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9 Incredible Shoulder Season Travel Destinations in the US for Your Bucket List

Forget battling crowds and prices. You’ll love these shoulder season travel destinations!

Discovering our country is a thrilling prospect, especially when you discover the hidden gems of a shoulder season travel destination. There are many unsung heroes to see and explore. And the best part is that these are places that come alive when the crowds thin out.

So Must See Places is unveiling the most incredible shoulder season travel destinations in the US that deserve a coveted spot on your travel bucket list.

Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer or just seeking a tranquil retreat, these places offer a unique charm when the hustle and bustle thin out. Join us on this virtual tour as we dive into the beauty of off-season times, unlocking the secrets of each destination’s charm.

Get ready to pack your bags and discover the enchantment that awaits in these 9 lesser-known but utterly captivating corners of the nation.

Shoulder Season Travel Destination
Photo by Pernelle Voyage at Shutterstock

Kennebunkport, Maine

Have you been dreaming of a quieter Maine getaway that doesn’t skimp on coastal walks, fresh lobster, or sailing excursions? Well, then, you should head to Kennebunkport after the summer visitors have gone home.

September and October are still buzzing with activity at the shops, hotels, restaurants, and beaches. Although, you might want to pack a sweater, especially during prime foliage time.

If you explore further outside this shoulder season travel destination, White Barn Inn and Auberge Resorts Collection are charming countryside places to watch the color-changing trees and get cozy in a cottage.

We should mention, though, that things do begin to shut down in November.

Scottsdale, Arizona

Suppose you’re not ready for summer to end. In that case, we recommend planning a shoulder season getaway to Scottsdale to take advantage of clear, sunny skies and average temperatures of about 85 degrees in October.

Since the weather is pretty much guaranteed to cooperate, it’s the perfect opportunity to spend some time catching a few rays by a sparkling pool at a resort in Scottsdale at Troon North and getting your fix on outdoor activities, whether that might be striking out on cacti-filled Sonoran Desert hikes or hitting the championship golf courses.

You can also enjoy delicious al fresco dining at the many restaurants in the downtown area of this shoulder season travel destination.

Park City, Utah

Our next shoulder season travel destination stands out as a prime hotspot for the Sundance Film Festival and skiing.

But this former mining hub also impresses during the underrated fall period, when the greenery erupts in fiery glory, and the weather is perfect for biking, hiking, and driving through the stunning scenery.

You’ll find fewer tourists after the summer rush, and it’s the perfect time for shopping along Main Street, grabbing a table at the many farm-to-table restaurants, and scoring a better deal on a high-end hotel like the Montage Deer Valley.

Cayo Costa, Florida

While sun-seekers tend to head to nearby Sanibel Island to enjoy beachcombing, This shoulder season travel destination’s remote barrier reef, which is accessible by boat, offers an equally capturing backdrop and secret coastline for shelling.

While here, you can fill up your days with peaceful nature hikes, fishing, snorkeling, dolphin-watching, and exploring natural gems at Cayo Costa State Park’s over 2,400-acre green space.

We recommend staying on nearby Captiva Island, which houses the upscale South Seas Island Resort and offers opportunities for fishing, sailing, kayaking, and beachside lounging on a private golden sand stretch.

And October to November provides an excellent time to visit for comfortable temperatures between the 70s and 80s.

Shoulder Season Travel Destination
Photo by f11photo at Shutterstock

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

As one of the best small mountain towns in the US, this shoulder season travel destination is a paradise for snowboarders and skiers in the winter, with three resorts within easy reach.

But even before the first snowflakes fall, this Wyoming recreation utopia turns on the charm for travelers with clear skies, beautiful foliage, and refreshing mountain air.

Autumn tops the list of picture-perfect periods to visit Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and the National Elk Refuge. While here, if you need something a little warmer to put on, just pick up a coat at one of the Western shops in town.

