Fall travel is, without a doubt, the best kind of travel. The weather virtually everywhere on Earth is just better in the fall. Case in point: I was in Croatia last week, and — while it had been a hot summer, it was 75 and sunny for the entirety of my stay — and, of course, it was far more navigable in the absence of the summer tourist, too.
Further, according to the travel booking app Hopper, average round-trip domestic airfares for September and October are down 37% to $238 — $142 below average summer round-trip domestic flights, and another 3% percent below 2019 prices. In other words: if airfare at a premium kept you grounded for the majority of the summer months, carpe diem…it’s time.
Luckily, Brandon Berkson knows a thing or two about travel. After being furloughed from his job as a travel publicist, Berkson turned his focus to his then-pandemic hobby — an Instagram page for hotel enthusiasts — and grew it into a full-fledged media company that highlights the world’s trendiest hotels, restaurants and destinations. The resulting product, Hotels Above Par, is an “expert-curated guide to the world’s coolest boutique hotels and travel experiences.” Since its inception, Hotels Above Par has amassed a readership of more than 155,000 across its various platforms.
And it’s easy to see why: Berkson has a very finely honed radar when it comes to travel trends, coupled with a penchant for high-end and forward-looking hotels. It’s why I correctly assumed that Berkson would be the perfect candidate to select the seven best fall travel destinations for this year (he certainly got it right in spring). Below, his recommendations for an autumn jaunt of either the domestic or international variety.
Portland, Oregon, is a city in the Pacific Northwest that is exceedingly multi-faceted. Endless forests, cool hipster-y neighborhoods and an unrivaled food truck scene are just a few splendors of many that make the city so unique.
Where to Stay: Palisociety’s Hotel Grand Stark sits in Portland’s Central Eastside neighborhood. The 57-key boutique stay’s contemporary classic interior pays tribute to the Pacific Northwest, reflected in the lobby, with its splashes of hunter green and vintage furnishings.
What to Do: So many neighborhoods span throughout the city. My favorites are the Pearl District — Powell’s Books is located here (A.K.A the best bookstore ever) — as well as Nob Hill/NW 23rd Avenue area, which is lined with cool shops and restaurants, as well as coffee shops galore (Portland’s coffee scene is superb).
Where to Eat: Kachka is an unrepeated restaurant with a menu comprising dishes that reflect the cuisine of the former Soviet Union. The vodka menu, which boasts 50+ types of Vodka from around the globe, from Moldova to Russia, is one of the best I’ve ever seen.
Oceanside, California, is the SoCal beach town you need to have on your radar. It’s approachable and economical yet burgeoning and trendy. The stuffiness of other nearby beach towns, such as Laguna Beach and La Jolla, feel a lifetime away when here. The past five to seven years have seen the city go through a renaissance: more cute boutique hotels, inviting cocktail bars and farm-to-table restaurants seem to debut each day. If you’re a fan of surfing, then Oceanside is your kind of town.
Where to Stay: Mission Pacific Hotel is right across from the beach. Its coastal flair is both laid-back yet chicly-appointed. For all the Top Gun fans out there, the Graves House, seen in the original movie, sits on the premises. Keeping the original historic structure, the hotel transformed the home into a dessert bar called The Famous High-Pie.
What to Do: Oceanside City Beach and Oceanside Pier make for the perfect fall travel beach day. The California Surf Museum imparts interesting historical nuggets surrounding the state’s most famous sport, surfing.
Where to Eat & Drink: Cococabana is a Caribbean-style restaurant & bar atop the new boutique Brick Hotel. Expect a buzzy vibe, tropical cocktails, and delicious bites — the Pulpo Ceviche is a must-try.
When it comes to destinations “having a moment,” the Portuguese Island of Madeira ranks high. And pretty soon, it will be more accessible than ever, due to a new permanent direct flight commencing this November, providing air service from New York City to the isle’s main city, Funchal. So what does Madeira have to offer for your fall travel? The list goes on and on, from a medley of five-star accommodations to Michelin-star restaurants and hiking trails galore through its verdant sea-facing mountains.
What to Do: The island is beautiful at every corner, so hiking is a must here. Quintessential to Madeira, there are over 200 levadas — former irrigation trenches that now act as hiking trails. The town of Funchal is charming, too, with its medley of provincial shops and restaurants.
Where to Stay: Reid’s Palace, a Belmond Hotel is a sugar-pink palace that sits atop an Atlantic Ocean-fringing cliff. It’s a luxe seaside fortress, to say the least.
