Are you looking for ideas for awesome adventures with kids over their school’s Fall Break? How about some ideas for off season destinations for a couple’s getaway in October and November?
Do you love to photograph Fall colors?
If you answered yes to any of the questions, I would recommend all of these locations as off season destinations if you are looking for vibrant Fall foliage to view and don’t mind cooler days as you explore.
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Be Prepared for the Weather in Your Off Season Destinations
If you happen to be driving to the airport at 5 am and aren’t usually up that early in the morning, you may wonder aloud as our youngest did, “Shouldn’t the sun be up already?”
Welcome to Fall.
Fall is a stunning time to visit Oregon and especially the coast as off season destinations. If Portland is your starting point, the trees are popping with beautiful reds, yellows, and oranges all around the airport.
There are a myriad of beach towns along the entirety of the Oregon coast. Some have a heavy tourism focus while others are quiet little beach communities. The commonality among them all are the beautiful sandy beaches, the crashing of the surf, and spectacular sunsets.
Just a Few Fun Off Season Destinations to Explore Along the Coast:
- Rockaway Beach
- Cape Meares Lighthouse and State Scenic Viewpoint
- Tillamook Cheese Factory
- Lincoln City
- Oswald State Park
Despite the potential for chilly weather and rain, Boston might just become one of your favorite off season destinations to visit with all of its historical significance.
That, and maybe Mike’s Pastry shop.
Click the link if you want to read a more detailed post about Boston in the Fall and all of the amazing things you can do.
If you have never explored the Freedom Trail, this is a must-do activity.
The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile red-bricked path along the sidewalks in Boston. You can pick up one of the Freedom Trail Official Brochures for a self-guided tour along the trail. Put on your walking shoes and step back in time.
Significant Sites Along the Freedom Trail That You Don’t Want to Miss
- Faneuil Hall
- Boston Common – American’s oldest public park
- Granary Burying Ground
- King’s Chapel Burying Ground
- Boston Latin School Site with the Benjamin Franklin Statue
- Old Corner Bookstore
- Old South Meeting House
- Old State House
- Boston Massacre Site
- Paul Revere House
- Old North Church
- USS Constitution
- USS Constitution Museum
- Bunker Hill Monument
Other Notable Sites In and Around Boston
- Beacon Hill – If you are a photographer at heart, you might enjoy wandering some of the streets in Beacon Hill. It is one of Boston’s most picturesque neighborhoods.
- Charles River – The river is busy with boaters, kayakers, canoes and scullers on the river.
- Public Garden – In the heart of Boston is a large park adjacent to Boston Common—Public Garden—the first botanical garden in America. Our girls loved the magnificent statue of George Washington, the brilliant colors of Fall foliage, and the “Make Way for the Ducklings” statues.
- Legal Seafood – just a fun and tasty place to eat
- Little Italy – Mike’s pastry is recommended by many
- Plimoth Plantation
- Cape Cod
- Nauset Lighthouse
- Three Sisters Lighthouse
- Howes Street Beach
Vancouver and Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada
While it is amazingly beautiful in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island as off season destinations, it will be a bit chilly too.
Take the ferry to reach Vancouver Island; it takes about an hour and a half. If you are going to Victoria at the tip of the island, once you exit the ferry at the Swartz Ferry Terminal, get in line for the Pacific Stage Line Bus to Victoria.
The bus we rode was a double decker bus.
I recommend that you rent a car for your time on the island because you won’t want to miss the outstanding beauty of Butchart Gardens or the Fisgard Lighthouse. The best solution is to take the bus to Victoria and then rent a car there.
NOTE * Entrance to Butchart Gardens requires a reservation. Be sure to plan ahead.
The gardens are outstanding. Did you know that they have 70 gardeners on staff? Except for the few fallen leaves, the gardens are immaculate and weed free.
One section of the garden is filled with Dahlias in an explosion of color and varieties. They are amazingly beautiful.
Are you a hiker? Climbing to the Train Trestle at Goldstream Provincial Park is an awesome and somewhat vigorous hike.
Perhaps you might enjoy a scavenger hunt in Vancouver. It is a fun way to see and learn about a city. Follow clues to the library, a Japanese garden, across the harbor (requiring the use of the SeaBus), at the Pan Pacific Hotel, and finally at the Olympic torch monument. If you are a local, you may even learn a few things you did not know!
Whale Watching in Anacortes, Washington
Plan a whale watching excursion from Anacortes, Washington! One of the many off season destinations you’ll want to scout out in the great state of Washington.
