It seems like the spring and summer get all the attention when it comes to vacations, but my favorite time for a trip is the fall. The changing leaves are gorgeous, and the crisp autumn weather makes it easier to spend long days outside without the kids wearing down.
North America has some truly wonderful vacation spots packed with fall family activities. Some of these areas I’ve been to, while others are on my bucket list. But these are, for my money, the best fall family vacation spots in the US and Canada, and the best things to do there.
One of countless New England towns that are picturesque in the fall, Portland Maine is my absolute favorite. Both the architecture of the town and the surrounding nature are incredibly scenic, and there are loads of fun fall family activities.
My favorite is the duck tour, an incredibly unique sightseeing experience on a vehicle that is part bus, part boat. After a trip around the town center, the vehicle drives straight into Portland harbor for an aquatic tour. My kids loved it, and I’ve never experienced anything like it at all.
Portland is great for walking and cycling, and you can even book a trip on a vintage fire engine!
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
One of the absolute most impressive examples of nature in the United States, Jackson Hole is a vision of rolling hills and changing leaves. There are more nature tours than you can count, including an exciting whitewater tour that you can take if you have older children.
Jackson Hole also has an acclaimed art festival each year, and best of all, you can explore Yellowstone National Park and check out grizzly bears and other wildlife (from afar, of course).
Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
Cape Breton Island is home to the famous Cabot Trail, one of the most scenic drives you’ll find anywhere on the continent. The hilly trail travels between beaches and forests, and features some of the most stunning fall foliage imaginable.
The Cabot Trail can be really packed in the summer, but by October, the crowds start to disperse. That’s a win/win because that’s when the turning leaves are at their peak.
Cape Breton Island also has wonderful hiking trails, and even offers beautiful whale watching tours.
Those first few sites are all in areas with colder climates. But there are great fall family activities down South as well. One of the best places for this is Savannah, Georgia. Savannah has historic buildings, cobbled streets, and a fun beach.
You can take a fun trolley tour of the city center, or book a cruise on the historic Savannah River Queen. The River Queen offers delicious brunch, lunch, and dinner, sunset tours, and traditional sightseeing.
Take a trip down to nearby Tybee Island for some relaxing time on the beach, and you can even hope to see some bottle-nosed dolphins. And you can do all of this without the sweltering 95-degree temperatures typical to Savannah in the summer.
Savannah is so nice this time of year, and you can really walk all around town. Make sure to pack comfortable shoes! Sneakers for adults, and I always recommend baby moccs for the littles.
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Another one of my absolute favorite places in the world, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is a spectacular vacation destination nestled in the gorgeous Smoky Mountains. The nature here is about as picturesque as it gets, with rolling mountain peaks covered in autumn foliage. But there are also more fall family activities than you can count.
Dollywood amusement park isn’t just for roller coaster fans; they have a fun harvest festival each year throughout the month of October. That includes lots of arts and crafts, music, and a huge jack-o-lantern collection, all of which is included with the normal price of admission.
The area is also packed with fun museums, theme restaurants, and parks with go-karts, mini-golf, and indoor skydiving. No matter what your family is interested in, you’re sure to find it in Pigeon Forge—all nestled in the midst of stunning fall scenery.
Bruce Peninsula, Ontario
Back north of the border, Bruce Peninsula National Park is one of the best spots on the list for families whose primary focus is getting out and experiencing nature. There is such a diverse array of natural features there that it’s hard to know where to begin.
The old-growth forests feature thousand-year-old cedar trees and incredible hiking. Elsewhere you can explore stunning limestone caves. And the Georgian Bay features rock beaches and crystal-clear blue waters.
Personally, we’re waiting until the kids are a bit older to make this trip because the fall family activities here are a little more strenuous. But it’s very much on our bucket list. The combination of hiking, water sports, and scenery is nearly unmatched.
Cape May, New Jersey
The beaches of Cape May are known as a summer attraction, but for my money, it’s even better in the fall. Most of the crowds have left, and you can enjoy the scenic small town with open spaces and cooler weather. And if you come out in September, it’s typically still plenty warm enough to enjoy the beach.
There is so much more to do in Cape May than lounge around, though. You can book a dolphin-watching cruise out on the water, or explore the historic 19th-century shops in the town center. But really, this is the perfect fall vacation spot for a family looking for some serene R & R.
Baton Rouge, Lousiana
Baton Rouge is one of my all time favorite cities in North America. There is so much to do for the entire family, and this city really comes alive in the Fall.
Fall events in Baton Rouge typically include harvest festivals, pumpkin patches, and tons of the incredible cuisine Louisiana is known for.
Both the US and Canada sides of this legendary waterfall have something to offer, and it’s easy to visit both in a single trip. The sightseeing here is incredible, and there are a wide variety of excellent spots from which to view the falls.
Once you’ve seen them from afar, the real standout attraction of a Niagara Falls vacation is one of the many Niagara cruises. Take a boat right up to the base of the waterfall, a truly staggering vision of the power of nature. Be warned—you will get soaking wet. But the cruise lines typically provide ponchos.
Niagara Falls makes for an excellent fall activity for families of any age, and you should definitely try to make this journey at least once.