Top Shoulder-Season Getaways

Where to go this fall without the crowds or peak prices.

By Lisa Cheng

Shoulder season falls between the high prices of a destination’s busiest season and the crummy weather of its low season. At these five places, you can experience all the fun of fall while taking advantage of lower costs and fewer crowds.

Málaga, Spain

Consider visiting this Andalusian city in early autumn: Direct flights from New York run until the end of September, and tourists disperse considerably after Málaga’s annual August fair. The heat also subsides, so you can lounge comfortably on the beach with a tinto de verano (red wine and carbonated lemonade) or go hiking inland. Try the Caminito del Rey, a walkway that wraps around a dramatic gorge. For sustenance, the city’s reasonably priced tapas bars offer wine and beer for between $1* and $3, and tapas plates sometimes come complimentary with your drink. And many of the top museums, such as the Pompidou Centre Málaga (Pasaje Doctor Carrillo Casaux, S/N, Muelle Uno; 011-951-926-200; centrepompidou-malaga.eu, site in Spanish; admission, $8), are free on Sunday afternoons.

Shenandoah Valley, Virginia

Stretching across the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, the Shenandoah Valley was once nicknamed the Breadbasket of the Confederacy. Today its fertile grounds are still the land of plenty. Country roads lead to orchards and farms, where you can zigzag through corn mazes, pick pumpkins or learn how to make goat-milk soap. You can also explore the region’s craft breweries, many of which turn out seasonal brews with harvest infusions; wineries, where you can sample varietals in barns with woodburning fireplaces; and cideries, for bottles pressed from heirloom apples.

Lapland, Finland

The autumnal landscapes in Lapland are uniquely beautiful. Each year, the rolling green moors turn shades of rust, red and orange—a transformation residents call ruska—among which you’ll often spot reindeer. This is also an optimal time to view the northern lights, because the skies are clear and the nights dark—just the right backdrop for the celestial phenomenon. And the weather is still warm enough to enjoy the outdoors. You can forage for berries and mushrooms, pan for gold around the Lemmenjoki and Ivalojoki rivers, or hike from hut to hut in national parks.

Toronto, Canada

After the Toronto International Film Festival and before winter’s below-zero temperatures is Toronto’s sweet spot. Besides boundless energy and an admirable food scene, Canada’s largest city has an abundance of green spaces prime for leaf peeping. Among them: the new Bentway, a waterfront park constructed under an expressway that’s on par with New York’s High Line.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

By the fall, the summertime crowds have scattered and Cape Cod’s beaches make a peaceful backdrop for picnics and waterfront strolls. Before mid-October, there’s frequent ferry service from Steamship Authority and Boston Harbor Cruises (later expect a reduced schedule) and many restaurants are still open. A number of events enliven the season, from the Wellfleet OysterFest (Wellfleet) to PumpkinFest (Sandwich Glass Museum, 129 Main St., Sandwich; 505-888-0251), where you can watch glassblowing at the Sandwich Glass Museum. Sign up for Cranberry Bog Tours (1601 Factory Rd., Harwich; 508-432-0790; tours, $15) to learn about the harvest and to shop farm stands for jars of jam and cranberries by the pound.

  • *Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.
  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: August 2017