After such a busy summer, why plan a fall trip? For a lot of great reasons!

Perhaps this is your first trip with a baby or toddler, since they are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Tip: Invite the grandparents so you can sleep.) Perhaps you are celebrating being an empty nester. (Tip: Go dancing on a cruise.)

Perhaps you are seeking a fall getaway recent college graduates kids can join. (Tip: Book a multi-sport trip.) Perhaps you need a romantic getaway… or one with best friends.

Our 22 top fall trip ideas prove autumn travel is more than just apple picking, pumpkin carving, corn mazes and hayrides. In many places from Orlando to Cape Cod, the Rockies to the San Juan Islands and national parks, fall is the best time to visit because of the great weather, smaller crowds and bargain rates.

So, what are you waiting for? There are plenty of places where you can kayak or paddleboard, enjoy tropical sunsets or fall foliage, explore a new city or return to a favorite one. Book a rental house in ski country and spend a weekend hiking and biking. Go camping, RVing, glamping or ride the rails — – perfect for a fall family getaway. Celebrate at theme parks ahead of — or after — Halloween.

Here are 22 ideas for fall 2022 vacations – compiled with our partners at The Family Travel Forum — where we know you are guaranteed to enjoy yourselves and stay safe.

AMERICAN HISTORY LIVES AT LIVING HISTORY MUSEUMS

Time travel back to America’s first permanent English colony in 1607 and the Native Americans who helped them survive at Jamestown Settlement, Fast forward to the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown complete with immersive galleries and a Revolutionary War Encampment and farm. Also in Virginia, Colonial Williamsburg is the country’s largest living history museum depicting 18th century life. Meet an enslaved person or a tradesperson. Join a not-scary Ghost Walk Junior if you’re more than 4 years old. Learn something you didn’t know at an 18-th century concert or a pirate’s trial.

We love Indiana when the leaves change. Just outside of Indianapolis, Conner Prairie, a Smithsonian Affiliate, invites visitors to “step into the story” of life in an 1816 Lenape Indian Camp, a 1836 Prairietown and an 1863 Civil War Journey. Their new outdoor habitat and “Spark!Lab” were developed by the Smithsonian to inspire hands-on discovery and learning, with different invention challenges from creating a musical soundscape to thinking of ways to clean the oceans.

The Farmers Museum, in partnership with the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, NY has reopened to host fall family activities. The upstate New York farm, owned in 1813 by author James Fenimore Cooper, is now a living heritage farm dedicated to cultivating an understanding of America’s rural culture. Through Oct. 31, cuddle with the small heritage animals, visit the printmaking, blacksmith and other shops and feel the pace of agricultural communities of the past century. 

Victoria House Resort and Spa on the edge of the Belize Barrier Reef
Victoria House Resort and Spa on the edge of the Belize Barrier Reef

BELIZE IS BEST FOR EMPTY NESTERS AND ROMANCE

Jungle adventure or laid-back beach escape?  You can have both and plenty of romance in easy-peasy Belize. English is spoken everywhere, dollars are accepted, and you can fly non-stop from many cities including Los Angeles and Seattle (on Alaska Air), and from Denver and Orlando (on Frontier Airlines). Spend a week to experience jungle, beach and spa at this multi-faceted destination. 

The Lodge at Chaa Creek, a jungle adventure center, resort and spa in western Belize, is spread out on a 400-acre nature preserve on the Macal River. Consider a hilltop, alfresco couples massage or bespoke just-for-you cocktails under the stars made from a variety of infused spirits (perhaps strawberry pineapple rum or cucumber gin?) Follow that up with a four-course dinner by candlelight and go to sleep in your thatched-roofed rainforest cottage listening to howler monkeys.

