As the temperatures drop, so do the prices, and it's never easier to travel than the off-shoulder months of fall. These 3 road trips from Tennessee are on my radar these autumn months. Where all are you hoping to travel?

Let’s Hit the Road! 3 Awesome, Southern Fall Road Trips

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Ever since we moved back to Tennessee four years ago, SVV’s and my travel style has evolved. Gone are the days when I was an elite member of three different airline alliances; now, the majority of my state-hopping is done by car—and I prefer it that way. After all, road trips are way more fun. Wouldn’t you agree?

As the temperatures drop, so do the prices, and it's never easier to travel than the off-shoulder months of fall. These 3 road trips from Tennessee are on my radar these autumn months. Where all are you hoping to travel?

Being a control freak, I get a certain sense of pleasure out of charting my own course; plus, you get to skip the hassle of airports, TSA, delays, and cancellations and just go. With Tennessee bordered by eight states, it’s easier than ever for me to gas up the tank and go on a whim. In September, SVV, Ella and I buzzed over to Barnsley Gardens for a wedding. Earlier this month prior to my European sojourn, I zipped back down to the mountains of northern Georgia just for the night to see my five-year-old bud Mayhem (and her parents).

The trees were awash in colors, and we loved strolling the main street of the tiny town in which her grandmother lives, visiting the candy store and checking out the fall décor that seemed to pop up in every storefront. Even though it was just for 24 hours, it was the perfect road trip.
As the temperatures drop, so do the prices, and it's never easier to travel than the off-shoulder months of fall. These 3 road trips from Tennessee are on my radar these autumn months. Where all are you hoping to travel?

Ever since SVV and I started traveling as a pair a decade ago, we’ve been loyal to Enterprise Rent-a-Car, mainly due to the prices often being lower and the ease of booking (plus, the electronic check-in and staff make any “issues” ridiculously easy to fix), so it’s fun to team up with them to talk about fall travel. Year after year, September and October seem to consistently be our busiest months travel-wise, and that’s because it’s finally shoulder season when temps fall along with the price of hotel rooms, not to mention the crowds.

As the temperatures drop, so do the prices, and it's never easier to travel than the off-shoulder months of fall. These 3 road trips from Tennessee are on my radar these autumn months. Where all are you hoping to travel?

Gone are the days when everyone owns their own car, too; in fact, many of my city-dwelling friends in Seattle, San Francisco, Austin and beyond have opted to save on the cost of monthly car maintenance, payments, and insurance; instead, they simply rent one whenever they feel the urge to head out of down. Even my sister and her husband went to our local Enterprise outpost in my hometown of Tullahoma to rent a car to drive to a wedding in North Carolina last week. It couldn’t have been easier—and they both were able to keep from putting miles on their own vehicles.

Next question to consider: Where to go?

Personally, SVV and I been fortunate enough to have taken some most excellent road trips over the past couple years, but there are still plenty that top my list for fall months:

Auburn, Alabama. While my father went to school in this great Alabama college town and we’ve been a handful of times, there’s no better time in Auburn than at the height of football season (OK, maybe the year they were national champions would have been better, but still…). The weather is balmy and glorious, the trees are changing, and some of the best games—like the annual Iron Bowl against Alabama—take place during this time. Plus, Auburn is seeing a bit of a culinary boom with a few notable new restaurants, like The Hound and The Depot (both owned by my childhood pal Jana), having opened in recent years.

Drive time: 4 hours, 30 minutes

As the temperatures drop, so do the prices, and it's never easier to travel than the off-shoulder months of fall. These 3 road trips from Tennessee are on my radar these autumn months. Where all are you hoping to travel?image via Auburn and Opelika Tourism Bureau

The Outer Banks, North Carolina. I’m a fan of going to the coast during shoulder season; I don’t like braving crowds of beach-goers, which is why heading to the coastal Carolinas would be perfect in the off-months (and it’s not too cold yet to sit out in the sand with a beer in hand). I’ve never been to the Outer Banks, and this area is off the beaten path—at least for me, being based in the Nashville area—that driving is really the only way to reach them in a reasonable time frame. Bonus: If you’re a North Carolina newbie, you can tack on stops in some of the state’s best towns, like Asheville, Raleigh and Chapel Hill, along the way.

