Rocky Mountain National Park
Ben Klaus—Getty Images
By MoneyTips
September 17, 2015

Schools are back in session and the summer vacation season is finally coming to an end. If you are fortunate enough to have vacation time in the fall, you are likely to find lesser crowds and attractions that are willing to make concessions to fill in the gaps. Where can you take advantage and make the most of your fall travel dollars? Here are a few domestic suggestions.

  • Chicago – Fall is a great time to visit the Windy City. The weather has not turned brutal yet, and outdoor attractions like the Lake Michigan shoreline and the Navy Pier are at their peak. There are plenty of museums, excellent public transportation, and deep-dish pizza that will fill you up for a reasonable price. Unfortunately, this may be the one year where you cannot get cheap tickets for the Cubs in late September — but it may be worth the splurge anyway. Maybe you can say that you saw a Cubs game in the year when they finally broke the curse.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park – RMNP in Colorado is chockfull of beautiful scenery, hiking trails and horse riding opportunities, and features affordable vacations in the fall months before the snows close off access to major trails. You can travel through the tundra across the Continental Divide on scenic Trail Ridge Road, and spend some time relaxing at Estes Park or Grand Lake at the opposite ends of the park entrance. Wildlife is more active in the fall, and you are likely to see elk strolling through the center of town.
  • Las Vegas – Vegas as a budget-friendly destination? Absolutely — if you can resist the urge to gamble. September and October are good transition months in Las Vegas as temperatures start to moderate, summer masses decrease and the holiday season has not started yet. The hotels themselves are spectacles, and there are plenty of free sights such as the Fremont Street Experience’s Viva Vision Light Show, the constant acts at the Circus Circus, and the Bellagio Fountains. For you chocoholics, there’s M&M’s World and Hershey’s Chocolate world, featuring an 800-pound chocolate Statue of Liberty.
  • Orlando – Once the kids go back to school, theme parks are far less crowded and offer a more pleasant experience. Disney often runs promotions for the slower fall season, and Universal is currently offering package deals to coincide with the opening of Diagon Alley in the new Harry Potter-themed section. The LEGO Imagination Center can keep your kids busy for hours. Orlando is more than just theme parks, as there are excellent museums, galleries, and parks to avoid theme-park fatigue.
  • San Francisco – It is certainly possible to leave your heart (and your wallet) in San Francisco, but you can see the iconic sights of the Bay Area such as the Golden Gate Bridge, the cable cars, Lombard Street, and the seals at Pier 39 for free. Muir Woods is across the bay, and there are multiple art shows — although San Francisco is a bit of a living art show every day. You can even watch Giants baseball for free at scenic AT&T Park from the archway by the waterfront promenade if you get there early enough.

If you live in or near a location with traditional seasons, consider a driving tour as the leaves change color. Several websites give up-to-date information on the best times and travel routes to take, as well as inexpensive lodging options.

With a little planning, you can enjoy yourself on a budget, regardless of whatever destination you choose. Good luck, happy planning, and enjoy your fall vacation!

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