Enjoy a beach respite at the intimate Victoria House Resort and Spa on the edge of the Belize Barrier Reef. Victoria House has a petite escape package this fall. Lose yourself in the tranquil sounds of the Caribbean Sea during a signature couples massage in the resort’s over-the-water palapa. Follow that up with a romantic catamaran cruise to catch the sun setting over Ambergris Caye or dine under the stars with an intimate candlelit dinner on the beach. Devour seasonal specialties such as lobster dumplings, cashew-crusted fish, and grilled lobster tail. Be sure to save room for one of Victoria House’s decadent desserts like molten chocolate cake or goat-cheese cheesecake. 

Pamper all ages at the equally romantic Naia Resort and Spa, now offering a romance and honeymoon package. Naia sits on a 200-acre, private beachfront preserve with just 35 houses outside of the laid-back beach town of Placencia in southeastern Belize. Their romance package is mostly inclusive with airport transfers, meals, local drinks, a romantic dinner on the beach and spa package. We certainly vacationed there with ease, stepping off our bungalow porch to the sand and savoring local dishes served on the open terrace.  

BERMUDA BOUND FOR BARGAIN HUNTING

Bermuda, just a 90-minute flight from NYC and other East Coast cities, invites visitors to save up to half on accommodations with Bermuda’s Endless Summer promotion.The offer is available to book now until October 31, 2022, for travel from September through next spring. Enjoy the island’s pink-sand beaches and resorts including the Grotto Bay Beach Resort (starting at $145 a night) with private beach and underground swimming cave. The program has several lodging partners including tennis resorts, condos and all cottage communities so there’s something for every family.

Couples and families with older kids often prefer the iconic Pink Palace, the glamorous Hamilton Princess, located in the main port. Relax poolside, experience a British-style High Tea and watch the sun set over the Hamilton Harbour. Then, take advantage of the town’s shops, restaurants and nightlife. By day, visit the Princess Beach Club, lounge in a water hammock and try Bermuda’s favorite cocktail, the Dark ‘N’ Stormy. Save up to 30% off your daily rate (starting at $335) when you book Endless Summer for travel through Apr. 30, 2023.

CAMPING AND RVING TO SAVE ON FALL FESTIVALS AND HALLOWEEN FUN 

Enjoy the outdoors at favorite campgrounds in the fall when they are less crowded. (Tip: If you travel with a pet, bring your pooch but ask in advance about cats as many places won’t allow them.) Stay in a cabin or a rental RV if tent camping isn’t your style. Harvest Hosts, a leading membership program for RVers, has over 3,800 key locations and destinations beyond campgrounds, including wineries, breweries, museums and local attractions where you can park your RV.

Moving into high gear from now through October, many KOA and Jellystone Park locations host fall and Halloween-themed weekends with free activities. Or, consider booking a rustic fire lookout tower from the US Forest Service for the family and set up your own spooky getaway.

Van life is fun, even in campgrounds. Taking the Kids tried RVing in Utah and Colorado and Family Travel Forum went to Pennsylvania. To get started, follow our guidelines on how to rent an RV with tips on what first-timers should look for and the best places to find one for your needs. Outdoorsy.com helps find rental RVs near you. Check out Eileen’s Kid’s Guide to Camping (and RVing), a partnership with KOA.

Discovery Princess is the news ship in the Princess fleet
Discovery Princess is the news ship in the Princess fleet

CARNIVAL AND MORE SHIPS CRUISE TO FALL FOLIAGE

Carnival and other cruise lines, including Princess, Norwegian and Cunard, is doing away with COVID-19 vaccination requirements and has greatly reduced testing requirements. After a blockbuster return to cruising this summer, the major lines are making deals to lure new and return cruisers on fall and pre-holiday departures. Book now.

Princess Cruises is thrilled to welcome back their 7-day fall foliage voyages, sailing roundtrip from New York to Canada and New England onboard Enchanted Princess. Starting from $599 per person, departures for these seasonal sailings are available every Saturday from mid-September through late October, and feature port stops in Newport, Boston, Bar Harbor, St. John and Halifax. On the West Coast, the California Coast and Mexican Riviera are easily accessible onboard Princess’ newest ship, Discovery Princess, with week-long voyages available in October and November, starting from $449 per person. ‘Drop and Go’ deals are available on last minute cruises for the best deals, and the new Princess Premier package includes  Wi-Fi for up to four devices, premium beverage package, two Specialty Dining meals, photo package and Princess Prizes, offering the chance to win everything from cash to free cruises. 

