Some places are tailor-made for summer — but not every resort destination instantly becomes a ghost town after Labor Day. In fact, some of the most popular summer vacation spots are even better off-season. Avoid the crowds, over-priced hotels and miles of traffic by visiting these charming locales as the leaves fall and the thermometer drops!
Sag Harbor, NY
This picturesque former whaling village is a summer hotspot for New York’s elite. But it becomes a rather quaint getaway once the well-heeled masses retreat. Window shop along enchanting Main Street or take a self-guided architecture tour past the stately 19th century mansions, many of which were built by merchants and sea captains.
Cape Neddick, ME
You’ll feel like you’re stepping into a postcard as you take in the panoramic ocean views along the rocky coastline of this adorable, seaside town. Pack a sweater for a stroll along the beach to capture a photo of the iconic red-roofed Cape Neddick Lighthouse, which was built in 1879 and is still active today. Did we also mention Maine lobsters are harvested year-round?
Sure, Newport’s famed mansions are fabulous in the summer, but the holiday season is the perfect time to experience Gilded Age “cottages” in all of their grandeur. Prepare to be awe-struck when you tour these massive homes, which have been completely decorated with thousands of fresh flowers, poinsettias and evergreens to celebrate the season. Many homes have scheduled performances by choral groups and brass bands throughout December, so check the schedule before booking your tour!
Mackinac Island, MI
This time of year you won’t fight for a ferry seat to this national historic landmark on Lake Huron between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsula. Motor vehicles have been prohibited on the island since 1898, so expect to explore Mackinac’s nearly 4-square-miles on exon bike or on foot along the usually deserted hiking trails. Fall and winter hotel prices are nearly 15% less expensive than summer rates, so there’s no reason to rush back to mainland!
Cape Cod, MA
Although you may not find as many salt water taffy stands and kitschy gift stores, this beachside locale is even more delightful when the bulk of tourists have headed back over the bridges for the season. (Not to mention exploring the natural beauty of The Cape is a breeze when summer traffic disappears.) Take a sunset cruise to Provincetown where you’ll (more) easily score a bayside table at year-round hotspot The Red Inn — we suggest local oysters paired with a drink or two!
Cape May, NJ
Although the estates may not be as grand as those in Newport, the picture-perfect Victorian homes are not to be missed in this Jersey Shore gem. Get in the old fashioned Christmas spirit this December when the seaside town becomes a glittering holiday spectacle. Keep the kids entertained with Santa’s Trolley Rides or if adults only check out the ghost trolley tour and holiday light tour.
Big Bear Lake, CA
The jaw-dropping beauty of this mountain town boasts incredible single-track trails for mountain biking, fishing and off-roading. Don’t miss the 1.5-mile scenic hike along Castle Rock Trail that takes you past towering evergreens and ancient boulders.
Myrtle Beach, SC
While it might be too chilly to take a dip in the Atlantic, get your fill of the high seas at the action-packed Pirates Voyage dinner theater. Other indoor attractions along the waterfront include Ripley’s Aquarium and a laser tag arena — plus hotel rooms are much cheaper here during the winter!