Anacortes is just a 90-mile drive from downtown Seattle.
Due to the calm winds and waters of the San Juan islands, this area is an ideal place to view orcas, humpback whales, minke whales, and gray whales as well as a myriad of other wildlife.
Whale watching excursions last about five to six hours so plan accordingly.
Be sure to bring your camera and plenty of warm clothes.
It will be a little chilly with the breeze on the boat, but there are plenty of spots to stay out of the wind.
It may take awhile before you see any whales, maybe as long as it takes to reach the waters off Vancouver Island in British Columbia.
Did you know that all of the whales are documented and named and can be identified by their features and fin? “Split Fin”, a humpback whale, likes to swim close to the island and puts on a good show once spotted.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park in North Carolina
Perhaps the lack of an entrance fee is why Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the busiest national parks in the United States and a fabulous option for off season destinations in the Fall.
An App called GyPSy Guide offers an excellent guided tour throughout the park. Using the wonders of GPS and satellite, the commentary plays automatically as you pass a GPS point, sharing behind-the-scene stories, tips, side trips, and driving directions.
As you drive through the park, you can visit the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, stop for short hikes along “Quiet Walkways”, visit Clingmans Dome, and explore Cade’s Cove.
Just a piece of advice: If there is a site you really want to see in the park or surrounding area, go early in the day. Around noon, the tourist traffic really multiplies. Everyone is there for the Fall foliage if you are visiting during the off season.
These are a few other beautiful sites in North Carolina and along the Blue Ridge Parkway:
- Cataloochee Ski Resort
- Maggie’s Village
- Hike the Waterrock Knob Trail, Craggy Gardens, Crabtree Falls, or Linville Falls
- Stop at the Viaduct and check out the Hanging Bridge
- Visit Appalachian (pronounced App-a-latch-en) State College in Boone, NC
Orvieto should be added to your off season destinations list for sure. And it would be perfect for families or couples.
Orvieto sits atop a very steep cliff—a rupe—visible for miles before you even arrive. The easiest way up the side of the cliff is to catch the funicular after you leave the train station.
Did you know that you can often buy funicular tickets at a magazine stand if one is close by? You will save some time if everyone else is standing in the line at the funicular ticket office.
Stop at a bakery and enjoy some bread before continuing on toward the Duomo. Not a must, but you’ll thank me when you do.
Explore the Duomo inside and out. The exterior has an amazing striped facade.
Purchase tickets for an Underground Cave Tour. Most of the homes in Orvieto have caves dug out underneath (following strict specifications). Today they are used for storage and wine cellars, but years ago they were used for olive oil production with olive presses, cold storage, and pigeon nests.
There are so many beautiful sites in Orvieto and the surrounding countryside, it is lovely just to wander the streets and walk along the borders of the city. From here, you can see all of the surrounding countryside.
Some of my Favorite Photos are from Italy.
Perhaps scheduling a visit to a winery might be your next stop.
Siena is a short one hour and 15 minutes bus ride from Florence along a beautiful route skirted with wineries dotting the mountain sides. Bellisimo.
After exiting the bus, climb up to the Central Square. The unusual aspect of Siena’s Central Square is that it does not house the Duomo (cathedral) as is the case in many European cities.
Instead it is home to the City Hall, and every year hosts the famous Palio horse race.
There is so much to explore in Siena and as one of Italy’s many off season destinations, you will find even fewer tourists in the Fall.
Purchase the OPA SI Pass if you would like to visit all of the museums in the Cathedral Complex:
- Cathedral (with art treasures by Michelangelo, Donatello, and Bernini and its amazing marble-inlay floor)
- Piccolomini Library
- Baptistry of San Giovanni
- Museo dell’Opera
- Panoramic terrace of the Duomo Nuovo (unfinished facade of the cathedral)
- San Bernadino Oratory
- Santa Maria della Scala hospital and museum
- Old Hospital
You might also find that the most amazing part of your day is being able to climb up to the unfinished facade of the church, navigating narrowing circular stairs until the breathtaking view of Siena in 360 degrees of glory unfolds around you.
The queue to visit the panoramic terrace may be long, but the view at the top is totally worth the wait and the effort.
Lake Como, Italy
One of your first day trips in Italy should be spent wandering the streets of Varenna and then Bellagio—both fantastic off season destinations—in the Lake Como region of Italy.
Varenna is simply amazing in its beauty. Every walkway, doorway, and passageway is a photographer’s dream.
