As much of the world is wrapped up with back-to-school season, travelers should take advantage of crisp fall weather and great deals around the world. And if the kids are in school, what better time for a romantic trip? Our list of the best places to go this month include stateside favorites like Portland, Maine, and Charleston, South Carolina—where you’re less likely to find tourists this time of year, and can enjoy the cities as most locals do.
Fall foliage is another major attraction this time of year, and we recommend leaf-peeping in the Catskills and Yellowstone National Park. Both locations provide plenty of entertainment beyond hiking, and activities that will please the entire family.
European cities tend to get a bit chillier this time of year, but we love the way Paris comes back to life when all the locals get back to work—go now, when all the shops are filled with the newest seasonal wares, and check out some of the city’s great new openings, such as the iconic Ritz.
If you’re still seeking warm weather, head south to Mexico City and Guayaquil, which are hot destinations that still don’t feel like they’re completely overrun by tourists. You’ll get plenty of sunshine, along with historical sites and surprising art scenes.
Finally, wine lovers should pay attention to two locations this year: the Okanagan Valley, which can no longer be considered a young Napa, as its wines are now celebrated on international lists; and Georgia, which has a budding wine scene in Kakheti (just an hour from the capital of Tblisi).
There are plenty of fall deals to be found if you plan ahead—why wait for the holidays? If you need more inspiration for your next vacation, take a look at our best cities for fall travel.
1. Rome, Italy
Rome is a city that’s best discovered on foot, which is why it’s so wonderful in the fall. September is considered part of shoulder season, so while you won’t see hordes of people, there will still be plenty of locals and tourists enjoying the weather and taking in the many sights of Rome. Whether you’re there for the shopping scene—Rome’s artisans are some of the best in the world—or want to check off everything on our list of underrated things to do there, make your base the new Palazzo Dama, a former private home that has lush gardens, a pool, and a terrace for taking in that last bit of balmy fall weather.
2. Portland, Maine
By September, the summer crowds have departed from Portland, leaving behind a quiet—and perhaps even more charming—coastal Maine town. The hotel rates drop significantly after Labor Day, yet the weather remains nice through the end of the month. This is the perfect time for the Portland food trip of your dreams—lobster rolls, fries at Duckfat, incredible coffee and pastries at Tandem Coffee Roasters, and, if you dare, lobster ice cream.
3. Okanagan Valley, Canada
There’s a long list of usual suspects for where to go during wine harvest—Napa and Tuscany, to name a few—but this year, we recommend branching out a little in Okanagan Valley, the exciting wine region from our northern neighbors. They’ve been producing delicious Pinot Noir and Reisling for a few seasons, and now the wineries are opening up fantastic farm-to-table restaurants as well. We like the Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl winery and Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek Winery, where you should ask the experts to recommend the best bottles to take home as souvenirs.
4. San Diego, California
If you haven’t been to San Diego yet, you’re missing out on one of California’s best new food experiences. The city used to be known solely for its fish tacos, but now inventive chefs are offering oysters that have been raised specifically for a restaurant (Ironside Fish & Oyster) and incredibly delicious doughnuts (VG Donut & Bakery). The other beauty of spending a weekend in San Diego is the ability to take a day trip across the border to Tijuana, another city gaining a food reputation. The table to reserve is at Javier Plascencia’s Mision 19—the chef is single-handedly changing the way we think about Baja Californian cuisine.
5. Paris, France
It’s been said before: there’s no bad time of year to visit Paris. But the city famously grinds to a near halt in August, when the French take their annual holiday and many of the shops close. So we love visiting in September, when the city roars back to life. Paris is for food lovers, and a good way to work off some of those jambon-fromage sandwiches is with a culinary walking tour. No matter your budget, there’s never a lack of wonderful hotels to stay at, from the Generator Hostel brand to the grand Hotel Plaza Athenee. Book early for a room at the iconic Ritz Paris, which re-opened this summer after a five-year overhaul.
6. Catskills, New York
All of a sudden, the hottest New York City getaway is no longer the Hamptons. Manhattanites are flocking to the Catskills for weekends of incredible hiking, delicious comfort food at Phoenicia Diner, and design-centric hotels. We love the Catskills in the fall, when the leaves turn colors, making for a wonderful road trip. The latest opening is Scribner’s Lodge, in a building that dates back to 1966. Unlike most, the hotel is open year-round, meaning you can stay there whether you’re visiting for a nature-filled weekend in the fall or a winter ski trip.
7. Yellowstone National Park, United States
The massive park—stretching over Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho—is a highlight of the U.S. National Park system, which celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. The Canyon Lodge & Cabins (the park’s largest lodging area) has opened five buildings with more than 400 rooms, conveniently located only half a mile away from the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. They’ve also updated their Junior Ranger program, for little ones to hike, identify animal tracks, and get a badge. The park is stunning in the fall, and cooler temperatures are guaranteed to make your hikes and picnics even more pleasant.
8. Charleston, South Carolina
The city is a perennial T+L favorite—readers have voted it the best city in the country for the three years in a row—and it’s easy to see why. There are tons of things to do, from visiting lighthouses and forts to dining at some of the best restaurants in the country. Stay at the expanded Restoration or the new Spectator hotel, and make a weekend out of the historic tours, hearty Southern food, and souvenir shops. Need tips on where to eat? Check out our guide to the best restaurants in Charleston.
9. Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City is bustling year-round, but September’s weather is fantastic for exploring the city. Since the destination is a popular business hub, we suggest flying in the middle of the week for the best deals—you can find direct flights for less than $400. The city has grown immensely in the past few years: aside from being home to three of the best restaurants in the world (Pujol, Quintonil, and Biko), it has a budding fashion scene and great art (the Frida Kahlo home is a must-see). Stay at the renovated Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection property in a former private residence that is located in the hip neighborhood of Polanco. The rooms are spacious and minimalist, and we love the selection of local, handmade soaps in scents like lemongrass and vanilla.
10. Tbilisi, Georgia
Georgia’s capital is a must-see destination for architecture buffs—the region straddles both Europe and Asia, and its architecture influences include Persian, Soviet-era, and Art Nouveau. Stay at the Rooms Hotel Tbilisi, which has wonderful design and delicious restaurants. If you have time, venture out to the wine region of Kakheti, which is only an hour away. It has stunning landscapes and is full of activity during the fall wine harvest.
11. Hong Kong
Hong Kong has been in the spotlight for a variety of reasons—from political shifts (like the Umbrella Movement) to interesting international restaurateurs (like Australian chef James Henry)—but the main takeaway is that there is tons of energy in the Chinese city. Fall is an ideal time to visit, when the humidity drops and the temperature cools. Go for the delicious—and cheap—foodand the surprising green spaces, and soak in the fact that you’re in the midst of a city that is transforming before your very eyes.
12. Guayaquil, Ecuador
Ecuador has always been popular among backpackers and nature lovers, but it’s only recently that the boutique hotels have arrived in the country. The Hotel de Parque, which opens this month, is a stunning new option in Guayaquil’s historic district. While there, make sure to visit the waterfront promenade, Malecon 2000, and its fantastic art museums.