It’s almost autumn, and if you didn’t join the summer rush back to traveling, it’s time to think about September when things calm down a bit. Crisp temperatures, fall colors, and fresh mountain air make Stowe, Vermont and Jackson Hole, Wyoming perfect destinations where you can enjoy the scenery, hiking, and their annual art festivals. In Niagara Falls, you can sip local wines, pick apples, and sample peach pie.
Beach weather continues in the San Diego area, and in Carmel, the weather is perfect for strolling through town or along the shore. Country music fans will want to check out Bristol, Virginia for the return of their annual festival, and Las Vegas is back with new hotels, shows, and restaurants.
Travelers ready to go further afield will find pleasant weather in Bora Bora and ideal conditions in Botswana. If Europe beckons, Italy is the place to start, with something for everyone, from art and history to wine and food. As summer winds down and the world opens, the time is right for a getaway, whether somewhere nearby or far away.
Here are the best places to travel in September.
Related: More trip ideas
This classic New England village is known for skiing, but it’s also one of the best places in the country to see stunning fall foliage. From early September through late October, the weather and colorful backdrop are perfect for outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and scenic drives. First-timers might enjoy a guided visit with ToursbyLocals to see the area’s top attractions. Stay at The Lodge at Spruce Peak, located at the base of Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, with a variety of accommodations. Topnotch Resort offers a luxurious spa, tennis, and swimming on its 120-acre wooded estate. Be one of the first to stay at Tälta Lodge, just opening this summer. Plan ahead for the Annual Stowe Foliage Arts Festival in early October.
Set in the Appalachian Mountains and surrounded by South Holston Lake, the town of Bristol is the true “Birthplace of Country Music.” This September 10-12, the Annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival returns to celebrate Bristol’s music heritage with more than 100 bands across 13 stages. Learn more at the town’s Birthplace of Country Music Museum. September is a great time to be outdoors in Bristol for hiking, fishing, camping, and exploring the fascinating Appalachian Caverns. Racing fans will want to see what’s on the schedule at Bristol Motor Speedway. Walk through Bristol’s historic downtown for the unique experience of being in two states at once, straddling the state line of Tennessee and Virginia. Stay at The Bristol Hotel, a 65-room boutique hotel housed in a 1925 architectural landmark with live music on their rooftop bar, Lumac.
North Coastal San Diego, California
This section of San Diego County stretches along the coastline with some of the area’s best beaches and laid-back surf towns. Attractions include Legoland California, Flower Fields at Carlsbad, and Del Mar, where thoroughbred horse racing continues until September 6. A number of new resorts are taking advantage of gorgeous coastline views and weather. Mission Pacific, set beachfront near the historic Oceanside pier, offers bohemian-chic style with 161 guest rooms, including 38 suites. Its sister property, The Seabird Resort, is casually upscale and features a spa and an expansive pool with cabanas. Also recently opened, Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas is a luxury property set along coastal bluffs with Spa Alila and ocean view restaurant VAGA. Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, recently unveiling major renovations, offers a luxury spa, golf course, and new restaurant, Ember & Rye.
September begins the sunny fall season in Carmel, with warm, clear days and cool nights, making it a great time to visit. Dog-friendly Carmel Beach is perfect for a stroll along the Scenic Bluff Path or a picnic at sunset. In town, browse the art galleries, stop for wine at one of the local tasting rooms, or explore Carmel’s dining spots with a Carmel Food Tour. Stay along the Monterey Bay coast about 30 minutes north at the Sanctuary Beach Resort, or in lush Carmel Valley. At the 500-acre Carmel Valley Ranch, guests can enjoy all-suite accommodations, hiking, garden tours, golf, a visit to the apiary, and the new Equine Experiences. The Quail Lodge features spacious guest rooms and suites, an 18-hole championship golf course, nine-hole putting course, tennis, pickleball, pool, and a spa.
