Last Updated on July 17, 2023
Looking for the best destinations in the South for a fall getaway?
In this article, travel experts share their favorite places to visit in the South during the fall. From stunning fall foilage to pristine beaches to vibrant cities, discover their top picks!
As temperatures start to cool down and the trees turn into stunning shades of orange, fall in the South is something to witness. Enjoy your fall break with a special vacation with your loved ones.
Whether you’re looking for a fall beach getaway to escape the cold, to go chasing fiery fall foilage, or to indulge in a well-deserved vacation, the South offers a plethora of fall destinations that will please anyone.
From hiking in national parks to visiting historic cities to relaxing at the beach, you’ll find the perfect Southern places to visit this fall listed below.
Keep on reading to discover all the best fall vacation spots in the South of the US.
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Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
By James Ian from Parks Collecting
Shenandoah National Park has some of the most spectacular fall colors in the entire South. The national park lies along the crest of a section of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This means that the colors change first on the ridge and gradually creep down the sides of the mountains, extending the fall season.
The Skyline Drive runs the entire length of the ridge. In fact, the national park was created specifically to feature the stunning scenic drive.
There are 75 overlooks along Skyline Drive with incredible views over Shenandoah Valley to the west and Virginia on the other side. Mile markers spaced along the length of the drive make it easy to locate all the park’s features and facilities.
In addition to the drive, there are plenty of hiking trails in Shenandoah to enjoy other views over the gorgeous fall foliage. Top hikes include the Stony Man Trail and Hawksbill Summit.
It takes about three hours to drive the entire length of Skyline Drive, but you should allow at least two days to visit the park for stops and hikes.
There are four entrances to the park. The two at the northern end are typically the most crowded as they are closest to Washington DC. The peak fall color is usually at its best in mid-October, though it can vary each year. Fall weekends can get very crowded, so try to visit mid-week if possible.
There are two lodges inside the national park – Big Meadows Lodge and Skyland. Both have cabins and motel-style rooms. If you prefer to stay in nearby Shenandoah Valley, a good option is The Mimslyn Inn in nearby Luray.
By Kim of Traveling Swansons
In the fall, Orlando, Florida, stands out as one of the top destinations to explore in the South.
The weather during this season is pleasantly mild, with temperatures averaging in the mid-70s to low 80s Fahrenheit. This comfortable temperature allows visitors to fully enjoy the city and be outside without enduring the excessive heat of summertime.
Fall is also the ideal time to experience Orlando’s renowned theme parks. Since the busy summer vacation period has passed, the parks are less crowded, which means less time waiting in lines.
At Disney’s Magic Kingdom, you can take part in the festivities of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party on select nights. Magic Kingdom is also adorned with charming fall decorations.
At EPCOT, the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival offers a delightful array of culinary delights from around the world.
Universal Orlando Resort also hosts the highly popular Halloween Horror Nights during the fall season, providing a thrilling and spooky experience.
Beyond the theme parks, fall in Orlando is also an excellent opportunity for outdoor adventures. You can go golfing, kayaking, hiking, or biking in comfortable temperatures.
Overall, the combination of pleasant weather, reduced crowds, exciting events, and a wide range of activities makes Orlando, Florida a popular and enjoyable destination in the fall.
And when it comes to accommodations, the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Resort stands out as an excellent choice, conveniently located near all the attractions. For travelers arriving by air, the Orlando International Airport (MCO) serves as the nearest gateway to this vibrant city.
Hot Springs, Arkansas
By Caitlin of Twin Family Travels
Hot Springs, Arkansas is a wonderful destination to visit in the fall. The beautiful fall colors and the cool temperatures are perfect to see the highlights of the town and enjoy the hiking trails.
The thermal waters in Hot Springs have drawn visitors to town for a soak for many years. The historic Bathhouse Row is now preserved as Hot Springs National Park. Spend a day touring the visitor center, fill up a jug with the famous thermal waters, walk the grand promenade, go for a scenic drive, and take a hike on one of the many hiking trails surrounding the park.
