Ah, October. The Goldilocks time to travel, when everything’s just right. Weather, crowds, and prices are all moderate, and the only thing over the top is the schedule of events and festivals.
We’ve scoured the world for the best this month, whether you want to indulge in a little gourmet gorging in the Italian mountains, find out your future from a city-licensed psychic in New England, or be the first to see a future Oscar winner in Texas. Here are 10 places to travel in October.
1. Piedmont Region, Italy
October is great for . . . spending your savings on a single, delectable mouthful
Forget caviar and champagne. The most deep-pocketed gourmands want to savor a few ounces of white truffle, and they’re willing to pay handsomely for the privilege; the priciest of these tubers sold at auction weighed almost three pounds and fetched $330,000. They’re prized, in part, thanks to the scant few locations where they grow; one of them is this corner of Italy, and each October, the International Alba White Truffle Fair celebrates that delicacy.
Running for almost a century, the event this year takes place on weekends over two months, starting October 8, and includes a kids’ area where young ones can learn about the truffle through play and cooking demos, many of them championing Italy’s beloved Slow Food movement and showcasing the variety of tuber magnatum pico.
Where to stay: Locanda La Raia
Book now: Locanda La Raia
The 12-room Locanda La Raia sits in almost 450 lush acres of Italian countryside, surrounded by vineyards and woodlands, part of the biodynamic farm of the same name owned by the Rossi Cairo family.
How to get to Italy’s Piedmont region
The best option for reaching this northeast corner of Italy is flying to Milan, and hopping one of the country’s superb trains to connect after landing; Milan is served on direct flights from countless U.S. hubs.
2. Salem, Massachusetts
October is great for . . . well, you can probably guess.
Yes, we couldn’t resist highlighting the witch capital of the United States in the month of Halloween–even if much of the merriment now glosses over the darker aspects of that association. Salem’s spooky schedule falls under the Haunted Happenings banner, drawing a half million visitors annually and growing bigger since it debuted 40 years ago. It kicks off with the free Salem Zombiewalk on October 1, and it claims to be the largest celebration of Halloween in the world, with parades—both human and pet—costume balls, ghost tours, haunted houses, and more. There’s even a month-long Psychic Fair and Witches Market staffed by sensitives officially licensed by the city, who’ll offer everything from tarot card reading to clairvoyance and spirit mediumship.
Where to stay: Hotel Salem
Book now: Hotel Salem
The five-year-old Hotel Salem is a smart conversion of the onetime Newmark’s department store on the pedestrianized Essex Street mall—look for vintage cameras, photos of store interiors, and other decorative elements that nod to its history.
How to get to Salem
Budget 45–60 minutes to drive from Boston to Salem; JetBlue uses the city as one of its key hubs.
3. Vienna, Austria
October is great for . . . highbrow, long-haul travelers
High culture is a mainstay for this one-time imperial capital, studded with landmark museums like the Klimt-covered Secession or its world-renowned Opera House. Come this month, though, and there’s a particular surfeit of artsy offerings. Take the wittily named Viennale, which takes place every October. This 12-day fest—which starts October 20 in 2022—brings 300 or so films from around the world to multiple cinemas (look for the Urania venue, which is part of an extraordinary Jugendstil-era building); many are in English or with English subtitles.
On October 1, you can steep yourself in culture until the early hours thanks to the Lange Nacht der Museen, or Long Night of Museums, where most of the institutions stay open until 1 a.m.; buy one ticket and get access to more than 100 different venues.
If you’re in town on October 26, expect a riot of red and white in parades and marches, too, for Nationalfeiertag, or National Day, which marks the date in 1955 when Austria emerged as a nation-state once more after World War II.
Where to stay: Bassena Wien Donaustadt
Book now: Bassena Wien Donaustadt
The Bassena Wien Donaustadt is an affordable, 198-room new spot with a communal work zone and a library on the ground floor that will draw in locals to mingle with the guests—think Ace Hotel with an Austrian twist.
How to get to Vienna
Austrian Airlines has service from ORD, IAD, and EWR.
