08/29/2012 07:06 am ET Updated Oct 29, 2012

Kiss Summer Goodbye With These Fall-tastic Travel Ideas

While most end of summer vacations focus on soaking up the last rays of August sun, my favorite Labor Day trip embraced the fall and took me straight into the great outdoors smack-dab in the center of the city that never sleeps -- New York City's Central Park.

I arrived in the city early Friday morning, just as it was emptying out for the long weekend and headed directly to Central Park. I rented a bicycle and covered the entire park. Of course I made sure to visit my favorite spots, Bow Bridge and Belvedere Castle. I lounged in the green fields, soaking up the sun as the urban oasis with its crisp air and blue skies eased me into the changing season.

Autumn is my favorite time for short weekend or day escapes. So many towns have seasonal celebrations from craft and farmer's markets to state fairs and sprawling corn mazes. These day- or weekend-long festivals are such a lovely way to take in the sights, sounds and tastes of fall from snacking on locally grown veggies to activities like pumpkin and apple picking to music and petting zoos. These autumnal celebrations are great for the whole family, but they aren't just children's play! Night hayrides with bonfires and drinks are a great way to get outdoors and celebrate the season grown-up style!

If you are looking for an easy weekend-long retreat, cities along the East Coast are wonderful fall destinations. If you have children in college, why not take an extra day or two for yourselves during parents' weekend? Massachusetts, Washington, D.C. and Virginia have so many universities and such important histories. Education, travel and history are perfect pairings. Exploring historic sites and learning more about a location's past really heightens your appreciation of a place and its culture, and creates lasting memories.

Even if you are not visiting a college town, the East Coast offers great fall destinations, especially in early September. The travel crowds disperse after Labor Day, and hotel prices and airfares drop significantly. Plus, the summer hustle and bustle has quieted, cities are less crowded, flights are less packed and you can take a plane ride to a little slice of heaven and have New England beaches almost all to yourself. It's a great time to travel with children as well, since it is so much easier to keep sight of them in smaller crowds.

Short fall jaunts come with yet another travel perk: packing light! No need to worry about fitting multiple outfits and shoes in your carry-on for a weekend escape. Just remember to bring layers since that brisk fall air may require a jacket or sweater.

Great historical sites and activities to check out this fall:

Virginia: DC: Massachusetts:

While many travelers use Labor Day weekend as their last summer getaway, a final fling with sand and sea, you can opt to skip the crowded beaches and high-priced hotels. Instead, I sometimes visit cities, friends and family or even stay home and entertain. Firing up the grill for a backyard BBQ or hosting potluck supper with family and friends, saves travel time and travel-induced stress and money. Enjoying local sights and visiting with family and friends is a great, relaxing way to spend time together before schedules shift and the school year begins.

Don't be fooled, though. I'm not a homebody by any means. Obviously, I love to travel -- crisscrossing the country, I love boarding the plane each time -- and the fall is a perfect time for an escape with the entire family or a smaller getaway, whether it is romantic or with friends.

Embrace the new season, get outdoors, travel light and enjoy all that fall has to offer! Follow me on Twitter (@Wingwoman_Tracy) for more fall travel tips or to share your favorite fall activities!