The turning leaves, cooler temperatures, and fewer crowds make October an ideal time to hit the road and start exploring again. And, no surprise, we tend to “fall in love” with the U.S. cities that offer a bit of fall magic (apple picking, anyone?).
Asheville, North Carolina
Western North Carolina’s biggest city has experienced significant growth over the past decade and is luring talent from near and far. With a thriving arts and cultural scene, countless recreational activities, mild temperatures, diverse restaurants and more breweries per capita than any city in the country, it’s no wonder this Blue Ridge Mountain mainstay is flourishing. Home to more than 100 species of deciduous trees, Asheville has serious fall foliage bragging rights with leaves already changing color in the area’s highest elevations.
This time of year, head south of the city to Pisgah National Forest – about a 45-minute drive from downtown Asheville – where the mountain peaks are a cacophony of color, most especially striking Cold Mountain, made famous by the novel and motion picture that bears its name.
Known officially as the Heart of Orange County, Anaheim is Southern California’s family playground. Welcoming millions of visitors each year, Disneyland Resort is a family favorite with the Halloween season being especially thrilling. Tons of pumpkins line Main Street with ghouls and goblins parading about and special celebrations now through Halloween night.
It's also a great time of year to catch an Anaheim Ducks game, the region’s beloved NHL team, at the Honda Center – better known as the “Duck Pond” on hockey night. You won’t be far from the Anaheim Packing District, a downtown enclave that has been fully revitalized.
If the mountains are calling this autumn, Gatlinburg should be on your travel itinerary. Nestled deep in the Great Smoky Mountains, this time of year the region is an explosion of color best enjoyed on a scenic hike. The Gatlinburg Trail is a great place for novice hikers with mostly flat terrain and a 1.9-mile trail that also welcomes bicycles and leashed pets (it’s one of only two trails that do so).
Another great way to soak up the season is aboard the Chondola at Anakeesta, an outdoor family theme park. Guests can soar 600 feet to the summit of foliage speckled Anakeesta Mountain in an open-air 4-person chair or enclosed gondola cabin for six.
Another unique way to take in the seasonal beauty is at sunrise at Gatlinburg SkyLift Park. “Smoky Mountain Sunrise” invites visitors to board the SkyLift before dawn and take in the majestic sunrise over the mountains and the city of Gatlinburg below. While there, be sure to cross the Gatlinburg SkyBridge, the longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America, stretching nearly 700 feet end to end.
Can’t make it to Munich for Oktoberfest? Hofbräuhaus Las Vegas has you covered. This authentic Bavarian food and beer hall is celebrating Oktoberfest now through the end of the month with German bands, boisterous sing-alongs, dancing in the aisles and on the benches, and plenty of Hofbrau beer. Savor schnitzels, sausages, sauerbraten, pretzels and more – lederhosen optional. In the heart of the city, the Las Vegas Food & Wine Festival returns to Tivoli Village, drawing culinary luminaries including Todd English, François Payard and Katsuya Uechi.
While there’s never any lack of thrilling things to do in Sin City, why not try something completely new? Head out of downtown to Boulder City where you’ll find Rail Explorers, adventurous tandem pedal-powered bikes that “ride the rails” with ease. There are different themed rides timed throughout the day including the Sunset Tour, a 4-mile ride that starts from the Nevada State Railroad Museum and coasts downhill under the starry desert sky as the cool air descends and the sun sets behind the River Mountains (a Halloween costume ride takes place later this month!
The Big Apple is always a good idea, but this time of year, with crisp autumn temperatures and less crowds than summertime, is particularly spectacular. This will be the first fall for Little Island, the city’s newest and arguably hottest outdoor attraction. The floating island, which officially opened in May, rises from the remnants of Pier 54, the former home of the British Cunard-White Star line which operated trans-Atlantic ocean liner voyages between 1910 and 1935. Today, the artfully-designed 2.4-acre park is open to the public and has become a welcoming space that offers a sweet respite from the bustling city.
Theater fans are also welcoming the return of many Broadway shows which had gone dark for more than year due to the pandemic, including "Tina: The Tina Turner Musical," "Jagged Little Pill," "Thoughts of a Colored Man" and a limited engagement of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s Freestyle Love Supreme, an improvisational hip-hop musical extravaganza.
“Bet your bottom dollar you have some fun in Chicago, Chicago…” crooned Frank Sinatra – and his message was timeless as there’s always something fantastic unfolding in the Windy City.
