This article is a part of our 2018 guide to great fall getaways, including where to head for colorful foliage, fun festivals, and other glories of autumn.
Five places to extend your summer—all reached on a nonstop flight.
If a city could be a celebration, it would be New Orleans, especially during its 300th-anniversary year, when the Big Easy is turning up the heat on its clichés—its rollicking fetes of jazz (whether brass band or zydeco or Afro-Cuban), its spicy Cajun cuisine, and its official beverage, the Sazerac (made with Cognac or rye whiskey and bitters). Can’t decide on one of its many good restaurants? Sample po’ boys, local seafood, and muffuletta inside a lively food hall such as the renovated historic St. Roch Market.
Outdoor fun: Cajun Encounters is your best bet for a swamp tour, gators guaranteed.
Average fall temperature: 76 degrees.
Getting there: Fly nonstop from BWI, Dulles, or Reagan National.
A two-hour drive from Los Angeles Airport, this California desert oasis delivers palm trees, poolside cocktails, and a swanky, old-Hollywood vibe, reminiscent of the days when it was a getaway for stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra. These days, the LBGTQ-friendly resort town is a favorite retirement haven. Many hotels pay homage to the signature modernism architecture—at the Arrive hotel, for example, “dive-in” movies are screened poolside. Don’t forget, you’re in the desert; cool off with a milkshake made from local dates such as at Windmill Market.
Hot tour: Mod Squad’s “Martini and Mid Century Architecture Tour” cruises to some Rat Pack pads (including Dean Martin’s estate) before a boozy history lesson.
Average fall temperature: 82 degrees.
Getting there: Drive or even take a Tesla ride-share, after flying nonstop to LA from any Washington airport.
Fall is tropical-storm season, but Aruba lies south of the hurricane belt, making direct hits rare. Instead, you’ll find white-blond sand, a mix of beachfront resorts, and steady trade winds that power water sports and keep temps comfortable. Add to that a fascinating melding of indigenous and Dutch cultures that manifests in the musical language of Papiamento and an unusual cuisine (try keshi yena, made from a hollowed-out ball of Edam cheese).
Great room: The all-inclusive Divi Aruba offers room, activities, and meals for one price.
Average fall temperature: 83 degrees.
Getting there: Nonstop from BWI on Southwest Airlines.
Florida’s Sunshine City is more than a fly-and-flop (but you can do that, too). Encompassing no fewer than seven arts districts, the funkiest neighborhoods in St. Petersburg are home to craft stores, fine-arts galleries (such as the Dalí Museum), and vintage bin-diving. Although St. Pete Beach promises sun and sand, the most intrepid travelers kick back in Fort De Soto Park—a Civil War site, bird preserve, kayaking utopia, and sandy beach.
Food festival: Pinkies up for the World’s Largest Bloody Mary Toast, the perfect companion to lobster rolls and oysters at John’s Pass Seafood & Music Festival, October 25 through 28.
Average fall temperature: 79 degrees.
Getting there: From any Washington airport, you can fly nonstop to Tampa, which is less than 30 minutes by car from St. Pete.
There are beach resorts, yes, but the real reason to visit this Central American country, an eco-tourism pioneer, is for adventures in nature. Whether it’s ziplining through misty green cloud forests, hiking on an active volcano, or watching sea-turtle hatchlings waddle their way to the sea, Costa Rica offers accessible thrills—and good coffee to power your adventures. Opt for a low-impact nature resort such as Tortuga Lodge.
Get wet: Go whitewater-rafting through the jungle with a responsible tour operator such as Rios Tropicales.
Average fall temperature: 70 degrees.
Getting there: Nonstop from BWI on Southwest.
This article appears in the September 2018 issue of Washingtonian.