Family Friendly Fall Destinations in the USA
Fall is in the air and the US is full of great family friendly fall destinations! While fall crept up on us more quickly than I had hoped, I can’t deny that I am absolutely thrilled for all the fun fall activities in the coming weeks. With the beginning of fall comes apple picking, apple cider, apple sundaes, fall foliage, crisp fall weather, spooky Halloween vibes, and pumpkin flavored everything!
For those traveling with young children and looking for the perfect family friendly fall destinations to enjoy have a look at these great recommendations from travel bloggers across the country.
Family Friendly Fall Destinations
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
Recommended by Lisa of Planning Away
Food, fun, and family. Disney World helps bring those all together all year long, but Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party makes a fall trip to the Magic Kingdom a great destination for families with young children.
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is a special ticketed event that starts after regular park hours, the price of which is less than general park admission. The park transforms, with the Dapper Dans becoming the Cadavar Dans, regular parades turning into the Halloween themed characters with the headless horseman at the end, and regular castle show being replaced with Hocus Pocus.
The Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party generally runs from the end of August to the beginning of November. When you go with your kiddos in the fall, the temperatures are falling, making the experience much more enjoyable than in the heat of summer. The park limits the amount of guests that can attend the party, and there are no fast pass lines, making for a short wait, which is a rarity at Disney.
Apart from the great line times, you will experience great eats. As part of the cost of admission, you have access to trick-or-treat lines around the entire park, where cast members will fill your bags (you can bring your own larger bag, or get a bag at the park) with yummy treats.
You can also get Halloween treats, such as hades nachos, headless horseman cheesecake, and pumpkin spice milkshakes. We’ve tried many of these and they are delicious!
Disney at Halloween time is our absolute favorite and has become a tradition for us. So if you are looking for a place to make fun, fall memories and get good eats with your family, look no further then Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party in years to come!
The Finger Lakes, New York
Recommended by Lucile of Lucile HR.com
The Finger Lakes in Upstate New York are the ultimate fall destination for families. It is the perfect place to observe the fall foliage and you will have a big choice of fun and easy hikes to observe nature. A few good options are around the Seneca Lake if you are looking for more of an easy stroll, or in Cayuga Lake State Park, for a longer trip that can end in a picnic on the shore.
The region is also known for its delicious apples, and fall is a good time to go apple picking. At lot of orchards have fun family activities: Apple Barrel Orchards in Penn Yan and Owen Orchards in Weedsport are some of them. You can pick your own apples there and taste apple-based recipes like cider brownies or donuts. You can also enjoy a delicious apple juice at farms stores like Red Jacket Orchards in Geneva.
For adults, you will also enjoy visiting one of the many wineries (they also offer grape juice!), famous for their delicious and sweet ice wine.
But the Finger Lakes are all about spending time relaxing or working remotely in a cute cabin. You can find a lot of cabins that come with a lake view and a small boat on Airbnb if you enjoy being independent.
The Adirondacks, New York
The Adirondack Park spans over six million acres in New York State and contains over 2,000 miles of hiking trails. The Adirondacks are a lovely destination to visit any time of year, but the transformation of the lush greenery during the summer months to an array of color in the fall months makes the park marvel to see.
The Adirondack Park offers plenty of family friendly entertainment, from taking a long drive through the park, beginning level hikes that the whole family can enjoy, apple or pumpkin picking, haunted houses, corn mazes, and fall festivals.
The Adirondack Balloon Festival takes place every September and visitors will be delighted with the launching of colorful, unique hot air balloons into the air or can choose to jump aboard one themselves and view the stunning landscape from the air.
Lake Placid is a great village in the Adirondack Park for families in the fall. Drive to the top of Whiteface Mountain for views of the surrounding mountains, including many of the high peaks. Visit Lake George for a lake cruise, a gondola ride, or some apple picking at the Apple Hill Orchards. Whatever you choose to do, it will be a delight for the whole family!
San Francisco, California
Recommended by Em of That Travelista
California may not immediately come to mind when thinking of fall, but did you know September and October are actually the two best months to visit San Francisco? This time of year offers San Francisco’s warmest weather and also attracts fewer tourist crowds than the summer months, making fall the perfect time to experience the City by the Bay.
San Francisco offers endless fun and exciting things to do for families of all shapes and sizes. Definitely spend some time at Pier 39 to watch the local sea lions sunbathing, take a ride on the merry-go-round, pop into quirky shops, and enjoy a meal by the water. If you’re looking to immerse in mother nature, head to Golden Gate Park and walk around the Botanical Garden, Japanese Tea Garden, or Conservatory of Flowers.
