The Hotel Emma in San Antonio, Texas, photographed by Lilianna Story.
With summer starting to feel like a distant memory, now is the perfect time to plan a fall getaway. When planning a vacation, we tend to focus on areas where we can soak in the local culture, explore beautiful locales, and stay in a place that will make us feel pampered, so we zeroed in on three destinations that check all of those boxes (and then some) and asked the TSG Editors in those towns to share how to make the most of an autumn escape to their area. Here are our picks for a last-minute fall trip.
San Antonio, Texas
Why to visit: “San Antonio is a perfect fall getaway not only for the lovely, crisp weather this time of year, but also the creative indigenous cuisine, thriving local art scene, and multi-cultural activities that come alive because of our diverse city,” Says The Scout Guide San Antonio Editor Francie Mannix. Simply put, ideal weather and an abundance of unique attractions make this Texas town worth visiting in autumn.
Where to stay: Situated in a 19th century building that previously served as a brewhouse, the Hotel Emma offers comfort, luxury, and a completely unique experience thanks to its comfortable, eclectic décor. The historic riverfront hotel has 146 carefully appointed rooms, a handsome tavern and club room, and a restaurant serving creative, seasonally-driven cuisine.
What to do: “Whether you’re looking for a historical tour or the perfect margarita, San Antonio will deliver,” Mannix says. A must-visit is San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, home to the Spanish colonial missions (the Alamo being one of them), which have been designated World Heritage Sites. Also worth exploring is the nearby Southtown area, home to a plethora of local, thriving artists and restaurants, as well as the King William neighborhood, where you’ll find a beautiful mix of historic homes from the turn of the century. If you have enough time, drive 30 minutes to the Texas Hill Country and enjoy rolling hills with an assortment of hiking, German and BBQ joints, antiquing, and an abundance of vineyards in and out of the quaint German towns. For an evening dose of local culture, Mannix suggests jumping on a river taxi and taking a ride down the historic River Walk, hopping off at San Fernando Cathedral in the heart of the city to watch San Antonio: The Saga, a free video/art projection shown every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday starting at 9 p.m.
How to look like a local: “Men should bring their favorite pair of boots and jeans and pick up a Guayabera shirt in the local custom that they can purchase at Dos Carolinas, or stop by The Sporting District for a Tom Beckbe & Co. jacket and boots by Helm Boots,” Mannix says. As for ladies, “Bring your casual, boho chic dress or cute embroidered top that can be casual for the day and dressed up with cute pants and some stacked booties for evening. Layers, like a shawl or cardigan, will be useful here, as San Antonio can still be on the hotter side in autumn.”
New Orleans, Louisiana
The Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Why to visit: “There is always something going on here, no matter what the season,” The Scout Guide New Orleans Editor Taylor Morgan says about her hometown. “And like a lot of other locations, fall weekends are heavy on the football (here, that means the Saints and LSU) and festivals. Plus, now through 2018 New Orleans is celebrating its tricentennial, and in a city that never shies away from a celebration, that means events galore.
Where to stay: For a luxurious experience in an ideal location, check in to the Windsor Court Hotel. Featuring French-inspired décor, a decadent spa, and a top-notch dining option with The Grill Room, this locally owned downtown hotel makes you feel pampered the minute you set foot in the lobby. If you’re worried that sounds too fussy to be kid-friendly, have no fear—there is plenty of fun to be had by little ones. As an added bonus, the Windsor Court offers a discount to visitors who mention The Scout Guide when booking.
