It is no secret I hate crowds. To those who have had the pleasure of traveling with me can tell you first-hand I do not fare well in crowded environments. I once turned down two free tickets to a music festival because the thought of a crowd was so much of a turn off. Don't get me wrong, I can handle a crowd. When you travel it's inevitable. It is just not my preferred way to travel and sight-see.
Let's take Germany for example. I was fortunately enough to visit Germany last January for a week. I visited some of Bavaria's most iconic sights (Zugspitze, Neuschwanstein Castle, etc. ). The morning of our visit to Neuschwantstein we walked straight up to the ticket office and purchased two tickets. No line, no calling ahead, no hassle. We then jogged up the mountain to reach the castle (not totally sure why we were jogging), and admired the stunning castle among a small group of tourists. It was so peaceful. There were plenty of people there, but it wasn't the Disney-World-in-July kind of crowd that makes you wish you were on a remote island somewhere far, far away.
For those of you looking to take a trip between now and the end of 2017, but don't want to have to deal with the holiday season crowds, fear not. I have tracked down some of the best destinations that have an off-season in the coming months.
What makes these destinations ideal?
1. Airfare is affordable
2. The weather will be nice
3. Lots of indoor/outdoor things to do despite it being off-season
Why? Smack dab between four national parks, Asheville, North Carolina is a popular destination year-round. The outdoor activities, innovative food selection, and charming atmosphere attracts tourists from near and far. The summer is packed with families and couples taking summer vacations, and fall is wonderful but can get crowded when the leaves on the Blue Ridge Parkway begin to change colors. I recommend visiting mid October to mid December. The temperatures will have dropped some, but the crisp chilly air can be perfect hiking weather, and places like The Grove Park Inn will start building fires which makes for the perfect spot to sip a glass of wine or warm your hands and stomach with a cup of hot chocolate. And let's face it, Asheville is beautiful no matter when you go.
How to get here? If you're on the east coast, budget-friendly Allegiant Airlines flies round trip to Asheville out of several locations. For those of you elsewhere in the country, Charlotte Douglas International (CLT) is a short two hour drive to downtown Asheville and rental cars start as low as $26/day.
When? Mid-October to Mid-December
Planning a trip to Asheville this fall, let me help!
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Why? September and October fall right between post-peak summer travel, and before the long, cold winter sets in making it the perfect time to visit Yellowstone National Park. There is no shortage of seasonal activities: hiking, biking, camping, and fishing to name a few. Be sure to bring warm clothes though because although the highs can be in the 50's and 60's, lows can reach as low as the 20's at night.
How to get here? The best way to reach Yellowstone is by car. There are five entrances to the park: North, Northeast, East, South, and West. The closest airport is Yellowstone Airport. However, flights in and out can sometimes be pricey and seasonal. To cut costs on airfare consider flying in and out of Jackson (about 65 miles away from South Entrance which will also take your through Grand Teton National Park), or Salt Lake City (roughly 5 hours depending on traffic to West Entrance), renting a car, and making a road trip out of it.
When? Mid-September to Late-October
Peterborough, New Hampshire
Why? The fall season is the perfect time to visit New England. The leaves are changing, it's harvest season for apples and grapes (hello winery visits!), and the temperatures have started to drop. Peterborough is a quaint little town about an hour and a half from Boston. The town offers hiking, cozy restaurants, and elegant inns making it the perfect weekend getaway. Miller State Park has great day hiking and beautiful views (on clear days you can even see the Boston skyline). I recommend trying the Wapack Trail which leads you straight to the summit of Pack Monadnock. The weather should be perfect to enjoy outdoor activities but cool enough to enjoy a hot beverage after your hike.
How to get here? Peterborough is in Southern New Hampshire and an easy drive from Boston (1.5 hours), Albany, NY (2.5 hours), and Portland, ME (2.5 hours). The closest airport will be Boston Logan International. Most major airlines serve the Boston area so you should have no problem finding a relatively cheap flight (east coast ~$150, west coast ~$250, mid-west ~$300), and rental cars are as low as $21/day.
When? Mid-September to Early-November
Why? The nation's capital attracts millions of visitors each year, and especially in the summer months fighting through the crowds can be exhausting. However, by late September the majority of school groups and summer travelers have returned home leaving most of the sites far less crowded. The weather also cools down rather quickly making it an ideal time to cover lots of territory without sweating buckets. The Smithsonian Museums, Capital, White House, Washington Monument, Reflecting Pool; there is no shortage of things to do and see in Washington DC. Not to mention the food scene is on point.
How to Get here? Most commercial airlines fly to the Washington DC area. To maximize your time, fly into Reagan National Airport (DCA) and hop Blue or Yellow metro line to the heart of DC within minutes. Other (less ideal options) are to fly into Dulles International Airport or Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Train and shuttle service are available from either of these airports. You can usually find flights less than $200 from East Coast locations and around $300 from other parts of the country.
When? Late-September to December
New Orleans, Louisiana
Why? The summer heat has disappeared and the unofficial outdoor drinking season has commenced. This lively city is full of cultural festivals, live music, and spooky tours throughout October and November. There is no shortage of Cajun cuisine year-round, and the cooler weather makes a spicy bowl of gumbo that much better. Bourbon Street will still be hopping with rowdy tourists and locals despite the off-season, but you can't stop Bourbon Street from being rowdy.
How To Get Here? The Louis Armstrong International Airport is a large airport and has plenty of commercial airline choices that fly to and from daily, including several budget airlines: Frontier, Spirit, and Southwest. If you are more in the mood for a road trip: Atlanta (7 hours), Memphis (5.5 hours), Dallas (7.5 hours), and Houston (5.5 hours) are all within driving distance.
When? October to December
Why? One word: harvest season. Wait, that's two words. Ok, let's try that again. One word: vino. Nailed it. Mid-September into early October is harvest season for many types of grapes. The town of Siena, Montepulciano, and Montalcino are three great places to visit in Tuscany during this time. Harvest and wine festivals are scattered throughout the region and there is no shortage of wine-related activities. I highly recommend grape stomping! Fortunately the Tuscan sun has cooled and the days are mild and perfect for spending time outside touring wineries.
How to get here? I recommend flying into Florence and renting a car. Only residents of Florence are allowed to drive inside the city, but the outskirts of the city can still be intimidating, so I recommend trying to arrive early in the morning or later at night to avoid rush hour traffic. If you are traveling within Europe, Florence is also easily accessible by the train network.
When? Mid September-November--if you can't make it for harvest season, no worries! There are plenty of things to do throughout the fall season.