Animal lovers will want to visit San Francisco Zoo, while kids with a curious mind will adore the Exploratorium museum. Those with a love for the water can enjoy Ocean Beach, Bakers Beach, or a relaxing boat cruise around the Bay to get up close and personal with Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge. Of course, no San Francisco itinerary is complete without sampling some sourdough bread, which you can find baked into fun animal shapes at Boudin Bakery in Fisherman’s Wharf.
Regardless of your family’s interests, San Francisco offers something for everyone!
Recommended by Agnes of The Van Escape
Red maples, native to Texas, are well-known for their fall foliage. So, Houston is a perfect destination for an Autumn trip. Leaves of maples, oaks, and cypress trees will fade from sunshine yellows to a coppery orange, red and brown color before falling. The great idea for a fall walk is to visit the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, where you can admire changes in tree color.
However, if you are going to Houston with young children, reserve most of the time for NASA’s Johnson Space Center. It is the best place to stimulate children’s creativity and awake their curiosity and willingness to learn. You need a full day to visit the center, as the kids probably won’t want to leave it.
The Space Center Houston is a museum that is bustling with life. Here you will touch the moon rock and enter the replica of the Discovery shuttle. Furthermore, you can have lunch with an astronaut and listen to interesting facts about space travel. Rocket Park is fantastic. You can learn and feel the 50 years history of space flights on your skin in the Space Center Museum. There is a special exhibition where you can see the lunar rover for those who are particularly interested in landing on the moon. Samples were taken during the mission and brought to Earth, and you can even touch the moon rock!
One of the most exciting exhibitions is a gallery of spacesuits and various strange things that astronauts took with them into space. More curiosities and multimedia presentations, illustrating the history of space exploration, are waiting for us in the interactive Space Center. You can experience the lack of gravity in a flight simulator. Moreover, you can even see how much you would weigh on Mars or Jupiter. NASA has also provided attractions for the youngest – playing with Angry Birds and building your alien. The museum offers lots of educational programs for kids, which you can check on the museum website.
Redwood National Park
Recommended by Kay of The Awkward Traveller
For being featured in one of the most iconic songs about the country, Redwood National Park is surprisingly underappreciated. Although the majestic giants themselves don’t dramatically shift in color, fall is the best season to visit, especially with children. Popular kid-friendly trails like Big Tree Circle Trail and Fern Canyon will finally be free of the large crowds of visitors, allowing your family to hike at a comfortable pace with ample room and sunlight to explore. The weather is more comfortable than both summer and winter, but restaurants and attractions are open longer to accommodate any kind of schedule.
One attraction in particular that you should check out is the Trees of Mystery park. There are huge colorful sculptures of Paul Bunyan weaving through the short outdoor trail, as well as a sky tram that can take everyone to the top of the hill. Or, for a more adventurous approach, there are family-friendly canoe tours with Yurok Redwood Canoe Tours, which will take you behind the scenes of how these canoes are made out of redwood trees and the integral role they play in Indigenous Yurok culture.
Another one of the best things to do in Redwood National Park is horseback riding with Redwood Creek Buckarettes, which will lead you through back trails that do have beautiful fall foliage and shrubbery. While in the area, you have to eat at The Historic Requa Inn for their famous breakfast, sourced straight from a local farm.
Hudson Valley, New York
Recommended by James Ian at Travel Collecting
The Hudson Valley in upstate New York is a perfect place to visit in the fall. There are farms scattered throughout the river valley that are open for fall family fun. Many of them have u-pick apples, where the whole family can pick a huge bag full of apples (and perhaps eat a few that don’t quite make it into the bag).
Some of them also have corn mazes. The kids will love running through the maze and marking off their map at points throughout to complete the ‘hunt’. Kelders Farm and Kesicke Farm are top picks.
Farms also have hayrides, apple cider donuts for sale and farm stands where you can find fresh autumnal vegetables. The kids will also love visiting a real life pumpkin patch to choose their own fresh pumpkins to carve into jack o ’lanterns for Halloween.
Of course, the Hudson Valley has stunning fall color and there are several easy hikes the whole family can do. Minnewaska State Park, Mohonk Preserve and the Wallkill Rail Trail are recommended destinations. You can even rent bicycles in Rosendale and ride along the rail trail through the woods to New Paltz, where you can stop for lunch and explore the antique stores.
No matter what your interests are, you will find it in the fall in the Hudson Valley.
Apple Hill, California
Recommended by Ann of The Unorthodox Traveler
Looking for the perfect fall destination with the family? Then Apple Hill in Camino, California, is the place to go! The Apple Hill area has over 55 growers, including Christmas tree farms and wineries. Located in the foothills, you can experience the peaceful countryside, autumn colors, and incredible apple cider doughnuts (famous here!).
