Last Updated on August 14, 2023
Discover some of the best East Coast fall vacation spots to see stunning fall foliage, join fall activities and festivals, and visit historic cities.
Whether you’re planning a fall road trip, a weekend getaway, or a full vacation, you’ll find some of the best destinations on the East Coast to visit during the fall season. These destinations are great for enjoying the outdoors, joining fall festivities, or both! From state parks to cities, you’ll find the ideal place for your fall trip!
Keep on reading to discover the best East Coast fall vacation spots and getaways!
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HELPFUL WEBSITES TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR TRIP
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Rock City, Georgia
By Jillian Michelle from Adventure Dragon
If you’re looking for one of the best fall destinations on the East Coast, you have to see Rock City. This hidden gem tourist attraction is located in a tiny town named Lookout Mountain, Georgia.
During the fall, Rock City hosts a special fall festival called Rocktoberfest. The event celebrates the location’s German heritage through food, music, dancing, pumpkin painting, and storytelling. Kids especially love watching the Fall Fairy arrive to bring autumn to Rock City. They can also hang out with the Troll King as he tells fairy tales on the mountain.
The best reason to visit Rock City during the fall, however, is the gorgeous waterfall. To find it, you’ll follow the Enchanted Trail through moss-covered boulders until you reach a suspension bridge over a canyon. The waterfall can be found on the other side.
Make sure you head to the viewing platform located above the falls before you leave. You can see seven US states off in the distance while you’re standing in that spot!
The Chanticleer Inn Bed and Breakfast is located just across the street from the Rock City walking trail. It’s one of the closest and coziest places to stay during your visit.
Rock city lies 120 miles northwest of Atlanta and can be reached by car in less than 2 hours. If you’re coming from Chattanooga instead, it’s just 6 miles away and will take you 15 minutes.
By Theresa from Fueled By Wanderlust
Salem, MA is one of the most famous fall vacation spots on the East Coast of the USA. Dubbed the “Witch City”, Salem simply does fall better. A trip here delivers vibrant fall foliage, spooky witch trials history, and filming sites from the classic Halloween movie, Hocus Pocus.
Visitors can learn about 17th-century Salem and beyond by taking a historical walking tour. To learn even more about the infamous witch trials of the late 1600’s Puritan society, pay a visit to sights like the Witch Museum and Witch House. Don’t forget to stop at the Witch Trials Memorial to pay homage to the victims that were executed during the trials.
Fans of Hocus Pocus can visit many filming sights from the movie, including Salem Common, the Pioneer Village, and Ropes Mansion. It is also possible to visit Max and Dani’s house, but only from the outside, as it’s technically someone’s private home.
For a gorgeous autumn stroll past stately homes, make your way through the McIntire Historic District. Lanes like Chestnut Street and Essex Street are at their prettiest with colorful leaves blown across their manicured lawns.
Salem is easy to reach in thirty to forty minutes from Boston by car or train (via the purple line). Visitors can fly into Boston Logan Airport, and either stay in Boston and day trip north or stay right in Salem.
The Hawthorne Hotel is one of the nicest hotels in Salem, and is centrally located within walking distance of the best sights.
For casual dining, the Gulu-Gulu Café features a full menu of coffee drinks, beer on tap, and a number of vegan and other comfort food dishes. For upscale fare in a beautifully restored interior, book a reservation at Ledger Restaurant & Bar for modern, 19th-century-inspired dishes.
New York City, New York
By Yesenia and Sierra from The Sisters Who Voyage
New York City is an evergreen city that can be toured in any season but is incredibly wonderful during the fall season. While other towns lose out on various activities, New York City shines with its never-ending list of things to do when the chilly season approaches.
When visiting New York, you’ll want to arrive at the closest and most accessible airport; JFK is an excellent airport as it offers a surplus of flights from various regions around the world and has excellent public transportation routes for heading to the city and neighboring areas such as Brooklyn or New Jersey.
When choosing a place to stay, you’ll want to consider food venues in the area, access to stores, accessibility to nearby metro stations, and other forms of public transportation.
A great hotel that fits this bill and is nestled in between lower Manhattan and Financial Square is the Millennium Downtown New York Hotel. This hotel is also pet-friendly if you’re traveling with a furry friend, offers on-site parking for a fee, and is situated near a metro station for easy access to the subway.
