Fall in the Midwest is actually a great time to travel. You escape the high temperatures and mosquitos that the summer brings, while also avoiding the freezing cold temperatures of the winter season! I collaborated with a group of other travel writers to bring you the best Midwest fall getaways in the USA!
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Midwest Fall Getaways
Chicago is a fantastic place to visit any time of year, but the fall is especially wonderful. Summer weather is hot and humid, and the city is busy with lots of tourists. However, this is not the case in the fall. The weather cools down and the crowds lessen.
Chicago is an amazing walking city. It is flat and easy to reach many attractions. You can stroll down the Magnificent Mile for some spectacular shopping or walk to the Chicago River and take a fascinating architectural boat tour. If you want some fun, you can go to Navy Pier to take a boat tour on Lake Michigan or hop on a ferris wheel or carousel ride. If you are in the mood for something more serious, explore the extraordinary Field Museum or the Chicago Art Institute, one of the largest and oldest art museums in the USA. To experience the outdoors, you can walk or rent a bike along the lakeshore, and go to Lincoln Park to see some lovely fall foliage.
Chicago is fantastic for a weekend getaway or could capture your imagination for a week stay or longer. For accommodation, consider staying at the Fairfield Inn And Suites in Downtown River North which offers large comfortable rooms in a fantastic location for a good price.
Suggested by Nicole from Go Far Grow Close
A popular Midwest destination that is great for a fall getaway is Fort Wayne, Indiana. If you’d like to see some fall foliage, visit Lindenwood Nature Preserve. They offer free guided tours once a month during the months of September, October, and November.
Another popular event is the Amazing Fall Fun Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch. It has Indiana’s largest corn maze! There are also other fun activities like duck races, farm foosball, and the barrel roll. Additionally, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo has a fun event called Zoo Halloween. It’s also an excuse to pop in and see cute kangaroos!
There are a lot of fun things to do in Fort Wayne, whether you’re traveling there solo, as a couple, or with kids. If you’d like to spend more time outdoors, make sure to visit Fort Wayne Outfitters. They offer boat tours, rentals (bike, kayak, canoe, and SUP), and can even service your bike. And if you’re a wine lover, stop in to Country Heritage Winery. This award winning winery offers tastings in a beautiful and relaxing setting.
Suggested by Vicky of Buddy The Traveling Monkey
A great place for a Midwest fall getaway, is Dubuque Iowa! Dubuque sits along the Mississippi River, there are plenty of areas to get out and enjoy nature. Visit the Mines of Spain for 15 miles of hiking trails. The Julien Dubuque Monument Trail and the Horseshoe Bluff Trail are two that are worth checking out.
For fall activities, Czipars Orchard make amazing apple cider donuts, they even have Apple Festival weekend every September. Just down the road is Schuster’s Pumpkin Patch with a giant corn maze and wagon rides. They have a giant canon that you can fire pumpkins from! The Dubuque Oktoberfest takes place in mid-September. American Lady Cruises run an annual ‘Colors of Fall Cruise’ along the Mississippi River between Dubuque and Bellevue. It takes place on October 14th as this is the day that fall foliage is suppose to be at it’s peak in East Iowa!
There are plenty of things to do in Dubuque for a getaway, the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, Fenelon Place Elevator and the Millwork District are popular places to visit Downtown. The historic Hotel Julien is conveniently located on Main St with many restaurants and bars just a short walk away.
Bellevue Iowa is off the beaten path, but with its sprawling views of the Mississippi, its quaint shops, and the lovely Bellevue State Park make it the perfect fall destination to peep some fall foliage. A weekend in Bellevue is the perfect quick trip, or staycation.
To catch the perfect fall foliage, you should aim to visit in early October, and the Bellevue State Park is the perfect spot to enjoy the Mississippi River views, and the lovely fall foliage. There are three miles of trails that you can hike. There are 220 miles adjacent to the Nelson Unit part of the park for public hunting for turkey, deer, and pheasants if that is more up your alley.
If you need to relax after all that outdoorsy time, head down to River Ridge Brewing to unwind, enjoy the riverfront views and the cold beer options. If you are here on the weekend, you can then head down to Potter’s Mill for live music and BBQ. Then head up to the Mont Rest Inn and enjoy a stay in a beautiful Victorian era bed and breakfast. In the morning enjoy a lovely breakfast that is included with the room.
Suggested by Rebecca from Whatever Packs Your Bag
Spend a fall weekend in Grand Rapids, MI for a unique international art festival and apple picking in the month of September before the weather gets too chilly.
In mid to late September, the city of Grand Rapids plays host to Art Prize, an art competition and festival housed in over 160 venues ranging from museums and galleries to bars and restaurants. The 18 day long event occurs biennially and celebrates international and domestic artists.
