24 Spots for a Cheap Fall Getaway
Ideal for those who love history and the outdoors, Williamsburg has free activities including hiking the Greensprings Interpretive Trail, which blends history and nature; biking the 52-mile Virginia Capital Trail; and visiting the York County Historical Museum, which features 400 years of artifacts from Native American through Civil War periods. Self-guided tours of the College of William and Mary (the second-oldest college the country, and Thomas Jefferson's alma mater) are free. The Willamsburg Taste Festival is in November.
Budget accommodations: The Best Western Historic Area offers a "Colonial Willamsburg Getaway" from Sept. 1 through April 1 with rates starting at $99 a night.
Fall fest weekends at the ranch offer hayrides, leaf-peeping hikes, campfires (with s'mores), and square dancing. There's also hiking, mountain biking, zip lining, and archery. Nearly all activities are free with the cost of lodging.
Budget accommodations: Yurt rentals at the ranch start at $99 a night and can sleep up to six people.
Stunning Taos offers arts and outdoor activities amid a backdrop of multicolored aspens. Hiking toward the 13,161-foot summit of Wheeler Peak via the Bull of the Woods or Williams Lake trails shows the beauty of the mountains and occasional wildlife. The free Taos Arts Festival showcases performance, installation, and projection art among historic adobe buildings.
Budget accommodations: Rooms at the Sagebrush Inn & Suites, a historic landmark opened in 1931, start at $127 a night.
Ohiopyle, in the Youghiogheny River Valley of the Alleghenies just an hour southeast of Pittsburgh, is an outdoorsman's paradise with camping, whitewater rafting, biking on rail-trails, and hiking. During September and October, the region is uncrowded and awash in autumn colors.
Budget accommodations: Yurts within Ohiopyle State Park -- Pennsylvania's largest -- rent for between $17 and $90 a night. Log cabins that sleep five are also available at Benner's Meadow Run starting at $139 a night.
Autumn in The Catskills are legendary, says Travelzoo senior editor Gabe Saglie. The region is bursting with festivals, harvest events, and antiquing. Drive winding roadways through mountain towns and river valleys, following the historic routes of the Hudson River to the four-weekend Hunter Mountain Oktoberfest, free and featuring a variety of beers and foods.
Budget accommodations: Rooms at the Inn at Lake Joseph, which dates back to the 1890s, start at around $129 a night, including breakfast.
The White Mountains cover about a quarter of the state; the 100-mile White Mountains Trail passes through a 800,000-acre national forest and past many of the region's attractions, including Windy Ridge Orchard, where you can pick blueberries and 18 types of apples, sample wine, and pet farm animals.
Budget accommodations: Rooms at the charming Woodwards Resort & Inn, in Lincoln, NH, start at $98 a night.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is renowned for diversity of plants and animals -- and is free. Autumn leaf season is several weeks long and makes for good hiking, including on kid-friendly trails. The Tennessee Heritage Arts & Crafts Trail is an eight-mile loop of shops, galleries, and cafes dating back to 1937.
Budget accommodations: Rooms downtown at Greystone's Lodge on the River average $125 nightly and include breakfast.
Columbia is an ideal base for exploring fall festivals, parks, and more. September's free Palmetto Peanut Boil and Irmo Okra Strut both attract thousands with food (including an okra eating contest), live music, rides, and kid's entertainment. Skip the crowds at Congaree National Park with peak foliage viewing between October and November.
Budget accommodations: The Baymont Inn & Suites offers rooms for about $140 a night, including breakfast.
Plymouth is associated with the first Pilgrim settlement and first Thanksgiving, so there's no better time to visit. Plimoth Plantation is a living history museum that brings the story of Thanksgiving to life ($28 for adults, $16 for children), and every September and October brings King Richard's Faire, showcasing medieval life and entertainment such as acrobats, aerialists, jugglers, and minstrels, to nearby Carver.
Budget accommodations: Rooms at By the Sea Bed & Breakfast, the only private home overlooking Plymouth Harbor, start at $150 a night.
Best known as home to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown also offers arts, culture, and culinary offerings in the heart of apple country. In addition to pick-your-own apples and leaf-peeping, Cooperstown village hosts the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers' Museum, one of the oldest U.S. rural life museums.
Budget accommodations: The Cooper Inn's "Fall for the Inn Special" includes 30 percent discounts off standard room rates, discounting nightly costs to $199.
In addition to being home to the famous battlefield, Gettysburg has thousands of acres of apple orchards, dozens of farm markets, and an emerging hard apple cider scene. The first two weekends in October, Gettysburg hosts the The National Apple Harvest Festival, with apple butter, apple pancakes, apple jelly, even apple pizza. There are also tractor rides through orchards and vendors selling crafts. The family-friendly event is $10 for adults, free for children 12 and under.
Budget accommodations: Rooms at the Raphael Inn Bed & Breakfast start at $149 a night.
Kentucky's vast expanses of forest is a spectacular place to view the fiery colors of fall, and Lexington has horse farms, a burgeoning culinary scene, and famous sites including the Mary Todd Lincoln House ($12 for adults, $5 for children), the childhood home of Abraham Lincoln's wife, and Ashland, the 19th century mansion built by politician Henry Clay.