The farms host unique activities each fall to entertain and delight kids. Kids will have fun at the farms that offer u pick apples and blueberries. With fall in the air, experience a hayride to a pumpkin patch and choose your own pumpkin. Kids will love scouting for the perfect pumpkin to carve! Face painting and arts and craft booths are available at some locations as well.
If things to do aren’t enough to get you to Apple Hill, then the tasty baked goods, apple cider, and barbeque should! If you prefer to try something other than their famous apple cider doughnuts, fear not. The bakeries have assortments of pies, fritters, and turnovers to feed your craving for fall goodies. They have take and bake pies if you want to enjoy delicious treats at home. Candy apples, a fall favorite, are the perfect treat, and check out the delectable versions to chose from. If a picnic lunch appeals more to you, enjoy a lunch of barbeque in the great outdoors at one of the many farms with dining options and outdoor seating.
Let’s pumpkin spice things up and head to Apple Hill for the best fall adventure!
Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park is found along the coast of Maine, arguably one of the most scenic areas in the country. It’s beauty makes it one of the most popular national parks, but also makes it a great family friendly fall destination. During the fall months, the beauty is only amplified. Fall in Acadia National Park will give you cooler temperatures for hiking and plenty of stunning fall foliage to enjoy with fewer crowds than the summer months.
You can enjoy the drive up to the summit of Cadillac Mountain and spend some time walking the summit with the kids. You can also enjoy many of the other family friendly hikes in Acadia National Park, including Ocean Path, the Bubble Rock trail, or the Wonder Land Trail.
If the kids are up for a late night, you can enjoy some star gazing from the summit of Cadillac Mountain. The Night Sky Festival also takes place in September and includes not only the stunning star views of Acadia National Park, but also many art, music, and science activities.
In early fall, you can stroll the streets of Bar Harbor for some shopping and great food with great views of the harbor. Many of the shops and restaurants close beginning in early November, so be aware of that when planning your visit.
Salem is a charming New England town that makes for the perfect fall destination. In late September and October it comes to life with Halloween festivals while still allowing you to visit the historic sites and pay tribute to the lives lost during the witch trials.
The Salem Haunted Happenings Festival takes place annually with pop up galleries and museums, live theater and musical performances, a kids carnival, face painting, psychic readings, and trick or treating!
Visit Witch Pix at the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall and your kids (and you!) can enjoy dressing up with the many props and get some photos taken. The Pedestrian Mall is also full of great shops and restaurants, a great way to spend an afternoon.
If your kids are fans of Disney’s Hocus Pocus, take the Hocus Pocus walking tour to see all of the sites around Salem that were used in the filming of the movie. There are also a walking tour dedicated entirely to children that will explore the history of Salem.
Related Post: Acadia National Park with Kids
I love this list, especially how there are so many outdoor adventures included. I’ve been saying I want to go to Acadia National Park, since it’s a little under a five-hour drive for me. The hiking sounds incredible, and that view from Cadillac Mountain is stunning. Hopefully this fall!
Yes, perfect for right now! Being outdoors seems to be the trend. I would recommend it! I only live 7 hours away and it took me years to finally make it!
Melissa, I cannot imagine the level of fun a kid would have on visiting NASA. Apart from the learning, I love the fun factor that NASA has incorporated. Also, Disney Halloween Party cannot be missed out, I can see a number of options listed both for adults and the children in your article.Nicely written article.
I agree, I always love finding places that have a combination of learning and fun for the kids. Disney’s Halloween Party is awesome, I would recommend it to anyone!
The Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Redwood national park (and all the other national parks you mentioned) sound like the things I would want to go for.
I recommend all of them, hope you are able to visit!
I must admit that it is strange for us to be home in the fall. Normally that is the time we are off enjoying off-season travel. So we are planning for time in Canada since we won’t be going anywhere else soon. We really wish we could have gone south to the Finger Lakes or Adirondacks regions. I am sure they are lovely as the trees turn colour. Some good other options in the U.S. too.
It is a great time for off-season travel, but we can (hopefully) look forward to next year. Enjoy your time in Canada and I hope you can make it to the Finger Lakes/Adirondacks soon! Such a beautiful area, especially in the fall.
Anything on the east coast would definitely be on my list for the fall! Living in Vancouver we have a lot of evergreen trees so I would love to go and see all the fall colours 🙂
The East Coast, especially the New England states, are absolutely stunning in the fall. I hope you are able to visit sometime!
Great collab! I love every one of those ten choices. Fall is the best time to go out with families. I am impressed with Houston NASA . This is a great place to visit with young children. Apart from engaging with shuttle and rockets, it also has an arboreum. 🙂
Me to! Educational and fun destinations are perfect for kids!