Drive time: 11 hours, 40 minutes

As the temperatures drop, so do the prices, and it's never easier to travel than the off-shoulder months of fall. These 3 road trips from Tennessee are on my radar these autumn months. Where all are you hoping to travel?image via Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

Oxford, Mississippi. Pumpkin patches, apple picking—and impressive Southern literature. I’ve always wanted to make a trip to Mississippi’s most cultured town (and the home to William Faulkner, not to mention Hotty Toddy!) to see its charming square and tailgating mecca, the Grove. Of course, with the Southern Foodways Alliance being based there—and so many of my globetrotting writer friends making the fall pilgrimage to Oxford every October for SFA—you know why I really want to go: to eat all the delicious food the town clearly has to offer! City Grocery, I’m coming for you.

As the temperatures drop, so do the prices, and it's never easier to travel than the off-shoulder months of fall. These 3 road trips from Tennessee are on my radar these autumn months. Where all are you hoping to travel?image via The Paris Review

Drive time: 4 hours, 30 minutes

Once you’ve got the car and destination settled upon, next up: lodging. While Airbnb is a great way to find last-minute accommodation if you’re flexible, I’m also a fan of Hotels.com and the app Hotels Tonight, which allows you to search for unsold hotel rooms at a discount.

Where do you want to go on your ideal road trip? What do you want to do? Who would you go with?

COMMENTS
  • October 27, 2015
    Ashlee Johnston

    I’m getting an itch to go back to Gatlinburg. Maybe even Ashville this time!!

    • November 1, 2015

      Asheville is one of my favorite road trips from Nashville! So easy and close, yet to different than anything we have in TN.

  • October 27, 2015
    FR

    Not entering the contest, but had to chime in that Durham has really passed Raleigh and Chapel Hill by. Come stay at the 21c, go to dinner at Mateo, and see how much downtown has changed in the past 5 years.

    • November 1, 2015

      Thank you for that rec! I LOVE the 21c in Louisville, so I definitely want to check out the NC one. I hope to come and see all the cities and have a number of friends living in the area, which is just an added bonus =)

  • October 27, 2015

    I’ve been hoping to take a trip back to Hot Springs, North Carolina to enjoy the hot mineral baths, take a long kayaking trip, and stay in the town’s quaint riverside cabins. Hopefully some friends will accompany me for our senior trip.

    • November 1, 2015

      Great trip idea! Jeanie and I did Hot Springs a couple years ago; we technically just passed through, but I’d love to go back and stay at one of those cabins for a couple of nights.

  • October 27, 2015

    Colorado for a brewery tour!

    • November 1, 2015

      How about North Carolina for a brewery tour (#CousinsWeekend2016) instead?

  • October 27, 2015

    Oooh, where in north Georgia? I have family from Dalton.

    I don’t think I should enter the contest because I can’t drive! But I love road-free road trips with buses and trains. I would choose to go back to Ireland by myself and hit as many small towns as possible by bus. The bus system in Ireland is excellent and cheap and all the small towns are adorable. I prefer Sligo but I can’t wait to see more.

    • November 1, 2015

      We were close to Canton! Though I drive through Dalton all the time, as it’s about an hour and change from where I live and directly on the path to Atlanta.

      YES to Ireland! The perfect road trip destination.

  • October 27, 2015
    Payal

    We just moved back to CA and I’d like to take a road trip to the Grand Canyon soon with my husband and kids.

    • November 1, 2015

      Speaking of Arizona, I’d love to do more of Route 66 myself.

  • October 28, 2015

    I love road trips! When they’re in Fall they’re even better! This post reminds me how much I’d like to explore the US by car! 🙂

    • November 1, 2015

      You need to do it! It will take you years, so I’d suggest tackling one very small region at a time =)

  • October 28, 2015

    My ideal road trip will be anywhere as long as I’m with my family. A family trip together will definitely make my fall awesome as ever.

  • October 28, 2015
    Daniel Wahlig

    My ideal road trip is to Santa Rosa Beach, FL. They have a songwriter’s festival along the 30A highway every year that’s fantastic. Hoping to bring some friends along this year!

    • November 1, 2015

      Yes! The January songwriter’s festival. I’ve wanted to go every time you told me about it. Sounds like a long drive from NYC, though 😉

  • October 28, 2015
    Angie

    I would love to visit Asheville, NC while the leaves are still colorful. Also hoping to squeeze in a peaceful night in Sewanee, TN this fall.

    • November 1, 2015

      Ohhh Sewanee. I’m going down there for brunch in two weeks, but still hoping to swing a night at the new inn with Scott one of these days!

