September Family Travel Guide

A boat ride across San Francisco Bay goes to Alcatraz, where a tour covers former inmates, escapes, history, and more. (John A. Martini)

Allagash River, Maine
Perhaps the way the blue streak of water slips off the map of America's northern fringes, remote and isolated, hundreds of miles from the nearest metropolis, gives Maine's Allagash River its legendary stature. Head there in early autumn and you'll soon understand why. It's the time of year when the usual mute moose talks as much as Bullwinkle, the leaves on the hillside are enflamed, and absolutely no other humans are present on the river. If you want to join a group, Registered Maine Guides, Garrett and Alexandra Conover, know the river better than most.

Al Capone's former home, Alcatraz, has just finished a $3.5 million renovation. Visitors to the infamous federal penitentiary in San Francisco Bay, dubbed “the Rock," arrive at the historic cellhouse and follow in prisoners' footsteps with the new Doing Time audio tour. Join a guided tour of the island, which covers former inmates, escapes, history, and movies made on the island. The boat ride from San Francisco to Alcatraz and back features one of the best views you'll ever see of the Bay Area, so long as the fog doesn't roll in.

Grand Forks, North Dakota
The world's largest french fry feed, fireworks, and parade make up just a few of the events happening at Potato Bowl, USA. Held in mid-September in Grand Forks, North Dakota, the weeklong event culminates in a University of North Dakota football game. The Fighting Sioux team up with the potato farmers of Red River Valley to host the festival.

Sacramento, California
Over Labor Day Weekend, Old Sacramento, California, transforms to the days of yore during the annual Gold Rush Days. The dirt streets fill with miners, street musicians, story tellers, and wagon trains. Be sure to stop at the jail, apothecary, blacksmith shop, and saloon, where you can buy food from the actual days of the Gold Rush.

West Springfield, Massachusetts
Every year, more than a million people head to West Springfield, Massachusetts, for the northeast's largest fair, The Big E. Held mid- to late-September, this onetime agricultural and horse show now features big-name entertainment, a circus, daily parades, international food, and rides. Make sure to take a walk along Avenue of the States, where you can visit replicas of all the New England statehouses.

Babe Ruth Museum, Baltimore
The second most popular baseball site after Cooperstown is not the House that Ruth Built (Yankee Stadium), but the one he was born in, on February 6, 1895. Here, in the city of Baltimore, at 216 Emory Street, Ruth learned to eat half of a dozen hot dogs at one sitting. Touch his baseball caps, boyhood bat, and gloves in this small three-story red brick apartment house before venturing two blocks east to Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles. Ruth's father once owned a saloon in the spot that is now Camden Yards' centerfield.

Corpus Christi, Texas
From September 28 to 30, Corpus Christi, Texas, takes perfect advantage of its waterfront locale to host Bayfest. Watch the Nickelodeon shows on the Family Stage or take in the alligator show on the Barge Dock. You can also fish for bass in Adventure Bay, go on rides, and visit the petting zoo.)

Cascade Mountains
Every year, the people of northwestern Washington celebrate the salmon's return to the Wenatchee River. Held mid-September on the grounds of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery in the Cascade Mountains, the Wenatchee River Salmon Festival both entertains and educates the family. Follow a fish biologist into a creek to see where fish live and eat, try the salmon maze, do a fish rubbing, and follow the smell of roasted salmon to a Native American teepee encampment, where you can participate in authentic beading, drumming, and dancing. Afterwards, everyone enjoys a salmon dinner.

Canadian Rockies
After Labor Day, the trails and roads of the Canadian Rockies are far less crowded, especially at popular Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta. You can bike around that exquisite gem of water, Lake Louise, perched a mile high and ringed by the snowcapped Rockies, take a guided walk on a glacier with Rangers, raft down the Athabasca River, and maybe even spot a grizzly or two…from a distance.

The State Rooms at Buckingham Palace open to the public for only two months out of the year, August and September. This offers a rare opportunity to visit the Queen's residence in the city. Rooms lavishly furnished with some of the greatest treasures of the Royal Collection include paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, and Vermeer, plus a collection of English and French furniture that spans the ages. Also in London, the Houses of Parliament open for viewing from September 19 to October 5. Stroll inside for a chance to see the chambers of the House of Lords and House of Commons.

Boston-based writer Stephen Jermanok has authored or contributed to 11 books on the outdoors, including Outside Magazine's Adventure Guide to New England , Discovery Channel's Backcountry Treks , Discovery Channel's Paddlesports , Outside Magazine's Guide to Family Vacations and Men's Journal's The Great Life . His latest book is New England Seacoast Adventures . His many adventures appear in National Geographic Adventure , Outside , Men's Journal , Forbes FYI , Travel + Leisure , Hooked on the Outdoors , and Backpacker . He can be reached at

Published: 26 Apr 2007 | Last Updated: 21 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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