Summer in the USA officially ends on Sept. 22.
School is back in session for most kids, so family travel is slowing down.
September can be a good time to travel because prices tend to drop after the frenetic summer vacation season.
Many parts of the USA are starting to cool down. And Europeans are returning to work from their summer holidays, meaning flights are not as full overseas. The summer crowds are thinning out of major European cities.
It’s a transitional month, so there are plenty of opportunities for travelers to get good deals and more pleasant experiences.
Here are a few ideas of places to travel to in September in the USA and abroad.
Last year, Napa Valley suffered through three fires that destroyed hundreds of homes.
While most wineries and vineyards were unharmed, many tourists stayed away. For a community that relies so much on tourism, it was quite a blow.
A year later, the community wants travelers to know that they are open for business. And what better way to show that than to start harvesting those grapes.
September is the peak of the harvest season, with many harvest parties, brunches, lunches, dinners, and balls taking place throughout the month.
Already, major vineyards such as Duckhorn Vineyards, Domaine Chandon, Mumm Napa, Judd’s Hill, and Monticello Vineyards have sent their fruit into the crush phase, according to Visit Napa Valley.
Napa has more than wine harvesting going on though.
The Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa, a 50-room property located at the northern end of the Silverado Trail in the town of Calistoga, just celebrated its one-year anniversary. It is a classic, 1940s roadside motel that has been reimagined by New York-based design firm AvroKO to include a nod to vintage camper vans, a pool and spa.
More lodging is also being built, such as the new 145-room Vista Collina Resort, a Meritage Collection property. Covering nine acres, it has nine tasting rooms from local wineries and breweries, an artisanal market, and a lawn for picnics, plays and private concerts.
Napa is also a culinary destination. The Restaurant at Meadwood, part of the luxry Meadowood Napa Valley resort, was named the best dining experience out of more than 1,300 hotels and resorts in 100 countries by Virtuoso, a travel advisory network.
The air is still warm in September in Ogunquit on the southern coast of Maine. So is the water. It is actually much warmer than it is in June or July.
“This beach town has it all; cute shops, art galleries, great restaurants, a fabulous beach and a mile-long marginal way that hugs the Atlantic,” says Laura Freeman, a travel advisor at The Trip Trotter, affiliated with Tzell Travel Group. “You can choose from the Main Beach, which is a sand beach, or enjoy one of the more private coves along the Marginal Way.”
Freeman recommends staying at the newly renovated Cliff House, which also has a restaurant and spa.
“Be sure to leave some time after your treatment to enjoy a glass of bubbly in the relaxation room,” she says.
The Piano Bar is great for nightlife, she says. And That Place has a happy hour with a popular bacon clam chowder.
The town can also serve as a springboard for day trips to places such as Kennebunkport, York for its outlets, and Portsmouth.
Kansas City, Missouri, is famous for its barbecue. The city celebrates that even more so in September.
“As a travel agent who loves to roam as far from home as possible, it is shocking that there is one month a year that I prefer to be in my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri,” says Jeni Schrimsher, owner of Voyages by Jeni LLC, part of the Avoya Network.
From Sept 6 to 9, the Paris of the Plains Cocktail Fest, or PoPfest, highlights Midwest bartenders. The event includes educational seminars about mixology, paired dinners and music performances.
Since 2012, the festival has been celebrating Kansas City’s vibrant nightlife, which dates back to the Prohibition era when the town had more than 100 jazz speakeasies.
To celebrate food, the American Royal World Series of Barbecue takes place at the Kansas Speedway from Sept. 13 to 16. The event includes not only plenty of food but also live music, a car show, mechanical bull, and activities for kids.
American Royal also includes the Prairie Fresh Marketplace with several local food vendors.
“A huge advantage to being near farmland is the amount of fresh ingredients for local chefs, who combine diverse international influences with home-style roots and add local distilleries and craft breweries to complete the experience,” Schrimsher says.
From Sept. 21 to 23, The Plaza Art Fair welcomes 240 artists who take over nine city blocks. Three live music stages offer entertainment and 22 restaurants booths feed the crowd of more than 250,000.
Kansas City also has many more museums than you would expect for a city its size. They include the National WWI Museum and Memorial, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, American Jazz Museum, and the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art.
To make things easier for travelers, the KC Streetcar is free and takes people around 2.2 miles of downtown.
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When people think of Oktoberfest, they assume that it starts in October.
This year, Oktoberfest begins on Sept. 22 and lasts through Oct. 7.
“Though it’s become a worldwide phenomenon, it’s still best celebrated where it began: Munich,” says Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights. “Make sure to get to the festivities early–think 7 a.m.–if you want a table because they fill up quick.”
Last-minute Oktoberfest flights can be hard to come by, but Keyes did find an unadvertised sale on American Airlines last week with flights from nearly every U.S. airport to Munich or Frankfurt for under $500 roundtrip.
There are other reasons to visit the Bavarian capital. There are dozens of museums, including the Glyptothek dedicated to ancient sculpture and the Deutsches Museum, which Munich claims as the largest science and technology museum in the world.
Munich, the third largest city in Germany, is also quite green, with many public parks such as the 900-acre Englisch Garten.
And the city has two palaces. The Residenz and Nymphenburg Palace.
Sea of Cortez
Starting this month, travelers can begin swimming with fish and sea lions in the waters around Baja California Sur. These aquatic beings call the Sea of Cortez their home, a place that Jacques Cousteau called “the aquarium of the world.”
The waters around La Paz, about a two-hour drive from Cabo San Lucas, house 39 percent of the world’s marine mammals and more than 800 species of fish.
They are now open again to tourists after a summer hiatus. The sea lion colony lives on a small rock formation called Los Islotes, located on the Espiritu Santo archipelago. From September throughout the fall and winter, snorkelers and divers can gain access to them.
Hammerhead sharks can also be seen in the Sea of Cortez during September, though they are shy and more unpredictable. Travelers with less experience diving can get professional guides from The Cortez Club.
Other tour operators that offer sustainable excursions that include the humane treatment of the marine life include RED Travel Mexico and Baja Adventure Co.
Another more far-off place to explore marine life is Fiji. The best time to visit is from July to September, when the weather is dry and sunny with highs in the 80s.
The Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort is an eco-luxury resort offering scuba diving, spa treatments, yoga, hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, sailing, and more.
Migrating humpback whales can be seen through December as they wander from the Antarctic. September is one of the best times of year for diving to see the soft corals and reef fish.
Fiji’s Namena reef is considered one of the top 10 dive sites in the world. Waters are clear this month for optimal viewing.
There are direct flights from LAX and SFO. And Fiji Airways plans to double in size in the next 10 years.