By September, schools are usually in session and peak tourism around the country has died down. That means many spots are still enjoying warm temperatures and long days, without nearly as many people. For that reason, September is an excellent time for a vacation in the US. If you’re wondering where to go this September, here are 23 awesome destinations that are extra special during this time of year:
23. Oahu, Hawai’i
Note: Swimming with dolphins is no longer allowed in Hawai’i
September is the beginning of low season in Hawai’i, making it ideal for budget travelers looking for a sweet deal on flights and accommodation. The summer heat is starting to simmer down during this time as well, but days are still warm, with tolerable humidity. There’s a moderate chance of rain in September, as it is technically the rainy season.
Although July and August have the best visibility for diving in Hawai’i, September is a close second. During this time, you’ll have a good chance of high visibility, enabling you to see lots of marine life and coral reefs. Oahu is one of the best places in Hawai’i to go shark diving, too, in case you’re up for the thrill.
Find out what else there is to do on Oahu here.
22. Seward, Alaska
The bowl — stunning!
Seward is the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska, one of the state’s most popular outdoor attractions. The park, and subsequently the town, is at its busiest during the summer months, with crowds tapering off in September. Although temperatures drop during this time, it’s still warm enough to get out and enjoy a hike to the top of Mount Marathon or any Kenai Fjords activities.
The mountains surrounding Seward begin to get their first dusting of snow in September, making the views even more dramatic. Plus, you can catch the end of whale-watching season at Kenai Fjords by taking a wildlife cruise through the national park.
21. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Hoping for the light at the end of the tunnel
Once the Labor Day crowds disappear, September is the ultimate time to have the gorgeous Mount Rainier National Park mostly to yourself. The weather in September is still warm enough to access all of the park’s trails, with Mount Rainier still dry from the summer snow melt. That means the glaciers are maximally exposed, making for incredible views. It still gets quite cold in this part of Washington at night during the summer and fall months, so bring lots of layers.
If you’re heading to Mount Rainier National Park this September for a quick trip, check out how to spend 48 hours there. Coming from Seattle? You can do a full-day tour of Mount Rainier, which will show you the best spots.
20. North Umpqua, Oregon
Just about an hour and a half northwest of Crater Lake, you’ll find the North Umpqua region of Oregon. The area runs along the river of the same name, which is full of waterfalls and other natural attractions. Watson Falls and Toketee Falls are especially impressive and worth visiting.
Since September is past peak season in this part of the state, it’s possible that you’ll get these gorgeous sites all to yourself. Plus, the crisp September temperatures are perfect for taking a dip in the Umpqua Hot Springs. While the North Umpqua region is great on its own, consider making the most of this beautiful season with a road trip through Oregon to see more of the state.
19. Mendocino, California
What an epic sunset spot!
Mendocino is definitely fit for an outdoorsy yet luxe trip. The town is full of boutique hotels, many of them with seaside views and on-site restaurants. It makes for an excellent girls trip, although it could be a great romantic getaway as well.
This cozy cliffside spot has been the muse of many an artist and poet. Surrounded by quaint state parks, towering redwood trees, and locally owned wineries, Mendocino has everything you need for a perfect NorCal getaway. September is an especially great time to visit because of the gentle chill in the air and foggy mornings that make for a mystical time.
18. Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
Imagine a place where towering rock formations literally look like they’re on fire and rugged landscapes that feel like you’re on Mars. It exists: it’s in Nevada, just an hour away from Las Vegas! Valley of Fire State Park is one of the most unique destinations in the United States, with vistas in which you can see sandstone and limestone rock in orange, white, red, and even purple hues.
As you can guess, the summertime heat in Valley of Fire is unbearable, if not dangerous. Temperatures are much more mild in September but still can peak as high as 90 degrees. The park is at its busiest in the late fall and early winter, so visiting in September means you’ll miss most of the crowds without it being too hot.
17. Page, Arizona
Taken in the Upper Antelope Canyon in Arizona
Page is home to some of Arizona’s most noteworthy attractions, like Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon (see photo above). It’s a popular launching point for Grand Canyon National Park too, so you can imagine how busy it gets during peak season. The most popular time to visit the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon is from May to September, with September being far less crowded as the month goes on.
Early fall temperatures hover around the 70s and 80s during the day, with a higher chance of rain in September onward. This means it’ll still be warm enough to take a dip at Havasu Falls or Lake Powell, but you should definitely prepare for rain.
16. Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe has long been an artists haven and home to some of the country’s quirkiest minds. This New Mexico gem has an interesting mix of new and old, with posh Canyon Road cafés and galleries and centuries-old chapels all in the same city.
