By most academic calendars, summer is over after Labor Day. But fall doesn’t officially begin until late September and continued warm weather in many destinations means you can effectively extend your summer vacations throughout the month, with the bonus of fewer tourists — and often, lower prices. So, whether you’re an empty nester, a millennial foodie or a seeker of hot spots without the crowds, here are eight ways to stretch your summer beyond Labor Day.
For families with young children: Maine
Maine holds onto its summer for several weeks into September when many resorts and camps popular with multigenerational clans remain open. Throughout the month, vacationing children tend to be 5 years old or younger, neither ready for school nor structured programming at these retreats, which tend to scale back activities.
“You can still explore sea life and tidal pools, but after Labor Day it’s more families bonding with the kids, rather than the kids going off to camp,” said Bob Smith, the owner of Sebasco Harbor Resort, which is marking its 90th season on Maine’s Midcoast, about an hour’s drive from Portland. “It’s a time to explore with the parents.”
Sebasco packs picnic baskets for beach outings nearby where families can splash in water one- to two-feet deep up to 100 feet from shore (rooms from $179, with meal plans $50 for an adult; children under 12 whose parents are on the meal plan eat free). The resort stocks child-size fishing gear and golf clubs to play the free three-hole practice course. The recreation center has vintage candlepin bowling played with balls small enough for little hands to grip.
A three-hour drive north of Portland, Grant’s Kennebago Camps on Kennebago Lake offers cabin accommodations, communal dining in a lakefront hall and family activities such as moose-watching from a family-size canoe (rates, including meals, start at $165 per adult; $60 for children 7 through 12).
For empty-nesters: Gulf Islands, British Columbia
The start of the college academic year signals empty-nesting season, the upside of which is parents reclaiming a share of personal time. Indulge this by ferrying around Canada’s Gulf Islands, clustered between the British Columbia mainland and Vancouver Island.
Salt Spring Island is the largest of the southern Gulf Islands, which also include Galiano, home to restaurants like Pilgrimme, and secluded Saturna, where travelers can watch for orca whales from land.
“In addition to being a transition time from family to adult vacations, September is harvest month,” said Jeremy Milsom, the owner of the seven-room Salt Spring Inn on Salt Spring Island (rooms from 189 Canadian dollars, or about $142). “We have tons of culinary delights grown and made here.”
Within walking distance from the inn is the Saturday farmer’s market, as well as kayak and bike rental services for venturing farther afield to lavender farms, wineries and tranquil coves.
Traveling between the islands requires coordinating the BC Ferries schedules. With groups of six to 12, Arbutus Routes cycling company will customize seven-day cycling tours that may visit four of the islands (2,999 dollars a person).
For hot-spot seekers: Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.
Popular with celebrities, politicians and many others, Martha’s Vineyard, roughly seven miles south of Cape Cod, quiets down somewhat after Labor Day. Weekends are still booming, especially with weddings, which testify to the fine weather of September, though bargain midweek rates and a roster of events aim to entice visitors.
“For those who are in the know, September is most frequently cited as the best month to enjoy Martha’s Vineyard,” said Chris Bird, the general manager of the Harbor View Hotel, which offers the third night free for midweek bookings through Oct. 31 (rooms from $389). “It’s truly still summer without the crowds and high humidity.”
From Sept. 3 to 8, the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival will screen dozens of films, most of them foreign, under the theme “Other Places, Other People” (general admission $15; festival pass $250). On Sept. 21, the Martha’s Vineyard Craft Beer Festival aims to tap 50 breweries in Waban Park in Oak Bluffs. More than 3,000 anglers generally show up for the annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass & Bluefish Derby, Sept. 15 to Oct. 19.
For millennials (and foodies of any age): Asheville, N.C.
Easy access to the Blue Ridge Mountains, combined with a creative community that has energized everything from craft beer to kayak design, has made Asheville a darling destination of millennials, foodies and adventurers alike. It’s also affordable; Airbnb lists apartments from $60 and entire cabins from $75.
Staying at the new Foundry Hotel is more expensive (rooms from $289), but the reinvented 19th-century steel foundry is a design attraction for non-guests too, home to a market stocking Asheville-made goods and Benne on Eagle restaurant from the chef John Fleer, serving what it calls “Appalachian soul food.”
“This business helped create the city skyline that you see today,” Larry Crosby, the hotel’s historian and director of guest services, said.
It is also helping revive the Block neighborhood, a former hub of African-American commerce, and the site of a walking tour during Chow Chow, a new culinary festival running Sept. 12 to 15 devoted to southern Appalachian culture, including foraged dinners and food truck feasts (ticket prices vary; some events free).
Work it off in local style aboard a Bellyak, a kayak derivation in which paddlers lie on their bellies and use their hands, clad in webbed gloves, to paddle. Adam Masters designed the Bellyak to be closer to nature, and his company offers half-day tours on the Tuckasegee River ($95) or delivers vessels to paddlers downtown to float the French Broad River ($35), both expected to be warm throughout the month.