Many notable figures passed through Hot Springs in its heyday. Head to The Gangster Museum of America to learn all about Al Capone and other notorious criminals. The Historic Baseball Trail documents the many baseball players that came to town for spring training.
Another wonderful fall attraction in Hot Springs is Garvan Woodland Gardens. The gardens are seasonally decorated with pumpkins and corn stalks to add to the already beautiful fall foliage.
For family-friendly fall fun, check out the Magic Springs Theme Park. They go all out with fall-themed decorations and activities. At night, the park is transformed into a spooky setting.
The Hotel Hale, located directly on Bathhouse Row, is a unique lodging option offering numerous amenities. Its 9 distinct rooms are spacious and feature mineral soaking tubs supplied with thermal spring water flowing directly to the room.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
By Julie of Chickery’s Travels
If you’re looking for a relaxing beach destination to enjoy after all the tourists have gone home, then visiting the Outer Banks in the fall is a perfect choice! Situated off the coast of North Carolina, these barrier islands offer something special to everyone: beautiful beaches and lighthouses, unique wildlife experiences, and plenty of cultural attractions.
Fall is the best time to take long walks on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean because the heat and humidity of summer have subsided. Without all the traffic of the summer, it’s also a great time to get around on a bike rather than having to drive a car everywhere.
When you’re ready for a break from the beach, there are numerous historical sights to visit including five lighthouses, four of which you can climb to the top for stunning views.
Another great place to explore is Jockey’s Ridge State Park, home to the tallest natural sand dunes on the east coast. It’s also a popular launching point for hang gliders and you can spend hours watching them sail the wind currents over the ocean. If you’re adventurous, you can even book a lesson.
The best place to stay is the Outer Banks/Cape Hatteras KOA Resort. This prime beachfront camping resort offers tent and RV sites, as well as beach cottages and glamping tents for rent.
When you’re not at the beach, you can let the kids enjoy some fun at the large playground with a pirate ship, or the whole family can take a dip in the large pool with a hot tub. Furry companions are welcome as well, with a spacious dog park on-site.
Not to mention, you’ll be close to local attractions and dining options. With such a variety of options, it’s the perfect place for your Outer Banks getaway.
By Candice of Exploring the Gulf
Clearwater is an amazing destination for a fall beach getaway. The miles of white sand and gorgeous gulf waters make for the perfect backdrop for a family vacation or a couple’s trip.
Fall is a wonderful time to visit Clearwater because stifling summer temperatures have dropped slightly, as well as the tourist numbers. The weather will be comfortable, and you won’t have to fight as many crowds.
One of the most popular pulls to Clearwater in the fall is the Offshore Nationals, a weekend of high-intensity powerboat racing. Adrenaline junkies will love catching this action in late September.
Harley Davidson owners also swoop into Clearwater in the fall for their Bikes, Beaches, and Bridges rally. It’s a fun series of events to observe and a great opportunity to see some beautiful motorcycles!
There are so many wonderful places to stay while visiting Clearwater. If convenience is the name of the game for you, consider a family resort in Clearwater Beach like the top-rated Legacy Vacation Resorts-Indian Shores.
If you’re traveling on a budget, there are some stellar motels in Clearwater too like the affordable Belleair Beach Resort Motel.
Dogs can often be spotted around town, so if you’re planning to travel with your pup, you’ll have no problem finding pet-friendly hotels in Clearwater Beach.
With beautiful weather, beaches, and a calendar full of fun activities, you can’t go wrong with Clearwater in the fall!
Charleston, South Carolina
By Sam Opp from Find Love and Travel
One of the best fall destinations to visit in the Southeast is Charleston, South Carolina. The weather in Charleston is relatively mild during the fall, making it really comfortable to explore the city. You can also experience some fall foliage in Charleston! Moreover, fall is considered a shoulder season for Charleston, so the city will be way less touristy and more enjoyable during this time.