When visiting New York during the fall, you’ll want to include activities that allow you to escape the fall chill; these can be shows, musicals, museums, food tours, shopping, and other things.
One of the most recommended activities is enjoying a Broadway show on Broadway, some of the most popular shows are the Lion King, BeetleJuice, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Moulin Rouge, Wicked and more. Tickets sell out quickly, so book them at least a few weeks ahead of your planned trip.
Another note-worthy activity that only takes place during Halloween is the annual New York Village Halloween Parade. This famous parade has been a part of New York City culture for almost 50 years and features special surprise guests, marching bands, decorated floats, out-of-this-world costumes, and a stellar after-party.
If you would like to participate in the parade, book your tickets so you can have a spot on a float or enjoy the show from a VIP entrance. Otherwise, watching the parade is free for parade-goers viewing from the streets.
Whatever you choose, visiting New York during the fall is an absolute must and is sure to have something fun for everyone.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
By Shannon from Adventuring With Shannon
Shenandoah National Park is easily one of the best fall destinations on the east coast of the United States. Located in Virginia and close to the capital of the United States, this national park is perfect for a fall getaway.
Shenandoah is home to many beautiful hiking trails, mountain views, and wildlife-watching opportunities. In the fall, it turns into an autumn paradise as the leaves change colors and the mountains turn into a mixture of oranges and reds.
Even though it is close to the city, Shenandoah feels like worlds away.
Fall is one of the best times to visit the park because of the beautiful color change in the leaves, but also because the weather is beautiful and perfect for hiking. Between September and November, the lows can be as low as the lower 30s (F) and the highs as warm as the mid-70s (F). This makes it wonderful weather to enjoy a stroll through the park.
One of the best things to do in Shenandoah is hiking. There are many hikes to choose from that range from short and accessible paths to multi-day backpacking trips in Shenandoah. If you don’t want to hike, you can also drive the famous Skyline drive and stop at the incredible viewpoints.
If you want to visit Shenandoah, there are two historic lodges in the park that make for the perfect place to stay: The Skyland and Big Meadows lodges. You can also check out the vacation rentals in the area, you’ll find plenty of cozy cabins.
You can also commute from the DC area if you want to combine your time with a trip to the nation’s capital.
Finger Lakes, New York
By Rebecca from Veggies Abroad
One of the best East Coast vacation spots to explore during the fall is the Finger Lakes. The eleven skinny lakes, surrounded by a fiery forest of reds, yellows, oranges, and purples, are truly mesmerizing.
On top of the lakes, the area is also known for an abundance of waterfalls, profound gorges, and towering cliffs which is incredibly scenic year-round, but in the fall, it’s especially jaw-dropping with the vibrant colors.
One of the best ways to enjoy the fall colors is to get your heart pumping and explore one of the hundreds of Finger Lakes hiking trails. The trails are peppered throughout the area; some take you through lush forests to waterfalls, while others will challenge your skills with a bit of waterfall climbing!
In addition to exploring the beautiful outdoors, the area is also well known for its wineries, including award-winning Rieslings. One spot you shouldn’t miss is Atwater Vineyards, located on a hill above Seneca Lake. It’s worth a visit just for the views, but they also have a house-made vegan cheese plate that pairs perfectly with all of their wines, especially the fruity Rose of Pinot Noir!
The easiest way to get to the Finger Lakes is to drive; the closest airport is in Rochester, NY. It is essential to keep in mind that the Finger Lakes region is enormous — approximately the size of New Jersey, so keep in mind that you might not be able to get to everything on your list during your first trip, but that’s the perfect reason to return!
When you’re booking accommodations, it is recommended to stay in a couple spots to be able to experience more of the region.
A couple great towns to check out are Watkins Glen and Ithaca. In downtown Ithaca there is a charming B&B, The William Henry Miller Inn, they have the best veggie-friendly breakfast — you won’t be disappointed.
You’ll also find plenty of vacation rentals in the area, renting a lakeside cottage can be a fantastic idea.
By Brittany from Travel by Brit
Plymouth, MA, has something to offer during all seasons—but this destination on the East Coast truly shines in the fall! Plymouth is located on Plymouth Bay, so the city experiences cool, breezy weather all year. The summers are warm, and the winters are cold and long, which makes fall the perfect time to explore all Plymouth, MA, has to offer!
