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Best Cities for Fall Foliage

Discover the ideal U.S. cities for a fall wonderland

By Kelsey Robertson on September 14, 2015

Torrington, CT
Torrington / Courtesy of Mark Hester under a CC 2.0 license.

William Cullen Bryant once penned “Autumn is the year’s last, loveliest smile.” If that resonates with you, you may want to put on your sunglasses and pack up your belongings because we have selected the cities with the largest megawatt smiles. These autumn epicenters all have a population ranging from 20,000 to 300,000 people, have accessible outdoor activities to see the foliage and, in most cases, celebrate fall with citywide events.

Burlington, Vermont

If autumn had a headquarters, it would likely be Vermont, so it’s no wonder that a top pick for a favorite fall city is Burlington. The roughly 42,000 people who call this city home get a front row seat for one of the country’s most chromatic spectacles mirrored against the waters of Lake Champlain. The many bike trails in Burlington offer active views of the city’s changing leaves, while the University of Vermont campus is the perfect place to enjoy a stroll. Burlington also welcomes fall with events like the Halloween Howl.

Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville is certainly a trove of many fall foliage wonders. Home to the Biltmore, the city adds a bit of an elegant perspective to fall foliage. If you’re overloaded with house envy after touring the Vanderbilt family’s largest estate, don’t worry – Asheville is conveniently located at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, one of nature’s best periscopes for autumn. The mountains offer ziplining opportunities and endless hiking trails, both of which are perfect activities for a fall weekend. If you’re more of a city person, Asheville hosts an array of events to get you in touch with the local fall foliage such as the city’s rendition of Oktoberfest.

Salem, Massachusetts

When one thinks of Salem in the fall, the first thought probably goes to the city’s notoriously spooky history. But did you know it happens to be stunning this time of the year? The home to the monumental Salem witch trials celebrates fall in true Salem fashion with events like a Halloween ball and witch ride, but it is also the perfect hunting grounds for some spectacular fall foliage. Salem is surrounded by many outdoor fall foliage escapades, most notably the Salem Woods. Of course, it is not always a bad idea to take a walk through the graveyards, stroll down one of Salem’s many historic streets or see leaves change around the infamous Witch House.

Ashland, Oregon

This artsy town shows off nature’s art in the autumn months. Enjoy the chromatic leaves as you pop in and out of Ashland’s art galleries and exotic restaurants or head over to the city’s famous Shakespeare Festival. Ashland is also surrounded by excellent mountain biking trails and is a stone’s throw away from Klamath National Forest. The city is a quick jaunt outside Portland, providing easy access to fall events such as the West Coast Pumpkin Regatta.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Utah’s largest city is so perfectly located during the autumn months that it almost seems strategically placed. Nestled between the Wasatch Mountains, the area abounds in hiking opportunities to get up-close-and-personal with the leaves, such as Grandeur Peak, which totally warrants you breaking out the camera. If you itch to mountain bike, the area also has mountain biking for all levels. In the city, the area’s 180,000-plus residents can still get a particularly stunning view of the Salt Lake City foliage while celebrating the season. The city welcomes fall with elaborate farmers markets, corn mazes, haunted houses, Oktoberfest and many other notable events.

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