovan/Shutterstock

New York City

Seeing Central Park blanketed with fall foliage is a bucket list–level event—and it’s far from the only thing to do in New York City. Halloween is a spectacle, especially if you make a detour to the East Village on October 21 for the Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade, which will have a formal parade route for the first time in 2023. And foodies will love making the most of the city’s best outdoor dining season when reservations at the top restaurants are slightly easier to nail down.

Museum hopping is even more fun when there isn’t sweltering heat waiting for you the moment you emerge outside. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, and the Guggenheim are good places to start. Governors Island is also now open year round, with ferries running from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily after September 5. And during the fall, walking the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the very best outdoor activities you can participate in. Another plus about New York City is its proximity to upstate New York and New England.

A plate of meat and vegetables at Owamni restaurant (L) and diners at tables (R)

Owamni was the biggest restaurant opening in the Midwest in 2021.

Photos by John Yuccas and Heidi Ehalt

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis’s Owamni is the first proper restaurant from the Sioux chef founder Sean Sherman and his business/life partner, Dana Thompson. A sobering history lesson that starts with the neon sign near its entrance (“You Are On Native Land”), Owamni avoids the colonial implications of cane sugar, dairy, and wheat flour by leaving them off the menu and instead embracing indigenous techniques and ingredients through such rarely seen offerings as bison tartare, preserved rabbit, and pulled duck tacos with pickled squash and nixtamalized corn.

As for other activities worth a look within the metro area this fall, Paisley Park is home to the studios where Prince recorded his iconic music; the Walker Art Center is currently highlighting photographer Allan Sekula’s critiques of social reality in Allan Sekula: Fish Story; and St. Paul’s Allianz Field stadium is hoping to host another playoff run for its beloved Minnesota United FC team as high-octane soccer matches continue to corral a growing number of new fans.

Row of old bric buildings in Baltimore

Oyster season kicks off in October in Baltimore.

Photo by Lee Snider/Shutterstock

Baltimore, Maryland

Oyster season begins on October 1 in Maryland, and that, plus the long-awaited relief from the oppressive summer humidity, makes fall an ideal time to explore Baltimore. The bustling bar district Fell’s Point (which locals simply call Fells) is ideal for an oyster crawl, and the best ones include a stop at the locally loved Thames Street Oyster House, where the adventurous can order the silver-tiered Grandiose Shellfish Tower—resplendent with fresh oysters, jumbo shrimp, cracked lobster tails, and stone crab claws.

On the culture front, this is the time to visit Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum. The exhibit If You Build It, They Will Come digs into the personal spaces of artists such as DeVon Smith, Leslie Payne, and Gayleen Aiken.

The Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture is also a must-stop; its permanent collection recounts 400 years of the area’s past. Additionally, the Ruth R. Marder Center for Matisse Studies at the Baltimore Museum of Art holds an expansive Matisse collection, the largest of any public museum.

Park with colorful trees in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, in fall

Outdoor adventure is one of Charlotte’s biggest fall draws because the weather and extensive trail system are perfect for hiking.

Photo by digidreamgrafix/Shutterstock

Charlotte, North Carolina

Fall brings seasonal beers to the Queen City’s dozens of breweries. This time of year, NoDa Brewing Co. boasts its award-winning Gordgeous ale, infused with pumpkin puree, brown sugar, and spices. And the city’s oldest brewery, the Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, celebrates Mecktoberfest in its sprawling beer garden with special beers, tasty German-style pretzels, and other bites.

Hints of cooler temperatures make it a fine time to get outside. In a city known for its tree canopy—45 percent of the city is covered in trees—fall is one of the best times to walk, run, bike, or scoot along the 56 miles of developed greenway trails. Uptown, Romare Bearden Park, which pays homage to the famed artist who was born here, is another place to stroll and snap some skyline shots. Outside the city, Crowders Mountain State Park offers fall foliage and 25-mile panoramic views from the peak. And if you want another attractive fall destination, take a two-hour drive west to Asheville, where you can join the Blue Ridge Parkway, a route along the Blue Ridge Mountains that spans the southern and central Appalachians and links Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Charleston, South Carolina

Bar and patio poolside at the Ryder Hotel in Charleston

There’s never a bad season to lounge poolside in Charleston.