Niagara Falls, New York
The iconic waterfalls are the main attraction, but western New York’s fall foliage, fewer crowds, and autumn festivals are other reasons to visit Niagara Falls in September. With all-new electric, emission-free vessels, the Maid of the Mist tours continue until early November. The state’s agricultural bounty will be on display at the Niagara County Peach Festival from September 9-12, featuring carnival rides, contests, and of course, peaches. Apples are a New York specialty, and at Becker Farms, you can pick your own seasonal varieties or take home cider, homemade jams, wines, and more. Nearby, the Niagara Wine Trail’s family-owned producers offer cider and mead as well as wines. Visit Niagara Falls State Park for hiking trails, exhibits, and Top of the Falls Restaurant. For an upstate New York road trip, Rochester is about 90 miles east, and the Rochester Fringe Festival returns this year from September 14-25 with music, comedy, and creativity on display.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
September’s warm temperatures and minimal rainfall make it an ideal time to visit the exotic island where overwater resorts are the norm and diving into the warm, turquoise sea is irresistible. Traveling to Bora Bora requires a flight to Tahiti and a short plane trip to Bora Bora, where guests head to their final destination by boat. The islands are now open to tourists, but it’s advisable to check current guidelines as you plan travel. The fully-renovated Conrad Bora Bora Nui offers a stretch of white-sand beach and views of Mount Otemanu along with a variety of guest rooms. The St. Regis Bora Bora features overwater villas, butler service, and Lagoon Restaurant by Jean Georges. At Le Bora Bora, guests enjoy traditional Polynesian style and room options that include overwater bungalows, beach villas, and garden villas. For a residential feel with resort amenities, Bora Bora One is a private 5-bedroom villa with its own beach, pool, tennis courts, personal chef, and 24-hour services.
Yes, Travel + Leisure‘s 2021 Destination of the Year is a big country, but we’ll leave it to you to decide exactly where to go in Italy. We have a few suggestions from our editors to help get you started with your plans, and in the meantime, you can brush up on a few useful Italian phrases. Have you longed to float along the canals of Venice, or are you looking for an active vacation with hiking or a bike ride through Tuscany? Do you want to take in the art of Florence and Rome, or taste the wines of Italy’s many viticultural regions? September offers beach weather in Sicily, and you can stay there in a luxe private villa. Or stay in Anacapri overlooking the Gulf of Naples at Capri Palace Jumeirah. Pre-travel testing, vaccine requirements, and travel guidelines are evolving, so it’s advisable to check frequently and visit your airline’s website as you plan your trip.
Las Vegas, Nevada
In a sure sign that the world is righting itself after COVID, Las Vegas shows, restaurants, and hotels are again open. One of the newest is Resorts World Las Vegas with 3,500 luxury guest rooms and suites from three premium Hilton brands (Hilton, Conrad, and LXR Hotels & Resorts), offering a diverse collection of accommodations. In contrast, one of the longest-running downtown properties, El Cortez Hotel & Casino, is vintage Vegas with a special suite decked out in retro 80s style. The Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace is back with a multimillion dollar enhancement and an all-new look. The new Estiatorio Milos at The Venetian Resort is the latest from Chef Costas Spiliadis. For casual all-day dining, check out Makers & Finders or satisfy your sweet tooth at Pinkbox Doughnuts. Las Vegas is a convenient trip from almost anywhere, and from California, JSX offers hop-on service in 30-passenger jets to a convenient private terminal.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Named for the valley between the Tetons and the Gros Ventre Mountain Range, Jackson Hole is the gateway to Grand Teton National Park. Beloved by skiers in winter, Jackson Hole is gorgeous in autumn when the weather is perfect for outdoor activities, like hiking, biking, and fishing. September brings the Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival from September 8-19, with gallery walks, art shows, artist talks, and auctions. A range of lodging includes the 1,000 acre Snake River Sporting Club with miles of trails for walking and biking, fishing, an equestrian program, and new infinity edge pool. Just opened, The Cloudveil, located in Jackson’s Town Square in a historic building, features The Bistro, a Parisian brasserie-style all day restaurant. Families will enjoy SpringHill Suites Jackson Hole, with complimentary breakfast, pool, and nearby Children’s Museum. Boutique Caldera House in Teton Village offers residential suites with luxurious amenities.
If your wanderlust will be satisfied only by an exotic destination, natural beauty, and abundant wildlife, consider a trip to Botswana. September is among the best months to visit, when the weather is warm and dry with chilly nights. At the same time, Okavango Delta, one of the country’s highlights, sees high water levels with channels among islands that are home to hippos, crocodiles, birds, and elephants. In the eastern part of the Delta, Moremi Game Reserve features wildlife that includes rhinos, lions, elephants, and a variety of birds. Along its border, Chobe National Park also hosts spectacular scenery and wildlife. Accommodations and travel arrangements range from basic to luxurious, with a number of guided adventures available for game viewing. Africa Adventure Consultants offers a variety of customized tours, including an opulent 20-day, 7-country trek. Wilderness Safaris features two new wellness-focused safari lodges as well as Shinde Camp in Okavango Delta with both land and water activities.