Even though there are quite a few apple orchards in the Grand Rapids area, the best place to go is Schwallier’s Country Basket in nearby Sparta. You’ll find a variety of apples throughout the month from typical grocery store varieties such as Gala and Red Delicious to more rare types like Zestar and Cortland. The farm store also has autumn decor available for purchase as well as apple cider and apple cider donuts.
While visiting Grand Rapids, don’t forget to check out Downtown Grand Rapids for a nice stroll along the Grand River. Stop by Hopcat for some delicious food and brews and stay at Amway Grand Hotel for a lodging option smack dab in the middle of everything.
Suggested by Constance from The Adventures of Panda Bear
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
When it comes to fall destinations in the Midwest, we need to talk about the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The UP, as it’s called colloquially, is a sparsely populated, heavily forested peninsula bordered by three Great Lakes. It makes an excellent addition to a Michigan fall road trip.
The UP is an excellent place to go looking for fall colors, especially in places like Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, the Keweenaw Peninsula, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Other than going on hikes in these areas, some must-dos include driving the Brockway Mountain Drive on the Keweenaw Peninsula, and taking a boat cruise on Lake Superior at Pictured Rocks.
You’ll need at least 5 days to properly explore the Upper Peninsula in the fall, and I recommend basing yourself for a couple nights in Munising (near Pictured Rocks) and a couple in Houghton near the Keweenaw (The Vault Hotel is especially great!).
Because the UP is so far north, peak fall color here usually happens in late September/early October each year, so you’ll want to plan your road trip accordingly.
Suggested by Amanda from A Dangerous Business
The Mitten State, in general, is an underrated getaway in the USA. There are so many things to do in Michigan from Detroit up to the Upper Peninsula throughout the entire year. Petoskey, Michigan, in particular, is a prime – yet off-the-beaten path – location to visit, especially during the fall season.
Situated in Northern Michigan just under the Upper Peninsula, Petoskey is a bustling area with small-town vibes. During the fall season, you can view spectacular colors, gorgeous views of Lake Michigan, farms, wineries, shops and more!
Head to Bill’s Farm Market to pick pumpkins and experience incredible views overlooking the countryside. Relax at one of the various wineries while tasting some local, Michigan-made wine. Or stop by the Kilwin’s Chocolate Factory to pick up some caramel apples and other tasty fall treats.
Though, one of the best parts about being in Northern Michigan during the fall is all of the vibrant colors. Plan your visit between the months of September and November to see the fall foliage at it’s best.
Suggested by Kylie from Catch the Drift
Interstate State Park
Interstate State Park is right on the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin (hence the name) and the perfect Midwest fall destination. It makes for a great day trip from the Twin Cities in Minnesota or Eau Claire, Wisconsin. It’s part of the iconic midwest hiking trail, the Ice Age Trail, making it great for hikers and leaf-peepers alike. One or two days here should be plenty of time to enjoy the dreamy fall colors while exploring the park.
Make a stop at the visitor center then hit the trail right out front. It’s an easy-moderate trail (a lot of uphill on the way back) and hike down to the St. Croix River where you can see a waterfall, the nearby town of Taylors Falls, and glacial potholes. This is a really great hike to get a feel for the park. If you don’t want to start at the visitor center, you can start at the St. Croix River Lookout for a shorter hike with great views.
This is also a great place to visit from Stillwater, Minnesota, an adorable town further up the river and the perfect place to spend the night. The best time to see fall colors here will be late September and early October. Another great side trip from here is the nearby Franconia Sculpture Park.
Suggested by Megan from Red Around The World
One of the best fall destinations in the Midwest is Kansas City, Missouri. It’s a big city, but it has a small town feel. It’s also very budget friendly, with a lot of free attractions that include some really great museums.
During the fall season, there are a few fall activities you should know about. The Great Pumpkin Fest is an especially fun attraction that the whole family will enjoy. There are games, activities, and live entertainment. There’s also the Annual Fall Festival of Arts, Crafts, and Music. This festival celebrates the harvest season with historic interpreters, artisans, musicians, and crafters.
There are also a lot of unique places to eat in Kansas City. The city is known for its barbecue, but you can really find all kinds of food. If you are craving barbecue, though, definitely check out Q39. To best explore and really get to know the city, it’s best to spend at least a weekend there.
Suggested by Vicky of Buddy The Traveling Monkey
Regardless of your autumnal interests, St. Louis, Missouri has a unique fall adventure with your name on it. For family-friendly fun, consider apple picking at Eckerts Farm, complete with hayrides and plenty of apple cider, or the Great Godfrey Corn Maze, in nearby Godfrey, Illinois, with an option to partake in a spooky haunted maze on weekend nights.
