Some of the most romantic of all vacations are trips in the fall. Maybe it is the last burst of energy the turning of the season brings, or perhaps the brilliant colors overtaking the trees and call to artists, nature lovers, and admirers of all things beautiful. While the East Coast is often considered the crème de la crème of autumn havens, the cooler temperatures and constantly changing foliage create ideal conditions to visit locales throughout the United States. There are places from coast to coast and everywhere in between that showcase autumn's fiery hues, so your opportunity to get out and see some of the year's most unique scenery does not have to take you too far from home. Let us inspire you; these are our top picks for fall vacations this year.
1. Fall Colors, Scenic Trains & Martha’s Vineyard
Make your rounds through some of New England's most captivating locales on this 10-day escorted tour. Begin in the historic city of Boston with a fascinating excursion that explores America's beginnings on the Freedom Trail. From Massachusetts, enjoy a scenic drive north to Maine to cities like Portland and Bath. Coastal Maine is magnificent during September and October, and a guided tour featuring a cruise on the Kennebec River shows you why.
The journey continues to New Hampshire, where you are treated to a trip on the Conway Scenic Railway and a cruise on Lake Winnipesaukee. The tour's scenic drive through the length of New Hampshire showcases a full range of ochre, rust, gold, and scarlet hues as you approach Massachusetts once more. Find yourself steeped in tradition and the charms of yesteryear as you explore Old Sturbridge Village, then take to the road and admire the charming towns and beautiful trees en route to Connecticut. Join the Essex Steam Train here for a memorable journey through the forest, then join the Becky Thatcher Riverboat for a cruise down one of the state's most idyllic rivers.
Saving one of the best stops for last, the group ventures back toward the coast to Hyannis, a beloved Cape Cod destination. Enjoy a different perspective on the fall foliage while riding the Cape Cod Central Railroad's Dinner Train and wrap up your time on the eastern seaboard in none other than Martha's Vineyard. This trip captures the hearts of all who join.
2. Autumn Tour of New England
Find yourself immersed in the delights of a New England autumn when you set out through the region on this 8-day escorted tour. Beyond the foliage, the sheer amount of American history and culture makes the northeast one of the best vacation destinations. Kick off your adventure with a guided walking tour of Boston and discover the sites that molded the city into the "Cradle of Liberty." From Boston, learn about another president who shaped the past in Hyannis, the beloved getaway of JFK. You have a chance to visit the JFK Hyannis Museum and soak in the incredible vistas of fall's warm colors against the deep blues of the water.
Continue along Cape Cod Bay to Plymouth, where you can step back in time to the country's infancy at Plymouth Patuxet, a living history museum tucked between the sea and lush forests. The Cape Cod Central Railroad's Dinner Train offers another perspective on this pretty landscape in the evening hours when the sinking sun casts an even more impressive glow upon the trees. From the Cape, the group presses forth along the seaboard to places like Newport, RI, Mystic, CT, and Springfield, MA, with each stop highlighting another fantastic element of New England culture.
Entering the Berkshires, visit Norman Rockwell's hometown, Stockbridge, MA, and then spend time at Hildene, the Lincoln family summer home, before venturing into Vermont. Deep in the heart of the rural northeast, enjoy wonderful displays of color on the Green Mountain Flyer Fall Foliage Express Scenic Railroad, and taste authentic maple syrup. Wrap up your journey with a ride through the White Mountains on the Conway Scenic Railway and a drive on one of the country's most spectacular fall foliage destinations, the Kancamagus Highway. A scenic ending to a thoughtful journey.
3. Fall Colors in New England, Quebec & Montreal
Spend 11 days wrapped in the wonders of the United States and Canada on this tour, one of our most popular vacations in the fall. This trip is rife with adventure, beginning with your time in Boston and building as you enter the scenic forests of New Hampshire aboard the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad and on the Kancamagus Highway - one of the best places to see multi-hued leaves on fall vacations. But these are not the only highlights in New Hampshire; you also venture through the deeply forested White Mountains, all alight in its autumn reds and oranges, on the Mt. Washington Cog Railway.
From here, venture into Vermont, for an authentic maple syrup tasting at a local farm, before crossing the border to Montreal. A sightseeing tour opens your eyes to incredible architecture and lively culture, and then a train ride along the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor to beautiful Quebec City. The old-world ambiance here makes you forget you are in Canada, and a guided walking tour presents layers of history one site at a time. Your group departs Canada on the Old Canada Road Scenic Byway, a winding road surrounded by deciduous forests that are gorgeous in September and early October.