This fall, Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship Carnival Celebration will set sail from Port Miami with its inaugural cruise Nov.21. It is the line’s ultimate 50th Birthday gift to fans. On board Carnival Celebration, guests will find nods to the line’s “Fun Ship” history, including venues adorned with artifacts from some of the first ships in the fleet. Find your fun woven throughout the ship’s six themed zones – including the all-new Gateway, 820 Biscayne and Celebration Central zones, as well as The Ultimate Playground, Summer Landing and Lido zones from sister ship Mardi Gras. Carnival Celebration features the second BOLT sea coaster and will be the second Excel-class ship to be powered by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), as part of Carnival Corporation’s green cruising platform.

Sail down under when Carnival Cruise Line returns to Australia this October with Carnival Splendor sailing from Sydney. In November, Costa Luminosa will become Carnival Luminosa and begin sailing seasonally from Brisbane.

CELEBRATE HISPANIC TRADITIONS FOR DAY OF THE DEAD

For a rich Hispanic cultural experience than the typical Halloween, plan on celebrating Dia de los Muertos, Nov 1-2. Translated literally as “Day of the Dead,” it’s a Mexican tradition in which families honor departed loved ones, sharing the joys of life with them as their memories live on. One of the biggest and most fascinating three-day festivals is in Oaxaca, a stronghold of tradition, religion and art in western Mexico.

Outside of Mexico, San Antonio, Texas’ Day of the Dead / El Dia de los Muertos is the largest celebration. Showcasing its rich Spanish and Mexican heritage, San Antonio produces more than 20 events, including a River Walk Parade, during October and November. Creative and respectful altars are set up around town at galleries, cultural centers and restaurants to commemorate those who have passed on. Base yourselves in the Pearl area – an old brewery converted into hip shops, restaurants and hotel. And don’t miss a bike tour of the original Spanish Missions.

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 with virtual programs and an in-person festival highlighting Hispanic history, culture, traditions and stories. Following Hispanic Heritage Month, on Nov. 2, the museum will commemorate el Día de los Muertos with an indoor festival and an outdoor video and music installation by artists MasPaz and Guache. Admission for both festivals is free.

Seek out Day of the Dead exhibits around the country including at the Peabody Museum at Harvard University and the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. Make sugar skulls and eat traditional treats on Oct. 30 at the International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe, NM. Visit the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles with thousands of costumed attendees. Learn more in San Diego’s Old Town and at the All Souls Procession in Tucson, AZ.

CITY LIFE TEACHINGS WITH MUSEUM-FOCUSED GETAWAYS

Spend a weekend in your favorite city, checking out fun hotels, live entertainment, a big game or a new museum exhibit you’ve booked in advance. Here are four options to get you planning.

Denver: The long-awaited, expanded and reimagined Denver Art Museum has reopened with significantly more space for family activities; kids under 18 are always free. The fantastic Meow Wolf art installation, showcasing the work of more than 300 artists, including 100 locals, has welcomed more than a million visitors in its first year. 

New York: There’s nothing like a big city, especially for school age kids, to bring the world’s diversity and myriad cultures into focus. In New York, restaurants of every world cuisine are open and Broadway shows have turned on the footlights. Score big savings in person on same day tickets at the TDF TKTS Discount Booths, or book ahead through Goldstar, TodayTix or SeatGeek for discounts. Until Sept. 25, get 2-for-1 tickets to 21 productions during NYC Broadway Week. Score free admission to museums and attractions on certain days. For example, young fashionistas will enjoy the always free Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. The Bronx Zoo has free Wednesdays and the New York Botanical Garden has free grounds admission on Wednesday – look for NYBG Fall-O-Ween festivities and stop in at their beer garden (Sep. 17-Oct. 30). Topular Brooklyn Children’s Museum is free Thursday afternoons. The Museum of Modern Art is free Friday evenings and the Jewish Museum on Saturdays.