With 77 neighborhoods, soaking up the flavors of Chicago is a palate-pleasing adventure that extends far beyond deep-dish pizza (but don’t skip out on a slice). Sure, you could DIY your culinary adventures, but Chicago offers a handful of food tours that’ll take you to fan favorites and hidden gems, and one tour specifically dedicated to exclusively exploring pizzerias.
And, while you might not expect Chicago to be a hub for leaf peeping, there are plenty of green spaces to soak up the season’s beauty. Check out Lincoln Park along the lakefront, historic Jackson Park, and of course Millennium Park, home to the very Instagrammed Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) sculpture.
October is an exquisite time of year in L.A. and this city knows how to embrace the Halloween spirit. Frightful films have taken over Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán (a historic Hollywood theater) with screenings of "Beetlejuice," "The Addams Family," "It," "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and other seasonal favorites for their Rooftop Screams programming, all under the stars with a full cocktail menu available.
Area attractions also get in the spirit with Universal Studios hosting Halloween Horror Nights. You’ll feel like you’re starring in your own thriller with haunted mazes and dedicated “scare zones.” Family favorite Knott’s Berry Farm transforms into “Knott’s Scary Farm” this month with tons of monsters roaming the park and thrills around every corner. On Paramount Pictures’ Tales From the Other Side tour, you’ll go beyond the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and delve into Tinsel town’s deep, dark secrets.
At nightfall, you’ll explore the cavernous-turned-creepy sound stages and eerie backlots. But to see the brightest stars in this city, head to the beloved Griffith Observatory. In addition to exploring the cosmos, its perch at 1,134 feet offers panoramic views of the Los Angeles Basin and the iconic Hollywood sign atop Mount Lee.
► Theme park Halloween preview: Disney, Universal, LegoLand, Six Flags, SeaWorld parks scare up chills for Halloween
Known for its perfect climate and 70 miles of coastline peppered with pristine Pacific Ocean beaches, San Diego attracts travelers from far and wide all year long. The world famous San Diego Zoo hosts “Halgloween” on weekends throughout October, welcoming families to experience events described as more spirited than spooky including dance parties with billions of bubbles.
Plenty of Halloween-themed events for both families and those seeking frightful experiences can be found throughout the month all over the city. There are also traditional and authentic Mexican Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festivals to honor passed loved ones taking place in Oceanside, Sherman Heights and City Heights.
To get a taste of local San Diego flavor, head to Waterfront Park in downtown for the annual SoCal Taco Fest on Oct. 23 featuring nearly 25 restaurants proffering their best tacos, a concert by Flo Rida, and live Lucha Libre wrestling.
Orlando is a tourism magnet for sure, but this sprawling metropolitan area has a lot to offer apart from the fun-filled theme parks (it’s literally dubbed the “theme park capital of the world”). Exploring the Florida Everglades by airboat is a thrilling experience as you zoom across beautiful wetlands and get up close to local wildlife including alligators, turtles and birds.
For those looking to stay on dry land, consider Revolution Adventures. The off-road adventure park is set on 230 acres of Florida countryside. Hop behind the wheel of one of their “Mucky Ducks,” an amphibious six- to eight-wheel vehicle and traipse through scenic marshes you won’t soon forget.
Tennessee’s fastest growing region has welcomed nearly two million new residents over the past decade, and it’s not hard to see why. Southern charm, electric nightlife, a burgeoning job market, an enviable quality of life, and ample recreational activities are just some of the reasons people cite for planting roots in and around Music City.
This time of year, the brisk autumn air, fall festivals and plenty of live music can be found on the robust events calendar. Halloween in Nashville is a month-long celebration with pumpkin patches, corn mazes, hayrides and fun for all. Boo at the Zoo is a family favorite walk-through experience where kids can dress in their costumes and visit 10 trick-or-treat stations while taking in special animal shows. For other “spirits,” check out the 11th annual Tennessee Beer Wine & Shine Festival (Oct. 16) where you can experience a wide range of brew, local vintages and hand-crafted moonshine from more than 30 local producers.
In Franklin, just about 30 minutes from downtown Nashville, the 36th Annual PumpkinFest returns on Oct. 30. Middle Tennessee’s largest family fall festival typically welcomes upwards of 60,000 visitors who experience seasonal food and drink, activities for little ones, costume contests, live music and more.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: October travel: Travelers want to go to Nashville, NYC, LA, Las Vegas