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Best Fall Destinations for Senior Citizens in 2017

Grand CanyonEnough of the hot weather, bring back the school year and foliage of autumn.  Seniors citizens often have ample free time during the fall compared to their children and grandchildren who are bustling with school and work; and therefore, are a perfect demographic to reap the benefits of travelling during this low cost and low crowd time of year.  Below you can find Senior Directory’s top three 2017 fall travel destination for senior citizens.  We hope you enjoy!

San Francisco

While most of the country is cooling down, San Francisco goes through what is known as an Indian Summer.  The weather surprisingly stays consistently warm, even often late into November, and is truly one of the best kept secrets about The Bay Area.  Besides the great weather, San Francisco is one of the most entertaining cities in the United States and has a world renown culinary scene.  To add to the excitement, San Francisco celebrates many festivals in the fall.  One of the most popular is the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival.  If you or your spouse are bluegrass fans like myself, this is an event you can’t miss… especially since it’s free!  There is also Fleet Week San Francisco which displays various ships and pays respect to our country’s Navy. 

Fall is harvest season in Northern California, which means it is an ideal time of year to tour the local vineyards in neighboring Napa and Sonoma.  We recommend renting bicycles and riding from vineyard to vineyard.  Contrary to the summer heat, fall in the valley is quite pleasant, and a bike tour is a unique and fun way to see the countryside. 

Finally, the warm weather is great for any seniors wishing to experience the Pacific Ocean.  Rent a boat, charter a fishing trip, or even go whale watching.  There is great hiking on the coast: some of the best trails include the Marin Headlands, Lands’ End, Batteries to Bluff Trail, and Lover’s Lane at the Presidio.  The Redwood Forest is just across the bay as well, and could add a few days to your trip. 

Accessibility

I dislike driving in cities, especially when I do not know them well, and I would assume most people would agree.  While a car could be useful to see the coast or to visit the Napa and Sonoma, those are the only times you should need one.  You could rent a car specifically for those days, or look to see if there are any tours that check off the boxes you desire for your trip. 

The best way to get around the city itself is through their network of buses, cars, trolleys, and the BART.  You can purchase a pass known as the MUNI Passport that can grant you access to all of these for either 1, 3, or 7 days.  Taxis are a reliable form of transportation, but they can be expensive.  We would suggest downloading an app like Google Maps if you are visiting and have a smartphone.  It can detect where you are, and all you have to do is enter in where you want to go, and it will tell you how long it will take walking, by public transportation, or by car.  This app can be especially helpful with riding public transportation.  We would also suggest just asking.  Many people understand cities are complex, and most people are willing to lend a hand or some knowledge.  Planning your route out with your hotel before the day is also a great tool. 

We would suggest flying into San Francisco International Airport, but you can also fly into San Jose International Airport, or Oakland International Airport.  San Francisco will be the easiest, but you can shop around, don’t forget to factor in cab or shuttle rides, and perhaps find better deals at the other two airports.    

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is one if not the most spectacular natural phenomenon’s in the United States and the World.  If you have not seen it, we cannot suggest it enough.  It runs for over two hundred miles, is nearly twenty miles wide at times, and drops to staggering depths of over a mile.  The fall is also the best time to see this natural wonder.  Most families are back in school, meaning it is better to see it now than during spring break.  Also, Arizona is hot, like over 100 Fahrenheit in the summer, and things are just now starting to cool down.  Do come prepared though, as the desert has inclement weather, and what was once hot, can turn cool or stormy in no time.

As we have already stated, the canyon runs hundreds of miles, but the most accessible area to visit is the Grand Canyon Village.  From here you are able to find good accommodations while being close to many of the most sought-after attractions.  Some of these other attractions include both the North and South Rim, the Grand Canyon Skywalk, and the Grand Canyon Railway.  We cannot suggest the latter enough as it is perfect for many seniors.  Combining the perfect combination of tour, history, and site-seeing, all while being on a train!  Helicopter and airplane tours are available, and while most likely spectacular, are probably also stupendously expensive.  While many seniors may be daunted with the Grand Canyon, and think there is nothing here for them without exerting energy equivalent to a twenty-year-old, this is not true.  There are scenic pull offs, small hikes, and even picnic areas spread throughout these 200 hundred miles of gorgeous nature.