Philadelphia: This smaller and more manageable East Coast city has wonderful small art museums and galleries to explore. Engage younger kids in the environment, electricity and their bodies at The Franklin Institute. Nearby, the Barnes family private collection of masters at the Barnes Foundation is celebrating its centennial with special programs. This neighborhood boasts a few more favorite attractions: Take pictures jumping on the “Rocky” Steps outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Hike, bike and leaf-peep through Fairmount Park, a vast green space bisected by the Schulykyll River. Explore Memorial Hall, the home of the enormous and delightful children’s Please Touch Museum inspired by the 1876 Centennial World’s Fair. And don’t miss the spooky 19th-century Eastern State Penitentiary, one of Pennsylvania’s top haunted attractions

San Francisco: Feel young at heart at the city’sfantastic kid-oriented museums. This fall, the Walt Disney Family Museum features “The Jungle Book: Making a Masterpiece” about Disney’s animated classic. Interact with the always popular Exploratorium and listen to climate change through Water Rhythms, a new immersive, special soundscape about water and ice. At the California Academy of Sciences, see the world from their perspective at Bugs, with larger-than-life models, hands-on activities and specimens.

COG RAILWAYS, TRAIN TOURING, SAVE ON FUEL THIS FALL

There’s nothing like the spectacular panorama of changing leaves you get from a mountaintop. After a $100 million renovation, The Broadmoor Manitou & Pikes Peak Railway outside Colorado Springs is back on track. The highest railway in America reaches an elevation of 14,115 feet on the scenic 9-mile trip. Pikes Peak is the star attraction, but the journey is full of show-stopping fall foliage and wildlife. At the top, the new fully accessible, environmentally sustainable Visitor Center welcomes guests with breathtaking views, an elevated pathway and overlook. It was at the top of Pikes Peak that Katherine Lee Bates was so inspired by the view that she penned “America the Beautiful.”

On the East Coast, climb to the peak of Mount Washington on The Cog. At its 186 opening, the world’s first mountain climbing cog railway was called “a journey to the moon.” New Hampshire’s White Mountains region is packed with fall family vacation packages and many fun activities. Check out the Appalachian Mountain Club accommodations in New Hampshire and Massachusetts for top value lodge or cabin options. Their team organizes guided hikes among the lush evergreens.

Not to overlook the scenic view from your Amtrak rail car. The new Share Fare promotion just requires that all passengers travel together on the same itinerary and have tickets issued together. A family of four will save 30% and eight of you will save 60%. A true bargain for worry-free, pollution-free train travel.

CONQUER YOUR FEARS ON A GUIDED AUTUMN ADVENTURE

Get up close safely with bears in Canada’s British Columbia. With Canada back open to U.S. travelers, there’s a rare opportunity to snag a spot on a multi-sport Bear Camp at Chilko Lake trip. Not only is fall prime bear-viewing season, on this true wilderness adventure you’ll stay at an elevated safari camp and raft, sea kayak, and hike your way through this stunningly beautiful region of British Columbia.

Plan a bike tour with help from Adventure Cycling Association. To help riders find their way, the organization offers maps for 50,000 miles of bike routes in North America, the Bicycle Route Navigator app and other resources. Cross the U.S. on the TransAmerica Trail, ride the Rockies on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route or try a shorter adventure in between on an escorted or self-guided trip.

Hike Zion National Park in Utah on a 3-day Backroads Multi-Adventure trip. Their expert guides lead all abilities for trail hiking, trekking through rivers and off-road cycling through the orange and white Navajo sandstone cliffs of Snow Canyon.