San Diego, California

Well-known for its warm climate and sunny skies, this next shoulder season travel destination averages temperatures in the 70s all throughout the year.

So, while most families with school-age kids and sun-worshippers flock to the beautiful beaches in the summer, locals will tell you that this Pacific coast city is just as fun and way less crowded during shoulder season.

In the fall, you can check out the art galleries, restaurants, bars, and stores in the downtown area buzz with excitement during this time, too. It’s the perfect time to visit Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo.

March to May ushers in friendly temperatures in the mid-60s and various festivals across the city, don’t miss the Coronado Flower Show or Mission Federal ArtWalk in April, and the opportunity to explore world-class attractions without battling heavy crowds.

After visiting can’t-miss sights, visit Windansea Beach in nearby La Jolla, a picturesque stretch with sandstone rocks, a rustic thatched-roof surf shack, a palm-fringed shoreline, and large swells that beckon to surfers.

Also, travelers can save some money on flights and hotels, which might mean checking in to somewhere fancy like Pendry San Diego.

Newport, Rhode Island

Most folks think of Newport as a summer resort that captivates visitors with its buzzy waterfront restaurants, sailing regattas, and outdoor concert series.

But New Englanders know better that this Rhode Island city is especially remarkable in shoulder season when the beaches are bare.

The incredible Cliff Walk doesn’t feel so packed, and it’s possible to wander through the Gilded Age mansions without having to push through hordes of tourists.

Of course, the changing leaves, pick-your-own apple orchards, and seasonal events like the Bowen’s Wharf Seafood Food Festival are even more reasons to visit this beautiful shoulder season travel destination.

Kauapea, Hawaii

If you’re looking to deviate from the resort-laden beaches on Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach, check out the cinematic coastlines of Kauai instead.

Kauapea, a half-mile stretch known as Secret Beach and hidden amid Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and Kalihiwai Bay, has enchanting crimson cliffs and is only accessible along a ragged trail framed by lava rocks.

After taking in the incredible scenery, including tumbling waterfalls, explore other underrated gems across Kauai, from the awe-inspiring Hanalei Bay or Na Pali Coast to Poipu Beach, a top mecca for pro surfers. V

alue-minded travelers should visit this shoulder season travel destination from April to June or September to November when prices plunge, and temperatures stay in the pleasant 70s and 80s.

Shoulder Season Travel Destination
Photo by jenlo8 at Shutterstock

Aspen, Colorado

Aspen has cemented itself as a year-round recreation destination. That doesn’t change the fact that it peaks in the wintertime, with summer as a close second. But the truth is that Autumn is super low-key and arguably even more beautiful, adorned with golden leaves.

Some of the best ways to take in the stunning scenery include horseback riding, hiking, hot air balloon rides, and fly fishing. And yes, we get it! It’s well-known that this shoulder season travel destination isn’t exactly the cheapest spot to take your vacation.

But your wallet won’t take that big of a hit during shoulder season. Fall rates at Hotel Jerome, Auberge Resorts Collection are half the price of the busier ski months.

Final thoughts: Whether you’re dreaming of a Mediterranean escape or visiting somewhere closer to home, travelling in shoulder season is always a savvy idea.

Not only will you save money and avoid all the crowds, but chances are you’ll have a far better travel experience as well, free from delays or cancellations.

And no matter which shoulder season travel destination you choose, remember to pack a comfortable pair of shoes for all that exploring!

Now, leave us a comment and let us know which of these shoulder season travel destinations you’ll be traveling to first! And if you liked this post, we’re POSITIVE you’ll love this next one: 11 Most Adorable Small Towns In America

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1 thought on “9 Incredible Shoulder Season Travel Destinations in the US for Your Bucket List”

  1. I have thoroughly enjoyed this read.
    It has provided me with so many exceptional places to explore. My husband prefers domestic travel and we are always visiting the same places.
    Your list is timely because we tend to travel late summer early fall.
    Thank you, I can’t wait to plan our next vacay.

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