If you love all things spooky season, Charleston is a great place to be. Considered one of the most haunted cities in the USA, there are tons of ghost tours to choose from.
Other top attractions you should add to your Charleston itinerary include walking the Battery, exploring Charleston’s hidden alleys, visiting the Pineapple Fountain, and enjoying a rooftop bar.
The best way to get to Charleston is by flying into the Charleston airport or taking a road trip to the city if you live nearby.
An excellent hotel to consider is The Vendue. Located in the heart of Charleston, this hotel is known as an art hotel. Maybe one of the best aspects of this hotel is the rooftop bar. It offers spectacular views of the city and is regularly voted one of the best rooftop bars in Charleston.
By Taima of Poor in a Private Plane
Known for its stunning beaches and vibrant culture, Tampa Bay is an ideal destination for your fall vacation in the South.
Fall in Tampa is a breath of fresh air. The sweltering summer heat gives way to pleasant temperatures, making it the perfect time to explore the city and its surrounding natural beauty. The hurricane season also slows down, ensuring clear skies and less unpredictable weather.
Getting to Tampa is a breeze. You can fly into Tampa International Airport with direct flights from major cities across the U.S. If you’re up for a road trip, Tampa is well-connected by many interstates in the state of Florida, including I-75, I-4, and I-275, making it accessible from all directions.
Now, onto the fun part – exploring the city! There are a lot of things to do in Tampa for couples, families, and even solo travelers.
Start by grabbing a bite to eat at Farmacy Vegan Kitchen + Bakery, serving up mouthwatering plant-based dishes. After lunch, visit the historic Ybor City neighborhood, where you can go on a historic walking tour of this amazing neighborhood.
For outdoor enthusiasts, Tampa doesn’t disappoint. The Hillsborough River State Park offers beautiful trails to hike and bike. Or you can go kayaking on the Hillsborough River while enjoying views of the Tampa skyline and the minarets of the University of Tampa.
When it comes to accommodation, the Epicurean Hotel is highly recommended. It offers luxurious rooms at an affordable price and caters to the foodie in you with its on-site culinary theater, which hosts cooking classes and a wine shop. Plus, they offer an array of food options in their restaurant.
Tampa is a great destination for your next fall getaway in the South. It’s the perfect place to visit no matter what your travel style is.
New Orleans, Louisiana
By Agnes of The Van Escape
Because of its mild temperatures and sunny days, visiting New Orleans is a perfect idea for a fall trip. Since the main hurricane activity is in July through August and early September, the best time to visit NOLA in the fall is from late September through October and November.
In September, average daily maximum temperatures in New Orleans drop from 90°F to 84°F. In October, average daily maximum temperatures drop from 84°F to 76°F, and it’s a bit cloudy about 35% of the time. In November, average daily high temperatures drop from 76°F to 69°F.
Take a walk and enjoy the French Quarter, visiting iconic New Orleans landmarks, including St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square, and the French Market. The sidewalks in the French Quarter are pretty uneven, so you should wear comfortable shoes. On the famous Bourbon Street, you can enjoy the best cocktails.
Cruising the Natchez Steamboat or the Creole Queen boat is one of the best attractions on the Mississippi River. You can admire the city from a water perspective. During the cruise, you can learn about Creole culture and history and try Cajun cuisine.
Another activity when exploring New Orleans is to learn about the history of slavery and visit one of the most famous plantations, such as Oak Alley Plantation, Whitney Plantation, or Laura Plantation.
If you enjoy watching wildlife in their natural habitat, you can tour the bayou swamps. This exciting activity in the Louisiana swamps will give you a chance to see turtles, alligators, raccoons, and many birds. As they live in the wild, there is no guarantee that you will be able to spot them. But the famous mossy cypress trees in the swamps provide a spectacular backdrop for taking pictures.
Blue Ridge Parkway
By Victoria of Southern Trippers
If you’re looking for one of the best fall destinations in the South then you cannot beat the Blue Ridge Parkway. After all, this stunning, 469-mile road trip takes you from Charlottesville in Northern Virginia to Asheville in North Carolina.
