As the kids head back to school and summer draws slowly to a close, many places across the United States are heading into a glorious season with milder temperatures and fewer crowds. As the unofficial end to summer, Labor Day weekend falls after many kids have already returned to school and yet it offers one last opportunity to end the season on a high note. These destinations make fabulous getaways for families in late summer and early fall.
Mackinac Island State Park covers most of the land on this little island, where there are no cars permitted—horse buggies and bicycles are the modes of transportation here. Fill your bellies with house-made pumpkin-spice fudge, enjoy the cooler weather, and stop by Fort Mackinac and the Butterfly House. Rest your head at the renowned Mission Point, located right on the shore, which is consistently voted as one of the best places to stay while on the island.
September is a lovely time to visit Vail, Colorado with kids in tow. The Aspen trees change color, the weather gets a bit crisper, and there are less tourists milling about the Colorado Rockies. This town, located about 100 miles west of Denver, offers discounts on lodging and activities this month. The Vail Marriott Mountain Resort has made-to-order pizza that can be delivered to your room and the kids will love the outdoor whirlpool—book early and online to receive savings. Visit the Vail Farmers' Market and Art Show, which runs through October 6, 2019; eat Bavarian fare at the Vail Oktoberfest, which runs on specific dates throughout September; and go horseback riding with Vail Stables.
The Pacific Northwest, and Seattle in particular, has so much to offer families. See the exhibits at the Museum of Pop Culture, walk through the Chihuly Garden and Glass, step on the glass floor of the Space Needle, stroll through Pike Place Market, and stick a chewed piece of gum on the Great Gum Wall of Seattle. You'll have some of the best seafood you've ever had at The Fisherman's Restaurant & Bar at Pier 57, plus afterward, you can ride the Seattle Great Wheel and experience Washington's splendor through the Wings Over Washington aerial adventure.
Looking for the perfect time to visit Orlando and Walt Disney World? You'd be hard-pressed to beat September, a month when hotel rates are at their lowest of the year and crowds have thinned with the back-to-school season. Visit Pandora, the World of Avatar, join Mickey's Not-So-Scary-Halloween Party (August—November), eat your way through Epcot's fall International Food & Wine Festival, and visit the new Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.
If your kids are fascinated with snakes, plan a bucket-list trip to the Narcisse Snake Dens in Manitoba, Canada, where you'll find the world's largest concentration of harmless garter snakes. In early September, the snakes return to their dens before spending the winter in the limestone bedrock fissures below the frozen ground.
Smuggler's Notch resort in Smuggler's Notch, Vermont, puts on a FallFest on Sept. 14, 2019, with live music, a pig roast, mountain biking, and rock climbing. And you can enjoy all this while your kids are entertained in the AutumnFest Children's Program, for children 6 weeks to 7 years old.
Cooling temperatures mean it's time to pack the car and grab the kids for a weekend road trip to view fall foliage. From sea to shining sea, you can take road trips that offer the colorful vistas that come but for a few short weeks a year. One of the many spectacular drives is through Franconia Notch State Park in Franconia, New Hampshire.
In Pennsylvania's Lancaster County, the historic 35-acre Mount Hope Estate is transported back to the 16th century for the 13-weekend Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, which runs from Aug. 3 to Oct. 27, 2019, and includes Labor Day Monday. It's populated with costumed characters strolling through a 35-acre Renaissance village with music in the air, royal kitchens to visit, and local artisans' work to buy and admire.
While Southern California weather beckons year-round, three fall months deliver at Disneyland when it comes to low prices, fewer crowds, and mild temperatures. September kicks off the best season to visit Disneyland, every child's dream vacation.
If you're looking for an affordable fall getaway in the Midwest, you'd be hard-pressed to beat Traverse City, in Michigan's "True North," which TripAdvisor.com named as one of America’s Top 10 Fall Foliage Destinations. Families have an extra reason to visit from September through mid-December thanks to a city-wide fall promotion.
If you have young children and want to give them a Halloween treat that's fun and not frightening, Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, is a good bet. It celebrates Halloween with its annual Count's Halloween Spooktacular event, which includes mazes, hayrides, and fun costume events.
The 200-mile string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina known as the Outer Banks—and commonly known as the OBX—is a popular family destination renowned for its temperate climate and wide expanse of open beachfront. The weather's still warm in North Carolina in September, and a trip to the Outer Banks makes for a great September weekend getaway that still has the taste of lingering summer.
Known for its mild year-round climate and artist community, the California seaside resort town of Laguna Beach is a great destination for families, with its scenic beaches and lots of kid-friendly attractions, like sea lions; tide pools with hermit crabs, starfish, and scallops; cool playgrounds; and an old-fashioned candy store.