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Squeezed between the relaxing pace of summer break and the blistering chaos of the holiday season is the perfect time to take a family vacation.
Not sure where to go? Offer up these seven ideas to the family.
1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
For the ultimate leaf-peeping experience, head to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee. People descend on the park especially during the last three weeks of October, so it can be crowded, but the spectacularly colored leaves above and fall wildflowers on the ground make the trip worth it. Drive along Clingmans Dome Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway or the Foothills Parkway for the best views, and stop off for short hikes to escape some of the people.
The color and longevity of fall leaves depends on elevation and weather conditions, so it’s best to follow the National Park’s fall leaves report so you hit the park when there are optimal viewing conditions.
Autumn signals the end of Arizona’s often oppressive heat, but snowbirds have not yet escaped to the state, making this the ideal time to visit. While many states hold their annual state fairs during the summer, Arizona’s is held in October, so your family doesn’t have to give up delicious fair food, entertainment, amusement rides or the rodeo quite yet.
Though you won’t find New England-esque fall foliage here, the Verde Canyon Railroad offers a leisurely ride through canyons that are still splashed with plenty of color.
3. Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Crisp fall weather with temperatures in the 60s and lots of outdoor activities offer the perfect end-of-year opportunity to run all that energy off. The city is located near Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, both of which have miles of hiking trails lined with colorful foliage without the summer crowds. In the fall, keep your ears open for calls from male elk in search of mates, or get eye to eye with them at the National Elk Refuge.
Because it is shoulder season, expect to find good deals on room rates.
4. Boston, Mass.
With school back in session, Boston offers the perfect blend of leisure and education. The two-and-a-half mile Freedom Trail is a foot-friendly way to wander throughout the city, admiring the trees that line the streets while talking with your school-aged kids about the significant historical events that took place here.
Take advantage of free walking tours at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University on Saturdays and Sundays through October. The three-day Honkfest! is a family event with lots of upbeat music and a nighttime parade lit by lanterns.
5. Southern California
If your family isn’t ready for winter quite yet, head to Southern California, where the sun still shines and the weather is as beautiful as ever. You can make time for the beach (and you should!), but SoCal is also known for its wine country and plentiful orchards, both of which are at their peak during the fall. Snack on fruit plucked right from the trees, and don’t forget to take home cider and wine to enjoy in the months ahead.
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