With the days getting cooler, the nights getting dimmer and the autumnal leaves beginning to shed from the trees, October marks the golden months of fall in the Northern Hemisphere and there are few more magical times to travel. Whether you’re looking to spot the best fall foliage, seeking a suitably spooky location to celebrate Halloween or hoping to swap the cold nights for sunnier climes, here’s our top picks for where to go in October.
Savannah and Charleston, Southern Belles of the U.S.
With a long history of ghostly happenings and some of the country’s best haunted houses, the Deep South seems like a fitting place to celebrate Halloween and with the summer heat finally giving way, it’s also a perfect time to check out the sights. Head to Savannah, the self-proclaimed most haunted city in America, in time for Oct. 31, where brave visitors can visit the notoriously ghost-ridden Hampton-Lillibridge House or take a ghost walking tour of the city. If that sounds a little too scary, take the family to nearby Charleston, where you can get lost in epic corn mazes, wander through colorful pumpkin patches and join in the trick-or-treating fun.
New York City
New York is one of the liveliest places to celebrate Halloween with the vibrant Village Halloween Parade marching through Greenwich Village, the annual Halloween Extravaganza at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and everywhere from Broadway to Central Park getting a spooky makeover in honor of All Hallows’ Eve.
It’s not all about the fear factor, though – October is also a beautiful time to explore outside the city, so be sure to admire New York state’s fall foliage with a walk through the Hudson River Valley, a tour of the Finger Lakes Region wineries, a hot air balloon ride in Letchworth State Park or a boat cruise down the Delaware River.
Cinque Terre or Amalfi, the Best of Coastal Italy
Make the most of the waning crowds and soak up the last of the autumn sun with a romantic fall break on the Italian coast. Low-season prices and cooler weather make October ideal for sightseeing. It’s also harvest time, so wine, olive and truffle festivals will be springing up all over the country. Seek out la dolce vita on the Cinque Terre, home to some of Italy’s best walking trails, or head south to the Amalfi Coast, where you can stroll through the picturesque lemon groves and enjoy balmy evenings by the beach.
Getting sweaty while dashing between sights and jostling for views with hundreds of other tourists is no fun, so save your city tour of Madrid for the breezy months of autumn, when the summer crowds have dispersed. October is the start of Madrid’s main cultural season, with opera and theater premieres, new art exhibitions and popular music concerts that will hit venues all over the city. This is the time to tuck into a breakfast of ‘chocolate con churros’ (hot chocolate and doughnut sticks); check out the fall foliage at El Capricho; or attend the popular Autumn Fair, famed for its notorious bullfights.
The autumn rentrée sees locals return en masse to Paris and by October, the City of Light is at its most atmospheric. A packed calendar of arts and cultural events kick off the new season, but the main highlight is the annual Nuit Blanche (White Night), an all-night arts festival, spread over the city’s top galleries, museums and venues. Visit before the weather gets too cold and you can enjoy the falling leaves in the Bois de Vincennes, cozy up in a traditional Parisian café with a view of the Eiffel Tower, or swap coffee for red wine at the Montmartre Wine Harvest Festival.
As the weather cools down in the northern hemisphere, the temperatures are heating up across the southern hemisphere and in Melbourne, October traditionally means the legendary Spring Horse Racing Carnival, the city’s biggest event of the year. This year you don’t have to wait to get dolled up and hit the racecourse — as the launch of the Carnival is Oct. 2. That’s not the only thing Australia’s cultural capital has to keep you entertained throughout October. The Melbourne Festival and Melbourne Fringe Festival present more than 300 shows, exhibitions and performances at the start of the month, but there’s also the Mind, Body and Soul Festival, the Melbourne Marathon, and the Docklands Arts and Laughs Festival. Better yet, the sun is sure to be shining.
San Francisco and Northern California
Often topping the list for fall holiday destinations, San Francisco is at its best in October, with warm weather and minimal fog and rain putting the city, literally, in its best light. This is the time of year to enjoy a cycling tour of the city, picnic in Golden Gate Park or take a tour of the Napa Valley wineries, where the end of the busy harvest season makes a perfect time for wine tasting.
Alternatively, there’s a packed roster of film, music and arts festivals to keep your schedule fully booked – try the electric Treasure Island Music Festival, the enormous Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival or the Castro Street Fair, before prepping your most gruesome costumes for the city’s myriad of Halloween bashes.
Mexico City and Oaxaca, Mexico
Nov. 2 is one of the biggest dates on the calendar for Mexicans, as the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) festivities sweep through the country and friends and family gather to honor lost loved ones. Events kick off from the end of October in Oaxaca, where the colorful celebrations include carnival-like processions (comparsas) and festive markets, and the city is decorated with elaborate altars and sand tapestries in the run-up to the big day.
Mexico City also hosts a number of lively events and exhibitions, most famously the parades and markets of San Andrés Mixquic. Of course, you don’t have to stay in Mexico to celebrate the Day of the Dead – Ecuador, Guatemala and many other countries around the world also honor the holiday, each following their own unique traditions.
Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Barbara in Southern California
If you’ve got kids in tow, San Diego is the best spot for a budget family break this fall, with its annual ‘Kids Go Free’ month kicking off on Oct. 1. Meals, museum entry, amusement park tickets and surf lessons are all free for kids for one month only so there’s no excuse for spending all day by the pool.
Even if you’re traveling sans-children, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the idyllic weather of Southern California in October – the Epicure food festival is a great way to celebrate Santa Barbara’s rich harvest, and L.A.’s theme parks will be pulling out all the stops for Halloween.
