Fall Weekend Getaway Ideas on the West Coast

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  • Get outdoors, enjoy great food and rejuvenate with a fall getaway on the West Coast.
  • For a lively urban escape, consider the bustling cities of Vancouver, Seattle or San Francisco.
  • Visit Mount Hood for fall colors and outdoor adventure.
  • Friday Harbor and Carmel-by-the-Sea are charming coastal towns where you can spend a laid-back, relaxing weekend.
  • Napa Valley comes alive in autumn as harvest season gets into full swing.

Take a well-deserved break from your fall routine with a weekend getaway on the West Coast. Whether you want to embrace the season and enjoy the great outdoors or visit restaurants and attractions in the city, you’ll find an array of exciting destinations.

Read on for a roundup of the best beach towns, mountain retreats and urban escapes to visit this autumn, from British Columbia to California.

1. Vancouver, British Columbia

Canada’s largest west coast city boasts rugged mountains, beautiful beaches and sweeping waterfront views. For easy access to restaurants and shopping, stay at one of Vancouver’s downtown hotels. You can start your sightseeing at the renowned Stanley Park, a natural oasis close to the city’s sleek towers. Stroll the seawall amidst the fall foliage, take a horse-drawn carriage tour and see the totem poles at Brockton Point. Granville Island is another popular attraction, with its busy public market and one-of-a-kind artisan shops. Be sure to also visit the North Shore mountains, where you can hike through coastal rainforest and take in treetop views from Capilano Suspension Bridge.

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2. Victoria, British Columbia

Victoria is a picturesque coastal community on the southern point of Vancouver Island. You’ll find shops, pubs and eateries in the city center, which is anchored by the beautiful Inner Harbour. Visit Fisherman’s Wharf to see floating homes and sample delicious offerings from food kiosks. Walk the grounds of the majestic Fairmont Empress Hotel, built in 1904, and indulge in its famous high tea with scones and finger sandwiches. Other top tourist sights include Canada’s oldest Chinatown, the historic Craigdarroch Castle and the sprawling 55-acre Butchart Gardens.

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3. Friday Harbor, Washington

It takes a little effort to get to Friday Harbor, but this serene escape on San Juan Island is well worth it. Overlooking the Salish Sea off the Washington coast, this inviting town features an array of galleries, museums, boutiques and bookstores to explore. Satisfy your appetite with fish and chips on the waterfront, or sample regional cuisine at a local restaurant. Look for Popeye, the female harbor seal that hangs out near the dock, or try to spot eagles, seals and orcas from Whale Watch Park. Friday Harbor is a ferry ride away from Orca and Lopez islands if you want to explore the region further. To get to this coastal gem, board the ferry from Anacortes, about a two-hour drive from Seattle.

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4. Seattle, Washington

You can easily spend a weekend in Seattle, immersing yourself in art, culture and history. While the city boasts diverse museums and galleries, the amazing Chihuly Garden and Glass is worth a special mention. It showcases the colorful glass art of Dale Chihuly in a garden, gallery and light-filled glass building. The Museum of Pop Culture, established by Microsoft’s Paul Allen, is a fascinating look at popular interests such as music, movies and video games. And, at Boeing Field outside of Seattle, you’ll find a display of notable aircraft at the Museum of Flight, including the Air Force One jet used by JFK. Round out your Seattle getaway with an autumn stroll through Washington Park Arboretum and Seattle Japanese Garden.

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5. Portland, Oregon

Portland is an easygoing city with a cool vibe and proud of its unofficial motto, “Keep Portland Weird.” Spend a weekend here sampling diverse cuisine, from fine Italian dining at Mucca Osteria to French cooking at Le Pigeon. But it’s not just the sit-down restaurants that will tempt your taste buds. There’s a thriving food cart scene, with pods of trucks set up throughout the city. Portland is also home to about 70 breweries, with plenty of opportunities to sample IPAs, porters and stouts. Fall is a great time for beer enthusiasts — it’s hop harvest season, and you’ll often find limited-edition beer on tap. For Latino food and culture, stop by the vibrant Portland Mercado.