What to do: As mentioned above, fall brings a host of festivals to New Orleans, including Voodoo Music Fest (October 27 – 29), Po-Boy Fest (November 12) in the wonderful Oak Street neighborhood, annual art installation Luna Fete (December 6 – 9) presented by Arts Council New Orleans, and Prospect.4, a large-scale contemporary art festival that kicks off November 18 that will feature works by local, national, and international artists. For an outdoor adventure, you’re in luck—after all, Louisiana is the “Sportsman’s Paradise.” “Fall is hunting season, and people travel from all over to hunt here. Fishing is excellent, too,” Morgan says.“Lots of men spend the first night in New Orleans dining at a French Quarter restaurant like Arnaud’s, hit Bourbon Street, and drive across the river the next morning to go fishing.” If hunting and fishing don’t sound appealing, you can still enjoy the fresh air via a bike tour along the Lafitte Greenway. Of course, no trip to New Orleans would be complete without a few unforgettable culinary experiences. Morgan recommends having a meal at Balise, the latest restaurant from James Beard Award-winning chef Justin Devillier, or a cozy dinner at Meauxbar in the French Quarter before or after attending a show at the Saenger or Orpheum theater. And don’t forget to take advantage of the region’s fall-specific fare. “In New Orleans people live for months with R’s in the name because it’s raw oyster season,” says Morgan, whose favorite place to belly up to the oyster bar is Pascal Manale’s. “Fall is also Bourbon season, so make sure to swing by Barrel Proof, home to 288 whiskies. It’s the perfect late night spot,” she adds.
How to look like a local: According to Morgan, the hot label currently favored by locals for everyday wear is tasc. “They are the lululemon of local, and it is far superior. Everything is made of bamboo and it’s unbelievably soft,” Morgan says. “They have everything from golf shirts to workout clothes, so people can wear pieces as normal clothes and not just as athleisure.” Another beloved local brand is NOLA Couture, which caters to the well-dressed preppy gentleman with coats, ties, and more. Finally, to really fit in, bring a black-and-gold outfit to show your support for the local football team.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Belted Galloway cows graze at Fearrington Village outside of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Why to visit: Home to UNC, Chapel Hill is a quintessential college town, which always feels like the right sort of setting for an autumn getaway. “The quad is really beautiful—the perfect place to crunch fall leaves while checking out the school—and a Tarheels game is a great way to experience the town,” says The Scout Guide Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill Editor Hopie Avery. Add in fantastic restaurants and wonderful shopping opportunities, and you have a charming destination just a short jaunt from the easily accessible Raleigh Durham International Airport, with the other two points of the Triangle nearby.
Where to stay: “I could go on and on about why Fearrington is a great getaway location,” says Avery of the Relais & Chateaux just ten miles south of Chapel Hill. “It has wonderful dining options, the best local book shop, and a great spa, not to mention fabulous retail therapy at Dovecote. Fearrington’s late co-founder, Jenny Fitch, is a local legend and really knew how to do things right as you will quickly see from the grounds and impeccable service and food, and her family and staff has truly carried on her legacy. Definitely explore the gardens and spend some time in the garden house. Do not miss breakfast, and come hungry!”
What to do: According to Avery, a stroll down Franklin Street is a must, as is brunch at Crossroads at the beautiful and historic Carolina Inn, a visit to 100-year-old fine men’s and women’s clothing shop Julian’s, a drink at the classic cocktail institution The Crunkleton, dinner at the bar at the lauded Asian restaurant Lantern, a trip to browse the finds at Whitehall Antiques, and a taste of nature along the Poet’s Walk at Ayr Mount (a scenic, mile-long walking trail surrounding a historic house) or the River Walk in Hillsborough.
How to look like a local: “Chapel Hill is a casual town but it is still the south, so aiming for a look that’s stylish and pulled-together with a little luxe boho flair will fit the bill,” says Avery, who says that her formula is denim, a pretty top, cute shoes, and accessories. “Be sure to pack a nice jacket or cashmere for layering, and always a bring a scarf,” she notes. If you want to pick up a few pieces while in town to look Chapel Hill-chic, Avery says to stop into Uniquities for great denim and a fun top, SOUTH for a necklace by the Carolina-bred line Twine & Twig, and Lark for a pair of eco-friendly Coclico shoes.