Just as soon as the heat and humidity of summer become too much, you wake up to first crisp morning of fall. And while there are many things the season brings to be excited for—pumpkin carving, Thanksgiving feasts, and scary movies to name a few—one of the most anticipated is the changing color of the leaves. While fall may officially start on the Autumnal Equinox (that's on Saturday, September 23 this year), many people (hello, leaf peepers) feel that the seasons don't change until the leaves do.
If you live somewhere the climate experiences all four seasons, the leaves changing color may just be part of your regular day, but for those who live in other parts of the country (or world), the vibrant hues are truly a phenomenon. Why do the leaves change colors? As the weather gets colder, the days also get shorter, limiting the amount of sunlight plants can access for photosynthesis. This causes the chlorophyll, the substance that makes the leaves green, break down and the leaves, er, die, slowly, resulting in some stunning autumnal tones from burgundy red to traffic light yellow.
Fall is also a great time to travel because you can avoid summer crowds, hot weather, and the rainy season. So why not plan your travel around leaf peeping? The best places to see fall foliage aren't just in the northeastern United States. While Vermont and Maine have stunning views, so do international destinations like Edinburgh and Amsterdam. If you're a wannabe leaf peeper in need of travel inspiration, we've rounded up the 35 best places to see fall foliage this year, both stateside and abroad.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Venture up north and spend a crisp fall day hiking in Acadia National Park. Not only does it boast some incredible views of Maine's coastline, but it also features a vibrant array of fall foliage in nearly every color imaginable.
Book Now Bar Harbor Grand
While Connecticut's shoreline may get all the hype, the state's northwestern quadrant features some of the state's best forests and parks. Pictured here is the Farmington River in Farmington, a mere 30 minute drive from Hartford.
Book Now The Goodwin
Bled Lake, Slovenia
Eastern Europe often gets forgotten about in favor of the romanticism of its western counterparts, but Slovenia's fall foliage is worth the extra few hours on the plane. At Bled Lake, take a canoe out for a spin to get a 360 view of the famous castle.
Book Now Cozy Airbnb
If you're the outdoorsy type, fall is the perfect time to trek out to the Pacific Northwest for some hiking, climbing, and camping. This picturesque waterfall is Multnomah Falls, outside Portland on the border of Washington and Oregon.
Book Now The Hoxton
Harper's Ferry, West Virginia
There's nothing like a quaint mountain town on a crisp fall day. Whether you're looking for a day trip from D.C. or planning on staying a while, Harper's Ferry, West Virginia will hit the spot. Make sure to squeeze in a hike while you're there for the best foliage views.
BOOK NOW Lyle Hotel
Aspen is beautiful no matter what time of year you visit, but fall is particularly breathtaking thanks to its namesake, the Aspen trees. Their golden glow is truly magical. And fun fact: They're the largest living organisms on earth.
BOOK NOW Hotel Jerome
Sleepy Hollow, New York
Want to go somewhere spooky for Halloween? There's no better place than Sleepy Hollow. And it's an easy day trip to take from New York City, just about an hour's drive north. For a similar October setting, head further north to Salem, Massachusetts, or the Berkshires.
BOOK NOW Crabtree's Kittle House Restaurant & Inn
New York City
You could leave the city for a glimpse of stunning foliage—or you could just head to Central Park. The changing trees are particularly awe-inspiring in contrast with the city's skyscrapers.
BOOK NOW Gramercy Park Hotel
Napa Valley, California
California might be the last place you'd think about going to see the leaves change, but hear us out. Seeing leaves changing on the trees in New England is classic, but seeing all the fall colors on the vineyards is something seriously special. Bonus? Hotels, like the ultra-luxe Meadowood resort, are much less expensive in wine country's off-season.
BOOK NOW Meadowood Napa Valley
Asheville, North Carolina
If you're looking for a quaint mountain to visit this fall, consider Asheville, North Carolina. The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the prettiest drives in the country, so it's also an ideal destination for road trips. While you're there, explore the Biltmore mansion and gardens and shop from local artisans.
BOOK NOW The Foundry
Denali National Park, Alaska
If you're waiting for snow to visit Alaska, consider changing your game plan. Denali National Park is bursting with color (and not to mention more than 200 species of animals) come autumn, making it a photographer's dream.
BOOK NOW McKinley Chalet Resort
Lake Superior, Michigan
Grand Island in Lake Superior, Michigan is the perfect place to get some good thinking done. The icy, bright blue water looks especially striking against the warmth of the fall foliage beyond. Head here for a long scenic drive if you're in the region.
BOOK NOW Fitger's Inn
Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
Virginia's Shenandoah Valley provides a myriad of colors and views for days. If a fall foliage road trip sounds like your jam, this is the spot to do it.
BOOK NOW Hampton Inn Salem
London is a fun city to visit any time of year, but it's especially pleasant in the fall, thanks to the temperate weather. Head to Hyde Park for a picnic and plenty of fall foliage and then roam around the charming Chelsea and Knightsbridge streets for more fall scenery.
BOOK NOW Chiltern Firehouse
Between all the medieval architecture, charming streets, and stunning foliage, it's impossible not to fall in love with Edinburgh in autumn.
BOOK NOW The Dunstane Houses
Cape Town, South Africa
It's the perfect destination for outdoor activities like hiking to sweeping views and wine tasting (okay, well, outdoor-adjacent). Keep in mind that their calendar is flipped in the southern hemisphere, so if you want to experience their fall season, go in mid to late March through mid to late June.
BOOK NOW Labotessa
Sienna is a senior editor at Hearst. She lives in California with her husband and two littles.
Hadley Mendelsohn is the co-host and executive producer of the podcast Dark House. When she's not busy writing about interiors, you can find her scouring vintage stores, reading, researching ghost stories, or stumbling about because she probably lost her glasses again. Along with interior design, she writes about everything from travel to entertainment, beauty, social issues, relationships, fashion, food, and on very special occasions, witches, ghosts, and other Halloween haunts. Her work has also been published in MyDomaine, Who What Wear, Man Repeller, Matches Fashion, Byrdie, and more.
Kate McGregor is House Beautiful’s SEO Editor. She has covered everything from curated decor round-ups and shopping guides, to glimpses into the home lives of inspiring creatives, for publications such as ELLE Decor, Domino, and Architectural Digest’s Clever.
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