The Best Budget-Friendly Vacation Spots For A Picture-Perfect Fall Getaway

Fall is a wonderful season to take a getaway in the U.S., but the most popular places aren't always budget-friendly. Taking a scenic drive through Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and the rest of New England might be the most obvious choice for a picture-perfect vacation among changing leaves. However, these destinations are well-known by both domestic and international travelers, and they're usually quite crowded and expensive during fall. For example, the Sugar Hill Inn, an adorable B&B in the heart of New Hampshire (in prime leaf-peeping country), can be prohibitively expensive in October. Or, you may have a hard time finding a vacancy.

In comparison, the Teller House in Silverton, Colorado, an equally adorable property during the same week, can be half the cost. So, if you've done a fall foliage trip in the Northeast before and are looking for something different (and more affordable), or just don't want to deal with crowds (aren't those supposed to disperse come back-to-school season?), then consider some alternative destinations. We've rounded up a few unique places outside of New England that can offer an epic fall trip without draining your wallet!

Flagstaff, Arizona

Unlike much of Arizona, where temps can be in the triple digits for months, the northern portion of the state has pleasant weather for most of the year. This makes Flagstaff, the largest city near the Grand Canyon, a great base for a hiking and outdoors-oriented trip. Most travelers come in the summer or the winter when the weather is at its best and conditions are ideal for activities, whether that be trekking or skiing. June through August and December through February are also the busiest, which means they're the most expensive times to visit as well. Instead, try visiting after Labor Day.

You'll enjoy crisp fall days, with fresh mountain air, fewer people to contend with on trails and at viewpoints, and friendlier hotel and car rental rates. Not to mention, you'll enjoy the region awash in foliage — yes, it really does exist in Arizona. You can take a gondola over the Snowbowl (used for winter sports in the colder months) to enjoy views of miles of changing leaves. Alternatively, check out the nearby Walnut Canyon to hike among the colorful foliage. Flagstaff does have a small airport, where you can find flights to and from around the West. If your goal is to save on a fall getaway, however, opt for a flight in/out of Phoenix or Las Vegas. You'll typically find more flight options and better deals.

Little Rock, Arkansas

Arkansas, and this region of the country, might be the furthest thing from your mind when you brainstorm autumnal trips. But that's what makes it such a fantastic location to consider because no one else thinks of the area. You'll have the top destinations in and around Little Rock to yourself, or at most, shared with a handful of other savvy travelers. And you'll benefit from much lower prices in this part of the U.S. September ushers in a much friendlier climate for visitors and locals alike. Temperatures come down from daily highs in the 90s, and the worst of the summer humidity disappears.

In town, the best places to spot changing leaves are the Riverfront Park and the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden. Further afield, you could head into the Ouachita Mountains and then climb Pinnacle Mountain, or just wander the Pinnacle Mountain State Park, which will be full of brilliant colors this time of year. Additionally, the Rattlesnake Ridge area is also full of trails waiting to be hiked. If a bike ride is more your style, take a cycle along the Arkansas River Trail, where you'll enjoy views from both sides of the water during one of the most scenic seasons. And if you're a fan of foodie events, fall ushers in food festival season in Little Rock. Depending on your personal taste, you could attend the Main Street Food Truck Festival, Arkansas Cornbread Festival, or the World Cheese Dip Championship.

Billings, Montana

Winter and summer are peak seasons in Big Sky country for a reason, as those are the best months to visit for either winter sports or hiking and camping, respectively. But like many nature-oriented destinations, shoulder season is a great time of year in Montana and Billings in particular. The Rimrocks or Rims, which are cliffs that surround the city, are an iconic place to go for a wander to enjoy the change of seasons. This area is also a popular rock climbing destination, should that be your activity of choice. If heights aren't your thing, take a paddle or boat ride on the nearby Yellowstone River or at Lake Elmo State Park to enjoy the leaves from the water. Outside of town, many sites and trails are still accessible, with the bonus of fall foliage, fewer crowds, and friendlier prices. Finally, you can choose to experience the autumn scenery on horseback, the way the state was meant to be viewed.

Numerous breweries, wineries, and distilleries call the city home, and you'll have plenty of great restaurants to choose from, as the growing population of Billings continues to attract new and creative eateries. Additionally, you'll have a good variety of bookstores, antique shops, and art galleries to peruse in town should you need a respite from the outdoors. And finally, fall is the season of rodeos and Harvestfest, both a must-do while in Billings.

