Great Cities for Fall Leaf Watching
Leaf watching can be nearly magical with autumn sunsets, the sweet aroma of apple orchards, the feel of warm sweaters, cool breezes and crunchy leaves underfoot. It's almost poetic. That must be why so many travelers opt for a vacation during the fall season.
Check out these top cities for "leaf peepers," and discover the best places to see some beautiful scenery while enjoying fun fall activities.
New England's leaf-peeping hot spots
There's no doubt that New England is the number one destination for leaf watching in the United States. Beginning in late September and extending through mid-October, vacationers flock to see the hills come alive in shades of brilliant yellow, red and orange. The influx of fall foliage vacationers in New England is so steady and strong each year that it inspired the phrase "leaf peeping."
Consider top northern destinations like The Catskills in New York, Litchfield Hills in Connecticut, and The Berkshires in Massachusetts. Green Mountain National Forest, with the highest concentration of maple trees in the U.S., is another popular leaf-watching spot. With their small, artsy towns, beautiful mountain views and quaint bed and breakfasts, these New England hot spots are great places for a picturesque road trip, hot air balloon ride or rugged hike.
When you travel to these destinations, make sure you plan accordingly so you can capture the prettiest views. The leaves change color in a predictable pattern each year, starting in points north and moving south, changing first at higher elevations, then lower ones over the short leaf-watching season.
While New England is the most obvious choice for a leaf-centric vacation, a few points south of the Mason Dixon also rank high for the history, charm and activities they offer fall vacationers.
Take Savannah, Georgia, for instance. With temperatures lingering in the very comfortable low-70s during the day, it feels like the most temperate and pleasant version of fall weather strolling through the many parks found here. And if you love ghost stories, Savannah can really get you in a Halloween mood with its spirit-inhabited B&Bs, cemetery tours and haunted after-dark carriage rides. This Southern gem has more than just scenic leaf watching to offer.
Charleston, South Carolina, is another great Southern destination for fall. With zero humidity in the air, this extremely walkable city offers not just gorgeous fall foliage, but also historic neighborhoods, first-class restaurants, stylish boutiques and antiquing. And if you're town around mid-October, the annual Taste of Charleston Festival offers fun diversion for foodies.
The West Coast also has plenty to offer when it comes to autumn getaways. Santa Fe, New Mexico, already a popular vacation spot for scenery and culture any time of year, makes a great vacation when the seasons change. There may not be many leaves to peep within the confines of this desert oasis, but the allure of peace and quiet — as well as fresh green chiles from the harvest — make Santa Fe very homey in the fall. And you can always get your color-changing foliage fix by venturing 14 miles outside the city to the tree-lined Aspen Vista Trail — if you can manage to break yourself away from the town’s indie boutiques, art galleries and gourmet restaurants, that is.
If you’re an avid outdoors-type, you’ll find even more to love during leaf peeping season in Denver, Colorado. The leaves change colors at different elevations all season long in this mountain paradise, making it a great destination for hiking and biking. And if you love microbrews, make sure to plan your leaf-peeping trip around October’s Great American Beer Festival, as Denver is the ultimate spot for the country’s best brews.
Whether you’re a diehard leaf peeper or a novice, these are some of the best cities for leaf watching, with something special to offer every visitor or resident. If you have the opportunity to travel during the fall season, take in the best of nature’s displays of color in one of these amazing destinations.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Miao Liao