In Minnesota, ride the longest continuously paved rail-trail in the country: the 115-mile Paul Bunyan State Trail. Starting in Brainerd and ending in Bemidji, bikers experience woods, wetlands, lakes, meadows and farmland. Those opting for an assisted ride can choose an e-bike and make a pit stop at one of the five e-bike repair areas on the trail for some juice.

A CroisiEurope river barge
A CroisiEurope river barge

CRUISE EUROPE BY PLANNIING THAT BUCKET LIST TRIP NOW

Fulfill your European dreams by chartering a barge for your family in France or relaxing on a river cruise — perhaps to Portugal. Multigenerational and friends’ groups should plan ahead now with the noted CroisiEurope company for either option. Picture yourselves on a private crewed barge trip. These elegant vessels ply the canals through the gorgeous French countryside. Both river cruise and barge options provide wonderful values and unforgettable experiences as you can see in our review of a CroisiEurope cruise.

CroisiEurope River Cruises is one of the world’s largest river cruise companies operating more than 50 river and small ship cruises throughout Europe, canal barges in France, Mediterranean cruises and cruises around the world. International experience with a French Flair means service and food are excellent. There’s a friendly, multilingual staff, and shore excursions (included in rates) emphasize expert guided tours of local arts and history. It’s very popular among European families because it’s the only river cruise where children under 2 travel free and children under 10 years travel at a discount.

Plan ahead for 2023, because kids 16 and under sail free or for half price on Special Family Club Cruises with CroisiFamily itineraries in the summer months.

FALL FESTIVALS THAT MAKE GREAT FAMILY TRIPS

Fall festivals are back and outdoor venues will be crowded. How crowded? More than 500,000 people descend on downtown the German-founded Cincinnati Sept. 16-18 for the country’s largest Oktoberfest. Explore six city blocks and expect to find the World Brat Eating Contest and the Running of the Wieners, where hundreds of dachshunds race each other in hot dog costumes.

For more than 50 years, Madison County, Iowa has celebrated the area’s six covered bridges at the Madison County Covered Bridge Festival (Oct. 8-9.) Besides the covered bridge festival parade, there’s antique tractor rides, marble shooting, penny candy, a Civil War reenactment and old-fashioned school lessons.

Just 35 miles south of Minneapolis, Sever’s Fall Fest is celebrating its 25th anniversary from Sept. 27-Oct. 30. Visit the Midwest’s first and biggest corn maze along with a petting zoo. Test your skills in the extreme corn pit play area obstacle course, on the tire mountain and the pig races. There are magicians and more — in short, plenty for families.

Estes Park CO celebrates fall the first weekend in October with Elk Fest. Listen to these majestic animals’ mating calls, see raptors, watch Native American performances and enjoy the spectacular foliage.

Fall festivals aren’t always about the harvest and changing leaves. In Panama City Beach, FL, Oct. 7-9 means it’s the annual Pirates of the High Seas Fest, which promises a Pirate Invasion, parades, treasure hunts and more. (To keep everyone in the family safe, take advantage of the American Academy of Pediatrics public health resources.)

GO WATCH WHALES ON YOUR FALL TRIP

Through mid-December, see the Pacific Ocean’s humpback whales, blue whales, dolphins and killer whales in Monterey Bay. Fortunately, the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium has reopened safely (reservations and masks required) and several marine sightseeing boats are operating with social distancing guidelines.

Keep in mind that many whale watching outfitters don’t permit children under age 4 or pregnant women to board due to the possibility of rough seas. Newport Beach and Depoe Bay, Oregon are other West Coast destinations for whale-watching year-round.

On the East Coast, the Atlantic ports of Bar Harbor, Maine; Myrtle Beach, North Carolina; and Cape May, New Jersey feature whale-watching cruises in fall.

A New England favorite: 1.5 million visitors annually head out to see humpbacks, finbacks, minke and pilot whales plus the critically endangered right whales in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Join them on a New England Aquarium Whale Watch from Boston before the cold weather sets in.

