As the leaves begin to change colors and the days grow shorter, there are still great reasons to get outdoors and hit the road. Autumn is the perfect time to supercharge typical fall foliage drives with lots of other attractions along the route. Travelers can add special destinations to their itineraries to customize a basic fall foliage trip into a bucket-list autumn adventure for every taste. Check out these original bucket list road trips that blend the beauty of nature in autumn with film, music, history, and even paranormal exploration.
10 Street Art Under The Trees
When Vernon Duke wrote the standard jazz Autumn In New York, it’s pretty clear he wasn’t reminiscing about this edgy fall experience. With a New York City street art tour, travelers can mix the excitement and fun of street art with the classic experience of strolling Manhattan in the autumn. Guided and DIY tours are available, so visitors can dive deep into the city’s underground street art scene at their own pace. The Google Art Project offers free audio tours for street art around the world, allowing users to plan their ideal autumn street art road trip. A recommended itinerary is to begin in Washington, DC, and make an intermediate stop in Baltimore, Maryland, before ending in New York City.
9 Skyline Drive And Blue Ridge Parkway
Perhaps the most scenic road trip in the Mid-Atlantic region, this itinerary starts in Virginia on Skyline Drive and winds along the Shenandoah Valley, dappled with a fiery palette of vermilion and saffron. Where Skyline Drive ends, the Blue Ridge Parkway begins and continues south to North Carolina. Running along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains, this road trip is a visual feast for fall foliage mountain views. Travelers can enjoy hiking, camping, and exploring both Shenandoah National Park and Great Smokey Mountains National Park, each at the extreme ends of the route.
8 Get Your (Autumn) Kicks On Route 66
Few road trips are as packed with Americana as the Route 66 road trip from Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles, California. This historic route features over 200 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places and cruises through miles of classic diners, scenic views, and one-of-a-kind experiences. Intrepid travelers seeking an epic journey with lots of history and American culture should not miss a sprawling autumn adventure on this cross-country road.
7 Frank Lloyd Wright Road Trip
For architecture buffs and nature lovers, the Frank Lloyd Wright Road Trip offers a concise cross-section of the renowned architect’s career. Spanning from upstate New York to western Pennsylvania, the route visits some of the designer’s iconic works nestled in beautiful natural landscapes. In the autumn, sites like Falling Water and Graycliff are engulfed in lush, bright foliage. From Grayclif’s perch, the view of Lake Erie is particularly unforgettable. Travelers can extend the weekend road trip to a full two-week adventure by adding more Wright buildings to the itinerary from Pennsylvania to California.
6 Cross Country Road Trip For Movie Buffs
Hollywood has played in a hand in building the indelible connection between the American identity and the free spirit of road tripping. It’s only fitting to take a Hollywood-themed road trip from California to the southeast coast to catch the fall foliage. Film aficionados can choose from Hollywood movies set amidst road trips to plan an unforgettable experience on the road. For example, the 1970s classic road trip film “Easy Rider” offers a replicable road trip itinerary that ends in Louisiana. A trip for the party-loving traveler, both Los Angeles and New Orleans, the origin and endpoint cities, are known for their fun-loving vibes.
5 Fall Foliage In The West
In the autumn, the hills and valleys in the Pacific Northwest region are aflame with fall colors. Road trippers seeking to experience fall foliage in the West should plan for this rugged hiker’s dream road trip. Along this route, travelers begin at the Colombia River Gorge and proceed through the scenic byways of the North Cascades National Park to Yellowstone’s Northern Ridge in Montana. Campers can pitch tents within these major areas but also at smaller sites along the way. There are hikes for all difficulty levels on this itinerary, and the trails will attract hiking enthusiasts and nature lovers.
4 Civil War History In The Mid-Atlantic
Travelers can visit Civil War battlefields and historic landmarks from Maryland to Virginia, with historic sites in between. Road trippers begin this route with a solemn visit to Antietam National Battlefield, the site of the most violent day of fighting in the American Civil War. Visitors continue the road trip to Sandy Springs, Maryland, and hike the Underground Railroad Experience Trail to explore the broader context of the War and the triumphant stories of this secret route to freedom for enslaved Americans.
3 Get In The Groove With An American Musical Road Trip
Every experienced road tripper knows that a good playlist is essential for long drives, but the experience only gets better when the trip is all about the music. Travelers inspired by song and autumn views should take this music-themed road trip through the American South. Starting in Nashville, Tennessee, travelers can have their fill of both music history and live performances while enjoying the city’s long-running reputation for being a music city. En route to the next destination along Highway 40, travelers should detour to enjoy Hidden Lake in Harpeth River State Park and take in the stunning reflection of the autumnal trees on the still surface of the lake. Next, road trippers continue southwest to Memphis to explore the history of blues and country music. Visitors would be remiss not to sample the local food. This city offers its unique style of barbeque and lots of southern-style Soul Food, made up of hearty dishes like cornbread and boiled pork intestine with spicy chili sauce. The final stop on this route is New Orleans, Louisiana, where travelers can let loose their dancing feet to the sounds of American jazz. No trip would be complete, however, without a visit to the fabled bayou swamp area via a casual hike along Bayou Sauvage Ridge Trail.
2 Midwest Cities Road Trip
For fall foliage and family-friendly activities, a road trip through the Midwest is a perfect choice. Starting in St. Louis, Missouri, travelers can enjoy the beauty of changing leaves in one of the country’s largest urban parks. Forest Park has more than just trees, however, and boasts an amphitheater, several museums, and meandering footpaths, perfect for a low-intensity stroll through the fall colors. A short drive north, the hustle and bustle of downtown Chicago give way to idyllic Lake Michigan. Visitors can enjoy all the comforts and amenities of the city while taking in the autumn beauty of the tree-lined lake.
1 Paranormal Fall Foliage Trip
For fall foliage with a side of fright, Pennsylvania is the ideal road trip. Travelers begin at the Evans City Cemetery, where Director George Romero filmed Night of the Living Dead over 50 years ago. Drive the densely forested hills and gorges of Eastern Pennsylvania to enjoy the dazzling fall colors before arriving in Philadelphia to visit the Eastern State Penitentiary. This massive, 193-year-old building still stands vacant decades after its disuse, and it’s easy to see why. Stains and peeling paint speckle the stone cells, and visitors often feel like they are being followed through the cavernous chambers of the prison. A tour for travelers with an appetite for the paranormal, this space will add an unforgettable twist to any fall foliage road trip.