4. Natchez, Mississippi
October is great for . . . taking to the skies
The weekend of October 14–16 is when the skies around this city on the Mississippi River are filled with balloons, with more than 30 taking flight last year from the grounds of the columned mansion Rosalie downtown. Come to ride on one of the tethered options, or enjoy a local craft fair and the classic food and music combo of any live event. The standout is the Evening Balloon Glow on Friday night, when the orbs will be illuminated as they bob in the night sky. A weekend pass costs $30 if bought in advance; if you plan to go, sign up for text alerts during the week prior; they will update you in real time on the weather-dependent schedule.
Where to stay: Dunleith Historic Inn
Book now: Dunleith Historic Inn
Many of the original buildings, including the carriage house and dairy barn, are still standing on the site of the colonnaded Greek revival luxury bed-and-breakfast now known as Dunleith Historic Inn, which dates back to 1856.
How to get to Natchez
Head to Baton Route (BTR) or Alexandria (AEX), which are both in Louisiana and a 90-minute drive from Natchez. Delta dominates service at the former, while American is foremost at AEX.
October is great for . . . celebrating the Caribbean’s musical heritage
For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, October 28–30 will mark the return of the country’s World Creole Festival. Anchored by Windsor Park Stadium in the capital, Roseau, it’s intended to champion music indigenous to this island, which also has influences from both Great Britain and France. It caps Creole heritage month and draws more than 10,000 visitors from around the globe to listen to music like bouyon, the Jing ping and cadence-lypso fusion that emerged on the island in the 1980s and has become popular across the entire Caribbean region.
While you’re here, don’t miss the local rum, which comes specially spiked with bois bandé, a local bark said to have aphrodisiac qualities. Also take the chance to loll in the hot springs around Wotten Waven—don’t let the rotten egg smell of the water put you off; a dip or two here is said to be skin-rejuvenating.
Where to stay: Fort Young Hotel & Dive Resort
Book now: Fort Young Hotel & Dive Resort
Fort Young Hotel & Dive Resort is an unusual all-inclusive option, as its rates don’t just bundle F&B; activities like lionfish catching and hikes to the likes of Trafalgar Falls and Titou Gorge are also gratis.
How to get to Dominica
American Airlines began a direct flight to Dominica from MIA last December. But it recently upped service to daily in response to demand, making the island nation easier to reach than ever before.
6. Kolkata, India
October is great for . . . firecrackers and fireworks in India’s rowdiest festival
The joyous Diwali takes place this year October 24–27. The Festival of Light is a calendar highlight for Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains all, celebrating the triumph of good over evil. The goddess Sri Maha Lakshmi, associated with wealth and well-being, comes to the fore now; believers festoon their homes with lights and candles (known as diyas) expressly to try to lure her into a visit. Just come well-equipped with earplugs, too: despite various attempts at banning the fireworks and firecrackers that form the backdrop to celebrations, expect regular bangs and whoops from across the city.
The reason to see Diwali here, though, is that the Bengali community also celebrates another festival at the same time, Kali Puja, feting the goddess of death and transformation; this year, it will take place on the evening of October 24, and is marked with meditation, feasts, and enormous clay sculptures that are displayed in pandals, or temporary shrines.
Where to stay: Hyatt Regency
Book Now: Hyatt Regency
The 234-room Hyatt Regency is well located right in the center of the city; it sits in its own lush gardens—convenient and quiet in equal measure.
How to get to Kolkata
Head to Kolkata via Doha on Qatar Airways—there are no direct flights stateside to this eastern city in India, but that routing allows you to stretch your legs at just the right time on a long-haul flight.
7. Madrid, Spain
October is great for . . . the dance tradition Spain deeded to the world
Flamenco’s exact origins are murky, but likely lie somewhere in the folk history of southern Spain. Nonetheless, the country’s capital is keen to celebrate the tradition via its annual Suma Flamenca festival, which runs for three weeks starting on October 17. It fetes every aspect of this dance, spotlighting performers of all ilks: singers, guitarists, and dancers in equal measure. This fest is centered on the Teatros del Canal but also takes place at several venues around the city and region.