The streets are lined with shops and narrow stairways made even more perfect with beautifully decorated entrances and grape vines clinging to walls and changing to brilliant shades of red.
After a couple of hours exploring in Varenna, take the ferry across Lake Como to Bellagio. Lake Como is ringed with small towns hugging the sides of the mountains surrounding the lake, so you have a lot of options.
If you arrive in Bellagio in the morning hours during the off season, you will find the streets are not terribly crowded with tourists. Perfect as your Camera [affiliate] may never be at rest for long if you wish to take tourist-free photos.
Bellagio, much like Varenna, is one picturesque moment after another.
Varenna and Bellagio would be amazing off season destinations for a couple’s getaway in the Fall. Hint Hint.
If you are coming from Madrid, travel to Toledo from the Atocha train station.
Note * The station services the trains as well as the metro.
Take the high speed train to Toledo—100 miles in 30 minutes. Not too shabby.
As you leave the train station, walk the short distance to Toledo (pronounced Toe-leh-doh), an amazing walled fortress perched on the side of the hill.
You will be grateful for the escalators that allow easy access up the side of the hill.
If you are a photographer, you will also love all of the alleyways and beautiful entrances, the winding paths and shuttered windows.
Sites to see in Toledo:
- Catedral de Toledo
- Old Town
- Jewish Quarter
- Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes
- El Tránsito Synagogue – Jewish Synagogue
- Santa Cruz Museum
- Mezquita Cristo de la Luz
- Las Murallas (Ramparts)
- Alcázar de Toledo
The train station in Segovia is quite a distance from the city, not walkable for sure.
Take a bus from the train station to the Aqueduct bus stop and from there enter the city through the arches of the Aqueduct.
To avoid some of the crowds, walk past the Aqueduct (come back to that later in the day) and go toward the Alcazar of Segovia (literally meaning Segovia Fortress) a castle on the far end of town.
Did you know the Alcazar of Segovia castle was used as a model for the Disney Cinderella castle?
You can purchase tickets for the tour which includes an audio tour of the castle.
Climb to the top of the castle to enjoy the views overlooking the city. Maybe post a few photos to Instagram while you are there!
If you visit Segovia as one of your off season destinations (and many other destinations as well), note that the sun sets mid afternoon during the off season and temperatures start to cool off.
A scarf [affiliate] tucked around your neck and into your jacket is perfect to ward off the late afternoon chill.
Follow winding streets that will have you reaching the top of the Aqueduct. The views are fantastic.
The Roman Aqueduct of Segovia, probably built c. 50 BC, is remarkably well preserved. This impressive construction, with its two tiers of arches, forms part of the magnificent setting of the historic city of Segovia. It is an enormous construction of masonry, 813 m in length, consisting of four straight segments and two superimposed arcades borne by 128 pillars. At the lowest point of the valley, the Aqueduct stands at a height of 28.5 m above ground.UNESCO
Before returning to the train station, enjoy a cup of Spanish hot chocolate to warm up. These off season destinations can get chilly!
The palm trees and sunshine of Malta and Gozo are welcome sights as off season destinations in November.
Malta is a walkable area, but it is also fairly inexpensive to book taxis, water taxis, buses, and ferries.
If you choose to visit Gozo for the day, be sure to schedule transportation away from the port once you arrive by ferry. Take a tour, get a bus, or hire a taxi at the ferry terminal to reach Victoria. You’ll be glad you did! It is a looooong walk otherwise. Just saying.
You might want to include the following locations as you plan your itinerary:
- Upper Barrakka Gardens next to the Castille Palace
- Blue Hole at Dwejra
South of France
If you have ever dreamed of visiting the South of France, choosing it as one of your off season destinations has its pros and cons. As a pro, there are fewer tourists to deal with, however, many of the villages shut down restaurants, shops, and sites in the off season due to reduced traffic and daylight hours.
If you are visiting in late November, you may be lucky enough to enjoy the Christmas Market in Aix-en-Provence.
Fredrick, our hotel concierge, recommended these towns, villages and parks:
- Colorado Provençal
- Abbey de Senanque
- Les Baux-de-Provence
- St. Remy
Be sure to rent a car and pack a picnic lunch. Driving along the winding backroads of the Luberon Valley in the South of France is part of the magic.
Final Thoughts on Awesome Off Season Destinations for Fall
While Fall may not be the warmest time of the year to travel, it certainly is beautiful. Plan accordingly for the weather and you will be rewarded with amazing sites and fewer tourists. Quite often it is less expensive to travel to these off season destinations. That’s a bonus too!