Cheaper prices and fewer crowds make October a prime time to seek out a bargain in Turkey and resorts along the Mediterranean coast will still be hot enough to get a tan. Alternatively, head inland to Cappadocia where the unearthly tuff landscapes offer a breathtaking backdrop for a hiking expedition or a sunrise hot air balloon trip. Looking for a city break instead? Istanbul’s magnificent mosques look even more dramatic beneath the shimmer of autumn sun and the city’s parks will be crammed with picnicking locals.
Boston and the East Coast
Boston makes a lively base for taking in New England’s dazzling fall colors and there are endless options for scenic drives, walks or bike rides throughout the season. The Massachusetts capital also hosts a number of events in October, including the Head of the Charles Regatta, the world’s largest rowing event of its kind, drawing crowds of over 30,000 spectators to the Charles River waterfront.
By the end of the month, the city is enveloped in Halloween celebrations but the region’s spookiest highlight is the notorious ‘Witch City’ of Salem. Take a trip to the nearby home of the infamous 1692 Salem Witch Trials and discover all the real-life details that inspired Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” and put the small town in the history books.
There’s no better way to escape the temperamental turn of the seasons, than to book a holiday in the tropics and with Bangkok emerging from its wet season, late October is a good time to find a bargain. The dry season will be under way by November, bringing the tourist hoards with it, but risk a shoulder season visit and you could benefit from cooler weather, fewer crowds and much cheaper prices. Temperatures still hover around 30 degrees Celsius though, so don’t forget your sunscreen!
As South America emerges from winter, the Patagonian spring is the best time to tour the region without having to layer up the thermals. Also, traveling during the shoulder season of October is a good bet for dodging the summer crowds and saving money on tour prices. It still gets chilly at this time of year, but the manageable temperatures mean you’ll be able to enjoy activities like hiking and horseback riding in the Torres del Paine National Park, glacier boat cruises around Ushuaia and scuba diving excursions from Puerto Madryn.
There’s a party in Las Vegas every night of the year, but fewer tour groups and cooler weather make exploring nearby sights like the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon or Death Valley best in autumn. Don’t go thinking you’ll have the place to yourself though – October events like the popular culinary extravaganza, Food and Wine All Star Weekend and others will be pulling in the crowds. Plus, with Halloween just around the corner, they’ll be plenty of gruesome entertainment and Las Vegas ghost tours on offer too.
After the scorching hot summer, Texas is finally cooling down and fall in the Lone Star State is packed with harvest festivals, like the iconic Texas State Fair, which takes over Dallas from the end of September through October. The mild weather also lends itself to exploring the great outdoors and vibrant autumnal hues will be dominating the state’s parks and woodlands. Check out the dramatic fallen leaves in the famous Lost Maples State Natural Area or get off-the-beaten-track and discover the brilliant yellow cottonwoods in the Panhandle. October is also Texas Wine Month with the 36 Hill Country wineries celebrating the end of the harvest with special tastings, wine walking trails and winery tours.
Japan might be better known for its springtime cherry blossoms than its autumn leaves, but the capital will still be awash with color during the fall. The ever-trendy Tokyans are even starting to embrace American Halloween traditions and with the Japanese penchant for quirky costumes, the city’s theme parties, parades and events are sure to be wonderfully bizarre. One of the best places to celebrate Halloween is at Tokyo Disneyland, where the two months festivities feature dazzling parades, themed shows and spooky decorations, with hundreds of visitors turning up in Disney-themed Cosplay costumes.
New Delhi, India
India’s biggest October event is normally the dazzling Diwali Festival, when the famous Hindu Festival of Lights sees the streets of New Delhi illuminated with thousands of Diyas (clay oil lamps), strings of fairy lights and enormous firework displays. This year, Diwali falls on Oct. 22, but if you can’t stick around for the main celebration, there are still a number of other religious festivals to enjoy in the capital, including the colorful Ramlila Festival shows and the glittering street parades of the Durga Puja festival.
Kids will be happy to visit Orlando’s world famous theme parks no matter the weather but Halloween is a great excuse to indulge in some unadulterated fun. Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights will be hosting the ultimate Halloween experience — a terrifying series of nightmarish mazes, haunted houses and fear-inducing live shows. Too scared? Head to Walt Disney World’s kid-friendly Halloween party instead, where fireworks, a Boo-to-You Halloween Parade of Disney characters and a decidedly less gruesome ‘haunted’ Magical Kingdom will keep the whole family entertained.
The Windy City gets an autumn makeover in October as the city’s parks shed their leaves and pick-your-own apple farms and pumpkin patches dominate the surrounding countryside. Back in the city center, film buffs flock to the Chicago international film festival and the Chicago Marathon draws nearly two million spectators to the city streets. The main highlight is, of course, Halloween, when the annual Chicagoween festival hits the central Daley Plaza — a spook-tastic extravaganza including a midnight circus, hay rides and pumpkin carving.
While you’re in town, make the most of the breezy weather and minimal crowds by touring the city’s sights — stroll the Magnificent Mile, enjoy a sunset cruise along the Chicago River and take in the views from the landmark Sears tower.
Another serious contender for America’s most haunted city is New Orleans, so it’s no surprise that the Big Easy is a popular choice for Halloween celebrations. Take a spine-tingling ghost walk, stopping at the aptly named Haunted Mansion and St Louis Cemetery No. 1, where you can visit the tomb of the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, Marie Laveau, or party the night away at the Voodoo Music Festival. And Oct. 31 isn’t the only date for the diary in New Orleans – the Crescent City Blues Festival, the New Orleans Film Festival and the Louisiana Seafood Festival are all on the bill for autumn.