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 extend your summer vacations throughout the month, with the bonus of fewer tourists — and, often, lower prices. Whether you're an empty nester, a millennial foodie or a seeker of hot spots without the crowds, here are seven ways to stretch your summer beyond Labor Day.
Maine for families with babes
Maine holds onto summer for several weeks into September, when many resorts popular with multigenerational clans remain open. Throughout the month, vacationing children tend to be 5 years old or younger, not ready for school or structured programming.
"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, owner of Sebasco Harbor Resort, which is marking its 90th season on Maine's Midcoast, about an hour's drive from Portland. Sebasco packs picnic baskets for beach outings nearby, where families can splash in water 1 to 2 feet deep up to 100 feet from shore (rooms from $179, with meal plans $50 for adults; children under 12 whose parents are on the meal plan eat free).
Inland, Grant's Kennebago Camps on Kennebago Lake offers cabin accommodations, communal dining and family-size canoes (rates, including meals, start at $165 per adult; $60 for ages 7-12).
Gulf Islands for empty nesters
The start of the college academic year signals empty-nest season. 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 such as 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, owner of the seven-room Salt Spring Inn on Salt Spring Island (rooms about $142). "We have tons of culinary delights grown and made here."
The inn is near the Saturday farmers 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 taking the BC Ferries. 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 Canadian per person).
Asheville for food lovers
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, N.C., a destination for millennials, foodies and adventurers. 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 also a design attraction for nonguests, with a market stocking Asheville-made goods and the Benne on Eagle restaurant from chef John Fleer, serving what it calls "Appalachian soul food."
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).
Bermuda for the adventurous
The British-accented Atlantic island of Bermuda has long been a favorite of family travelers, honeymooners and cruise passengers. In recent years, it has nurtured an adventurous streak.
"As Bermudians, we've grown up testing ourselves against physical challenges our island lends itself so well to: cliff climbing, abseiling, ocean kayaking, scuba, trail running and triathlon," said Rosemary Jones, author of the Bermuda guide for Avalon Travel's Moon Handbook series and a spokeswoman for the Bermuda Tourism Authority.
In 2017, the island, which generally prohibits visitors from renting cars, began allowing some electric vehicle rentals, making it easier to get around. 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.
While the weather is still fair in September, which is also hurricane season, deals spike. The Fairmont Southampton 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.
Colorado for history fans
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 600 to 1,300 years ago (admission, $25 per vehicle). After the summer crowds have left, the ruins of elaborate housing warrens tucked under sandstone overhangs are 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 are $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 (rooms from about $150).