It’s happening. The weather is becoming (slightly) cooler, everything is pumpkin-flavored and the days are getting shorter. Fall is here. However, way down here in the Sunshine State, we do not get to truly experience the fall season. Pumpkin patch days and hayrides are characterized by shorts and 80-degree weather. However, there is a solution to this tropical complication: a good old-fashioned road trip. Chilly weather and fall foliage are just a day’s drive away and listed below are some of the best and closest places to visit this season.
Only an hour north of Atlanta, Dahlonega sits at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains and adjacent to the Chattahoochee National Forest in the heart of Georgia Wine Country. With multiple vineyards, local boutiques and art galleries, Dahlonega is equal parts nature and cultural experience. As the site of the nation’s first major gold rush in 1829, there are multiple historical attractions to check out. Or, take a local Historic Ghost Tour, check out the weekly live music festivals, hike part of the Appalachian Trail and explore the multiple waterfalls and overlooks. Dahlonega offers the perfect small-town vibe with plenty to do, and you cannot get much closer to some of the best places to see the fall colors in Georgia.
Bryson City, North Carolina
Bryson City is a non-touristy, small town with hundreds of miles of hiking trails and lookouts located right next to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hop on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in order to catch a front-row seat to some of the most picturesque views in the Smoky Mountains. Be sure to hike Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in the Smoky Mountains and a great place to take in the colors of the season. Bryson City also offers numerous local shops, museums, art galleries and bookstores to check out.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
For all those history buffs out there, Winston-Salem is for you. A metropolitan city that is also a living history museum, the city features costumed interpreters waiting to shower you with facts about many of the city’s original buildings. If you’re not a history fan, do not worry. Dubbed the “City of Arts and Innovation” in 2014, Winston-Salem also offers contemporary art museums, art festivals, parks and gardens. As an added bonus, the color changes in the leaves last longer here than in many other cities in North Carolina. If you’d rather explore a larger city than the mountains this fall, head up to Winston-Salem.
Asheville, North Caroline
A well-known city in North Carolina, Asheville is a vibrant hub with a big art scene and endless activities. Located by the Blue Ridge Mountains, visitors can take a hike in the morning and go to an art festival in the afternoon. Many choose to drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469-mile long road that connects Virginia and North Carolina. There are endless overlooks to stop at and trails of all distances. Remember to check out the city’s local Fall Color Report in order to catch the opportune time to see the leaves change.
If you’re willing to drive a little further than North Carolina, the great state of Tennessee is filled with mountains, music and even more vibrant fall colors. Chattanooga is an urban core that is surrounded by breathtaking mountains and rivers. There’s a reason why the New York Times named Chattanooga as one of the “Top 45 Places to go” in the World in 2012. Walk along the Tennessee River or catch a ride on a Southern Belle Riverboat and witness the Tennessee color changes by water.
A scenic city nestled by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg is a small, walkable city with a quaint downtown. Ride a glass elevator 400 feet in the air on the Gatlinburg Space Needle to snag the best photos of the mountains, or try the Skylift from downtown to the Skylift Park for unparalleled panoramic views. Though it is a small resort town, there is plenty to do with the Great Smoky Mountains right in your backyard. Whatever you choose to do, Gatlinburg will not disappoint.
Fall in Florida may be disappointing, but who says you have to stay in Florida? So rent that Airbnb, grab a couple of friends and load up the car. Cold weather and stunning fall colors await you.