Sun-soaked beaches, pristine ski runs, fabulous fall colors: These are what we picture when we envision the perfect seasonal getaway, and seeing a destination in all its summer or winter splendor is part of the allure of travel.
But visiting in the off-season offers plenty of perks, too. Among them are lower rates, fewer crowds, and easier access to popular attractions, restaurants, and more. We’ve rounded up six of our favorite seasonal destinations across the country, from the sunny shores of California to the scenic wetlands of Hilton Head. We’d argue that each is just as special in the off season as it is in its peak season.
Park City, Utah
Off season: April to November
Just 36 miles east of Salt Lake City lies this world-class ski destination, home to Deer Valley, one of the most renowned resorts in the country. Park City also plays host to the annual Sundance Film Festival each winter. But in the summer, get a birds-eye view of the Wasatch Range with a ride on the ski lifts, still open for scenic rides throughout the warmer months. Once at the top, hike the myriad trails that crisscross the mountains for more stellar views.
Off season: November to Memorial Day
Throughout the summer, East Coasters flock to Maine, where quaint Kennebunkport awaits, having earned widespread recognition as the home of the Bush family’s summer compound. In the spring and winter, cozy up in the Old Vines Wine Bar, offering tapas-style fare and an extensive wine list. Peruse Dock Square, Kennebunkport’s charming shopping center, where handcrafted nautical wares are available for purchase. And don’t forget to enjoy a lobster roll before you leave—we recommend Alisson’s, a family-owned local favorite that’s open year round.
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Off season: Labor Day to Memorial Day
Everyone’s favorite summer road trip destination, the Grand Canyon is one of the most iconic symbols of the American West. Beat the Arizona heat and escape the summer crowds with a visit in fall, winter, or spring. The canyon’s South Rim, the most popular part of the canyon, is open year round. There, explore historic Grand Canyon Village. And on the West Rim, get a breathtaking aerial view of the canyon on the glass-floored Skywalk, jutting more than 70 feet over the side of the rim.
Laguna Beach, California
Off season: October to May
Nestled along California’s southern coast, Laguna Beach is a small artistic enclave in the heart of Orange County, offering more than 30 coves and beaches perfect for snorkeling, surfing, sunning, or strolling. In the fall, winter, and spring, Laguna’s most popular beaches, like Crescent Bay, thin out considerably. So too do nearby hiking trails. Explore Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, home to some of the last remaining coastal canyons in Southern California. Typically arid in the warmer months, the canyons come to life in March and April as spring rains sweep through.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Off season: October to April
Home to pristine beaches, premier whale-watching, and storied Kennedy family history, Cape Cod is a little slice of maritime marvel. Plenty of nautical delights are open year round in the Cape. Opt for a deep dive into the area’s history at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History. Tour the Cape Cod chip factory for a behind-the-scenes look at one of the country’s best-selling snacks. The Cape’s also a premier destination for antiquers—cozy up and keep an eye out for unique treasures in shops that dot the cape, like the Sandwich Antiques Center.
Hilton Head, South Carolina
Off season: November to March
South Carolina Lowcountry is a serene retreat any time of the year, but the best of the Lowcountry seems to go hand in hand with its low season. Temperatures rarely dip below 60 degrees on Hilton Head, making the fall and winter an ideal time for golfers and tennis players, when courses and courts are devoid of crowds. Food aficionados will also appreciate that the low season coincides with oyster season, running from October to March. It’s much easier to get a seat at stellar Hilton Head restaurants to sample them, too: We recommend Poseidon Coastal Cuisine.