All Articles Your go-to guide for fall travel

Your go-to guide for fall travel

Check off all the classics or try something new—there are tons of ways to take on the season.

A wide-angle full-length view of a family of four walking their dog out in a public park in Newcastle upon Tyne in the North East of England. The oldest daughter is leading the way and her father is holding her younger sister in her arms.
Image: Getty Images

When it comes to seasonal travel, summer typically takes the cake. But there are so many reasons to love fall. It’s not just about cozy sweaters and pumpkin-spice everything: Cooler temps make hikes—no matter your ability level—and national parks more doable, and shoulder season means smaller crowds, plus cheaper flights and hotels. So whether you’re looking for the classics (apple picking, ghost tours) or hoping to hit the beach, read on for ideas for how to plan the perfect fall getaway.

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Spotting fall foliage in Estes Park, CO

Every autumn, my partner and I make a point of heading up into the Colorado Rockies for a long weekend to see the dazzling foliage. Last year, we opted to make our annual leaf-peeping pilgrimage to Estes Park, a small mountain town in northern Colorado that’s the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. Here, some of the best things we did.
  • Downtown Estes Park
    We wandered along Estes Park’s picturesque main street and popped into many of the boutiques and shops. Though there’s a decent amount of traffic on the road—it’s one of the main ways to reach the national park—it’s pedestrian-friendly with lots of crosswalks. A few of my favourite stops: Trendz at the Park for home decor, Earthwood Artisans for jewellery, and Kirks Mountain Adventures for outdoor gear.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park
    Getting into the park requires advanced planning. If you enter between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. before October 22, you need to pre-book a timed entry permit online. On this trip, we simply waited until after 2 p.m., then drove along part of Trail Ridge Road. Going later meant fewer crowds; we also got to see the sunset hitting the aspen leaves at golden hour.
  • Lumpy Ridge Brewing
    We’re both big craft-beer fans, so we checked out this brewery, which is located in an old gas station and named after a popular Estes Park rock-climbing spot. There’s a rotating local food truck parked out front most days, plus a wide array of draft beers. I ordered a flight and loved the crisp American lager the most.
  • Peak to Peak Scenic Byway
    We cruised along the section of scenic Highway 72 from Nederland to Estes Park. From late September through October, you’ll find amazing groves of golden-yellow aspen trees along the highway and beyond. We parked at some of the designated pull-off spots to snap photos and soak in the views.
  • Stanley Hotel
    This stately hotel, built in 1909, is famous for inspiring Stephen King’s “The Shining.” (Sadly, no, the film wasn’t filmed here.) As such, it’s fun to pop into, even if you don’t plan on staying overnight. We grabbed a drink from the onsite whiskey bar, but you can also take several spooky guided tours.
  • Himalayan Curry & Kebob
    For dinner, we tucked into spicy chana masala and butter chicken at Himalayan Curry & Kebob. We didn’t wait long to be seated and the service was prompt and friendly, but if you’re travelling with a big group, arrive on the earlier side. Order a few main courses for everyone at the table and share them family-style.
  • The Barrel
    After dinner one night, we sat on the patio at this beer garden, which happened to be hosting live music. There’s a full bar, but I personally love all the craft beers on tap—most are from Colorado. And if Mother Nature isn’t cooperating, there’s a ton of indoor seating, too.
  • Ed's Cantina & Grill
    I can’t resist the pull of chips and salsa, especially after being out and about all morning. This colourful spot was a great afternoon pit-stop for spicy margaritas and a snack (in our case, queso). If you’re in the mood for something heartier, there’s also tacos, burritos, and local specialties like pan-fried rainbow trout.

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A spooky weekend in Portland, OR

