courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara / Jay Sinclair

Festivals, harvest-season goodies, and lower prices: in these cities, fall travel is both savvy and sublime.

Santa Barbara, CA

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It’s long been called the American Riviera, and, like its French cousin, this SoCal city enjoys a tony summer season. But come fall, hotel prices plummet—weekend rates at the legendary Four Seasons Biltmore, for instance, drop by nearly 50 percent from August to September. And you often get better weather in fall than summer anyway (which can be prey to foggy June Gloom). Given its proximity to the Santa Ynez Valley wineries, Santa Barbara also has an increasing number of grape-harvest-friendly tasting rooms. Check out Deep Sea Wines, which sits on Stearns Wharf, right over the water.

America's Best Cities for Fall Travel

Santa Barbara, CA

It’s long been called the American Riviera, and, like its French cousin, this SoCal city enjoys a tony summer season. But come fall, hotel prices plummet—weekend rates at the legendary Four Seasons Biltmore, for instance, drop by nearly 50 percent from August to September. And you often get better weather in fall than summer anyway (which can be prey to foggy June Gloom). Given its proximity to the Santa Ynez Valley wineries, Santa Barbara also has an increasing number of grape-harvest-friendly tasting rooms. Check out Deep Sea Wines, which sits on Stearns Wharf, right over the water.

courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara / Jay Sinclair

America's Best Cities for Fall Travel

Even bears prefer Chicago during the autumn.

“It's cooler, the trees on Michigan Avenue are 
turning colors, and it's a great time to visit Brookfield and Lincoln Park zoos," says Lillian Polz, the head of a Chicago marketing firm. "The animals that were lethargic
 during the summer—like the bears and big cats—are all in their best winter 
coats and are much more lively."

No doubt, the crisp air and vibrant fall foliage can put a spring in your step. And for travelers, autumn offers added incentives: summer crowds have dissipated, hotel rates have wafted downward, and in many cities, the best local experiences are ready to shine. In San Diego, you can find the most summery temperatures of the year, along with emptier beaches and better surf. In Portland, OR, you can taste the city’s famed microbrews at their fresh-hops best. And in Orlando, FL, you might get downright teary-eyed at the significantly shorter lines for Space Mountain.

Then, of course, there's the seasonal scenery. "Santa Fe is at its most beautiful and arresting in autumn," says Melissa Carl, who does cultural excursions with Curious Oyster Seminars. "The weather remains brilliant, and 
the changing of the leaves makes for an almost sublime experience. A quick 
drive up to the Santa Fe ski basin, when all the aspens are in color, is
 like living in a Georgia O'Keeffe painting."

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