5 Reasons to Travel in Fall

Fall’s official, folks. The leaves are drifting, the winds are blowing and besides, the calendar says so. Autumn’s a fabulous time to travel in the Pacific Northwest and Canada with kids, and here’s why:

1. Value. Prices in the “shoulder season” tend to be about 25-30% less than in summer. Look for discounts in popular, expensive summer destinations — Washington’s islands, Oregon’s coast and Vancouver Island. Whistler, in BC, is between ski and summer seasons and hotel prices reflect that reality. City prices drop, too. Even if it’s raining, there are always scores of kid-friendly indoor museums and attractions to keep you warm and dry.

2. Leaf-peeping. Much of Cascadia’s western half is covered by firs and other evergreens. But if you move a little east, you’ll encounter spectacular displays of vivid, multihued maples, aspens and cottonwoods. For a showcase of color, head to the Columbia Gorge along the Washington/Oregon border, Washington State’s North Cascades country roads and into BC’s Fraser Valley. Let the kids pick out a few favorite leaves to press at home, or play ID-the-tree with a guidebook.

3. Seclusion. Midweek getaways reveal another side of popular tourist destinations. Yes, you’ll have to take the kids out of school for a day or two — but on a sun-filled fall day, you may feel like you’re the only souls at the coast. Locals have more time to chat, prices are lower and you’ll get better service in fall, particularly when you head out mid-week.

4. Harvest time. Apples and pears (east of the big cities) are in full swing and farmstands are overflowing with pumpkins, corn and tomatoes. There’s an Oktoberfest here, a lantern-festival there, and a Greek festival everywhere. It’s a time of celebration and sustenance, and a lovely time to visit rural Washington, Oregon and BC. Visit the close-in farming communities of Skagit County (near Seattle), Fraser Valley (near Vancouver) and Sauvie Island (near Portland).

5. Thanksgiving deals. Canada’s Thanksgiving falls on October 11 this year, while the U.S. waits until November 25 to celebrate. But here’s a cool secret — you can typically find bargain-basement rates and open attractions at the neighboring nation. So Canadians can head to the U.S. to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving with shopping (and Trader Joe’s, of course). U.S. residents can traipse north for U.S. Thanksgiving and enjoy the holiday decorations, open attractions and low hotel prices.

Why do you like traveling in fall? Does your family have a favorite farm or leaf-peeping drive?

Lora Shinn writes about family travel, Pacific NW travel, grown-up travel...and travel in general. Her travel-related articles and essays have appeared in Family Fun, Parenting, AFAR, National Geographic Traveler, AAA magazines and Redbook, among others.


  • Emily

    Fall is such a great time to travel! Earlier this week we drove the Highway 242 loop to Sisters, Oregon and back down to Highway 126 and the fall colors are already glorious. We passed groups of cyclists and met folks from 8 different states and 3 different countries who were checking out all the gorgeous stops along the way.

    Oregon leaf peepers can check out http://www.oregonfallfoliage.com for weekly foliage updates, travel advice and tips from the around the state.