HARVEST YOUR OWN APPLES AND PUMPKINS AT U-PICK FARMS

It’s harvest season; meet local farmers. Pick whatever’s in season for meals at your vacation rental or for a picnic. Check out Family Travel Forum’s directory of U-Pick Apple and Pumpkin Farms near major cities and PickYourOwn.org for other regions. Allow plenty of time to conquer a corn maze while you’re there.

The National Apple Harvest Festival in Pennsylvania has been celebrated the first two weekends in October for more than 50 years. Make time for hayrides, puppet shows, cooking demonstrations (have you ever tried to make scrapple?) apple art and even apple guacamole.

Half Moon Bay, CA calls itself the World Pumpkin Capital. Celebrate all things pumpkin the second and third weekends in October at the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival complete with giant pumpkins, pie eating contests for kids (as well as adults), the world’s largest pumpkin carving. We love the Great Pumpkin Run, harvest-inspired crafts, entertainment and the Great Pumpkin Parade. And of course, the chance to pick your own pumpkins. Head north of San Francisco to the fresh air, colorful leaves and open fields of Sonoma County, where Sonoma County Harvest Fair returns Oct. 15.

Fall is also great time to visit farmers’ markets and pick up crafts and items like local honey that make good holiday presents. (While most doctors agree that local honey cannot cure allergies, many find it a good cough suppressant so it’s handy to have on hand as the weather turns cool.)

INSURE YOURSELVES AND TRAVEL WITH EASE

New research from Allianz Worldwide Partners indicates vacation confidence is at an all-time high. You may get more bang for your buck this fall. Though vacation is a significant expense, many feel it is essential to their well-being.

Travel insurance can protect that investment whether your flights are cancelled or delayed, your luggage is lost, you get sick or injured (or can’t go because someone in your family is sick) or a hurricane derails your plans. As a world leader in travel protection, Allianz Global Assistance focuses on travelers’ current concerns, which is why many of its travel insurance plans include an epidemic-related covered reasons. You can find more details at this link. Please, look for “Epidemic Coverage Endorsement” on your Declarations of Coverage or Letter of Confirmation to confirm that your plan includes this endorsement. And remember, terms, conditions, and exclusions apply – benefits vary by policy and are not available in all jurisdictions.

If you’re road-tripping, Rental Car Damage Protector from Allianz Global Assistance provides primary coverage for covered collision, loss, and damage up to $40,000, along with 24-hour emergency assistance. For less than $10 a day, you can be covered, and won’t ever have to worry about using your personal car insurance company.

LEAF PEEPING FOR FALL FOLIAGE FANS

A New England road trip is the classic fall vacation for leaf peepers. States like Maine are at their most colorful, and all the pesky summer bugs are gone. (Stop at L.L. Bean in Freeport, ME!)

Yet, many think fall is the best season out West. In the aspen-gilded Colorado mountain towns, you’ll find some of the least expensive lodging rates of the year as well as plenty of fall festivals. Celebrate the harvest, Halloween or Oktoberfest, such as the kid-friendly Oktoberfest (Sept. 23-25) in historic Breckinridge, CO.

In Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, you can also see fall colors until early November. Combine foliage and harvest treats with the local culinary legend, a 25-pound apple pie baked in a skillet sold at Dollywood or through Spotlight Bakery. Check out Eileen’s Kid’s Guide to the Great Smoky Mountains and the helpful directory to leaf peeping around the USA.

Slow down in Washington state’s San Juan Islands and enjoy hiking and bird watching amid the fall foliage at Moran State Park. Look for farm tours, wine tastings, film festivals, farmers’ markets and more. From May to December, cruise out to the Salish Sea to spot remarkable orcas (a type of dolphin) around Orcas Island.

