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Fall Weekend Getaway Ideas on the East Coast

7 min read

By Anita Wong

  • When you’re ready for a weekend escape, head to the East Coast for relaxation and adventure.
  • Autumn is a great time to enjoy Cape Cod and Atlantic City without the summer crowds.
  • Norfolk, Connecticut, and Highlands, North Carolina, offer plenty of opportunities to reconnect with nature.
  • Savor delicious seafood in coastal destinations, such as Westerly, Rhode Island, and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

Whether you’re looking for a romantic escape, family adventure or quiet time to recharge, plan a fall getaway on the East Coast. Many destinations come to life with brilliant autumn colors, giving you a chance to explore beautiful landscapes before winter arrives.

Here are some favorite East Coast getaways, from Maine to Florida. Check out the list to find a tranquil seaside refuge, restorative mountain retreat, or nightlife-filled resort town for your next vacation.

1. Bar Harbor, Maine

Fall is a beautiful time to visit Bar Harbor, the largest community on Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine. Plan your visit for late September and stargaze far from city lights during the Acadia Night Sky Festival. In October, pull on a sweater and discover the fall foliage in Acadia National Park. Don’t miss the scenic drive along Summit Road to the top of Cadillac Mountain, where you can be one of the first people in the United States to see the day’s sunrise. If you prefer shoreline views, head to Frenchman Bay for a peaceful walk along the water. The unique Seal Cove Auto Museum is also worth a visit, especially for classic automobile enthusiasts.


2. Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Cape Cod offers visitors a distinctive experience in the autumn. The weather is usually still pleasant, so you can spend time hiking along Cape Cod National Seashore or cycling on Cape Cod Rail Trail. You can also glimpse the change in seasons by taking a scenic drive along Route 6A, the historic byway that takes you through picturesque towns and countryside. Fall is also cranberry harvesting season on the Cape, so take advantage of the many farm tours to see how the berries are gathered from vines in the marshes. Remember to stock up on cranberry jellies and chocolate-covered cranberries while you’re there.

Shutterstock/Cindy Goff

3. Stowe, Vermont

Home to the highest peak in the Green Mountain State, Stowe is a laid-back mountain resort town that offers outdoor adventure amidst natural beauty. Whether you drive, hike or take the gondola, a visit to the top of Mount Mansfield is a must for the spectacular views. You can also discover the area’s charms by paddling along local waterways, zip-lining through the forests or taking a leisurely horse-drawn carriage ride. When you’re ready for refreshments, stop at Cold Hollow Cider Mill for its famous apple cider donuts and hard cider, or sample the IPAs at local breweries.

Shutterstock/SNEHIT PHOTO

4. Westerly, Rhode Island

Located on the southwest tip of Rhode Island, the charming town of Westerly offers a little of everything. Take in the stunning views at Watch Hill Beach or enjoy wine tasting at a local vineyard. Discover local art at the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery, and browse the shelves of the Savoy Bookshop to find your latest read. For a memorable dining experience, settle into the mahogany booths of the historic, century-old Olympia Tea Room for a bowl of New England clam chowder. Autumn is also a great time to look for seasonal offers at the Ocean House, a luxury resort that’s Forbes triple five-star rated for its hotel, spa and restaurant.

Shutterstock/Allan Wood Photography

5. Norfolk, Connecticut

Named Connecticut’s best small town for three years in a row, Norfolk boasts a slow, unhurried pace where you can unwind and soak up the striking beauty. Book a weekend at one of the charming local inns or stay at Husky Meadows Farm and meander through the working farm’s gardens and trails. Wander through the town’s antique shops and art galleries, or head outside and explore 13 miles of cycling and pedestrian trails in Great Mountain Forest. The best views in town are from the historic tower at the top of Haystack Mountain — you can hike or drive to the summit.

Shutterstock/Dan Hanscom

6. Alexandria Bay, New York

Tucked along the St. Lawrence River, Alexandria Bay is one of the most popular destinations in the Thousand Islands, a group of islands scattered on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border. This welcoming community is the ideal base for exploring the region. Start your weekend with a scenic boat tour down the river to get your bearings, then discover a collection of more than 320 classic boats at the Antique Boat Museum. Take a step back in time with a fascinating tour of local castles — Boldt Castle has a swimming grotto and drawbridge, while Singer Castle boasts secret passageways and original furnishings. Round out your visit with wine tasting at Thousand Islands Winery, a 40-acre farm winery.