For some more adult options, consider visiting Urban Chestnut Brewery’s annual outdoor screening of the 1922 classic silent film Nesferatu, with a live accompanying orchestra and even a visit from the Count himself! Looking for something a bit scarier? This historical city has plenty of old houses that surely have played host to a ghost story or two (including the house that inspired The Exorcist!), but few houses are quite as haunted as the city’s Lemp Mansion, consistently ranked as one of the ten most haunted houses in the United States. While this stately manor was once the living quarters of a beer baron, you can now take haunted history tours of its halls or even spend the night at the inn now located in the mansion- if you dare!
Suggested by Jessica from Uprooted Traveler
If you’re looking for a fantastic fall destination in the Midwest, then Omaha, Nebraska absolutely must be on your list! It’s a city perfect for a getaway and fall is a great time to visit because the crowds are gone and accommodations are affordable.
Better yet – the fall festivities are top notch, and among some of the best in the country! Visit the popular Vala’s Pumpkin Patch in nearby Gretna, which has over 50 attractions. Family favorites include Pigtucky Derby Pig Races, a 3-acre corn maze, the Spook shed and the Great Pumpkin Jump. If you’re looking for smaller pumpkin patches that still have a lot to offer, check out the Bellevue Berry Farm & Pumpkin Patch, Skinny Bones Pumpkin Patch and Wenninghoff Farm.
Try apple picking at Martin’s Hillside Orchard or the famous Arbor Day Farm, a day trip to Nebraska City. Or, if you’re looking for places to see fall colors in Omaha be sure to visit Fontenelle Forest, Hitchcock Nature Center and Mahoney State Park. If bright red and yellow fall colors are what you’re after, be sure to visit early to mid-October.
Stay in Omaha for a long weekend and enjoy the fall festivities and other Omaha attractions. Be sure to check out one of the top-rated zoos in the country, Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. As far as dining goes, the best spots include the Old Market in downtown Omaha and the Blackstone District, which also both happen to be one of the most Instagrammable spots in Omaha.
Recommended by Nikki of She Saves She Travels
One of the most underrated places to spend fall in the midwest (and all of the United States) is Cincinnati, Ohio and the rest of southwest Ohio!
There are plenty of reasons to travel to Cincinnati in the fall, but one can’t-miss event is Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, which takes place usually in mid/late-September. Cincinnati is known for its German history and the city takes pride in this annual event that hosts half a million people and has since 1976. It is the largest Oktoberfest in the United States!
Fall foliage is ever-present in Cincinnati and it tends to reach its peak by the second or third week of October. The city is teeming with parks and you can see the illuminating colors in Alms Park, Sharon Woods, along the Loveland Bike Trail, and beyond!
Another can’t miss thing to do during fall is to head to one of the many farms for their festivals (and a bit of pumpkin and apple picking). Nelter’s Farm, Burger Farm, and Kinman Farms are some of the locals’ favorites. You will also find many amazing day and weekend trips from Cincinnati if you want to get out of the city a bit.
During November, Cincinnati is gearing up for the Christmas holidays and lights start going up everywhere. It is the perfect time to warm up with some local Skyline Chili and walk around the Ohio city.
Suggested by Megan from Megan & Aram
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
One of the best fall destinations in the Midwest USA is Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. Ohio’s only national park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is located along the Cuyahoga River between Cleveland and Akron. Boasting thousands of acres, it offers lots of opportunities to “leaf peep.” And a lot of options on how to do just that! Love hiking? You can choose several hikes of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty to get to the spectacular waterfalls at this national park including Brandwine, Blue Hen, and Buttermilk Falls. The autumnal views are incredible.
One of the romantic fall destinations in the Midwest is the Everett Covered Bridge in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Yes, the park has its own covered bridge, built in the 1800s. Matter of fact it is the only covered bridge in the entire county! There are several hiking trails near the historical bridge so you can see it from many angles. Perfect for viewing the blazing fall colors, and snapping a memorable picture.
One of the most fun things to do here for both the young and young-at-heart is to hop aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad! This is one of the most relaxing ways to experience fall in Ohio. The train meanders its way through the park alongside the Cuyahoga River. Not only will you have a great vantage point to view all the bright fall colors, but you may also be fortunate enough to spot wild animals such as deer, eagles, and beavers.
The nearby cities of Akron and Peninsula offer restaurants you can take advantage of that are easily accessible from CVNP. If you simply want snacks or water there are two stores within the park run by the Conservatory for Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Suggested by Linda from Midwest Explored
Badlands National Park
Visiting Badlands National Park in the fall is a perfect time to visit because the summer crowds have left and the temperature is starting to cool down. Visiting in early fall is the best as temperatures start to dip at night in October. There are so many fun things to do in Badlands National Park.
Hiking during the fall is especially enjoyable because of the cooler temperatures. Some of the best hikes in the park are the Door Trail, Window Trail and Notch Trail. There are also a number of short roadside trails with informational signage about the park. Along with hiking, be sure to visit the Big Badlands Overlook and Yellow Mounds Overlook.