MAKE HALLOWEEN MEMORIES TO LAST

Celebrate Halloween in Sleepy Hollow country in the Hudson Valley of NY where The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze includes more than 7,000 illuminated, hand-carved Jack O’Lantern. Guarantee a good night’s sleep in the village of Sleepy Hollow, famous for Washington Irving’s classic “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

All October, Salem, MA, a.k.a. Witch City, celebrates its haunted happenings with costume parties, magic shows, movie nights, ghost tours and a Zombiewalk Oct. 1 for all ages.

Enjoy Boo at the Zoo events everywhere from the Denver Zoo to the San Diego Zoo, Philadelphia Zoo, San Antonio Zoo, Little Rock Zoo, the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island and the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, among others. Search for a zoo or aquarium near you with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums website. Like museums and theme parks, check online if you have to book reservations in advance since many family facilities are operating at reduced capacity.

There are Halloween doings at major theme parks, including Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood, Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Williamsburg, Virginia and Fright Fest Halloween at Six Flags resorts. Talk about a good deal: at Kentucky Kingdom outside Louisville, buy a 2023 season pass ($59.99 and up) to get exclusive access to more than 1,000 illuminated pumpkins, pumpkin sculptures towering over 12 feet tall, glowing rides, trees and buildings and more at the first ever Pumpkins at Kentucky Kingdom.

Younger kids will love the clever Brick or Treat trails at the new LEGOLAND New York, the LEGOLAND Florida and LEGOLAND California. There’s more California family fun at Knott’s Berry Farm, where Knott’s Scary Farm returns at night on select dates through October. Season pass holders and teachers, check out the Count’s Halloween Spooktacular at Sesame Place in Pennsylvania.

NO SPECIAL NEEDS FAMILIES LEFT BEHIND THIS FALL

Several recreational groups design different programs for children with special challenges and vacation options are rebounding. It’s worthwhile to research the options because special needs program fees are usually calculated on a sliding scale so there are many affordable in-real-life options.

As inclusion becomes an industry priority, additional resources are being developed in tourism. Most of the major theme parks, for example, are accessible for those with disabilities. If you are coping with dietary needs or food allergies, Family Travel Forum’s guide to dining at theme parks informs you of allergen-free alternatives.

Many cruise lines offer options to accommodate passengers with special needs. Beaches Resort in Jamaica has specially trained staff for those on the autism spectrum.

Cities are getting better at inclusivity too. In Wilmington, Delaware, visit the Can-Do Playground, a “boundless” playground whose gardens, surfaces and play equipment are designed to be accessible to every child regardless of their mental or physical abilities. Similarly, LeFleur Bluff State Park in Jackson MS has a new all-abilities playground with many structures for the mobility impaired.

And just outside San Antonio is Morgan’s Wonderland: An ultra-accessible theme and water park for people with special challenges. Ride their wheelchair-accessible Ferris wheel, try catch-and-release fishing or join an Off-Road Adventure Ride.

Peppa Pig Theme Park is a big hit with young kids in Orlando
Peppa Pig Theme Park is a big hit with young kids in Orlando

ORLANDO WITH THE LITTLEST PARK GOERS

There’s no better time to visit Orlando, the World’s theme park capital, with young kids than in fall. It’s cooler, less crowded and there are plenty of hotel deals, some at under $100 a night.

You’ll discover new attractions aimed at young families including the first Peppa Pig Theme Park at LEGOLAND Florida Theme Park. LEGOLAND Florida boasts a DUPLO Tot Spot and a hotel with Lego-themed rooms.

There has been a concentrated effort at Disney World’s EPCOT to offer more for young families, including Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Frozen Ever After and the high-tech space-themed Advanced Training Lab.

Young families also now gravitate to Disney’s Hollywood Studios with Toy Story Land, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy.

Seuss Landing at Universal’s Islands of Adventure is always a hit as is Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone at Universal Studios. And don’t forget Sesame Street Land at SeaWorld Orlando with rides designed for preschoolers. 

