September is a phenomenally underrated month for travel. People seem to disqualify it because they associate it with childhood anxiety about summer ending and going back to school.
Sure, summer is over on paper, but September ushers in that all-too-brief summer sweet spot where surge pricing has ended while sunshine, festival season, and warm nights remain. In places all over the country, September vacations mean cheaper prices, better weather, and much smaller crowds.
Here are the best of them, for your consideration.
For starters, September means the return of the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival to Bardstown. Each of those six days is loaded with bourbon tastings, mixology classes, art displays, car shows, and food vendors, which works out to like, 746 things to do in total.
The events are a mix of ticketed and free, and there is a designated Family Fun Area with train rides to distract the children while you enjoy your jazz and cigars.
Then, later in the month and less than an hour away, you have Louisville’s Bourbon & Beyond, a bourbon, music, and food festival. And despite the theme, it’s open to anyone aged 5 and up.
Gaffney, South Carolina
Just outside of Gaffney, west of where SR-11 crosses over I-85, the route’s colorful and scenic sightseeing begins at the unique “Peachoid.” Towering at 135 feet, the Peachoid is actually a water tower for the town of Gaffney that’s been realistically painted to look like a giant peach perched high in the sky. The color of the peach is remarkably like the palette changes of oaks, hickories, maples, and more during their varied stages of fall colors.
Continuing on SR-11, worthwhile stops before Jones Gap State Park include Cowpens National Battlefield, a fascinating Revolutionary War site, and Campbell’s Covered Bridge (the only remaining covered bridge in the state.
This charming riverboat town showcases the first city in Ohio and the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory. Since then, Marietta has blossomed into a revitalized main street community known for great food, eclectic shops, and historic hotels. The fun doesn’t end there. There is outdoor adventure galore to be found. Two Rivers, a National Forest and a variety of parks, refuges and wetlands surround the area.
In addition to self-guided tours of the town and trips on the Valley Gem sternwheeler, you can take trolley tours and Hidden Marietta ghost tours.
The marquee event is the free 44th annual Ohio River Sternwheel Festival, which brings 30-plus paddleboats and 100,000 visitors to town September 6-8 (2019); activities include Sunday boat races.
Lying at the edge of the Sacramento River Delta, Lodi enjoys a classic Mediterranean climate of warm days and cool evenings, ideal for growing wine grapes. For decades, Lodi has been producing an astounding amount of wine grapes for countless wineries throughout California.
Wander historic downtown Lodi with century-old brick buildings, brick-cobbled streets lined with elm trees and turn-of-the-century light poles. You’ll love this area and the way the city has maintained its history and heritage. Many unique shops, restaurants, and more than a dozen wine tasting boutiques and exciting restaurants.
In Louisiana, fall’s arrival is signaled by many things: cheers of “Geaux Tigers” and “Who Dat,” large black pots of steaming gumbo and a calendar jam-packed with fairs and festivals. There are many great fall festivals dedicated to Louisiana’s delicious foods. In Natchitoches, the Meat Pie Festival in mid-September takes place in the historic downtown next to Cane River Lake.
Head over to the Lake Charles area for the Boudin Wars in Sulphur, where local chefs and restaurants battle for the title of best boudin. Sample a wide variety of the tasty Cajun sausage and vote for the winner.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Admire the grandeur and wonders of the Grand Canyon, a powerful and inspiring landscape that overpowers our senses through its immense size. You won’t find similar mixtures of color and erosional formations anywhere else.
The canyon is 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and about a mile deep, according to the National Park Service. Just about everywhere you look the views are amazing and the sheer size of it can be overwhelming.
Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast—you miss the sense of where you’re going and why.