While it may be hard to believe with temperatures still soaring across the U.S., autumn is fast approaching. Children will be going back to school, the days will start to get shorter, and the weather will begin to cool down.
Just because summer is coming to an end, though, doesn't mean you can't plan a fun vacation. If you have the urge to adventure, but you want to avoid crowded tourist sites, here are eight underrated U.S. towns that you should definitely visit this fall.
For camping, hiking, and an excellent selection of performing arts, look no further than Sandpoint. With long, warm summers that stretch into the fall, this town is an excellent choice for anyone who isn't quite ready to let go of summer, as the swimming season continues well into September.
If you want to squeeze a few more drops of summer out of your trip, you might consider spending a day at the Silverwood Theme Park. This park features kid-friendly experiences in addition to more intense rides like the Corkscrew, which is billed as the first-ever inverted roller coaster. For those of you who are ready for the fall experience, Silverwood transforms in October to become Scarywood Haunted Nights, with Halloween-themed rides and scares scattered throughout the park.
Sandpoint is also home to several beautiful hiking and biking trails: the Gold Hill Trail, the Mineral Point Interpretive Trail, and the Schweitzer Mountain Resort trails. For a truly invigorating autumn experience, you can hike these trails to get sprawling views of the foliage surrounding Lake Pend Oreille.
Although it is the capital of Oregon, Salem is frequently overshadowed by the ever-popular Portland. However, if you're looking for a scenic fall vacation with plenty of fun activities, Salem shouldn't be overlooked.
Located in the Willamette River Valley, Salem is home to an abundance of gardens, fields of flowers, and vineyards. If you want to spend time in nature but don't feel up to hiking a mountain, you can spend an afternoon at Bush's Pasture Park, a 90-acre park and botanical garden in the center of Salem. With plenty of wooded areas and gazebos, you'll be surrounded by foliage without ever leaving town.
Saranac Lake, New York
For lakeside views, stunning foliage, and plenty of live music, Saranac Lake is a must. If you want to see the foliage without hiking, you can take a boat out and spend an afternoon on the lake with the mountains surrounding you.
The downtown is home to numerous unique restaurants and cafes, as well as a thriving arts scene. With local art hanging in most establishments and plenty of galleries open for visitors, this is the place to be for the artistically inclined. Saranac Lake also boasts the Pendragon Theatre, the only year-round professional theater in the Adirondacks.
Old Town Alexandria, Virginia
Located just a short metro ride from downtown Washington, D.C., Old Town Alexandria is sometimes passed over in favor of more traditional tourist destinations in the nation's capital. The quaint charm of this town makes it well worth its own trip — Old Town is where many D.C. locals go to celebrate special events or enjoy a fun night out.
Nestled on the edge of the Potomac River, the area stays warm long enough into the fall that you can enjoy the views of the water without getting cold.
With its views of the river, charming old buildings, and iconic King Street bursting with local boutiques, karaoke bars, and art shows, there will be something for everyone to enjoy.
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
For a beautiful town that is never too crowded even during peak tourist times, take a trip to Harpers Ferry. The Appalachian Trail runs directly through this town, and Harpers Ferry is often considered the "psychological midpoint" of the trail by folks who are hiking the whole thing. This means you could wake up, have breakfast, and hike part of the Appalachian Trail — not a bad start to your vacation!
In addition to the beautiful foliage surrounding the town, Harpers Ferry will appeal to anyone interested in history. It is home to the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, and large portions of the town are dedicated to teaching visitors about John Brown's raid during the Civil War.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
If Halloween is your favorite holiday, try visiting Eureka Springs. In October, the Eureka Springs Historical Museum hosts the Witches' Escape, featuring food, dancing, and psychic readings.
Eureka Springs is also home to the Crescent Hotel, which bills itself as America's most haunted hotel. Here you can go on ghost tours, tell stories around a campfire at their Flickering Tales activity, and attend numerous supernatural-themed theater performances.
Banner Elk, North Carolina
If you're traveling with children, consider visiting Banner Elk. Located 3,701 feet above sea level, the town has beautiful scenic views with numerous activities that the whole family can enjoy.
Train enthusiasts young and old will get a kick out of the Tweetsie Railroad, where you can ride a vintage steam train and visit an old fashioned saloon. If you'd rather spend time outdoors, you can visit the Linville Caverns located inside Humpback Mountain, or take a hike across the Mile High Swinging Bridge, where you'll get a beautiful panoramic view of the region's foliage.
Finally, no fall trip is complete without a visit to New England. A college town located in the Pioneer Valley, Northampton is perhaps best known for being the home of Smith College. This famous women's college has many notable alumnae, including Sylvia Plath, Gloria Steinem, and Julia Childs. Fans of the Emmy Award–winning Netflix show Orange is the New Black might also be interested to learn that Piper Kerman, whose memoir inspired the show, attended Smith College and lived in Northampton for many years.
But this small town boasts more than a notable college. Music fans out there will have an excellent time perusing the tiny record store Underground Sounds or taking in a show at the Calvin Theater or the Iron Horse. Foodies will enjoy getting a farm-fresh breakfast at Sylvester's or picking out an eclectic collection of treats from the local candy shop, Sweetie's.
To top it all off, Northampton is surrounded by mountains that explode with beautiful colors in fall, so a perfect autumn hike is just a short drive away.