Getaway for adventurous guys: Bermuda
The British-accented Atlantic island of Bermuda, just over two hours by air from New York City, has long been a favorite of family travelers, honeymooners and cruise passengers. In recent years, it has nurtured an adventurous streak that makes it appealing for those who love being outdoors.
“As Bermudians, we’ve grown up testing ourselves against physical challenges our island lends itself so well to — cliff-climbing, abseiling, ocean-kayaking, scuba, trails running and triathlon,” wrote Rosemary Jones, author of the Bermuda guide for Avalon Travel’s Moon Handbook series and a spokeswoman for the Bermuda Tourism Authority, in an email.
In 2017, the island, which generally prohibits visitors from renting cars, began allowing some electric vehicle rentals, making it easier to get around for those who don’t want to ride scooters (Current Vehicles offers the Renault Twizy for about $100 a day). Use one to get to Clarence Cove in Admiralty House Park to rock-climb a sea cliff free-solo style (without ropes, trusting the water to break your fall). Run, hike or walk some of the 18-mile Bermuda Railway Trail National Park, which passes a series of British forts.
While the weather is still fair in September, which is also hurricane season, deals spike. The Fairmont Southampton, for example, offers an all-inclusive stay at $299 a person for lodging, meals and snacks. The Rosedon Hotel has rates from $276 in September, about half its August rates.
Getaway for adventurous women: Wyoming
Guest ranches in the West tend to lose their family patrons just as prime fly-fishing season begins. The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch shares 30,000 acres near Saratoga in south central Wyoming, about an hour’s drive from Laramie, with a working cattle ranch and 20 miles of private fishing riverfront, including 10 miles on the North Platte River. In September, cooler nights stimulate the fish that come to the surface for insect hatches of tricos, blue-winged olives and caddis.
“September has ideal flows, the river is clear and the temperatures are good,” said Matt Anderson, the ranch’s director of activities and outfitting. Learning to fly-fish, he added, is a lifelong sport to master, and the industry is actively encouraging women to fish.
Fly-fishing is part of the roster of all-inclusive activities on the ranch, including horseback riding, archery, mountain biking, yoga and hiking on 50 miles of trails, ranging from 6,900 to 12,000 feet elevation. The ranch raises its own Wagyu cattle that supplies the kitchen, and offers a number of culinary classes, including cheese-making and butchery.
Lodging options include log homes that are ideal for group getaways. All-inclusive rates start at $700 a person in September, versus $900 in August.
For romantics: Ischia, Italy
Like nearby Capri without the spotlight, Ischia in the Gulf of Naples continues to enjoy summerlike temperatures in September, ideal for hitting the beaches that edge the volcanic island.
“A short boat ride from Naples, Ischia is a small slice of Italian ‘dolce vita’ that still remains rather under the radar,” wrote Joan Roca, the chief executive and founder of Essentialist, a membership-based travel planning company, in an email. “There is an authenticity to Ischia that is hard to find these days, and there is a sense that life carries on throughout the year with or without tourists.”
The island’s thermal springs, such as the popular Poseidon Thermal Gardens, have been patronized by travelers since the Roman era. Matteo Della Grazia, who owns the tour company Discover Your Italy, which offers a six-day tour of Naples and Ischia (from 3,225 euros, or about $3,590), recommends the Sorgeto Beach hot springs, which mix with the ocean to create “hot, warm or cold water just like in the best spas, but these are free and available year-round,” he said.
Inland, the so-called Green Island is also known for the terraced vineyards that form the winemaking heart of the island below Monte Epomeo.
Splurge like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton who summered at the 128-room Hotel Regina Isabella (from 517 euros). The more affordable Albergo Il Monastero occupies the Aragonese Castle, dating back to the Middle Ages, with vaulted passages and olive groves on its own island, which is connected by a bridge to Ischia (doubles from 125 euros).
For history fans: Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park protects nearly 5,000 archaeological sites related to the Ancestral Pueblo people, who left behind cliff dwellings and other structures in the canyons of southwest Colorado between 600 and 1,300 years ago (admission, $25 per vehicle). After the high-season summer crowds have left, the ruins of elaborate housing warrens tucked under sandstone overhangs remain more peaceful.
“In September, you still have the warmth of summer, leafed-out green deciduous trees and highs in the low 80s or high 70s,” said Kelly Kirkpatrick, the director of tourism for Mesa Verde Country, the area tourism board. “The crowds have died down but all the services are still open.”
While travelers can tour most of the park throughout the year, three of its big cliff dwelling sites are only accessible via ranger-guided tours, which stop running between Sept. 22 and mid-October (tickets $5). For a more in-depth tour, sign up for the four-hour 700 Years Tour offered by the park’s concessionaire Aramark ($75). It also runs the Far View Lodge in the park, which features a dining room with panoramic views and guest-room balconies for dark-sky stargazing (rooms from about $150).