The southern U.S. is famous for its warm weather and summer fun, but here’s a little secret that folks from other places might not know. When the air begins to turn crisp and cool in late September, southern states are fabulous places to see gorgeous fall leaves turning stunning shades of yellow, orange and red.
From sprawling national parks to quiet mountainsides overlooking small towns, states like Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina are filled with scenic spots that are perfect for a relaxing weekend visit.
If you’re thinking of gathering with family members for a fun (and affordable!) weekend trip this fall, we’re happy to share some advice on great places to see beautiful fall leaves and eat some delicious family meals along the way.
Here are three family road trip locations we love:
According to the folks at Asheville’s tourism website, the leaves begin to turn in the area by late September. By the final days of October the Asheville region is filled with fabulous color. After you’ve taken in all that natural beauty, you can wander through Downtown Asheville’s unique shops and art galleries.
When you get hungry, consider this: TripAdvisor ranks Biscuit Head on Biltmore Ave., which is open for breakfast and lunch, among the area’s top restaurants. A big, freshly made biscuit with pulled pork, bacon and a poached egg runs just $10. And for dinner, Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack, with two Asheville locations, also earns high marks from TripAdvisor’s audience. And they kindly offer slices of white bread to cool you down as you dive into their sizzling, Nashville Hot chicken.
And along with hotels, cabins and cottages available for rental, Asheville has plenty of campgrounds and RV parks for families on the road.
There might not be anywhere more scenic than Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee. The park offers a range of hiking trails for beginners up through skilled hikers, and also many different campsites, including some that include hitching posts for horses. Kayaking and fly fishing are also available.
Attractions within the park include Cade’s Cove, located just 31 miles from Pigeon Forge, where Cade’s Cove Loop Drive is perfect for photographing the trees. Leaves begin changing in the higher elevations in early to mid-October and throughout the area once Halloween arrives.
When it’s time for a meal, keep in mind that the local tourism website says “pancakes are taken seriously” in Pigeon Forge. TheSmokies.com ranks The Pancake Pantry as the ultimate spot for a fabulous pancake meal.
According to SouthCarolinaParks.com, one of the best places to enjoy the fall leaves is the Battle of Musgrove Mill state historic site. Along with walking and hiking to enjoy the beautiful views, you can explore a Revolutionary War battlefield and visit the small but gorgeous Horseshoe Falls waterfall.
Fishing, boating and bird-watching are also popular at the park. And in the nearby city of Laurens, you can visit the historic district or check out the Old Rock Quarry Winery, which often hosts live music on weekends. Along with national chain hotels and motels, you can also find locally owned lodging at places like the Magnolia lnn (rated 4.2 out of 5 stars by Expedia).
Fun dining options include the retro Capitol Theatre and Cafe, where you can have your dinner or dessert while catching a movie (tickets cost just $7.50!) TripAdvisor reviewers say the burgers are amazing.
Along with camping, many families save money on travel by booking accommodations through services like AirBNB or VRBO. Another great way to save money during your family road trip? Pack meals, snacks and bottled drinks in a cooler, so you won’t have to eat at a restaurant for every meal. It’s easy to replenish the ice in your cooler along the way.
And instead of looking for attractions that might require tickets, your budget-smart family can spend most of their vacation time exploring the great outdoors and wandering along the main streets of towns you pass through.
Another practical move for those planning special travel this fall: Talk with one of our “Friendly Franklin Folks” about the ways that a fixed personal loan can cover your travel costs. It’s a practical way to avoid the credit card interest charges that can often be quite high. The folks at 1st Franklin Financial are happy to take time to discuss your plans and how their services could best help you stay on budget while enjoying either a family road trip or staycation.
Wherever you may roam this fall, we wish you and your family lovely days and peaceful nights — whether you’re making memories out on the open road or enjoying the fall foliage in your own backyard!