Famously known as “America’s Hometown,” Plymouth is the destination where the Pilgrims stepped off the Mayflower in 1620. Because of this, Plymouth, MA, is filled with many historical sites, museums, and landmarks to explore.
You can also stroll along Court Street, the main street in Plymouth, and see historical sites along the way, like Plymouth Rock or Howland House. When you’re ready to take a break from sightseeing, grab a bite to eat at Mamma Mia’s of Plymouth Waterfront, or go wine tasting at Plymouth Bay Winery.
While the weather is nice, take the opportunity to get outside and go hiking or biking in the Myles Standish State Forest. If you’re visiting in October, make the short drive to Warham for the Cranberry Harvest Celebration, where you can help harvest cranberries in a cranberry bog!
Plymouth is also a great day trip or weekend getaway from Boston or Cape Cod, so if you’re trying to squeeze in as many cities as possible during your autumn vacation to the East Coast, basing yourself in one of these locations is a great alternative.
New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
By Jenoa from The Travel Folk
New River Gorge is America’s newest national park. With its scenic views, beautiful hikes, and endless forest, this is one of the best fall getaways on the east coast for nature lovers.
The national park has endless activities during the fall season from hiking and biking to river rafting. For the best fall viewpoints in New River Gorge National Park, go on one of the many hikes that offer incredible views of the gorge.
The Long Point Trail is a moderate hike that ends with panoramic views of the gorge and the New River Gorge Bridge, one of the highest bridges in America. If you’re brave enough, you can even walk across the bridge on a 2-foot wide catwalk beneath the bridge.
Another fantastic hike is the Grandview Rim Trail, an easy hike with views overlooking the New River. The views during the fall are packed with vibrant colors and the site is worth seeing.
Fayetteville is the town closest to the national park with many restaurants for lunch or dinner. Try Wanderlust Creative Foods for a meal – the food is excellent.
The nearest airport is in Charleston, West Virginia, which is about an hour’s drive away from New River Gorge. You will need to rent a car to access the national park.
Stowe, Vermont, is a fantastic year-round destination, but comes fall, it turns magical. It’s one of the best getaways on the East Coast to see fall foliage and hike through fiery woods reaching stunning lookouts over the mountains.
Hiking is the best thing to do in Stowe during the fall, but don’t worry, if hiking is not your thing, some lifts are open year-round and you can easily reach beautiful viewpoints without much effort.
Hike one of the trails to the top of Mount Mansfield or drive the auto toll road to get a panoramic view of the mountains and the village. Once there, you can get down ziplining to admire the fall foliage from above.
You can also hike to Stowe Pinnacle or to Bingham Falls and Moss Glen Falls, which are just gorgeous to see during the fall season.
You’ll also find plenty of vacation rentals, from condos with mountain views to luxurious chalets-
Baxter State Park, Maine
With over 200,000 acres of wilderness, Baxter State Park should definitely be on your East Coast fall vacations bucket list. Whether you’re hiking, biking, or driving through the park, be prepared to see some of the best fall foliage in New England.
During fall, there are many hikes you can go on, from easy to strenuous ones, from a few hours to a few days. If it’s not too cold yet you can also rent a kayak and explore one of the park’s many lakes. Thrill-seekers can undertake climbing the 5,267-foot high Mount Katahdin.
You can camp in the park until October 22nd but you’ll have to bring everything you’ll need and be ready to rough it up. Otherwise, book a cabin near the park, many are on Ambajejus Lake offering beautiful views of Mt. Katahdin.
White Mountains Fall Road Trip, New Hampshire
One of the best ways to explore New England during the fall is to plan a fall road trip! The White Mountains in New Hampshire are one of the best destinations to visit during the fall season. Driving past scenic lookouts, going on easy hikes, and stopping by quaint towns, you’ll be able to witness fall at its best.
Drive along the 100-mile White Mountain Trail, starting at the White Mountains Visitor’s Center in North Woodstock, passing through Franconia Notch State Park then Crawford Notch State Park. Stop along the way to explore cascading waterfalls, covered bridges, dozens of mountain and valley outlooks, and maybe go on a couple of hikes.
You can also drive the famous Kancamagus Highway if you have the time or go on a scenic train ride through the area.
In the nearby towns, you’ll find plenty of fall festivals, fairs, and events, check out the White Mountains’ event calendar to see what’s going on when you’re visiting.
You’ll find plenty of cabins and cottages available for rent along the way.