Along the way, you’ll pass through the famous Blue Ridge Mountains, which are home to vast tracts of forests that come alive with vibrant fall colors in the middle of October.
And while there are many different places to admire stunning fall foliage along the parkway, be sure to make special stops at Hawks Bill Mountain, Sharp Top Mountain, Mabry Mill, Grandfather Mountain, and Rough Ridge Overlook.
You can even do an awesome side hike to Linville Falls since the trailhead sits right near Rough Ridge Trail.
Now, because this is a two-lane highway with a speed limit of around 45 mph, you’ll want to spend a minimum of four days doing this road trip. This way you have plenty of time to visit the Blue Ridge Music Center and Humpback Gap too.
Then, when you arrive in Asheville, be sure to check out the foliage in and around Biltmore Estate before enjoying fun seasonal events like the Eliada Fall Festival and Corn Maze.
Finally, spend the night at The Restoration Asheville. It’s got an awesome rooftop terrace that offers excellent views of the area’s mountains.
By Alex of Twenty Something Traveler
When it comes to great fall destinations, Chattanooga, Tennessee, hits the mark. With its several hikes, adorable downtown, and riverfronts, Chattanooga makes for a perfect autumn weekend getaway.
Starting with some of the best views of the color-changing leaves, visit Sunset Rock, a short half-mile hike overlooking Lookout Mountain’s western bluff. While it has sunset in the name, this hike is really perfect for any time of day, so don’t limit yourself. This hike notoriously has the smallest parking lot ever, so you may have to park further down the street if there are a lot of visitors.
Close by are two of the area’s most popular attractions, Ruby Falls and Rocky City. Ruby Falls is an impressive underground waterfall awaiting you at the end of a long glass elevator ride, and Rocky City is an enchanting trail with small caves, swing bridges, and great views along Lookout Mountain. At Rocky City, you even have the chance to overlook 7 states at once.
When you’re ready for some city action, Downtown Chattanooga has some amazing shops, restaurants, breweries, and museums. Be sure to also visit the Chattanooga Market for hand-made crafts, events, food, and more.
Lastly, end one of your nights with a sunset cruise down the Tennessee River. Board the Southern Belle for an unforgettable 1.5-hour cruise with live music and snacks (dinner optional). Afterward, return to your cozy cabin for a good night’s sleep.
By Sierra of Very Truly Texas
When it comes to finding a fall destination in the South, be sure to head to Austin, Texas. When the heat of summer begins to fade away, the fall months are warm, but comfortable allowing visitors to enjoy all the amazing outdoor activities that Austin has to offer.
Austin is easily accessible via the Austin Bergstrom Airport. For travelers that wish to stay centrally downtown, plan on just using rideshare options to get around. A rental car is necessary for those that wish to venture deeper into Hill Country for Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg or to a farm to experience one of the best pumpkin patches in Austin.
Travelers visiting the city in the early to mid-fall will want to take advantage of bat season! Through October, millions of bats reside under Congress Avenue Bridge and fly out as the sun sets. The best way to see them is from the water in a kayak or on a boat tour.
Music lovers won’t want to miss the Austin City Limits Music Festival at downtown Zilker Park in early October.
The cooler temperatures make fall the perfect time for a self-guided tour of Austin’s incredible street art. Take a free tour of the Capitol building or cheer on the Longhorns at University of Texas at Austin football game.
Active travelers will love kayaking on Lady Bird Lake or walking alongside it on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail. Head to McKinney Falls State Park for waterfall views and a perfect picnic spot.
The Fairmont Austin is a highly recommended spot for lodging. With its gorgeous rooms, rooftop pool with incredible views, and central location, it can’t be beaten.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
By Anwar of Beyond My Door
Located on the Southern tip of Texas, Big Bend National Park encompasses over 800,000 acres of high desert area on the border of Mexico. The Park is named for the “bend” in the Rio Grande that is located within the Park, but the park is really known for its vast desert landscape, mountains, wildlife, and canyons.