  • October 28, 2015

    We’ve been talking about taking a ‘no kids’ weekend road trip soon. St. Pete Beach, Seaside and Apalachicola (oysters!) are on my wishlist right now.

    • November 1, 2015

      I’ve always wanted to go to Apalachicola ever since the song (who was it, Tim? I know you know your country…).

  • October 28, 2015
    Alanna

    I would roadtrip to upstate New York! Beautiful leaves and my best friend just had a baby!

    • November 1, 2015

      That sounds lovely in the fall. I regret that I didn’t see more of the Northeast while living in Manhattan. I guess there’s always still time 😉

  • October 28, 2015

    i’ve heard great things about savannah but have yet to go. glad to see auburn on your list- my brother went to school there. war eagle!

    • November 1, 2015

      My parents, unfortunately, were at the stadium yesterday for that game…eek.

  • October 28, 2015

    For the love of craft beer and our motto “will travel for beer” our dream vacation at the moment is a trip to Ashville NC – which in reality isn’t more than a road trip away. We hope to get to Wicked Weed and the many micro breweries we’ve heard so much about. While we are at it and to appease his wife, a visit to the Biltmore is in order. With the most incredible architecture and sweeping landscape, there’s plenty of eye candy. And of course there’s likely a beerstagram opportunity while we’re at it. I think I was just deep in daydream as I typed this. Thank you for that. Cheers!

    • November 1, 2015

      That sounds identical to the trip we took for my 30th birthday a few years ago! Only problem is: My birthday is in February, and it was well below freezing that weekend. I remember holing up in Wicked Weed for the day and not wanting to leave because the wind was so fierce!

  • October 29, 2015
    Lynn

    Road trip would involve Mike(hunk and husband of 31 years) road trip through Dahlonega, GA for a day and night visiting the wineries such as Wolf Mountain, Frogtown, Three Sisters and sampling anything local we can get our hands on as well as some hang out time with friends and family nearby….next stop Athens, GA for a little cool downtown brewery action…Creature Comforts Brewery and Terrapin are really great spots to sample some local flavor. Mike and I would then head back north to Asheville, NC for a couple of days to end this road trip. We never tire of this fun, vibrant city with awesome local food and of course the beer options are off the chart…its hard for us to find a better place to visit being brewery owners ourselves….

    • November 1, 2015

      Everyone needs a hunk on their road trip! 😉

      I love that idea. My mom and I did a NC road trip through Asheville, Hendersonville, etc. a couple years ago for a Southern Living assignment, and it was a total blast!

  • October 29, 2015
    Richard Fewell

    I’m ready to head back to bourbon country for some of that delightful brown water. I think you and SVV should join us.

    • November 1, 2015

      Name a date, and we’re there!

  • October 29, 2015
    Ris

    I’m in Pittsburgh, which means we’re 4-5 hours from so many cool places: Detroit, Toronto, DC, Philly, Baltimore, etc. I’ve never been to Detroit, and it’s on the top of my road trip list!

    • November 1, 2015

      I’ve never been there either, unless the airport counts. Michigan is up there in places I want to explore, though maybe I’ll wait until summer months, ha… 😉

  • October 29, 2015
    Susan H.

    I live in central California and I’d love to take a road trip to the Grand Canyon. I have only seen it (once) from an airplane and the magnitude is incredible. I’d take my husband, of course, so he can share the driving!

    • November 1, 2015

      That sounds like a most excellent trip! I haven’t been to the Grand Canyon in more than a decade since when I worked on a ranch in Arizona in 2002 and 2003. It’s definitely worthy of a road trip, though!

  • October 29, 2015
    Theresa

    I’ve heard good things about Eureka, Arkansas. Sounds like a good place for a sister trip. Maybe visit Pivot Rock, Intrigue Theater, Eureka Market and canoe the White River.

    • November 1, 2015

      I know nothing about Eureka! I’m going to have to investigate, since I’m so close by…and I’m been wanting an excuse to go to Arkansas for the Frye boots outlet alone 😉

  • October 29, 2015
    Theresa

    I’ve heard good things about Eureka, Arkansas. Sounds like a good place for a sister trip. Maybe visit Pivot Rock, Intrigue Theater, Eureka Market and canoe the White River. And Oxford, MS is always a charming trip!

  • October 30, 2015

    Thanks for share your beautiful photos..i love road trip!

  • October 30, 2015
    Brooke

    I could use a little roadtrip to Tennessee! Would love to spend a few days in Nashville during Christmas!