Wilmington is one of the best East Coast hidden gems and will make an ideal fall getaway destination. With a charming downtown and many outdoor recreational areas and parks, Wilmington offers plenty of ways to enjoy the fall season.
In town, make sure to tour the gorgeous Nemours Mansion and Garden, check out the riverfront, and visit a couple of museums. Then, take a stroll through marshes and gardens at the DuPont Environmental Education Center and visit the Russell W. Peterson Wildlife Refuge.
Held the third weekend of September, the Delaware Saengerbund Oktoberfest is a must-see. You’ll find plenty of events and festivals going on during the fall, make sure to check out the town’s event calendar.
Outside of town, the Alapocas Run State Park is perfect to go hiking, biking, or rock climbing, and enjoy the fall foliage.
If you are planning a road trip, make sure to drive the Brandywine Valley National Scenic Byway for some stunning scenery. The region is also famous for its craft breweries, wineries, and meaderies. From Wilmington, you can take a tour along the Two Bridges Wine Trail or the Brandywine Wine Trail.
Annapolis is one of the best fall destinations on the East Coast. Offering plenty of fall festivals and activities, as well as opportunities to get outside to see the fall foliage, Annapolis is a great spot for a weekend getaway on the coast.
Fall is the best time of the year to take a historic ghost walking tour, a fun way to explore the city and learn more about its haunted past. Don’t miss touring the Maryland State House.
Check out the Greenstreet Gardens Fall Festival. Kids will love the five-acre corn maze, taking a trip around the farm on a hayride, exploring the pumpkin patch, and many more activities. The Maryland Renaissance Festival is also a must-do for kids and adults alike.
If you are visiting on September 25th, check out the West Annapolis Oktoberfest, a lot of fun and an opportunity to sample some local delicacies.
To go hiking to see some fall foilage head to Bacon Ridge Natural Area. Beverly Triton Nature Park, Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, or Ellen O. Moyer Nature Park (don’t miss the Annapolis Maritime Museum).
If you need a hotel, check out Graduate Annapolis, one of the best-rated hotels in town and perfectly located. If you want something more intimate, check out the Historic Inns of Annapolis or Flag House Inn, both come highly recommended.
You can also book a vacation rental in the downtown area to be close to most sights and entertainment options.
Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip, North Carolina
The Blue Ridge Parkway is incredible to drive any time of the year, but there’s something magical about seeing the leaves turn different shades of red and yellow. Take a few days to explore the parkway, stopping along the way for short hikes and to take in the views from the road’s many lookouts.
The 469-mile parkway starts in the Shenandoah Valley in Northern Virginia and ends in Southwestern North Carolina, passing near national parks, mountain ranges, quaint towns, and busy cities. You can plan many stops along the way, depending on how long you have and what you want to visit.
Among the most popular fall hikes along the Blue Ridge Mountains, don’t miss hiking to Looking Glass Rock in Pisgah National Forest, the Auxier Ridge Loop in Red River Gorge, Old Rag Trail in Shenandoah National Park, Blackwater Canyon in Monongahela National Forest, and Table Rock Mountain in Linville Gorge.
You’ll find several campgrounds and some lodges just off the parkway, or you can exit it and stay at one of the nearby towns. There are plenty of vacation rentals that won’t take you far off of the road.
Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, South Carolina
With 12,000 acres of woodlands and hundreds of miles of hiking trails, the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area will make a perfect fall getaway for those wanting to spend time outside, witnessing the breathtaking changes of colors that take place this time of the year.
You’ll find trails of all lengths from easy to strenuous hikes, depending on your fitness level and how long you want to spend in the area. Make sure to pack plenty of water and snacks, as well as warmer clothing just in case.
You can pick up a map at Caesars Head or Jones Gap state parks‘ visitor center, all trails are color-coded and easy to follow. Raven Cliff Falls, Cleveland Cliffs, and Ashmore Heritage Preserve are also part of the Mountain Bridge.
Among the most popular trails in the area, you’ll find Rainbow Falls, El Lieutenant Rock Dome, Bald Rock, and Symmes Chapel at Pretty Place.
If you want to take a quick fall road trip, drive the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway, stopping along the way for short hikes and to enjoy the scenery.
You’ll find several primitive backcountry campsites within the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, you’ll need to book beforehand. For something more comfortable, you can book a stay at one of the many hotels in Greenville or book a lodge or cabin in the area.