Some of the best things to do in Big Bend National Park include going on incredible hikes (such as Lost Mine, Mule Ears, The Window), exploring the dinosaur past of the area, taking float trips down the Rio Grande, and even visiting a ghost town.
Actually, the ghost town of Terlingua is one of the best spots to stay when visiting Big Bend. Located out the west entrance of the park, the town features eclectic architecture, good food, and an interesting mining past. There are quite a few options for hotels and vacation rentals there, and for a pleasant stay, Lajitas Resort is a great oasis after park exploration.
The park is open year-round but due to its location, fall to spring are the busiest times within the park. Fall in particular is the best time to visit, since it’s cooler than summer and tends to have less rain than winter and spring. Mid-fall tends to be the best in terms of weather and length of daylight to explore the park.
Nighttime offers excellent stargazing opportunities given the low light pollution of the area.
While visiting, be sure to have your passport on hand as you can cross the border within the park and have lunch or spend a day in Mexico. Boquillas, a small town on the border is reachable by rowboat or you can technically walk across (if the water level isn’t too high). Crossing within the park is only allowed at this border crossing.
Traveling to the park requires a car as transportation to and within the park is limited. The park is about 3 hours from Marfa and 5.5 hours from El Paso by car.
Great Smoky Mountains
By Sydney from A World in Reach
You can’t go wrong with a fall getaway to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. The national park, along with the surrounding towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, are packed with things to do.
For the quintessential Smoky Mountain experience, book a stay in one of the rustic cabins in the mountains. You can find tiny cabins perfect for a solo getaway as well as massive cabin mansions that will fit all of your friends or family members. Many cabins feature hot tubs – there’s truly no better way to enjoy the fall foliage in the mountains than by relaxing in the hot tub after a day of exploring!
Exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its gorgeous scenery and wildlife should be the focus of a fall getaway to the area. Don’t miss Cades Cove, one of the most popular spots in the park. You can drive the 11-mile loop, stopping at the scenic pull-offs for short hikes and photo stops. There are also several hiking trails that start in the cove.
Make sure to keep an eye out for the black bears who call the park home!
The towns of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville have lots of things to do on a fall day. Gatlinburg’s walkable downtown strip is lined with restaurants, shops, and tourist attractions like the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery and the Gatlinburg SkyLift and SkyBridge.
Highlights of Pigeon Forge include interactive museums like Wonderworks and Alcatraz East as well as Dollywood, which hosts a harvest festival in the fall.
The Great Smoky Mountains and surrounding towns are located southeast of Knoxville, the closest city to the area. If you’re not driving to your getaway, a rental car is recommended as most areas (other than downtown Gatlinburg) aren’t walkable.
By Adam and Kathryn of Adventures of A+K
Savannah, Georgia offers one of the best fall destinations in the South for a plethora of reasons. This picturesque city, known for its southern charm and rich history, takes on a new allure in the fall season. From the enchanting cobblestone streets to its lush parks and gardens, Savannah offers an array of experiences that make for the perfect getaway this time of year.
Whether you only have one day in Savannah to hit the highlights, or an entire week to engulf yourself in the southern charm, it’s the perfect vacation destination! For starters, the weather in Savannah in the fall is perfect. Highs range from 70 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit which is perfect for this walkable city, you’ll definitely want to spend all of your time outside!
Some really great events happen throughout the fall in Savannah. In September they host the Savannah Jazz Festival, October brings the best Halloween festivities like Oktoberfest and Wag-O-Ween, and November offers a delicious Savannah Food and Wine Festival.
While you’re in the city, be sure to visit Chippewa Square, the filming location of Forrest Gump. Stop for ice cream at Leopold’s Ice Cream, the line is always worth the wait! Later, visit the Bonaventure Cemetery, which was voted one of the top 10 most beautiful cemeteries in the world. And since it is spooky season, you’ll want to take a cemetery tour to really get into the spirit of Halloween!
