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It almost seems like there should be a specific word for the feeling of October in the United States. Not unlike the Danish hygge — best described as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment” — October stands for snuggly sweatshirt weather, leafy lawns, football, family, pumpkin chai lattes, and the kind of weirdly satisfying idea that winter is coming. If you can squeeze in a trip between your summer and end-of-year festivities, October is a great time to get out of town. While some places like New England seem to embody this whole October-hygge feeling perfectly with clam chowder and spooky Halloween traditions, other destinations offer a last-ditch opportunity for some classic summer fun. Scroll down to check out our list of the best US vacations in October.
There’s a reason the sign says “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” when crossing the border into the United States’ best mountain state. October in Colorado brings mind-boggling color changes to a sea of evergreen forests. Winding through I-70 through the mountain towns of Vail, Aspen, and Breckenridge is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. Telluride, however, is in a league of its own. In the state’s southwestern corner in the San Juan Mountains, Telluride is an idyllic, old-timey mountain town that shines in the shoulder months. Here you’ll find hot springs, hiking trails, mountain biking trails, mountain-vibe breweries, and a charming village.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
The ideal of the American Southwest is on full display in Albuquerque. Adobe infrastructure, Spanish colonial culture, vast desert expanses, cumin-doused cuisines — it’s a must-visit. Visiting during the fall is an especially good idea as the summer temperatures taper off. In October in particular, Albuquerque hosts the International Balloon Fiesta, a colorful week-long festival involving hot air balloons, fireworks, live music, laser shows, and more. For more information on all that the festival has to offer, check out our guide.
San Francisco, California
Believe it or not, October in the Golden Gate City is one of the best and warmest times of the year. Events in October in San Francisco range from the Castro Street Fair (a celebration of the LGBT community), the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, and a Giants playoff baseball game. Alcatraz Island, The Golden Gate Bridge, and Pier 39 are all attractions that don’t lose their value come fall.
Any Halloween enthusiast, or anyone who revels in the spirit of haunted houses, ghosts, and superstition, should make their way to Salem in October. This picture-perfect New England town with its wind, falling leaves, and Adam’s Family-esque architecture is the perfect destination for an October getaway. Haunted Happenings is an all-out, month-long scare-fest including everything from tours to museums and haunted accommodations.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Due to the blazing summer heat, visiting Grand Canyon in the fall is more of an obligatory rule than a recommendation. If you’re looking to knock out some items on your bucket list, October is the perfect time to visit. Muster the energy to get up and experience the sunrise over the canyon from one of the South Rim lookouts. If you hike to the bottom, consider splurging on a permit to stay at the Phantom Ranch cabins.
Napa Valley, California
Harvest season in wine country runs from August through October, making the latter month a perfect time to visit Napa Valley for burgeoning sommeliers and people who are just fond of drinking. In addition to the beautiful fall foliage, the region really comes alive. Keep in mind this is the most popular time to visit, so you may see some inflated prices for food, tours, and accommodations.
If you’ve ever eyed a trip to the American South, the shoulder months are a great time of year to take advantage of what it has to offer. Savannah, in particular, has lush trees, antebellum architecture, and a friendly culture that’s all too common in Georgia. Not to mention one thing Georgia boasts is year-round beaches. Tybee Island is a great spot near the border with South Carolina with beautiful stretches of sand, a historic lighthouse, and plenty of opportunities for water sports.
San Diego, California
If there’s one destination in the United States that stays warm well through the fall months, it’s San Diego — “America’s Finest City.” With 70 miles of unimpeded coastline stretching from the Mexican border to Orange County, San Diego is as close as you’ll get to a tropical vacation in October. Taco culture is a year-round commitment, the water is still relatively warm, and the city offers loads of attractions by way of outdoor adventuring, live music, craft beer, and a fun culinary scene.