Budget accommodations: The Campbell House Inn, which recently underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation, has rooms for about $151 a night.
Alpharetta hosts festivals including a European Market, Scarecrow Harvest (when downtown is lined by more than 120 scarecrows), and Alpharetta Brew Moon Fest. It is also home to numerous music and entertainment venues, including the 12,000-seat Verizon Amphitheater, which hosts the Grammy-winning Atlanta Symphony Orchestra from April through November, and in daytime there's crow-cornhole to play, and hayrides.
Budget accommodations: Rooms at the Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta start at around $89 a night.
The highest-elevation town east of the Rockies, Beech Mountain offers hiking, mountain biking, and foliage viewing including along the seven-mile Emerald Outback adventure trail system -- but also some superior wine tastings. Also not to miss: sipping a cocktail at the 5506' Skybar, a glass roundhouse named for its location above sea level.
Budget accommodations: The Beech Mountain Visitors Center's $169 Hike & Wine Getaway special includes two nights of lodging and a wine tasting for two through Nov. 12.
It's no Vermont, but there's plenty of stunning foliage around the Texas Hill Country's live music and stellar wine offerings. (The area was named one of the "Ten Best Wine Travel Destinations" by Wine Enthusiast Magazine in 2014.) Top locations for leaf peeping include Lost Maples State Natural Area and Garner State Park, recommended by GoSeek CEO Clem Bason.
Budget accommodations: Rooms at The Peach Tree Inn & Suites in Fredericksburg can be had for $119 a night.
Cajun country in September and October hosts a slew of food festivals, including the Louisiana Sugar Cane Festival, World Championship Gumbo Cookoff, Lydia Cajun Food Fest, and the Southern Soul Food Showdown. Some are free, others charge a nominal fee for food tickets.
Budget accommodations: Rooms at the Hampton Inn & Suites in New Iberia start at around $99 a night.
This city of Gilded Age "summer cottages" built by some of this country's wealthiest families also has simple pleasures, including apple picking, hayrides, and festivals showcasing food, wine, and seafood, including the Harvest Fair at Norman Bird Sanctuary ($6 for adults, $3 for children). Also not to miss: the free Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile path encompassing coastline and century-old mansions.
Budget accommodations: Rooms at the Mainstay Hotel & Conference Center, near the Naval War College Museum, are available for about $160.
Canaan Valley, 3,200 feet above sea level in West Virginia's Alleghenies, is awash in shades of red, orange, and yellow in autumn. Take it in at Canaan Valley Resort State Park, where there's hiking, biking, geocaching, and golf. A Leaf Peepers Festival includes a parade, craft fair, car show, live music, and golf tournament.
Budget accommodations: Canaan Valley Resort & Conference Center offers a two-night Mountain Escape with rooms starting between $138 and $158, two days of breakfast, and a free chairlift ride.
Calling all oyster lovers: Each October these picturesque islands host an Oyster Festival ($45), with the food served every way imaginable. The Marsh Fest ($25), bills itself as the premier craft beer and science festival.
Budget accommodations: The Gables Victorian Mansion Bed and Breakfast Inn, built by a prosperous fisherman in 1914, offers rooms starting at about $91 a night.
Mid- to late-September and the beginning of October is a stunning time in Denver-adjacent Estes Park, Bason says. Events include the free Autumn Gold and Pumpkin and Pilsners festivals; and the Whiskey Summit, with tasting tickets at $50.
Budget accommodations: The Blue Door Inn receives rave reviews by TripAdvisor users; rooms start around $159 a night.
Southerners get off the grid in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Clayton. Saglie recommends a weekend at the Kingwood country club and resort, surrounded by more than 148,600 acres of national forest. Kingwood offers golf, tennis, a luxe European spa, fishing, whitewater rafting, hiking, and fine dining.
Budget accommodations: Rooms start at around $119 a night.
Minneapolis offers an artsy autumn escape of fall weekends biking around the city, gallery hopping, and taking in the latest shows. The Walker Art Center ($14 for adults, free for those 18 and younger). Shows at the Acme Comedy Co. are free every Monday night.
Budget accommodations: Stay at the stylish W Minneapolis -- The Foshay, in an iconic 1920s Art Deco building, just minutes from theaters. Rooms start at about $135 a night.
In this sports, culinary, and cultural smorgasbord, visitors can immerse themselves in all things Cardinals with a day at Saint Louis Ballpark Village, a dining and entertainment district next to Busch Stadium that includes the the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum. For a more outdoorsy experience, Forest Park is a sprawling, 1,300-acre greenspace considered one of the nation's greatest urban parks -- museums and a zoo included.
Budget accommodations: A St. Louis bonus: Accommodation costs are well under the national average. The Central West End Bed & Breakfast offers rooms for around $129 a night.
The biggest crowds come in summer, but fall is said to be magical in Cape May with monarch butterflies descending for a few weeks during their annual migration, shops open along Washington Street, and cool bike rides on the way to Beach Plum Farm, a 62-acre working farm with a market and kitchen featuring more than 100 varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
Budget accommodations: The Star Inn, less than a block from the ocean, has rooms in October between $99 and $199 a night.