If you plan to fly to Savannah, you’ll want to fly into the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport which is less than a 20-minute drive from downtown.
Book your stay at the Marriott Savannah Riverfront for gorgeous views out over the water and close access to everything in town!
By Tori of Tori Pines Travels
There’s no better place to spend a vacation in the fall than Nashville, TN. Known as Music City, Nashville might have incredible music but it also offers so much more than that, especially this time of year! The weather is incredible. Highs range from 61 to 83 during these months and the rain is the lowest this time of year. Summers here get extremely hot and winters get very cold, so the fall truly is the best time to visit!
As for things to do, you’ll never get bored. There is something for everyone in this city. If you love music then you’ll likely want to hit up the live music at the Honky Tonks on Broadway. But some more unique spots include the Bluebird, the Listening Room, and City Winery.
Experience the fall colors in the countryside of Nashville by visiting Arrington Vineyards. Pack a picnic and bring the family as there are beautiful rolling hills for the kids to play while the adults taste the delicious local wine.
But the fall also brings some super special annual events in Nashville as well! September offers the Americana Music Festival, October hosts Artober Nashville and November is home to the CMA awards. Any month you visit in the fall will offer something special.
Getting here has become incredibly easy as the airport now offers direct flights to over one hundred airports around the world!
Book a room at The Bobby Hotel. It’s located just steps from the popular sights and has comfortable rooms, but the best part is the incredible rooftop!
Emerald Isle, North Carolina
By Ashton of It’s AAAllgood
Emerald Isle, NC is the perfect destination to visit in the fall in the Southeast! A little less than a three-hour drive from the major airport of Raleigh-Durham, Emerald Isle is the perfect beach escape.
This coastal paradise has warm gulf stream waters running right off the coast, meaning that the waters and air temperature are still plenty warm for fall beach days and firepits at night!
Emerald Isle has over 20 miles of sandy beaches ideal for long walks and beach combing for shells.
Fall is the perfect time to visit because it is not only cheaper in the off-season, but warm enough to enjoy the beach without summer crowds! The slightly cooler temperatures make ideal weather for exploring the local trails, historic Fort Macon, or Cape Lookout Lighthouse nearby!
There are plenty of outdoor dining options with amazing waterfront views including many with boating access. In the fall, the sun sets directly on the beach making for epic sunset pictures.
If you’re a lover of wild animals, be sure to spend a day visiting the wild horses of nearby Shackleford Banks or going for a sunset cruise to look for wild dolphins.
Emerald Isle is a true family beach destination with things to do for people of all ages. There are a handful of putt facilities, a water park, boutiques, and even great craft breweries nearby. The best part of the entire area though is the beautiful beaches, coastal trails, and marsh to explore!
St. Augustine, Florida
By Taylor of Tea N’ Sea Travel
St. Augustine is a historic beachside town in North Florida, and visiting in the fall is one of the best times to visit. The town is much quieter during the fall than in summer and winter, and the weather is mild, making it much more enjoyable to visit and explore.
Even though the fall season cools down a bit, it is usually warm enough to enjoy the beaches, while being much more tolerable to walk around the historic district or explore things like the Lighthouse or the Fort.
While you’re in St. Augustine in the fall, there are many outdoor activities to enjoy, like hiking at Anastasia State Park, which sees far fewer mosquitoes than in summer.
If you visit later in the fall, mid-November begins the Christmas-time festivities in St. Augustine, so be prepared for the Nights of Lights crowds and decorations all over town.
There are a multitude of places to stay in St. Augustine, from resorts to quaint bed and breakfasts. Depending on your itinerary, I would choose a place to stay based on your preferred location, like the historic district or the beach.
Parking can be difficult downtown on busier days, and if you’re staying downtown, it’s a little more of a haul to get to the beach. If you want to be close to both, definitely check out the best retro pink hotel in St. Augustine, just a mile from downtown and a couple of miles to the beach.
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