6 Beach Towns That Are Just as Much Fun in the Fall

Smaller crowds and still-pleasant temperatures make fall a great time to plan a beach vacation.
Family on a fall beach vacation (Photo: Shutterstock)
Family on a fall beach vacation (Photo: Shutterstock)

When the leaves change color and the weather turns cold, you might be tempted to set aside any thoughts of family beach vacations. But if you choose the right vacation spot, fall vacations are arguably the most enjoyable time to head to many beach destinations.

Best Fall Beach Vacations in the U.S. for Families

In the fall, most kids are back in school, which means fewer crowds. The temperatures have begun to drop, making afternoons on the beach even more pleasant. And many beach towns host seasonal events and festivals that beg for a trip of their own. The best hotel booking sites typically show lower prices this time of year too. So, pack your bags and grab a pumpkin spice latte: Here are the best fall beach vacations in the U.S. for families.

Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad fall beach vacations (Photo: Visit Carlsbad)
Carlsbad fall beach vacations (Photo: Visit Carlsbad)

Carlsbad is a surprisingly uncrowded destination in the fall despite the fact that it’s close to San Diego and also home to a major family-friendly attraction: LEGOLAND California Resort. Take advantage of the smaller crowds at the theme park on Brick-or-Treat Saturdays in October, when kids are invited to wear their costumes and visit 15 different treat stations.

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You can also frolic in the pumpkin patch and corn maze at Carlsbad Strawberry Company or, better yet, go to a pumpkin patch in a pool: The Alga Norte Aquatic Center transforms its giant swimming pool for the City of Carlsbad Pumpkin Plunge, an interactive floating pumpkin patch where kids can “catch” a pumpkin by throwing a hula hoop into the water.

And don’t forget to enjoy some time by the water on your fall beach vacation, too. Many beachfront hotels such as The Beach Terrace Inn offer discounts on nightly rates this time of year.

Newport, Rhode Island

Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island (Photo: Rhode Island Commerce Corporation)
Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island (Photo: Rhode Island Commerce Corporation)

New England’s coastal towns and seaside villages are at their most charming this time of year, which is why an autumn visit to the gilded mansions of Newport is a must-do for beach-loving families who never want the summer to end.

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Visit for the fall festivals, including the annual Bowen’s Wharf Seafood Festival, you-pick orchards, and ghost tours. And don’t miss out on the spectacular fall foliage, which is usually on full display by mid-October along the scenic 3.5-mile Cliff Walk, with its crashing waves and historic mansions around every bend.

Virginia Beach, Virginia

First Landing State Park (Photo: Virginia State Parks)
First Landing State Park (Photo: Virginia State Parks)

The city of Virginia Beach continues to reinvent itself with new reasons to visit any time of the year, but especially for fall beach vacations. When you’re not strolling the beach or three-mile boardwalk, take the kids to Roll with It, Virginia Beach’s first board game cafe featuring more than 500 different board games, or pose for photos at the Lost Planet Selfie Museum.

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Ogle at the changing foliage at First Landing State Park, the most-visited state park in Virginia, where 1.5 miles of sandy beach and 20 miles of walking trails await. As for seasonal events, this classic American beach town lures fall vacationers with Neptune Festival’s International SandSculpting Championship; the annual Mural Festival; and the yearly Boardwalk Art Show

South Padre Island, Texas

Aerial view of the Texas Gulf Coast (Photo: Shutterstock)
Aerial view of the Texas Gulf Coast (Photo: Shutterstock)

Best known as a popular spring break destination thanks to its wide-open beaches and many vacation rental homes, South Padre Island is even more welcoming to families in the fall.

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Why? Think pleasant weather (with agreeable ocean temps to match), splashing around at Beach Park at Isla Blanca (previously called Schlitterbahn South Padre Island), and attending the annual Sand Castle Days, a two-day sand sculpture festival featuring artists from all over the world. Little ones and nature lovers of all ages will enjoy a visit to Sea Turtle, Inc., a sweet educational rehabilitation center for turtles.

Traverse City, Michigan

South Manitou Island Lighthouse, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Photo: John McCormick:Shutterstock)
South Manitou Island Lighthouse, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Photo: John McCormick:Shutterstock)

You might not know that Traverse City is the self-proclaimed “Cherry Capital of the World,” but you may have heard that it is known for its wide selection of breweries, wineries, cideries, and farm-to-table restaurants. Put those together and you can expect to find unique cherry-infused food and drink during your visit. Where’s the beach, you ask? It’s at nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, one of the very best natural parks in the country.

Cape May, New Jersey

Sunset at Cape May, New Jersey (Photo: @kgsphoto via Twenty20)
Sunset at Cape May, New Jersey (Photo: @kgsphoto via Twenty20)

With cute B&Bs and historic downtown buildings, Cape May is charming all year long. It also has powdery beaches, a county zoo, an aviation museum, and a historic lighthouse (which you can climb) that makes it especially fun for families.

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But visiting Cape May for a fall beach vacation provides a unique opportunity you can’t get any other time of year: Experiencing the annual Monarch Butterfly migration. Visit the Cape May Bird Observatory to watch these beautiful creatures as they make their journey to Mexico. And who knows, it may even inspire you to plan your own family vacation to Mexico someday.

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Amanda Norcross
Amanda Norcross is a travel journalist and spokesperson. Her expertise has been featured in major media outlets including Bloomberg, Cheddar, Family Vacation Critic, NBC News, Red Tricycle, SmarterTravel, The New York Times, USA Today and The Weather Channel. Amanda enjoys traveling with her baby boy, Isaac, and seeing the world through his eyes.

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