Photo by Joe Thomas

Once summer’s humidity tapers off, autumn in Charleston brings mild highs of 76 degrees to lows of just 58 degrees with plenty of sun and clear skies. Take advantage of the idyllic weather by visiting annual festivals like the MOJA Arts Festival and Charleston Beer Week. If it does rain, head indoors to the Gibbes Museum of Art.

Charleston is never lacking for exciting new restaurants and stylish hotels. Keep those summer vibes going with poolside cocktails at Little Palm at the Ryder Hotel, which opened on King Street in 2021. The Loutrel, a 50-room boutique hotel in the French Quarter, and Brasserie la Banque, a French brasserie from James Beard Award–nominated restaurateur Steve Palmer, are two of Charleston’s most popular spots.

Exterior of Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville

Take in a history lesson at the Muhammad Ali Center.

Photo by Joe Hendrickson/Shutterstock

Louisville, Kentucky

A city well-known for its production of a classic American spirit—bourbon—is ready for visitors to discover another integral part of the metropolis: its people. Louisville has several museums, exhibitions, and initiatives that highlight the incredible stories of Black Americans who helped shape the city. The Muhammad Ali Center in downtown Louisville is a cultural attraction celebrating the legacy of the late boxing legend who planted roots in the city, not only through the story of his life but also with rotating temporary exhibits like We Don’t Wither, a collection of work from local women focused on the meeting point of activism and art.

In 2021, Louisville launched a Black Heritage tour initiative called the Unfiltered Truth Collection. Using costumed actors, these immersive experiences bring visitors face to face with Black Americans who worked to make Bourbon City the thriving metro it is today. Notable experiences include the Black Americans in Bourbon tour at the Frazier History Museum and the Ideal Bartender Experience, which spotlights Tom Bullock—the first Black American to publish a cocktail book—and takes visitors to a whiskey and cocktail tasting at a secret speakeasy. During the Proud of My Calling: An African American Experience in the Kentucky Derby exhibit, you’ll learn about the highs and lows that race horsing brought Black Americans on the racetrack.

A small boat on the tree-shaded river in San Antonio

Cooler temperatures make taking in San Antonio’s outdoor scene way more comfortable come fall.

Photo by Shutterstock

San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio consistently ranks among the most popular tourist destinations in Texas, and fall is an ideal time to discover the city with fewer crowds and cooler, more comfortable weather. The city hosts a free, two-day Día de los Muertos festival complete with an altar contest, procession, live poetry, and music.

For a unique art experience, visit Hopscotch in downtown San Antonio, a 20,000-square-foot art gallery that features a rotating roster of interactive installations. The space also houses a bar and lounge area, a gift shop, food trucks, and a patio with live music overlooking Travis Park.

Saguaro cactus at sunset in Scottsdale, Arizona

The hiking options are endless in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Photo by Myles McGuinness

Scottsdale, Arizona

By October, temperatures in Scottsdale drop, averaging around 75 during November, and the more forgiving Sonoran Desert welcomes outdoor enthusiasts and culture lovers alike. Under wide Arizona skies punctured by jagged mountains, options to explore on foot, wheels, or hoof abound. The McDowell Sonoran Preserve offers almost 35,000 acres of wild desert ripe for exploring. Hike the many trails, hire a fat-tire mountain bike to get even further in, or meander among the saguaro cacti on horseback. All Trails lists 90 options to explore and REI Co-Op offers bike rentals and guided tours.

Scottsdale’s annual outdoor public art event, Canal Convergence, is back from November 3 to 12, adorning the city’s waterfront district with artworks on the theme of art and technology. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2019, so if you’ve never visited his erstwhile winter home, now could be the time.

This article originally appeared online in 2021; it was most recently updated on October 5, 2023, to include current information.

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