Halloween is one of my favourite times of year to be in Portland—and there are plenty of frightfully fun things to do, from haunted forests to cemetery crawls. Here are the best ways to experience the city’s spooky side this fall in just one weekend.
  • Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery
    This graveyard is full of elaborate tombstones, many more than a century old, plus enough trees to earn it arboretum status. Keep an eye out for the grave of Asa Lovejoy (Portland’s founder) and the Macleay Mausoleum, which resembles a mini Gothic cathedral. Portlanders treat this space like a park, so don’t be surprised if you see joggers or picnickers—I even spent my birthday here with a Victorian-style picnic at sunset.
  • Forest Park
    While there’s certainly something eerie about this massive forest, the creepiest feature of Portland’s vast Forest Park is the Witch's Castle on the Wildwood Trail. There are plenty of urban legends about these mossy stone ruins and their history—some even believe they’re haunted. The ruins are open to all who want to enter, but a word to the wise: Don’t visit after dark.
  • Rimsky-Korsakoffee House
    I first went to this whimsical cafe (located in an unmarked Craftsman-style house behind a minimart) as a teenager, and I was surprised to see that our table was rotating very slowly—slow enough to not notice until my drink was suddenly out of my reach. Was it ghosts? Animatronics? Nobody knows. Pro tip: Don’t leave before checking out the bathroom.
  • Wallace Park
    Portland’s own Hitchcockian nightmare plays out every September and early October above Chapman Elementary School, where thousands of Vaux’s swifts descend into the school’s chimney to roost. To see them, join the hundreds of locals who birdwatch from the adjacent Wallace Park. The birds arrive an hour before sunset, but parking is limited; arrive early and bring your own binoculars.
  • McMenamins White Eagle Saloon and Rock & Roll Hotel
    Ask a Portlander what the most haunted spot in town is, and they’ll likely tell you it’s the White Eagle. This is one of the many funky properties owned by McMenamins—a local company that transforms historic buildings into whimsical hotels and pubs. Grab a drink and check out a show at the on-site saloon, or pack your Ouija board for an overnight stay.
  • Ravens Manor
    It's always goth night at the Coffin Club, Portland's horror-themed bar and nightclub. While I haven't been to their regular darkwave DJ nights, I did once attend a craft market. There, I met a woman selling lipstick she’d whipped up herself, including “Bug’s Blood,” a bright-red shade that she made the old-fashioned way: using the shells of crushed cochineal beetles.
  • Coffin Club
    0 reviews
    It's always goth night at the Coffin Club, Portland's horror-themed bar and nightclub. While I haven't been to their regular darkwave DJ nights, I did once attend a craft market. There, I met a woman selling lipstick she’d whipped up herself, including “Bug’s Blood,” a bright-red shade that she made the old-fashioned way: using the shells of crushed cochineal beetles.

Go where it’s warm

A fall getaway in Panama

Last fall, to keep summer alive but avoid the snowbirds that flock toward the equator come winter, I travelled to Bocas del Toro on Panama’s northern Caribbean coast. You can flit around this archipelago’s three main islands via quick water taxis, making it easy to go from a dive trip on one island to a yoga class on another. Here, my tips for a fall retreat to Bocas:
  • Selina Bocas del Toro
    If you’re staying on Colón like I did, you can start or end your day with a yoga class at Selina, a trendy hotel in the centre of downtown. Signs posted in the hotel offer a run-down of the week’s classes, ranging from slow hatha to faster flows, all of which take place in the air-conditioned studio.
  • The Firefly Restaurant & Bar
    Asian-style tapas inspired by Caribbean flavours? Yes, please. Fair warning: The restaurant is a little hard to get to, as it’s located on the backside of the main town on Bastimentos Island and there’s a five-minute walk along a rocky trail to reach it. However, the ocean views (and delicious food) make it worth the light trek.
  • The Floating Bar
    When you want to level up your happy hour, hire a water taxi to drop you at the Floating Bar, where national beers are under $2. It’s open from noon until sunset; you can hang out in lounge chairs by the water or relax on one of the bar’s inflatables. Check the bar’s Facebook page for special events like Saturday morning yoga on the top deck.
  • Cat in The Cup
    I had breakfast at Cat in the Cup on the island of Colón almost every day. The American breakfast special includes pancakes, eggs, bacon, coffee, and fruit for only $10. There’s seating indoors, but I’d sit outside next to the dock to watch the ferries running between the islands. Plus, the water is pretty clear—you can see tropical fish right from your table.
  • Alvin and ketcha's kitchen
    As you walk down the main street, you’ll notice that Chef Ketcha’s namesake restaurant on Bastimentos Island is a bit hidden by houses; a colourful sign lets you know you’re in the right place. I’m a pescatarian and was glad to see tons of seafood options including garlic shrimp, red snapper, and a daily fresh catch brought to Ketcha’s kitchen by local fishermen each morning.
  • Red Frog Beach Island Resort
    After a muddy and slightly slippery 40-minute round-trip hike to Wizard’s Beach on Bastimentos Island, my muscles were begging for some attention. The Red Frog Resort (also on the island) has a spa tucked away among the palm trees. I opted for the Signature Massage in an outdoor treehouse treatment room, with chirping birds as the soundtrack.
  • Bocas Dive Center
    I signed up for several days of diving with the Bocas Dive Centre, and felt comfortable knowing that the instructors are PADI-certified experts. Be sure to check out the Barco Hundido dive site where you can find jellyfish, sea stars, and colourful coral. I love night diving and the shop has a dive site right off of their dock, where I encountered tons of stingrays and lobsters.

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