Fall is a great time to see wildlife in the park. There are bighorn sheep, antelope, bison, deer and antelope who call the park home. To get an up close look at the native prairie dogs, check out the Roberts Prairie Dog Town. The Sage Creek Rim Road is a great place to spot wildlife.
Suggested by Candice from CS Ginger
Mount Rushmore & Crazy Horse Memorials
South Dakota is perfect for a fall trip because of its vibrant foliage colors and pleasant weather. During this time, it is worth visiting the icon of America – Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The best time is to September 30, when lighting ceremonies take place every evening. However, it is also worth visiting during the other fall months, when the crowds are much smaller and colors are glorious. From Mount Rushmore, it’s only a 30-minute drive (18 miles) to another historic monument.
The Crazy Horse Memorial has been under construction for 70 years. When it is finished, it will be the largest monument in the world. It presents Chief Crazy Horse, a Native American war leader of the Oglala Lakota. He is one of the most famous and iconic Native American tribal members. The planned height is 563 feet (172 m) tall and the planned length is 641 feet (195 m). However, because the project is funded entirely by entrance fees and donations, the work will take a very long time.
Among these monuments is the magnificent Custer State Park. There are many hiking trails and viewpoints here. It’s worth driving through Needles Eye Tunnel and taking the hike to Black Elk Peak. Also, you can encounter buffalo on the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop Road. Therefore, you can spend the whole weekend in the area. The perfect place to stay for a night is Custer, with a great lodging selection.
Suggested by Agnes at The Van Escape
Fall in Apostle Islands arrives in the months of September to November. During the arrival of this season, the islands begin to get covered in fall colors. Right after November, the islands begin to enter the Winter season. That is why it is best to visit them in the fall.
It is a great place to visit in the fall because of great fall foliage, seasonal festivals, exciting activities, and more. The fall activities that the visitors should know about include walking through the trails watching distinct fall colors, visiting Bayfield, celebrating the season at Bayfield’s Apple Festival, enjoying fall boat tours, kayaking, fall camping, and enjoying boat cruises. The leaf-peeping in Apostle islands comes in late October. However, if you want to witness the natural phenomenon, visit in early October.
The Bayfield apple festival is a must-visit along with other adventures. That is why you need to save some time to witness everything. That is why visit for at least two to three days. There are many places to stay there like The Inn on Madeline Island. The travelers can also enjoy great food at The Bayfield Inn Restaurant.
Suggested by Paulina from Paulina on the Road
Door County, Wisconsin is a true gem. Few outside Wisconsin are familiar with Door County, yet it’s such a wonderful destination for a long weekend spent exploring this laid-back peninsula made up of 15 charming towns and villages.
Door County is home to five state parks, including Whitefish Dunes State Park in Sturgeon Bay. Hike to the top of “Old Baldy,” the tallest sand dune in Wisconsin. It’s one of the best places to revel in the amber, crimson and golden leaves that peak from late-September to mid-October.
In Sister Bay, book a seasonal farm tour at Door County Creamery. All tours include cheese curds, a patio lunch and time to visit with the farm goats. You’ll also want to rent a bike at Peninsula State Park in Fish Creek to cycle the 10-mile Sunset Trail for foliage-filled stops at Nicolet Beach and Eagle Bluff Lighthouse.
Don’t leave town without an authentic Fish Boil dinner. It’s a true Door County tradition and you’ll find them all across the peninsula, including at Rowleys Bay Resort in Ellison Bay. Fish Boil dinners wow with a boil-over in a huge outdoor kettle.
Stay the weekend at the Bay Shore Inn to be rewarded with vibrantly-hued sunsets over Sturgeon Bay. It’s an all-suite property, which is a great choice for those visiting Door County with kids in tow.
Suggested by Erin Gifford at Kidventurous
Madison makes the perfect choice for a Midwest fall destination. While this lively capital city is popular year round, come October Madison’s fall colors really light up the town. Fall foliage can best be seen during the first two weeks of October and will be on prominent display throughout the city. Some of the best spots for viewing fall colors will be around the UW Madison campus or along the Lake Monona Bike Loop trail.
In addition to its fall colors, the Madison area also hosts a variety of festive activities during the autumn months. One of the area’s most popular fall activities is to visit the corn maze and pumpkin patch at Treinen Farm just north of town. Schuster’s Farm is another popular option with a pumpkin patch, corn maze and hayride located just east of town.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Madison I recommend the AC Hotel downtown. You’ll not only be walking distance to all the best things to do in Madison, but they also have an excellent rooftop wine bar with fantastic views of the Wisconsin State Capitol. Madison can be visited on a long weekend getaway, or as a stop on a longer Wisconsin road trip.
Suggested by Eden from Rock a Little Travel
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