They say the best thing about travel is the journey and not the destination, but we say it’s a little bit of both. You can’t deny the feeling of ultimate freedom you get from a road trip with friends, and there’s also something great about arriving at a place you’ve never been before. And while summer may be winding down, there’s no reason the adventuring has to stop, especially since fall brings changing leaves, beautiful scenery, and fewer crowds in some of America’s top destinations.
If you’re planning a trip to HI USA hostels in some of our big cities this fall, why not add on a mini road trip to an underrated destination nearby? Gather some friends (bonus points if they’re new ones you made at a hostel), and treat yourselves to a road trip adventure.
If you’re going to San Francisco
Fall is the perfect time to visit San Francisco: you’ll see fewer crowds and better weather than in the summer. And if you really want to experience the magic of the Bay Area, it’s totally worth heading out of the city and checking out the smaller towns along the Northern California coast. Take advantage of the free tours and activities offered at the HI San Francisco hostels, then set aside a day or two for a side trip to the sea.
Drive to Monterey – 2 hours
If you’re short on time, but would love to experience the iconic drive along California’s Highway 1, the drive from San Francisco to Monterey is a good compromise. You’ll ride past breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and through small beach communities and farmlands. At HI Monterey hostel, you’ll be close to the famous Cannery Row and, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, as well as beaches and biking and hiking trails. Plus, Big Sur and Carmel are not too far away with more beautiful scenery and picture-perfect beaches.
If you’re going to Washington DC
There’s so much history and culture to experience in America’s capital city, and you could easily spend a couple of days exploring the sites and making the most of all the free museums. HI Washington DC hostel is a great base for exploring, and when you’re in need for something a little different, you don’t have to go too far for a change of scenery.
Drive to Richmond – 2 to 3 hours
Richmond, Virginia is an under-the-radar destination that offers many surprises to those who dare to give it a try. You’ll find an up-and-coming food scene, craft beers, historical sights, and plenty of outdoor adventure amongst the brightly colored fall foliage. Give your car a rest for a day and explore the James River by bike, and hang out at HI Richmond where you can make friends with fellow travelers during the hostel’s in-house activities from cooking classes to neighborhood tours.
Pro tip: Avoid the mad traffic and aim to leave DC in the middle of the day.
If you’re going to Chicago
Another great destination for the fall, Chicago gets lively with fun things to do and see when the weather gets a little cooler. When you stay at HI Chicago hostel, you’ll be right in the heart of the Loop neighborhood, which gives you access to pretty much the best of everything the city has to offer. Mix it up a little bit and trade the big city lights for the laid-back college town of Madison, Wisconsin with a quick side trip.
Drive to Madison – 3 hours
See the trees with their bright red, orange, and yellow leaves, get festive with college students at a football game, and eat your fill of cheese curds with beer at the local establishments. That’s all on your to-do list when you visit HI Madison, sitting pretty in Wisconsin’s capital city and major college town. Ask the staff at the hostel for their recommendations on the best local farmer’s markets or where to go apple picking to really get into the spirit of the season.
Pro tip: If you’re not too worried about time, avoid the highways and take the scenic route through some of Wisconsin’s cute small towns.
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