Where to Eat: Reid’s Palace’s Michelin-starred William Restaurant is a knockout — it pairs farm-to-table cuisine with Portuguese elegance and sensational sea views.
The United States’ Northeast region is one of the best places in the world for fall travel, given all the breathtaking foliage. Trees here stun visitors with their special-to-the-season yellow, gold, orange, and red leaves.
What to Do: Enjoy sweater weather and hike through the area’s fall-foliage forests. The setting makes for a perfect romantic trip.
Where to Stay: The five-star Twin Farms is a Relais & Chateaux boutique hotel comprising 20 rooms. It was the former countryside home of author Sinclair Lewis and his journalist wife, Dorthy Thompson. Here, it’s all about shedding any hustle and bustle you brought from home: experiencing a nourishing treatment at the on-site Bridge House Spa and strolling around the hotel’s 300 acres, where you will witness Twin Farms’ 18th-century farmhouse, endless treescape and resident pond, are just a few ideas of where to start.
Where to Eat: Chef Nathan Hill helms the culinary efforts at Twin Farms, curating an ever-changing menu with dishes imbuing farm-to-table ingredients, many procured on-site. If with your significant other, I recommend booking a Private Wine Cellar Dinner: a bottle-lined, candle-lit space and experience where you will indulge in a five-course dinner, accompanied by special wine pairings courtesy of the head sommelier.
Thailand is a Southeast Asian gem. Its capital, Bangkok, is an eclectic Asian metropolis that’s inimitable to its core. Gold shrines, delicious street food on every corner and boat-filled canals are all on offer here.
What to Do: The Grand Palace is a feast for the eyes. Today, the centuries-old site hosts royal enclaves (the Thai royal family left in 1925, but the regality still remains ubiquitous), ceremonial spaces and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Those looking to shop should head to the Chatuchak Weekend Market (often called JJ market). It’s one of the world’s largest outdoor markets, home to more than 15,000 stalls selling everything under the sun, from clothing to art to home décor items and accessories.
Where to Stay: Banyan Tree Bangkok is a high-rise, five-star hotel offering a slice of renowned Thai luxury (the hospitality and service in Southeast Asia are some of the world’s best). Every room and suite here has a separate bath and shower, plus extra living space, making accommodations feel spacious. Recharging at the hotel’s spa, with its panoramic views of the Bangkok cityscape and expansive treatment menu, is the move.
Where to Eat: Thai food has my heart. Regarding noshing in Bangkok, I recommend indulging in home cooked-style Thai cuisine in the city’s old quarter at Samsong. It’s a complete mom-and-pop joint. The Sukhothai noodles (basically rice noodles alongside string beans and pork broth) are a must-order.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities in the world. It’s impossible not to fall in love with all the gingerbread-style houses, historical heartthrobs, houseboat-filled canals, bike-friendly streets and chic boutiques.
What to Do: Amsterdam is full of so many noteworthy places. I find Holocaust education extremely important, so I always am keen on recommending a visit to the Anne Frank House. If you are a fan of art, the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum should be on your list. Naturewise, Vondelpark is a sizable greenspace perfect for a midday stroll.
Where to Stay: Elect to stay at Small Luxury Hotels of the World’s Canal House Amsterdam which comprises 23 rooms across three historic merchant homes. It’s right on Keizersgracht, a main canal in the city.
Providenciales, Turks & Caicos
If you’re looking for Caribbean seclusion during your fall travel, the remote archipelago of Turks & Caicos should be on your list. Tropical landscapes, crystal-clear water and luxe hotels are what awaits here.
What to Do: Take a boat tour with Caicos Dream Tours, where you will sail the Caribbean Sea, snorkeling alongside an abandoned shipwreck and playing witness to the area’s clutch of deserted islands. One of these islands includes Iguana Island, an uninhabited sanctuary replete with roaming feral iguanas.
Where to Stay: The Shore Club, Turks & Caicos is a five-star hideaway right on the beach. The suites — with their island-esque décor, spaciousness and dreamy views of the Caribbean Sea — are perfect for those “looking to go luxe” during their fall travel.
Where to Eat: A Turks & Caicos staple, Da Conch Shack’s pink and white buildings, beachfront outdoor dining space, plus soundtrack of reggae music and intervallic waves in the background, will make you fall in love with the Caribbean. Order their most famous dish, the conch fritters.
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