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6. Mount Hood, Oregon

Just east of Portland is Mount Hood, Oregon’s highest mountain peak and a popular area for outdoor recreation. Hike through old-growth forests surrounded by brilliant fall colors or take a scenic drive to revel in mountain views. If you bring your mountain bike, you can explore the Sandy Ridge trails, which offer tracks for beginner and experienced riders. You’ll find lodges, cabins and bed and breakfasts throughout the region for a cozy stay. For an indulgent getaway, opt for a luxurious golf or spa retreat at Mt. Hood Oregon Resort.

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7. Cannon Beach, Oregon

Cannon Beach is a well-loved seaside destination on the northern Oregon coast. While the temperature may be cool in the autumn, you can still soak up the beauty of the area’s pristine beaches without the summer crowds. Take a photo in front of the iconic Haystack Rock, a 235-foot tall formation that juts out of the water, or spend an afternoon at Hug Point with its pretty waterfall and caves. The cheerful cottages that line Cannon Beach’s colorful downtown are home to boutiques, galleries, sweet shops and eateries.

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8. Napa Valley, California

It’s grape harvesting season in Napa Valley in the early fall, making it a fun time to visit California’s legendary wine region. Many wineries offer harvest tours where you can go behind the scenes to see all the action — some even let you pick grapes off the vine and stomp on them, too. When you’ve had your fill of wine tasting, enjoy the beautiful landscape by cycling, hiking or golfing. You can even soar over the valley in a hot air balloon. Put the finishing touch on your trip with fabulous meals made with the freshest farm ingredients at local restaurants.

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9. San Francisco, California

Autumn is the ideal time to visit San Francisco. The weather is warm and pleasant, and the city’s famous tourist attractions are a little less busy. Enjoy leisurely visits to Fisherman’s Wharf, Golden Gate Park, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Alcatraz. Ride the historic cable car to Lombard Street and walk down the most crooked street in the world. The Embarcadero, the lively street along the waterfront, is also a must-see. Start your stroll at the Ferry Building with its food stalls and farmers’ market, and end with a sweet treat at Ghirardelli Square.

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10. Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Located on the central California coast, Carmel-by-the-Sea boasts a mild climate that’s perfect for an autumn getaway. Spend your morning browsing unique shops and fine art galleries, then make your way to Carmel Beach at the foot of the main street, where you can soak up the sunshine and postcard-perfect views. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve offers beautiful hiking trails along the shore and a chance to glimpse seals, sea otters, sea lions and even whales. To fully enjoy this tiny town’s charms, look for the famous storybook cottages designed by Hugh Comstock in the 1920s. The buildings look like they’re plucked from a fairy tale, although today, they’re home to businesses and private residences.

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11. La Jolla, California

For a classic beach escape, head to La Jolla, a seaside neighborhood in San Diego. The fresh ocean air and glorious scenery offer plenty of opportunities to relax and unwind. La Jolla Shores Beach provides a beautiful stretch of sand for sunbathing. It’s also popular for surfing, snorkeling and scuba diving. In the fall, you might even glimpse leopard sharks in the waters. Nearby, La Jolla Caves Beach boasts seven sea caves for exploring. Many people kayak to them, as only one cave is land-accessible. The gorgeous La Jolla Cove has a small beach but is worth visiting for the sea lions and tide pools. The cove also leads to the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park, a protected marine reserve.

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12. Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara is yet another jewel on the California coastline, with plenty of shimmering beaches and ocean views and opportunities to surf, kayak, paddleboard and cycle. It also boasts attractions such as a zoo, botanic garden and museum of art. Head to the Funk Zone, a vibrant neighborhood near the waterfront, to discover restaurants, galleries, tasting rooms and breweries. Stearns Wharf, built in 1872, is a great place to watch fishermen in action and catch the sunset. The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center is right on the wharf. This regional aquarium features exhibits about the area’s unique ecosystem and lets you take a closer look at an octopus, moon jellies, seahorses and morays.

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Anita Wong

Anita Wong

Anita Wong is a freelance writer with more than 15 years of experience. She specializes in researching and writing online content for the marketing, business, travel, and health sectors, but can tackle any topic that piques her curiosity. She has a background in journalism and communications and lives on Canada's West Coast.

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