Besides the scenery, there are tons of Natural History Museums and state park centers to fill every history, geology, and anthropology buffs agenda.  The most difficult part is finding the best place to stay.  Besides for the Grand Canyon Village, we suggest looking into this matter for the specific time period you are there.  There are a lot of different places that offer lodging, and depending on the senior, it may be more affordable to stay 30-60 minutes away.  The most difficult part about a trip to the Grand Canyon is finding lodging, but if you can find that, we guarantee it will be a trip you will never forget.

Accessibility

We would highly suggest renting a car for this trip.  As we have stated, the Grand Canyon has a gigantic territory to explore.  It would be advantageous to be able to pick and choose what locations you wish to visit.  But, this is not possible for all seniors.  This is one of the most toured parks in the United States, and many seniors may find it more convenient to use a tour or counselor for the Grand Canyon.  Don’t forget about that railroad we talked about earlier.  Also, if you and some friends are ever going to rent a camper, there may not be a better place in the World. 

Unfortunately, flying to the Grand Canyon is more difficult than one would imagine.  The three main airports that people frequent most are Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Flagstaff.  While Flagstaff is the closest, it will also have the least available connecting flights from other major International Airports.  Flying into Las Vegas will have a drive of roughly 4 hours to reach the Grand Canyon.  Phoenix will have a drive of approximately three and a half hours, and it is a more scenic drive.  Flagstaff is only one hour and fifteen minutes, but as we discussed earlier, it is more difficult to find flights.  As we have discussed earlier, there are tours that leave from both Phoenix and Las Vegas that may be the easiest for seniors.  Some do not like the sequestration and rigidness that accompany tours though, which is understood.  Despite its difficulty reaching, the Grand Canyon is not one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World for no reason.

Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville is revered as one of the best places to view the fall foliage anywhere in the United States.  Its variety in altitude, types of deciduous trees, and weather all make this one of the most incredible places to watch the colors change.  While the trees may have not changed where you are, just two miles North they could be in full bloom.  This location also has one of the longest seasons to see the colors change, while in Colorado, it may be done in a week or two. 

Some of the best site seeing can be done along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Mount Mitchell, Rough Ridge, Graveyard Fields are all worth seeing in the beginning of the season usually peaking between the last week of September.  Craggy Gardens, Beech Mountain, Waterrock Knob, and Black Balsam are great in early October.  Whiteside Mountain, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Waynesville are breathtaking throughout October.  Chimney Rock, Lake Lure, and the South Mountains State Park are great until November.  This area is some of the best to drive through in all of the United States to see the trees change, and one could spend a month here without folly. 

Besides just seeing Mother Nature, Asheville has a lot of attractions in the fall.  One could attend the art festival in main downtown.  They have their own Oktoberfest late in September, don’t ask me why.  The Mars Hill Heritage and Music Festival are a must see, especially for any tourist.  It celebrates the mountain music native to this region.  They even have a fly fishing festival, with lessons, equipment, and of course fresh caught fish on sale. 

Asheville offers a whole lot as just a town in itself too.  Many people travel here without needing festivals, art shows, or mother nature showing off.  Asheville is known for its art scene, it is considered one of the “hippie” or free-spirited towns of the South.  They are also located centrally between Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville.  This can allow seniors to make more of their trip, especially if they wish to include a bigger city vibe into their trip.  They don’t call this area the Land in the Sky for no reason, and there is no better time to see it than in the fall.

Accessibility 

We would suggest renting a car in Asheville.  Since so many of the many of the forests change foliage at different times, it is difficult to know exactly where to be at the right time.  This means you may have to change your plans accordingly, and this is difficult to do without a car.  Asheville also does not have very good public transportation, or tour guides.  Tour guides are available, but since the region is so ambiguous, booking one in advance can be fruitless.  We would suggest hunkering down somewhere close to downtown Asheville, or anywhere in the city, and checking local reports to see where the best places to venture forth from there are.

There are three main airports that you could fly into.  The Asheville Regional Airport, Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, and Asheville National Airport.  Obviously with all airports, International ones are more accessible.  We would suggest looking at where you are planning to stay, and how far away each airport is.  Also take into account the cost of renting a car and the amount of time it will take to drive to your destination.  Asheville National Airport is the closest, but will most likely be the most expensive.  The good news is any drive during this time and in this area, is bound to be beautiful.  So, choose accordingly for you and your companions abilities, financial restrictions, and time requirements.

Article written by Nick Schaller with Senior Directory, LLC

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