Come earlier in the month, and you can take part in the Semana de la Arquitectura or Architecture Week, which runs through October 9 with visits to notable buildings, walking tours, and workshops for kids; this year’s guest country is Mexico, and so there are showcases of the work of two talents, Ramón Vázquez Molezún and the Tatiana Bilbao Estudio firm. Even better, visit this month for a quieter experience than the hectic summertime and temperatures that are much more conducive to roaming by foot, usually hovering in the 60s.
Where to stay: Principal Madrid Hotel
Book now: Principal Madrid Hotel
Try the 76-room Principal Madrid Hotel, in a Belle Epoque–era building on Gran Via, close to many of the city’s core attractions, like Puerta del Sol.
How to get to Madrid
Iberia is a One World airline, so the best options are on American and its partners from hubs like JFK and MIA.
8. Austin, Texas
October is great for . . . a secret, better-than-SXSW trip to the city
Is there a month when this hip city isn’t overrun with festivals? Despite SXSW in March, October might be when the most visit-worthy bashes take over the town. There’s not one, but two big events this month, starting with the Austin City Limits Music Festival: two weekends (October 7–9, 14–16), eight stages, and more than 130 bands. Headliners this year include Pink, Kacey Musgraves, and Lil Nas X; keep an eye open for secret shows at bars and venues around town over the same period, too.
Meanwhile, the Austin Film Festival, which starts on October 27, is a more thoughtful riff on moviemaking than so many others now (yes, Sundance, we’re looking at you). It was founded three decades ago to focus on storytelling and foregrounds the script above all; festival passes start at $70 and both recent Bond helmer Cary Fukunaga and Juno director Jason Reitman earned plaudits here while still fledgling filmmakers. All that, plus the F1 Grand Prix (October 21–23) at the Circuit of Americas make Austin the place to be.
Where to stay: Colton House Hotel
Book Now: Colton House Hotel
South Congress is one of the buzziest strips in town, with ample restaurants and shops within walking distance—hunker down at the Colton House Hotel there, a new boutique option with an appealing outdoor pool.
How to get to Austin
Take your pick since most major carriers offer service to AUS; Southwest in particular has a network that spans from ABQ to IND.
9. Quebec City, Canada
October is great for . . . getting a head start on leaf peeping
Forget New England. Arguably North America’s best place to kick off some leaf peeping is this Francophone corner of Canada, a more than 400-year-old city surrounded by dramatic countryside. The trees usually start to turn before the end of September, making October the peak time to see hillsides blazing with golds, oranges, and crimsons. The dates, of course, aren’t fixed, but the local tourism board keeps a spiffy, interactive map to help plan a peeping visit.
If you’re outdoorsy, you can hike in the mountains—Mont-Sainte-Anne nearby is a winter sports hub, but it’s equally impressive this season when the air is bracing and the views are spectacular. If you’ve packed your sneakers anyway, why not see the city on foot, too? October 2 is the date for this year’s Quebec City marathon, which snakes through some of the city’s most historic quarters in a loop from place Jean Béliveau.
Where to stay: Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
Book Now: Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
The 610-room Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is a plush perch in the city center. Dawdle in the lobby to pet Jasper, its mascot, a dog that’s part of its partnership with a local canine nonprofit.
How to get to Quebec City
There are direct flights from many U.S. airport hubs—Air Canada’s routes include San Francisco, Boston, and Fort Lauderdale.
10. Lexington, Kentucky
October is great for . . . a little flutter on some thoroughbreds
You can’t come to horse country without checking out a race or two. Lexington’s Fall Race Meet kicks off at Keeneland on October 7 and runs for 17 days. Stakes take place both on grass and dirt, with a prize pot worth a total of $8.75 million, a record haul.
One highlight this year? On October 15 is the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, where the winner will receive a strawberry dish made by royal jeweler Garrard, as a nod to the jubilee of the British queen who’s a passionate fan of all things racing. The course has made it as easy as possible for newbies to chance a few bucks, too, thanks to its in-depth handicapping program dubbed Betology.
Where to stay: 21c Museum Hotel
Book now: 21c Museum Hotel
The funky Kentucky-founded chainlet 21c Museum Hotels has an outpost here, in a converted bank building; it’s festooned with an assortment of contemporary art approved by co-owners and powerhouse collectors Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson.
How to get to Lexington
Allegiant, Delta, American, and United all serve Lexington from a variety of cities.