With kids out of school and the open road calling, summer is typified as the quintessential season for an all-American road trip. It’s the time of year when families flock to iconic destinations like Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, and Mount Rushmore. But just because school is back in session and the days are getting shorter doesn’t mean you have to shorten your road trip itineraries. On the contrary, fall is the most wonderful season for a scenic road trip, no matter how far you’re able to voyage from home. Whether trekking through the mountains, the desert, or the forests, here’s why you need to plan a fall road trip.
THINKING ABOUT A FALL ROAD TRIP? HERE ARE FIVE REASONS TO ROAD TRIP THIS FALL
1. THE FOLIAGE
First and foremost, the one thing that differentiates fall road trips from summer excursions is the scenery. Blue skies and lush greenery is beautiful and all, but summer landscapes can’t hold a candle to the floral show that autumn puts on. Especially in the northeast, and all along the East Coast, fall foliage suddenly turns any road trip into a scenic drive of staggering proportions. Pro tip: the smaller the road you embark on, the more breathtaking the scenery will become, as leaves transform backroads into veritable leafy tunnels tinted with red, orange, and yellow. You can’t go wrong with any route on the East Coast, really, but some of the most iconic include the Blue Ridge Parkway, a famed 469-mile journey through the Appalachian Highlands, Skyline Drive spanning the length of Shenandoah National Park, the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway, Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire’s show-stopping White Mountains, and the quaint byways that zig and zag through Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park in Macon, Georgia.
2. LESS TRAFFIC
Not only are the thoroughfares that much more mesmerizing in the fall, but they’ve got the added bonus of being that much less crowded. From roads and trailheads to campgrounds and tourist towns, everything is less trafficked in the fall, as kids go back to class and families settle back into pre-holiday routines. With less people out and about, it makes it easier — and faster — to get to your destination and make the most of your trip, with less crowds to contend with once you’ve arrived.
3. FALL FESTIVALS
Festivals are an evergreen activity across the country, from holiday fanfare to summer picnics and music showcases, but there’s something particularly special about a fall fest. Lit up with foliage and flanked by cozy seasonal ornamentation like pumpkins and cornstalks, there’s an innate warmth and charm to this time of year known for state fairs, haunted houses, and hayrides. Fall festivals can be found in abundance across the country, but to really maximize the glee of it all, some of the best can be found on the East Coast and throughout the Northeast. Eat fried dough and watch horse shows at the Deerfield Fair in New Hampshire, don your comfiest attire at the Southern Vermont Flannel Festival, get your Scottish on at the Scotland CT Highland Games in Connecticut, marvel at Mother Nature at the Bedford Fall Foliage Festival in Pennsylvania, raise a stein at Oktoberfest at Blue Mountain Brewery in Virginia, and combine foliage views with arts, crafts, and Southern comfort food at the Autumn Leaves Festival in Mt. Airy, North Carolina.
4. MORE AFFORDABLE
With more crowds comes more costs. Thus, since summer is far and away the easiest season for families to hit the road, the prices rise to the occasion too, making it the most expensive time to travel and road trip. Despite the comfortable weather and stunning scenery, fall is comparatively an “off season” for many parks, towns, and destinations, which means prices drop to entice more of those off-season visitors. If you’re able to finagle the time off for a fall road trip, you’ll be rewarded with savings on everything from lodging and camping to restaurant deals and admission prices to area attractions.
5. APPLE ORCHARDS AND CORN MAZES
Some of the homiest activities of the year happen in the fall, when travelers bundle up in cozy scarves, sip on warm cider, and embark on family-friendly pastimes that feel like quintessential Americana at its most quaint. Chief among this festive fun are apple orchards and corn mazes — and if you’re lucky, you’ll find a place that has both. Both orchards and cornfields can be found across the country, with many offering elaborately themed and immersive maize mazes, and orchards with pick-your-own fruits and novelty snacks like apple cider donuts and caramel apples. Some favorites include County Line Orchard in Indiana, Gould Hill Farm in New Hampshire, Uncle John’s Cider Mill in Michigan, Morning Glory Orchard in Tennessee, and Rellim Orchard in West Virginia. And in terms of corn mazes, some over-the-tap labyrinths include Devine’s Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch in Kentucky, Cherry Crest Adventure Farm in Pennsylvania, and Harvest Moon in the ultimate corny state of Nebraska.