Fall break can mean lower crowds, cooler temps, and a great time to explore with your kids. From weekend getaways to week-long trips, using your school schedule’s fall break makes for the perfect time to travel and make memories as a family. This list of the fabulous fall break vacation ideas includes something for every budget and interest. From city adventures to natural wonders, these affordable fall break destinations won’t disappoint!
Best Fall Break Vacation Ideas Your Family Will Love
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Museums, great food, unique neighborhoods. Don’t miss this big city experience with your kids. We love Maggie Daley Park, The Museum of Science and Industry, and Xoco for tacos in the Loop. Don’t skip the free zoo at Lincoln Park or a stroll along the lakeshore. You can’t visit Chicago too many times because there’s always something new to discover. For more ideas, see this post about my favorite museums for kids in Chicago.
Hotel Recommendation: Homewood Suites in Downtown Chicago
A world-class science museum and zoo offer a family-friendly agenda. Plus fun local cuisine and a funky old bookstore to wander through. Check the calendar to make sure you’re not visiting during an OSU home game and whatever you do, make sure you stop at Jeni’s for ice cream that will change your life. Plan your visit with this guide to a weekend in Columbus with kids.
Hotel Recommendation: Embassy Suites in Dublin, Ohio
Fort Wayne, IN
Budget friendly and home to my favorite zoo in the area. Stay downtown and sample the local fare at The Hoppy Gnome before you visit the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, the downtown library, or the Botanic Gardens. There’s also hands-on Science Central and a brand new riverfront park. Look for super great deals on Airbnb or at area hotels for affordable overnight visits. Check out this post for more ideas on things to do in Fort Wayne and great kid-friendly restaurants.
Mammoth Cave, KY
Want some outdoor adventures for your fall break? Mammoth Cave is part of the largest cave system in the world and with lots of ranger-led tours, hiking opportunities, and a chance to earn a Junior Ranger badge, this Kentucky attraction is worth a visit. Combine it with a stop in Nashville or Louisville and you’ve got a great 3-4 day getaway. Traveling up and down I-65? Here’s some places you should stop!
Tour the nation’s capitol and take advantage of the free museums as you teach your kids about history and government. The city can be expensive but you’ll save on attraction fees. There’s a lot of walking involved so this trip is best for older kids who can better connect with the historical significance of many sites. Plus, you avoid the oppressive heat of summer with a fall visit. Check out this family-friendly guide for Washington DC from The Daily Impressions blog.
Another jackpot of free attractions, most museums and the zoo are free in St. Louis. Don’t miss a trip up the Arch (not for the claustrophobic) to see the mighty Mississippi, a tour of the Budweiser factory, and try some toasted ravioli along with other St. Louis foodie specials. Look for hotels downtown or near Forest Park for easy access to most attractions. Here’s a post about our recent visit to St. Louis and where we ate!
Hotel Recommendation: Dury Inn St Louis Arch
Clifty Falls State Park, IN
Southern Indiana topography will have you wondering if you’re really still in the Midwest. Clifty Falls State Park has some of our favorite hiking, plus it’s close to historic Madison, a tiny river town on the banks of the Ohio, that’s beautifully preserved and offers yummy eats and fun shopping. Stay at the state park’s Clifty Inn or bring your own gear and camp in the park. Find out more in this post about Clifty Falls State Park.
South Walton Beach, FL
If you really want to get away, head straight down I-65 towards the Gulf Coast of Florida. With water temperatures still in the bathwater range, you’ll have quiet access to the sugar sand beaches of this area. We love the 30A area (named for the state route that connects the communities) but there’s plenty of great finds from Pensacola to Panama City Beach. Relax, play at the beach, and enjoy fresh seafood while all your friends back home start turning on their heat. Check out Things to Do with Kids along 30A.
A great city to explore with kids and easy to get to. Just plan to pack your patience for some extra traffic if you need to arrive during rush hour. World of Coca Cola, The Georgia Aquarium, and MLK Jr National Historic Site are some of my must-see attractions but there’s so much to explore in the various neighborhoods. To avoid some of the congestion, plan to pick a hotel in the area you’ll spend the most time.
The fall colors can’t be beat in this beautiful part of the Smokey Mountains. We love spending time in the National Park much more than the actual town, but if you want a balance of hiking and attractions, pick a spot in Gatlinburg. Crowds can be big this time of year so you’ll need to plan ahead but the hiking and views are worth the extra traffic. Here’s how to avoid the crowds in Gatlinburg.
Planning your Fall Break Trip
Once you’ve decided where you’ll be headed for your fall break vacation, you might need a few tips on getting there. Here are a few of my favorite posts to help you with your trip planning. Because as parents, we all know there’s a lot of work before you actually hit the road!
Are you taking a fall break trip this year? Got another destination to recommend or need some help planning? Leave a comment or question here! We love to help families plan a better trip.