9 Fantastic Fall Trip Ideas in the Southeast

The Linville Falls shot at midnight illuminated by the moon.
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Robert Loe/Getty Images 

Fall foliage, state fairs, and apple picking are just a few reasons to visit the Southeast in autumn. Take in the changing colors on a scenic drive through the Great Smoky Mountains or enjoy the East Coast during off-season when you'll have the beach all to yourself. Autumn is also harvest season, meaning it's prime time for wine tastings and food festivals. Plan ahead to have the perfect fall weekend getaway in the Southeast.

  • 01 of 09

    Leaf Peeping

    Unique viewpoint of the Linn cove viaduct at sunrise in Autumn on the Blue ridge Parkway, North Carolina, USA.
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    Pierre Leclerc Photography/Getty Images

    Nature's autumn palette of crimson, orange, and gold: Enjoy a spectacular display of fall color across the Southeast, usually beginning as early as September in the higher elevations of the mountains and gradually progressing to the east and west of the mountains during October and early November. One of the best drives in the region is the Blue Ridge Parkway, which winds 469 miles from Virginia to North Carolina. This scenic route offers sweeping views of the fall foliage across the peaks, waterfalls, and forests of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shenandoah National Park.

  • 02 of 09

    Apple Picking

    Ripe wet apples on tree after rain.
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    Harvest festivals are at the heart of fall as apples, pumpkins, and squash come into season. Apple picking is the perfect way to take in beautiful local farms, live music, and home-baked apple pies. The South Carolina Apple Festival is a favorite annual celebration that runs the week after Labor Day and includes a golf tournament, river float, apple-baking contest, arts and crafts fair, parade, rodeo, classic car show, and children's pageant.

  • 03 of 09
    The Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville NC
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    The mountains of the Southeast offer picturesque vistas, an array of invigorating outdoor activities, and several exquisite romantic resort destinations like the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. Overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains, this historic resort is known for its stunning sunset terrace and 43,000-square-foot spa, which features a network of mineral pools connected by waterfalls and rock archways as well as a giant lap pool with a fiber-optic star ceiling and underwater music.

  • 04 of 09

    The East Coast Off-Season

    A pink, yellow, and blue sunset frame a snowy scene on the coast.
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    Quiet beaches, fresh seafood, and coastal culture hold allure during the fall, when the crowds pack up and leave the Southeast. Hotel rates drop significantly along with the high humidity levels of summer, and the cooler temperatures are perfect for beach walks, tennis, golf, nature tours, and outdoor dining. Enjoy a driving tour of the Outer Banks sans the summer traffic, see the legendary coastal wild horses, and stay at a luxury beach resort for less.

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  • 05 of 09
    Blackberry Farm
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     Forester2009/Wikimedia Commons

    The growing popularity of culinary travel—cooking demonstrations and classes, creative dining experiences, food festivals, winery visits—has prompted many resorts and restaurants to create new and exciting culinary adventures, ranging from short demonstrations or half-day classes to multi-day destination resort packages. Book a few nights at Blackberry Farm, a sprawling 4,200-acre farm nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. Here, guests can indulge in the 160,000-bottle wine cellar, on-site brewery, and a farm-to-table restaurant helmed by a two-time James Beard Award-winning chef. They even offer personal tours with the resident cheesemaker, chocolatier, and butcher.

  • 06 of 09

    Ghost Tours

    Tomb statue at Bonaventure Cemetery.
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    Come October, the Halloween spirit takes over and the Southeast really shines with its ghost tours and haunted historic sites. Although by day Savannah is a charming Southern city, by nighttime it gets especially spooky. Join one of Savannah's midnight walking tours or an authentic hearse tour to see the creepy cemeteries and hear scary stories.

  • 07 of 09

    Virginia Wine Trails

    Virginia Wine Trails
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    Virginia celebrates Virginia Wine Month each October with an array of unique wine experiences from the mountains to the coast. Started in 1988, Virginia Wine Month has become an annual tradition as the state's wine region has grown in popularity and production. Don't miss the Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail, connecting eight charming wineries overlooking Rappahannock River, the Potomac River, and Chesapeake Bay.

  • 08 of 09

    Oktoberfest Celebrations

    Girls in traditional Bavarian dress marching in Oktoberfest parade.
    ••• Dennis K. Johnson/Getty Images

    Bring on the beer and sausages. In the spirit of Munich's annual 16-day festival, many communities and organizations throughout the Southeast celebrate Oktoberfest. Since 1976, Cincinnati has hosted Oktoberfest Zinzinnati in honor of its German heritage. Known as America's Oktoberfest, the festival is not only the largest in the nation but also the second-largest Oktoberfest in the world, drawing half a million revelers every year. You'll find seven stages for live entertainment, 30 food vendors, and more than 800 barrels of beer.

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  • 09 of 09

    Birding in North Carolina

    Male bluebird feeding baby bird
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     Elizabeth W. Kearley/Getty Images

    The North Carolina Birding Trail connects a network of designated birding sites throughout the state. Home to more than 460 bird species found in North Carolina, the trails are organized into three regional sections from the coastal plains to the mountains and include information about historic sites, scenery, tours, guides, events and more. Painted buntings, shorebirds, birds of prey, and wild swans are among many of the winged beauties you may spot.