8 Autumn Trips That Don’t Involve Fall Foliage or Pumpkin Spice
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Crisp fall temperatures that wake the soul — and numb the fingertips. Poetic Robert Frost-worthy piles of dead leaves. Pumpkin lattes spiced with potassium sorbate. If the return of fall and these autumnal archetypes make you shudder, cringe and run for the (pine-covered) hills, you’re in good hands.
As throngs of nature-seekers pack their bespoke weekend bags and head for foliage-centric destinations, deal seekers, heat hunters and city slickers alike can find respite elsewhere. If traveling to these locales out of spite isn’t reason enough to cash in your points and miles for a plane ticket, then use this opportunity to take advantage of off-season fares and rates.
Rest assured, there are no his-and-hers puffy vests or apple-cider doughnuts here. Read on for eight places you can go to escape it all — with nary a wart-covered gourd in sight.
Palm Springs, California
Leaf lovers need not apply: this is Palm Springs, folks, and it’s tucked neatly in the Sonoran Desert. So do as the Californians do and stick to greenery in all its forms, namely palm trees, cacti and green juices sipped poolside at the new Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel. During your trip, carve out time to explore the city’s iconic mid-century architecture.
New Orleans, Louisiana
If the mere thought of apple cider doughnuts makes you flinch, trade one sugary baked good for another and head south to New Orleans for Cafe du Monde’s legendary beignets. And instead of adding pumpkin anything to your coffee, stop by Molly’s for an equally legendary frozen coffee. Which comes with whiskey in it. And can be taken to-go. You’re welcome.
Famous for its semi-evergreen live oaks draped in gothic swathes of Spanish moss, Savannah is a great place to hang out when fall descends on the Northeast. Take advantage of the cooler temperatures, break in humidity and thinner crowds while still sneaking in one final dose of Vitamin D with an easy day trip to Tybee Island. Plus, you can score incredibly cheap JetBlue tickets for your flight here. Just be sure to visit well before winter, when those live oak leaves can turn yellowish or brown and drop to the ground.
Who needs apple picking when you can indulge in a fresh fruit platter post-massage, surrounded by cacti and sun, at one of the many luxury spas Sedona is know for? We’re especially fond of Enchantment Resort, where you can enjoy views of Arizona’s iconic red rock landscape from the chaise-flanked pool or whirlpool. Or try the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock, which starts at $219 per night, or 49,000 Hilton Honors points this September.
Population: 1,747. Closest Starbucks: 169 miles. Freedom from fall platitudes: Priceless. For those who would rather be staring at contemporary art than poorly-carved pumpkins, pack your Rivers Cuomo glasses and head for the desert. While your friends and family members fill their Instagram feeds with photos of fiery trees and fireplaces, you can snap grams with the famous Prada Marfa, about 30 minutes outside of town.
Taos, New Mexico
Some would argue the beauty of the southwest is unparalleled. And they would be right. Take advantage of Taos before the ski crowds arrive, prices soar and temperatures plummet. Spend your days fishing, rafting, wearing flannel unironically and enjoying the high desert views from a hot air balloon. For meals, stick with classic New Mexican fare (somewhere between Mexican and Tex-Mex) flavored with green chiles.
The Badlands, South Dakota
Become one with the bison in the Badlands, which are famous for imposing, eroded rock formations and sweeping stretches of prairie grass. Spend at least two days in the remote Badlands National Park (a comfortable distance from any Starbucks PSL or pumpkin patch) and seek out Sioux-style tacos from Cedar Pass Restaurant. Stop by and say hello to George, Thomas, Theodore and Abe while you’re in South Dakota.
If you prefer the salt smell of the ocean to the fragrance of hot chocolate, the Big Pineapple is the place for you. Hawaii’s notoriously expensive guest room prices are known to plummet around September (consider a stylish Airbnb, and book with your Chase Sapphire Reserve to get 3x points). And early fall is still the archipelago’s dry season. So while everyone in Vermont is swaddling themselves in scarves, you can spend blissful sunny days sipping Mai Tais in a swimsuit on the beach.
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