By Emily H. Bratcher
How do you break up the long stretch of time between summer vacation and the holidays? With a fall break, of course. Autumn is a shoulder season for many destinations, which means discounted hotel rooms and cheaper airfare are easy to find. With some help from the experts at Hotwire.com, U.S. News Travel has compiled a list of the 10 best places to tide you over until Thanksgiving.
[In Pictures: Best Places to Visit This Fall]
New York City
Fall is a splendid time to visit the Big Apple. Golden-leafed oaks and smoldering-red maples illuminate Central Park, and the open-air markets brim with crisp apples and fresh artichokes. Plus, you can pick up a few new, cool-weather items for your wardrobe in SoHo (or simply admire the fall collections along Fifth Avenue). After a full day of reveling in autumnal bliss, you can bed down with a smile on your face, knowing you scored a deal. According to Hotwire.com, average hotel rates are 8 percent lower than they were this time last year.
This fun-loving South Carolina city serves as an ideal fall-break locale. But it's a toss-up as to whether the low hotel rates or the comfortable temperatures are Charleston's most compelling asset. According to Hotwire.com, average hotel rates are 6 percent lower than they were at this time last year. Meanwhile, the cobblestone walks, the Spanish moss-curtained cemeteries, and the shopping along King Street are so much more enjoyable with temperatures in the 60s and 70s as opposed to the summertime highs.
[See: Best Fall Getaways]
Before you head into winter, you might want to boost your immune system. And Phoenix--with its dry heat, profusion of spas, and miles of fairways--could be just the ticket. Also, if you want to engage in some beer drinking, Oktoberfest is an ambient way to do so. Budget travelers take note: This Southwest city will be kind to your pocketbook. According to Hotwire.com, average hotel prices in Phoenix are 6 percent lower than they were 12 months ago.
This coastal Canadian city is known for its abundance of outdoor activities. From strolls along Kitsilano Beach to bike rides in Stanley Park to hikes up Grouse Mountain, Vancouver is a paradise of open-air pastimes. And it's at its most beautiful when the weather is crisp and the trees burst with color. But be sure to come prepared: You'll need to pack some warm layers since temperatures can drop into the 40s.
Now that the Olympics are over and the Diamond Jubilee has drawn to a close, London is practically a ghost town. But that's a good thing. Say "good day" to Big Ben and tempt Buckingham Palace's guards to smile without the enormous crowds of summertime. In addition to fewer tourists, there are 2,000 more hotel rooms that need filling, so you should have no trouble finding a deal. And though the temperatures may be dropping (expect average highs to rest in the 50s), you can cozy up in a London pub with a warming pint.
[In Pictures: 10 European Cities to Visit This Fall]
Where else can you ride a gondola and awe at the Eiffel Tower without leaving the country? This is one of the best times to visit Las Vegas: Temperatures don't start dipping until November, and because fall is a shoulder season in Sin City, you won't be fighting for space at the slots. And there's the added comfort of a deal: Hotwire.com notes that average hotel rates have dropped 7 percent since last year.
Montreal is popular place for college students to steal away, especially after midterms. The drinking age here is 18, and clubs and bars abound. Plus, this French-speaking city really showcases its beauty in the fall, especially the Parc du Mont Royal and the Old Montreal neighborhood (both of which are free to explore). But you will need to pack a warm coat: Temperatures have been known to drop into the 20s and 30s.
[See: Best Weekend Getaways]
Although a flight to Prague could set you back some cash, many of the city's top attractions won't cost you a penny. For example, you can tour the St. Vitus Cathedral, stroll across the Charles Bridge, and people-watch in Old Town Square without depleting your travel budget. And according to Hotwire.com, average hotel prices in Prague are 37 percent lower than they were last fall. Reward yourself by taking all those savings and indulging in a fancy meal (we recommend the Dancing House's top-floor restaurant, Céleste.)
You might visit Switzerland for its beauty, its precision, or its neutrality, but affordability is usually not one of its defining characteristics. However, Geneva is proving to be a fairly cheap to visit, with seasonal deals popping up across the Internet. According to Hotwire.com, average hotel prices in Switzerland's second-most populous city are down 31 percent since last year, with the average room rate running at just $154 USD a night. That will allow you to bike along the city's pristine lakefront, window-shop along Rue du Rhône, and stop to smell the Flower Clock in the Jardin Anglais without worrying (too much) about your bank account.
When you think of fall, Mexico may not be the first destination that comes to mind. But maybe it should be. After all, temperatures are consistently warm no matter the season, and since the heavy wintertime crowds have yet to arrive, you'll likely find some pretty great deals on airfare and accommodations, even in a destination as popular as Cancún. And who doesn't want to extend their tan through November? But here's the sticking point: As well as phenomenal prices, fall also brings the threat of hurricanes.