If fall break is anything like this past summer — which saw record-breaking hotel and resort bookings — you may be out of luck if you wait until the last minute to plan your getaway.
Here are four suggestions with ideal temperatures in early to mid October to inspire your fall trip planning.
Blue Ridge Mountains
Perfect for history buffs and lovers of the outdoors alike, the Charlottesville, Virginia area is made for a fall trip. Take a bucket-list worthy drive on Skyline Drive, the 105-mile scenic road that runs through Shenandoah National Park along the Blue Ridge Mountains, and make a stop to hike to one of the park's many waterfalls. Dark Hollow Falls is one of the easiest to access, with its trailhead located off a parking lot between mileposts 50 and 51 on Skyline Drive. A total of 1.4 miles round trip, the trail takes you straight to the bottom of the 70-foot falls and back. Tour the homes of three of the country's founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, James Monroe's Highland and James Madison's Montpelier. Stay in one of the recently updated rooms at Keswick Hall, a luxury resort which reopens this month after extensive renovations. Rooms feature air purification using UV light technology to give you peace of mind during COVID, and resort amenities include a Pete Dye-designed golf course, tennis and two heated pools.
Relaxing gulf coast beach break
Billed as "Florida's Most Relaxing Place," this gem located about a half hour from Pensacola is just starting to be discovered. The Gulf Islands National Seashore provides a stretch of beach without homes (or the people that come with them). Navarre Beach Marine Park features an artificial diving and snorkeling reef. The clear water and clean, white sand beach is blissfully uncrowded most of the time, and it's not uncommon to spot marine life such as sea turtles and dolphins from the shore or fishing pier — one of the longest on the gulf coast. The lifeguards and calm water make it a great place for families. There are no resorts here, so you'll need to rent an Airbnb or condo. The lack of high-rises means it's an ideal spot for stargazing — it's not unusual to find a telescope in rentals here — plus you're less likely to have to share an elevator with a crowd during a pandemic.
Atlantic coast + golf heaven
Located between St. Augustine and Jacksonville in St. Johns County, Ponte Vedra Beach is perfect for a fall beach trip. Stay in an oceanfront room or suite at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club, and request the first floor for direct beach access and stunning views. If you're looking for something to do off the beach, tour the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass, home of The Players Championship and the headquarters of the PGA Tour, and stay for lunch. Or drive to nearby St. Augustine for kitschy fun like the Fountain of Youth Park.
Great Smoky Mountains
Receiving three times as many visitors in 2020 as Yellowstone — the next most visited national park — the Great Smoky Mountains are arguably at their best in the fall, when the crowds have begun to thin out a bit. Glamp in a safari-style tent at Under Canvas Smoky Mountains, set on 182 wooded acres near the park's entrance. Open through Nov. 29, 2021, before closing for winter and reopening in April 2022. Plus, it's pet friendly.