Visit Orlando Magical Dining runs until Oct. 2 with every meal supporting The Able Trust which works to expand employment for those with disabilities. There are regular kids’ menus while adults can enjoy $40 3-course menus at more than 100 restaurants. Look for special hotel deals with Visit Orlando’s Magical Nights.

PARKS COME ALIVE IN THE FALL WHEN YOU VISIT RESPONSIBLY

After the battering that over-crowded parks got this summer, we urge you to recreate responsibly and follow the guidelines in place at all parks  when you visit.

Take advantage of wonderful nearby state parks. DiscovertheForest.org has a searchable directory of local parks, most free. Less visited National Park Service treasures include North Cascades National Park in Washington State, Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas and the beautiful beaches at Cape Hatteras National Seashore along North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

The Outer Banks, along with the Salem Maritime Area in Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey’s Gateway National Recreation Area and others, have used Open OutDoors for Kids grants from the National Parks Foundation to make parks and monuments more accessible in real life and virtually to K-12 students, educators and families.

(Tips: Save even more at parks. All ages visit free on National Public Lands Day, Sept. 24, 2022. Grandparents can get a lifetime Senior Pass for $80 and bring everyone into a park with them. Pick up a free Junior Range workbook at the park’s gift shop.The educators’ section on every national park site, designed for teachers planning field trips, can be an excellent family resource. Print out worksheets before you go so you don’t have to buy guidebooks.)

SECOND SUMMER ON CAPE COD

Locals call it Cape Cod’s “Second Summer.” There’s warm weather, a chill vibe and fun adventures. And the Cape’s 560 miles of sparkling beaches and Cape Cod National Seashore’s 44,000 acres of pristine sandy beach, marshes, ponds, and uplands will provide all the room you need! Sail, kayak, surf, hike, cycle, golf, fish, read, paint, explore, attend festivals or the cranberry harvest.

Tailwind, a new seaplane service, is flying shuttles from Manhattan, Boston or Plymouth MA to Provincetown three days a week through the fall. Check out the Tailwind schedule here.

The Edward Gorey House in Yarmouth Port is home to the famous illustrator and author of spooky tales including “Edward Gorey’s Dracula,” said to be the inventor of the graphic novel. The must-see house museum is open Wednesday through Sunday till Oct. 14 then Friday-Sunday through New Year’s Eve.

Learn about whaling history at the museum on the island of Nantucket off the coast or spend a long weekend on Martha’s Vineyard.

SHAKESPEARE CALLING THIS FALL

Take advantage of the many fall school holidays to enrich your family’s cultural outlook with some Shakespeare. The famous Bard’s works come to life from March to November at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The OSF in beautiful Ashland is America’s largest non-profit theater. Their eight annual productions include new, old and global works; Shakespeare and other classics; musicals and contemporary theater. If you have kids or grandkids interested in drama, music, literature or any performing arts, there’s no better introduction than a visit to family-friendly Ashland. Make the small and walkable southern Oregon town your base for outdoor adventures along the Rogue River, and day trips to spectacular Crater Lake National Park.

The Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada presents 12 productions in four theaters from early April though the end of October. Catch top quality productions of Richard III, Hamlet and even a modern-day telling of the story called Hamlet-911. Options like kids’ prices and special Pay What You Wish performances — whatever you can above $10 — make it affordable for all. Family programs this season include Little Women and the musical, Chicago. (Tip: Stratford offers a round trip express bus from Toronto, making it easy to add a bit of Shakespeare to a city visit. Plus, Toronto has a great live theatre scene.)

Another option that dramatic kids will enjoy is the Utah Shakespeare Festival, part of Southern Utah University in Cedar City. This festival of Shakespeare, contemporary plays and a variety of dramas has its own replica of England’s classic Globe Theatre to add to the fun. Between June and mid-October, catch any of the eight productions by the Tony Award-winning regional theater company.

To be or not to be with The Bard this fall? They say all the world’s a stage and this roundup of the top Shakespeare Festivals proves it.

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