  • October 30, 2015
    sandyhills

    I would say that I would love to visit the mountains of Colorado to view Mt Wilson and Capital Peak and art museums with friends.

    • November 1, 2015

      It must be your lucky day: You won!!

  • October 30, 2015
    Lydia

    Road trip to Savannah and Charleston!

    • November 1, 2015

      Two of my very favorite U.S. cities! So convenient that they’re so close.

  • October 30, 2015

    I love the Outer Banks in the off-season! But it’s great in the summer, too, and if you head up to some of the more northern areas like Corolla and the 4×4 beaches, you won’t find crazy beach crowds at all. I highly recommend it!

    • November 1, 2015

      I think I’ve missed the boat for going this fall…how is it in spring shoulder season?

      • November 2, 2015

        I’ve never been in the spring (only in June, August, and November), but I’m guessing the crowds aren’t bad. Maybe with the exception of spring break? I’m not sure. The water will be too cold of course, but it’s still such a pretty area! If you go far enough north, you’ll get to see the wild horses.

  • October 31, 2015
    Eileen Martinez

    I would love to drive up to Rocky Mountain National Park and do the circle drive up to Estes Park and the Stanley Hotel. There are some great hot springs in those hills! Also, I have been wanting to drive through Shenandoah National Park in the summer or fall. I hear it is beautiful!

    • November 1, 2015

      I’ve only been in spring, and Shenandoah was so stunning and green! Also haven’t been to Estes Park. Let’s go together! =)

  • October 31, 2015
    Michelle L

    Where do you want to go on your ideal road trip? What do you want to do? Who would you go with?

    Im non US, and Id love to do the rocky mountians. Id visit Banff, etc and trek across the province. Id go sightseeing and would take my family.

  • October 31, 2015

    We should all team up for a SF to Vancouver road trip!!
    We’ve been drooling over that one for awhile 🙂
    Ella and Kitty can be our sidekicks 🙂

    • November 1, 2015

      OK! We’re actually going to Seattle for Christmas this year. Love me some PNW =)

  • October 31, 2015
    Kathryn

    Southwest road trip. San Diego, Palm Springs and some warm spots.

    • November 1, 2015

      I haven’t been to Palm Springs since college! I’d love to get back there and stay at the Ace. That pool looks amazing.

  • October 31, 2015
    Meghan

    I would head to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. It’s the best time of year to visit!

    • November 1, 2015

      Totally agree. Just don’t forget to stop at a brewery or six along the way 😉

  • November 1, 2015

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  • November 1, 2015

    I love going on road trips when I’ve got a road trip buddy. Solo they’re ok for short distances (I can sing as loud as I want to). This really is the perfect time of year to take them too. Love all those fall colours.

    • November 1, 2015

      Haha, so it sounds to me like you need to interview for road trip buddies who will sing every bit as loud as you will, amirite?

      (If TSwift is allowed in your car, that very well might be me!)

      • November 1, 2015

        TSwift is totally allowed in my car. 🙂 You’re right, road trip singalongs should be mandatory.

  • November 15, 2015
    Yok

    Hey! Dropped by to check-in and I see you have redesigned your website since I last said hello. Congrats. 🙂

    The outerbanks look crazy! Do people swim in those cold waters or instead enjoy the sand and BBQing?

    • January 11, 2016

      I’m guessing a little of both. I’ve been to the Outer Banks once, and really enjoyed the little town of Ocracoke. Artsy and fun, all in one. And in those parts they like their vinegar based BBQ sauces that have some kick to them. I’m still liking the sweet sauces though. And for what it is worth, my favorite BBQ place is Mark’s Feed Store in Louisville, KY (been there twice). There are others, but this is still my favorite.

      • January 13, 2016

        Good to know! I have eaten my way through much of Louisville but never been there! And being a Southern gal, I do so love my BBQ.

  • January 11, 2016

    You are so right about those car rental fees. If I rent a car at the Denver airport it would cost me $200 per day. Rent out of the downtown location and the price is chopped virtually in half. Just have to get to and from the airport, which in the case of Denver, is either an expensive cab ride or a much more modest Super Bus ride. And they ARE building a light rail extension all the way to the airport.

    • January 13, 2016

      The worst is when you want to pick up at one airport (say LAX) and drive one way to drop it off at another (SFO). It often works out to near double the price!

  • December 30, 2018

    Great tips, thanks for sharing. I’m currently organizing a road trip and your post definitely gave me lots of inspiration. Wishing you and your loved ones a happy 2019 🙂

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