7. Atlantic City, New Jersey

Atlantic City has plenty to keep you busy with its resort hotels, casinos and nightlife. With the summer crowds gone, enjoy a stroll down the oldest and longest boardwalk in the world. It’s lined with shops, restaurants and food stands on one side and beach, ocean and sunset views on the other. When you’re ready for pampering, indulge in relaxing massages, facials and body treatments at one of the city’s many luxury spas. Qua Baths and Spa at Caesars is a noteworthy stop, where you can soak in Roman baths in a sumptuous environment. Wrap up your weekend at the sprawling Tanger Outlet and hunt for bargains at more than 100 shops.

Shutterstock/Creative Family

8. Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

If history is more your pace, consider a trip to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, a pivotal site of the Civil War. Wander the cobblestone streets of Lower Town and discover historical markers, exhibits and museums. Visit John Brown’s fort, the site of a slave uprising, or Jefferson Rock, where Thomas Jefferson stood and looked out at the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. Other notable attractions include the Bolivar Heights Battlefield and St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, which dates back to 1833. For breathtaking views, hike the Maryland Heights Overlook trail, then round out your stay by visiting the shops and eateries along High Street.

Shutterstock/Steven Frame

9. Highlands, North Carolina

Retreat into the mountains in the charming small town of Highlands, North Carolina, at an elevation of 4,118 feet. Here, shopping, fine dining and art combine in a stunning natural setting. Take in the views from the aptly named Sunset Rock, a natural amphitheater set in the cliffs, or take a short trail to Dry Falls, where you can follow a path behind a cascading waterfall. Wander down Main Street to discover local shops and restaurants, or plan your visit in November to coincide with the Highlands Food and Wine Festival. For a pampering weekend, stay at the Old Edwards Inn and Spa to enjoy a heated mineral pool and spa treatments.

Shutterstock/Serge Skiba

10. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Soak up the natural beauty of Hilton Head Island, a tranquil refuge just off the southern tip of South Carolina. The weather usually stays pleasant through November, letting you hop on a bike and explore the island or book tee time at one of the local golf courses. Local restaurants serve abundant fresh seafood, so bring your appetite and sample delicious oysters, shrimp and crab. Nature lovers should plan a visit to nearby Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge to look for raptors, alligators, deer, egrets and herons. If you’re in the area in November, Hilton Head hosts the annual Concours d’Elegance and Motoring Festival, a celebration of classic automobiles.


11. Helen, Georgia

Spend the weekend in a Bavarian village when you visit Helen, Georgia. Tucked along the Chattahoochee River in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this alpine town is the state’s most popular destination after Atlanta and Savannah. Absorb the lively European atmosphere as you stroll cobblestone streets and explore local shops and restaurants. The town’s Oktoberfest celebrations begin in September, featuring authentic German cuisine, culture and merriment. For outdoor recreation, hike some of the trails in Unicoi State Park to check out the area’s fall colors. By late November, Helen begins to sparkle with Christmas lights.

Shutterstock/Sean Pavone

12. Sunny Isles Beach, Florida

Sunny Isles Beach is a long, narrow stretch of land that runs parallel to the Florida mainland. Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Intracoastal Waterway on the other, this beach escape has a distinctly urban vibe, with tall, sleek waterfront towers overlooking sparkling beaches. Pretend it’s still summer and soak up the sun next to your resort pool or play in the ocean waves. Newport Fishing Pier is a fun place to watch fishermen and pelicans in action. Top off the day with a delicious meal at a local restaurant, or make your way to the excitement of downtown Miami, about 20 miles away.


Anita Wong


Anita Wong is a freelance writer with more than 15 years of experience. She specializes in researching and writing online content for the marketing, business, travel, and health sectors, but can tackle any topic that piques her curiosity. She has a background in journalism and communications and lives on Canada's West Coast.



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