Whidbey Island, Washington

The San Juan Islands overshadow most others in the Pacific Northwest, but Whidbey is a local favorite for a few reasons. First, it's much more accessible, just a quick 20-minute ferry ride from Mukilteo or an easy drive-on from picture-perfect Deception Pass. Additionally, the ferry, accommodations, and food are much cheaper than the aforementioned, wider-known islands. And if you visit in the fall, there are numerous fun activities to partake in and even more affordable prices for accommodations and activities.

Make sure to check out the annual Whidbey Island Cider Festival and enjoy the "Eat Local Month," where local farmers and producers are showcased around the island. Favorite hiking areas include Ebey's Landing for fantastic coastal views, South Whidbey State Park, and the Strawberry Point Preserve Trail near Oak Harbor. Should you have some extra time and want easy add-ons to your Whidbey adventure, a direct ferry leaves multiple times a day from Coupeville to Port Townsend on the Kitsap Peninsula. Alternatively, drive north on the island and take the Deception Pass Bridge back to the mainland. The foliage in the Pacific Northwest only continues to impress the more you drive around the region.

Texas Hill Country

Wine-tasting trips in the U.S. are not typically thought of as budget-friendly affairs and for good reason. Between the ever-increasing price of tastings, transportation (you can't drive if you plan to enjoy the area's fruits, literally), and accommodations, it's understandable many travelers save for months or even years for a special vineyard-focused vacation. However, if you head to the Lone Star State, you'll be rewarded with much more affordable options in Hill Country.

This rural area, which is just a couple of hours from Austin and San Antonio, is full of up-and-coming wineries. And while the days of free tastings are long gone, you'll still get more for your buck than in Napa or Sonoma. Fall is the perfect time to visit as the season provides much more pleasant weather to Texas as well as a surprising volume of foliage. Drive the highway to Kerrville-Schreiner Park, Concan, and Lost Maples State Park, which are all great stops in the region to enjoy the change of seasons and the colors in the maple, cyprus, and sycamore trees. Additionally, October is Texas Wine Month, which typically ushers in fun events and discounts at vineyards, and yet another reason it's a great time of year to visit.

Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

Alaska is a year-round destination, depending on what you wish to do and see. For an affordable stay and breathtaking scenery though, you really can't beat autumn in the extreme north. The fall colors are unlike anything you'll see elsewhere in the U.S., set against the backdrop of the Alaskan wilderness. The Kenai Peninsula is ideal due to its compact size, as you'll be able to pack in plenty of activities and sites without the long drive times that are common in this state.

Seward makes for a great base to explore the peninsula from, and the weather is milder than other places in the area like Homer and Kenai. So, pack layers every day when you go out exploring. The town is also a stop along the Alaskan Railroad, so if you prefer to not deal with a car rental, it's a great destination. You can always rent a vehicle for a day if you decide to go further afield. While fall is an affordable time to visit, just be prepared for some things to be closed.

Silverton, Colorado

While Colorado is an ideal winter sports destination, it's hard to find a better place to spend the last light-filled and non-winter months than in the nature-oriented state. Historic former mining towns and endless trails make an already naturally beautiful state the perfect fall getaway. And if you head to Silverton, you'll be rewarded with surprisingly affordable prices. Nestled amongst the San Juan National Forest, the surroundings are awash with fall colors (mostly yellow, orange, and gold aspens) every year from mid-September to mid-October, depending on the specific area. This makes for a fantastic background against the charming downtown of Silverton.

By staying in town, you could enjoy a few days of strolling, eating, and hiking nearby trails. However, for the full autumnal experience, head to nearby towns and recreation areas. The nearby historic mining towns of Animas Forks, Eureka, and Lake City are all a short drive away, making for easy day trips. Additionally, the spectacular Ice Lake Trail, Andrews Lake Trail, and Kendall Peak Road are all great trails in the Rockies come fall.

Logan, Utah

This college town is the place to come in September and October, with many fantastic restaurants (more than you might expect for a city of its size), beautiful nature, and plenty of activities and sites to keep you busy. As an added bonus, Logan is much more affordable than Salt Lake City or Provo and has plenty to do for free as well. The walkable downtown is quite peaceful and is the perfect place to walk or bike and enjoy the changing of the leaves. Additionally, the Utah State University campus is considered one of the most beautiful in the country, making it a great location to wander during the fall.

