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When the weather begins to turn and the pumpkin-flavored products start to line the shelves, you know fall is just around the corner. That time right before the holidays take the nation by storm and families reunite is a great time to take a mini-vacation.
Fall tends to be the off-season for a lot of popular destinations as they either wait for the snow to fall or tourist numbers dwindle with the temperature. Here are just a few places to think about traveling to before winter arrives.
1. Groton, Connecticut
One of the most scenic aspects of traveling in fall is the changing of the leaves, and no area of the U.S. does it better than New England. Groton is easily accessible, either by Amtrak or a short drive from the Providence airport. Either way, you’ll be able to enjoy the scenery during the trip.
Once you arrive, Groton is home to several state parks, and be sure to visit the Submarine Force Museum and tour an actual U.S. submarine. Travelers can also try their luck at the Foxwoods casino just a short drive away.
» Learn more: Best national parks for families to visit in the fall
2. Oktoberfest destinations
This one is kind of cheating because you might not actually have to travel very far. September and October are the months of Oktoberfest, a celebration of all things German and beer. While the original festival is in Germany, the United States has had a number of celebrations spring up all over the country that will likely be cheaper for you to get to. A few of the standouts include:
Wisconsin: You'll find Oktoberfests in places like Madison, La Crosse, Germantown, Appleton and Lake Geneva. Wisconsin is home to a huge population with German ancestry, and they know how to do Oktoberfest right. Fly into one of the many regional airports and you’ll have an Oktoberfest somewhere close by. Wisconsin knows beer, but make sure to pair it with bratwurst and some cheese curds for the full experience.
Denver: The six-day festival here has been ranked as one of the top Oktoberfest experiences in the United States.
San Francisco: Oktoberfest by the Bay really emphasizes the Bavarian aspect of Oktoberfest. Tickets range from $5 to $85, and the city is full of things to do once the kegs are dry.
» Learn more: Earn triple points on Hilton hotel stays this fall
3. Marfa, Texas
This is the hardest place to get to on this list, but if you make the trip it will be well worth it. Marfa is a city in West Texas known for its unique art exhibits and the Marfa Lights.
The closest airports are either in El Paso or Midland, but even then you’ll still have multi-hour drive ahead of you. That’s part of the charm of Marfa — the remote city forces you to slow down.
The Marfa lights have many explanations, but people who see them agree the phenomenon is one not to miss. Possible accommodation include tepees, ranches, and 1930s-style hotels.
4. Hilton Head, South Carolina
Fall is the last chance you’ll have to hit the beach before the weather turns, so why not go somewhere unique? Hilton Head Island in South Carolina has some of the best beaches in the area along with a laid-back feel.
Enjoy great seafood at the Salty Dog Cafe, rent bikes to ride around the island, or just get a tan on the beach. Whether you’re traveling alone, with a significant other or with family, Hilton Head offers plenty of activities and dining for everyone.
Hilton Head is less than an hour by car from Savannah International Airport, so once your flight lands, getting to the beach will be a breeze.
» Learn more: Top family-friendly beach vacations
Chicago is an easy city to love, with activities varied enough to keep anyone interested for at least a few days.
With two major airports that connect to a robust public transit system, there’s no need for a car to see the best of this Midwestern city. You can walk through Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in North America, for free and enjoy Fall Fest.
Christkindlmarket opens in mid-November and showcases interesting vendors and great food; make sure to take home one of the legendary souvenir mugs. Don’t forget to take a touristy photo with "the bean" before visiting Millennium Park or the Art Institute of Chicago.
The cool weather is also the perfect time to enjoy the Chicago River Architecture Boat Tour and learn all about the city’s history. And of course, don’t miss out on a comedy show at Second City followed by some iconic Chicago deep dish-style pizza.
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Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: Find the best travel credit card for you 5 family vacation planning tips I learned on the fly 8 pro tips for smart and cheap family travel