The weather in Santa Fe is beautiful throughout September, with sunny days and temperatures in the mid-70s. It’s also an awesome time for events and festivals, as the historic Burning of Zozobra and tasty Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta both happen this month.
For more ideas, check out this guide to Santa Fe.
15. Zion National Park, Utah
Most Zion enthusiasts agree that September is one of the best, if not the best, month to visit this ultra-popular national park. Why? The weather is great and crowds are much smaller than at their peak in the summer. Although the threat of monsoons technically extends to mid-September, it’s still relatively dry compared to the rest of the season, while rivers and lakes are already full from the summer rains.
If you’re down for a challenge when visiting Zion National Park, consider hiking to Observation Point and Angels Landing for some spectacular views. The area will still likely be very green, with speckles of fall foliage in the distance. It’s worth checking out the famous slot canyons, too.
14. Stanley, Idaho
Stanley is one of the best places in Idaho for taking a dip in hot springs. Some of them around Stanley, such as Kirkham Hot Springs, are super popular in the summer months and can get crowded. That’s why September is an awesome time to go. There are still whispers of the summer heat, but it’s cool enough to enjoy a dip in the steamy springs, especially at night.
Stanley makes a great addition to any Idaho road trip, on which you’ll be able to see the beginning of fall foliage if you embark in September. Idaho is a pretty underrated state, especially with its incredible hot springs and the boundless nature all around.
13. Glacier National Park, Montana
While summertime may be the best time for taking a dip in Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park in September has a special charm. As the trees begin their golden transformation, the park takes on an entirely different vibe. It’s a more laid-back time to visit, too, as there are fewer visitors than the summer months, so you might get some incredible scenery all to yourself. September can be chilly at night, so bring plenty of layers if you’ll be camping or doing any nighttime activities!
From hiking the famous Highline Trail to whitewater rafting to stargazing at Hidden Lake, there’s plenty to do at Glacier National Park for any length of trip.
12. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado
The Aspen trees surrounding the towering mountains of sand at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve begin to turn golden yellow beginning in September, creating a beautiful range of colors. The namesake dunes are still quite hot to the touch in the afternoons but cool enough to explore in the morning. Warm, sunny days with the occasional thunderstorm characterize September weather here, which is about as good as it gets.
Where summertime can be quite mosquito-y and sometimes too hot for exploring the dunes, early fall is mild and perfect for a visit. The park does get more crowded during this time, but as it’s not as popular as others, so the crowds are still manageable and won’t likely take away from the experience.
Add Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve to your Colorado road trip this September!
11. Big Bend National Park, Texas
Many people don’t think of Texas as having mountainous scenery, but Big Bend National Park is here to prove us all wrong. The park itself is massive, covering over 150 square miles of West Texas. You could visit any time of year and expect relatively small crowds, which makes taking in the gorgeous scenery all the better. From hiking through the Santa Elena Canyon to stargazing at night, there’s plenty to do in Big Bend National Park.
September, and fall in general, yields more rain than the rest of the year. If you don’t mind the possibility of some precipitation, you’ll enjoy the lowest visitor numbers and mild temperatures.
10. Chicago, Illinois
As the temperature starts to steadily drop during early fall, Chicago transforms into an idyllic swirl of autumn hues and brisk gusts of wind. Don’t get me wrong, I love summertime Chi. But there’s truly nothing like early fall in the Windy City. It’s still warm enough to enjoy strolling through Lincoln Park Zoo or Millennium Park, but chilly enough at nighttime to truly savor a warm cup of tea on your balcony or in a café.
Bring layers if you’re visiting Chicago in September, as the city has a reputation for shifting dramatically between extreme weather conditions with just a moment’s notice. Trust me, you’ll want to make sure you have a scarf and a rain jacket at the ready while you’re on your architecture boat tour.
Traveling on a budget? Find out what to do in Chicago for free here!
9. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin
Beat the fall crowds at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore by visiting in September, right before most people come to see the autumn foliage. The Apostle Islands are an archipelago in Lake Superior where you’ll find mystical sea caves, gorgeous lakeside views, and the largest concentration of lighthouses in North America. Although sailing through the Apostle Island sea caves is more popular in the summertime, tours still run through September, and the water just might be warm enough to take a dip or even kayak.
The weather in this part of Wisconsin is especially sunny, with highs during the day reaching the mid-70s. Nights are chilly, so bring layers!