Outside of town, Logan and Provo Canyons are brilliant places to hike or drive for fall colors. You'll enjoy views of red and purple maples, as well as aspens that turn yellow and gold. The Alpine Loop is a fabulous drive and area to hike during foliage season. It currently costs just $6 for a three-day pass. It is very popular in the fall, so be prepared to share the road with others. Additionally, the Ogden Canyon Scenic Byway is another great option. In late October, there is the annual Pumpkin Walk, which features jack-o-lanterns and other pumpkin creations that delight visitors. And, of course, if you're open to getting out on the water, you can always rent a boat or kayak and head out on the Bear River or Hyrum Reservoir.

Albany, New York

Upstate is known as a fantastic place to catch foliage, especially if you want views of the Adirondacks and Catskills, without the price tag of bougier Hudson. This is one of the few fall getaway trips in the country where you don't need to rent a car. You can take the Amtrak right from New York City or Montreal. Of course, should you want to enjoy the region's nature and get out for a hike in nearby Thatcher State Park or Grafton Lakes State Park, a car is always helpful. However, there's plenty in the city to keep you occupied on a weekend trip. The expansive Washington Park is a lovely destination to stroll and enjoy the color change on the trees.

Alternatively, walk along the Hudson River or the Erie Canal system and admire the surrounding foliage. Should the autumn weather not work out, take a free tour of the New York State Capitol building. The state building is part of the Empire State Plaza, where you can enjoy epic views from an observation deck in the Corning Tower on the 42nd floor. Just note, that it is not open on weekends. Additionally, the New York State Museum is donation-based and a great indoor activity. And don't miss viewing pre-Revolutionary War buildings like the Palace Theater and Cohoes Music Hall. As far as seasonal events, you can also choose to visit during the Adirondack Balloon Festival or the Riverfront Jazz Festival in the fall.

Asheville, North Carolina

The Blue Ridge Mountains are known for their fantastic colors during seasonal changes, and Asheville is one of the best places to view them. When compared to New England or other popular destinations during this season, your wallet will definitely thank you. Thanks to the city's elevation and location in the mountains, foliage season lasts longer than most other autumnal getaways. This is great, as it allows visitors a bit more flexibility when planning a trip. When it comes to viewpoints in the area, you can drive or walk in pretty much any direction and be rewarded.

However, the best places to wander for fall beauty are the Tanawha Trail, Linville Falls Trails, and Chimney Rock Park. For walks closer to town, pay a visit to the North Carolina Arboretum, which is full of numerous trees that are a feast for the eyes come September and October. The Biltmore Estate is also a great place to visit during this time of the year. Built by George Washington Vanderbilt, it is the largest privately owned home in the U.S. and now serves as a museum surrounded by miles of trails open to the public. Additionally, the craft brew scene in Asheville is constantly growing, so don't miss the annual Oktoberfest.

Holland, Michigan

This small city on the shores of Lake Michigan is the perfect Midwestern fall getaway. Located just west of Grand Rapids, it's a popular escape for Michigan residents throughout the year thanks to the town's affordability. Holland is best known for spring tulips that pay homage to the area's Dutch history, but if you really want to save and visit during an equally spectacular season, arrange a trip for September or October. Sure, the flowers won't be in bloom, but the leaves will be changing and bathing the entire region in vibrant colors.

For the best foliage views in Holland, climb Mount Pisgah, a nearby dune that is very accessible thanks to an expansive boardwalk system. The top provides 360-degree views of the surrounding foliage, a truly amazing sight! Additionally, Riley Trails just outside of Holland offers miles of paths to walk or bike during this lovely time of year. Back in town, Fall Fest takes place every year in October and provides a bit of fun for everyone. The event boasts plenty of food, a pumpkin carving competition, parades, and tours of Holland. And, of course, don't forget to visit the numerous breweries, distilleries, and cafes in town. 

Lafayette, Louisiana

While America is home to plenty of budget-friendly vacation spots in the South, the region is typically hot and oppressively humid in the summer. However, the fall is the perfect time to visit due to the still-warm yet bearable weather. In Lafayette, you'll enjoy numerous outdoor activities and festivals best enjoyed in more breathable weather. Every year in late September, the Vermilion Festival and Boat Parade takes place, during which participants rent a kayak or canoe, dress up in costumes, and paddle down one of the state's most iconic waterways. The Latin Music Festival, Creoles and Acadians Festival, and Southern Screen (film festival) also take place during these months.

The only downside to choosing a southern destination for your fall getaway is that the area isn't known for spectacular foliage. If you're willing to drive though, the Kisatchie National Forest is just 1.5 hours north of the city and puts on a great show. However, Lafayette is much more affordable than southern heavy hitters like Savannah, New Orleans, and Charleston.