The road takes you to Bar Harbor, Maine, on Frenchman Bay. Enjoy a full day to explore Acadia National Park and soak in its impeccable views of the Atlantic. The perfect ending to this grand tour is a scenic coastal drive that allows you to see even more colorful foliage, lighthouses, and quaint seaside towns.
4. Colorado Rail Experience
A non-traditional location for escorted tours in the fall, Colorado is a fantastic place to enjoy the changes of the season. The terrain is clad in a mixture of coniferous and hardwood trees, lending an impressive palette of colors to the vistas. Take in these views from scenic and heritage railways throughout the state. Your time in Colorado starts with a bang in Silverthorne aboard the Georgetown Loop Railway, built in 1884, and then on the Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad.
From Silverthorne, breathtaking views of protected national forests, including the Rio Grande National Forest, displaying their fall finest, and the Rocky Mountains lead the way to Durango near the New Mexico border. Rides aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad beautifully present Colorado's varied landscapes - the canyons, mountains, forests, plains, and even abandoned mining villages. Even more wonders lie ahead as you ride the Royal Gorge Route Railroad and continue to Colorado Springs.
Home to Garden of the Gods, a dramatic National Natural Landmark, Colorado Springs offers an unbelievable ending to this railway expedition. Ride to the summit of the iconic Pike's Peak aboard the Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway for your final railway journey, and then look upon staggering red rock formations of Garden of the Gods on a scenic drive. The unique ever-varied land in Colorado may not be the typical setting for a fall trip, but it is undoubtedly one of the best.
5. Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
During the fall months, New Mexico comes to life in many ways, but one of the most notable is its skies. A highly anticipated annual event, the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is the largest ballooning event globally, with over 500 unique vessels participating each year. Enjoy a front-row seat to the excitement on this journey that explores Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico.
A ride aboard a long-distance train, Amtrak's California Zephyr, takes you from Chicago to Grand Junction, Colorado, in the far western portion of the state. After spending the night, the tour continues into Utah to Arches National Park, filled with red rock formations inviting you to explore. You also visit Moab and see thousands of ruins linked to the Ancestral Pueblo people in Mesa Verde National Park. Enjoy the similarities and contrasts of the scenery as your journey crosses back into Colorado to Durango and join a highly scenic route aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
Saving one of the best places to vacation in October for last, a scenic drive through southern Colorado and northern New Mexico takes the group to Sante Fe. Spend a morning walking around this historic Spanish city with a guide, then move on to the pièce de résistance of the expedition, the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Your day here starts before the sun rises and continues until it's dark, and the balloons illuminate themselves under the night sky. This tour is certainly one of the most unique fall vacations Vacations By Rail offers.
6. Great Parks of the Southwest
If colorful foliage is not your speed, but grand adventures are, buckle in for this all-encompassing tour of the Southwest's most impressive national parks. Over ten days, visit five national parks and explore landscapes that leave you in pure awe. The journey begins in the heart of the country in Chicago and takes you deep into the West aboard Amtrak's Southwest Chief. Because of the train's multi-day route, you have ample opportunities to look at changing trees and fire-hued foliage as the course unfolds. Arrive in Flagstaff, AZ, after two days on the train.
It is in Arizona that the true adventure begins. Ride the Grand Canyon Railway from Williams to Grand Canyon National Park, and enjoy two days of exploring this natural wonder. Explore the hiking trails or soak in the sights that make it one of America's favorite vacation spots. Leaving the Grand Canyon, the route continues into Utah to the typical Old West destination of Kanab, Utah, a prominent filming location for old westerns. Enjoy a slow pace for the day because four more national parks lie ahead.
In the coming days, join your group in visiting Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, and Arches National Park. In between visits, enjoy scenic extras, such as a drive through Grand Staircase-Escalante and a memorable jet boat ride along the Colorado River. There is certainly no shortage of wonders to behold on this fall vacation.
Fall getaways are ideal for those travelers who prefer to skip the summer vacation crowds without missing nature's glory. Vacations By Rail is here to help wherever your itinerary may take you. Contact us to find the perfect place to visit in the fall this year.