8. The North Shore, Minnesota
Because of its geography, the North Shore in Minnesota starts to get its fall colors a bit earlier than places further south. That means your September visit very well could be a whirlwind of golden orange and red hues. Maple trees and other species have their peak colors beginning the second week of September.
As you can guess, this is a popular time to visit the North Shore. Even so, this isn’t a hugely well-known area nationally, and you’ll find mostly in-state tourists here. Consider road-tripping along the North Shore to see some of the best slices of nature Minnesota has to offer.
7. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan
Sleeping Bear Dunes is one of the Midwest’s best kept secrets — if you’re not from the area, you might not have even heard of it. Characterized by gigantic sand dunes that seem to spill into Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear is a popular weekend getaway from Traverse City. It’s busiest in the summer months when the weather is warm enough to enjoy a swim in the lake, but early fall is just as desirable.
Visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes in September means you can get a fabulous taste of fall foliage without the late-fall photography crowds. Climb sand dunes to get sweeping views of both Lake Michigan and Glen Lake, or spend the day hiking one of the many trails in the park.
6. Adirondack Mountains, New York
This is another road trip rather than a one-stop destination. The Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York are absolutely breathtaking during fall, starting in September. There’s very little rainfall in September, and sunny days peak in temperature around 60 degrees.
There are far fewer people around in September compared to the summer months, meaning you’ll be able to enjoy the warm-hued peaks in solitude. The main attraction here is Lake Placid, which is serene this time of year. You can also make your way to Lake George, which is one of the most beautiful lakes in the country. You really can’t go wrong with a September road trip around the Adirondacks.
5. Cape May, New Jersey
This kitschy beach town is booming in the summertime, yielding crowded shores and unbearable traffic. That’s why visiting Cape May is ideal in September. Sure, it may be a bit too cold to swim in the sea, but you’ll still be able to enjoy everything else that makes this place special.
As it’s the oldest seaside resort town in the country, Cape May has an antique charm that sets it apart from other beach destinations in the USA. Breezy, sunny September days make it all the more idyllic. Plus, the great weather is the perfect setting for the annual Cape May Food & Wine Celebration at the end of the month.
4. Greenville, South Carolina
While the summer months bring high temps and humidity, early fall is a bit cooler and breezier in Greenville. Some even say that September has the best weather of the year here, so take advantage of it by heading out for a hike at Paris Mountain State Reserve or checking out the waterfall at Falls Park on the Reedy. With the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding the city, this is the place to bask in nature’s beauty.
Greenville is an artsy and outdoorsy city, often compared to Asheville in North Carolina. Asheville is more well-known, but Greenville is more low key and ideal for travelers who want to experience South Carolina’s Southern charm without as much tourism.
You can also add Greenville to your Blue Ridge Parkway road trip if you want to visit more places in the area.
3. Tybee Island, Georgia
This sleepy beach town is ideal for travelers who are chasing eternal summer and want a taste of Southern hospitality. After Labor Day following the summer tourism boom, the town quiets down. You’ll still be able to enjoy the soft sand and crashing waves, though, with plenty of sunshine to soak up in September.
Water sports and dolphin watching are popular activities on Tybee Island, as are paddleboarding and kayaking. This is a great option if you want a slow-paced vacation where your agenda includes long days relaxing at the beach.
2. Miami, Florida
Let’s face it, the weather in Miami is gorgeous all year long. September does have a chance of hurricanes, though, which is why it’s one of the slowest months for tourism. If you don’t mind the occasional afternoon rainstorm, this is the time to enjoy the beach without it being unbearably crowded, even if it’s a bit of a gamble.
Luckily, there’s still plenty to do in Miami indoors, like the Pérez Art Museum and the Frost Science Aquarium & Planetarium.
Keep an open mind, and leave some wiggle room in your itinerary so you can enjoy the best of Miami even if it rains.
1. Anna Maria Island, Florida
In September, the Florida heat is still intact on Anna Maria Island, but with cooler mornings and evenings compared to the summer months. The island also much less crowded, so you can enjoy the beauty of this pristine island without so much hustle and bustle.
Anna Maria Island is only seven miles long, with gorgeous white-sand beaches and calm waters perfect for swimming. Visitors love snorkeling, paddleboarding, and even parasailing here. Add the Anna Maria Island Historical Society Museum or the Florida Maritime Museum to your rainy-day itinerary — since, like Miami, there’s a chance that you could encounter an afternoon rainstorm or two during your trip — and learn about this unique little island.
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Now you have plenty of travel inspo for your September adventure in the USA!
Which place on this list sounds the best to you?